Clyde’s fingers danced over the frets on his guitar while he strummed across the strings with a calloused thumb. At his side, Boxer lay with his gray muzzle on his matted paws, drooping eyes following the walkers flooding by on the asphalt path.
Around the pair, the crowds continued to gather, their footsteps drowning out Clyde’s harmony. He shrugged and kept playing, the tune rattling between his ears as the notes fell without impact on the distracted audience.
“Do you think they’re going to make it?” asked a young woman in a flaring ochre smock dress with knee high socks pulled up to the hem. She clutched a newspaper to her chest as if worried about the pages scattering to the wind.
“It’s NASA,” said her counterpart, a young man with a mane of wavy locks and crimson tee-shirt. “Of course they’ll make it.” His wide pant legs slapped against one another and they hurried on.
Clyde mellowed his tune as he watched them work through the growing array of people filling the grass of Central Park. The pair squeezed onto a free patch, the lady using the paper to protect her skirt from the damp blades.
“They sound pretty sure,” said Clyde down to Boxer. The hound lifted his head, tongue drooping out with a set of pants.
Clyde twisted his clawed hand into another set of cords while the stream continued to flow down the winding trail.
“You know what this is,” said a balding fellow, bow tie loosened around his sweat stained collar and gray flannel suit coat draped over his arm, bared by rolled sleeves.
“What?” A younger man, hands filling the pockets of his striped trousers beneath his sports jacket, asked as he kept up with the older man’s rapid pace.
“A hoax. Compete hoax.” They strode past within a cloud of self confidence.
Clyde shook his head. “Seems a lot of interest for a hoax.” Boxer’s tail wagged in slow agreement.
A lady in a matching two piece suit and neckerchief leaned toward her friend in a short flaring plaid skirt as if conspiring. “We’re going to beat the Russian’s this time for sure.”
Clyde looked down the stream of figures pouring into the Park. Cars had pulled up along the sidewalk, dotted with those watching from roofs and hoods.
“Don’t see any Russians…” he noted to Boxer as the two women clack on in their stout heels.
With a respective sigh and huff, the musician and dog turned toward the sea of young and old from across the city sitting upon the grass. Everyone faced the screens posted along the front edge of the lawn. The hum of conversations blended with the passing wind and flutter of leaves hanging in thick clumps on the park’s clusters of trees.
Speakers then crackled to life with the steady voice of Walter Cronkite and hushed the murmurs.
Clyde slowed his fingers down into a softer rhythm, matching the cadence and tenor of the reporter. His fingers seemed the only movement in the entire park. Chests ceased to rise and fall as everyone held their breaths. Hands clutched one another, fingers frozen in place. No one shifted, no one moved, no one spoke. Everyone watched and waited.
Clyde silenced his strums as the black and white image filled the screen. Boxer shuffled up to his feet and leaned into the leg of his dirty jeans. Clyde’s fingers dug into the dog’s fur, absently scratching in time with his last tune.
They watched together while the static on the screen revealed a blocky figure descending a ladder, moving with fluid jumps as if through water. The bottom of the picture labeled the distant location in pixilated letters. A muffled voice came through the speakers, accompanying the final hop down on to the pale lunar surface.
A single voice broke the silence as the crowd roared as one.
Clyde gave Boxer a heavy set of pats and then took hold of the neck on his guitar once more. He pulled on his own adrenaline, blended in the energy of the shouting, crying and exuberant people around them, and rocketed across his strings.
Over his vibrant scales the buoyant crowd began to deflate and then disperse. Clyde watched some wiping away tears, others held hands. Some walked as if stunned, the surge of bodies keeping them from wandering as they all made their way back to their normal lives.
Clyde turned to watch his fingers on his frets, allowing the music to take him away.
A pair of Chelsea boots stopped before his open guitar case. One shiny toe matched the rhythm. Clyde shifted into a simpler array of cords and glanced up.
The young man with a thick set of square glasses bobbed his head along with the tune, a wistful smile stretching beneath his thin mustache.
Clyde turned back to his strings and dove into another roller coaster of notes.
“Out of this world, man” said the fellow.
Clyde smiled through his stubble and wandered into another rapid melody. A few scuffed quarters finally tumbled into Clyde’s case and the feet moved on.
Clyde finished the set and then rested his fingers. He gave Boxer a scratch, the dog’s tail thumping wearily on the path.
“See there, boy” Clyde said, reaching down for the coins and flipping up tails, “the Eagles have landed.”