I write short fiction

Tag: Nashville

Mannequin Monday – I play her guitar

5:55 p.m. Supermarket checker Lari talks addiction recovery with a customer. A story bite of mine.

And I visit the songwriting doc It All Begins with a Song. It’s all about the thriving artist colony that is the Nashville songwriting community.

What I’m Writing This Week

I’m sharing another story bite, this one inspired by a real supermarket checker I knew. I hope you enjoy it.

  Five Fifty Five

Bob Gillen

Lari’s phone alarm chirped as she scanned the last of twelve cans of cat food for her supermarket customer. She dug the phone out of her jeans pocket, smiled at the display, turned off the alarm. She stuffed the phone back in her pocket.

Her customer glanced at her own watch. “5:55. Is your shift ending?”

“I don’t get off till eight tonight.”

“Oh?” Her customer gave Lari a puzzled look.

Lari leaned around the register to see that there were no other customers in line.

“Five fifty five,” she said. “I had my last drink at 5:55 in the afternoon, I’m six years thirty two days sober today.”

“Good for you,” the customer said, as she slipped her credit card into the card reader. “You must be proud.”

Lari reached into another pocket, placed a large token on the counter next to the card reader. 

“I got this at my fifth year sober. Pick it up.”

The customer handled the token. “It’s heavy.”

Lari nodded.

“Your family must be happy with your sobriety.”

Lari checked again that there was no one else in line. 

She shrugged. “No one left. I do this for me.”

“I admire your courage.”

Lari looked the customer in the eye. “Husband left me years ago. My daughter is dead. OD’d last year.”

“Oh.”

“She’d be twenty eight tomorrow, if she had made it. Booze got her.”

“I’m so sorry.” Her customer took the receipt Liza handed her, folded it into her purse.

Lari put the token back in her pocket. Filled a paper bag with the customer’s grocery items.

I play her guitar.

“How do you cope?” the customer asked.

“I play her guitar.”

 The customer picked up her bag. “Her guitar?”

“I play it every night. Her favorite songs. I don’t play well, but…” 

A new customer began tossing her groceries on the belt. The exiting customer said, “You take care.” She walked away.

Lari scanned the first item sliding off the belt, a bottle of vodka. She quickly pulled out her phone, reset the alarm for 5:55 p.m. tomorrow.

***

Continue reading

A Pinpoint of Light

What I’m reading

Last week I read William Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land. A terrific read! I’m no book reviewer, and I’ll leave it to you to do a search for one. There are many, I’m sure. But here are a few of my thoughts. The story is set in the summer of 1932, at the height of the Great Depression. In Minnesota, four young orphans – three boys and a little girl – run away from an oppressive institution and set out by canoe for St. Louis and what they hope will be a new home.

Along the way they face loads of obstacles, meet up with interesting characters, and find much of what they were looking for.

Book reviewers and critics have compared Krueger’s book to The Grapes of Wrath and Huckleberry Finn, true Americana stories. Here’s what I think. I don’t like comparing a book to another. They all stand alone, in my mind. Of course, similarities abound in the book world. And of course, writing coaches will encourage authors to find comparable books to align their own with, to help attract readers.

A number of years ago, when my wife and I were starting out on our writing careers, we flew from New York to Nashville to interview David Malloy. Malloy is an award-winning record producer. We spent time with him in his studio. He proudly introduced us to a young singer/songwriter, Anthony Crawford, whom he was helping get started in the world of country music. Malloy played tracks for us from the music they were working on. 

I commented that I liked his music. I said that his voice and style reminded me of another established country singer (whose name I have forgotten). Malloy came down hard on me. Don’t compare a singer to another singer, he said. It’s an insult. Each one stands (or falls) on their own.

Good advice, I think. Sure, it’s easy to compare, to find similarities. But for sure, let each artist stand on their own.

Krueger’s book, to close, offers a gleam of hope, a pinpoint of light, in what has become an increasingly dark world. A book well worth reading. A book destined to find its own place in American literature.

© 2021 Bob Gillen

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