I started writing a story 5 years ago. I forgot all about it and found it in my drafts folder this morning...
We decided to leave early enough to get some shut eye for work the next day.
Believe it or not, Chet's Place serves breakfast, so I had to be there early enough to prepare the kitchen for the morning rush of folks. I hadn't found a room yet so Odetta told me to crash on her couch. I was much obliged, and quite happy to have found a friend so soon in this town. With R.D. back in Tupelo, or wherever he made himself off to, it gets quite lonely as far as company is concerned.
Odetta's place was located above a mechanic's garage. The outside was a poor site to see, mostly galvanized steel that had rusting rings in various spot. Once we walked through the glass paneled door I discovered Odetta had a true talent for art. The walls were covered with brilliant murals--painted in bright colors that the light of the moon illuminated. I felt lucky to be here. Like I was seeing something no one else had ever seen. She noticed the amazement on my face. "I never really let people up here", she said, shyely.
"Why not, its beautiful?", I beamed. The modest Odetta was embarrassed and uncomfortable with my compliments. I noticed she had a banjo sittin in the corner. Without knowing it, I walked over and picked it up. "Do you play", she asks. "A little", I said as I begin to play my amateure version of Orange Blossom Special. Just then Odetta starts belting out the words.."Well look A-yonder comin' comin' on down the track...." Out of sheer shock I stopped playing. It was great. I began to wonder to myself what her story was. There was a pause, I saw it as an opportunity to ask what happened to her. I mean something must have happened. All this talent, and she's more or less stuck in a town that will lead her no where. "So Odetta, where were you headed before you decided to stay here?", I asked. "My cousin lives twenty miles outside of Raleigh and she wanted me to come out and help at the local store she owns. It ain't that far from the city, so I thought I could try to get some gigs at the local clubs."
"Well what happened?" Persistence was apparent in my questions, and she notices. "Well", she says somewhat agitated, "I think thats a story for another day". Thowing me a quilt, I fold out the beige couch and lay down. I fell asleep that night looking at a painting of a baby with yellow flowers in her hands. She wore a black dress. She was smiling.
We woke to a loud beating on the door the next morning. "What the hell?", Odetta mumbled coming out of her room through the living room past me, to the door. I pick my head up to see who it is knockin' this early. Opening the door with "G'mornin' Mr. Strictor", Odetta pulls the belt of her robe tighter . "Do you have the rent, Odetta? I've been waiting for you to come by, but its been two weeks now, and I haven't heard from ya." The agitated Mr. Strictor, the apparent Landlord was a short man, though his voice was that of a large man. You'd never guess he was no taller than 5 ft by the way his voice boomed. I began to get my sorts together for the day when I heard Odetta crying. She was telling him that she needed a couple of days more. "Well Odetta", he snapped, "please call me as soon as you have the money for rent." He felt the need to add. "Nobody lives for free ya know." "Okay sir, Thank you." Odetta moused her way into the kitchen and let out a great sighe. Having heard the whole thing, I think about what I could possibly do to help. After all, she has been so kind to me.
"Sorry you had to hear that Shiner", Odetta apologizes. "I've been having a hard time these days, and fell behind on my rent." "How far behind?" I asked. I need fifty dollars to break even, she says. I paused for a moment and said "Well Odetta, instead of me renting a room, how bout I rent that couch from ya? That way, I can have someone to talk to and you can get the money you need a little faster." She smiles hesitantly and says "That seems fine with me, you sure you wouldn't rather have a place to yaself?" "Yep", says I. "I think you're an alright gal, and I'm sure going to sleep looking at your walls would be far less depressing than looking at the cigarrette stained, soulless walls of any of these hotels."
"Alright, Shiner, if your alright with it, I could sure use the help."
And that was that.
Written by Kelina Nelson 2006
Written by Kelina Nelson 2006