By Sean Lyons, St Flannan’s College.
Highly commended, junior Clare Champion Short Story
RYAN ‘Ringo’ McGrath placed his camp chair carefully on the cobblestone pavement in front of Harry’s Café. The pavement had almost become indented from the legs of the chair as it had been placed there countless times. He opened his fibreglass guitar case, unbuckling the clips that kept it closed. From the case, he withdrew a quite ancient-looking guitar which had been adorned with scratches and scrapes picked up over the years. Any spectator would think that an instrument of this appearance would have a matching sound but once Ringo carefully gave the strings their first strum, magic filled the ears of listeners.
When Ringo went busking, he was in a world of his own, taking no notice of his surroundings. Sometimes he’d smile or laugh to himself while playing if he did something with the guitar that came as a surprise to even him – a sweet sounding chord perhaps or maybe an intricate piece of ornamentation. He was unaware of everyone around him except for one girl. Jane O’Leary sat elegantly and contently outside Harry’s Café every Saturday. She would listen attentively to Ringo’s music and quite evidently, she was enthralled by it. She and Ringo had not known each other before Ringo’s busking days but over time they became close. Although they may not have admitted it to themselves, they both fancied each other quite a bit but neither of them knew this.
Without his guitar, Ringo was nothing much to look at. He insisted on spiking his hair wherever he went although his hair was much too long for it to look any way pleasant like this. His face was covered in stubble as he rarely made time to shave in the mornings. He dressed quite casually, wearing polo neck t-shirts and denim jeans with torn knees. His shoes were also tattered looking, their soles separating from the backs of them every time he walked. He sported a black leather jacket and it was clear to see that he took pride in it.
Jane on the other hand, was very easy on the eye. Her hair was a bright auburn colour and usually worn in a ponytail. She wore a pair of glasses that brought out her beautiful, sea-blue eyes. Jane was shy, quiet and kept to herself most of the time. Ringo was quite the opposite – an eccentric character and never had much trouble talking to people – especially females – but he somehow could never muster up the courage to speak to Jane. Instead, he did his best to woo and impress her with his music.
One day however, as Jane was listening to Ringo’s music, she was hit with an irresistible urge to speak to him. He was playing Let It Be by The Beatles at the time, which happened to be Jane’s favourite song. At that very moment, Jane decided that it was time to properly acquaint herself with Ringo. She waited until Ringo was almost finished the song when she stood up from her chair and strolled confidently over to him. He did not see her standing before him at first, as he was preoccupied with tuning his guitar. She then got his attention as she complimented his music.
“That’s quite a beautiful song” she stated in her sweet, pleasant voice. Ringo looked up, almost startled by her presence.
“Why thank you,” he replied, smiling at her. The pair then experienced a slightly awkward moment as neither of them knew what to say next to continue the conversation. Ringo decided to ask her about her own musical tastes. “You a fan of The Beatles?” he asked in an inquisitive yet friendly tone. “Of course,” she answered, “they’re my favourite band.” This pleased Ringo to hear as he also was a massive fan of The Beatles, so much so that he had obtained the nickname ‘Ringo’ in secondary school after their famous drummer. Over the next hour or so, the pair conversed about their musical interests, between Ringo’s songs of course. Jane sat beside him as he performed and would sometimes even join in in the choruses if she knew the words. Ringo discovered that Jane had an astonishingly beautiful voice and asked her if she would consider performing with him every week from then on.
Just then, Harry, the café’s owner, emerged from the doorway of the café. He was a stern old man who was not very popular with his neighbours and customers. He irately walked straight up to Ringo. “Oi McGrath!” he shouted in an ignorant tone. “I’ve grown rather tired of listening to that dreadful racket you’re making here every week.”
Ringo felt rather irritated and angered by this and had no intention of hiding this emotion. He shot back at Harry: “Listen baldy,” he roared at him. “No one’s asking you to listen to the ‘racket’ I make. Maybe if you paid less attention to what’s going on outside your café and more attention to your work, you’d find a way to not make your coffee taste like something you just scooped out of a gutter. Maybe then your customers would be satisfied.”
Both Jane and Harry were astonished at what Ringo had just said but Jane remained silent. Harry on the other hand was enraged. He responded furiously, “If you didn’t make such a bloody racket, I might have some more customers to satisfy.”
Now Jane really felt like intervening and did so by snappily asking him, “How can you say that? If it wasn’t for this man here, you would have little or no custom at your establishment. I for one would not come here if Ringo didn’t ply his trade outside.”
Ringo looked at her, shocked, but then he smiled and mimed the words “thank you”. Harry then kicked Ringo’s guitar case in his direction and told him, “You, Mr McGrath, are officially barred from here. That goes for you too, madam, I’ve had quite enough of this.”
Jane assisted Ringo in packing up his equipment and carrying it to his van. As they were loading the van, she expressed how sorry she was for causing him the loss of his favourite spot in town for performing. He laughed and reassured her, “Listen, I was getting rather tired of seeing that miser so much anyway. Once a week was too often.”
Jane felt a bit more at ease but was still persistent. “I accept that but I still feel quite ashamed. Could I buy you something in the chipper downtown to put my mind at ease a bit?”
Ringo’s stomach rumbled at the thought of food; he had not eaten all day. “No complaints here,” he laughed happily. With that, the pair climbed into Ringo’s van and headed downtown.
There are many forms of success. For some people, success is owning fast cars and playing on big stages for millions of adoring fans every night. For others, it is simply obtaining enough money to buy a loaf of bread. For Ringo, he had managed to spend time with the girl he adored and that, for him, was success in itself.