Here’s a goofy character study amidst three settings because I was incapable of any great thing this week. And because the props here are a guitarist, an artist, and a writer, and there have been friends that have written to me wondering if I was writing about them, I’ll begin by saying the guitarist was modeled after Thorogood’s lead guitarist and everyone else is a figment of my imagination : ) And Michael, don’t think I’ve forgotten about the sharecropper gang.
It was a warm Thursday night just barely inside a Texas October. Evie had gone all out with her makeup, picked just the right clothes. She’d got in her car and followed the MapQuest directions to the stripped-down strip plaza where Bootlegger’s bar was supposedly at. The only colorful thing in the whole plaza was the bright-lit blue canopy on the Blockbuster store at the far right end of it. Everything else was grey or tan. Grey pavement, grey storefronts, tan grass and trees in grey planter islands.
Evie turned into the plaza and looked around for Bootlegger’s, saw a concentration of cars at the far left that led her eyes to the Bootlegger’s sign up on the false front and then down under it to the great, long row of big, blacked-out storefront windows. Hard, the place was, and blank like the eyes of a shark, made her feel like she should park closer to Blockbuster’s protective blue glow.
She landed in a curb spot, got out, and looked toward Bootlegger’s. She took a quick breath and began to walk all apprehensive through the night cut through in spots by the orangey dots of parking lot lights. Far below the glowing haze of them, crickets were making a racket, and hellacious Blues riffs rushed out and around the ground and swirled up into the air every time the Bootlegger’s door opened.
Evie fussed toward the place, tugging to get her clothes to set right on her again after sitting so long in the car. The two bouncers yakking out in front of Bootlegger’s caught site of her about then and watched as she began digging in her purse for her wallet, digging and not finding, missing a step for stepping on a pebble. The bouncers shut up and watched her like TV, amazed by the contradiction between beauty and bumbling.
By the time Evie had got organized and stood before the bouncers offering her ID, they were winking at each other and laughing. Evie frowned, cleared her throat. The bouncers straightened up, said, “Howdy,” to her, took her five dollars and opened the door for her. The Blues met her head-on and the bouncers looked her backside up and down as she walked on through.
The inside was mobbed with folks come to see this hot band. Evie put on an unfazed look, wore it like a wall against the stares, and walked as cool as possible straight back toward the L-shaped bar. It was a great hulking thing, dark like the rest of the place but for the towering shelves of colored booze bottles glowing like stacks of gems from picking up the stage lights to the right. To the left, the pool tables stretched back to the end of the place and the rest of the joint was a sea of cheap, cafeteria-looking tables and chairs.
The music was right loud and people were dancing and hollering and carrying on. The bar was jammed up with folks getting drinks and waiting like vultures for someone to leave their barstool. Evie fixed her sights on a couple of benign-looking good ole boys, bucked up and flashed them a smile, leaned in to them and hollered so she could be heard, “Say, would you boys mind if I squeeze in here just a moment so’s I can get myself a beer?”
The good ole boys couldn’t move fast enough. “Oh, hell no, Missy!” one bellowed while the other one hopped up and offered her his seat.
Evie laughed, hollered, “Oh, no, thank you kindly, sir! Just need a beer.”
“Shor thing, ma’am,” the seat-offerer hollered back. He tipped his hat to her and hopped back up onto his stool.
While Evie waited for her beer, she watched the band. The guitarist/vocalist was way more talented than she’d heard tell. Dude was sitting down, all knees and big-booted feet, playing a Dobro with a bottleneck slide on his little finger. He must have unwound to at least six feet tall, but there all of him was on a regular chair making it look small, going straight to town, tapping pedals, singing about having ramblin’ on his mind. And with his long, brown hair, Lord have mercy!
The bartender hollered at Evie, “Three dollars!”
She jumped, looked around at the impatient bartender, frowned, and set herself to the task of digging around in her purse for her wallet, digging and not finding.
“Here, man,” one of the good ole boys yelled toward the bartender. He pushed three fifty across the bar. “I got it.”
Evie leaned in to the patron saint and hollered, “Why, thank you!”
The good ole boy gave her a nod. She gave him a sincere smile in return and took off to find a place to stand closer to the band.
The guitarist was winding up his ramblin’ with an insane grand finale of chugging and picking and mixing fingering with sliding. The folks dancing had stopped to watch and the people seated had risen to their feet. The guitarist landed the slide on a vibrato at the end of the neck, then slid to the top of the fretboard and squeezed the sound dead. The people paused, stunned, before letting loose with the thrill of it all. And the guitarist, he unplugged the Dobro, said his thank-you’s, and announced a break.
When he stepped down off the stage, he was surrounded with folks wanting to touch the hem of his garment knowing they’d be made whole if they did. The guitarist was polite but clearly desiring to go where people weren’t. He signed CDs, hugged babes, shook hands with wannabes, but when he caught sight of Evie, he stopped short. He strew a path through the throng with excuse-me’s and offered his hand to Evie. She smiled and he took her off to the side where it was more peaceful, to talk.
And those who fretted his return did not have long to wait for he soon found that Evie was more bumble than beauty and in his position he could have anything he wanted and what he wanted was more like the Goddess Athena. For her part, Evie figured she just mustn’t have been beautiful enough, that maybe her thirty-five years were beginning to show, and she walked dejected toward the ladies’ room nearly tripping on a taped-down cord.
It was a cool, December night in downtown Dallas. Evie had beautified herself impressively, had bought a lovely peach-colored dress that perfectly complimented her skin. And she’d found a lovely pair of heels that perfectly matched the dress. Nevertheless, when she opened the much overdone door to the Mibenda Art Gallery, she saw that everyone, even the men, were more beautiful than she.
The men stood handsomely with arched backs, wavy hair swept back, and fashionable stubble upon their chins. And the women stood knowing themselves through and through, holding their wine glasses delicately in midair, and whispering close and intelligently to acquaintances.
The flooring throughout was light yellowy wood. And the reception desk, ceiling and walls and myriad partitions all were white. Just below the ceiling hung sprinkler pipes, lighting tracks and air ducts, their round and square shapes odd blessings also in white disguise. The square splashes of color on the walls that were Jacques Bagot’s paintings were spaced so far apart that they did little to interrupt the continuity of white.
Despite these significant intimidations, Evie took a quick breath and moved as coolly as she knew how, for it was Jacques Bagot she had come to meet, and hopefully to enamor. She graciously accepted a glass of wine when offered one and donned a considerate and interested face that studied closely each brush stroke of each painting and came away seeming enlightened somehow.
A few beautiful men approached her for her opinions but left after a few words out of her mouth. This caused Evie to doubt the freshness of her breath and she dug in her peach-colored purse, dug and dug until finding, her sugar-free wintergreen Tic Tacs. And just in time, for toward her came Monsieur Bagot, his eyes aglow with the excitement of an exquisite discovery. He took her hand since she knew not to offer it, and he bent forward slightly to kiss it, never taking his burnt umber eyes from hers.
Evie smiled and Monsieur Bagot touched the back of her arm to lead her aside to talk. And talk they did, for just a minute or two, before Monsieur excused himself and evaded her the rest of the evening. For her part, Evie assumed the mints had not done their job, and she left the gallery, mission sadly unaccomplished.
Evie brushed her teeth for ten minutes and flossed and swished regular Listerine around in her mouth for as long as she could stand it. She applied her make-up to ultimate perfection, dressed bookwormy—even put a pair of +1.00 reading glasses in her bottomless pit of a purse—and drove north to the Frisco Barnes and Noble.
She parked her car and hurried toward the store anticipating breathing that divine coffee-and-print smell and being enticed by those comfy green and brown reading spaces and those rows and rows of colorful hope and escape in the form of books. Although Evie was not particularly literarily inclined, she had always been drawn to the biography section. Since she had no outstanding talents, she all the more relished sniffing the pages of books about those who did have them.
But on this particular crisp January evening, Evie was not here for that, but to meet Jonathan Walken, who had recently become famous for his first novel, “Egoic Bliss.” The book spins off James Hillman’s acorn theory and asserts that although the ego is generally thought to be a hindrance to spiritual enlightenment, it is critical to keeping on track the soul’s overall educational journey toward ultimate perfection via the vehicles of human lifetimes.
Although Evie rarely bought books, and had never actually read one from cover to cover, this book had sounded so intriguing to her that she’d bought it the day after hearing of it and had devoured it entirely. So she had her copy of the book with her and she made her way excitedly to the rows of folding chairs around a podium with posters of the book cover all around. The seats were mostly taken, except for a few in the front and back rows. She chose the back and sat, waiting knowingly, breathlessly for what seemed like forever.
Finally, Mr. Walken appeared, tall and trim in a hip, suit jacket, no tie. He looked to be in his late forties, had longish salt and pepper hair, a very pleasing face, and trendy glasses perched on his nose. He held himself classily and walked calmly to the podium and organized his notes. He paused for a moment, then smiled as he scanned his audience. When his eyes met with the beauteous Evie, they seemed to vibrate and he lost his composure. He cleared his throat, paused again, and then began his talk, slowly at first, making a concerted effort not to look at Evie.
After the talk there was an opportunity to ask questions, and by the time Evie thought of something smart-sounding to ask, Mr. Walken had closed the session and was inviting all those who’d like him to sign their copies of his book to come forward. Evie jumped up and got in line, and when it was her turn, when Mr. Walken looked up at her, his eyes softened. He asked for her name and after some seconds, he reluctantly drew his eyes from her to her opened book and he scrawled, “Pretty Evie, coffee after?” and signed his name all wild underneath. She smiled a yes.
After everyone had dispersed, Mr. Walken walked lively over to Evie and said, “Well, Beautiful, we can’t have coffee here—too many potential interruptions. So name your favorite place!”
Evie smiled, but her brain seemed to slow, to be unable to access information, and she could only say, “Ah…”
Mr. Walken tried again and then again, and just as he was about to excuse himself, Evie blurted out, “Dunkin’ Donuts! No Frosted Java! No—” She went silent again.
“Does this happen often?” Mr. Walken asked, half joking.
Evie looked at her feet. “All the time,” she said in a little voice.
“Why do you suppose that is?” Walken asked.
“I’m not altogether sure,” Evie said, still looking down.
“Why did you come here?” Walken asked her.
“To meet you.”
“Because you’re somebody.”
Walken laughed. “And what are you? Chopped liver?”
Evie looked up at him, studied his eyes. “Yes!” she said, “The best chopped liver!” And she laughed and laughed until tears rolled down her face and her sides ached.
Walken laughed along with her, then he hugged her. “Good,” he said, smiling. “You understand.”
The Goddess Athena statue from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b9/Athena_type_Velletri.jpg
The above mess was spun off the Sunday Scribblings prompt “#165 – covert.” Click here for more on prompt #165 from other Sunday Scribblings participants.