Saturday, January 26, 2013

Prompt: Reluctant Superstar

Cheri walks out to the edge of the pool, phone dangling in her outstretched hand.

“Hey, baby. It’s Danny. He wants to come out and see you. What should I tell him?”

I shake my head. I don’t even turn my head away from the mountain view I’ve been staring at for the past hour or so, since the latest spy thriller on my reader failed to pique my interest. I don’t say anything.

Cheri stands behind me for a moment, then she sighs and sits on the recliner next to me, talking on the phone. “Danny, I don’t know. But you come on out if you want, and have dinner with us. Yeah, Friday’s good. You want some fried catfish? Okay, honey, I’ll do it up right. Sure, pick up some zin for me and some beer for you guys, that’ll be fine.”

After she hangs up, she comes over and sits on my lap, leaning her head against my shoulder. “You have a bunch of new songs, baby. Let Danny do his thing, okay?”

I tighten my arms around her and lean my chin on her shoulder. “I won’t tour again.”

She reaches her hands up to stroke my hair, my cheeks. “I know, baby. I know. You won’t have to.” She twists around to kiss me.

Two days later, I watch Danny’s rental SUV crawl up the mountain lane. Cheri greets him with squeals of excitement at the front door, and I hear them laughing and talking in the kitchen. He comes out after awhile and sits in the other recliner, sets a six-pack of beer between us. I think about ignoring it, but Danny always brings really good beer, so I pull up a bottle and pop the top on the worn spot at the edge of my recliner. We sit in silence while the setting sun floods colors across the darkening sky.

“Ya’ll come in for dinner, now!” Cheri calls, and we pick up our empty bottles and head inside. She’s set the table with candles and fresh flowers and her favorite china, the handmade stuff we found in Portugal on our first world tour, twelve, no, fourteen years ago. The first tour Danny arranged for me.

Cheri’s an excellent hostess and an even better cook. She’s fixed a feast of Danny’s and my favorites. Beer-batter fried catfish, jalapeno hushpuppies, fresh slaw, fried okra and green tomatoes, bright green wilted spinach with enough garlic to choke a horse, and twice-mashed potatoes in the roasted skins, smothered in sharp cheddar cheese. Danny brought a couple of different wines for Cheri to try, although he knows he’ll never convert her away from those sweet zins and muscatos.

She keeps the conversation flowing easily, although it’s mostly her and Danny doing the talking. I’m content to listen to the music of their voices, their stories. Later tonight, I know I’ll have at least two more songs to write from it all, and then when I climb in bed with Cheri, she’ll wake up and we’ll make love, long and slow.

Danny and I clear the dishes and wash up in companionable silence while Cheri flames the tops of our crème brulees. We carry them, along with a bottle of Prosecco, out to the patio recliners. I tuck a blanket around Cheri before I settle in between her and Danny. He’ll want to smoke a clove cigar afterwards, and she doesn’t like the smell. We enjoy our dessert and casual conversation, until we drift into silence. Finally Danny says what he came for. “Cheri says you’ve got a lot of new music, man. Let me take it. Let me do my job. You won’t have to do a thing.”

I look over at him with eyebrows raised. He laughs.

“Well, okay, you might have to do one or two things. But all studio, I swear. And how about this? I am a genius. You are going to love this. Have you seen these new streaming performances? They are showing them in movie theaters all over the place now. Opera, sporting events, you name it.  Man, we could set you up right out here, and you could perform, and we could stream it all over the world. Audiences want you man, and they know your story. This will work. Seriously, man. You are too talented to let it all go to waste!”

I look from him to Cheri, and she gives me an encouraging nod. I scrape the last of the crème brulee off my dish and finish off my drink. They both keep silent, giving me time. Giving me space. They know what I need.

I reach under my chair and pull out my guitar, a 12-string Larrivée I bought on a whim—the first time I didn’t ask how much it cost first. When Danny and Cheri put me back together after our second world tour. I start to play, some old songs, some new. A private concert for the moon and the stars, for the mountains and trees, for the crisp night air. For Danny and Cheri.

I’ll let Danny take a CD with him when he goes.

Dogs in house:
Houdini, Brindle

Free Fall, Jesse Cook

January word count:

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