(My part in this tale is that of Carol and the preschools – the last of Ed’s experiences. I was Carol and it was a great time playing in the preschools – I loved it.)
The music store was dark and chilly. Those who worked there were leaving for the day.
“Did you turn down the heat?” Ken the owner asked Ted the sales clerk.
“Yeah, and I’ll turn out the rest of the lights,” Ted replied.
“Don’t turn out the neon sign in the window,” Ken said. “I leave that on all night.” The sign flashed a bright green all night. It was advertising guitars for sale.
There were many guitars in the store, all different makes and models, some small, some big, some acoustic, some electric. It was no wonder Ed sometimes got depressed. It was so boring – just hanging here on the wall of the music store where he’d come after entering the guitar at the Junction Musical Instrument Factory.
He had thought this was just the instrument for him. It was capable of being played in many different styles and Ed thought there would be a lot of variety in his life, but this didn’t seem to be happening.
When friends of his were brought back into the store for repair work Ed always took the time to talk to them. He wanted to hear all about the very exciting, ever-changing experiences they had after being bought by someone and going home with them. But alas, they never had these exciting adventures. When he asked his friend Dick, who was in for repairs, Dick said, “My owner only picks me up once in a while and he always plays the same thing when he does play. He plays the same chords or the same melodies over and over until they’re perfect. Once in a while maybe he’ll learn a new song or a new chord.”
Ed was getting very discouraged. He was wishing he had chosen a different instrument to experience all the many different kinds of music there was. He was stuck inside this guitar now and all he could do was hope that someone would buy him and take him home so he could get down off of this wall.
A couple of weeks later he overheard Ken, the owner of the store, talking about starting an instrument rental plan where a customer could rent a instrument for trial before buying it.
“I think that would be a terrible way to live,” Ed said to Dick, who was still there being repaired. “You would never belong to anyone and never have a feeling of being safe and secure.”
“Yeah,” Dick answered, “You wouldn’t know how long you would be with the person who rented you.”
“I certainly hope they don’t do that to me,” Ed said. “I can’t imagine a more horrible way of life than moving from one place to another for uncertain periods of time.”
“How could anyone stand that?” Dick replied.
Wouldn’t you know it Ed was the first guitar chosen to be used as a rental instrument? He’d been chosen partly because of his size, he had a nice medium build, and partly because of the ease of playing him. His strings were set just the right distance from the neck and were easy to press down to get good tones. The next thing Ed knew he was being packed into a case along with a couple of picks and a polishing cloth to be used to wipe him off. He was put under the counter but only stayed there for a day. The minute the store owner had advertised a rental plan Buck and Betty came in and wanted to rent a guitar for their little boy, Nelson. The child was only eight years old and they signed him up for lessons with a teacher at the store.
When Buck and Betty weren’t around Nelson would take Ed out of the case and take a pick and pretend he was playing chords. He got very rough and Ed was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to stand it much longer.
One day Buck and Betty came home and found that the baby-sitter had ignored Nelson. He was sitting on the floor with the guitar in front of him and treating it terribly. He was mad because he couldn’t make pretty sounds and was even kicking the guitar. Buck and Betty immediately took Ed back to the music store and turned him in. He was fixed up and given new strings and put back into the case to await another rental.
The next person that rented him was an older boy, a teenager name Mike. Mike already knew a few chords and didn’t want lessons, just a book showing him how to make more chords. He learned quite a lot on his own and started jamming with some friends. They played rock music and Ed was quite happy to at last be able to make music that sounded like something.
The teens decided to start their own band. After the first few months of earning money from playing, Mike who was renting him decided to buy his own guitar. Ed was quite happy that at last he would belong to someone permanently. But when Mike took him to the music store, another guitar hanging on the wall caught his eye. He tried it and decided he liked it better and bought that one instead of Ed.Ed went back under the counter again until a woman named Nancy came in and rented him. She knew how to play already but had gone through a bad time financially and couldn’t afford to buy a guitar at that time. Still Nancy wanted to keep in practice so she wouldn’t forget all she had learned. She had a beautiful singing voice and played finger picking style without using picks. She really got a very pretty flowing sound out of the guitar to accompany her voice. She sang around at different events and finally was offered a job singing four nights a week at a coffee house near the college campus. After working for a while, Nancy decided to purchase a guitar. Again Ed got his hopes up, but she also decided on a different model, one that had nylon strings and was easier on her fingers. Ed found himself back at the store again.
While resting under the counter he had time to think about his experiences so far. “MAYBE THIS LIFE AS A RENTAL GUITAR ISN’T SO BAD. AFTER ALL, I’M CERTAINLY NOT BORED,” he thought. “I’VE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO EXPERIENCE MANY DIFFERENT KINDS OF MUSIC AND TO GO INTO MANY DIFFERENT KINDS OF HOMES.”
On his next excursion out into the world Ed got to travel. John who rented him was retired and spent most of his time traveling in an old camper. At night in the campgrounds he would build a campfire and sit under the stars softly strumming his guitar and humming tunes. John never spent more than one night in the same place and he left Ed on the couch in the camper so he could pick him up anytime he wanted. There was no room to store the case so he didn’t take it with him. Ed got to see many natural wonders of the state and many other beautiful areas including the ocean, the desert and the mountains. John never traveled too far from his home and there were times when they would return there, especially if he didn’t feel good. This started happening more and more often and then one day John passed away. His children took Ed back to the store and got a return on the rental money the man had paid in advance. Poor Ed! He was back under the counter again awaiting his next assignment.
Carol came into the store one day looking for a guitar to buy. She couldn’t afford a new one and didn’t like any of the used ones the store owner showed her. Then he remembered Ed under the counter. Ken knew that Ed had been used quite a lot and had not always been treated well. He was getting past the time when he would make a good rental instrumental. Ken could sell him for less than anything else he had in the store because he had been used so hard.
He showed Ed to Carol and she fell in love with the guitar. It played so easily and sounded very good. It already had marks and scratches on it so she wouldn’t hesitate to take it into the preschools where she worked with children. There wouldn’t be much more they could do to it than had already been done, as far as marks and scratches. Carol bought Ed and took him home with her.
The next day Ed started his new life with Carol. They traveled from one preschool to another, spending maybe an hour or two in each school. The woman would sit on a little child’s chair with the guitar in her lap. The children would sit on a rug in front of her and sing songs. Sometimes they would stand and clap their hands in rhythm or march around the room. Other times they would take journeys to far off places using their imagination while Carol played the guitar and sang, teaching them the words as they went along. At the end of the session, if the children had been good, Carol would let each one of them come up and pluck the strings of the guitar. She loved to see their eyes light up as they heard the sound their fingers made on strings. They were very gentle and Ed really enjoyed all of it.
Carol would spend maybe twenty to thirty minutes with each class in the school and then move on to the next class. Babies still wearing diapers learned to clap and march in time with the music. She began going into kindergarten and elementary classes also and taught these older children to square dance using the guitar to keep the beat while she sang out the moves to them.
The children always looked forward to Carol’s day with them. She helped them learn many things but especially how to look for the good in other children and in their family. She gave them hope of a better world through song and dance. She taught them history through the words to the songs and she encouraged them to feel the rhythm with their bodies. Even the teachers in the preschools said she brightened the place up when she came and said that the moment she left the children began asking when she would come again.
Carol and Ed served the children and the schools in the valley through the trying times of riots, fires, floods and earthquakes. During a riot, all the children and the teachers were gathered into one building, the doors locked and the blinds drawn. Carol sat in the middle of the room with Ed and sang and played for hours while rioting in the streets reached within two blocks of the school.
Another time a building at one school was totally destroyed by a devastating earthquake. Carol and Ed served in the single building that was left, doing double classes and even outdoor classes for lack of room indoors. Such interesting times these were, such excitement, the kind Ed had been longing for. All the time he knew they were helping the children by taking their mind off of the troubles taking place in the city at that particular time.
At one school, they put all the classes together, perhaps fifty children and did a longer session. At the end of the session the children would all rush to Carol trying to hug and kiss her. Some weeks she was hugged and kissed by more than 500 children. One day the children in this large class overwhelmed her and knocked the guitar from her. Ed went flying across the room. In their willingness to help they all rushed for him to pick him up but ran into with each other and landed on top on him. The body of the guitar was broken and it collapsed causing the strings to come flying loose.
Ed knew there would be no repairing him this time and realized that he must leave this broken body. He was very satisfied with the accomplishments of his life. He had brought joy to many people as a rental instrument but he didn’t find his true calling until he went into the preschools with Carol. They brought much excitement and joy to the children and influenced their lives for the good in many ways. After all, isn’t this the goal of leading a productive, happy and satisfying life – by influencing others for the good and bringing joy to their lives? He was content and decided that the next time he entered the body of an instrument he would once again seek out the same kind of instrument, a guitar. He liked the way it could be played in many styles and also the opportunities it provided to serve his fellow man.