by David W. Landrum
David W. Landrum

David W. Landrum teaches fiction and creative writing at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has published The Aphrodite Syndrome, an on-line novel, as well as short fiction in Potomac Review and Nocturne Horizons. His poetry has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Web Del Sol, Driftwood Review, Satire, Mastodon Dentist, and Prism. This is his third appearance in Amarillo Bay.

The city of Marburne looked quite a bit different after twelve years. Like many towns in eastern Ohio, it had been impoverished by the loss of the steel industry. Sossity Chandler was surprised when Tonya, her manager, booked a concert for her there, but the show sold out. An economic revitalization that emphasized tourism and entertainment had put some new life into the town, and concerts had been well-attended the last couple of years.

Then Sossity saw the name of the man who had organized the concert.

Tonya noticed her reaction.

"You know this guy?"

Sossity looked down at the name on the contract.

"I played a couple of gigs at a bar he owned way back when."

"Did he cheat you out of money?"

"Everybody cheated me out of money in those days." She folded up the paper. "No, it's fine."

Tonya went back to her part of the suite to do paperwork and make phone calls. Sossity sat down at the desk, a legal pad spread out before her, pen in hand. She did not write out the song list for the concert. Instead, her thought slipped to the past.

The name of the bar was Bambuko's—a storefront place on the main street of the town. She remembered Marburne as dirty, sooty, and run down. The streets were full of potholes. She saw whole blocks of boarded-up windows as she drove in. Even on a Friday night the downtown looked deserted. She found a parking place easily enough and checked into a cheap hotel. All the way there her car had been acting up. Sossity hoped she would not have to pay for a repair.

She got herself settled and lay down on the bed, exhausted from playing a two-week string of one-night stands—fifteen gigs in the last fourteen days. None had paid well but Sossity had been able to save most of her money by staying in flophouses, once or twice sleeping in her car, and eating only one meal a day.

She slept until four in the afternoon, changed strings on her guitar, and decided to go down to the bar where she was scheduled to play and check the sound system.

Bambuko's sat three blocks from the hotel. A storefront building made of brick that might have looked nice if it had not been covered with over with grime, it announced itself with a rusty sign over the door and neon letters that said OPEN in the window looking out onto the pockmarked street.

She closed the door behind her. The bar was long and narrow, dimly lit, with the bar itself, mirrors and liquor bottles, taps, and tables arranged against the opposite wall. A ragged-looking woman was washing glasses behind the counter. A knot of four men sat at a table. Two more men drank at the bar. A television at the far end played an NBA game. She saw an old-style juke-box brightly illumining a corner between two of the round tables and she could smell food cooking.

The men all regarded her. One smiled. She walked over to him and asked if the manager was in. He pointed to a door toward the rear of the room. Sossity went up and knocked.

The manager greeted her. He looked about thirty. He introduced himself as Howard Jodry and told her to sit down.

"Could I offer you a beer?"

"I won't say no to that."

"I do have to card you. Sorry, but I could get in trouble."

She showed her driver's license. He called the harried woman washing glasses and told her to bring them two Buds. Sossity said she wanted a Heineken. The woman returned in a few minutes with the beers on a tray.

"So you're from Indiana?"

"I live there now. I'm from Michigan originally."

"You're a long way from home."

"I go where the jobs are."

"What kind of music do you play?"

"Pop and blues."

"You'll do well here, then."

She sipped her beer. She had not eaten since eight that morning. She decided she might grab something before the concert.

"So what did we settle on?" he asked.

"A hundred and tips."

"Okay. Don't expect too many tips. You can probably see that our town's been hit pretty hard by all the mill closings."

"I never count on tips, but hopefully I'll get a few."

"Well, maybe a few," he said, emphasizing the last word.

They chatted and finished the beer. Sossity checked the sound system (not the best she had ever seen), said good-bye, and went outside.

Her car would not start.

She tried repeatedly but the engine made a weak sound and would not turn over. She opened the hood and checked the battery cables. A feeling of despair crept over her. She noticed someone was standing beside her.

It was Howard Jodry.

"What's up?"

"It won't start."

He looked down at the engine.

"I don't know about cars but"—he hurried inside the bar and came out with a man in a cambric shirt and jeans. He identified himself as Bill Cohen, a local mechanic, did a quick assessment of the car, and said it sounded like the alternator.

"How much will that cost me?" Sossity asked grimly.

"Couple of hundred."

She had the money, but spending that much would put a big dent in her financial stability, which was not that good in the first place. "Well, I guess I don't have much choice." She sighed. "I'll have to get a tow." Fatigue made her want to cry. She fought her off emotions. Jodry looked at his watch.

"Look, it's only about an hour till your show. You can call for a tow later. Why don't you have a bite to eat? We'll say it's part of what I'm paying you tonight."

She did not like the idea of men buying her things, but she felt too drained to put up resistance. She shrugged.

"Sure. Why not?"

He seated her at a table. She ordered a burger, fries, and a salad. The waitress brought her another Heineken.

Sossity ate thankfully. He had not given her so much charity that she was in his debt. He did not try to sit down with her and did not put on the ingratiating manner that men who were hitting on her always assumed. As she ate, she got a pad of paper and wrote down the songs she planned to play.

Sitting in the tenth-floor atrium of her hotel suite, looking out at a view of the Ohio River, Sossity turned her eyes to the empty pad of paper in front of her. She could not concentrate. She put down the pen, left the suite quietly so Tonya would not notice, slipped on a pair of sunglasses so she would not be so readily recognized, and went down to the front desk.

She asked the clerk if there was a bar in town called Bambuko's. He smiled.

"Yes, ma'am—Bambuko's is the premier nightclub in Marburne County."

"Nightclub?" She laughed. "I thought it was a just a little bar."

"It was once, but not anymore."

He fished out a brochure and gave it her. She sat down in one of the plush lobby chairs and studied it. Bambuko's was feted as the best nightclub in eastern Ohio and the top spot in a four-county area, featuring top-rated local musicians, excellent food, fine drinks, a glamorous atmosphere. The glossy pictures showed a building with fountains, mirrors, chandeliers, and elegantly dressed, beautiful people laughing and smiling as they were wined, dined, and entertained. On the back panel of the brochure, twelve years older but still looking remarkably handsome, a picture of owner Howard Jodry smiled out at potential customers. He assured them he would provide anyone who visited his establishment with an experience they would not forget.

Sossity smiled back at his photo. He had certainly done that for her twelve years ago.

She remembered how she got her equipment out of the car, set up, and walked back to her room and changed into a cambric blouse and short denim skirt. Walking back to the bar, she noticed that her car was gone. Panic seized her but then it occurred to her that someone might have arranged for it to be towed to the mechanic's. She went in and asked Jodry about it.

"I had it towed over to Bill's place. He said he can get the alternator replaced tomorrow morning."

"I need to pay you something for that," she said.

He waved his right hand. "Bill owes me money. Don't worry about it."

She wanted to argue but the show started in five minutes. She needed to get herself ready to perform.

"We'll talk about it later," she said, not wanting to let the matter go.

She walked outside to get away from the noise and away from Jodry. She could not let him get this kind of advantage over her. She would give him two-hundred after the performance. If he refused to take it, she would leave it with the woman who tended bar and get out of town as soon as possible.

Sossity tuned and came out on stage. The bar had filled up—mostly with married couples. She had no way to assess her audience's musical tastes. She had made a play list of pop standards and lots of covers. But glancing at the audience, she noticed that it was mostly couples, people sitting close, some holding hands. Women leaned on the shoulders of their husbands and boyfriends; the crowd had a pensive look, and she saw the bond that draws people together in times of trouble. She had meant to start with a fast, zippy number but decided otherwise. She introduced herself and then launched into a slow version of "Why Worry" by Dire Straits. She had painstakingly leaned an instrumental version of it by Muriel Anderson and played that as a long introduction, then launched into the lyrics.

Why worry, there should be laughter after the pain There should be sunshine after rain These things have always been the same So why worry now?

Her instincts had been right, and she saw this even before she finished the song. People drew closer to each other. More than one couple kissed and she saw tears in the eyes of some of women. Seeing this made her sing more passionately, putting her own pain into the song. Many of those listening softly joined in on the last chorus. She finished. After a moment of silence, her audience broke into loud, prolonged applause. She had connected; the audience was with her. It would be a good show.

She sang love songs, some blues about hard times, popular covers, three or four of her originals. At the break people introduced themselves and bought her drinks. Her tip jar began to fill. She went back to the rest room and returned. Howard intercepted her with a smile.

"You're a hit, Sossity. The people are all saying they would invite their friends if you were playing tomorrow night. Would you be open to that?"

She had planned to drive back to Michigan tomorrow to recuperate. But she did not have another gig until next Thursday, and that was local. And she would make another hundred bucks, which would offset the cost of car repairs.

"I think so. Same deal?"

"I'll pay you a hundred and fifty and tips."

She said it was a deal and returned to the small stage. The audience looked expectant and she did not want to disappoint them. She played blues and pop, ending with "In My Life"—again a love song, slow, but with a message she thought would register with the crowd. When she finished, she saw that it had the desire effect. She got a standing ovation—a thing that seldom happened in bars. She put her guitar down and went backstage. When she came out, a crowd of people were there to greet her.

People bought her drinks and said they loved her performance. Chatting, she began to hear stories: couples had lost homes, men and women had lost jobs—a litany of sorrow, but sorrow tempered with the solidarity that tribulation can bring to a relationship. She saw that night what musicians often forget: that music is not merely entertainment, that it also brought hope and solace. She spent two hours drinking with appreciative audience members. Halfway through Howard announced Sossity would be back tomorrow. At eleven, when the bar closed (it closed early because of the pinched economic situation in the town) the crowd drifted away. Howard, Sossity, and the silent woman who tended bar were left there. He paid her in cash. She made $112 in tips.

"The people really appreciated you," he said. "They threw a lot of precious money in your jar to show you just how much."

"They were a good crowd," she answered, realizing she was thoroughly drunk.

He sat down with her. "I told Bill I'd pay for the cost of your car repairs."

She looked at him. "I don't think I want to you do that, Howard. I've got the money. I'll settle up."

"I'm throwing it in as bonus—part of your pay for playing. You really hit it with my crowd—a lot of my regulars—and we're looking for an even bigger crowd tonight. People stayed and they bought drinks and even more people will be here tomorrow. So I'm making money off of this."

"I think you know why I don't want you doing me a lot of expensive favors."

"You think I'll expect you to return them?"

"Something like that."

He looked thoughtful a moment, shook his glass to swirl the ice in it, and spoke.

"Okay, I think you're a very attractive woman. Am I coming on to you? A little, I guess. But I'm not trying to put you in my debt so you'll feel obligated. You're not obligated at all. If I want to pay for it, I can go into a little suite of four rooms in the same run-down hotel where you're staying and get it for a lot less than what it costs to replace an alternator."

"How does Bill owe you money?" she asked, partly to change the subject and partly because she was drunk and her mind was not focused.

"He drinks a bit and over the years he's run up a big tab here. His business fell off and he can't pay. I could sue him and try to get the money, or I could tell him he can't come in my place anymore, but I don't do either of those things. He's paying me back a little bit at a time as he's able and he gives me free car repairs as part of the deal. I'll pay him for the part but not the labor."

"That's admirable."

"When a community gets hit like this, people need to come together and help each other out or we're dead."

She finished her whisky and said she had to go.

"Let me walk you back to your place."

She looked at him dubiously.

"You're drunk. And there are a lot of disgruntled people in this town and a few people who are downright desperate. You might get mugged. I'll see you to your door and that will be it, I promise."

They walked the four blocks the hotel. He carried her guitar. In the lobby three women—she assumed the local working girls to whom he had referred—greeted him fondly. They took a slow, creaking elevator to the fourth floor. She fumbled her keys and finally got the door open. He set her guitar inside the door and stepped back.

"Get some sleep," he said. "Lunch tomorrow?"

She was too tired to answer. She only looked at him.

"If you want to, show up around noon. I'll take you some place nice. Only if you want to."

He smiled and walked away, telling her to make sure she locked the door and put the deadbolt on.


In the morning she had a mild hangover. She showered in a rusty stall, put on jeans and a top, and counted her money. She had netted just over a thousand dollars the last two weeks. That would be eight hundred or less if she ended up paying for car repairs. She might get another two hundred tonight. She had been lucky scheduling performances the last month, but Sossity knew that famine often came after feast. A thousand dollars went fast, and she was not sure of work in the weeks ahead.

She glanced at her watch. It was ten. She had overslept. She groggily wondered if she should keep the lunch date with Howard.

She went downstairs and asked if there was a place to get breakfast. The desk clerk directed her to a café a block down the street. She went inside. The place was packed, though she found a seat at the counter and got a cup of strong coffee. As she sipped it she pondered. Howard had been up-front about the whole thing and she liked his honesty. She had broken up with Digory her boyfriend two months ago and had not had it since then. Howard seemed okay and she did not think he would be a risk. Still, she was not sure. To float into a town then jump in the sack with a local seemed a little sluttish. Still—and she smiled as she warmed her hands on the coffee cup—wasn't this the story musicians always told in their songs? They sang about love affairs on the road, one-night stands with lovers they never saw again but still longed for. If a man sang that kind of song, people liked it; if a woman sang it, people thought she was a whore.

The waitress filled her cup. She wondered if she should get something to eat. Someone came up behind her and said she had heard the show last night and loved it.

"We're coming again and bringing friends," she said.

"I'll try not to do the same songs," she smiled.

The woman's unfeigned appreciation made her feel good. She finished her coffee. She would have lunch with Howard. Maybe she would fuck him. Maybe not. She walked back to the hotel.

When she got there two police cruisers, lights flashing, were parked in front of it. Police had handcuffed a man. Beside him, she saw her guitar case.

A jolt of energy shot through her body. She walked forward.

"That's mine!" she said, pointing. "That's my guitar!"

One of the police officers stepped between her and the case.

"You are"—he looked down at a pad of paper—"Sossity Chandler?"

She had a tag on with her name attached to the case.

"Yes. I'm Sossity Chandler."

"Could I see some ID, ma'am?"

She got out her driver's license. He peered at it and then at her. Satisfied she was who she claimed to be, he gestured to the case.

"Someone apparently broke into your room. We managed to capture him just as he left the hotel. You need to go upstairs and see if anything else was taken."

"Can I take my guitar?" she asked, her mouth dry. "It's valuable and I don't like to leave it lying around. I'm a musician and I'm playing at Bambuko's tonight. Please, officer."

"Just a minute," he said. He consulted with two other police officials, one uniformed, one in a suit, and said she could take it with her. She seized it and carried it upstairs.

The burglar had used a crowbar on the door. Her room was in disarray. He had torn up the sheets on her bed and rifled the drawers looking for money. Her clothes and underwear were scattered all around. She was glad she had taken her purse with her to the café.

She made a statement to the police. Nothing else seemed to be missing. But having her guitar almost stolen cut to the core of her soul. She would take it with her now everywhere she went. Sossity cursed the fact that she had booked another show here—and that she did not have her car to store things in.

The manager of the hotel profusely apologized and said he would refund her money. The room had only cost forty dollars. Sossity accepted the refund. He offered to give her another room at no cost and assured her he would take all precautions to ward of intruders, but she was too shaken to respond much. She said she would think about it. He said they would post someone by the door to her room to make certain no one intruded there.

In the middle of all this, Howard walked into the lobby. He went over to her and took her hand.

"I'm sorry this happened," he said. He paused, then added, "Why don't we go to lunch? You can keep your guitar at my bar. We'll lock it in my office."

She felt like she might cry. She nodded and followed him out of the hotel lobby.

They walked into the bar.



He poured her a generous shot and watched her sip it.

"Like I told you last night: people get desperate."

"Do you know the guy?"

"Unfortunately, I do. You don't want to hear his story." She finished the whisky.

"Do we have a lunch date?"

She nodded, then added, "Sorry I'm not acting overly enthusiastic, Howard. This was pretty traumatic. I'm just thinking what might have happened if I had been there when he tore open the door."

"He wouldn't have hurt you. But it's always traumatic to be robbed. Come on. Your car's ready too. I can drop you off at Bill's place after we're finished eating."

He took her to a fairly nice restaurant on the outside of town. Everyone seemed to know him and one or two people there had seen Sossity play the night before.

"This is the most appreciative town I've ever played in," she said.

"The people here don't have much to make them feel good. Your concert hit home with them."

She ordered a steak and french fries. They drank beer. He asked about her career. Sossity loosened up a bit and told him what it was like to be on the road, how grinding and hard a life it was, but how she would not do anything else. She asked him about how he had acquired Bambuko's and how he liked running a bar. By the time they got desert (she had cheesecake), she felt much better about being with him. As if he sensed her opening up, he asked if she planned to stay again at the hotel.

"The manager said he would get me another room, but I probably won't be able to sleep after what happened."

"They'll have the place under surveillance, but you're right. You're welcome to stay with me tonight." He paused then went on, "I have an apartment. I went through a divorce three years ago and lost my house. Of course you can sleep on the couch if you want to."

"I'll decide where I want to sleep when I get there," she said.

It was after three when they finished. Howard dropped Sossity off at the repair shop. She picked up her car, drove back to the hotel, and loaded her things into the trunk. She thought she might just leave and not play the second show, but she felt it would be wrong to betray people who had showed such appreciation for her. She would play the show. She would stay with Howard and sleep with him. Why not? He had been nice to her. She wanted it. Those two reasons were enough.

Sossity drove to a city park, got out and walked on some of the trails. A stream ran through it. She stopped at a small dam and listened to the plash of the water as it dropped in an even curtain over the edge and tumbled into a pool. Birds hopped along the shoreline, bathing in the mist. Children and mothers dotted the playground. One family picnicked at a table just a few feet away from her.

A realization of how lonely she was crept over her like a dreary fog. Things were tense between her and her family. She had broken up with Digory after dating him for a year and a half. Spending all her time on the road and playing gigs, she had lost contact with most of her old friends. Even if she did not know Howard, even if it were a one-night stand, it would help. It would remind her there was love and intimacy—even if a single night.

Twelve years ago, she thought, as she sat in the lobby of the hotel, she had written "One-Night Stand" at a rest stop on the way back from Marburne. It had gone on her second album. Though she never released it as a single track herself, it had been covered more than any of her other songs and had made her more royalties than anything else she had recorded. A very popular female country singer had given the song a steel guitar and fiddle, ramped up the twang factor, and sent it to the top of the country charts; after her success, scores of other country artists had done it as well. She had written it about the night she spent with Howard.

The second show she played back then had gone well. Bambuko's was so packed that Howard brought in folding chairs. Sossity tried to read the crowd and played appropriate songs. She felt the ebb and flow of their response and the aura that emanated from them and returned songs that reflected what she sensed. That night everything went right. She came out for two encores. She got almost two-hundred in tips. After everyone had cleared out she went to Howard's apartment.

The whole thing happened naturally. He kissed her when she stepped inside the door. They made love that night and again in the morning. She remembered seeing the pictures of his wife and son he still kept on a coffee table in the living room.

"She's pretty," Sossity commented.

"I couldn't leave the bar long enough to spend time with her. She found another guy."


"One. He's three now."

Howard's tone suggested he did not want to talk about it.

They had breakfast together at a Denny's outside of town. She thanked him for picking up the tab on her car repair, they kissed good-bye, and she drove back home.

She glanced down at the brochure, heard something, and looked up.

A small boy, eight or nine years old, stood in front of her. A foot or two behind him stood a woman Sossity assumed to be his mother.

He stared at her for a moment with wide eyes.

"Are you Sossity Chandler?" he asked.

"I am," she replied, smiling.

The boy put out is hand. She shook it.

"And what's your name?"


The mother came forth and said they were sorry to disturb her but her son had recognized her. They were both fans, she said.

"I don't mind. Brad, I'm very happy to meet you. Would you like a CD?"

She always carried a supply of autographed CDs in her purse. She asked his favorite tape.

"Labyrinth," he said.

This was the album that carried her original version of "One-Night Stand."

"I think I have a copy of that one." She dug around and gave it to him. He accepted it with an enthusiastic "Thank you."

"My mother saw you play here ten years ago," the boy's mother said. "She and a group of people who were at that concert are planning to invite you to Bambuko's for a sort of reunion. I'm letting the cat out of the bag, but I don't want you to be surprised when you get the call."

"I'll look forward to it."

They chatted more and then Sossity went back up to her suite. Tonya said she had got a call from a local group that wanted to invite her to a reception; she was astonished when Sossity said she would accept the invitation.

"At Bambuko's, right?"

"How did you know that?"

"I put on such a good show back then, I thought they'd want to thank me one more time."


Her band performed flawlessly at the concert. She felt they put on one of their best shows. Afterwards she and Kamala went to Bambuko's. Howard was there to greet her.

The years had treated him well. In fact, he looked a little more trim and strong than she remembered him. He shook hands with Kamala. Sossity expected a kiss but got a tiny embrace instead. He introduced a beautiful woman as his wife and asked if he could speak to Sossity in private a moment before the reception got underway.

They went aside in one of the spacious corridors. The two of them stood between two plants in urns that more or less shielded them from view.

"You look good," she said.

"You've always looked good. Thanks for agreeing to come here."

"I'm flattered and touched that people remember me and want to see me. I think this is really cool, Howard. Your wife is pretty."

"She was a runner-up for Miss Ohio."

"I believe it. And you've really transformed this place from what it used to be."

He looked around and smiled but he seemed tense, as if he had something on his mind.

"Can I ask you one thing, Sossity?"

"Sure. What?"

"It would be better if you didn't mention that we . . ."

He let his voice trail off. She grinned.

"That we screwed each other?" she whispered. "Why not?"

"Well, my wife is here."

"You weren't married then. I imagine she realizes you had some flings before you met her."

"I imagine she does, but there's more. I'm running for mayor. I'm going to announce it tomorrow."

His embarrassment, and his uncalled-for paranoia, made her laugh.

"Howard, in this day and age if that got out it would probably help your campaign, for Christ's sake! Don't get so nervous. I wasn't planning to say anything about that—I mean, did you think I'd describe it to the crowd when someone asked me to stand up and say a few words?"

"No, but . . . well, there's that song. Everybody who went to the concert asks me about it. They ask if it's about us—especially because you've got that mention of Ohio in it."

"It is about us, Howard. Couldn't you tell?"

"I could. But I know someone will ask you about it."

"And you want me to cover for you."

"I do, if you would. Sossity, what we did was cool and I've remembered it all my life . . ."

She held up a hand. "No need to explain. I'll cover for you."

"Nothing against you, Sossity—I hope you realize that."

Right after her divorce Sossity had plunged into a round of affairs with different celebrities. Her promiscuity became legendary, her liaisons eagerly reported by media syndicates around the world; and, at the time, she was brazen about what she did and with whom she did it and frankly discussed her amours in public venues.

"I've backed off from being a pop tart, but I can understand why you wouldn't want to be identified with me after that."

He seemed on the verge of becoming frantic.

"Sossity, it's not that. You know what I'm trying to say."

She touched his shoulder and then, on impulse, gave him a quick, small kiss.

"Calm down, Howard. I'm cool. Let's go in before people start to wonder if we're rekindling our old romance."

They went inside the banquet room.

Howard's wife had organized a reception with a drinks and a buffet of hors d'oeuvres. Sossity ate and drank and chatted. The forty or so people there identified themselves as members of the audience at the old Bambuko's from twelve years ago. She was genuinely moved when they told her what the concert had meant to them, how it had given them hope and a few moments respite from the litany of bad news that had been their lives in those tough times. One man and one woman actually began to weep as they remembered hard times and said their community had finally come out of it. They mentioned Howard as one of the primary movers in getting things on a different economic track so some recovery could occur.

And, as he had predicted, someone asked her if "One-Night Stand" was about her experience there and if the person in the lyrics—I remember that town, I remember that man, / I'll always remember that one-night stand—might be Howard.

"I hate to disappoint you," she said, to a crowd of eager onlookers, "but songs are stories, and stories come out the imagination. When I wrote that part about in South Ohio I was thinking of here, but I visited lots of towns, did a lot of singing, a lot of one-night stands—both kinds"—this got a laugh—"when I was on the road. So don't read too much into it."

They crowd laughed; some said they were a little disappointed but at least they could say one reference in the song was specifically about their town. Later on people stood up to speak and remember those past years. Much of the talk centered on the economic recovery in the area. She heard Howard mentioned several times as being one of its primary facilitators. If this crowd was representative of how many people in the city felt, he probably did have a good chance of getting elected. She felt a little chagrin that he did not want even a rumor of their past involvement to get out, but she did not begrudge him this opportunity.

At the end one of the men in the group said they had a gift for her. She was astonished when they presented her with a handmade guitar done by a luthier she had heard of and knew charged well over a thousand for his guitars. It was beautifully made, inlaid with lovely patterns; when she strummed it, she noted the high-quality sound and the easy touch of the fretboard and strings.

She thanked the smiling crowd of people—better off now than they were back then—and felt emotion at their generosity. She had tried to give what she had to offer as a musician back then when she was unknown, broke, and hacking out a hard-scrabble living herself; and it had meant something to them. Corny and sentimental as it sounded, this was what she always thought being a professional musician meant and had always seen this as her purpose in life—if life had any purpose at all. She held the guitar up.

"Can I sing you a song?"

Applause answered. She stood up on a small platform to play.

An evil thought crossed her mind. She still felt just slightly stung by Howard's reticence to acknowledge their relationship. She thought of singing "One-Night Stand" and dedicating it to him. She also thought of maybe doing Linda Ronstadt's "You're No Good" or maybe even "The Asshole Song" by Jimmy Buffett. But she backed off. She did not owe Howard anything. He had given her something and she had given him something in return. It was reciprocal. They were even.

To the crowd's delight, she played "Why Worry?"

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