(2018-11-29) A Natural
Calvin and Wren bond—er, get to know more about one another.

Starkweather Music, Calaveras
Thur Nov 29, 2018

Starkweather Music is a large refurbished brick building with two stories, large windows and a warm ambience. The first story is dedicated to displays of guitars, acoustic, electric and bass and another display of classical instruments. Accessories live here along with the finer items locked in glass cases. The back half is mostly vinyl records and according to signage, the music workshop and lesson space behind double doors.

Upstairs, the walls are lined with the more expensive instruments. The large floor space here is where the drum kits, keyboards, pianos live. The further back is the sound equipment section and anything else you may need as a DJ. The office must be here as the ubiquitous Staff Only door is up here.

The building next door was purchased by Starkweather and has a sign announcing an expansion into rental studio space and inside, the walls look the same but sounds of construction are often heard.


Calvin has been, honestly, a joy to work with. At least, that's probably his aim. He's been exceedingly patient as Wren learns the retail portion. Register, stocking, class and workshop signups, and the like. He is patient and kind to all his employees but word around the break room is that he might be taking a shine to Wren, only because he does let anyone one else train her. After she has the retail portion seems solid, only then is she set up with others and only with those who understand the products. That's about to change.

It's another cold and snowy morning and the schedule has Wren and Calvin paired up again. Just the two. After Black Friday, it has slowed down again, particularly in the mornings. Calvin is standing among the acoustic guitars downstairs, tuning a popular model. He's been nitpicking over all the displays since Black Friday put them out of wack. His words. He's in his usual slouchy plaid and jean combo, although his t-shirt underneath has something on it, hidden by the plaid.

Long story short: Wren has inherited the legendary work ethic of her mother. Never a minute late, eager, willing. Fast-forward through the days that Calvin has had Wren on the clock and she will have remained consistent. This makes up for her being rather green with the line of work, and shy around people. She's a work in progress. Thank goodness that she has found a patient and kind teacher in Calvin and honestly, she suspects nothing of it. She just chalks it up to the dude being a good person.

There were hiccups. Sometimes Wren got scared. Sometimes she had low days and came into work missing her mother and feeling adrift. But for the most part she's been steady and eager and her attention to detail and memory have been her boons. Black Friday was a terrifying thing and for some reason Wren was bothered moreso by people manhandling the instruments as opposed to the increased amount of patrons in the shop.

It's blessedly slow and the girl is with Calvin, using a soft cloth to carefully polish away smudges from the wares… she seems to be showing acute attention to the acoustic guitars. She stands willowy and tidy in black skinny denims and a long-sleeved fitted v-neck top with Nyan Cat emblazoned upon the bosom in all of it's rainbow glory. "How was it, Black Friday being paired with a full moon this year?" Asked companionably of her boss.

"Hrm? Wha..Oh! Shit, that wasn't too bad." Calvin says, smiling a little. He strums and the tuning is still off. He grunts and goes back at it. "These fucking strings, I swear. Uh, our first Black Friday was a nightmare. People had heard the store was mine and I was hands on by then. We had more fans and lookie-loos than customers. Now, I can actually sell things. People are used to me. Sorta." He grins. "You're streaming my EP, aren't you? I get a fair cut from that now. Bless my money team." He pauses a beat. "Unless you hate Christmas music…which is understandable. But still. Stream it on mute." He strums again. Better. He's satisfied. He walks over to Wren. "So, you need some product knowledge now. If…things go the way they should, I'll be in the store less and less. We'll be in the studio after the new year. I'm prepping a double album. My label's prepping a Greatest Hits. This time next year? I could be touring. I-I..I don't know. But I need more who know music and you are a good worker. Smart, good retention, nitpicky, like me." He smiles. "So, guitars are the best seller. Want to start with them?"

And here Wren comes to know, not for the first time but now really know… that she is working for a bonefide musician. With a band. And hits. Someone who has toured and been to places beyond Wren's scope. Once satisfied that the instrument in her care has reached it's proper sheen, she replaces it carefully. All-the-while Wren is listening contentedly, her ponytail bobbing as she moves here and there to make sure displays are perfect. It's just an intuitive thing; simple, really. "I.. ah, actually kind of like Christmas music. But mostly instrumentals." A pause, blush. "Mom used to blare Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton's 'Once Upon a Christmas' all over the house so I was raised on that." Admitted shyly… nevermind the album is much older than Wren herself.

She sets down her rag and looks up with interest at Calvin's words, though dark eyes grow larger in her face. "A double—wow!" Exclaimed as she stands, stuffs the corner of the rag into the ineffectual pocket of her pants so it can hang there. This is a Big Deal. "T-tell me what I can do. I'll learn and…" A sideward look to the guitar that she just spruced up. "Sure. I like guitars, really… even though I've never played.."

Calvin looks down, a little embarrassed. His ruddy complexion and beard have a way of hiding the flush that tends to go along with it. But his hair is tucked behind his ears, which have turned quite red. "Yeah. A double. You're one of the first outsiders to know so…shh." He winks. "One is all original tracks. It'll be meaty but I know some of it will be cut by management. The other is covers. I like doing covers. It's how we all started. So, symbolism…It's a new beginning. A rebirth alongside the original which…" He closes his eyes for a moment. "Personal. It's cleaning out my closet, as Eminem put it once. I mean, I have a trilogy of songs for my brother, alone. That's an effort to put the past to bed. Baptism. That's a good name. One moment…" He digs his phone out of his back pocket to note this. "If you aren't excited about the guitars, pick something. I—Oh, hey." He opens his plaid shirt and suddenly, his t-shirt's graphics and words come into play.

I Am A Music Teacher. It's Like A Normal Teacher, But Way Cooler

"Meaning, I can teach anything here well enough to sell, even if I can't play horns or woodwinds worth a damn."

The willowy girl smiles her approval; she likes it when people whom she assumes as being profoundly self-assured… end up blushing. She can see it, even with the beard.. but Wren isn't cruel enough to bring attention to it. But then her amused little twinkle softens some at the mention of a brother. Somewhere in the echelons of Wren's memory she remembers a man who greatly resembled Calvin. Her mother knew him. Her lips twitch, wanting to expand upon the topic of songs dedicated to a late sibling. She catches herself, watches Calvin pull open to reveal the shirt with it's font. Wren can't help it, she breaks out into her shy peal of laughter. Blush.

"Guitars.. really, I.. I think there's something about them that I like, even if I've never picked one up to play it. I like their sound, how they can be held…" A wrinkle of her nose as she looks down at the rag hooked from her pants. "Woodwinds, can't wrap my head around them. I'd like to start with acoustic guitars, sure." Wren smiles reassuringly, though there's still a thought hounding her.

"Dex was your brother, yeah?" Wait, that's sudden.. but her tone is reflective. "I remember him, actually… a few instances when he came by.. I was only little, though. I think he knew my mom." Wait what? Least she hasn't a shred of suspicion behind those words.

Calvin turns to pick out a guitar. She already knows the one he's going to pick up. It's the one he always recommends to beginners. Mid-range in price made with red cedar wood. The strings are /so hard/ to play, people complain but when Calvin Shay tells says that it's a good thing, they tend to listen. He handles guitars with ease and familiarity, like they weigh nothing. But the mention of Wren recalling Dex, makes him nearly drop the instrument. He chuckles weakly. "Whoops, uh…" He offers the guitar to her. "Hold it while I get a clean strap. That one's from Friday. He rushes off to their display but seems to be picking one with thought. "Dex was my brother, yeah. Identical twin. So if you say you recall him, you probably do. Only difference between us then was hair. When you were coming up…short, maybe a little spiky." Calvin's shoulder length hair is actually much shorter than he's worn it for much of his career. He leaned into the long haired rocker pretty hard for a while.

"Dex spent more time here than I did in the, uh, early aughts. I was blowing up so I was busy. He was my manager but he could work anywhere a lot of the time." Finally, he picks a strap. It's his. Well, a replica that is sold in the store. It's black with SHAY written in white block letters. Alongside are glyphs for the Gemini and Leo zodiac signs. Twins and the Lion. He offers it to her. "Dex had a lot of friends. His funeral was…big."

Did Wren notice the near-dropping of the guitar? Perhaps not; she has no real need to scrutinize Calvin's movements and responses and being an anxious girl herself, she doesn't think anything of it. Maybe he's tired, it's been a long day. She takes the guitar carefully into her hands to hold it while Calvin seeks out the proper strap. Dark green eyes flit down to look upon it's body as the older man roots around and recomposes. She then looks up as he goes on to speak of Dex and Wren, again, grabs for the mental image. She was really only young, back then.. "I.. I think I remember the hair. He used to come around a lot when Mom held her garage sales.. there was this one. He was looking at all of her dishes… dishes. I was playing nearby in the yard and couldn't understand why. But they seemed to get on well." Said without guile. Pure reflection.

Something tells Wren that she mustn't linger on the topic for long; lord knows she gets anxious when talking about her mom. Calvin returns with the strap and Wren smiles, looking it over. She holds the strap too but looks at the musician when he mentions the funeral.. Wren's expression is soft. "I can imagine.. I bet he's happy, knowing you're getting back into the gig." Said with a smile before she looks down at the Zodiac signs, offers ruefully. "Heh.. I fall right in between. I'm a Cancer."

"Really? I'm a Leo but Dex and I latched onto any twin symbolism we could. I went with the zodiac because it's simple and fits on a strap. That replica is of the one I've always used. Yours now. Get good and I'll dig up one from my basement and give you a real one." Calvin says with a soft, sad smile. "I have a mother-son team who have custom made my guitar straps. Used to live here but moved to Denver. They still ship me a box every year for my birthday." Now things get intimate, so to speak. After replacing the strap, he places it over Wren's head. He adjusts it. And readjusts. He'll take her hands and place them in the proper position. He stand back, looks, frowns and comes back to her to slide this or twist that. "Hands. Let me see your hands. How long are your fingers?" He stretches out his hand for comparison. Calvin's are shorter than one might expect from a six foot tall musician. "Dishes." He says suddenly. "He was thrifty, Dex. Couldn't pass up a good deal, I guess."

The girl is an open, attentive listener. Wren has had to mature quickly so she hasn't the fidgeting, restless traits of some 19-somethings out there. There is a sort of perpetual solemnity to her features but a sort of astonishment dawns next as the offer of the strap. "A-are you sure?" She looks down, feels the strap between her fingers. Wren touches each sign in-turn, "I guess this is a lucky strap then. Holds gravity. I-I can kinda do with all the lucky charms I can get right now." Admitted next as Wren cannot quite believe her luck. She looks up at the talk of the mother and son behind the straps, "What are their names, the ones who make the straps?" Wren can't help but ask, always liking to know the ins and outs of things.

Her queries stop as her hands are examined, and Calvin shall see that the girl has long, slender fingers. Lithe hands. Artist's hands, quick and deft. Some might even liken those fingers to those of a pianist's.. but to see how she's holding the guitar easily, almost naturally…

Wren moves and adjusts compliantly, holds her hand out for comparison to Calvin's own to best gauge length and shape of digits. "Dishes." Echoed with a touch of humor, "He made it to a lot of garage sales and bought things." Said next as she rests her fingers greenly to the neck of the instrument. Scary thing: she holds it like a natural, even if she doesn't know a damn thing about chords.

Calvin seems to breathe a sigh of relief when he sees her hands. "Oh, those are perfect. Not stubs like mine. Like my father's. They loo—remind me of my mom's." A beat passes but he hurries to fill that short silence. "I never struggled but I could always see other musicians had it easier. Maybe not easier. I can tell the difference, is all." He stands back a bit to look at her. The look is soft, fond and…maybe, proud? "Wesley and Diana Moss. They used to live out in the trailer parks but my dad knew Diana. Knew she could sew and got me a nice guitar and custom strap for our seventh birthday. The year I learned guitar. I was a pianist first." While he talks, his eyes are on Wren. When he smiles, it's a beam. "You are a natural. Huh." His breath hitches and he turns around quickly. Why? He seems to be looking for a reason. "…Book! I have a great book here to start with." He grabs one and takes a looong way to toss it on the counter. He opens it and signs it as a pair of customers come in, strumming the door strings. "Hey! Welcome to Starkweather Music! Anything we can help you with?" The pair, a father and young girl, shake their heads. "She's learning piano and wants a keyboard. Upstairs, right?" Calvin nods. "Yep, just let us know if you need something, yeah?"

Calvin sighs and says to Wren, "Uh, give me that guitar. I'll put it back here until your shift's over. It's yours. No charge. Strap, book and uh…lessons too." His voice wavers a bit. "I'm—" He plucks up a business card and writes on the back of it. "My personal number. I'll give you directions when you call. I'd like you to come to my house. Whenever it's good for you. I want to work with you. I know a natural when I see it."

"If free is a problem. You can teach me how to use the expensive camera I bought to learn photography. Quid pro quo?"

"My Gran played piano long ago.. not so much anymore. Nobody else really musical that I can think of, in my family.." Spoken without guile on the topic of her 'perfect' fingers. Oh, little does Wren know! She watches Calvin move away a bit to observe her and that fondness in his expression.. it strikes Wren. She has warmed to Calvin in the couple of week since being hired and the way he observes her, poised there as she is with the guitar.. suddenly she is proud that he could be proud of her! Her lips quiver and twitch at their corners at the 'natural' bit and she takes a deep breath through her nostrils, dark eyes bright. "T-thanks.. really.. I never would've thought—" She watches him sign the book and turns her head instinctively toward the main entrance to watch the two customers arrive. To them she perhaps resembles a cat that stole the cream, holding a guitar in her lap.

Then, when having to hand the guitar over, she feels almost bereft. She is on shift and she had best get back to it. "I'll go up with them. Maybe it'll help to see that I'm green, too.. sometimes people l—-"

This? Hers?! Suddenly all that is said next strikes certain chords in her head and when she opens the book to glance at what he had written — expecting an autograph — … well.

Wren, bless her; her eyes fill with tears. But they're happy. She nods hastily, unable to know what to do with herself in her happiness. Someone believes in her! "I'd love that.. a-all of it, I—" She wipes her eyes hastily, then offers up a blazingly bright smile. "It's a deal."

"Good. Deal. So, let me know when it's good for you. I set my own schedule right now…even if I didn't, I'd make the time." Calvin says, reaching for a tissue from behind the counter. He offers it with, "Dry up and give those folks up there a hand. They probably know what they want so it'll be easy." He winks and nods up the stairs. "I'll be in my office for a bit. Just call me if you need me, alright?" His eyes, blue as they are, are getting a little red around the edge.

At least she re-composes quickly.. she accepts the tissue and dabs the corners of her eyes. "T-thank you.. really.. I will find time, too. I will have time." Wren pledges, insistently.. still unable to believe what was just offered to her. It just feels so incredibly important. So much so that she can't quite explain it inwardly or outwardly. Suddenly this girl who has never before considered a music lesson finds herself wanting to know all that she can.

When bid to go check on the latest arrivals, Wren will see to it that she makes a mental note to remember the guitar and book at the end of the shift. Her lesson book! HER guitar! The awe is still set into her fine features as she tucks her hair behind her ears, cinches her ponytail tighter and with a reassuring smile to Calvin, she moves off to follow the father-daughter duo. She's feels so buoyed that cripes, she could sell them a Cadillac at this point.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License