Robert Garner McBrearty

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A Trace of Music

I recall that curious music in my head, as I tilted my ear listening to something that might not even be playing at all. Something that maybe I just imagined was playing. Like some cry from far away.

I never heard the music when I was sober, and not when I was really drunk. Just drunk to a certain stage; Not in the beginning stages of drunkenness, not in the later stages either, but in some little reprieve of being able to turn one way, or the other.

During all my drinking days, I listened for that music and thought it might be worth continuing to drink just to hear it once more. But, of course, it wasn’t.

I tilt my head now, these many years later, and I don’t hear it – but I remember hearing it, and I remember it sounded like a promise. Things were going to be okay – oh no, much more than okay. The future was bright. The world opened before me. All was possible. But I could only have the music for a few seconds, and then I’d be haunted by it, wondering when it might come again.

After I quit drinking, the world became grayer for a time. I thought I’d never hear the music again. But one day it hit me, cold-stone sober walking on a windy street with a park to my right, leaves blowing across the grass, and the sun bright and cold… and I thought, I heard it.

Now I know I will hear it again one day.


Robert Garner McBrearty‘s stories have been widely published, including in the Pushcart Prize, Missouri Review, North American Review, StoryQuarterly and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, along with five books of fiction. His most recent book is a collection of flash fiction published by Matter Press.


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