Round 1 finalist: “Tributes” by Cammie Finch
In loving memory of Charlie Parking
Friday night at Old Bell’s was his saxophone scene. His shows were always sold out, on account of people convinced that the ghost of Charlie Parker had finally come. Crowds usually filtered out after a few too many drinks and missed chords.
But I was his one steadfast fan. He’d plop me down on the stool just left of the stage and wink at me as he made his entrance. I always waited for that wink. I think he did too.
After the show, we’d walk around the blown-out buildings, the tattered strands of Detroit desperately trying to hold on to its roots. This was Home to him, many years before I was even a dot. The stars shined brighter here, probably because the lightbulbs shut off at nightfall. We’d lay on grassy pillows, watching the night go by, leaving the booing audience at the club.
“We used to play kickball here,” he told me once.
It seemed like an awful place to play kickball. Next to that old dilapidated building with homeless people’s piss and rabie-ridden cats. In all honesty, the grass looked perfect for a graveyard.
“That was my school,” he told me once.
I realized then that my dad was tougher than he looked. He was someone who could be run over by life and still bounce back. An escape artist, he could pull himself through the muck and toil for his dream. And if that meant living life as the ghost of Charlie Parker, then so be it.
I could see the pain in his eyes, seeing the slow death of his past. I jealously eyed the static stars, so immune to the downward pull of gravity.
“Tell me something, Ruby-Rue. When I die, make sure this place turns good. A church, interfaith, daycare. With a nice parking lot and garden. Plants and friendly faces….With those two things, a city can overcome anything. Even Detroit.”
Die? He was barely fifty! I knew he was older than most of my friends’ parents, but it had never crossed my mind that he could be one of those heart-attack parents you see on TV.
“You hear me, Rue? Promise me. That’s my wish.” He took my hand and I noticed for the first time the rough lines etched into his skin. Thirty years on the assembly line had stolen the oil right out of his body.
“I promise, Dad. But don’t wish for a long time, okay?” We shushed up and watched the Chrysler smoke blur the pinpricks of light to gray.
Charlie Parking: husband, father, musician, dreamer, prophet. A mind of dreams struck by a car made from his own hands only a week after his last vision.
I burrowed my head in his waxen-cold chest. My tears moistened his hands, as I made my promise, far earlier than I hoped. I’d make sure Detroit would bear the Parking name proudly.
Cammie Finch is a senior at the University of Michigan, studying English Literature and Creative Writing. Her favorite words are kerfuffle, akimbo, and betwixt. Her dreams for the future are to become a published novelist, freelance as an audiobook reader, create names for paint chips and nail polish, and be successful enough to one day retire and putter around all day in a garden.