Another fairly simple chapter to edit. The flow feels good to me – dialogue natural. Of course, that could mean this is one of my worst chapters to date – but I guess the proof is in the pudding. Or the reading, as the case may be …
10 ~ Chicago ~
Mike looked skeptically at my oversized backpack. “I trust you are staying for more than just a couple of days. Do you plan on doing laundry every night?”
Jared laughed. “Paul rolls his things. It’s an art I have never learned, though I have tried enough times. I would bet he has at least two weeks’ worth of clothes in there.”
“At least,” I concurred.
“And nothing gets creased?” Mike’s face was full of doubt.
“Not much and I can always iron out anything that does. Normally just hanging them in a steamy bathroom for a while takes care of any minor wrinkles.” I looked up into Mike’s dark green eyes. “So what’s the game plan, chief?”
“We hit the studio tomorrow at seven. I figured I’d grab you from your hotel at five and we’d go find some breakfast.”
Jared’s eyes widened with shock. “Five? A.M?”
“Sorry, dude – but such is the life. We have two days to tighten down the sound for Friday night’s opening.”
I shook my head. “Two days. That’s a tall order, even for the ‘three caballeros’.” I glanced at Jared. “Me thinks our friend plans to work us into the ground.”
“Good jazz comes from misery,” Mike supplied.
“I thought that was blues,” Jared retorted.
“That too,” he added.
I sighed. “Well, I don’t believe either of you. Can we go? I’m hungry and could use a good drink. Not necessarily in that order. And not necessarily one drink.”
Mike laughed and led the way to the airport parking lot. “It’s a bit of a hike, but not too far.”
The automatic doors at the terminal slid open and I stopped short. “Who left the frickin oven on? Isn’t it too early in the year to be this hot?”
“Check your calendar, my friend,” Mike said. “Summer starts in two days.”
“It can’t be that late. Already?”
We trudged through the apocalyptic waves of convection coming up from the pavement to the middle of a giant sea of metallic mayhem machines. Just when I thought I would drop my backpack and give up, Mike opened the trunk a dark green Mercedes, then unlatched the doors. Jared and I dropped our things in, closed the trunk, then climbed in after Mike. I left the front seat passenger for Jared and instead climbed in the back and stretched out across the seat.
Mike started the car and hit the air. “So, hotel first or dinner?”
“Hotel,” Jared answered as I replied “Food.”
“Come on guys, decide.”
“Hotel works,” I said. “I can change to something more comfortable and maybe forty degrees cooler.” I leaned against the back and closed my eyes.
“Bad flight?” Mike asked.
“Any flight is a bad flight,” I retorted.
“Don’t listen to Paul,” Jared chimed in. “He passed out before takeoff and was out cold until shortly before we landed.”
“I did not ‘pass out’. I was tired and slept.”
“Right. Tired from two bloody-marys at the airport, then coffee with double Baileys.”
“I don’t like to fly.”
“I dunno. You were doing pretty well before we even left the gate.”
“Shut up, Jared.”
Mike was pulling into a left-turn lane for the interstate when he hit the brakes, bringing the car to a jolting stop “Damn!”
My eyes shot open. “What’s wrong?”
“Look at that.” Mike gestured in front of the car. All I could see was a sea of different colored car hoods under waves of rising heat. Mike sighed heavily. “Welcome to Chicago, gentlemen.”
I looked around the area; my eyes latched onto a promising sign. “Mike, can you get to the right and back on the main drag?”
“Why, what do you see?”
“Ahead on the left – looks like a bar or restaurant. ‘Blake’s Tavern’, large green sign. Maybe we could stop in for a bit and let traffic unwind a little.”
“Good catch. I’d forgotten they were down here. Good grub. Hold on.” He checked the mirrors then gunned the engine, squealing and swerving back into the main flow of automobiles. I swore silently under my breath as he managed to bring us back into traffic without killing anyone. Unless he caused heart failure behind us, which I didn’t feel like checking. “We can camp out there,” he offered. “They have everything from burgers to steaks and seafood. Prices shouldn’t break the bank.”
“Not a problem, since you’re buying.”
He looked at me in the rear-view. “I did promise. Though I was thinking breakfast. But ok, my treat.”
Jared smiled. “Now I feel welcomed to Chicago.”
We all laughed.
Blake’s Tavern was a rustic looking place, a lot of wood, but clean. Roomy and yet a good crowd had already gathered for the early evening. The smell of beef hung heavy in the air, and the constant drone of quiet conversations filled the place. We were met as we entered by a young woman in a long black gown; obviously the hostess. After asking which we preferred, she took us to a table for four along a far wall. After handing us our menus, she asked the usual request for refreshment. I looked up at her with a smile.
“Coffee, black. And lots of it.”
“Same here,” Jared added.
“Might as well make that unanimous,” Mike told her.
She nodded. “Three coffees coming up.” With that she turned and walked away.
I stretched and looked around the room. Various color and black-and-white photographs hung around the establishment, various sizes, all of country scenes. The waitress returned with our coffees and glasses of ice water. After we ordered we sat and discussed the upcoming days and our schedule.
“I’ve been listening to your two latest CDs,” I told Mike. “Jamming with them when I’ve found time.
“Excellent. Biggest part of what we play is on those, so that lessens the learning curve.”
“Scares me at the same time. Damn, Mike, but Mac is good.”
“The best,” he conceded. “He always plays with his heart. But so do you, Paul.”
Jared grinned. “Paul, I’ve told you this before, but I really think your soul leaks out your hands all over the keys when you play.”
“You guys are good friends, but…”
Mike interrupted me. “You don’t see it?”
I sighed. “Music does something for me, true. When I play it’s like I’m transported to a place far off where my problems just can’t find me. I know it sound hokey – but …”
The waitress stepped up with our food. “Here we go, gentlemen.” She placed our plates from her tray then set ketchup and mustard on the table. “Will there be anything else?”
I looked up at her. “Do you have a Dijon-style mustard?”
“We do have ground mustard for those who request it. I’ll bring it out.”
Jared shook his head. “Burgers were meant for ketchup, man. Tomato and beef – God’s greatest creation.”
I shrugged. “Maybe. The mustard is for my fries, though.”
The waitress walked up with a squeeze bottle and handed it to me. “Anything else I can do for you?” She had a pretty smile.
“I think this will do, thanks.”
“Anytime.” She smiled wide then turned and moved to take care of other customers.
Jared looked at me and laughed. “Is there anyone that doesn’t want to ride you?” he asked incredulously.
I was too hungry to return fire.