Marcus Breen was completely engrossed in the work before him. Now that Rising Voices had figuratively brought the house down with their recent concert, the esteemed and enthusiastic director of the group must choose the music and lay out every detail for the next show, which would be expected to top the previous extravaganza. With only sixteen singers, plus Elston Brazil, the piano virtuoso, every member of the troupe had to bring forth every ounce of talent they possessed.
For a gated community comprised of mostly retired professionals, Warm Springs Village had been particularly blessed with a deep pool of artistic, creative, and multi-talented folks. Marcus couldn’t keep the grin off his face as he drew up an outline for the new show on a poster board, using a permanent marker from the colorful multi-pack he had purchased that morning at Walmart. He would use different colors for various blocking diagrams, and to divide the show into appropriate segments.
After cogitating and contemplating for several days on the best theme and title for the show, Marcus had settled on “Genres and Generations.” He felt that this would be appropriate for an ensemble whose members ranged in age from forty-five to eighty-two and who appreciated a wide range of music types.
His phone call to Susan Croissant that morning had confirmed that she was definitely interested in continuing her sultry Southern Siren routine. “Hot Southern Nights” had heated up the auditorium during the last show, and she had just yesterday finished writing a perfect sequel to it, entitled, “It’s Not the Humidity – It’s the Heat”.
After Susan gets the audience revved up, Marcus reasoned, then we will let them cool off a bit with the sweet harmonies of our Barbershop quartet. A little “Lida Rose” will throw a bucket of wholesomeness all over the audience. By now, Marcus was about to giggle out loud.
This morning had dawned cool and clear at Missy’s house. The mood was light. The air was sweet in her lungs. Life seemed new.
The same morning had broken hard and ragged for Lance Strong. Having used his credit card to rent a car that had seen its better days, he had spent several hours the previous evening driving aimlessly, trying to pick up any clue as to where Jezebel Jones and Ruston Wrigley might have gone. He had finally checked into a two-star motel next door to a Waffle House and spent a restless night drifting in and out of sleep.
Now he sat staring at the remains of his eggs and pancakes, occasionally sipping from a mug of weak coffee. He needed all the brain power he could muster, and his body was still trying to heal from the horrendous encounter with a “Boone and Crockett Record” sized buck who had robbed Lance of his strength, his sense of well-being, and his cell phone, while turning Lance’s prized “two-wheeled Cadillac” into a mass of twisted metal that wouldn’t even pass as modern yard art.
Every phone number that Lance desperately needed access to, was lost now, confined inside his cell phone, which was lying in the woods, having been drained of battery power and rained on, even if it was still in one piece. Finally, it dawned on Lance that there were other people who had the phone numbers of people he needed to contact – most of all, Jezebel Jones.
He paid his bill, even managing to add a tip to the total, and hurried out to his rental car. He knew he had spotted an AT&T store not far away. A new phone would be his next purchase. Then, he could get the ball rolling.
Back in the village, at the home of Jim and Leah Calais, there was a meeting going on. Jim had called the three singers who, along with Jim, comprised the Barbershop Quartet known as “Close Shave” to discuss what songs they would work up for the Rising Voices show. They had already been told by Marcus Breen that the old favorite, “Lida Rose” would be in the program, but they needed two more pieces.
Bill Lambeau, the Bass singer for “Close Shave,” had brought a hand-written list of Barbershop gems. He was making his pitch for them, but Keith Gordy, the Baritone, had a list of his own, and the two men were see-sawing back and forth over why this one or that one was more of a crowd-pleaser.
Jim was letting them hash it out, knowing that once they finished, he would explain to the group why HIS favorites were actually better than the ones they had brought up. He had already made a sacrifice, he thought, by agreeing to sing Lead instead of Bass. You see, he and Bill were both actually Bass singers.
Terry Henderson was the Tenor for the quartet. He wasn’t saying a whole lot right now. He’d just let them pick the songs, and then he would do his show-stopping high notes on stage and be a happy man.
Keith Gordy gave an impassioned plea for “Seventy-six Trombones,” being sure to act out the instruments that each man would get to impersonate.
“We could do the same thing with “Freddy Feelgood and his Funky Little Four-Piece Band,” Bill explained, “and have more fun doing it!”
“Wait a minute, you guys,” Jim had to cut in, now. “we may only get to do one comedy piece, and I feel like we can’t go wrong with “Life Could Be a Dream” or “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” – guaranteed to bring the audience to their feet.”
Terry sighed quietly. He figured this conversation might take a while. He was right.
At Lena and Joe’s house, the iced tea was flowing, and the ladies were rejoicing over the new developments in the saga of “Joe and Lena Meet Madame Zsa Zsa, The Village Marauder, and Jezebel Jones.” All of the title characters of the aforementioned saga were now friends, except Jezebel, who had fled the territory, hopefully forever. Happy Days Are Here Again! (They think.)
Maureen and Audrey had both shown up at Lena’s kitchen door bearing baked goods. Bette Kogut had arrived a few minutes later with her guaranteed stress-busting health salad, which would surely be just what they needed to both invigorate and calm them all.
“Is that tabouli?” asked Lena. “I mean – it looks delicious.”
“This salad puts tabouli in the shade!” responded Bette. “Girls, you gotta try it!”
So, they had their impromptu potluck, alternating bites of health salad to shrink their waistlines, with muffins and cookies to put back whatever the salad took off.
Lance had purchased his phone and sat in his rental car with the phone, a pencil, and a piece of paper, so he could write down the important numbers he would be able to get from his only friend whose number Lance knew by memory – the dude’s name was “Leather.”
Sure, Leather had a last name, but nobody used it. It could be that no one knew it. But, anyway, Leather was the only guy Lance knew who was as tough as Lance was. Leather stood about six-foot-four and was as broad as an outhouse. His muscles had stretched out the sleeves of every faded Harley Davidson t-shirt he had ever owned. He was a motorcycle mechanic by trade, or at least that was his cover. Rumor had it that Leather would “fix problems” for anyone who paid him a hefty fee. Leather had the phone numbers of everyone who had ever called him to do a job for them, plus the numbers of all the victims that he had dealt with. He had always required that the client provide him with that info so he could be sure exactly where the recipient of the “special treatment” would be at the time that the mission was to be executed. Leather fancied himself a “Special Forces” kind of man. Truth be told, he had been neither a cop nor a soldier.
Leather answered on the fifth ring. “Yeah,” he said. That was his official greeting.
“Leather, Dude, it’s Lance. I have acquired a situation. I might need your help. At the very least, I need a couple of phone numbers from you, and I’ll be happy to pay you for them.”
“Sorry, Bro, I don’t sell phone numbers to non-clients. You can’t just ‘browse’ my products. If you want to hire me to fix a problem, then you can. I might even let you come along, like a partner on the mission. But phone numbers don’t bring in enough money without a job attached, understand?” Leather said all this in a matter-of-fact tone.
Suddenly, Lance felt a smile coming, for the first time in a while. “Alright, man. You’re hired. Where can we meet for the details?”
Things were about to get a bit rowdy.
Stay Tuned For More To Come…
Click here for the links for all previous chapters of A village Tale.
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Author Nancy Carlton
Nancy Carlton and her husband, Steve, have lived in the village for five and a half years. They have three children and three grandchildren. Nancy has been writing for many years, and loves to vary her projects between songwriting, authoring novels, and “cozy murder mysteries” and political commentary. Even poetry and the occasional short story are produced. She also sings with several groups in the village.
This chance to do a serial story in the Hot Springs Village Gazette is a fun and exciting new adventure!