Quite often, my characters are musicians. A lot of them play guitar because my sons do, and it’s what I’m familiar with. Also, I’m totally hooked on guitarists like Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani, Dave Gilmour and Carlos Santana. Santana’s music features in Under the Western Sky, a romantic suspense novel set in Western Nebraska in 1976. One of the main characters is Bobby Menendez, a young Mexican man who loves to play the guitar. He is always telling his best friend, Danny, that bands like KISS won’t last, but in 30 or 40 years, people will still be listening to Carlos Santana and Led Zeppelin.
At one point during the story, the characters gather at Bobby’s home and have their own version of Name That Tune.
After they ate, Evanston and Bobby got their guitars. Some of the others also had musical instruments and they sat down to play. Rico kept time tapping on the bowls, dishes and table top. Libby and Toni sang. Jim surprised everyone by turning up with a banjo and Toby rushed home for his bass guitar and amp.
Once the improvised band was assembled, they sat down to find a song or two they all knew. Most music they didn’t have in common until Evanston played a very distinctive melody. Laughing, they all joined in playing Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Bobby played rhythm and the girls sang, their voices blending beautifully.
With barely a break, Bobby started Free Bird, improvising the solo since he had never stopped to figure it all out. From there, he launched into Europa by Santana. Before he was finished, the others dropped out, listening to him in awe. Realizing that he was playing alone, he came to a halt, looking around him, wondering if he’d done something wrong.
Libby leaned over, kissing him lingeringly. “I had no idea you could play that well.”
“Where have you been keeping that, Babu?” Maria asked him breathlessly.
Bobby had trouble focusing, his attention still on the music. “What do you mean? Was it bad?”
“It was so good, I couldn’t even keep up,” Link said with a grin. “Damn, kid. That was something else!”
“Really? I just played.” He shrugged, suddenly embarrassed by their compliments.
“Is the concert over?” Toby sounded disappointed. “I was just getting into it. Come on, let’s keep playing. I’m itching to play something else. See if you can figure this one out.”
Flexing his fingers, he started to play. Although it was an octave lower, he played a melody Libby had loved for years. Evanston joined in with a grin and Rico improvised drums on a plastic container full of potato salad. When it got to the vocal, Bobby started to sing, looking at Libby.
“Well she’s walking through the clouds with a circus mind that’s running around. Butterflies and zebras and moonbeams and fairy tales….”
He knew how much Libby loved Little Wing by Jimi Hendrix. If he could have sung it to her alone, he would have taken that moment to propose because all the love he felt for her washed over him, making him dizzy. When the vocal ended, he joined Link on the guitar, taking melody as the older man slid into harmony. They played several minutes, Link following Bobby’s lead as he improvised an intricate solo.
This time they didn’t stop playing, wanting to listen to the magic that came from his fingers. No one wanted to disturb his focus, causing him to quit. When he stopped, the others were staring at him again and he got very embarrassed. Seeing how he was feeling, Jim hopped in with his banjo.
“I’m feeling left out,” he plucked a few notes. “See if you can follow this one.”
Laughing loudly, Evanston played the same notes, which Jim repeated. The two launched into a lively rendition of Dueling Banjos from Deliverance. When they had finished, Jim went directly to Foggy Mountain Breakdown.
It was getting late and Connie decided they all needed to go to bed if they were going to get to church in the morning. As a finale, the girls sang His Eye is on the Sparrow so perfectly, even the men were near tears.
They parted reluctantly, especially those going back to motel rooms. Bobby walked Libby across the street with Grace and Toby trailing behind them. They went inside, feeling oddly self-conscious with the adults in the living room saying good night.
“I didn’t realize it was so serious between them,” she whispered, smiling happily. “I’m really happy for her.”
“Me too,” Bobby said, not wanting to talk about Libby’s mother.
His lips covered hers before she could speak again, kissing her deeply. His arms wrapped around her, holding her close. He infused his kiss with his love, hearing Little Wing play in his mind as they embraced.
© 2017 Dellani Oakes