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Friday, April 22, 2016

Chapter Four - A Short Walk (Part I)

***

I didn't even try to go to sleep until 5:30 in the morning. I fell into Charlie's bed, wiped out, and so a few hours of unconsciousness went by... Maybe three.

I got up and started the coffee sometime before 9:00. It seemed impossible still to fully comprehend the magnitude of what had happened. Renee slept downstairs in her room. Theresa stayed down only because of Lenise's midnight grief medication run. Shortly after nine o'clock there was a knock on the door.

Without knowing who to expect, I groggily (and warily) approached, but no one was there... Because he had gone around the house, let himself in, and was now coming through the back entryway into the kitchen. It was my dear old friend, Mick the Mechanic, who I used for years as my common-sense foil on Heller Mountain. At various times in our lives, we had been roommates, co-workers, band mates, motorcyclists and general partners in crime. That morning, he was in our area picking up some parts for a car he was working on.

Mick was an astonishingly good harmonica player, but you wouldn't know that unless you had been in one of the handful of bars that our blues band, Poor Odis, played in during that gauzy winter of '94-95. I can name three, maybe four guys that were better on the harp than Mick - Sonny Boy Williamson for sure (because he had no "teef", and you can't teach that), Little Walter, Junior Wells... That's about it, really.

He patiently taught Charlie to play the harmonica in the year before he died. One-hole, four-hole, five-hole. Breathe in, breathe out. Not that hard to do... Okay, now start saying 'we' and 'you' while either sucking or blowing. 'We. You. We-you.' Simple. And while he strummed out Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Matchbox Blues", Charlie played. He closed his eyes, put one foot up on the chair, folded the Jailhouse harmonica up in his young hands, brought it up to his face and played so soulfully... By the third time through it, the kid was even making his bends as the progression rolled over. Pretty neat.

"Hey, you got any coffee?" He said as he filled my kitchen doorway. He could smell that I had some on. And he could tell by the look on my face that it didn't much matter.

"What's wrong?" He asked. I had a hard time getting my brain to kick-start the idea that he actually didn't know, that he had in fact just bumbled into this thing looking for a cup of Joe. But that was the case.

I somehow told him. I don't remember the words I used. Theresa heard us talking and came out, and when she saw Mick, and could tell by the look on his face that he knew, she practically fell toward him. That big man stood there and held her up, and we all cried.

Mick stayed for a while, but he had to get going, and promised to return. He did, later that afternoon, only to tell us in despair that Charlie's funeral was scheduled for the same day that he had college visits with his kid. We absolved him of that, no problem. But I could tell he felt so bad.

He was always the one who helped us whenever something went wrong. He was always the one who could fix the problem, no matter what it was. And now here was something that nobody could fix, not even him.

"These next few days," Mick told me before he left, "Time will feel like it doesn't move at all, like each day is an hour, or a minute, or nothing. Time ceases to exist. Don't worry about anything. Everyone will take care of you."

And he was right, just like he always was. They did... And he did, too, for nearly six more months. Mike Frank, Mick the Mechanic, passed away at his Prairie Ronde home on January 22, 2016 at the age of 45. He is survived by his wife and daughter and an otherwise huge, loving, incredible family.

He is one of the only truly human beings I have ever known and he will be forever missed.

***

pH 4.22.16

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