Curlicues

12 Feb

The jigsaw was too loud for Gregory to hear the doorbell, the knock, or the pounding, but when he finished the last set of curlicues he glanced up to the monitor to see a young woman at the door holding a brown paper bag. He switched off the saw and the whirring slow-hummed to a stop. He snatched his cigar from the edge of a sawhorse as he started through the house, taking a puff and blowing out the smoke before opening the front door.

Teresa waved her hand in front of her face and winced a little, but tried to act unaffected as she caught the smell of cigar smoke mixed with sawdust. She couldn’t hide looking a little glum. “Canton Dragon?”

“That’s me!” he said.

“Fried rice, spring rolls, cashew shrimp and a Pepsi,” she said, “eighteen fifty eight.”

Gregory reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet, then fingered through some bills and handed her a twenty.

“What’s gotcha down?” he said.

“Oh my friends’ new band is at this club and everybody’s going and I didn’t say anything soon enough so I’m the one working.”

“I thought restaurant people always wanted Saturday nights.”

“We usually do. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t complain to the customers. I’m sorry.”

“Here then,” he said pulling out a ten to add to the sum as he took the bag, “Night’s not a total loss.”

“Wow, thank you!” she said suspending motion a moment, “Are you sure? I wasn’t trying to–?”

He waved her off and she backed and turned away walking. Short of closing the door he called after her,  “Sometimes you don’t fight for something and you get something good anyway. Just remember that. They’ll play again and you’ll have a few bucks in your pocket.”

“I hope.”

“Nothing’s an end in itself, you’ll get more chances,” he said with a wave, looking down with a smile, closing the door.

He served himself up a plate, put the containers in the refrigerator and went into the workshop to eat while contemplating the chair he was crafting. It was all put together except for the backrest which he was carefully carving with curlicues. “Curlicues,” he muttered prodding through the shrimp to pick out cashews. “Ma baby loves the curlicues…”

She would be home in three more days. The chair would be waiting for her in the living room, polished smooth and inviting. He imagined her relaxing in it, reading a book, listening to music, talking with him about the road. She’d tell about the triumphs, keep the spin upbeat. He’d avoid lines of questioning that turned toward the  the dreams she once had for herself because now they’d just just stiffen her spirit, but he’d listen to the melody in her storytelling, his reactions cutting a fine line, carefully coiling his end of the conversation hoping she would recognize she was marvelous beyond her vocation. He hoped she would hear her own voice the way he heard it, like honey and velvet, riot and outrage, soul and simmer and sexuality.

As usual she’d leave the tedium out of the tales, avoid the subject of whether the price was worth the cost of long absences from home and distance from where she wanted to be. She’d minimize the long drives, the bad motels, the cramped van, the drunk audiences, the deaf sound mixers and the slightly sour feeling she’d get looking out on the crowd to realize most of them weren’t even listening, too young to appreciate a Heart tribute band.

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