No, today's story is not from the fictional self-help book written by Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. It is, however, an excerpt from a novel by Anne B. Henry, an MFA candidate at Wilkes University. She is also an editorial assistant with Etruscan Press.
The excerpt Anne is sharing with us is told from the point of view of an older woman who becomes invested in a story being told by a group of aging rockers sitting next to her at the beach. Enjoy!
By Anne B. Henry
A tissue hung from the corner of the mouth of the man with salt and pepper Brillo for hair, and he chewed on it with gusto. Behind my sunglasses, from beneath the next beach umbrella, I didn’t miss a trick. Hiding behind Pride and Prejudice pretending I was reading it (for the 10th time), I buried my arthritic feet deep in the hot sand. To Brillo-haired man I was just a little old woman who was probably hard of hearing, so what did it matter if the whole group of them clustered together over a huge red and white cooler, littering their sentences with obscenities. Hell, they were no spring chickens, either. From their conversations, I gathered that they were musician types, albeit not still glam, desired rock stars, with their balding heads, potbellies, and gray beards. Though it was 10 a.m., they popped open beer cans and emptied them into thermos bottles or large neon colored plastic cups with lids, on the sly, as if I didn’t see that! Hah! The guys told raunchy jokes or crazy band stories.
“Bart, tell them about the day you bought the Telecaster and the Fender amp,” urged the blonde-haired woman with the tattoos on her arms, as she butted a cigarette in a hill of sand that served as their ashtray. I think she belonged to Brillo head Bart with the tissue hanging from his mouth. The more they drank, the looser the language got.
Only the one redheaded woman looked in my direction and attempted to shush them. Brillo head plunged right into his tale, making a loud slurping sound before he spoke, and not bothering to remove the tissue.
“In Papershop, a guy listed a 1957 Fender Telecaster and a black face Fender Showman amp, just like the one I had, maybe 20 years ago, but I sold it to Dick from the Rubber Rock Band, remember him?”
Brillo head paused. Bart, Brillo head, made a living buying and selling stuff, mostly cars he fixed up and musical equipment of all sorts. He played lead guitar and sang in the band with these guys for 30 years and a smaller, less professional band for the last 10 years. I gathered this from my eavesdropping, though I didn’t catch any band names. Not that I’d recognize them anyway. Been a long time since I jitterbugged - in public, anyway.
“Yeah, the guy who always wore a Panama hat and had braids down to his ass?” The tall round man stood and pulled up his purple trunks and lit a cigarette, exhaling as he asked.
“Yeah that one.” Bart said and they shared a few snickers about Dick’s wardrobe and sexual preferences. “Well, anyway, this guy had it for sale for 1200 bucks and it sounded too good to be true. So I called him up, Chuck was his name and he told me he had it at his place, way the hell out in no man’s land. Now, you know I don’t like driving far and this place was almost on my forgeddabout it list. But I needed to see it. I wanted that baby.”
He slurped in air again and changed to a paper towel. The tissue was limp and damp; it held no appeal, I figured.
“I tried to get him to drive it down to the city but he was stubborn. Here or nowhere, he said. And he sounded like he was gonna cry. So, I tell him okay, buddy, okay, I’ll come out tomorrow. I could hear the smile in his voice as he gave me directions that I scribbled down on the back of the Papershop magazine. So, the next day I headed up over the mountain and through the woods and finally into God Bless Us, rural America.
"Robinson Road was a left hand turn and looked decent, paved and all, until I got about a mile in and dirt flew up against the sides of my Chevy Tracker as I drove alongside rows of cornfields, big red juicy lookin’ tomatoes on stakes and cows that were so close I thought they could knock me over. The smell was something awful. Cow shit, I guess, though I never had the pleasure of such an aroma in my life.”
“City Slicker,” a brunette in a green bikini, snorted “Go on.”
“Finally, I pull into a driveway and I see this guy and he kinda looks familiar but after awhile I guess all us musicians start to look alike.”
He paused to enjoy the guffaws and affirmations. The tall skinny guy in the cut off jeans stood and stretched, adjusting his package as he did. Beer cans popped again. Somebody passed gas and the red haired woman waved her hand in front of her face.
“Whew, nasty stuff, dude,” the smallest man got off his blanket, moved to the opposite side of the umbrella and flopped down in the sand.
“So,” Brillo head Bart continued, “a guy in a Grateful Dead tie-dyed sunflower tee shirt pokes his head out of the front door of this great looking red brick ranch that sits caddy cornered on a cleared lot with a swing set and an old red Volvo. I could see acres and aces of land sloping down behind the house. And what a view! Clouds and mountains, great spot, so private and quiet, not a soul around.”
He slugged from the pink cup. He had them all in the palm of his hand. He paused, wanting them to ask for more.
“Get on with it,” snarled a gruff, sleepy voice from under a straw hat.
“So, I get out and stand by the side of the car and he trudges over to me, long shiny hair the color of lemons, blowing in the breeze. 'You Bart?' he asks. 'Yeah, Chuck?' He nods. He tells me he hardly used the guitar, bought it because it called his name when he and Jenny first met and he was whacko in love with her and everything around her. Jenny was gonna take guitar lessons, she promised, but it never happened after they had the baby and all. He tells me about how great the amp sounds and how he used it at the Arena down town and the sound was up to par, better than some of the other stuff that cost big bucks.
“I’m selling my stuff, gotta settle down, Jenny told me. So, I only play couple of times a month and I work for the county. Her uncle got me in doing maintenance at the courthouse.
“‘Way too much information,’ I think, ‘just let me see the stuff. I gotta see the stuff. Can’t wait.’ Finally, he starts walking to the house, me beside him’.
“Listen, Bart, got a favor to ask,” this Chuck looks at me with wide eyes.
“Oh, man, all I want to do is give him money and get out of there, not even try to talk him down, cause I think it’s gonna be a good deal. In fair condition, he could get 1500 bucks. At 1200 for something good, I’ll be doing great. ‘Yeah?’ I say. I stop and look at him. His face turns red. ‘Listen, buddy. Jenny left me. It’s so lonely out here. If she don’t want me I might as well be dead.’
He reaches into his pocket and I see a flash of something silver. He keeps his hand in his pocket and I start to think maybe he has a gun. People get scared thinking about living in the city. But way out here, anything could happen and who’d ever know till they found your body. Why’s he telling me all this crap? I’m shakin’ inside, torn between making a run for it and sticking around just to get a look at the Fender. He stands close and I smell whiskey. I hold my breath. He leans in close to my face, we’re nose to nose, and it’s creepy.
"‘Would you take a picture of me with my guitar? Will that be a dealbreaker for ya, buddy, will it?’ Bart paces just outside the beach umbrella.
“If I’m gonna get the guitar, I gotta keep this guy happy. So what’ll it take outta me if I take a picture? ‘Nah, I tell him, I can do that. Got a camera?’ He reaches back into the pocket and pulls out a Canon Digital.”
As he told this part of the story, Bart turned his Brillo head so that I could hardly hear him. I scooched my beach chair as close as I could get without being noticed.