American Woman


Helene despised her hands and fingers. Fourteen years of playing guitars had left them dry, cracked, and worn. She had a mild addiction to lotion and a strange habit of examining the hands of others. As she and Ramona sat down in the diner and placed their orders, Helene stared at Ramona’s extremities. Hers moved with grace. It was as if Ramona was more comfortable with her flaws than her better features. Helene looked at her hands, ran her thumbs over the inside of her calloused digits. She smiled. Her distraction meant she didn’t hear Ramona’s question, which was repeated.

“Helene, honey, what kind of guitar broke your cherry?”

Helene jumped. Comfort with sitting across from someone she respected and glued pictures of, to her songwriting notebooks hadn’t set. She smiled oddly.

“I learned to play guitar on an electric. It was a black and white Fender. My dad was in a band. He played mostly rhythm. I was about 10 year old when I found it along with this pitchy Marshall amp in our garage.”

The waitress brought their orange juices and waters. Ramona took a large gulp of the juice and waved her authoritative right hand like an orchestra conductor. Helene continued.

“My parents divorced a couple of years later. My dad stayed in Pittsburgh, where I was born. I moved to this town north of there called Mars.. There wasn’t a lot to do. I think my dad was afraid I’d quit playing with him not being around every day to show me how to change from chord to chord. He gave me the guitar. He called me every other day to make sure I was practicing. I played the hell out of that thing. The first song I ever learned was American Woman by The Guess Who. I know, right? How appropriately cliche!”

They laughed at the same time. The lines around Ramona’s mouth and eyes fascinated Helene. It was the first time in her 24 years, she’d ever thought about being older. Ramona stared back. Helene couldn’t wait. She took his advice and told Ramona what she wanted.

“I would love to work with you or for you or around you or whatever would give me the chance to learn. I’m so glad you invited me to that studio.”

Ramona smirked. The food arrived. She didn’t respond to Helene for several minutes. Helene’s nervousness increased. She knocked over her orange juice. It splashed into Ramona’s lap.

“Oh my god! I am so sorry Ramona. Oh my god, please let me get something to….”

Ramona waved her hand dramatically once more.

“Leney, and I’m calling you Leney until you make me stop, this isn’t the worst thing that’s been in my lap in the last few hours.”

Ramona reached her right hand, cracked, dry, that held her guitar pick for hours at a time, across the table. She grasped Helene’s left wrist.  It calmed both of them.

“It’s ok my Leney. It’s ok. Dig into those eggs or I’m going to eat them and write a song later about being a gluttonous pig. Thanks for telling me about your dad. My older brother taught me how to play. It was an old acoustic from Sears where I grew up in Providence. I played it for five years before I touched an electric. That’s why you’re such a good player. You learned to play hard and fast then went to slow and easy. That’s how most guys play. You impress me. Although you have the table manners of a toddler.”

They smiled and laughed. Ramona kept drying her waist and sneaking small bites of eggs, toast and hashbrowns. They talked more about music, their favorite bands, and what they liked to write. Aas they finished eating, Ramona rose.

“Ok, Leney, I’m going home. I will turn into a pumpkin soon and not even you get to see that. I have your number. When does your band, Slipper Socks Medium, play?”

Helene reached into her guitar case and found the 100 dollar bill he gave her. She met Ramona at the front of the table while Ramona retrieved her case.

“We gig four days from now at the Drunk Rhino. It’s in Hell’s Kitchen, near the Actor’s Studio.”

Ramona grinned and shook her head. She ran her left hand over her graying red bands.

“Well, I happen to be a whole lot of nothing that night. The Rhino is 4 blocks from my other studio and maybe 8 or 9 blocks from my apartment. We’ll see if I see you. Tear the place up, regardless. Bye Leney, I’ll be in touch.”

They touched hands. Helene couldn’t stop thinking about her feel.

******blogger’s note****** This is a new story episode about female musician Helene Troy. It is also an answer to the writing prompt “STRANGE HABITS” at http://www.studiothirtyplus.com.

Today’s song is the woman referenced in the story, Here’s American Woman, the original, by The Guess Who.

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4 responses to “American Woman

  1. Love the relationship building between Ramona and Helene. I think you’re portraying Ramona’s character just right as a veteran and Helene perfectly as a young starstruck woman wanting learn everything she can from her idol. Love this story can’t wait to read more.

  2. This was great. I’m finding Ramona to be incredibly intriguing, and someone I want to have lunch with/work for/work with. Can’t wait to see where this goes.

  3. the conversation is easy and awkward at the same time. I’m empathetic to Helene’s insecurities, and can almost see her mind thinking “I can’t believe this is really happening” in the background the whole time they are sitting there. That’s awesome!

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