No Cognitive Defect XVII

Someone did a four-count and live music began playing. He turned to check out the entertainment. The band looked like a honky-tonk group, but they were playing a ranchera. The woman at the microphone was Mexican. She was built for some serious heart-breaking. Her hair was long, dark and curly and her brown eyes were soft yet fierce at times as she gripped the microphone in both hands and sang in Spanish. Wilson knew it was some type of love song. Not from the lyrics …he didn't speak the language …but from a sadness that practically dripped from the words as she sang. It was a slow waltz, whatever this remarkable tune was. Behind the singer was a guitar player dressed in black. His face was long, craggy and somehow familiar. He was well into his sixties or seventies and maybe further along than that. A black man the size of a linebacker was playing a string bass. On the floor next to him was a gleaming gold saxophone on its stand. The drummer, a man with a pencil-thin mustache and greasy, thinning salt-and-pepper hair, was using brushes instead of sticks. He kept the beat flawlessly and looked supremely bored. A woman to his left was playing a steel guitar. She had a fiddle strapped across her shoulder. The bow hung from some sort of clip on her belt. Her face was hard to see in the shadow her Stetson cast across her face. Her hair was short, and he thought for a moment he saw a shock of blue near her temple, but she was in a dark corner of the stage and he might have been mistaken. There were other instruments on their stands behind the musicians: a banjo, an accordion, a Dobro and a pair of guitars: a Fender Telecaster and a no-name twelve-string acoustic. There was an unexpected, trilling yell from the drummer as the singer stepped back and the woman at the steel guitar switched to her fiddle to begin playing a slow, haunting solo. Oh, but they were good, whoever they were.

Wilson glanced around the room. Peanut husks were strewn across the floor. The air was heavy with cigarette smoke. Most of the patrons were in western attire, but they were all New Yorkers and the clothes couldn't hide their accents. Wilson got a glimpse of himself in the long mirror behind the bar. He was decked out in a suit. It looked like the one he was wearing when he saw Erica for the first time. Yet when he glanced down, he saw he was in fact dressed in jeans and a denim shirt. Before he could glance back at the mirror a waitress in a dingy cowboy hat, red bandanna, white sequined blouse, worn jeans and cheap boots put a drink on the table in front of the empty chair.

"Two-fifty," the waitress said. "Don't forget the tip. I got kids."

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