Friday, September 1, 2017

Live at Steel City Series, Fred W. Feldman

The Return
by Frederick W. Feldman

Mallory’s back still hurt from from lugging the crate into her SUV. It had subsided to a mere twinge while she was driving here, but now it was back to a full-on ache as she wrestled with her crate, trying to pull the almost leaden package out of the trunk. She gave a great heave and it moved about three inches, then she moved to the other end and it moved another three inches that way, and in that way she got the crate to a tipping point at the lip of the trunk.
When she was a teen she had lugged her gear around all by herself using her own strength. Those days were past, apparently, and she hadn’t done enough to keep herself in peak physical condition. She was out of shape. She’d brought the dolly, swearing she wouldn’t need it, but best to have it just in case. It looked like she would need it after all.
The crate fell onto the dolly with a heavy thunk and harsh rattling, despite her efforts to lower it down gently. She tipped it back and wheeled it towards the store. The sun was heavy, and only now she realized that she was covered with a layer of perspiration, sticking her clothes uncomfortably to her skin.
The glass door was a push, not an automatic, to her chagrin. She struggled to shuffle the crate in while keeping the door open with her leg/back/whatever was handy. As soon as she was in, she was hit with a frigid blast of air-conditioning, which made her hyper-aware of being a sweaty mess and out of place in the cool and haughty storefront. Guitars hung from the walls, and an array of keyboard, drumset, and amplifier floor models were placed in tight rows from end to end. For all the instruments on display, the place was strangely quiet. Only the air conditioning hummed.
A young man was standing at the front desk. He looked up and asked blandly if she needed any help. She resisted the urge to say that she could have, but she had it through now, thanks. She wanted to, but didn’t.
Instead, she kicked up the dolly again and wheeled it over to him.
“I want to return this,” she said.
“What is it?” he asked. He peered at the crate.
“It’s my old guitar amp.”
“Woah, it’s a Marshall JCM900,” he said. “This is practically vintage.”
“Thanks a lot,” she said. Then she chirped and clapped her hands.
“What - !?” he exclaimed, jumping back.
“Nothing. Tourette’s. Ignore it,” she said.
“Uh, well...anyway, you can’t return this. It’s way too old.”
“It said it has a lifetime guarantee,” she said.
“Yeah, that’s only for repairs,” he said. “Not returns.”
“Then can I get it repaired? It’s a bit worse for wear, and then I can sell it easier.”
“Uh, no. That expired.”
“But it’s a lifetime guarantee,” she said.
“Yeah, but it expired.” He pointed to the crate, and - sure enough - on the wood, in the bottom corner, it read Lifetime Guarantee: expires 7/8/2017. “Just missed it.”
She was feeling a headache and a flurry of tics starting to form, like a hydraulic pump trying to push between two concrete walls. The tics she could get out, but the headache would last for hours.
Mallory sighed. “So I can’t get rid of it?”
“We do have an exchange program for old gear. You can turn it in and get something of lesser value. Usually it’s just like a pack of guitar strings, but your amp here is pretty valuable, so you can get a decent practice amp for it.”
Maybe the headache would go away. “That works. I only need a practice amp now, anyway. I still play all the time, but not for people. Just...for myself, I guess.”
She ticced again, and the young man jumped, but recovered himself.
“Here’s a Fender. It’s got 8 presets, 3-band EQ, gain, volume...”
“Good enough. I’ll take it.”

She filled out some forms and signed away her old amp. She watched the young man wheel it away and let it drop in the corner with a thud. Then she picked up her new practice amp, which was much lighter - surprisingly so, after hoisting the crate around - and carried it out to her car. She could put it in the trunk, but there was no point. It was feather-light, really. She tossed it in the passenger seat instead. It would do fine for her long nights plucking away in the living room. Just fine.

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