One Last Song by DK Snyder (inspired by Townes Van Zandt)

Bio: DK Snyder's work appears in Cease Cows Magazine, Unbroken Journal, Shotgun Honey, and elsewhere. She lives in Virginia. Find her on Twitter @millioncandles. 


By DK Snyder

By 2:30 in the morning I’d eased the last stragglers out onto the sidewalk, where they lingered in the pool of light spilling from the front window and the neon sign. I locked the door to the club. Through the smudged windowpane, I watched until two aging regulars, Bobby and Pete, made it safely across the street and out of sight. The empty club was quiet. I wiped the wobbly, mismatched tables, my knuckles stiff with the dull ache of 35 years working here. I stepped behind the long wooden bar top to gather the dirty glasses, and froze: a tall, angular man was slouched on the last stool. My jaw dropped. A glass slipped from my hand and shattered.

“Townes?” The name croaked from my dry throat.

“You look lovely as ever, Cindy.”

I smirked. Same old Townes Van Zandt. Always ready with a bartender’s name and a corny come-on. He looked the same as he had when I’d last seen him more than 25 years ago, with a faded scar under his right eye and gray streaks in his long, dark hair. He wore a suede jacket over a rumpled collared shirt. A beat-up old guitar case leaned against the bar. I poured him a shot of top-shelf vodka. “What are you doing back here?” I asked. “Did Saint Peter bounce you for throwing dice? Or were you at the other place?”

Townes grinned, and a gold tooth glinted in the dim light. “Acoustics,” he said. As if that explained anything. The stool squealed as he swiveled to take in the room. No doubt he recognized most of the old photos near his own on the wood-paneled wall, and the small stage in the far corner with a chair, an amp, and a mic. But his asphalt-black eyes narrowed at the large flat-screen television and then came to rest on the karaoke machine. “The hell’s that doing here?”

“Boss says it’s progress. The beer and food are fancy now, too.” I shrugged. “I’m fixing to go. Putting in my two weeks’ notice tomorrow, in fact. Don’t get me wrong, lots of singers and strummers still come through here. Some aren’t half bad. But this place was never the same after you… got your flyin’ shoes.” I rubbed my stiff hands. “I’m worn out.”

Townes drained his glass. Then he unlatched his guitar case and lifted the Gibson he’d played at his last few shows here onto his lap. He closed his eyes. His left hand danced over the mother-of-pearl inlayed fretboard, while the silver and white fingerpicks on his right hand rang out a bluesy riff. Then Townes began to sing. It was the same weathered voice, tough and dark, that used to make the hell-raisers in here sit down and shut up. The song was unfamiliar to me, even though I’d worn out my copies of all his records before getting the CDs and finally the downloads. Now, after hesitating a few seconds, I pulled out my iPhone and started recording. I was ready to duck if Townes threw a glass, but he paid me no mind. The lyrics were poetic and otherworldly, about a man who cast off his demons to pass through this life and on to the next, but now maybe misses them a little. Time seemed to stop. Then Townes’s voice fell silent. The last chord lingered and faded away.

“That was beautiful,” I said. “What’s it called?”

“One Last Song.” Townes winked, then put the Gibson back inside its beat-up case.

I reached behind me for the bottle, but when I turned back to refill his glass, Townes was gone. I checked my phone, only to discover I’d taken a video of a silent, deserted club. I snorted and shook my head. If my tired mind was conjuring visions now, at least this vision was a good one: Townes was still easy on the eye, and the music was superb. It was one of his good shows, where he wasn’t too drunk to sing. I swept up the broken glass, ran a damp rag over the bar top, and cleaned the beer taps and soda gun. Then I filled a bucket and pushed a mop across the weathered plank floor. Near the end of the bar, the mop struck a small object and shot it into the corner with a soft thud. I sighed. Pete must have dropped his wallet again. The new bartender would really need to look out for him and the few other folks from Townes’s time who still came around.

But when I crouched in the corner, instead of a wallet, I discovered a faded purple Crown Royal bag with a frayed gold drawstring. I picked it up and felt the soft, worn velvet. When I pulled the drawstring, a handful of silver and white fingerpicks clattered to the floor. That’s when I knew Townes would be back. And I’d be right here waiting for him.


By davidlonan1

David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to Twitter: @davidLOnan1 + @feversof Facebook: DavidLONan1

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