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This story by Ron Rash was unique in a few ways. The main character, Devon, has had everything go wrong in his life, and yet I don’t believe we are asked to feel sorry for him. Despite the depressing conditions all around him, he doesn’t seem to feel sorry for himself, either. The plot action is simply Devon at a crappy bar, playing his guitar. The entire story takes place over a period of, if I had to guess, maybe an hour. The conflict between Devon and his ex-father-in-law is the only current action conflict, but that is not what the story is about. That failure between these two men is just like the other failures that Devon mentions throughout this story; the failure to connect to people is overwhelmingly evident.

So at the end of his explanations and descriptions, we are left with a man who is just trying to get by in a world he doesn’t believe in. “Let God or evolution or whatever put us here in the first place start again from scratch, because this isn’t working,” (183). We are left wondering why he doesn’t leave and start over somewhere less hick, but then there’s the principal who made it so he would never get another teaching job- another failed connection. We are left wondering how on earth can be so sane, how he can stand being the only literate person in the room. It is ironic that the slovenly examples of humanity before him in the bar, have potentially more choices and options in their livesĀ  than he does. I really wanted to know why this story was written. We trust Devon, despite his obviously explosive past that put him in the position he’s in now, yet we don’t feel sorry for him, so it can’t be about that. This must be a story about humanity, perhaps one that is meant to make us think on our potential to connect and our potential to fail. Is this a story of encouragement or warning? Is the importance of the ability to connect and this man’s failure at doing so despite his good intentions (now- since we don’t know if this second chance of his is a flip turn around from his past- perhaps he used to be like one of the drunks in the bar) a guide to living? An example of making the best of it?

While “Free Bird” is a country classic, and it is often used as a point on which to heckle performers who obviously don’t know it, it is described here as being a requirement on the playlist because the low life bar-goers need it like diabetics needed insulin. That is important to this story I think, the prospect of freedom, the irony of it and the lack thereof. Devon’s stand alone performance of Freebird seems futile and yet we know it isn’t about the performance anymore, it is about Devon. His bandmates are passed out, the bar-goers in a similar condition, Devon knows only the refrain and the guitar, and he is playing his heart out. I thought this was rather enduring of him, as enduring as the caged bird that sings.

I’m as free as a bird now
And this bird you cannot change
And this bird you cannot change
Lord knows, I can’t change
Lord help me, I can’t change
Lord I can’t change

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