Maybe it was fitting it was a casino.  A casino again—a blackjack table.  Like in those mind movies of David before the war in Biloxi.  Where he consoled Johnny Tribout.  On love’s loss.  But instead of former lovers—memories of past bets—it was the gamble of a new lover.  And in old man.  No men at the table with pictures that may have been on the backs of books.  The only person dressed like a musician David.  No sounds of slot machines.  No familiar cocktail waitresses, nor the smoke of a fire that looked like it could be the morning mist of a cemetery.  Just Popovitch.  Waiting with his drink.  His chips all in.  His last bet as David appeared holding his guitar case.  The boat docked.  Not in the middle of the Mississippi, but on the riverfront.  Awaiting gamblers.  Tourists hoping to win a free meal after walking the wide street of Canal.

And maybe I should speak of objectivity.  The difference between objective truth and subjective truth.  One is observed and the other is an observer.  One is a measurement and the other is a comparison of the measures.  A world without and a world within.  Revolving and centered.  A point and a point of view. Phenomenal and noumenal.  A thing in itself—independent of the mind—and sensory reality.  Conception and perception.  What exists and what we think exists…  Now’s a good time to speak of it.  In how I’ve been telling this story—the story of David’s life.  What David saw when he saw Popovitch, and what Popovitch knew.  The argument merely definitions.  The definitions arguments.  These very words adhering to one truth or the other.  In what you construct or deconstruct—your choice.  Whether you believe in free will or fate mattering little.  Not in this story.  How it is told.  More or less the facts remain the same.  With or without consensus—this is what happened.

“I see you still have it.”

“Once I thought it would never leave Mississippi, but I was wrong.”

“I was wrong too—wrong about a lot of things…  How’s your friend?”

“Well, he made it home alive…”

“As did you…  The war’s over now.”

David sets the guitar case down at his feet and sits on the stool next to Popovitch.  The table’s closed.  No one else sits there.  The dealer calling for another shoe.  The horn blowing announcing the boat leaving the dock soon.  They don’t have much time.

“What do you want?”

“Oh… it’s just an idea I have.  He could have been my son you know.  If Nina was still alive.”

“But she isn’t.”

“No… she isn’t.  How about you?  Have you found your paramour?”

“How did you know?”

“I have my sources…  I’ve seen you play.  Can I see it?  Perhaps I’m being sentimental.  A sentimental old man.  But you know why.  You know why it has meaning to me.”

“Yes…”

David opens the guitar case.  He takes out the Gibson ES-150 and hands it to Popovitch.  It looks strange in the old man’s hands, and you’re not sure what is more fragile—the guitar or Popovitch holding it.  And there’s a capo.  A dollar bill wrapped around it.  Popovitch unhooks it from the fret where it rests, turning it slowly in his hand, examining it.

“What’s this for?”

“It shortens the playable length of the strings.  A way to increase pitch…  I use the dollar bill on my acoustic.  I put it in between the strings near the sound hole.  Gives it the sound of a snare drum…”

The boat horn blows again, announcing departure.

“I can’t stay.  There is a woman.  She’s coming to see me today.  Pretty soon she’ll be knocking on my door.  I don’t want to miss her.”

Popovitch holds the guitar by the neck and passes it back to David.  The capo is still in his other hand.  They make eye contact for a moment, not looking down at their hands, but their eyes address it.

“Keep it,” David says.

Popovitch smiles.  Like he did in the confessional when talking to the priest before the war.  His blue eyes bright and glinty.  David rises from his stool and puts the guitar back in the case.  He never took off his hat, and he tips it before walking away.  Popovitch sits erect for another moment.  Then his whole body sags.  He looks down at the capo and turns it between his fingers.  His face ponders, and then he unfolds the dollar bill from the capo.  There is black lettering on the back of it—a message:  Tomorrow.  Huey P. Long Bridge.  River Road 9 p.m.  Johnny will be there…

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