On a rainy Saturday morning in April in Mountain Home Idaho, Gig Antonelli, fifty-four, his graying brown hair in a short ponytail, sits on a small burgundy sofa in the center of the vast high-ceilinged space shared equally by Gig Music and Galleria Cruzero. He is playing a guitar, a small pecan-brown Martin 0-17 made in 1936 and worth seven thousand dollars.
Gig only plays guitar when he doesn’t think anyone is listening. He gets anxious in front of an audience and muffs chords and feels like a fool. But when he is unaware of anyone paying attention to him, his playing is unique and virtuosic. He started playing guitar when he was twelve, shortly after his father died, yet it was only a few years ago that he began composing songs for the guitar, some with words, some without. And now several of his songs have been recorded by the local violin-guitar duo Jasmy & Beckman, and two of Gig’s songs, “You Don’t Say” and “Not Too Shabby” are getting lots of airplay on radio stations in Idaho and Washington and beyond.
Julian Beckman and his wife Portia Cruzero own Gig Music and Galleria Cruzero, though Gig was the original owner of Gig Music. He sold the business and building to Beckman, his longtime employee, nine years ago and moved to Tacoma where he owned a gigantic music store that went out of business four years after Gig bought the huge store.
Now Gig works for Beckman buying and selling guitars and giving lessons, and he has no aspirations to open another guitar shop of his own. Beckman works in the shop and gives lessons, too, though he is not here every day because he spends three days a week working as a sound engineer and backing guitarist in his recording studio—Beckman Sound—located in his refurbished garage.
Beckman and Gig are good friends, though until recently they rarely socialized outside of work because from the outset of their friendship Beckman lived with his mother and had a child to raise and was not a user of marijuana, whereas Gig was childless, lived alone, and smoked pot from the moment he locked up the shop in the early evening until he went to bed at midnight.
But nowadays Gig lives with his mother and no longer smokes pot, Beckman’s daughter is grown and living in Portland, and Beckman’s relatively new wife Portia adores Gig, so the Beckmans and Antonellis have supper together every week or so. And Beckman and Gig write songs together now, too, which is a joy for both of them.
The official entrance to Galleria Cruzero is a large glass door fifty feet down the street from the solid oak door that is the official entrance to Gig Music, though visitors to the gallery sometimes use the guitar shop door, and guitar shop customers sometimes use the gallery door.
This morning, Colleen McGrath, tall and trim with sky blue eyes and generous lips and shoulder-length reddish brown hair, enters the joint establishment through the gallery door—the sight and sound of Gig playing the guitar bringing a smile to her lovely face.
Lauren Tinsley, an enthusiastic middle-aged woman with curly gray hair and perpetually rosy cheeks, is tending the gallery today, sitting in an armchair and knitting a sweater, which is why she waits until she finishes a row before looking up to greet Colleen.
“Well hey Colleen,” she says, putting down the half-finished sweater. “How the heck are you?”
“Don’t get up,” says Colleen, an extremely confident person. “I’m here to buy a guitar, though every time I see Portia’s exquisite photograph of Shoshone Falls, I’m more and more tempted to buy it.”
Hearing Colleen say the word guitar, Gig gets up from the sofa, returns the little Martin to its place on the wall of guitars, and awaits Colleen. He has known her his entire life, being four years younger than she and both of them lifelong residents of Mountain Home.
Gig gave guitar lessons to Colleen’s eldest child, Cindy, when Cindy was a teenager, and Beckman gave guitar lessons to Colleen’s next eldest, Brian, when Brian was a teen; and Beckman also gave lessons to Colleen’s third and youngest child Aurora, who is now eighteen and a freshman at the University of Washington. Cindy is now forty, a journalist and the mother of three, living in Boston. Brian is thirty-nine, a geologist and the father of two, living in Tucson.
Colleen and Gig have always especially liked each other, and when Gig was thirty-seven and Colleen was forty-one, a year after the demise of her brief second marriage that produced Aurora, Gig asked her to go out with him and Colleen declined in a way he took to mean she didn’t consider him boyfriend material; whereas he found her ideal in every way he could imagine.
The truth was, Colleen found Gig excellent boyfriend material in every way except one: he was a habitual user of marijuana. Her first husband was a heavy pot smoker and never to be trusted, and her second husband was a pot smoker, alcoholic, and pathological liar, so she vowed never again to get involved with a man dependent on pot, no matter how much she liked him.
Nevertheless, Gig and Colleen were always glad to see each other when Colleen came into the guitar shop to drop off her children for a lesson or to pick them up after. And it has always been the case that whenever Colleen and Gig happen to be at the same party or gathering, they make beelines for each other.
“Did I hear you say guitar?” asks Gig, who always sounds a little stoned, though he hasn’t had a puff of pot in seven years.
“Yes, you did,” says Colleen, frowning at him. “You seem different, Gig. What’s changed?”
“Since you saw me last week?” he asks, laughing. “During the intermission of that god awful play?”
“Yeah, since then,” she says, nodding. “I’m so glad to know you thought the play was awful. I just hated it, but everyone else kept saying how brilliant it was, so I kept having to bite my tongue.” She squints at him. “Have you gotten taller? Has your voice changed?”
“As far as I know,” says Gig, finding her even more attractive than he usually does, “I am no taller than I was last week. Nor am I aware of any changes in my voice.” He shrugs pleasantly. “Maybe you’ve changed, Colleen, and you perceive the world differently now.”
“Well that could be,” she says, matter-of-factly. “I’m only seeing clients three days a week now, so I have vast amounts of free time. Just what I always wanted, but now the question is… how to fill the void?”
“A guitar,” says Gig, gesturing to the wall of guitars.
“Yes,” she says, gazing at the elegant display of instruments. “Something good but not too expensive, in case this turns out to be another false start. I spent a small fortune on paints and canvases hoping to unleash my inner Georgia O’Keefe, but it turns out that making really good erotic paintings of flowers and cow skulls is not as easy as you might think.”
“I wouldn’t think it would be,” says Gig, shaking his head. “Which might explain why I’ve never tried. Not that I don’t admire Georgia O’Keefe. I do. I’m just more interested in playing the guitar.”
“As am I,” says Colleen, unaware that Gig no longer smokes pot and wishing he didn’t because then she’d probably pursue him, not that she’s ever pursued anyone; she’s never had to because she’s always being pursued.
“Are you looking for a full-sized guitar or a parlor guitar?” asks Gig, recalling that both Colleen’s daughters played small guitars. “Steel string or nylon?”
“A small steel string,” says Colleen, clearing her throat. “I used to play. And I was quite good. Started when I was eleven and played every day until right before I turned eighteen and got pregnant with Cindy. And then I never played again.” She frowns. “Did I already tell you that? One of those times I came to pick up Cindy or Brian or Aurora?”
“Not that I recall,” says Gig, beckoning her to follow him. “Let me show you a sweet little Yamaha that might be just the thing.”
At which moment two young men enter the shop, Jay and Tom, both twenty-two, both wearing wet down jackets and bulky pants; and Gig wants to scream but restrains himself.
“Are you okay?” asks Colleen, noticing Gig’s sudden loss of composure.
“Hold that thought,” says Gig, forcing a smile. “I’ll be right back.”
“Take your time,” says Colleen, wondering what it could possibly be that makes Gig seem so different to her now.
“Hola guys,” says Gig, intercepting Jay and Tom before they get to the wall of guitars. “I’m with a customer who may actually buy a guitar, so I don’t want you noodling around on the merchandise right. Come back in a half-hour. Okay?”
“Aw come on, Gig,“ says Tom, his long brown hair in desperate need of washing. “We might buy one. It’s a big decision, man. You have to try lots of guitars before you decide on one. And you have to try each one for a long time before you know if it’s the one.”
“Really?” says Gig, feigning amazement. “And to think I’ve been selling guitars for thirty years and never knew that.”
“I just want to try that Gibson again really quick,” says Jay, his long blond hair falling across his eyes. “I’m honing in, you know, on either the Gibson or the Martin I played last time. Can I try those two again?”
Gig folds his arms lest he be tempted to take a swing at them. “What is it you don’t understand about come back in a half-hour?”
“Can’t we just hang?” asks Jay, whining. “It’s freezing out there, man.”
“You can hang,” says Gig, no nonsense in his voice, “but no playing right now.”
“Can’t we just like hold them and look at them and not play them?” asks Tom, giving Gig a surly look. “They let you play anything all the time at Guitar Center in Boise.”
“So go there,” says Gig, losing his patience. “Now.”
“No, we’ll wait,” says Jay, sitting on the sofa. “It’s cool. I’m seriously interested in that Gibson. Seriously.”
Tom sits down beside Jay, their wet jackets dripping on the sofa and the floor; and they both take out their phones and stare at the screens.
Gig returns to Colleen. “Sorry about that.”
“Do they come in every day?” she asks quietly.
Gig nods. “So here’s the Yamaha I was talking about.”
He takes a small guitar from a long line of guitars standing on a wide shelf. He plays a G chord, tunes a couple sour notes, and hands her the little beauty. “A hundred and forty-five. A colorful strap and a cardboard case will set you back another forty bucks and you’re in business. Come sit and play.”
Colleen sits on a cushioned armless chair and takes a moment to get comfortable holding the guitar. Now she deftly plays a G chord, a D chord, and a C chord, every note ringing true.
“Ouch,” she says, laughing. “I forgot how much it hurts without callouses. But I like the sound. Sweet. And the neck is nice and slender.”
“It’s a nice fit,” says Gig, enjoying the sight of her holding the guitar. “Now just so you know, we have a used one of these, not quite as good, but not bad, for a hundred dollars.”
“No, I’ll take this one,” she says, her eyes sparkling. “And if I get serious about playing, I’ll get something better.”
Colleen is a psychotherapist and president of the Idaho chapter of Acolytes of Jung. She has an older brother Dean who is a Drama teacher at a high school in Spokane and a lifelong bachelor. Their mother Margot served in the Air Force for six years until she got pregnant with Dean, and when Colleen and Dean were teenagers, Margot became a state legislator and won re-election five times. Their father Scott served in the Air Force for fifty years and retired with the rank of colonel. Scott is now eighty-seven, Margot is eighty-five, and they live in a retirement community in Hawaii and still play tennis every day.
Until Colleen learned she was pregnant, three weeks before she turned eighteen, she was planning to move to California and live in a commune in Santa Cruz and create a life for herself very different from the lives of her conservative Republican patriotic parents. She was going to be a citizen of the earth and dedicate herself to saving the biosphere from the rapacious machinations of the military-industrial complex.
Instead, she married Jake, a handsome troubadour who plied her with pot and seduced her after she performed two songs at an open mike in a pub in Boise, one of those songs the folk classic ‘Silver Dagger’, the other a plaintive love song Colleen wrote called ‘When Will I Ever’.
Colleen’s marriage to Jake, who worked sporadically at Speedy Oil Change in Boise, lasted just long enough to produce Cindy and Brian, after which Colleen moved back to Mountain Home with her babies and lived with her parents for nine years while getting her college degree at Boise State and completing her initial training in clinical psychology.
And though she loves her children and grandchildren, and she feels fortunate to have had the life she’s had, some part of her still believes that if that damn condom hadn’t broken during that fateful night with Jake, she would have moved to California and become a soldier in the battle to save the earth—a songwriting eco-warrior.
Which is why, as she sits in her kitchen playing her new guitar, she weeps as she plays, her fingers screaming with pain as she presses down on the steel strings; yet she loves the pain and the music she’s making.
On Monday morning, Beckman is sitting at his worktable in Gig Music putting new tuners on a gorgeous 1983 Alvarez-Yairi twelve-string he recently got in trade for a new Fender that will never be as good as the Alvarez-Yairi.
Beckman is very tall and slender, soft-spoken and unflappable except when he’s talking about global warming and the incredible obstinacy of humans. He has an uncanny knack for acquiring wounded but otherwise excellent guitars for little money, curing what ails them, and selling them for great profits. Gig, who has no such knack, has come to believe that Beckman’s intuition is so comprehensive, he might as well be clairvoyant. This talent, combined with his genuine interest in the people he does business with and his encyclopedic knowledge of guitars, make Gig Music far more profitable than it ever was when Gig owned the business and considered breaking even a success.
Gig is about to go on his morning coffee and pastry run to Crazy’s, a coffee house next door to Galleria Cruzero, when the shop phone rings, Beckman answers, listens for a moment, holds up a hand to forestall Gig, and says into the phone, “I am currently booked solid, Colleen, but let me inquire of Gig.” He holds the phone to his chest. “Colleen McGrath. Wants a few lessons. Any openings?”
“Yeah, I think so,” says Gig, his heart pounding as he fumbles for his cell phone. “Let me just check my schedule.”
“He thinks so,” says Beckman, speaking to Colleen. “Let me put him on with you.”
Beckman winks as he hands the landline phone to Gig, and Gig interprets the wink to mean Beckman knows my heart is pounding.
“Hey Colleen,” says Gig, squinting at his lesson schedule displayed on the tiny screen of his phone. “How you liking that Yamaha?”
“I love her,” says Colleen, tenderly. “I’ve named her Rosie. My fingers hurt so much, but I’m loving playing anyway.”
“You might be playing too much too soon,” says Gig, sympathetically rubbing his calloused fingertips with his thumb. “Several short practice sessions every day might be better than a couple long ones. Try putting arnica cream on your fingertips a couple times a day and before you go to bed. You’ll get there, Colleen, but you don’t want your fingers to hurt so much you stop playing.”
“Thank you,” she says sweetly. “Have you got any time for me this week? Tuesdays and Thursdays are best for me.”
“Tuesday,” says Gig, clearing his throat. “Tomorrow. Morning okay? Eleven? Forty-five minutes or an hour. You choose.”
“An hour,” she says eagerly. “See you then.”
Gig hands the phone back to Beckman. “She’s a zealot. Played when she was a teenager, but not since.”
“Funny,” says Beckman, musing about Colleen. “She was always so much more enthusiastic about her kids’ lessons than they were. I think they practiced for her more than for themselves, which may explain why none of them continued to play after they left home.”
“You certainly didn’t have that problem with Jasmy,” says Gig, laughing. “She was playing ukulele before she could walk.”
“Inadvertent Suzuki method,” says Beckman, nodding. “I was playing guitar and loving it, so she wanted to play, too. No great mystery there.”
“Helps that she’s a musical genius,” says Gig, heading for the door. “Speaking of which, when I get back with the java, if we’re not besieged, I’ll play you that new tune that came to me Saturday night. Kind of a melancholy samba.”
“Love song?” asks Beckman, resuming his work on the twelve-string.
“Aren’t they all?” says Gig, opening the door and stepping out into the blustery day.
When Gig returns from Crazy’s with two big lattes, he is dismayed to find Tom and Jay ensconced on the sofa, Tom noodling aimlessly on a fine old Guild while Jay is doing the same on a precious Gibson. Beckman is at his worktable, focused on his work and not seeming to mind the arrhythmic cacophony emanating from Tom and Jay, so Gig decides to let the boys noodle away until he can’t stand it anymore.
Ten minutes later—the aimless riffing continuing full force—two customers arrive in quick succession, Beckman attending to one of them, Gig assisting the other; and after a few minutes of trying to communicate with his customer over Jay and Tom’s disharmonious noise, Gig reaches the limits of his patience, leaves his customer pondering a handsome Taylor, and crosses the room to confront Jay and Tom.
“That’s enough for today, fellas,” says Gig, trying valiantly to sound friendly. “Our other customers need to hear themselves play, so…”
“Beckman said we could play for as long as we wanted to,” says Tom, sneering at Gig.
“I’m honing in on a decision,” says Jay, smirking at Gig. “Beckman said we could play as much as we wanted.”
“That’s not quite true,” says Beckman, having excused himself from his customer to join forces with Gig. “I said as long we didn’t have other customers, but now we do. So let us relieve you of those guitars and you can come back another time.”
“This place sucks,” says Tom, standing up and nearly dropping the guitar as Beckman takes it from him.
“I don’t think so,” says Jay, carefully handing the Gibson to Gig. “I don’t think you suck. I… I totally get it. You have other customers. Totally.”
“Good,” says Beckman, nodding to Jay. “Then you can come back in a few days, but not you, Tom. You can find some other place to fuck around.”
“Well fuck you,” says Tom, grabbing his coat off the floor and glaring at Jay. “When you’re done kissing their ass, I’ll be in the car.”
“I’m coming,” says Jay, giving Gig a furtive look as he picks up his coat and follows Tom out the door.
“I think that may be the first time I’ve ever heard you say fuck, Beckman.” Gig grins at Beckman. “And I gotta tell you, it was music to my ears.”
“I should have booted those guys years ago,” says Beckman, watching Jay and Tom disappear.
“But we couldn’t,” says Gig, feeling sorry for Jay.
“Why couldn’t we?” asks Beckman, looking at Gig. “Why didn’t we?”
“Because we saw ourselves in them,” says Gig, recalling the many hours he spent in guitar stores dreaming of owning a fine guitar. “Until we couldn’t anymore.”
Twenty minutes into Colleen’s first lesson, she stops playing and says to Gig, “This is hopeless. I’ll never get it back. What was I thinking? That I would suddenly be seventeen again?”
Gig ponders her question and says, “I’m no psychologist, but you are. So what would you say to me if I said, ‘This is hopeless. I’ll never get it back. What was I thinking? That I would suddenly be thirty-five again?’”
“Why did you say thirty-five instead of seventeen?” asks Colleen, arching her eyebrow.
“What difference does it make?” says Gig, shrugging. “I’ll never get it back. What was I thinking? That I would suddenly be young again and never have made all the mistakes I made?”
Colleen smiles gratefully and says, “There are no mistakes, Gig. Only experience. And everything we’ve ever done in our lives has made us what we are today. This is not about becoming someone else. This is about carrying on with curiosity and openness and love and acceptance.”
“Exactly,” says Gig, nodding. “And remember, you’ve only been playing for a few days after a forty-year layoff. If you practice for fifteen minutes, four times a day, I guarantee you that in less than a month you’ll be playing that song with ease.”
“Now I’m embarrassed,” she says, looking away.
“You’re embarrassed? Think how I feel,” says Gig, pointing to himself. “Giving advice to a renowned psychotherapist. A Jungian, no less.”
“Do you know anything about Jung?” she asks, suggesting by her tone that she doubts he does. “Besides the expression the collective unconscious?”
“Was that one of Carl’s?” says Gig, feigning surprise. “And here all this time I thought Beckman coined that expression.”
“But seriously folks,” says Colleen, bouncing her eyebrows in the manner of Groucho Marx, “do you know anything about Jung?”
“A little,” says Gig, nodding. “I read a biography of him a few years ago. I don’t remember who wrote it, but I couldn’t put it down. My favorite part was when he got stuck during his psychoanalysis, emotionally stuck, and then he remembered how when he was a boy he loved to make these little villages out of stones. So he decided to build a stone house on the shores of Lake Zürich, and while he was building the house he had these powerful dreams, and he started making drawings and paintings of his dreams and this helped him interpret his dreams, which enabled him to complete his psychoanalysis. Pretty cool, huh?”
“I can’t believe you just said that,” says Colleen gaping at Gig. “That’s why I decided to play the guitar again. Because playing the guitar for me was what building those stone villages was for Jung, the thing I used to do when I was young that made me forget about everything else and made me blissfully happy.”
“Right,” says Gig, nodding excitedly. “Only Jung didn’t start building little stone villages again. He built a big house to live in, and it took him years and years to finish building that house.”
Three weeks later, having just had her fifth lesson with Gig, her playing improving by leaps and bounds, Colleen leaves Gig Music via Galleria Cruzero and stops in the gallery to visit with Portia and look at the new installation of photographs and paintings.
“How was your lesson today?” asks Portia, a beautiful woman in her late forties from Barcelona, her long brown hair in a braid, her Spanish accent pleasingly strong.
“Fantastic,” says Colleen, who always feels a little dreamy after her time with Gig. “He’s such a wonderful teacher. So patient and calm and such a good guitarist.”
“He is one of my most favorite people in the world,” says Portia, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Colleen in front of the largest piece in the show, a photorealist painting of a magnificent white stallion galloping across a moonlit desert. “I don’t understand why he doesn’t have a girlfriend. Maybe because he is still hurt from his divorce and from losing everything he had he doesn’t ask anyone.”
“Maybe so,” says Colleen, wishing there was another horse in the painting to mitigate the overwhelming feeling of aloneness. “If he didn’t smoke pot I’d love to be his girlfriend.” She sighs resignedly. “But he does, and pot is not my thing, so…”
Portia purses her lips and shakes her head. “Gig doesn’t smoke pot anymore. He quit six or seven years ago, before he came back from Tacoma.”
“Are you sure?” asks Colleen, giving Portia a doubtful look.
“Yes, I’m very sure,” says Portia, nodding. “And he doesn’t drink alcohol except for a taste of beer to make a toast. We always put one sip for him in a tiny glass when he comes for supper with his mother, a tiny glass for liqueur, you know, but we put his beer in there.”
At the end of her seventh lesson, Colleen says to Gig, “I wonder if you’d like to go on an adventure with me.”
Having no reason to believe Colleen has changed her assessment of him as non-boyfriend material, Gig smiles curiously and says, “What sort of adventure? Paragliding? No thanks. River rafting? Depends on the river.”
“This would mostly be an indoor adventure,” she says, taking a deep breath. “I want to perform at an open mike at a pub in Boise, but I don’t want to go alone and my guitar playing is still iffy, so I thought if you would come with me and play along while I sing, I could do it.”
“Open mike?” says Gig, the back of his neck tingling. “How brave of you.”
“Facing my demons,” she says, gazing hopefully at him. “This Friday. I’ll buy you dinner and then we’ll go play for a roomful of drunks and aspiring musicians at the Bloody Ox.”
“Friday?” says Gig, dubiously. “Day after tomorrow? Were we going to rehearse a little first or just wing it?”
“Oh, right,” says Colleen, pretending she hadn’t thought of that. “Are you free tomorrow night, too? I’ll take you out for Mexican after work and then we’ll practice at my place. Yeah?”
“You don’t want to wait a week?” asks Gig, feeling a bit dizzy.
“No,” she says, shaking her head. “I’ve waited long enough.”
Gig has lived with his mother Sophia for four years now, ever since he came home from Tacoma. Sophia is eighty-six, short and sturdy, her white hair cut very short, her big glasses making her appear somewhat owlish. Until quite recently she was on the board of the Mountain Home Theatre Company, the Mountain Home Chamber Music Society, and the Mountain Home Folk Dancing Society, but she quit them all two years ago and stays home most of the time now, reading and napping and puttering in her rose garden and entertaining friends and cooking supper.
When Gig tells Sophia about his impending adventure with Colleen, and that he won’t be home for supper the next two nights, Sophia says, “We were going to your sister’s on Friday for supper. I’ll have Sharon come get me.”
“I can take you over there before we go to Boise,” says Gig, enjoying the carrot soup. “The open mike thing doesn’t start until eight. Sharon can give you a ride home.”
“I can’t remember the last time you went out two nights in a row since you came back,” says Sophia, taking off her glasses and rubbing her eyes. “She’s very nice. Colleen. And so smart. Did I tell you Phyllis went to her for insomnia and sleeps like a baby now? I guess Colleen really knows what she’s doing when it comes to psychology. Are you two maybe…?”
“No, Mom. She’s just my friend. This is not a romantic thing. I’m giving her guitar lessons. This is a big deal for her, performing for an audience, so I’m helping her. As her teacher. That’s all.”
“But it must be a big deal for you, too,” says Sophia, putting on her glasses. “You haven’t played for an audience since you were in that trio when you were twenty-three, right after you opened your store. Remember how nervous you got before a show?”
“I’ll never forget,” says Gig, recalling the tortuous nights leading up to playing in the mellowest of little cafés.
“I wonder why you got so nervous,” says Sophia, frowning quizzically. “You’re such a good guitar player. I wonder if it had something to do with your father not wanting you to play the guitar.”
“Couldn’t be that,” says Gig, shaking his head. “I didn’t start playing until after he died.”
“Yes, but you wanted to before he died,” says Sophia, grimacing. “I’ll never forget how he raged at you when you said you wanted a guitar.”
“When was this?” asks Gig, having no memory of ever telling his father he wanted a guitar.
“When you were nine and ten,” says Sophia, getting up to serve the main course—chicken and mashed potatoes and green beans. “The first item on your Christmas list both those years was a guitar. I still have the lists if you want to see. And when you wrote a guitar again the next year, the year before he died, he crumpled up the paper and threw it in your face and then… he raged at you until… until I stopped him. Which wasn’t easy, but I did. I’m amazed you don’t remember. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
“Wow,” says Gig, having no memory of that particular outburst from his often-angry father. “I vaguely remember writing guitar on my Christmas list, but I don’t remember him getting mad about it.”
“Well… just in case it is why you get nervous,” says Sophia, having a sip of her wine, “the reason he didn’t want you to play the guitar was because he was afraid you might become some kind of artist and not be able to make a living and he didn’t want you to go hungry. He came from such hardship, Gig. He went without food for many nights as a child, and he wanted to protect you from that.”
Gig meets Colleen at Mi Casa after work the next day and is pleasantly perplexed by how dolled up she is, looking darling in a scoop-necked silky green dress instead of her usual trousers and dress shirt; and he assumes she came to dinner directly from some classy to-do.
From Mi Casa, Gig follows Colleen’s new Prius in his old pickup to her lovely home on three acres at the east end of town, and they play guitars in her living room, Gig accompanying Colleen’s less-sure playing with the same chords she’s playing, her voice reminiscent of Joan Baez.
“Sounds fine,” says Gig, after they’ve played through the two songs she wants to perform three times each. “I love your voice.”
“Thanks,” she says, setting down her guitar. “You want something to drink?”
“Tea?” he asks hopefully. “Something herbal?”
“Mint? Ginger? Rooibos?” She gets up and saunters into the kitchen. “Chamomile? Nettle?”
“Nettle,” says Gig, wondering how Colleen would feel if he told her what his mother told him last night about his father raging at him for wanting a guitar. But he decides not to tell her because he doesn’t want her to think he’s trying to get free therapy.
“So… is your mother a musician?” asks Colleen, filling a big copper kettle with water.
“No, but she loves music,” he says, setting his guitar down on the sofa beside him. “After my father died, she took up folk dancing. Went three nights a week for fifty years.”
“I know,” says Colleen, getting out the tea. “I was a folk dancer, too, for a while. Had a couple of folk dancing boyfriends. Saw your mother every time I went. She was a ball of fire.”
“Yeah, she loved it,” says Gig, remembering again the moment Colleen declined his invitation to go out with him, how she stood in her doorway, the door half-open so she was halfway behind it, and she said, ‘I’m flattered you would ask me, Gig, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. Sorry.’
“How about your father?” she asks, trying to work up the courage to tell Gig how much she likes him. “Did he play an instrument?”
Before Gig can stop himself, he tells Colleen everything his mother told him at supper last night about his father raging at him for wanting a guitar.
And as he says, “Then he crumpled up my wish list and threw it in my face,” his father is strangling him and he can’t breathe and he claws at his father’s hands trying to loosen them but he can’t and he starts to black out—and Colleen pulls Gig’s hands away from his throat and Gig breathes the blessed air and comes back to life.
The next night, on the stage at the Bloody Ox, as the audience of drunks and aspiring musicians applaud Colleen’s first song, Colleen whispers to Gig, “How you doing?”
“Fine,” he says, winking at her. “You sound great.”
On the Monday morning following his open mike adventure with Colleen, Gig is sitting at the worktable in Gig Music, putting new strings on a handsome old Washburn that Beckman got for a song and will sell for a fortune, when the shop door swings open and Jay comes in.
“Hey,” says Jay, glancing at Gig. “Okay I hang?”
“Sure,” says Gig, smiling at him. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”
“Yeah,” says Jay, pushing the hair out of his eyes. “Sorry about, you know, what happened with Tom. That was bad, man. We were totally out of line. Totally.”
“Apology accepted,” says Gig, getting up from the worktable and going to the wall of guitars and getting down the Gibson he knows Jay loves to play. “This is the one, right?”
Jay nods and looks at the floor.
“Take off your coat, buddy,” says Gig, setting the guitar on the sofa. “We’ll jam a little. Yeah?”
Jay takes off his coat and gives Gig a frightened look. “Where should I put my coat?”
“Hooks by the door,” says Gig, getting down the little old Martin he loves. “Who knew, huh?”
“I don’t know,” says Jay, laughing nervously as he crosses the room to hang up his coat.
They settle down together on the sofa and Gig waits for Jay to begin.
“I don’t really know how to play very well,” says Jay, afraid to make eye contact with Gig. “I just, you know… know a few riffs. Maybe if you play something, I could maybe like play along or something.”
“You want a lesson?” asks Gig, speaking quietly in the manner of Beckman.
“I can’t really afford lessons,” says Jay, shaking his head.
“This would be pro bono,” says Gig, playing a G chord.
“What’s pro bono?” asks Jay, frowning at the floor.
“Free,” says Gig, playing the G chord again. “You know this one? This is a G major chord.”
“Oh, yeah, I know that one,” says Jay, looking at how Gig is making the chord, and fumbling as he tries to imitate Gig.
“Almost,” says Gig, playing the chord again. “Get your bottom finger good and solid on your high E string. “There you go.”
Jay plays the chord, adjusts his fingers, plays the chord again and says, “Okay, I got that. Show me another one.”