Coming Home (part two)

Coming Home (part two)

Alright, here’s part two of my ‘parable of a parable’. If you haven’t read the first part, it’s here. Be sure to read that first. Anyhoo, I just wanna add a super quick disclaimer: I’ve never been to Nashville or tried to become a pop singer (duh), so I have NO IDEA how the process goes. So yeah. That part’s pure imagination (as is the rest, in fact) lol. So, hope you can look past the technical imperfections and enjoy the story! 

 

Part Two {Luke 15:13}

 

Nashville teemed with life and excitement. My heart beat a strange rhythm as I approached the city’s downtown area. I’d set my GPS for a well-known recording studio in the heart of the country music capital.

I nearly gasped when the building came into view. The studio name was emblazoned in gold on an aesthetic fountain in front of the office. I parked in the visitors’ lot.

I got out of the car, suddenly very glad I’d stopped at a rest area to freshen up before coming here. Approaching the door, I  met several very well-dressed men. I only overheard a few snatches of their conversation, but caught enough to know that they were discussing a popular country singer. And not in a nice way.

The inside of the building was cool and fresh. I took a second to appreciate the luxurious setting, then walked across the gleaming floor to the receptionist.

Very artificially blonde, she gave me a cold stare. “How may I help?” she asked, her tone indicating she’d rather not.

I didn’t let her intimidate me. “Hi! I’d like to see someone about recording-”

“Good grief. Another child trying to make a name in Nashville in a day.” She sighed loudly.

“No!” I leaned on the high counter, trying to make eye contact. “No, I don’t expect that. I’d like to meet with someone to discuss my career. Like, an agent or manager or someone.”

“Well, I can do that job.” She leaned closer to me. “You. Aren’t. Going. To. Become. A. Famous. Artist.”

I stepped back, angry and hurt. “You don’t know that!”

“Of course I don’t. I’ve only worked here for five years,” she responded sarcastically.

“Please give me a chance. Who can I talk to?”

She sighed again and glanced at the oversized clock behind her desk. “Fine. I’ll give you an appointment with James McCrery. He’s a sort of an agent for lost artist types.”

Biting back a sharp retort, I watched her enter my contact info in her computer. Finally she turned to me. “Okay, he’ll call you. In a couple of weeks.” Seeing my astonishment, she said, “He’s busy man. Take it or leave it.”

I took a deep breath. “I have money. Lots of money, if that helps. I’d pay any sum if you could get me an earlier appointment.”

She gave an exaggerated shrug.

I sighed. “Fine. I’ll take it.” I took the business card she offered and trudged back to the door.

“Hey, wait!”

I whirled around to see a skinny brunette unfolding her lanky frame from a couch. She grabbed a guitar case at her feet, crossed the lobby, and opened the door for me. When we were both outside, she stuck out her free hand. “Hi. I’m Jacki.”

“Um. Hi.” I kept walking to my car.

She hurried to keep up with me. “So you’re into singing.”

“Yeah.” I shot her a sideways look. “Isn’t everyone here?”

“Sure.” She shifted her guitar case to her other hand. “You seem cool.”

“Thanks. I think.” I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment coming from a malnourished-looking stranger with a broken guitar case.

When we reached my car, she gave it a once-over. “Hmm. You’re moving.”

I sighed.

She laughed. “Hey, how about a deal?”

I glanced at her, torn between suspicion and intrigue.

“Okay, so I’m a guitarist. But I can’t seem to get any deals around here. And judging by the response from that warmth-oozing receptionist, you’re not doing so great either. Anyway, I play a couple of gigs a week at this little café. You could join my band of one. It’d be good publicity for both of us.”

“Okay, first of all,” I began, “I’m not the type that plays in dinky little cafes. Second, this was my first attempt. I’ll try another studio tomorrow.”

Jacki laughed again.

I didn’t like being laughed at by a girl in torn sneakers and homemade jewelry.

“Listen.” Jacki put a hand on my arm. “Try it once. Come with me to my ‘dinky café’ and sing with me. It’ll give you a feel of what you wanna do with your singing. And besides, if you do get an interview with a record company, you want to be able to say that you’ve got some experience. That audiences love you. And you have no idea, if you’ve never sang for a critical audience.”

“Okay, who are you even?”

“Just another street artist.” Glancing at her phone, she walked around to the other side of my car. “I start playing at the Classy Cups in twenty minutes. Now, hop in, and I’ll tell you where to go.”

 

Jacki guided me to a small café. The front of the building, squeezed between a knockoff boutique and a thrift store, looked like an old Western saloon. I didn’t try to hide my distrust. “What even is this place? A tattoo parlor, a bar, a what?”

My new sidekick rolled her eyes. “It’s a café. With a real nice ambience.”

She was right. An aroma of roasted coffee beans and freshly baked goods met us inside. To my surprise, most of the patrons of Classy Cups seemed to be college students. They chatted over fragrant beverages and crumbly muffins. Jacki threw me a grin. “Not bad, huh?”

She led me to a big man in an apron behind the counter. “Hi, Big Al.”

He hugged her briefly. “Jacki! What did you drag in?”

She put an arm around my shoulder. “The new lead singer of my band. Introduce yourself,” she said, poking her elbow in my ribs.

Clever. “Hi. I’m Alison Jacobson.”

Big Al nodded. “Well, if Jacki says you’re alright, welcome to my café. Don’t disappoint the crowd.”

He walked away and I grabbed Jacki’s arm. “What are we singing? We haven’t practiced at all.”

“We have exactly seven minutes to discuss this.” She pulled me over a small low stage on the side. “What do you sing?”

So far mostly hymns in church. But I wasn’t about to share that. “Um, tell me your normal genre and songs. I’ll see if I recognize any of them.”

She reeled off several well-known older songs. “The crowd here seems to prefer old folksy songs.”

“Hey, I can do those,” I exclaimed.

“There ya go!” She unlatched her case and removed an old guitar. Its face was decorated with graffiti-style lettering. Mostly sad song lyrics and Jacki’s name. “See, this crowd doesn’t care so much about perfection as about emotion.”

I blinked. “Okaaay.”

At seven, one of the baristas hopped onto the tiny stage, snatched up a mike, and said, “Please welcome back our favourite soul guitarist… Jacki T.”

A scattered applause leapt over the small establishment and Jacki grinned at me. “Here goes.”

We took our places at the mikes. Jacki introduced me briefly, and then my music career began. Jacki turned out to be an easy guitarist to sing with. Her style inspired me; she gave her playing her heart and soul. When we finished our first song, a polite applause rippled through our audience. After our fourth song, I could tell the patrons liked us. Several college students set down their phones and sang along with us.

When the song ended, Jacki leaned over to me. “They like us! This is so exciting!”

Fifteen minutes later, we were back at my car, our hands wrapped around paper cups of coffee. Jacki leaned against the Camaro, sipping her drink. “Not bad, huh?”

“Not at all! Thanks for inviting me,” I said sincerely. “You were great.”

“Better with you.” She waved at a few students leaving the café. “If you want to, join me on Friday night. Seven sharp.”

We exchanged contact info, then she straightened. “Well, I’ll go catch a bus to go home.”

“Where do you live? I can take you home if you want.”

“Would you?” Her face lit up.

Her directions took me to a dumpy trailer park. Broken toys littered unkempt yards. Most of the trailers lacked paint. The characters lounging on the crumbling porches looked mighty shady to me.

Jacki shot me a look. “Not really your kind of neighborhood, eh?”

“Um. Well…” I hedged, slowing down to allow a grandmother with a shopping cart cross the street.

She laughed. “It’s fine, Alison. Whoa. Stop here.” She opened her door, then suddenly leaned over and gave me an awkward hug inside the car. “I’m so glad I ran into you. I believe we’ll be friends.”

“Yeah, we might.” I returned her hug.

She lightly ran up to a dilapidated trailer and disappeared. I sat for a moment staring at the horrible neighborhood, then hurried to my ritzy hotel in a much safer area of the city.

 

The following day yielded no positive results in the music industry. I visited several studios, but no one seemed to accept a wannabe artist off the street. And I wasn’t surprised… or disheartened. I’d never really expected to become famous overnight.

But when the next two weeks didn’t offer any contracts or major opportunities either, I was just a bit miffed. I mean, singing with Jacki at Classy Cups and another café was fun, but it wasn’t what I’d dreamed of doing here in Nashville. Besides, it was July 5, which was Daddy’s birthday. And I missed him. Twice I took my phone, intending to call or text him. But twice I told myself, “No, Alison, you don’t want to. It’ll show your vulnerability. He’ll ask how you’re doing and you’ll have to admit that it’s not a fantastic as you imagined it.”

 

Classy Cups was deserted, probably on account of the holiday the day before. Jacki and I sang to a trio of bored friends. We hated it. “We’re meant for a bigger audience than this,” I muttered between songs.

“And a more appreciative one.” She began strumming the next song wearily.

Then the door opened. The sunlight outside framed a tall bearded guy in the dark doorway. He stood for a moment, then came in smiling.

Jacki lost her beat mid-measure and screamed, “Taylor!” Then she flew off the stage and into his arms. After a warm greeting, she pulled him over to me. “Alison, this is Taylor. Taylor, Alison.”

Taylor stood at least 6’5 and likely didn’t weigh more than 170 pounds dripping wet. He smiled and stuck out his hand. “Hi. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

I blinked. “Uh, okay.”

Jacki laughed. “Taylor is my cousin. I told him you sing with me.”

Taylor grimaced, running a hand over his stringy hair. “Sorry for interrupting you. You two sounded lovely. Don’t let me keep you, Jacki. I’ll just listen.”

“Oh, no. You’ll join us.” To me, she added, “He’s a great pianist.”

And that was the understatement of the day. Taylor played beautifully, his long nimble fingers dancing over the keys with a mind of their own. The three previously bored students sat up straighter and offered us an appreciative applause at the end of our song.

I shook my head at Taylor. “You’re spoiling them. They’ll keep asking ‘where’s that pianist?’”

Jacki joined me at the piano. “Yeah, Taylor, why don’t you join my band?”

He hesitated, lightly touching the ivory keys. Finally he looked up. “Okay, I’ll be honest with you two. I got laid off work today. That’s why I came here.”

Jacki gasped. “Oh, no, Taylor. Not again. I’m so sorry.”

He nodded miserably. “Look, I could really use something to do until I find a new job. I know you have a cleaning job, Jacki, but maybe we can do something on most nights, the three of us. It’d help with the bills a little until I find something else. I mean, if you two are really willing to let me join your perfectly fine little band.”

“Of course you can join us!” Jacki cried. “Taylor, you know that we are better with you. Or… Alison, are you okay with him joining?”

I bit my bottom lip for a moment, looking at the dejected man on the bench too small for his frame. “Yeah, okay. I mean, we do sound better with him.”

“Really?” His face –the little I could see under all that hair- brightened. “That’s so nice of you.”

Jacki beamed as well. “Well, I’d invite you all to my place to celebrate, but the stepdad’s having poker night at the house, so maybe we can celebrate some other night.”

“We…” I thought for about two seconds, then plunged in. “We could party at my house. I finally found an apartment earlier this week. Why don’t you come over?” It was the least I could do.

 

Go to  (part three)

 

Thanks for reading! Also, thanks for the many encouragements you’ve given me- either in the comments section, in DMs, and in person. I appreciate them! Be blessed!

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