Under the streetlamp where Willy Blue waited for the café lights to appear, he stamped his feet and pulled his jacket tighter for the hundredth time. He’d left his gloves in the car and as hard as he tried to nudge his sleeves over his fingers, he couldn’t hold the phone to his ear and warm his hands at the same time.
“Damn it, Marcie, I was a free man! In Paris…that thing with Carey. I am not to blame for what happened to us! You decided we were just going to be good friends — as if that could ever happen.”
He watched a black crow circle a trashcan, then spiral to the ground and shake its head at what remained of the moon at the window. Morning was a stripe of pink over a distant highway and it was slow getting to Willy.
“We had not gotten back together. That’s your fiction. It’s a case of you wanting everything, just like always. Like I’m one of your shiny toys you get to play with and then throw away. Not this time.”
He slapped the phone shut just as the door to the Chinese Café opened. “Mornin’ Chelsea.”
“Morning, Willy. What’re you doing here this early? Jeez, it’s like twelve degrees outside. Don’t feel like Texas today. Get in here.” She held the door wider and Willy entered the still chilly diner. He waved at Chan back behind the grill, breathed deep the smell of bacon frying. It hit him he hadn’t eaten since yesterday morning and was just now feeling it. Funny how getting kicked on your ass took your hunger with it.
“Look at you,” Chelsea said. “Don’t you know enough to come in from the cold? You look like you been out there all night.”
“Most of it, anyway. She threw me out.”
Chelsea nodded. “Coffee’s almost ready. Go sit down.”
“Turn the heat up, Chan, will you? Christ, I’m freezing. Can’t believe I slept in the damn car. On a hill behind the high school so I had a view of the house. If she was gonna toss my stuff, I was ready to go get it. Lost two instruments the last time, the fiddle and the drum, and still I went back.” He slapped his head, trying to knock the sorry sucker outta him.
“I’m looking for Richie Bonderia. Thought you guys might’ve seen him,” Willie shouted across the dining room where Chelsea was loading a cart with ketchup and hot sauce.
“What’d you want with him?”
“He owes me some money.”
Chelsea rolled the condiment cart near to Willy’s booth. “The last time I saw Richard, he was living at Harry’s house, down on Cotton Avenue, and trying to stay outta trouble. But I’d keep my distance, if I was you. He’s a strange boy, that one. Like he’s been raised on robbery and bad dope and don’t know there’s another way to make a living.
“I need the money.”
Chelsea’s face had that expectant look. Like she knew Willy was holding something big and ugly. “What’s the Story, Mr. Blue?” she asked, sounding like their old high school English teacher.
“Well, it’s like this.” Willy stroked his scratchy face, “One week last summer, I had a gig at some Bar an grill in Paris. Marcie and me were taking a break— again. For a while, we’d been in one of those borderline, let’s break up or let’s get married times, and then she ups and decides we’re over. Can’t say I agreed with her, but okay, I say, ‘ If that’s the way it is.’” He pulled his phone from his pocket and spun it on the Formica table. “So I meet this chick from California, and y’ know, sex kills the best of intentions. I’m a hundred miles from Dallas, and I’m single, darling.”
Chelsea pushed Willy’s feet off the cracked plastic bench and slid onto it. “You always were a ladies man. How’d Marcie find out?”
“Carey called to tell me she’s pregnant. Seven months. She’s going to call him Jeremy.” He liked the sound of Jeremy, like she was giving the boy music with that name.
Chan brought over two coffees, leaned down to peck Chelsea on the cheek. “So what’re you going to do?” he asked.
“I got to find Richie and get my money. Gonna give it to Carey. Or maybe I’ll stay in Paris and help her raise my son. My old man didn’t know shit about being a father and I know I can do better. There’s love out there. Solid love that keeps people together and that’s all I want out of life. I think I understand that now. I think it’s waiting for me in Paris.”
Chelsea smiled, reached over and covered Willy’s hand with her own. “She’s a lucky girl. Hope I get to meet her and the boy. Stay in touch, will ya?”
Willy nods. “You know I will. This place has got the only joy in town.”
Words in red are titles to Joni Mitchell songs.