A beautiful Fender Stratocaster hung on the wall behind the counter. Gene liked the way the middle of the body shown all gold with a dark brown edge. He could so easily see himself on stage with something like that.
But that wasn’t what he was here for.
“Can I try… the Epiphone?” He pointed at the electric guitar – solid black body and plane brown frets. Cheapest of the cheap, it was all he could afford.
“Sure.” The guy behind the counter, the kind that looked like he wanted to be a musician but wasn’t really, with the long hair but also a pot belly, came around the counter. He grabbed one of the guitars in a bunch of stands and handed it to Gene.
Gene took it gingerly, afraid to mess it up before he even bought it, but it still swung down from being too heavy and bumped into his knee. There were a bunch of stools all over the music store. He sat down in one and strummed. Hardly any sound came out. Doy, he forgot to plug it in. It wasn’t like the acoustic guitar Suzie let him use.
“You buying too?” The guy looked right over Gene like he wasn’t trying his hardest and talked to Mrs. H.
“She’s my… um… my….” He almost wanted to say ‘mom’ but couldn’t quite. Foster mom? Didn’t seem quite right. Guardian? Kind of stiff and all. Roommate? Maybe getting adopted by her wouldn’t be so bad after all. At least then he’d know what to call her.
“I’m his wallet,” she said with a grin, like it was supposed to be funny.
“His what?” The store guy plugged in an amp for him. He didn’t wait around for Mrs. H. to say her lame joke again. “Oh, right.” He smiled and nodded like that’s the way it was supposed to be.
Gene tried the strum thing again. It sounded gawd awful. He tried to tune it, and it seemed to make it worse. The store guy took it from him and tuned it real quick. Gene could feel his face get hot cause he couldn’t even do that, and he looked down so no one would notice.
This time when he took the guitar, his knuckle whammed into the back and it rang out hollow like those musical sticks that you’re supposed to clack together. He almost dropped it.
It was just a stupid, cheap guitar. It shouldn’t be this hard to buy. He started in on Everlong, proud that he knew the one song. Only he got his fingers all twisted up, and it came out wrong. The guitar sounded bad. He started to think maybe he shouldn’t get it.
The store guy took it form him and played We Are the Champions, and it sounded right, but that wasn’t the kind of song Gene would ever play on it, so again, maybe he should just stick with the borrowed guitar, instead of getting himself one.
The Mrs. H. pulled one of those great tricks she did sometimes that kind of surprised everyone and was so right at the same time. She took the guitar right out of the store guy’s hands.
“Let me try.” She plucked a couple times, sounded real dorky, then broke into Jeremy by Pearl Jam. She was good. Real good. The guitar sounded great. Even the music store guy stared at her all transfixed.
She handed the guitar to Gene. “What do you think? Does it feel good?”
He strummed a couple of times.
“It might take some getting used to, but if you like it, I’ll get it. If not, there are plenty of stores out there that will have a guitar that’s right for you.” She gave this look to the store guy that really put him in his place.
“I like this fine.” Gene said. He plucked a couple of times, thinking about the way she told him it would be a while before he sounded good on any guitar, but all he had to do was work. Yeah, he could do this.
“All right then.” She went to the counter with the guy and paid for it. As soon as the store guy wasn’t breathing down his neck, Gene started making the guitar sound good.
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