Sometimes it was dust, or rust, or just poor quality. She hated the way other guitars made her hands smell. Always some alien film hanging on the tops of her digits. Each one leaving gray scum all over her hands, or deep string grooves in her fingers, if the action was poor. But the torrent of requests was endless. Always someone digging behind a couch, or picking up one from a dusty stand where it had been placed months (or years) before, never to be touched again. Always out of tune, never called for. The first few seconds were always finding relative tuning. Hearing the thirsty, harsh tensing of the strings as she wound them tighter.

Each such performance was tentative. Strumming a few chords, until she found which ones worked, and where any dead spots were. Sometimes there was a missing string (almost always the upper B or E) and she would have to rethink the fingerings on the fly. Then, of course, they would ask her to sing. Regardless if after a three hour show, with ragged voice and throbbing fingers. Still they wanted more. “just sing to us.” “Just one song.” “It’d be so great.”

The guitar she finally smashed came in a place she couldn’t quite remember. She thought it was Newport, but which one? No way of telling. The fancy house she had been brought to after the show suggested some North Carolina estate. But was there a Newport there? Had she been playing in a Newport that night? She didn’t know. It was another group of wide-eyed, smiling, expectant faces. Always the same, all the time, waiting for the show to start.

It was actually a nice Martin. She felt bad about that, even if it was covered in dust and the sticky remains of (hopefully) a child’s finger grime. But, they could probably afford to replace it.

The coffee table was a kind of sturdy stone—terribly, unnecessarily ornate. One giant windmill against it shattered the guitar. The strings bounced back, snapping all their tension out at once, a second angry release. The strings yanked the rest of the guitar back at her, but she got out of the way. The others all recoiled; one middle-aged man who used copious amounts of Just for Men slipped off his chair in surprise. They all gazed, from expectant to stunned, as she stood before them, still holding the splintered remains like a dead carcass in her hand.

“Sorry,” she said, cutting the static silence in the room. “I just played a lot already tonight.”