The food service employee

“Excuse me.”

Donald gave his best customer service smile. “What can I do for you?”

“I’m sorry.” The woman hesitated. “I actually just wanted to ask you if you remember the girl that was always on the corner.”

Donald looked out through the window of the restaurant to the corner the woman suggested. He knew exactly who she was talking about. He didn’t know her name, of course, but she had been there almost every single time that he had been working. When the door would open and someone would come in, he could hear the guitar from across the street, barely from over the sound of the traffic.

Now that he thought about it, it had been a couple days since he had seen her there. That was odd.

He nodded. “I remember her. What is it? What about her?”

She didn’t look like she knew what to say at this point. “I was just wondering if you knew where she went?”

It was then that Donald considered that something might have been wrong.

She started to look.

The girl was always at the bus stop, playing guitar with her case open for tips, until one day she wasn’t.

Lori stared at the empty spot as people walked right through it, not noticing for an instant that they were stepping on such sacred ground. It wasn’t as though the guitar playing was amazing or anything, but it wasn’t bad. It was more of the tenacity that the girl had always showed. That she was always there. That she had been better yesterday than the first time Lori had heard her.

Then she was gone, no warning.

Lori shook her head and walked onward, deciding that it was just the timing. After all, the guitarist couldn’t have always been there. She had to be going to eat or something else. Wherever she lived. Lori believed that.

But when the guitarist wasn’t there the next day, Lori began to feel concerned.

On the third day, she started to look.

Continuous music

The key was in E♭ minor. A chipped nail caught on the guitar string and a muttered curse escaped her lips. Looking up from her hands, she stared out the viewing window and into space. They had passed by the last contrails of the Little Ghost Nebula, off to the next destination of wherever it was the station would end up. She did not know. All she knew how to do was play guitar. She tried again, moving the angle of her finger to use the best part of her nail. She had lost her last pick last week, but refused to let that stop her.

Occasionally someone passed by. Even rarer than that, someone might drop some change in the cup she had placed out near her foot. She continued to play her song, trying to remember how it ended. That was the difficult part. She could play forever if she couldn’t remember how a song ended, but she refused to cut out in the middle. Someone could hear that, even she she didn’t see anyone nearby.

Whether today ended as a financial success or not didn’t matter as much as remember how the song ended. She continued to play, changing the song into another, hoping that the ending of one of them would come back to her. Eventually it would and she could check to see how she was doing and whether it was time to call it quits. The time was 0149. The lighting remained the same here, but she could see the clock from the corner of her eye if she turned her head. Either her song would end or the cleaners would shoo her away. She had to remember the end of the song – of any of the songs.

When she did, finally ending the longest session in months, she picked up her cup and went to get some sleep.