Sliding Kathy in cozily next to a Honda Helix, you engage the kickstand and spend a few blissful moments relaxing on a bench, just letting the conversations and the music wash over you. It’s impossible to stay awake, and you nod off quietly, the mission forgotten.
When you jerk awake some time later, the musicians have all scattered and the lunchtime crowds have gone with them. Only the drummer of the trio remains, running bits and pieces of the drum kit back into the nearest restaurant all by himself.
With a smile, you grab a cymbal and follow him into the cool building. He nods appreciatively, and the two of you work in comfortable silence until the entire drum kit has been arranged onstage inside.
“I saw you ride up on a scooter so I knew you were all right. They let me borrow the drum kit for the day,” he explains, as the two of you settle outside with a pair of iced teas. “You here for the festivities?”
“That’s right,” you reply. “Don’t tell me you ride a scooter too?”
For an answer, the drummer chuckles and gestures over at a cherry-red Vespa GTS 250 waiting on the street.
“That’s my Mabel and that’s why I didn’t bring my own drums!”
“Makes sense to me now,” you agree. “My name is Chris. What’s yours?”
“Junior. Junior Padilla,” the drummer answers, extending a hand to shake. I run a scooter shop up in Nashville called Dimelo Motor Works. I just wanted to be with my people, you know?”
“Yes, I know exactly what you mean,” you sigh, feeling let down. “So you’re not a local, after all.”
“Why? You want to find the best fried chicken joint?”
“No, that doesn’t matter. I mean, it matters, but not yet.”
Junior frowns. “What do you mean?”
“Do you want to hear a crazy story?”
“Hey, I live for crazy stories. Fire away!” Junior exclaims, swirling his tea glass.
“And that’s why I’m here talking to you,” you finish, after relating the entire story of your journey up till now. “I need to get into Graceland, but I just don’t know how to approach it.”
Junior eyes his tea darkly. “Well, I will tell you one thing. Those French dudes are gonna be watching the place like hawks, if you really took something important from them. That means we can’t just waltz up to Graceland on scooters.”
“We?” you gasp, taken aback. “Oh, but I can’t ask you to endanger yourself –“
“You expect me to let a piece of scooter trash like you handle the Secret of rock ‘n roll?”
You look down, feeling hurt, until Junior finally bursts out laughing. “Man, it’ll take TWO pieces of scooter trash for this job!”
Shaking your head, you groan, “Okay, okay!” and the two of you shake on it.
You’ve left your scooters parked on Beale Street, where Junior assures you they will be just fine until you can get back to them. The two of you board a tourist shuttle bus and sink back into plush seats while blessed air conditioning wafts across your faces.
“The way I see it, those instructions are pretty clear,” Junior says, pointing to the paper. “According to the floor plans I Googled, the tour goes through the kitchen, and that’s where you can find the locked closet that leads to the basement. The rest of it is pretty obvious.”
“Yeah, but Junior, how am I supposed to get into a locked closet?”
“I got two things you need,” he replies, patting his riding jacket. “First off, a crowbar, which I always carry in my top case for roadside repairs. That’s for you.”
“Don’t you think it might draw some unwanted attention, Junior?”
“Ha ha. Leave that to me as well. You might find the Secret of rock ‘n roll, but I already know the secret to how to make Southern folks lose their minds.”
“Mmm hmm,” Junior nods primly. “Sugar-diabetes. If there’s one thing Southern folks can’t handle, it’s an attack of the sugar-diabetes. Trust me.”
Because he is right, you nod respectfully.
Junior is a scary, scary man.