Banshee / by Cyle Talley

"Jesus. She's here again?" The bell rings as Mike walks into the shop. "Third day in a row now. What do they call that? When a musician is in a place for more than one night?"

"I think that's called a residency," the kid pipes up, a hook pinched between his pursed lips.

"Shut up, kid," Mike and I say in unison. The kid goes back to tying flies. "It wouldn't be so bad if she weren't so damned loud, you know? I can't even hear the traffic on the street, just the damned guitar and that yawp of a voice."

"What's a yawp, John?" the kid asks.

"Shut up, kid," Mike and I say in unison.

"More like a banshee, if you ask me," Mike comes around the counter and stands beside me. "Filson sent their new purchase agreement." He holds it up.

"How much do they want this year?"

"A kidney- or a second born."

"Think they'd take the kid?" The kid just shakes his head.

"What's that she's singing now?" Mike mindlessly flips through the catalog. The day won't get busy until the guided group gets back this afternoon. I sent them with Roy, and I'd bet he'll make his weight in tips. Texans can't catch a cold, but they're grateful.

"I think that's Alanis Morrisette," the kid says.

"Now what in the blue hell is an Alanis Morrisette? And shut UP, kid!"

"She's that lady who doesn't understand what irony is," Mike says. "Oh, we need a Patagonia order, too."

"They'd definitely take the kid," I set my hands on the glass countertop. "Alright, it's time to tell the yawper the hit the road."

"You mean the banshee? The siren?" Mike chuckles, flips another page.

"Ask her if she knows any Ed Sheehan," the kid says.

"Kill the kid while I'm out, Mike. Make it look like an accident." The bell rings as I shove the door open. The sweet summer air washes over my face"

//


Alright, miss," she's got a shaved head, an arm full of colorful tattoos is exposed by her tank top. Birdlike. Pretty. Sitting cross legged and leaning over her guitar, she's picking the bills from the change in the guitar case in front of her. She folds them neatly and shoves them into her bra. I haven't actually seen her before- I get to the shop before she does- I'd only heard her. The voice doesn't match the person. She's clean. Her backpack looks to be pretty new, even if it is stuffed beyond capacity. She can't be much older than Janey, my oldest, away at college. "Your residency at the Fit To Be Tied Fly Shop needs to come to a close."

"You know you can't do this, right?" She says, cool as a cucumber.

"Oh?"

"This town's got an ordinance. As long as I have a permit- and I do- I can play here for seven days," she fishes in her bra and hands me an orange card that is moist from her body heat.

"I see. Except that you are leaning against my building. This permit allows you to play, not loiter, missy."

"Do not. Call me. Missy."

"Do not sit in front of my shop."

"I'll do as I please."

"You'll do as the rest of us do- as you're afforded the opportunity. So, here it is. Play one more song, gather your things, and be on your way. Overstay your welcome, and I call the authorities."

"They're no authority over me."

"That's what everyone says, until they actually show up. The kid wants to hear some Ed Shannon. You know him?"

"It's Ed Sheeran, you fucking troglodyte."

"Say that again," Teenage girls are the meanest, most feral creatures God put on this earth. But I'm the father of two of them and I give no quarter. She shifts her weight, but doesn't look away. "Do it. Say that again."

The muscles in her jaw bulge, distorting its clean lines. Her pupils are black holes that threaten to eat time itself. Still, no quarter.

"One song, then gone." I turn on my heels, easy as a cast line that floats through the morning ether, coming gently to land. The guitar sounds like a buzzsaw as I head back into the shop.

"Ed Shannon. For you, kid."

"Sheeran."

"Shut up, kid."

//

What the hell. I'm going to gloat a little. I stand next to the new Simms display in the window and stare at the back of her head.

"Mikepedia," I say over my shoulder. "What's the spot where your hair starts called?"

"A whorl," he says.

"It's strange that you know that, Mike."

"I'm here for you, buddy. Hey, sounds like that idiot Mark's coming. "

The rumble of Mark's enormous 350 Powerstroke is obscene. Equal parts its unmuffled diesel engine and its gratuitous, house-crushing knurled tires. How could anyone be a fisherman with that kind of a truck?

She continues to play, singing so the sun can hear her, as the truck rolls up to the light at the corner. Mark waves at me through the window. She looks over her shoulder to see who Mark is waving at.

"If a woman looked at me like that," Mike's come over to see the happenings. "I'd turn to stone."

"I survived denying Janey a sophomore prom with a senior. This is a summer breeze." I point to Mark, goading him into revving the engine. He lays into it and the roar of the engine is all any of us can hear. It rattles the display window, and so I've got to believe that she can feel the vibrations on her skin. She looks back at me, strumming now with her full arm, screaming the lyrics, or screaming at me, or screaming at everything and looking every bit like a goddam banshee. Still playing, she stands up and faces the window, pressing her forehead to the glass. Something's changed. She was pissed before, sure, but it's turned into a white hot fury. Mark is still laying into the gas, and has started honking the horn now. I can feel the rumble in the deepest part of my skull.

The banshee shrieks and, in one goddam graceful motion, steps back, turns, grabs the guitar by the neck, and swings it like a baseball bat toward the truck. She releases it as her arms get full extension and it careens toward the truck, easy as you please, turning gyroscopic circles, like a flick of a cast line, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.