Widdershins Online - Charles de Lint Page 0,1

keep a partner and settle down, maybe have kids, maybe buy a house; and the ones who stay in the musical-chairs dance and end up living on their own, who are on their own for longer and longer periods of time until they grow to like their solitary lifestyle—or at least accept it. Some keep a hope buried for that certain someone to fall into their lives, but nobody’s really looking anymore. Or they’re not looking hard.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when that happens.

For me, hope runs eternal, even though my relationships never really work out in the long run. Maybe I set my sights too high. Maybe I’m just hopeless. I don’t know. Or maybe I just never met the right woman, for all the times I thought I did.

Or maybe I did meet the right woman, but I never knew it and went out with her sister or her friend instead.

Or maybe I did know it, but I told myself it was never going to work out. . . .

The Dispute at the Crossroads

Lizzie Mahone

March 2004

The crossroads at midnight. Or at least a crossroads, and while it was long past midnight, it still had the feel of the witching hour about it.

If Lizzie Mahone had been superstitious, she might have been more nervous about her car breaking down as it had, here where two county roads crossed in the middle of nowhere with nothing to mark the spot but an enormous old elm tree, half dead from a lightning strike. And the thought still crossed her mind as she got out of the car and popped the hood, her flashlight beam playing over the Chevy’s V-6 engine. You couldn’t be a musician and not know the story, how the old bluesman Robert Johnson once met the devil himself at the crossroads. But that had been in the Delta, deep south. This was just the dusty meeting place of a couple of dirt roads, surrounded by farmers’ fields and bush. Nothing mysterious here, though that big old moon lent an eerie light to the elm tree and there was something in the wind. . . .

Yes, Lizzie thought. Her imagination. Better it should concentrate instead on what was wrong with the car.

She jiggled the wires going to the distributor cap and battery, but that was about the extent of her mechanical knowledge when it came to cars, and she only tried it because it was something that others had done when the car broke down in the past. Sometimes it had even worked. She didn’t really have a clue what she was doing, or what she should be looking for. Cars started when you turned the key, or they didn’t. The world between the two was as mysterious as where the tunes she made up came from, though with the latter, at least, she had the faith that if she needed a piece of music, it would come. Maybe not right away. It could be late, sneaking up on her while she was in the shower, or down at the grocery store, walking down the aisles, hours or even days after she first started looking for the melody to go with a title or a feeling or the first couple of bars she already had. But it would come.

That wouldn’t happen trying to figure out what was wrong with this confusing mess of wires, pipes, and engine parts. She didn’t have faith, for one thing. And she certainly didn’t have the mechanical background the way she had such an easy familiarity with her fiddle.

So a spontaneous solution to her problem was pretty much out of the question.

And, of course, she’d let her cell phone go dead when she could have easily had it charging while they were up on stage this evening. But she hadn’t thought of that until she was in the parking lot after the show, getting into her car.

She looked up and down the dirt road she was standing on. There were no headlights visible in either direction. She hadn’t seen another car or a farmhouse or pretty much anything since leaving Sweetwater and the bar where the band had played tonight. In retrospect, she should have stayed over as the others were doing. Right now they’d be hanging around in the bar, or in one of the rooms that the bar had provided for them upstairs, playing some tunes or just sharing a drink and some chat. But wishful thinking was always easier in retrospect,