I knew my guitar would make me feel more at ease despite my skirt and heels.
I unloaded it from the van and went towards the door that had the words Valvoline, Bumper to Bumper on it. The building was low and green; it peered at the old run-down Wal-Mart building across the road. My dad's truck was already there from my cousin's wedding we had just attended.
The customer bell jangled when I opened the door, and Kelsey stood behind the counter grinning at me. "Well, now the real talent has showed up," he said.
Dad was in the middle of a song; his banjo rang out. A man with glasses and cigarettes played an Alvarez beside him. I noticed immediately that he was good and employed many runs in excellent timing.
I took my Alvarez out and sat on a stool at the counter, glad that I had challenged myself to enter the man's domain at Westside Auto Parts. However, I wasn't glad that I had a skirt on.
Nonetheless, the men made me feel at home. Kelsey offered me a different chair (which I declined) and coffee; Gerald gave me a compliment on my playing because we kept good rhythm together. And, when Dad and I sang, Gerald said that we sounded good and that he loved to hear purty singing like that. Dad kept smiling up at me, with his bright eyes and dimples, because he could play all day and all night. He's a bluegrass fanatic.
Harley showed up after awhile. He was an older man who wore overalls. He played the guitar like it was a steel guitar. He had strange picking meandering fits, and when I looked over at him, he would grin at me, proud of his accomplishments. Gerald and I couldn't keep time with him, though.
Gerald wanted to play "Blackberry Blossom" and "Fire on the Mountain" constantly. I learned a new Em run from him, and he noticed, and we smiled at each other and chatted like fellow musicians. Nothing like it to break the ice with a stranger.
Harley brought out a harmonica for a gospel number. We followed him and then he abruptly stopped and walked back to his chair.
Meanwhile, greasy smelling men would appear tentatively at the door. I was the first person they saw at the counter with a skirt and heels on. But, they needed a part, and, after procuring it from Kelsey, they would stand by me to pay. I could smell them, and it brought back memories of being a blue-collar man's daughter. Nice memories, one might say.
Gerald cajoled my dad to play "Blackberry Blossom" one more time, and then he put his guitar in the case. He held out his hand to shake mine; it was a cupped, greasy, hard handshake.
"It's been nice playin' with you today."
He shook out his long legs and exited, jangling through the door. I watched him climb into an old pickup truck, and then he zoomed away, down Business 60, towards Sonic.
Kelsey sidled down the counter to me and said, "That used to be my son-in-law."
"That's his Ex," said Dad with a grin.
"Yeah, I kinda wish he wasn't, though, cuz he's a good guy in his way," said Kelsey.
Dad and I packed up our instruments to go play some more at home. I smelled like smoke and grease. But, I was incredibly happy.
Now, I'm back in my own town, away from the farm and the music. I'm a bit sad about it and know there will be an adjustment period. Maybe I will just go get my guitar and play some "Blackberry Blossom" and use that new run I learned in the auto parts store.