Walking away from the restaurant, John thought back to the guitar in the curio shop. The instrument had appeared in fair condition, and inexpensive. The weathering by the salty air had been minimal, and any other damage could be easily fixed. He made his way to the store. Once inside, he was greeted again by the shopkeeper. John acknowledged the man's salutation and walked to the wall that held the guitar. He grabbed a price tag hanging from the instrument. Looking at the tag and the condition of the guitar, John determined that it was a fair deal. He brought the guitar to the shopkeeper and handed him a wad of bills.
"Musician?" the man asked.
"I can play a few licks."
"You know Lissie?"
"She holds a concert every week in her diner. Pretty good too. Voice like an angel. Fingers like Django."
Now that the man mentioned it, John remembered a poster he had seen on the restaurant, proclaiming the times of these performances. "8:00 pm, every Friday," the sign had stated.
"I guess I'll have to go tonight." John said.
"Trust me. You'll really enjoy it. By the way, I have a case for the guitar."
The man handed his customer the case. John placed the instrument in the case and secured the latches. He replied similarly to the shopkeeper's "goodbye," and left the store. Outside the store, the oppressive heat was weakening its grip on Salton. A cool wind stroked John as he made his way towards the Hodges' home. He had to walk only a few minutes before reaching the house.
Even outside the home, John could smell chili cooking. He opened the front door and the aroma overwhelmed him. Hints of tomato and onions, among other ingredients, wafted from somewhere inside the home.
Bill heard the door open and beckoned John. "We're in the kitchen."
John followed his nose to the room. Once inside, he could see Martha standing by the table with a pot of chili. Bill sat with nearly a dozen bowls in front of him. He appeared fatigued by the taste-testing he had done, and leaned backwards in his chair. Bill lifted a spoonful of chili to his lips and blew across it. Once the food seemed cool enough, he placed it in his mouth, and made careful considerations of its taste and texture.
"Still too much onion."
John watched as Martha spent some more time perfecting her recipe. She sliced more of the onions beside her and placed only a few bits in her chili. Once she was satisfied with the time the pot had spent on the stove, she removed it. Bill's bowl was once again handed a bowl of chili. He sampled the recipe and smiled.
"Really?" replied Martha. "I don't want Lissie beating me again." She paused, looked at John, and said "John, come try this recipe."
John complied and was handed a small bowl of the chili. Putting a spoonful in his mouth, his tongue was suddenly overwhelmed by the spicy ingredients. He motioned for a glass of water and Mrs. Hodge handed him some milk.
"Water just makes it worse."
John gulped down the milk and began to speak.
"It's really spicy."
"But does it taste good?" Martha inquired.
"Yeah, it's great."
Martha smiled and thanked John.
She whispered in Bill's ear, "I've got this contest in the bag."
"Sure, honey," he replied.
Mrs. Hodge gave Mr. Hodge a dirty look and began to clean up the kitchen. Bill turned towards John and asked "So, John, did you have fun in town?"
"Yeah. I found a good guitar. It'll take a little work to get it back in playing order, though. The strings are pretty worn, and the body has a few nicks and scrapes."
"I'm sure you'll be able to get it fixed pretty quickly."
Bill began to walk out of the room but turned back around. "By the way, did you know Lissie holds a concert every Friday at the diner?"
"Yeah, the shopkeeper, I think his name's Mark Douglas, told me about it."
"You really should go. She's got…"
John interrupted. "A voice like an angel and fingers like Django. ."
"Right. I've never figured out who Django is but he must be pretty good from the way Mark talks about him. Anyway, I can drive you over there before the concert starts. It's about six right now."
John thanked Bill and glanced at the clock.
"The two hours between now and the concert will give me some time to fix the guitar," John thought.
Sitting in the living room, John was able to make quick progress repairing the guitar. Finding some strings to replace the ones on the guitar proved easy. He found an extra set lying around the house and strung them on hi instrument. Repairing the wood proved much more difficult. Some of the scratches on the instrument were particularly deep. John decided that he would finish repairing the guitar later, placed it in his room, and began to prepare for Lissie's concert. Thirty minutes before the concert started, Bill walked into the living room.
"Ready to go?" he asked.
Bill drove John to the diner. Sitting in the truck, John asked Bill, "Are you going?"
"No," Bill replied. "I've got a date with some chili."
"I thought Martha had finished perfecting her recipe."
"Martha is pretty serious about this upcoming contest. She doesn't want Lissie to win a fourth time."
"Ah. Well, I'll see you later." John said.
John pushed the truck door open and walked towards the restaurant. Entering the building, he was able to see Lissie tuning her guitar on the small stage. Several people, including Mark Douglas, sat by tables near the stage and sipped beers. The man who had sat near John earlier that day stood in front of the stage, conversing with Lissie.
"Playing the usual set?" he asked her.
"Matthew, hen have I ever had a 'usual' set?" she quipped.
Looking up, Lissie spotted John taking a seat across the room.
"Why don't you sit closer, John? I'm not gonna bite you."
John stood up from his chair and moved to a table by the stage.
"Well," Lissie spoke to the few people in the room, "It looks like these are all the people that are gonna come. Might as well get started."
Lissie began her performance with a few slow tunes. The songs served to excite the small audience and entranced John. Looking at her left hand, he was able to see the fingers move with careful conviction up and down the guitar's neck. The melodies she played filled the room. As the concert reached its midpoint, Lissie began to perform much quicker songs. This change in tempo also brought her voice into the performance. Shifting from the soft spoken lyrics of blues tunes, Lissie began to display the power in her voice with rock songs. As the concert reached its peak, John was entranced by the music. He knew that she was regarded as a good performer by her friends, but had been unaware of the talent she displayed now.
Once the concert ended, and the other members of the audience left the diner, John sat in quiet admiration. Lissie saw John still sitting in his chair, and asked "Like the concert?"
"Like it?" John answered. "I think it was amazing. Mark was right when he said you have the voice of an angel."
"Mark said that? I'll have to thank him when I see him again."
Lissie placed her guitar in its case and stepped down from the stage. She sat down by John and began to speak.
"So, are you a musician yourself, or do you just listen?"
"I've played guitar for a few years now."
"Any good at it?"
"I can play a few licks."
"Stay right there." Lissie pulled her case to the front of the stage and pulled the guitar out. She handed the instrument to John and he pulled the strap over his shoulder.
Lissie implored John to play a song and he quickly began to strum the strings. After only a few seconds, she began quietly hum along, until this humming shifted into singing. The tune grew faster and Lissie's vocals grew much clearer. John's playing faded away but the girl continued singing. Realizing this, Lissie quickly silenced herself.
"Sorry." she said.
"It's okay. You seemed to be really enjoying yourself."
"Yeah, it's one of my favorite songs. You know, John, you're pretty good."
"I know you're only gonna be in town for a few more days, but how would you like to play with me next Friday? I mean, if you're still here."
"I'd love to. I'm sure I can stay in town a little bit longer."
"That's great!" Lissie exclaimed.
Looking at her watch, Lissie saw that it was nearing eleven.
"Could you help me carry my stuff to the house?" Lissie asked.
"No, the president's. Of course my house."