For Children

Gabrielle Herzig

Tightening Strings

2013 7th-8th Grade Prose Winner

I remember it clearly:

“Ding!” The bell to Ludlow Guitars rang as I stepped through the door. I crinkled the money in my pocket, admiring the array of used guitars covering every inch of the wall. Walking deeper and deeper into the intricate maze of instruments, I imagined the previous owner of each guitar and how devastated they must have been to give up such a beautiful thing. There was jet black, bright pink, triangular, 80’s themed, starburst, acoustic and any color, shape size or form you could think of.  Then I saw it. It was a white on white Fender Stratocaster. Such a plain, and simple guitar, yet it shined among the others. I didn’t even stop to try out a few chords, I immediately asked the man at the counter to take it down from its rack. I knew it was the one.

“That’ll be $250.” He mumbled, seeming extremely bored with his job. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the $252.50 that I have been saving for the past two years.  He gave me my change, and a case for my new prized possession. Finally, a guitar I can call my own. I rush home, my hand aching from carrying it the whole 25 blocks. I run through the doorway into our small apartment in Alphabet City, toss the case onto my bed, slowly undo the buckled, and reveal what is inside to my mother, creating a dramatic effect.

“Jess!” she exclaimed in shock. “It’s um…great, I guess…I just wish you would have spent all that money you earned on something more…. more useful.”

That wasn’t the answer I was expecting. I turn around and face her. I’m not going to put up with this anymore. I don’t want to have another fight. They never end up well.

“I’m keeping it.” I say trying not to show any emotion.

“Fine.” She says half-heartedly.

“Good.” I conclude the conversation and shut the door to my room.
* * *

At twelve-thirty that night I woke up, not being able to sleep and decided to try out some of the songs I had learned. I place the strap over my shoulder, and start to play “Back and Black.”  E minor, D, A….

Suddenly there was an ear-splitting “BAM!” I was standing in a crowd smashed in between a man dressed in all black, with a studded leather jacket and a woman playing the air guitar and violently shaking her head to the beat. Meanwhile on the stage I immediately recognized that ACDC was playing, and they were performing the same song that I was just practicing on my guitar. What is going on? I thought to myself. I decided to find out.  
“What year is it?” I asked Leather Jacket.

“1981! Where have you been living? Under a rock?” he said as the song approached the final verse.

“Actually I think I traveled back in—,” I was cut off before I could tell him I came from 2012.


I was back in my room. It was now 1:00 in the morning, and I was sitting on my bed, guitar in hand, my fingers still in the position of the last chord of Back and Black. Could this guitar really take me back in time to the concert of the songs I play?

Lethargically, I set down my “wonder guitar” and slowly crawled into bed. “Impossible,” I mumbled.

It was seven o’clock in the morning, and the morning sun was pouring into my room like stage lights from the concert. I was still amazed that my, cheap, worn-down, used guitar could take me back in time to various performances. I removed it from under my bed, began to play “Yesterday” by The Beatles and BAM!

It was 1963 and Paul McCartney was introducing “Yesterday” to the crowd in London. He began the first line, “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.” Millions of star-struck fans screamed with joy and soon began singing along with the band. As he sang the last line I took the time to capture the moment and remember the looks of delight on the audience members’ faces. “Now I need a place to hide away. Oh, I believe in yesterday.”

I returned to the present, coming home to my room in New York City. I have to show this to my mother. I don’t care if she despises my guitar playing, she won’t regret returning to a performance of her favorite song: American Pie.
“MOM!” I shouted from my bed.

“I’M IN MY ROOM!” she responded. I picked up the Stratocaster and sat down on the couch next to her.

“I have to show you something,” I began, “But you have to give me a chance.” She nodded her head, looking confused on where I was taking the conversation. “Hold on to the neck of the guitar.” She cooperated with a heavy sigh, but as soon as I started to play the first chords of her favorite song, her face lit up. So did mine.


Don Mclean was standing on stage, strumming his acoustic guitar and waving his voluminous hair. My mother was sitting next to me in the crowd, and we stood out with our modern clothing and haircuts. My mom swayed back and forth, her eyes closed and a smile spread across her face. She sang along, “Bye, Bye Ms. American Pie…” When the tune neared its end I could see the disappointment in her eyes. She grew up listening to this type of music and it was obvious that she missed hearing it. Don Mclean strummed the final chord and BAM! We were back on the couch, but something had changed.

My mother’s arms were around me. She thanked me for the experience and asked if we could travel back to another concert, sometime during the week. We agreed that every Monday we would decide on a song for me to learn, and on Friday I would play it. We would both travel back in time to the concert, together.

My guitar really did bring us closer. I can’t remember the last time I disagreed with her. I learned things about her childhood that I had no clue about before I bought my guitar. It’s almost as if the strings to our relationship were tightened.