My old lady found me sitting in the kitchen / I sat there chawing on a plate of ribs / She said, boy, you better stay clear of that cholesterol / It’s taking what little life you’ve got left / I said, woman, pay attention to your own self / I’m capable of dying on my own / I got up and poured myself a stiff drink / Grabbed a match and lit a cigarette.
God knew Abel Mondell had wronged his ex-wife, but He also knew he’d been more than fair. He’d walked into a conference room, him and his lawyer on one side of a walnut table and her and hers on the other, and he’d sprung a surprise because he was tired of charges being leveled back and forth. Mental cruelty, huh? What in hell was that? The deal was simple. Abel said he’d give her rights to all the songs he’d written prior to 2000. All the big ones. When he’d pointed out that those songs had been worth more than a hundred thousand dollars in 2011, it was game/set/match. Only the lawyers were displeased, his because of astonishment and hers because he was going to take a serious hit in “billable hours.” Abel had just wanted to be free and clear, and that he was. As Jerry Reed had written, “She got the gold mine, I got the shaft,” but it hadn’t been bitter, and Abel and Helen still got along. They exchanged emails once or twice a month. They were still Facebook friends. The only down side was that Abel was broke. He kept right on writing, returns gradually diminishing in spite of his best effort.
Abel didn’t like being in Nashville anymore. When he went back — and usually it was fly in, sign some papers, fly out — he felt like the walking dead. Hey! Didn’t you used to be Abel Mondell? Yeah. Used to. He wouldn’t be going back now, but his last ray of hope was getting married. Lanny Mercer loved his songs. Lanny Mercer was a rising star, one who wanted to make an entire album out of recent Abel Mondell songs. The plans hadn’t gone through yet. Lanny’s small fortune had been made recording what the company said. Abel thought the most recent CD was crap. Lanny thought so, too.
“What I think you need is to get big enough to where you got clout,” Abel had told him on the phone. “You gotta get big enough to where you can do the songs you want to do, not the ones they want you to.”
“I know, I know,” he’s said. “I think I’m getting there.”
It might be a longshot, but Abel was getting there, too. He was going to the big wedding because there wasn’t any way around it. He was independent and stubborn, but he wasn’t out-and-out stupid. God, he’d been dreading it for a month, but he was running out of time to feel sorry for himself. He was hitting the road in the morning with two guitars, a set of harmonicas and a briefcase full of songs. He needed to “network,” but he knew he wouldn’t. He’d just try to get to know Lanny’s bride, impress her if he could, drink enough to relax, and probably hold court with his guitar in wee hours, and play songs that everyone would love and not record. Abel would repeatedly hear, “God, Abel, I love that damn song there,” instead of, “Abel, you know, I’m going to record that song.” He didn’t even get that from Lanny, but, rather, “I’d give anything to record that song.”
It wasn’t much, but it was worth spending a long weekend in Nashville, walking the streets dead and occasionally pleading guilty to being who he used to be.
TO BE CONTINUED