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Changes in the new book are not all negative for Eli. (And it’s a good thing. This guy has seen enough trouble!)
The most notable positive change happens when Maggie and crew welcome Shelby Garrison, a traveling guitar player, to Greybeal House. During a party to celebrate the near completion of the houses damaged by fire, Eli discovers that he and Shelby get along. This might be due to the fact that, like Shelby, Eli once arrived in Blaineton with the intention of “passing on through” on his way to somewhere else. As we all know, Eli ended up putting down roots in Blaineton, and it just may be Eli sees that Shelby is headed down the same road.
When the band took a break, Shelby wandered over to where Eli was sitting and dropped onto the chair beside him. In his hand, Shelby held a glass containing an amber liquid. Lifting it up, he asked Eli, “Would you care for one? I’d be happy to fetch it for you.”
Eli smiled and shook his head. “No, thanks. I’ve had plenty. But, please, go right ahead and enjoy your antifogmatic.”
Shelby chuckled. “I fully intend to.” He took a sip. “Ahh! I tell you, making music is thirsty business!”
“So I’ve heard.” Suddenly, Eli lifted an eyebrow. “Well, well, well… here comes that lady fiddler.”
Shelby immediately and politely stood up. But it did not escape Eli’s notice that he also rather happy to see her. “Miss Turner! Come sit with us. Have you met Mr. Smith?”
Eli shoved himself to his feet and aimed an abbreviated bow at her. “Pleased to meet you, Miss Turner.”
Millie curtsied. “And I you, Mr. Smith. I do so enjoy your editorials in The Register.”
Eli grinned. “Thanks. It’s nice to know someone enjoys them. I tend to nettle most folks.”
“But isn’t nettling people what editorials are for?” she teased. “If you do that, then I believe you’re doing your job. May I join you gentlemen for a bit?”
The two men readily agreed, and Millie took the seat on the other side of Shelby. “Mr. Garrison, I suspect if we approach Mr. Norton at the hotel, he just might be convinced to let us play for his guests.”
Shelby was delighted. “Is that so? That would be perfect!” Now that they were sitting down and chatting, he was taken in by her dark brown hair, black eyes, and upturned nose.
Eli took note of Shelby’s attentiveness, and smiled to himself.
“Well,” Millie continued, “nothing is for certain, of course, but I sense he might be interested in providing music, perhaps in the restaurant or perhaps elsewhere.”
“That’s a fine idea,” Eli told her, a gleam in his eye. “And well-timed, too, as Mr. Garrison is in want of a job.”
Mille glanced curiously at Shelby. “Is that so?”
“Well…” the other man stammered. “I…yes… yes, I am.”
“Well, then, tell me, Mr. Garrison, have you ever washed dishes?”
“Here and there. It supplements what I earn as a musician.”
“In that case, we could use you in the kitchen! The man who washes our dishes will be leaving us.” She leaned over and laid a hand on his arm. “Would you be able to stop by tomorrow afternoon? Perhaps at 2 o’clock? I could meet you in reception.”
Shelby glanced briefly at her hand, and then looked up and into her eyes. “Y-yes…” he stuttered. “I will. I mean, I shall. I mean, I’ll be there.””
“Excellent!” Millie removed her hand from his arm. “Now, I’ll let you two get on with your chatting. I want to talk to young Mr. Hancock, too. He’s a terribly good drummer, don’t you think?” Before they could respond, she rose and was walking across the porch toward the steps.
Once she was out of earshot, Eli cleared his throat. “Don’t that beat all? Looks like the lady fiddler is forming a band.”
“And you might have a new job at the Norton Arms.”
“Yeah. Seems that way.”
“Pretty woman, isn’t she?” Eli mused.
“How old do you think she is? Somewhere in her 30s, maybe?”
“Seems like a good woman. Interested in helping other musicians.”
Eli sat back in his chair and sighed nostalgically. “Yep…”
“Yep?” Shelby squinted at him. “Yep, what?”
“Yep, that’s how it started for me, too.”
Shelby frowned, a confused look on his face. “Beg pardon?”
“Like you, I came into town, found a place to stay, got a couple jobs, and met a good woman. Not necessarily in that order, of course.” Eli threw a grin at Shelby. “The plan was to raise enough money so I could continue my journey to New York City and get a job at a big newspaper. Five years later, I was publishing a penny weekly of my own, had a place to live, and was married to the good woman. I tell you, Garrison, women have a way of making a man change his plans.”
Shelby laughed. “I see what you mean. Miss Turner is awful nice. Talented and pretty to boot.” He shrugged. “I dunno, Smith. You just might be right.”
“Might be?” Eli hooted. “No ‘might’ about it. Mark my word, friend. You’re a goner!”
 Slang for “whiskey.”
Will Carson disappear from the story? No, of course not. He simply has moved into town to start a new business. He’ll still be part of the story and will remain Eli’s friend.
However, Shelby’s arrival gives Eli a new chum at Greybeal House. Exactly how that friendship will play out and what Shelby’s “job” as Eli’s friend will look like, I’m not quite sure. But since both Carson and Nate manage to keep Eli grounded (but in different ways). perhaps Shelby will bring out Eli’s creative side. I mean, after all, our Mr. Smith has a nice baritone voice. Or at least Maggie thinks so and has told him as much, which I believe is her way of massaging his ego and encouraging him to continue singing congregational hymns at church. Who knows, though? Maybe Eli will provide some vocals for the band.
Anyway, I need to have levity and to have my characters do bits of “business” in this book since the main plot line has to do serious subject matter: an epidemic of typhoid fever. Next week, I’ll have more on how I’m working all that out. Believe me, it isn’t as easy as I thought!
In the meantime, please be kind and loving this week, friends. So many are hurting right now and need the git of understanding and patience
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder