The Pied Harpist of Nashville

25 Nov

turkey-cartoon-006

The Pied Harpist of Nashville will return after Thanksgiving and the ushering in of (ugh) 65 years of plodding the planet. May your holidays be safe and full of friends and family! Turkey — stuffing — punkin’ pie? Num-num!

 

– L. Stewart Marsden

 

"Stinky and the Night Mare," by L. Stewart Marsden

“Stinky and the Night Mare,” by L. Stewart Marsden

Psst!!! Don’t forget to go to Amazon, Barns & Noble, BooksAMillion and/or Powell’s Books to order your copy of “Stinky and the Night Mare” for Christmas for your favorite 3 to 5-year-old! (Shameless advertising).

The Funeral

25 Nov

The Funeral

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

Crows cackle and caw,
perched upon the swaying gray fingers
of nuded elms and hickorys,
boughed arms pleading the dreary sky to loose its grip,
and let slip a golden shafted ray
to somehow lighten this most somber mood.

Brooding clouds swirl and mass,
thickening black to shroud the hope
that’s whispered back and forth
among the muted mourners
who stare ahead and see that dreaded day
they too will lay to rest their struggles once for good.

Resound the final amen close
as rose upon sharp thorny rose is cast onto the casket there,
and all, both near and nearly near
retreat to cluck and scratch about the dear one
left to sleep and dream beneath the clay
and dirt and grass and rotting wood.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 25 November, 2014

Stinky available to ship overnight at three online sellers — Amazon still reporting no inventory

24 Nov
"Stinky and the Night Mare," by L. Stewart Marsden

“Stinky and the Night Mare,” by L. Stewart Marsden

 

 

 

“Stinky and the Night Mare,” written by yours truly and illustrated by up-and-coming Jessie Luo, is available for order at the following online bookstores for immediate shipment:

Barnes & Noble

Books a Million

Powell’s City of Books

 

Amazon, the primary seller of books online, is still listing the book as being temporarily out of stock, and is offering other choices instead. I will have a good supply of Stinky within about 10 days, and will be glad to match the lowest online pricing for an autographed copy. I cannot, however, match the very low shipping costs. If you order multiple copies, the cost per unit is reduced.

 

 

The Pied Harpist of Nashville: Where were you when . . . ?

23 Nov

Author’s note: This is a continuation of The Pied Harpist of Nashville story. Click here to go to the first installment.

 

Where were you when . . . ?

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

There were unforgettable events that occurred during Terry’s lifetime. He had vivid memories of them – where he was when he learned of them.

Kennedy’s assassination, when he was nine – six days before his birthday.

He sat in Mrs. Kinsmore’s fourth grade class at Thorn Ridge Elementary. The huffy, silver-haired teacher was at the blackboard, scratching out math problems in chalk while the class carefully copied them to a sheet of lined loose-leaf paper. An awkward clicking from the lone brown wooden speaker at the front of the room interrupted them, and Mr. Dingman, the principal, spoke in a halting voice.

“I – uh – I have an important announcement. Your attention, please!” A rattling of paper, and the sound of crying in the background.

“Today, in Dallas, Texas, at approximately 12:30 PM, Central Standard Time – 1:30 our time – ” Students glanced at the large round clock just above the classroom door. It read 2:15.

“President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated – ” A loud gasp, nearly in unison. Johnny Talbert thought it was some kind of joke, he said later, and laughed aloud. Mrs. Kinsmore dressed him down immediately. There was general confusion among the students.

“I am dismissing school early. School will not reopen until after the Thanksgiving break. At the bell, students will – in an orderly fashion – get your belongings and quietly go to the school auditorium where you will remain until your parent or guardian has arrived to pick you up.”

There was nothing orderly about it. The younger first grade students were bewildered, not understanding what was happening. Those who had older brothers or sisters at Thorn Ridge listened as their brother or sister, also confused, tried to explain.

“Someone shot the president.”

“Who? Who shot the president?”

“I don’t know. Alls I know is he got shot. And he died.”

Terry and his older brother Kevin watched television as the drama continued. The capture of Lee Harvey Oswald, who police thought was the assassin. The funeral procession. The shooting of Oswald on live TV and the arrest of Jack Ruby.

Six years later, in the winter of 1969.

Terry was 13, and running in a track city track meet for Dunlap Junior High. He was part of the 4×4 220 relay, and anchored the team. As he took the final handoff and rounded into the final stretch on the cinder track, he saw his mother on the sideline. She was disheveled and in tears, and Terry knew in his heart that Kevin was not going to return from Vietnam.

Later that same summer, watching the amazing television feed relayed from the surface of the moon.

He learned of the explosion and burning of the St. Stephen’s Shelter during a break from a recording session. It was his first album. He and the band, along with Sheila, had just ground out two tracks with ten more to go. They had crossed the street to grab lunch at Denny’s, and sat at the counter, watching a large TV suspended against the back wall.

“A spokesman for the Nashville Fire Department says the flames have finally been contained in the brick and wood building, and that there were no survivors. The number of dead has been reported at six, counting the director of the shelter, the Reverend Melvin Jones.”

A photo of Melvin Jones flashed on the screen as the reporter on the scene continued.

“Jones opened the shelter eleven years ago. It has been a haven during winter for hundreds of homeless who otherwise had nowhere to go.”
An obviously homeless type was interviewed by the reporter, the man’s first name only in print.

“I – I don’t know what ta tell ya. Rev. Melvin was a angel. He always give and he never ask for nuthin’ in return.”

A cutaway back to the reporter.

“St. Stephens – long a controversial mission in downtown Nashville, nonetheless had the support and backing of many of Nashville’s most famous.”

A cutaway to a close-up of Johnny Cash, obviously distraught and careworn in his expressions.

“Melvin was a front-line soldier in the Lord’s army. It was never a safe occupation, and I think he was aware of the risks. But certainly this is something no one expected.”

A cutaway to the reporter.

“Preliminary findings suggest that a gas main in the building had leaked for several hours undetected. Many of the homeless were smokers. A memorial candlelight service for Reverend Melvin Jones and the five other victims of this tragedy will be conducted at St. James Lutheran Church tonight at 7 pm, according to the Reverend Charles Moore. I’m Chad Hedron, reporting for . . .”

Stunned, Terry stood up from the counter and walked out on the street, followed by Sheila.

“God, Terry! How awful! I’m so sorry for you – I know you knew him.”

“Sorry for me? Jeez, Sheila! I’m still alive! Why the hell be sorry for me?”

“You’re right.” She stepped close to him. He was stiff and unresponsive. She kept her distance. “I’m sorry. For him. And for you, too.”

It was not the same feeling he had when his mother told him about his brother. It was not the same feeling he had in Mrs. Kinsmore’s class. It was a combination of sorts. Jones had reached out to him. He had encouraged him. Like a brother. Like Kevin might have done. It impacted him that way: in losing in a split-second what might have been, but would never be.

It was like the numbing news of Kennedy’s death. Of the sudden devastation and loss of an important somebody. Melvin was important. Important to Terry for many reasons. But like the killing of Kennedy, there was something behind the death of Melvin that was more than coincidence, more than ominous.

“I just saw him,” Terry said slowly.

“Saw him? Saw the preacher?”

“Last night.”

“Last night?”

“I didn’t go walking. I went out to meet Melvin.”

“What? Why?”

The anger got the better of him, and he turned and glared at Sheila.

“I think you know, Sheila.”

“How would I know? What’s going on, Terry?”

“I think you know. And I’ve got to tell somebody,” and walked quickly to the street and hailed a cab. He jumped into the back seat and said something to the driver. The cab sped off.

Rattled, Sheila tried to compose herself. As she watch the cab disappear, she turned and walked back into Denny’s. She sat at the counter and the drummer of the band looked over at her quizzically.

“He knows,” she said. The drummer grimaced, nodded and returned to his blue plate special.

 

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 23 November, 2014

The Pied Harpist of Nashville: That Old Black Magic

20 Nov

Author’s note: This is a continuation of The Pied Harpist of Nashville story. Click here to go to the first installment.

That Old Black Magic

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

Terry shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his jacket against the penetrating cold night air. It was late – nearly five in the morning. He figured if Sheila awoke to find him gone, he’d tell her he was out walking, couldn’t sleep. And he didn’t want to lie. He was afraid she’d pick up on it. Sense it.

As he approached an intersection not far from his apartment building, a taxi pulled up and stopped at the light. Its radio was playing loudly, and Terry could hear the song. Frank Sinatra.

 Darling, down and down I go, round and round I go

In a spin, loving the spin that I’m in

Under that old black magic called love

 

No coincidence there, he thought. He breathed out a long sigh that condensed and formed a small breathy cloud in the mist. In the distance, he heard the echoing undulating sirens of fire trucks and ambulances rushing to some event. A fire, maybe. Or an accident. Probably a fire, he reasoned, the streets fairly barren of cars or pedestrians. Only the lone outliers like himself.

The light changed and the cab drove off, sputtering exhaust behind it, Sinatra fading down the street.

Terry was careful to unlock and open the apartment door as quietly as he could. The light to the oven hood was on in the kitchen, and next to the stove top a large mug. The tab and string of a tea bag was flopped over one side. A handwritten note was propped against the mug so that Terry would see it.

Missed you tonight. Drink this chamomile tea. It will help you sleep.

We can talk about what’s worrying you in the a.m.

– S

 He picked up the cup, which was still somewhat hot to the touch. He cradled it with both hands. It felt good, and he let his still-cool hands receive its warmth. She must have only recently poured the water over the teabag. He set the cup down and removed his damp jacket, and hung it on one of a set of coat hooks on the wall next to the front door. His hand brushed against Sheila’s dark cape. It was cool and damp to the touch, and he noticed a small pool of water on the floor beneath it.

She had gone out, too! When? How long? Had she followed him?

He grabbed the mug and walked to the bedroom, opening the door quietly. It was dark, and Sheila was rolled to one side of the bed, her back to the door.

“You awake?” he asked in a loud whisper.

“Am now,” she replied sleepily, rolling over to look at him. “Where you been?”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“I figured. What’s bothering you?”

Terry sat down on the edge of the bed away from Sheila, his back to her.

“I don’t know, Sheila. My success and what’s going on is really unexpected. I’m not sure I was ready for it.”

“So it’s a bad thing?”

He dropped his shoes on the floor and turned to her.

“No! It’s a good thing! I just look around me at all of the people trying to make it here – who struggle and struggle and it doesn’t happen for them. Why me?”

“You feel guilty for your success?”

“A little. Yeah, I guess I do. Crazy, right?”

“Not so much, Terry. I mean, you are living your dream. And it’s kind of happened like that!” she snapped her finger.

“Yeah. That, and you. It’s like someone said ‘abracadabra’ and poof!”

“Magic.”

“Question is, what kind of magic?”

“Terry don’t go off on me with that satanic stuff again. This is not magic! It’s good luck and good timing. You are the right guy with the right stuff and are in the right place.”

He laid down on his back, hands behind his head, and looked up at the ceiling. Sheila had found some luminous stars and other night sky shapes, and it looked like the night sky.

“You went out, too, right?” he finally asked.

“I woke up and you weren’t here. I figured I’d try to find you and we could walk together. I must have guessed wrong about where you were headed.”

“To the café and the honky-tonk.”

“Yeah?”

“Pretty dead this time of night. I guess I wanted some sort of touchstone to that night everything happened.”

“Well, drink your chamomile and let’s get some sleep. You won’t be worth a damn tomorrow, and we’ve got that recording session all day.”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

He sat up and drank down the tea, putting the mug on the night table and lay back down.

Sheila scootched next to him and snuggled.

“Hey,” he flinched. “You’re cold as ice!”

“I need my man to warm me up. I told you I was cold-blooded,” she grinned.

He closed his eyes.

Cold-blooded, he thought.

A lone siren wailed, and dogs throughout the city took up the cry, howling from various locations.

His head swam in slow circles, as if he had just finished a couple of beers.

That old black magic, he thought, hearing Sinatra crooning in his mind.

 

 

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 20 November, 2014

Stinky available for pre-sale on Barnes and Noble, etc.

19 Nov

Stinky available for pre-sale on Amazon.

The Pied Harpist of Nashville: The Spiral

17 Nov

Author’s note: This is the continuation of The Pied Harpist of Nashville story. Click here to go to the first installment.

The Spiral

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

“1898. That’s almost a hundred years ago,” said Terry, shaking his head at the thought. “And that would make Sheila over a hundred years old!”

“At the very least,” agreed Melvin. “She could actually be older. Terry, when Sheila moved in with you, did you notice anything strange? I mean, her stuff?”
Terry thought.

“Well, she did have some pretty old pieces of furniture she said were passed down through the family. A vase or two.” Then he remembered, “Oh, and she brought in this painting – which I thought was some kind of modern art.”

“What does it look like?”

Terry took a napkin and drew a picture of a spiral with his pen.

“Like this,” he said.

sacredspiral

 

“It has a really colorful background. Sheila said it would brighten up the place.”

“I’ll bet,” Melvin replied, taking the napkin and folding it. “I’ll show it to a friend of mine who is up on the occult. Maybe he can tell me if it’s anything.”

An old woman, stooped and covered with a dark hooded cloak against the cold and rain, entered from the street. She shuffled to a booth on the opposite side of the diner.

“Hot tea with honey,” she told the thin waitress.

Melvin and Terry momentarily stopped their conversation.

“Pretty late for an old lady to be out, don’t you think?” Terry asked his companion.

“See? How come your antennae are up now, but you blew it off with Sheila? You just might be sleeping with the enemy!”

“Melvin, I grew up Methodist. Nobody I knew ever said anything about spooks or demons or witches. That’s fairytale stuff. So when you dump this in my lap – tell me the girl I love is a hundred years old and the man who gave me my big start in music might be a demon? Well, I guess I’m going to think everyone is suspect! I mean, what about you? How much do I really know about you and what you do? The shelter might be the pit of hell, for all I know!”

“Point taken. And you’re right, of course. We need more evidence than an old photo and a piece of artwork,” Melvin conceded.

“Not to mention what needs to be done if any of this is true? Where do you go with this? The police? Who is going to believe us? Probably think we’re strung out and paranoid junkies!”

“Let’s do this, Terry: keep your eyes and ears open. I’ll take your drawing to a friend to see what he thinks. In the meantime, just keep doing what you do. And try not to be so obvious around Sheila and Coleridge. This could end up being really dangerous!”

“What? Like they’re going to turn me into a toad?”

“Like I say, Terry – truth is stranger than fiction sometimes.”

The waitress neared the table.

“Anything else for you guys?”

“How ‘bout some breakfast, Terry? Up for waffles and a slice of smoked ham?”

“This time it’s on me,” Terry insisted.

She took their order and returned to the front counter, sticking a green order slip on a stainless circular wheel that turned through to the kitchen.

“Two checkerboards with Noah’s boy, grits and hash browns!” she yelled to the back.

The elderly woman slid out of her booth and shuffled to the front of the diner, stopping to pay for her tea.

“Thank you, Honey,” said the waitress, ringing in the sale and taking the woman’s money, which the woman carefully picked out of a small purse. “Want me to call a cab? It’s pretty nasty out there – and it’s very late.”

“No thank you, Dear,” and she slowly made her way out of the diner, glancing back once, then melted into the night fog.

* * *

Melvin drove through the fog-packed streets slowly, the radio playing Dusty Springfield’s rendition of Spooky. He laughed and wondered how coincidental that was. Parking down a narrow alleyway next to the shelter, he sifted through a rather large collection of keys to find the one for the back door, then let himself in, closing and locking the door behind him.

From the street, an old woman stepped out of the fog bank into the yellow-gray light of a street lamp. She wore a dark hooded cloak against the cold and rain. At the front door to the shelter, she reached inside her cloak and pulled out a pouch. She loosed the stringed closure, and reached into the pouch, then began to spread black granules in front of the door, creating a circle, and then a geometric shape within the circle. From another pocket she withdrew a thick candle that was covered with wax drippings.

She placed the candle at the center of the circle and geometric shape, then stood back. Waving her hand above the candle she muttered “Ignesco!” The candle wick popped into flame. She stepped back and leaned forward, extending her arms and spreading the twig-like fingers of both hands, slowly forming circles with each in opposite motions.

Slowly murmuring an incantation, she closed her eyes, gradually increasing the speed of her hands as well as the volume of her song-like spell. Faster and faster, louder and louder.

The air grew thick with fog and mist, which poured down from all directions onto the shelter. A turbulence whipped the fog into a funnel-like shape, which arose into the dark night air, ascending above the building, spinning like the pointed end of a huge black screw.

The hood of the cloak blew back, revealing the old woman’s white hair, which stood out from her pasty head in a wild, unnatural manner. Her wide eyes blazed red at the pupils against the luminous white.

“Impugnatio!” she yelled against the now violent winds, flailing her arms above her head in wide, frantic movements.

The black funnel – the wind – the forceful locomotive sound that was upon her – descended into the roof of the shelter, and for one brief moment, all was quiet.
Then suddenly the building exploded with wind and fire, a huge fireball ascending like the head of a demon into the night above the once-existent shelter. Debris and flames shot through the air and hailed down in all directions, clattering in the streets.

The woman stood, untouched by the blast. She reached down and picked up the candle, its small flame blown out, and pinched the still glowing wick between her fingers. As she dropped the candle back into her cloak pocket, she erased the partially remaining drawing with her foot.

Sirens wailed in the near-distance.  The woman pulled the hood of her cloak back over her head and vanished into the fog.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 17 November, 2014

The Pied Harpist of Nashville: Class of ’98

16 Nov

Author’s note: This is a continuation of The Pied Harpist of Nashville story. Click here to go to the first installment.

 

 

sheila

 Class of ‘98

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

Terry picked up the phone, interrupting its ring. He had been sitting on the sofa, reading The Satanic Bible by the light of a small table lamp. He anticipated the call.

“Hey!” he said. “Watcha find out?”

“A lot,” said Melvin at the other end of the line. His voice was quiet, and he whispered. “How ‘bout you?”

“The same. Do you want to meet tomorrow, then?”

“Actually, I think we’d better get together right away. Tonight. Can you meet me in an hour?”

“It’s 1 AM. I dunno. What will I tell Sheila?”

“Is she there?”

“In the bedroom reading.”

“See if you can get away. Say you have an upset stomach or something, and need to run to the pharmacy for Alka-Seltzer or something. I’m going now. If you don’t show, I’ll understand you couldn’t get away. Whatever, I don’t want you to rouse her suspicions any further than they probably are.”

“I won’t. See you if I can, then.”

He hung up. He stood up, put the book on the coffee table, and walked to the bedroom door which he cracked open. It was dark, and in the light that spilled in from his side of the door, he saw Sheila was wrapped under the bed covers, fast asleep. Terry slowly closed the door, careful not to make any noise as he grabbed his jacket and quietly left the apartment.

On the street he hailed a lone cab and climbed into the back seat.

He didn’t see Sheila watching from the bedroom window that looked down upon the street. As the cab sped off, she waved her hand, open-palmed, before the window.

“Calles de turturibus et pullis columbae!” she whispered forcefully, her eyes narrowing on the vehicle. Terry’s silhouette was visible through the rear window of the cab.

Sheila walked into the livingroom and picked up the phone and dialed.

“He’s left.”

“Follow him,” ordered Coleridge from the other end.

“Then what?”

“Find out who he is going to meet and what they’re up to. Then report back to me and we’ll decide what to do.”

* * *

Melvin was nursing a cooling cup of coffee when Terry finally arrived. The streets were clouded with fog, and street lights cast a hazy aura into the dark and dank night air.

The diner was empty, save one street bum the owner left alone in a booth. The bum’s upper torso was collapsed onto the table, and the man was fast asleep. A plate with the remains of a plate of food was shoved to the side.

“Eerie night,” said Terry as he slid into the booth opposite Melvin.

“Yeah. Creepy,” the minister replied. Melvin wore a dark Navy peacoat, and seemed not to be able to warm himself, rubbing his hands often.

“So?” asked Terry.

“You first,” Melvin suggested.

“Well, Sheila’s not got anything to do with this.”

“How do you know?”

“I picked up a copy of the Satanic Bible and was reading it. It creeped her out, big time. So I asked if she hadn’t – you know – played Ouija, or read Tarot cards. And she told me she hadn’t.”

“That’s it? That’s how you know she’s not involved? Terry – I told you to play it smart! The bible and all your questions – didn’t you stop to think that might tip her off?”

“Relax, Melvin. I know Sheila. She’s not evil! And she certainly isn’t working for Coleridge. Who, by the way, told me that the teeth of my harmonica are made of gopher wood. That mean anything?”

“For starters, no one knows what gopher wood is. So how would he know? Maybe he was around back when the ark grounded on Ararat.”

“How could that be? That must have been thousands of years ago! Coleridge is in his sixties, maybe.”

“Terry – if someone had told you a year ago that by blowing into a harmonica you could make strange things happen, would you believe it?”

“Okay – well, it’s just hard to believe.”

“Start believing, Terry. And you’ve got to quit thinking Sheila’s not a part of whatever’s going on as well. I checked records at Tennessee and found out there hasn’t been a student there by Sheila’s name in the last 50 years.”

“That can’t be.”

“The last 50, I said. But, there was someone who matched her name a ways back.”

“Yeah? Probably a coincidence. Or maybe one of her relatives.”

Melvin pulled out a photocopied picture from his jacket. It was folded carefully. He opened it and flattened the picture with his hand, turning it so Terry could see it right side up. It was of a woman, with dark hair styled tightly around her face. He recognized her from the start.

“Sheila!” said Terry in amazement.

“Sheila,” replied Melvin. “I’d say she was maybe 18 when this photo was taken of her for the yearbook. She was a senior. Part of a graduating class at UT of twenty. Fifteen men, and five women. Pretty progressive back then.”

“When was back then? What year?”

“Class of ’98, Terry. 1898.”

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 12 November, 2014

Stinky available for pre-sale on Amazon

14 Nov
"Stinky and the Night Mare," by L. Stewart Marsden

“Stinky and the Night Mare,” by L. Stewart Marsden

PLEASE NOTE: Amazon has listed my book as out of inventory on their website. Unfortunately, it is a common ploy Amazon uses to redirect you to other books that are more in their control.

Barnes and Noble has Stinky and the Night Mare listed IN STOCK AND READY TO SHIP! Here’s the link:  click!

Available in: Hardcover. Whenever Anna Maria Alberghetti Christiana Gabriella Margaret Anne Jones was in a snit, her dad lovingly called her Stinky. Tonight, she is in a snit. This is until she embarks on a fantastic journey.
BARNESANDNOBLE.COM

FURTHER ADDENDUM:

This should be valuable to all of you who intend to self-publish. So, take notes.

You saw my printer’s copy of Stinky and the Night Mare at the last meeting. It is now listed on Amazon as well as Barnes and Noble.
The interesting thing is that Amazon deeply discounts books they do not control (are not the publisher), and will employ a tactic informing buyers that the particular book they would like to order is “temporarily out of stock.”
I refer you to the page of my book listings. Through the Glass Darkly is published through Amazon. Note that there is no mention of a stock problem. Stinky, however, indicates you cannot get the book at present.
My publisher, Warren Publishing, assures me that is not the case. Warren, by the way, will not let Amazon discount my book. And charges Amazon a fair value for each sale.
Hmmm.
Barnes and Noble mentions no lack of inventory, nor delay in shipping — which at Christmas time, is a big consideration for book shoppers.
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/stinky-and-the-night-mare-l-stewart-marsden/1120729580?ean=9780990813675

Worth a blog, don’t you think?
This helpful observation offered for no charge by one of your writing group members. Go thou and cogitate.

 

PART OF THE ORIGINAL POST. IF YOU EVEN CARE.

Stinky and the Night Mare by yours truly, is now available on Amazon by plugging in my author’s name, L.. Stewart Marsden, the title of the book, or by simply clicking here.

It is beautifully illustrated by up-and-coming artist, Jessie Luo.

Check out the book online. Written for ages 3 to 5, it will make a wonderful Christmas gift for children of all ages — even your age!

 

What would we do without the internet and digital artwork?

What would we do without the internet and digital artwork?

 

Check out the official Stinky and the Night Mare Facebook page!

 

 

 

The Pied Harpist of Nashville: Everywhere a sign

13 Nov

Author’s note: This is a continuation of The Pied Harpist of Nashville story. Click here to go to the first installment.

image

Everywhere a Sign

 By L. Stewart Marsden

 

Terry felt like a complete, idiotic fool. How Melvin could deduce in a few minutes what had stared him in the face for months shook his self-confidence, much less his  trust in Sheila.

How could he have been taken in so easily?

Melvin tried to tell him that these things aren’t very obvious. That it takes someone who is inclined towards the spiritual to pick up on the spiritual.

“We don’t even know what’s going on, Terry. It could be that Sheila is as much a victim as you. But regardless, we’ve got to be careful. They can’t know we suspect anything! You must keep poker faced until we know what we’ve been dealt, and what cards to play.”

“Yeah. You got to know when to hold ‘em,” Terry said with a wry grin.

They agreed to meet in a week back at the diner. Each would reveal whatever else they had managed to uncover.

“She can’t know, Terry.”

“I was never good at cards, Melvin,” he said, shaking his head.

“Get good, then.”

* * *

 Terry found reasons to go to Marvin’s Musical Museum. To chat about an upcoming tour, or ask Coleridge something about the harmonica.

“So, what kind of wood is this made from?”

“Gopher wood. Hard to come by.”

“Never heard of it.”

“Noah used it to build the ark, they say.”

“Oh, yeah! It’s in the Bible! You read the Bible, Marvin? I didn’t know that. You go to church?”

“Yeah. I go to church.”

“Which one?”

“Oh, it’s a pretty small offshoot denomination. Probably never heard of it.”

“Could I go with you sometime?”

“Sure. Sometime. But I want you to concentrate on your career now, Terry. Church can come later.”

“What’s going on with me, you know – this harmonica? It’s pretty special, don’t you think?”

“I don’t think. I know!” Coleridge grinned, flipping through a stack of sales receipts at the counter.

“So, don’t you think God has something to do with this, then?”

Coleridge stopped what he was doing and looked up.

“God – Terry – God helps them that help themselves. Ever hear that? It’s in the Bible. Look it up. And special people like you, well – special people like you don’t need a lot of help from God.”

“That doesn’t sound very religious, Marvin.”

“Well it goddamn well is religious, Terry! If everybody who’s down and out got up off their fat asses and did something about it, there wouldn’t be any need for all these goddamn religions, I say!”

How quickly Coleridge heated up surprised Terry, and he decided he had better back down before the crab man began to get wary. As he continued to wander through the shop, Terry picked up instruments and looked at them. Coleridge cooled and went back to his paperwork.

He found the logo that was etched on his harmonica adorning a number of instruments. On a mandolin, it was embossed into one of the tab turners. He found it etched onto one of the valves of an ancient-looking trumpet.

“How long you been using this logo, Marvin?” he asked, an acoustic in hand.

“Huh? Oh, forever, I think,” came the disinterested reply.

Forever.

“That’s a really long time,” Terry said with a laugh.

“Well, time flies, boy. Forever ain’t as long as you’d think.”

As he walked about the shop, he kept glancing over at his mentor, looking for some physical thing – slightly pointed ears or traces of webbing between the fingers or unusual hair growth – to point to the demonic side of Coleridge.

Wait! Maybe he could read minds, and was listening in on Terry’s very thoughts!

“I can’t!” Coleridge yelled, slamming his fist on the counter

“What!” reacted Terry, sure he was exposed.

“I can’t get these goddamn receipts to add up!” he said, face reddening again. “Don’t you have somewhere to go? Something to do?”

“Not at the moment,” Terry responded meekly.

“Well get the hell outta here and go find something to do, goddamn it!” he yelled.

* * *

Sheila opened the apartment door and struggled holding takeout Chinese in one hand, and a stretched canvas painting in the other. Terry was sprawled on his back on the couch, his nose deep in a rather voluminous book.

“That’s okay,” she said, “don’t get up! I got it!”

“Um-huh,” he mumbled as she teetered into the kitchen and dumped the bags on the counter. She leaned the painting against the wall.

“I got Chinese. Ling-Fu’s. And I brought this painting over from my apartment. Thought it would brighten up the place.”

“Um-huh.”

“What’re you reading that has you so hypnotized? You never read. Unless it’s fan letters.”

“Um-huh.”

She marched over to the sofa and plucked the book from his hands.

“Hey! I’m reading that!” and sat up as she closed the book and looked at its cover.

The Satanic Bible, by Anton LaVey? Holy Mother of Jesus, Terry! What the hell are you reading? And where’d you get this?”

“I found it at the bookstore down on the corner. Neat, huh? Did you know that you can actually levitate things by really concentrating on an object? No strings or anything! I thought those magicians on TV were fakes. Turns out some of them aren’t. Makes you wonder about guys like Houdini and where he got his talent, right?”

“Terry! Listen to yourself! Where is this coming from?”

“I’ve just been wondering how I can do what I can do with my harmonica. Did you know that the logo on it is a sign of Satan?”

“What?”

“Two crosses and the infinity symbol. Stands for Satan. You know there are a lot of stories about Satan and country music musicians. Like all of the tragedy that struck some of the best.”

“I’m starting to worry about you, Terry. Really, really worry.”

“C’mere, you,” he said, feigning a mysterious look, and moving his hands and fingers as if to magically draw her to him. She laughed and walked over, and the two fell back onto the couch, she on top of him.

“So all this stuff about Satan and magic makes you uncomfortable, does it?”

“It’s creepy! Gives me the shivers! And it’s not like you.”

“You ever dabble in the occult? You know, play Ouija? Or Tarot cards?”

“Never!”

He hugged her tightly and kissed her neck, working up to her lips, kissing between words:

“That’s – good – to – know!”

“Ummm,” she purred as his hand moved down along her spine. “What about the Chinese from Ling-Fu’s?”

“Who cares? We’ll just be hungry again in an hour. Let it wait.”

“It’ll get cold.”

“Cold Chinese! Oh, the horror of it all!”

 

 

 

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 12 November, 2014
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