Gene couldn’t stop grinning. It was his! Finally! And not a stupid old Epiphone either. It was a… well…. a no-name guitar. The sales guy tried to claim it was a custom-built job and should be worth more, but it was just kind of a dull brown all over and mostly a regular shape except for this weird notch out of the body near the strumming elbow. And Mrs. H. said she knew it had been sitting there in the shop for a loooooong time, so he should mark it down. So he did! Enough so Gene could get it.
All that hard work he did for Mrs. H. – cleaning the grill in the heat back when it was still mostly summer, doing plumbing and everything – had actually paid off. Not like when he lived with his father and would work and work only to get things that should have been just given to him, like food and clothing. This time he’d done the work and got something really cool.
He walked into his bedroom with the guitar like it was a prize. Tracy came right behind him, and Ben and Lisa right behind her. Mrs. H. stopped in the doorway. She handed him the amp, but then leaned against the frame like she didn’t intend to go anywhere. It seemed kind of weird to Gene, but also kind of nice, and made him wonder if that was also a mother thing.
“Let me see it,” Tracy said. Her eyes gleamed, stuck on the guitar like it was a Stratocaster or something. She made grabby gestures with her fingers.
“Sure.” Gene gave it to her, even though he didn’t really want to. She being his girlfriend meant he had to, right?
She plugged it in and set the amp of the floor. The two of them sat next to each other on his bed, and Lisa sat on the other side of Tracy and Ben took the only chair, so Mrs. H. stayed in the doorway, leaning against it like she planned on it all along. She grinned at him and he grinned back and that feeling like they’d done something special came back.
Tracy played Heart Shaped Box. She got a few note wrong, but she was still better at it than Gene would be. He’d been working hard, practicing on Mrs. H’s acoustic guitar until now and got a lot better, but Tracy could still play a lot of things he couldn’t.
When she finished, Lisa took it. She strummed it a couple of times, but she didn’t really know how to play. She hit a lot of wrong notes.
“Ewwww, nasty!” Tracy leaned away from Lisa, almost all the way into Gene’s lap.
“What?” Gene shoved her back.
“Look!” Tracy pointed at a spot on the back of the guitar.
“What’s wrong with my guitar?” He took it back. There, on the back, someone had scratched in their initials. He swore.
“What?” Ben leaned across and took the guitar. He looked at the back, and scowled. “Hmmmm. K.C., huh?”
Gene swore again, under his breath because Mrs. H. was still standing there, but clear enough so Tracy could hear.
“Are you mad?!” Tracy glared at him. “Cease and detest right this minute.”
“You mean desist?” Lisa said like the way Tracy always screwed up words made her bored. She leaned around Tracy to talk to Gene. “Her mom is always saying that. You’d think she’d get that one right.”
“Right. Desist.” Tracy glanced at Lisa, all her excitement gone. Then she got in Gene’s face again and it was all right back. “You knew it was a used guitar to begin with, right?”
“Yeah,” Gene admitted.
“So you got to expect stuff like this, right?”
“So you’re looking at it all wrong? I mean, ‘K.C.’ could mean anything. It could… it could be…” But Tracy obviously couldn’t come up with anything cool.
“KC!” Mrs. H. said. “Like from KC and the Sunshine band.”
“Who?” Everyone else in the room said, except Ben.
“It’s some old band Mom used to listen too,” Ben said.
Everyone shrugged and turned back to the guitar.
“It’s probably a nobody,” Lisa said.
“But what if… what if it’s Kurt Cobain?!” Tracy had that gleam in her eye again.
“Probably more like K.C. from K.C. and JoJo,” Lisa muttered.
“Point is, it could be anyone,” Ben said. He handed the guitar back to Gene.
Gene wasn’t sure what to think. His new guitar sounded pretty good, but they got it awful cheap. Maybe it was someone’s piece of junk, or maybe it was a total score. He couldn’t decide if he should be proud or disappointed.
“Well, clearly there’s only one thing to do,” Mrs. H. said. She pushed away from the doorway and uncrossed her arms, then turned to leave. Over her shoulder she said, “Google it.”
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