Age of Discovering

by Rick Beck

Chapter 8

Playing My Guitar

After staying long enough to hear Glenn play, I had to meet my band mates so we could play. They weren't going to let me forget that I was late.

I dashed across the parking lot to my car. It was nine o'clock when I got the engine started. I squealed out of the parking lot, speeding toward the main gate and my date at the American Legion Post.

I stopped at the backdoor of the American Legion Post.

Bobby and Andy stood with hands on hips. So much for my speeches about professionalism and promptness.

"Ten after nine," Bobby said, holding up his watch.

"Anyone show up yet?" I asked, leaping out of the car to take my equipment out of the trunk and take it inside.

"Relax. He's just busting your balls," Andy said. "I just came outside. There are about twenty girls here and they're all primping in the ladies room. Just set it down. We'll take it inside. Go ahead and park your car."

"You guys set up?" I asked.

"Yeah, we gave it a little test run and came outside to wait for you. You do know being fashionably late means the audience, not the band?" Bobby said unhappily.

"I had something to do and I lost track of time," I said, getting in my car to park out of the way.

"Hot date?" Bobby asked, unsympathetic.

We walked up the stairs together and went inside.

"No, I stopped over at the base to hear their orchestra play," I said. "Won't happen again."

"Don't get any bright ideas about Brahms, Bach, and Beethoven," Bobby said with some distress in his voice.

"No, just listening. I was thinking we needed another instrument," I said. "You do know the classics are part of many rock and roll songs," I said.

"Don't remind me," Bobby said. "We can use someone to play that keyboard."

"We can ask Richie to play the keyboard," I said.


They were in perfect harmony.

"And where is our illustrious lead singer?" I asked.

"Helping the girl's primp, where else?" Bobby said.

"He went to take a leak before we came outside to meet you. He's probably serenading the girls while they pee," Andy said.

I hit the strings on my guitar. The amp was on and the sound a little more than I liked. I adjusted my amp. Bobby and I faced each other and we immediately went into Johnny Be Good. A perfect tune for blasting your amps and checking the equipment.

"Go, go, Johnny, go, go," Bobby and I sang as Andy joined us with his drums.

A few girls appeared from the far side of the room. It was a fair sized hall that would hold a couple hundred people and leave room for dancing.

Behind the four girls who were walking toward us, Richie appeared, both hands on the sides of his head as he made sure his perfect hair was perfectly combed.

"Go, go, go Johnny go!" we sang hitting our guitar licks flawlessly.

Richie climbed up on the front of the small stage.

"OK! OK!" Richie said. "The instruments work fine."

"Go, go, go Johnny go," we sang on.

Richie glared.

"The real singer is here," he said, glaring our way.

By the time our little drama played itself out, about twenty girls and someone's little brother stood staring up at Richie.

These were the moments Richie lived for.

We played another warm up song to let the girls know the entertainment was there. Richie stood at the front of the stage beside the microphone as the audience grew and moved closer to the stage.

We played two more songs before we began playing the first song Richie sang. He moved close to the microphone, looking down at the girls gathered below him. He sang a tender love song as he was adored.

There was no dancing at the dance party but most of the audience stopped talking, listening to Richie.

We lived to play rock and roll but we were disciplined enough to be able to backup Richie without any difficulty.

After Richie sang his first three love songs, he was done until after our break. Then he sang three more of his songs and he was done for the night. He'd mingle with the audience for a few minutes and sometimes he'd leave with a girl he'd been singing to.

After the break, and more rock and roll, I took out my acoustic guitar at about half past ten. I sat on a chair at the side of the stage facing Richie.

I played and Richie sang Yesterday.

Sir George Martin produced the Beatles music. He added much of the instrumentation to the greatest Beatles' hits. When Paul McCartney wrote Yesterday, he put it away for another time. Then Sir George told Paul, 'All it requires is a single acoustic guitar. It needs nothing else. The song is perfect.'

As was true of most of George Martin's ideas, it was just as he said. It turned out one of the top songs ever recorded. Dozens of the most famous singers covered the Beatles hit.

When Richie sang it, I played it as it was meant to be played and Richie did his best to sing it the way Paul did.

The only sounds were my guitar and Richie's clear sweet voice. The simplicity drew the audience to us.

It had become Richie's favorite song. Making him sing it was my way of showing him who was boss. In the end it turned out to be the best song Richie sang, and he knew it. So did the audiences.

It had been one of the first songs I learned to play on my first guitar. It remained one of my favorites. After Richie got over me making him sing it, it became his favorite too. He had a nice voice and that song was perfect for it. It was the final song he sang at each performance.

Once Richie left the stage, it was time to boogie. It was pure rock and roll until the end of the show.

Most of the kids at the dance party were from school, so we knew them. We didn't feel as much pressure with this kind of audience. Most kids had an appreciation for musicians and the music they made and our classmates appreciated the music we made.

A little dancing broke out as the night went on. There were some boys who danced with the girls but some girls danced with each other. I saw Eddie dancing with Bonnie at about eleven, after our second break.

Once the crowd began to thin, I sat on the edge of the stage to rest my sore feet. I played along as we jammed the way we did at practice. Some people stood and listened but most of the audience had a midnight curfew and their goodbyes had begun near the front entrance, where the birthday girl thanked everyone for coming..

I played to stay awake. It was a stressful day, but as it ended, I relished every minute of it. Few days had gone as well as this one.

"You're Gordon," a youngish voice said, as if he was almost sure.

We'd stopped playing and Andy was packing up his drums as Bobby sat on his amp and strummed a riff he'd been working on for a week or two.

"Yes, and who are you, little man," I asked.

He might have been twelve or thirteen. I recognized hims as the boy who stood with the girls to help them watch Richie sing.

"I'm Bonnie Blanchfield's brother Ben."

"Oh yes, I knew you reminded me of someone," I said.

"Don't remind me," Ben said.

I put my guitar down as Bobby turned off the amps.

"You're pretty good," Ben said. "I've never heard an acoustic played by a band before. I liked that song."

"Well, thank you, Ben. I'm glad someone thinks so," I said, giving him my most appreciative smile.

"The girls like Richie," he said. "He's cute but stuck up."

"Just another pretty face," I said sarcastically, but Ben got a surprisingly big laugh out of it. "You always notice when boys are cute?"

"You're not cute but you're a better looking guy than Richie," Ben said. "You're handsome in a real way, you know?"

"I am? I don't think of myself as good looking," I said, tired enough to allow his words to make me think. "But thanks again."

"It's the way you carry yourself, hold your guitar. You have a more substantial presence than Richie. He's a one trick pony," Ben said.

"You're pretty observant," I admitted.

He laughed.

"How old are you?" I asked.

"Fourteen. Actually I'm thirteen. I'll be fourteen in ten months."

"No, you don't look fourteen. Eddie goes with your sister, doesn't he?" I asked, knowing he did.

"Eddie? Yes, he does."

"Eddie's OK," I offered my best testimonial.

"Eddie's hopelessly horny," Ben advised me.

"Eddie!" I said surprised, and then I remembered what Glenn told me about him.

"Never bend over when he's around, if you want to keep your cherry," Ben said. "Or has he already plucked yours?"

I laughed.

"You say what's on your mind, Ben. Most guys your age don't have a mind that works most of the time," I said.

"No point in beating around the push. I know what's going on. I know a cool guy from a jerk. You're cool. Richie's a jerk."

"You stood and watched him while he sang," I said.

"I didn't say I didn't like him. I tried to talk to him and he treated me like I was a kid."

"Sounds like the Richie we all know and love. Boys don't usually talk about liking other boys," I said and then regretted it.

"I like what I like. So sue me," he said.

"No thank you. It's OK to like what you like. I'd never tell someone not to," I said.

He smiled.

"Hey, Gordon," came a voice from the other side of the room. "Hey, squirt," Eddie said, as he came up and began wrestling with Ben.

"See what I mean," Ben said, as Eddie held him from behind.

Eddie rubbed his chin on the back of Ben's neck.

"Cut it out, horn dog," Ben said, laughing and making a little effort to escape Eddie's hold on him.

"You met Ben," Eddie said. "He's a cool kid."

"I'm not a kid," Ben complained.

"Hey, I saw you at the concert. You made quite an exit," Eddie said.

"I was late for my gig," I said.

"That's what I told, Glenn," Eddie said. "That's why I was late to the party. Glenn wanted me to come to hear him solo. Bonnie wanted me to go to dinner with them but I told her I would come later. He's pretty good," Eddie said.

"Yes he is," I said.

"We came in just before you began playing the acoustic guitar. He says you're quite a guitar player," Eddie said. "He said he likes your band, except for Richie. He thinks Richie is a bit of a dick."

"You brought him here?"

"Yes, I drove him. It was our deal. I'd go see him play and he'd come to the party with me."

"He was here?" I questioned him.

"Yes. He was. He must have gotten a ride home," Eddie said, grabbing Ben again. "He disappeared while Bonnie and I were dancing."

They started to wrestle and Ben giggled. Eddie seemed more like he was Ben's age than mine.

I searched for Glenn among the thinning crowd but I had no luck. If he'd been there, he'd left without speaking to me. I walked to the front of the hall and back to the stage to make sure. He wasn't in the room.

He didn't stop to let me know he came to hear me play. I hadn't stopped to let him know I'd been there to hear him. Did he notice my exit?

Everyone noticed it.

I still checked for his face. He could be in the bathroom. The birthday girl came to take my hand.

"Thank you so much. It was the perfect end to a perfect day, Gordon. Everyone likes your band."

"Thank you. Happy birthday. I'm glad you enjoyed it."

Someone came over to say goodbye to her and I slipped away. After taking out his drums, Andy had my amp and two guitars. He took them outside as I followed.

I went down the back stairs and Andy handed me the guitars.

"I need a raise, boss," he said. "I love you man but playing for free is a bummer, dude."

"Don't we all," I said.

He laughed.

"We had a good night," Andy said.

"We did," Bobby said. "See you Monday."

"Wednesday. We had a good night. Let's take Monday off," I said.

That was all there was to it. Andy patted my back and went to his car. Bobby was in his car and he waved on his way out.

Someone closed the back door. The latch clicked when the door was locked. The light on the stairs went out.

There I stood with two guitars and my amp. I was glad it was over. I was always glad after we finished performing. The moon was overhead and furnished me with plenty of light. There was a chill in the air after a nice spring day.

Walking to my car, I popped the trunk lid and arranged the two guitars and the amp for the short ride home. I'd gotten my second wind and wasn't quite as tired.

I felt a bit out of sorts. My band was OK but were we really getting anywhere together? Any one could play for free and have more business than they could possibly handle. I dreamed of a day when we'd be paid a fair amount for the time and energy we put into learning our music.

Lost in my thoughts, I unlocked the car door. It had been a long day. It would be nice to get home.

"I wondered if you were going to take all night," a familiar voice said. "It's getting cold out here. I didn't dress to sit out in the cold half the night."

A figure sat on the ground in the dark on the the passenger side of the car. His legs were splayed out in from of him. His posture indicated he was drained of energy and cold. I could relate to being drained.

I stood at the rear of the car, looking at him. I'm sure my smile went from ear to ear.

"You going to open the door or are we going to stand here all night? I could have bummed a ride with Eddie. I'd have gotten home eventually. I'm sure he was driving all of Bonnie's friends home."

He stood with his violin in his hand. He leaned across the roof, looking my way. He watched me walk to the driver's side and unlock the door. I got in and leaned across to unlock the other door.

We stared at each other after he got in. He looked good to me. The thought came to me, this was the kind of dream I had about Glenn. He'd either be waiting for me at my front door or waiting for me in the woods. As soon as I got close to him, he grabbed me in his arms and kissed me like I'd never been kissed before.

I never had. Not the way I envisioned Glenn doing it.

"By the way, can you give me a ride home?" He asked. "If you're not busy, I mean?"

"Sure," I said, still waiting for the kiss.

I couldn't keep my eyes off him.

"I know a way we can get warm," he said.

I smiled. Was I going to get my kiss?

"Go ahead," I said.

"If you turn that key you have in your ignition, it'll start the engine. In a few minutes the heater will start heating it up so I stop freezing my ass off."

It wasn't as good as a kiss but a good idea. I started the engine.

"You are a musician," he said. "You play well, Gordo. You make a really cool sound with your ax. I liked it."

"Me?" I said.

Then I laughed. He'd come to hear me play. How cool was that?

"Speaking of musicians, I've never heard a violin played like you played it tonight. You're better than good. I can't even come up with a word for the sound you made, Glenn."

"It's what I do. It is who I am," he said. "I do take something seriously. Can we like start moving? We'll get home faster that way."

I studied his face for a few more seconds. Even in the dark he was handsome. There was far more to Glenn than I thought. My heart thumped away. Glenn had waited for me. He waited for me.

"Nice shirt," he finally said. "I've seen it before."

"You saw me?" I asked, feeling foolish all over again.

"No! I saw the shirt. Eddie told me who was in it. He was right," he said. "Here it is and here you are. Have a nice trip."

I wanted to belt Eddie for blowing my cover.

"Trip?" I said, watching his lips.

"Stumble, fall, collision with the door. You tripped," he explained to me.

"I was late getting to where my band was playing. Getting here, I mean."

"You go faster by running into things?"

"No! I was in a hurry and the door was in the way."

He looked at me and smiled like he was pulling my leg.

"I don't eat before a performance. Do you?" he asked.

"You want something to eat?" I asked. "I've got a few bucks. What about a half-smoke and a soda at Quik Stop? They'll be open."

The money was for gas but I could push my car if we ran out. I wanted to give Glenn something he needed. I'd bum five bucks off my dad to get gas the next time I drove somewhere.

"I'd love a Quik Stop half-smoke," he said.

"In spite of the confident and talented boy you see before you now, most people don't like my style. I have a need to do things better than anyone else. Boys think I'm a show off. I'm not really showing off, I'm just better than they are."

"OK," I said, not being that sure of myself when it came to the behavior of boys.

"None of it, and you've seen me at my worst, seems to make a difference to you," he said, and our eyes came together.

"I like you," I said. "Nothing you've done has changed my mind," I said.

"Eddie told me about the birthday party at the American Legion. He wanted to see me play. I told him we could leave once the performance ended and I'd go with him to the party. He told me your band was playing the party and that made me more interested."

"You want my jacket? I'm all jacked up from playing. I don't feel the cold."

"The heat is warming me up. I'll be fine. You can give me your hand. That might help."

I took my right hand off the wheel and he held it in both hands. Then he put the three hands in his lap.

"Instant heat," he said. "Feel the heat rising?"

"You're hands aren't that cold," I said, sensing an ulterior motive for taking my hand.

"You are questioning my honesty," he said.

"I'm not complaining," I said.

He didn't say he felt any warmer but I did.

I stopped at the Quik Stop on the way home.

"Onions and mustard on my half-smoke. I drink root beer. Here! This should cover the food," he said, handing me a five dollar bill.

"No! My treat," I said.

"You're supplying the car. I can pay for our eats," he said.

"Yes, you can but I'm buying the food," I said.

I went in and got the food.

"Here," I said. "Onions and mustard and a root beer."

I handed him his food before I got into the car.

We sat and consumed our late meal. I did eat before a performance. I didn't eat much and I was hungry. Once I finished my half-smoke, I started the car, backing out of the parking spot and heading for home.

"That was a feast," he said, licking the mustard off his fingers. "You probably saved my life."

"My pleasure," I said.

Sipping soda, I wondered how to keep Glenn with me for a little longer. I was enjoying the moments we shared.

"How did you know?" I asked, as I sipped soda and glanced at him.

"Know what?"

"How did you know how to open the violin case. You said the man told you he had to send a letter to the manufacturer to find out the secret."

"You believe in reincarnation?" he asked, leaning his head against the back of the seat.

"No. I don't believe I do."

"Me either. I had to stretch up to reach the case. I was a skinny little squirt then. Once I pulled it down to get a closer look, I just opened it. I didn't think about it. I pressed the sides, heard the latch release, and I flipped up the lid. That does present us with a mystery. Apparently no one but the proprietor could open it."

"Just like you'd done it before." I said with fascination.

"Something like that. I've got to say it gave me a real funny feeling when I looked at the violin for the first time. I'd never seen one close up. At thirteen I had two left hands and I was all thumbs, but when I picked up the violin, it was like I knew it. It fit me. It was my violin."

"I've never heard any one play as well as you do," I said. "It's like you are part of the violin. I haven't been exposed to a lot of live concerts. I still believe you have a rare gift in your ability to play."

"I'm just a freak of nature. I fall off my bike and I break things. When I pick up the violin, it's like I'm someone else. I'm calm and I know what to do, and I do it. I'm afraid that one day I'll pick it up and the truth will come out. I'll make a very bad noise."

"No way," I said. "It's like the music is alive inside of you," I said. "I don't think the violin is creating the music."

He looked at me again, turning his head from its resting place on the back of the seat..

"I didn't think of that. If you're so smart, how'd it get inside of me?"

"I don't know that but it's in there, Glenn. I'm no exceptional musician but that's how I see it."

"You passed my house," he said, still resting his head.

"Mine too," I said. You in a hurry?" I asked. "I usually drive when I need to unwind from a gig."

"Did I say turn around? Just saying," he said.

I laughed.

We drove on into the night.

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