Irwin arrives at the February 15th jam with his second-best guitar. Red and white flowers are still in evidence at the bar and the world is split into those who yesterday received retail proof of love and those who were disappointed. If he ever finds a woman genuinely unmoved by this ritual he will take her by the hand and ride the rails cross-Canada to Quebec City and Cape Breton and the Big Rock, as he did in 1970 when such glorious things were based in reality.
His best songs have the rhythm of the rails and paint tiny immaculate pictures. He met God in a dusty station on the prairie and wrote about that but he doesn't play that song too often anymore. It makes the patrons somber and introspective and one or two go home and take a contemplative look at their rifles before heading to their lonely beds. Everyone is lonely these days and everyone is old. There's not a beard in the place without a silver whisker, not a forehead unfurrowed. Every one of the women who come in to hear music is pretty, but worn out. He doesn't sing love songs to them. His is a storyteller's voice, deep and terse, not the voice of malarkey.
Sometimes this Gina comes and sits with him after his set. He doesn't mind and sometimes likes her company. She never talks about herself but he knows her story from Luisa who noticed them sitting together more than one time.
“You just remember, Irwin, that gal has had a shit-kickin',” was the gist of what Luisa said.
Tonight Gina asks him if he has any plans to see the movie on this week at the Ridge. He says he hasn't. Then he wants to tell her about his days in Toronto as bodyguard to the stars. It was a steady job. The stars made regular personal appearances and Irwin spent a lot of time at the movies. He can't relate much to what movies are like anymore. Gina asks him if he ever had to get physical with the fans.
“Not on a single occasion.”
Harvey Lembeck was a nice guy, he says. Remember Harvey Lembeck? The beach flicks? Beach Blanket Bingo?
Irwin can tell by Gina's little smile that she does.
“So your movie-going days are over?” she says.
Indeed they are. But there's a line from a song sneaking up on the both of them and a melody with a heartbeat.
Carol Reid lives at the north end of Highway 101 and road-trips whenever possible. She is currently working on a collection of stories about the adventures of Gina, who makes a brief appearance in the stories above.