A Too Late Christmas...
Bill Bishop had a problem. And, it couldn't have possibly come at a worst time. T'was the morning of Christmas Eve... , and the leader of the chic little Trio he had hired to play at his restaurant that Christmas Eve night was on the phone committing the unpardonable sin. He was cancelling out at the last minute.
"What do you mean, Bruce, you're not going to take the job?" Bill said. "You can't do that!"
"That's right man! We're cancelling. We got a much better gig—pays twice as much."
"You know, cancelling out on me at the last minute isn't going to do your reputation any good around town."
"Oh yeah, man. Let's see—is this where you tell me—I'll never work in this town again?" Bruce said, laughing at his feeble attempt at making a joke.
"Well, what am I going to do?" Bill said, making a last attempt to get the guy to change his mind. "I can't get any one else at this late date."
"Hey, sorry man... , we have our own problems... , you know."
"Well... , would you know of anyone I might book who might still be available?"
Bruce was silent for a moment. "Well, there is an old guy I heard over at the Bob Inn a couple weeks ago. He's just come out again. Used to be a really good player at one time. Don't know if he plays Christmas music or not though."
"You got his address?"
"Yeah, hold on, let me check my Blackberry. Yeah, here it is. His name is Jack Thornberry."
The old man came awake. He lay there for a moment, struggling to pry his eyes open. As he did every morning, once his vision finally focused, he looked over to the other side of the bed—at the unused white pillow lying near him.
Tears clouded his eyes. She was still here this time last year, he thought, as he felt the chilling effect of isolation start to grip his heart. Funny how a person goes on living their life just the same—even though you know—you'll never be the same again.
He had met her in a little trendy nightclub called The Pit. She had come in with her girlfriend. Smiling a bittersweet smile as he fondly remembered that night so long ago, when their love had been fresh and new.
But, in the solitude of his lonely life, he still had one thing that provided him with a little Oasis of happiness. At the moment, it was leaning over in the corner against the wall. Looking at it, he smiled as he remembered the old song he used to play for her, when they had first fallen in love, back in the springtime of their younger years.
"I could never be lonely,
I could never be blue,
I travel through life if only.
I have my old guitar and you..."
How she loved that song, he thought, smiling in fond remembrance. And, how I loved singing it to her. Ah, well... , as they say, time changes everything.
During breakfast a few minutes later, with his mouth full of cereal and cut up bananas slices, his phone rang.
"Hello," he said, as he quickly swallowed.
"Hello. May I speak with Jack Thornberry please?"
"This is Jack. Who is this?"
"My name's Bill Bishop. I own the Too Late Restaurant here in town. Mr. Thornberry, I'll come right to the point. The trio I hired to play tonight just cancelled out on me a little while ago—so, I need to hire someone for tonight. Is your Group available?"
Jack Thornberry laughed. "Well, no... , my Group is not available."
"I was afraid you'd say that." Bill said, disappointment registering in his voice. "I guess I'm too late. Well, thanks anyway--,"
"Mr. Bishop, I don't have a Group—so it's not available—but I am."
"Jack, I'm sorry. What I really need is a trio."
"Well, I play guitar in sort of a pianistic style—so I get a pretty full sound. I've played some pretty good rooms in my time. Never had any complaints."
"Well, I really need someone," Bill said. "Okay, then... , why don't you be at the Too Late around 8:00 this evening."
At the Too Late Restaurant...
Bill Bishop was doubtful. He watched the old grey-haired man over on the small stage start to set up his equipment. Through the years, having hired many musicians to play for him, he quickly took note—the old man did have one of the newer Acoustic Amplifiers.
Then the old man reached into his guitar case. When he brought out a beautiful brown mellow colored arch top guitar—Bill could see the Christmas Tree lights reflecting off its shiny surface.
He walked over to take a better look. When he was close enough to read the name on the headstock of the guitar, he recognized the name of one of the country's premiere luthier. That's a custom-made guitar he has there, Bill thought. Immediately, he felt better about his choice.
Christmas Eve at the Too Late...
By 8:30, Christmas Eve evening, the happy festive diners begin to straggle in. Christmas Greeting filled the air! Everyone was in the Holiday Spirit!
Bill Bishop was happy. The sounds of Jack Thornberry's mellow guitar seem to float languidly in the air. No one seems to be missing that damned Trio, he thought. I'm glad I hired this guy. He's cheaper too!
Leaning, hunched over his guitar, the old man had started with the beautiful old Jazz Standard, "I'll be home for Christmas," made famous by the great Nat King Cole. Soon, some of the couples begin to gravitate toward the little intimate dance floor in front of the guitarist. They begin dancing in the age old way that lovers do—holding each other close.
The place filled up. This place is quieter than I've ever seen it, Bill thought. The only sound in the room was Jack Thornberry's soft mellow guitar and the soft murmur of quiet conversations.
Often between songs, couples would go up, eager to engage the old man in a moment of quiet conversation. The aging guitarist seemed delighted when they approached him. He greeted everyone warmly, and made a special effort to make each couple feel they were special.