Sossity Chandler spotted the guy after she had sung four songs. She was playing a bar in a town called Corinth—the bartender told her the place was about 50 percent ethnic Greek, as the name suggested. She was getting $250.00 for the gig and her tip jar had filled nicely. Things had gone well for her the last month. As she sang and eyed the young man who had struck her fancy she thought it would be nice—once she had checked him out and made sure he was not weird—to get more cozy with him. She was not dating anyone, was on the road a lot, and did not mind an occasional one-night stand. When she took a break, one of the girls sitting at his table invited her over for a drink.
They sat her next to him. Three other men and two women, all of them drunk, ringed the table. She ordered a whisky. When the people at the table introduced themselves, she noted that his voice was not slurred. He was drinking an energy drink and looked stone sober. His name was Justin.
“I like your folk music better than I do you blues,” he said when she asked if he had enjoyed the show so far.
“Why is that?”
“Blues is always the same. Same music, same lyrics.”
“It’s all about intensity and emotion.”
“Where are you from?” Justin asked.
“You’re a long way from home. I know the feeling.”
“Where is home for you?”
But someone else broke into the conversation so he did not answer her. Sossity did her best to flirt with him. He was polite and friendly but did not seem the least bit interested in her.
She glanced around. The place was crowded. The tables and the bar were full. Some people stood, talking and drinking. She noticed two people sitting alone, not speaking, occupying two seats at a table that might have accommodated eight or 10. Both were drinking wine out of glass goblets with gold stems.
Sossity studied them a moment. The man was strong and trim with a muscular build. She would have called him attractive but for the brooding, sour look on his face. And his eyes. His eyes were cold, calculating, somehow merciless with no signs of grace or kindness. He got up to go outside. Men moved out of his way. The town tough, she thought, though she admired his athletic build and powerful stride.
The woman he left at the table radiated beauty. Blonde and tall, she sipped her drink with grace and elegance. Sossity found herself staring and quickly looked down when the woman met her eyes. She stole glances at her as the drunken conversation continued around the table and as Justin continued being polite but distant. Sossity wished she were half as beautiful as the woman, now alone but apparently too formidable for any of the men there to approach. Sossity glanced at her watch.
“I need to go to the little girl’s room and get back on stage,” she said. She thanked the people there for the drink and headed off
Washing her hands in the restroom sink, she glanced over and saw the woman—the beautiful woman at the table—standing beside her.
“Great show you’re putting on tonight,” she said.
“Thanks,” Sossity replied.
“I love the way you do the blues. Did you hit it off with Justin?”
“Not really. He’s kind of quiet.”
“Kind of like a snail who never comes out of his shell.”
“Seems like it.”
“Believe me, it is. I’ve known him a long time. In a small town, everyone knows everyone. If you like, I can arrange it for him to take more of an interest in you.”
“I would like that a lot. What’s your name?
“Affie Erycina. Lots of Greeks live in this town, so we have some odd last names. You’re Sossity Chandler.”
Sossity rinsed her hands. “My first name is an English name—odd in its own way. But I want to know what you’ll do to get Justin to take more of an interest in me. He seemed pretty aloof. Is he married?”
“No. He is extremely judicious in his morality. He is attracted to neither men nor women. But I think he should become interested in you. I can do that.”
She smiled. “How? Do you have some kind of magic love charm tucked away in your underwear?”
They both laughed. “I might,” Affie said.
“Do what you can. He’s a very good-looking guy.”
“I’ll work on him. But you need to leave something out back—an offering—for good luck.”
Sossity went over to the hand dryer mounted on the wall, turned on the air, and dried her hands. She did not hear the woman leave, but when she turned around she was gone.
Before taking the stage, Sossity stepped outside for some fresh air—her usual practice.
The cool of night refreshed her. The flat Kansas landscape stretched out, dark and even. A cascade of stars spilled across the sky, blazing different colors around a half moon.
She noticed, a few feet away from the back door to the bar, an upright rock about four feet high. Curiosity aroused, she walked over to it.
It stood smooth and worn with age. Around its rim ran a frieze of white painted images, skillfully done—dolphins, doves, apples, and scallop shells. Several coins, two roses, and a piece of jewelry lay on the flat top surface of the stone and reflected light from the tavern and from the moon and stars.
So this was what the woman meant by making an offering for good luck. Local superstition, she mused, but she dug in her pocket and took out a quarter—then thought better of it and took out a dollar coin with Sacajawea’s head on one side. Her rational self told her she should not frivolously throw money away—but she had done well this month, so why not thank God, the gods, Fate, or whatever entity so sloppily but gloriously ran the universe? She tossed the dollar coin on the rock, turned to go back inside but then, glancing up, remembered a line she had learned in Sunday school from the book of Job. Job declared that he had never kissed his hand in homage to the moon—a sin because it would have constituted worship of something other than God. Tonight she had seen a woman as beautiful as a goddess and a guy who, if he had not looked so sullen and brutal, could have been a god. And Justin. She looked up at the moon, half light, half dark, near the horizon, and Venus blazing off to one side. She kissed her fingers, lifted her hand in homage, and hurried inside to do the second part of the show.
She began with a blues standard, “Trouble in Mind.” As she ended, she looked out at the audience and saw Justin.
His table had emptied. He sat there alone, gazing up at her, a rapturous look on his face. His expression arrested Sossity so much she forgot the next song she had intended to play and had to look at her song list. As she performed he continued to stare. He did not take his eyes off her for the rest of the performance.
And Sossity felt something break loose in her spirit, freeing her from the inhibiting effects of fatigue, loneliness, and Justin’s indifference. She suddenly felt confident, cheeky, sexy, and brash. She swayed and danced as she played her guitar. Her stage talk grew funny and edgy. The audience responded, coming alive in a new way. People danced. Customers—including Justin—came up and left tips in her jar and drinks on the edge of the stage. She downed the drinks between songs. By the end of the show she was drunk and happy. After two encores, she closed out, collected her payment from the manager, and counted her tips. Amid the money, she found a note:
Sossity—You are beautiful. Sorry I was so preoccupied
Will you give me another chance?—Justin
She smiled and scanned the audience. He was standing by his table, waiting for her. She went up to him and stood on tiptoe to give him a small kiss. Her inebriation made her miss his mouth, stumble, and slide her lips wetly across his cheek.
“Sorry. I’ve had a little too much to drink. Can you give me a ride to my motel, Justin? I’m too drunk to even find it. And we can have some privacy there. It’s too noisy in here to talk.”
He nodded, amazed at her forwardness, his eyes on her as if he were under a spell. Sossity took his arm. She wanted someone to sleep with tonight. She wanted to get laid. She wanted someone to talk with in the warmth and intimacy of a shared bed. It would only be one night. Still, she wanted love more than anything, even if only for a few hours.
On the way out, they passed the frowning, stern-face man and his girlfriend, Affie. She gave Sossity a knowing smile as she and Justin walked out the door and into the cool night and the moonlit, star-strewn sky.