Champ enjoyed working at the bar in the morning before it opened for business. As much as he was a people person, he liked being alone with his thoughts and able to get tasks done in silence. It also afforded him the opportunity to plot out his day and study the chessboard in peace.
In addition, being at Maggie McGee’s so early allowed him to check in on Tex, who was now just a walk up the stairs away.
When Maggie had first told Champ that she had hired the struggling musician, he was less than thrilled. Truth be told, Champ enjoyed being the owner’s “special project”, and feared that Tex would steal Maggie’s attention.
Champ wasn’t proud of that, but after too many years of struggling to survive on the street, he liked having someone focus on him.
Thankfully, he had been completely wrong about Tex. They had become fast friends, and Champ couldn’t imagine his day without his partner in crime…even if he insisted on wearing that corny cowboy hat all the time.
Champ smiled as he walked down the hall towards the converted apartment space because he could hear Tex singing and playing the guitar. He paused outside the door to listen.
Where did you go
What did you mean
When you said our love’s forever
Now that it’s clear
You’ve fled the scene
Does it mean our love was never
Anything more than a lie?
Don’t expect me to cry
Because love always dies
When it’s me…
The song stopped abruptly, and Champ could hear Tex mumbling to himself, but could not make it out clearly through the door.
He gave Tex a moment to compose himself and then knocked.
“Champ thought that was beautiful,” he announced and he walked over to the table where Tex did most of his writing. “Was that an original?”
Tex nodded. “Yeah, but it’s not so new. It was something I had been working on during the pre-Astro Cowboys days.”
As always, Tex cringed when he mentioned his previous group. Clearly, this was a wound that was going to sting for years.
“Playing at The Infinite Sheep has gotten my creative juices flowing again. I’m tired of playing other musicians’ hits, though. I want to wow the crowd with my own stuff.”
“Champ likes the sound of that. Champ’s also glad that song isn’t new because it was very depressing for a guy who is clearly falling for someone,” Champ informed him with a wink as he sat at the table.
Tex blushed slightly. “Aspen is pretty great.”
“Then write a song about her,” Champ suggested. “Champ’s no music producer, but he’s pretty sure people enjoy a good love song.”
Tex chuckled. “Maybe we’ll make a producer out of you yet. I’ve actually been working on something about Aspen, but there isn’t much to it yet…”
“Champ still wants an exclusive sneak preview.”
Tex pulled out of chair from the table and made himself comfortable. He fingered the first chord on the guitar, and then did his thing…
My hearts stops
When you smile
But I ain’t gonna die
I just knew
That I loved you
But I didn’t know why
You’re the puzzle
I don’t want to solve…
He looked over at Champ for feedback.
“Champ thinks that’s a great start. If she hasn’t already fallen for you, she certainly will after she hears that!”
Touched by the sentiment, Tex grinned as he got up and placed the guitar in its case.
“Did you always know you wanted to be a boxer?” Tex asked as he pulled the chair over to join Champ at the table.
He wasn’t changing the subject. He had dreamed about being a musician for so long, but recent events had made him question that career choice for the first time. He wanted to see if Champ had faced obstacles and self-doubt, too.
Champ shook his head. “Champ was a small, shy kid, who got bullied often. One day on the playground, some kid got in Champ’s face, hoping to make him cry with his mean words. Champ couldn’t take it anymore and threw his very first punch. The kid, who was much bigger, dropped like a sack of rocks. Blood shot everywhere from his broken nose. No one picked on Champ again, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Champ’s loud cackle echoed through the open space.
“What about you?” Champ countered. “You always want to be a musician?”
Tex nodded. “I was inspired by my parents’ love story. As they told it, my Dad first saw my Mom walking home with her trombone during their freshman year of high school. Smooth guy that he was, he figured a great way to win the pretty stranger’s heart was to be a gentleman and offer to carry her instrument.”
“My Mom, although similarly smitten per her account, decided to play hard to get. She told him she would only ever let another musician carry her trombone. So my Dad, who’d never shown any interest in music, immediately took up the guitar. Once he’d taught himself how to play well enough, he again offered to carry her trombone.”
“As legend has it, Mom refused until he proved that he could really play. Smiling confidently, Dad busted out his guitar and played Mom’s favorite song flawlessly. She was impressed, both with his talent and by the fact that he had taken the time to find out what her favorite song was, so she handed him her trombone, and they were a couple from that moment forward.”
“Champ is moved,” Champ admitted. “Champ wants to fall in love now, too.”
“Dad taught me how to play guitar and Mom taught me how to sing,” Tex continued. “Despite knocking her socks off with that very first serenade, Dad was fast to admit that Mom had the much better voice. And the rest, as they say, is history.”
“Champ thinks your parents sound amazing. Champ has to guess they are still just as supportive of your career as a musician.”
Tex hung his head and let out a heavy sigh.
“Sadly, I lost my parents when I was seventeen,” he revealed as he fought back the tears.
Champ’s jaw dropped and a stunned look crossed his ancient face. He had no idea, and now deeply regretted his question.
“Champ is so sorry!” he said in a pained voice. “That must have been horrible for you. Were they sick? Did they die around the same time?”
Tex nodded. “Yeah, they were murdered on the same night.”
TO BE CONTINUED…