Chapter VI

Chapter VI

A Chapter by Mounsell

Leaving the restaurant, John thought back to the guitar in the curio shop.  The instrument had appeared in fair condition.  The salty air had done minimal damage, and any other imperfections could be easily fixed. 

               Walking through town, he was able to quickly find the shop.  He walked through its door and exchanged greetings with the shopkeeper. 

               John walked to the wall that held the guitar.  He grabbed the price tag hanging from the instrument.  Looking at this tag and the condition of the guitar, John determined that it was a fair deal.  He brought the guitar to the shopkeeper's counter and handed him a wad of bills.  Looking at a tag on the storekeeper's shirt, John saw that it said the man's name, Mark, was emblazoned on it. 

               "Musician?" the man asked, checking the price tag.

               "I can play a few licks."

               "Why don't you play something?" Mark implored.

               John took the guitar's strap and placed it around his shoulder.  He proceeded to play one of the few songs he knew.  The instrument's rich tones filled the room and greatly entertained Mark.  After a few minutes the music faded away, and John took the strap from his shoulder,

               The shopkeeper waited for the last notes to die away and said, "You're pretty good."

               John replied with a simple "thanks."

               "You know Lissie?"

               John nodded.

               "She holds a concert every week in her diner.  Pretty good too.  Voice like an angel."          

               Now that the man mentioned it, John remembered seeing a poster at the restaurant that proclaiming the times of these performances. 

               "8:00 pm, every Friday, right?" John asked.

               "That's right."

               Mark looked for a moment at John's purchase and held up a finger, as if he was signaling for John to stay. 

               "By the way, I have a case for the guitar." Mark said.

               He walked to the wall behind the counter and grabbed a large black case.  Mark handed it to John who placed the instrument in its case and secured the latches. 

               Before John left the shop, the man spoke again.  "Be sure to tell Lissie Mark Doulas told you about her concert.  You won't have to pay cover."

               John wished Mark a good day and stepped out of the shop.  Outside, the heat was beginning to weaken its grip on Salton.  The wind had picked up while John was in the shop and lightly brushed against him as he made his way to the Hodges' home.  He had to walk only a few minutes before reaching the house.  He trudged up the wooden steps.

               Even from the front porch, John could smell chili cooking.  He sniffed and could make out the distinctive smell of aroma of tomato, onions, and black pepper.  He opened the door and the overwhelming aroma rushed to meet him.

Bill heard the door creak open and beckoned John with the phrase, "We're in the kitchen!"

               John followed his nose to the room.  Once inside, he set his guitar in the corner.  He could see Martha standing by the table with a pot of chili.  Bill sat at the round table with nearly a dozen bowls in front of him.  He appeared fatigued by the taste-testing he had done thus far, and leaned backwards in his chair.

               Martha filled yet another bowl of chili for Bill and handed it to him.  He lifted a spoonful of the steaming chili to his lips and blew across it.  Once the food seemed cool enough, he placed it in his mouth, and made careful considerations of its taste and texture.

               "Still too much onion," Bill commented.

               Martha replied, "Sure, dear?"

               "I'm sure."

               John watched as Martha spent some more time preparing her recipe.  She added each ingredient in varying amounts until only the onion remained outside her pot.  Lastly, she sliced the onions beside her and placed only a few pieces in her large pot.  Martha placed the concoction on the stove to simmer and turned back towards John. 

               "So, John," she began, "Did you have fun in town?

               "Yeah.  I tried out that little restaurant you told me about. Lissie makes a mean burger."

               "She is pretty good with any kind of dish, but burgers are her specialty."

               Bill glanced at the guitar in the corner and asked John, "You bought a guitar?"

               John nodded and said, "I looked around a few of the shops and managed to find a good guitar sitting in Mark Douglas' shop."

               "Is it in good shape?" inquired Bill.

               "It's in fair condition.  There are a few nicks and some wear, but otherwise, it's playable."

               "Speaking of guitars," Martha interrupted, "Lissie has a concert every Friday night at her diner."

               "Yeah, I know.  Mark told me about it."

               "You really should go," Martha said, holding a spoon in her hand, "She's got…"

               John interrupted, "A voice like an angel?"

               "Yes.  Anyway, you'll really enjoy the concert.  Bill can drive you there.  Isn't that right, Bill?"

               Bill looked up and said "Yes, I'll drive him.  I was going to ask him if needed a ride."

               "I'll drive you there."

               Martha waited a few minutes before turning the stove off.  She took the spoon in her hand and used it to fill a clean bowl with chili.  Bill was handed the bowl.  He sampled the recipe and grinned from ear to ear.

               "It's perfect," he stated.

               "Really?" replied Martha.  "I don't want Lissie beating me again."

               She paused, looked at John, and said "John, come try this recipe."

               John was handed a small bowl of the chili.  Putting a spoonful in his mouth, his tongue was suddenly overwhelmed by the piquant ingredients.  He motioned for a glass of water and Mrs. Hodge handed him a cup of milk.

               She explained, "Water just makes it worse."

               John gulped down the milk and spoke.

               "It's really spicy."

               "But does it taste good?"  Martha inquired.

               "Yeah, it's great."

               Martha smiled and thanked John.

               She whispered in Bill's ear, "I've got this contest in the bag."

               Bill replied "Sure, honey."

               John grabbed his guitar case and walked to the living room. 

                "The two hours between now and the concert will give me some time to fix the guitar," John thought.

               Sitting in the living room, John was able to make some progress repairing the guitar.  He found an extra set of strings lying beneath a pile of clothing in the chestnut dresser.  Repairing the wood, he discovered, would prove much more difficult.  Some of the scratches on the instrument were particularly deep and he lacked the materials to repair them. 

               John decided that he would finish repairing the guitar later, placed it in the extra bedroom, and began to prepare for Lissie's concert.  He had just slipped his jacket on when he heard a knock at the bedroom door.  Opening the door, he saw Bill standing, hat in hand.

               "Ready to go?" Bill asked.

               John finished buttoning his jacket and replied "Ready."

               Bill drove John to the diner.  John asked Bill, "Aren't you going?"

               "No," Bill replied.  "I've got a date with some chili."

               "I thought Martha had finished preparing her recipe."

               "Martha is pretty serious about this upcoming contest.  She's trying her hardest to not let Lissie to win a fourth time."

               "Ah.  Well, I'll see you later." John said, stepping out of the truck.

               John closed the truck door and walked into the restaurant.  From his position at the front of the diner, he was able to see Lissie tuning her guitar on the small stage.  Several people, including Mark Douglas, sat by tables near the stage and sipped beers.  The man who had sat near John earlier that day stood in front of the stage, conversing with Lissie. 

               Lissie looked away from the man and saw John taking a seat across the room. 

               "Why don't you sit closer, John?  I'm not gonna bite you."

               John stood up from his chair and moved to a table by the stage.

               A few minutes after eight o'clock, Lissie began her performance.  The first few tunes were purely instrumental.  John watched as Lissie pulled mellow tones from her instrument and projected them to the audience.  With each song, Lissie's performance grew livelier.  After some time, Lissie's voice began to rise above the rich sounds of her guitar.  The clear, powerful voice that leapt from Lissie's mouth filled the room stunned John.  He sat in quiet awe for the remainder of the performance.

               Once the concert ended, and the other members of the audience left the diner, John lingered.  Lissie was placin g her instrument inside its case when she asked John, "Like the concert?"

               "Like it?" John answered.  "I think it was amazing.  Mark was right when he said you have the voice of an angel."

               "Mark said that? I'll have to thank him when I see him again." 

               Lissie placed her guitar in its case and stepped down from the stage.  She grabbed a chair and sat near John.

               "So, are you a musician yourself, or do you just listen?"

               John turned his chair to face her and replied, "I've played guitar for a few years now."

               "Any good at it?"

               John, ever humble, replied "I can play a little bit."

               Lissie replied "Stay right there," and turned away from John.

               She pulled her case to the front of the stage and pulled the guitar out.  Once handed the instrument,John pulled the strap over his shoulder. 

               "Play something!" Lissie implored.   

               He complied and soon found himself strumming the notes of a song whose name he could not remember.  After only a few seconds, she picked up the melody and began to quietly hum along.  The tune grew faster and louder and Lissie's shifted her humming into singing.  The sounds of John's playing faded away after a few minutes but the girl continued singing. Realizing this, Lissie quickly silenced herself. 

               "Sorry." she said.

               "Don't be sorry, Lissie.  You seemed to be really enjoying yourself."

               "Yeah, it's a great song.  Do you know the name?

               John shook his head.

               "Hmm.  You know, John, you're pretty good."

               John handed the instrument back to Lissie and replied with a simple "Thank you."

               "I know you're only gonna be in town for a few more days…" Lissie began.

               Lissie paused for a moment, as if she was unsure of the fruitfulness of her question. 

               "How would you like to play with me next Friday?" Lissie asked.

               She added quickly "I mean, if you're still here."

               "I'd love to.  I'm sure I can stay in town a little bit longer."

               "That's great!" Lissie exclaimed.

               Lissie calmed herself and peered at the clock above her kitchen's door.

               "It's getting pretty late.  Could you help me carry my stuff to the house?" Lissie asked.

               "Your house?"

               Lissie replied, with a smirk, "No, the president's.  Of course my house."

© 2012 Mounsell

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Added on May 20, 2012
Last Updated on June 2, 2012
Tags: salt, city, sea, truck, salton, guitar, song, songs, concert, performance, yawn, sleep, paris



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