Another excerpt from my novel in progress.

Trevor looked around and saw that all the seats in The Empty Glass were taken. Quite a few were tables were singles, mostly young men, a few women, all unable to keep their eyes off their electronics for more than a few seconds. Producers, maybe. Or executives scouting for the next big thing. There were also a few couples and small groups, obviously out for dinner, but no wide-eyed tourists.

“Is that him?” Dani asked, nodding toward the stage.


“They look very country.”

“Well, it is Nashville, baby.”

On stage, they continued to tune their instruments, but Maxfield Martin finally seemed satisfied and sat behind his instrument, his arms crossed as he looked out across the restaurant and smiled. The guitar player also stopped, leaving only the bass player plucking on the heavy strings. He played a note, then another, lower note. He played them again. And again, increasing the tempo each time, until he it was obvious he was playing in an up-tempo four-four time, like a train moving over railroad tracks. Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump. Then came the train whistle from Maxfield Martin’s slide guitar. Waaaaa-waaaa. Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump. Faster. Waaaaa-waaa.

Trevor looked at Dani. She was smiling. He was smiling. Everyone in the place was smiling, their eyes glued to the musicians.

Then the guitar player with the embroidered jacket began playing an even faster rhythm, the sound muted by his hand.

Clackety-clackety-clackety-clackety. Waaaaa-waaa. Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump. You could almost see the train.

And then they stopped without warning.

“One, two, three, four,” the guitar player counted in perfect time.

They started up again, keeping the same rhythm, but now the guitar was in full voice and after a few measures of introduction, he went off on a bluegrass, rag-like solo that showed his amazing guitar skills. There were whoops and hollers from the audience. As his solo wound down, a fiddle could be heard taking the lead. And from behind a curtain came Janelle Hylton, all of five-foot two, her long black hair pulled back as if to highlight her dark brown skin. She moved slowly in black jeans and a red oxford shirt until she hit center stage, and as her solo reached its apex, she moved in time with the bow as it screamed across the strings of her fiddle. The room filled with applause as she finished and stood tapping her foot and nodding her head in time with the music as she turned toward Maxfield Martin.

He started with the train whistle but after the third blow, he moved the slide toward the left of the guitar and slowly slid it to the right, creating a steadily rising pitch as his right hand plucked the strings until it reached the crescendo. Then it was as if all restraint was tossed from the window of the engineer’s cab. His left hand flew up and down the fretboard, at times bouncing on the strings creating percussions that accentuated the pulsing rhythms.

When he finished, everyone jumped into a perfectly executed instrumental union, driving the song to its conclusion. The applause was loud and long. Trevor glanced at Dani. He had never seen her so animated.

“Thank you so much,” Janelle said from the stage. “That was our take on the Bill Monroe classic, Wheel Hoss.” She introduced the musicians, each of whom garnered their own well-deserved applause. “And the gentleman on the steel guitar, the legendary Maxfield Martin.” He stood and waved to the crowd, then joined in the applause before he sat back down.

copyright joseph e bird, 2015