Remo’s room was halfway down the hall and he fished a card key out of the breast pocket of his jacket. His was a standard room, two double beds and a window that had the same view as one of ours, no historic bridges in sight, just downtown buildings and other hotels. The hardshell case lay between the two beds.
Remo took his jacket off (so as not to scratch the guitar with the brass buttons while he played) and then popped open the case and propped the guitar in his lap. He dug a pick out of the jacket and rang the strings. Steel. They had a brash sound unlike the Miller’s mellow nylon. He plucked out a riff and then spun through a few familiar chord progressions.
“Ah, jeez, I can see your hands itching,” he said as he swung the guitar by the neck to me on the other bed. I took the pick, too.
I let the pick slide across the strings and then damped the sound with my fingers, running the calloused tips of my left hand up and down the neck. Then I bore down, E major, A major, D major, G major, climbing the circle of fifths one stroke at a time. I watched my fingers fit to the strings as I tried the different chords on, until I had been through the whole major cycle. I lit off on a little bit of “Welcome” and looked up while I played. Remo was smiling.
Bart smacked himself in the head and jumped to his feet. “Be right back,” he said as I twinkled the melody up high on the neck.
“What do you think?”
I held the strings quiet. “Sweet.” The fret board was soft to the touch, the action so low, I was hardly aware of the string tension.
“She’s for you.”
The wood was beautiful, golden like lions on a sunny savannah, a rosette of tiny leaves and flowers creeping around the sound hole. “Thank you.” I said, then, “that sounded lame.” I tried with more enthusiasm. “Thank You! I mean, really. Jeezus.”
“Hey, what are friends for,” Remo said, leaning his elbows back on the bed. “Hey, sit up straight when you play that thing.”
When I played sitting down I had a tendency to hunch, to curl myself around the instrument, pointing my ears down toward the sound although I never looked at my fingers. For a flash I thought of Paul, curled around me, and I might have blushed a little. My fingers played whatever they seemed to want, almost like the guitar was playing itself. “I bet Bart went to get another guitar.”
“Smart boy.” Remo stood up and fetched himself a can of soda from the sweating icebucket on the dresser. “Has Digger been talking to you much about business?”
“Yeah, I guess. He keeps me up to date on BNC, clippings, licensing. And there’s some new thing he wants to talk to me about.” I put the pick down and looked up at him. “Why?”
“Just seeing…” he said, looking at the can in his hand and not at me. Someone, probably Bart, knocked, and he went to open the door.
Bart had both the Miller and the Ovation, one case in each hand. “Speedy delivery,” he said as he laid them down on the bed. He flipped open the Miller’s case and I swung the Ovation toward me. We tuned for a few moments–nothing was too far off–and Remo put down his empty can and picked up the Takamine.
“Play me something, boys,” he said.
Bart raised his eyebrows at me.
And we began to play.