Rock Con Roll (Chapter 5, page 1 of 6)

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Chapter 5

I plunged into the deep end of the nostalgia pool by going with Bea to the music shop. This was where I had spent so much time as a kid, kicking around, listening to customers play instruments, and waiting for Bea to take us home. Now we were here again, preparing for another big con.

We passed by Aunt Franny, who was sitting up front by the register, reading a magazine. Her swept-back white hair, thin face, and bright red lips gave her a fabulously edgy look, as always. Today she wore jeans and a denim blouse that she accessorized with turquoise rings, a turquoise necklace, and big, round, turquoise glasses. The woman had a style all her own.

Next to the register was one of my favorite parts of the shop: the pick bowl. The big glass bowl held a huge collection of guitar picks, with a sign that read, “Take a pick, leave a pick.” Customers could have one if they needed one, and others could contribute to the supply. Those who contributed usually had very nice-looking picks: often brightly colored and decorated with ads for some music service or another. Endlessly entertaining, I used to spend hours rummaging through the pick bowl when I was a kid.

But today I didn’t have time to admire picks. Before Franny and I could have even the briefest welcome conversation, Bea whisked me down the narrow back corridor to our destination: the workshop of the old guitar forger, Uncle Carl.

Carl and Franny Geiger weren’t really my uncle and aunt. They weren’t even related to Bea—just fellow grifters. But I spent so much time with them when I was young that they became the best aunt and uncle anyone could have. Certainly better relatives than my so-called mother. Franny taught me the finer aspects of conning as they pertained to the human body, including self-defense, the light touch needed to pick a pocket, and how to cold-read people from their facial expressions and body language. But an even better skill was taught to me by Carl, my dear sweet uncle. In addition to being a master woodworker who repaired broken guitars and built copies of rare ones, he also taught me to paint and to forge.

Little had changed in Carl’s workshop. Every wall—floor to ceiling—was still covered with guitars. Instruments were piled everywhere along with scraps of wood, metal, and other materials. The dusty old display case on the side was so covered with grime that the glass was nearly opaque. I remembered when it was cleaner, and I could still make out the jumble of strings, frets, capos, and musical detritus, piled everywhere and impossible to properly appreciate. When I was young, I spent plenty of time trying to figure out everything in that display case. Almost as much time as I spent staring at the pick bowl.

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