- Narrator: Will
- Characters: Will, Damon, Tavo, Peron and Shea
- Low Spoiler Risk
My eyes fixated on the frozen tree outside the bedroom window, I strain to block out the noise. A closed door, earplugs and two down pillows should be doing the trick, but no, I can still hear them arguing.
“I told you to go behind the brick wall!” Tavo yells.
“You said to go around the wall,” Damon argues.
“Going around it gets you killed, fucker,” our drummer states pointedly. “Obviously. Like you didn’t learn that the first three times you did it!”
“I just did what you said!”
I can’t take any more of this. The news has talked about power outages all over the city. Why can’t we have one here–just for a few hours, so we can all have a break from this obnoxious Xbox game? I toss the pillows down with too much force. One of them skips off of my bed toward the other one, narrowly missing Peron, our bass player, as he texts his ex-girlfriend back home. It knocks his phone out of his hands.
“Damn it, Will, watch it!”
Ripping out the rubber plugs from my ears that I normally wear for shows, I apologize with little empathy. My nerves are frayed after two and a half days of confinement with the band. “Sorry, man. This is too much.”
“Have a beer already. Or a smoke,” he suggests.
“No, thanks.” I can’t say I haven’t considered taking up drinking over the past 48 hours. And shit, after seeing how relaxed Damon and Tavo were last night after sneaking away to the broken-down, freezing-cold bus for some snacks–aka weed–I envied them. I wanted relief from this anxiety.
Really, I just want to get back on the road. I want to get back on tour, and back to the music. Since Peron and Victoria broke up two weeks ago, it’s like his soul has died, and he has no desire to write with me at all. He’s been bitching about me playing my “sappy ass love songs” for the past two days, so I finally put my guitar away this morning to put him out of his misery. In doing so, I’m even more miserable.
“Where are you going?” he asks me.
“I have no idea.” I pull on my Vans and a hoodie, then dig through my suitcase for my Yankees cap.
“You’re going out?”
“Yes.” I open the door to our room, smelling an unpleasant odor from the main room of our hotel suite. “It smells like shit in here, guys. Open a window or something.” Peron follows, then agrees with me.
“What is that?”
“Tavo spewed in the pizza box this morning,” Damon explains nonchalantly, as if leaving vomit sitting next to him in only semi-closed containers is something everyone does every day.
“Well throw it the fuck away! And let housekeeping in, please! We have no idea how long we’ll be here.” I head toward the door.
“Where ya going?”
“Damon, I gotta get out of here.”
“To where?” he asks, laughing.
“There has to be some place open.” I glance around at my bandmates, no doubt looking about as desperate as I ever have.
“Shit, man,” Tavo says, “if you find a place, call us.”
I shake my head. “I’m not calling you if I find a place. I’ll call you if I find two places.”
– – –
Shop after shop, restaurant after restaurant, I’m greeted with locked doors and dark buildings. It’s as desolate as a ghost town here, with good reason. I’m walking in a foot of snow on top of probably an inch of ice. There’s not a car in sight, much less another human as foolish as I am walking the streets. It’s well below freezing, and I’m not dressed for a casual stroll around this unfamiliar town. Luckily, the wind has died down, and the sun peeks out between buildings when the clouds allow it.
Please let me find a place. I can’t go back to that room yet. I’d rather risk freezing to death on the bus at this point, so I turn the corner, carefully walking up the next street back toward the venue where the bus was abandoned the night of our show. A blinking neon sign catches my attention out of the corner of my eye as I pass it.
I look up at the sign to see what kind of establishment it is. Mrs. Gregory’s Kitchen. And right beneath the name is a white banner with large red letters: CLOSING.
Open. Closing. I trust the neon sign over the banner and try the handle. I feel a whoosh of warm air. If I wasn’t standing on a sheet of ice, I’d jump up and down. This may be the happiest moment of my life. I tentatively step inside, not going beyond the cloth mat, aware of the fact that the bottom foot and a half of my body are sopping wet. I look around until I see a young woman with golden brown skin behind the counter, welcoming me with a smile.
“I’m confused by the signs,” I announce with a laugh.
“Open,” she confirms in a silvery voice. “Come in.”
“Thanks.” I stomp the snow from my jeans and shoes and wipe them on the mat as best as I can, but as I walk into her restaurant, the rubber soles squeak with every step. I know I’m tracking water everywhere.
“You must not be from around here,” she says.
“I’m not. What gave me away?”
“No boots. No proper coat. A hat that may get you beat up in this town.”
“I do own boots and a coat. I just didn’t pack them for this leg of my trip. I didn’t expect a snowstorm so early in the season.”
“Can I assume you’re from New York?”
“City and state,” I confirm.
“You’re a long way from home.”
“Yeah.” I sigh, taking a seat at the counter in front of her on an old-fashioned, cushioned barstool. “Do you have a menu?”
“I do, but I can’t guarantee I’ll have what you want. Food delivery has been spotty since the storm hit… but you can try me.”
“I need comfort food,” I say, looking over the laminated card. “Chicken pot pie?”
“Ummm…” She considers my order for a few seconds. “It’ll take about forty-five minutes, but I can make it happen. It may not be the best you’ve ever had, but it will be warm and tasty.”
“First of all, I’ve got time. I’m not going anywhere. And secondly, anything other than beef jerky, pizza and potato chips would be heaven to me right now.”
“Cool. I’ll be right back.” Her thick, wavy hair falls naturally to her shoulders and sways as she walks. My eyes traversing down her body, I take note of the perfect curves of her waistline and behind. The fitted shirt and tight jeans she wears accentuate them both. I wonder if the environment I’ve been trapped in for the past few days is skewing my judgment, or if she really is the ideal specimen of all women.
You just haven’t gotten laid in a really long time, Will. Cool it.
I quickly do the math. I’m fairly certain I’ve never gone this long without sex.
Impressive. Good man. Now get some.
Shut up, Will.
To get my mind off her, I get up to look around the restaurant. Glancing at the menu, I put two and two together–is she Mrs. Gregory? Shit. Seriously, Will. Cool it.
Besides all of the dining booths and tables, there are rows of shelves featuring a little bit of everything. Tchotchkes, jewelry, frames, small craft items, knitted stuffed animals, and lots of other novelty things. I study a few of the objects with judicious eyes. I’m a smart man, but I have no idea what the purpose of many of the items would be. I move on to a stack of books, reading the titles on the spines quickly. There’s only one I haven’t read before, so I pull it from the pile and start reading it from the first page, not even bothering to see what it’s about. It’ll pass the time, whatever it is.
“Here.” I jump at her voice, not expecting her to be back, but happy she is. She rips open a new package of wool socks and hands them to me. “Take off your shoes and socks and put these on. And come sit by the heater. The last thing you want is to be sick on your vacation.”
“Oh, that’s very nice. Thank you. I’ll pay for them.”
“Don’t worry about it. They’re on the house. You’re the first human I’ve seen in more than twenty-four hours, so I’ve got hospitality to spare,” she says, her full lips forming into a smile that reaches her big, dark brown eyes.
“Well, thanks.” I take a seat on an old upholstered couch by the heater and remove my socks and shoes, rolling up my wet jeans to get them out of the way. “I’m actually not here on vacation. I’m here for work. Our tour bus is packed in the snow down the street in front of the venue we played the other night when the blizzard rolled in.”
“I love that place,” she says, taking a seat next to me once I put the socks on.
“It was awesome,” I tell her, grinning with her. “Great acoustics. Nice layout. Generously stocked greenroom.”
“Are you… someone I should recognize?”
I laugh. “Me? No. I play for Damon–”
“Yeah… you’ve heard of him?”
“You’re kidding, right?” she asks.
“Listen, I’ve known him since I was sixteen. He’s not famous to me. I’m still astonished every night to see all the people screaming for him.”
“I bet you have your share of fans,” she says.
“I’m just there for the music,” I say bashfully, holding up my hands in surrender.
“Sure you are,” she counters playfully, but suspiciously. “What do you do in the band?”
“I’m the lead guitarist.”
“Of course you are.”
“Why do you say that?” I say with a chuckle.
“All the sexy ones are.”
“Oh, boy,” I say, rolling my eyes. “You must have me confused with a drummer.”
She giggles back at me. “Did you want something to drink while you wait for your food? I actually have some ice cold beer… locally brewed.”
“Water’s good,” I tell her.
“A musician who declines a beer. Recovering?” she asks, walking to an industrial-sized fridge and getting out two bottles of water.
“No. Just prefer water. So, if you know Damon and you like the Maubry, did you see our show the other night?”
“No,” she says, lifting a perfectly sculpted brow, “I don’t know if you’re aware, but there was a blizzard blowing through.”
“No, I got that,” I tell her with a friendly glare, “loud and clear. But still, it was a sell-out crowd.”
“Sell-out minus one, because I didn’t use my ticket.”
“Such a shame. We were good.”
“That’s what they all say,” she argues.
“But I don’t lie. I speak the facts.”
“All musicians lie.”
“Well, I’m not a musician then.”
“You just said you play lead guitar.”
“It’s just a hobby.”
“You also just said you were here for work.”
“Okay, so it’s my secondary job. I’m actually a physicist.” She bursts out laughing. “That’s funny to you?”
“You don’t look like a physicist,” she says, looking me over out of the corner of her eyes. I remember that she called me sexy earlier, and smile inwardly.
“Damon wouldn’t let me in the band if I looked like a physicist. He has a certain image, you know?”
“You are not a physicist.”
I challenge her with my eyes. She shakes her head. Standing, I look around the store until I find some canned sodas. “Can I buy these?”
“Sure,” she says, going behind the register and ringing them up.
“Now, is there a sink we can use? Something large enough to drop these in?”
“Work with me,” I plead.
“Follow me.” Still in the wool socks, I follow the ideal specimen into the kitchen area to a deep basin, clean dishes stacked next to it. I plug the drain and begin to fill it with water.
“So, what’s going to happen when we put these two cans in this water? We’ve got soda and diet soda.”
“They’ll sink,” she says without hesitation.
“Alright, the lady says they’ll sink.”
“In the sink,” she adds laughing.
I look at her, judging her for her weak joke. She smiles cutely anyway.
“First, some basic science. The density of water is one gram per cubic centimeter. Do you remember that from high school?” I ask her quickly.
“Absolutely not.” I didn’t expect her to. I don’t expect most people to.
“Well, shit. Because if you think all musicians lie, then how will I convince you to believe me on this?”
“Why would you lie about science?” she asks.
“Exactly!” I say. “So anyway, to continue our lesson. Let’s drop the cans in. You take that one,” I say, handing her the regular soda, “and I’ll take this one. On the count of three. One… two… three.”
We both let go of the cans, watching hers sink to the bottom while mine floats to the top.
“So you’re a magician, not a physicist.”
“No, there’s science behind this. A can will float in water if its density is less than one gram per cubic centimeter; it will sink if it’s more.”
“But they’re both soda!” she nearly yells.
“Ah, but one has real sugar, and the other is artificial. Those have different densities.” She smiles at me as I pull the sodas from the water. “Now which one did you want?”
“The one with real sugar, please,” she says politely.
“Did I convince you that I’m a physicist?” I ask her as I take a sip of the diet soda. I hate diet soda.
“No,” she says, “you convinced me that you paid attention in class in high school… and that you possibly have a photographic memory.” I’m so used to easy women, not ones that challenge me. I like this woman.
“Great,” I mumble, teasing her. “Let’s take this up a notch. Give me a piece of paper, and I’ll blow your mind.” She sets her drink down and walks to the counter where we first met, grabbing a pen and a notepad before returning to the kitchen. “What’s your name?” I ask her, having to know her name; needing to know her.
“Shea,” I repeat. “I like that. It’s barely a whisper. Shea. More like a gentle breeze.” Her bottom lip falls open slightly as she looks at me in wonderment. I take pleasure in looking back at her, and linger in this moment. I clear my throat before it gets weird. “So, Shea, let me tell you about these two, thin disks. One is still, and the other has an original velocity of one meter per second.”
“You are a liar! You said you were a New Yorker, and here you’re spouting about meters like some Canadian or something!” I know she’s joking with me, and I love that she is.
“About 2.237 miles per hour. Better?” She looks at me, her eyes wide. “The calculations are simpler in meters, that’s all.”
“Continue,” she says.
I take the pen and draw circles on the paper, my hands shaking slightly, explaining the physics problem I remember from college. It was the first one I had to assist with in my first year as a TA, so I know it like the back of my hand. “So after this disk strikes the other, we have to find out the post-collision velocities, and their directions as relative angles to the original velocity. Got it?” I ask her.
“I have no clue what you just said.”
“Maybe it takes a physicist to solve this. Let me help you,” I say smugly. I go on to expound upon the conservation of momentum and the law of mechanical energy conservation to her, writing out the equations quickly, not really bothering to teach her, but rather to show off; to prove to her that I am what I said I am.
When I’m finished, Shea stares down at the paper for a few quiet seconds.
“But musicians lie,” she whispers. I throw the pen down and start laughing. She bites her lip, smiling, then adds, “Maybe physicists do, too. I’ve just never met one.”
“They don’t,” I tell her. “And you’ve met one now. I’m Will.”
©2015 Lori L. Otto • Distribution or duplication is strictly prohibited without written permission from the author.