The Street Singer
Trisha Mills, a student in her final semester of law school, has fond memories of listening to the music of Adaline, a once-famous recording artist. Trisha learns that Adda is now a street singer in Asheville, NC, where she lives in a storage closet she rents for her equipment. Adda’s sole means of support in her senior years comes from the donation box.
Along with her meager possessions, Adda has a box labeled, “Things to Remember.” Once Adda and Trisha become friends, Adda agrees to show Trisha the contents of the box, and reveals her journey from her beginnings as a sharecropper’s daughter, her rise to fame, and her fall into poverty.
Even while busy cleaning out the home of her deceased grandfather, preparing to sit for the bar exam, and planning her wedding, Trisha cannot overlook the injustices that Adda has experienced. Aided by attorney Rusty Bergstrom, Trisha convinces Adda to seek restitution.
There was magic in the grooves. Every disk looked the same, but the grooves made all the difference. Each fashioned for distinctiveness of sound. Trisha held two black vinyl disks to the light, trying to see the variance. Pap’s eyes flickered with amusement as she puzzled over the grooves. His raspy voice called to her. “Little girls need to learn how to dance.” With that, Pap chose the album, pulled the disk from the cardboard cover, removed the paper sleeve, and placed it on the phonograph with the care of fragile glass. “Adaline. Now there’s a lady that can sing.”
The soft tinkling sounds of a piano, high on the keyboard, entered first. The soft hum of the brass joined them next, followed by the thump of percussion commanding a steady beat. Then Adaline’s gentle tones tiptoed into the living room, as if testing their welcome.
Pap stretched his hand toward her. “May I have this dance?” He angled into a slight bow. Trisha stepped into the circle of his arm and rested her right hand in his work-worn left, her left hand touching the shoulder of a flannel shirt, leaving space between them for propriety.
“You know, I taught your mama to dance in this very room. She was about your age. Your Grandma watched us, calling out directions.” He exhaled a deep, sad sigh. Grandma wasn’t watching today. Trisha hungered for memories of her mom, but they always made Grandma cry.
“Shoulders straight. Don’t watch your feet.” Pap danced with smooth and practiced fluidity. As they danced, he murmured cues to Trisha. “Right foot, left foot, side step, back.” Soon she no longer needed the cues. Miss Adaline’s voice grew in crescendo, its richness filling the room with sound until it penetrated deep inside her.
When the end of the song came, Pap dipped her while she laughed, keeping hold throughout the eternity of the last note. Just call me Baby. Baby. How could anyone hold their breath that long and then close it with perfect pitch? Only Miss Adaline.
Trisha had way too much to do, but Julie practically dragged her to the ice cream parlor anyway.
“You need to take a break. Everything goes better with a cool, creamy gelato.”
Trisha shook her head. “How do you stay so skinny?”
“I burn it off at the gym.” Julie did a couple high-step jogs to demonstrate.
They ordered and sat across from each other at a round table as bright sunlight spilled through the glass windows.
Trisha rubbed her neck to ease the tension, twisting it from side to side to get a good stretch. “I’m so overwhelmed right now. This final semester has been intense, and the bar exam is looming closer all the time. But all I can think about is the mess at Pap’s house. There’s so much to clean out.”
Julie’s eyes softened. “It’s only been a week since his funeral. Give yourself a little time.”
Trisha tasted the cool lemon flavor of her sorbet. “I really want to have it done before the wedding.”
“You couldn’t have anticipated this. Your Grandpa wasn’t in bad health.”
“No, but he just shut down after Grandma died. I think he couldn’t take one more loss.”
“How about your uncle? Will he help with the house?”
“Uncle Brendan?” Trisha shook her head. “I doubt it. I think he’s still upset that they left me the house.”
“But you said they evened things out with other assets. He probably got the better end of the deal. You get an old house in ill repair and the task of disposing of it.”
Trisha gave a mock smile. “Well, thanks for cheering me up.”
“You have Grant to help you. Four months ’til the wedding. That’s plenty of time to take care of your grandpa’s place.”
Trisha tilted her head up. “Grant? He’s not exactly the roll-up-your-sleeves kind of guy. He’s more inclined toward ‘call a disaster relief service, and I’ll write the check.’ Maybe it’ll come to that.” She crumpled her napkin and put it in her empty bowl. “For some stupid reason, I thought one month after graduation would be a great time to get married.”
“Honey, you’re marrying Grant Ramsey. Anytime would be a good time to marry that man.”
The tension eased and the corners of her lips lifted into the slightest grin. “You’re right, Jules. I need to relax and enjoy the anticipation.”
“Let’s attack that house this weekend. I can gather about a half-dozen friends, and we’ll tear through it in no time.” She snapped her fingers rapid fire.
Trisha shook her head. “I’m not ready for other people to tear through there. I need to see what I’m dealing with first. But I’ll take you up on your offer. And this weekend works. But Jules, I have to warn you, it’s not pretty. My grandparents were pack rats. They could’ve been featured on one of those hoarding shows.”
“That bad, huh?
“You have no idea.”
Question 1: Trisha and Grant were not compatible. What were the factors that attracted Trisha to him?
Answer 1: Trisha longed for a place to below. She had no family and saw a chance to be part of Grant's. He had been charming before ambition took over.
Question 2: Trisha grew up in the farm house, seeing it as old and run-down. What caused her to view it differently?
Answer 2: When the clutter was removed, features of the house began to stand out. When she began to make changes and allow light in the dark spaces, she began to feel a sense of ownership.
Question 3: What compelled Trisha to continue making trips downtown to see Adda?
Answer 3: Adda's music reminded her of her grandfather. She wanted a connection to her heritage. The mystery of Adda's life intrigued her.
Question 4: Adda kept mementos of her life in a box. Which ones were painful and why would she keep them?
Answer 4: Each item worked together to tell the story of her life. She couldn't have the good without having the pain.
Question 5: Adda;s soulful music came during a sad time in Trisha's life. How did that make them closer today?
Answer 5: When Trisha learned Adda's story, she understood the mournful tone of her music. The sadness they shared included grieving for their mothers.
Question 6: Rusty and Grant were very different. What initial traits caused Trisha to begin comparing?
Answer 6: Rusty had a sense of humor. He was successful without being ambitious. He showed compassion for Adda.
Question 7: Rusty asked Trisha her reasons for marrying Grant. Why did she refuse to admit what had become clear?
Answer 7: Trisha had a fierce sense of loyalty and a fear of failure. Breaking her engagement would have meant compromising both of those traits.
Question 8: Why was Grant so opposed to Trisha's friendship with Adda? Why was he opposed to having her sing at the wedding?
Answer 8: Appearances were very important to the Ramsey family. Grant wanted to expunge all connections with her blue-collar upbringing. Adda didn't match his social status.
Question 9: Rusty said you can learn a lot about a person by listening. Compare how Rusty described Trisha with Grant's answer when she asked him.
Answer 9 Rusty described character traits while Grant described her physical attributes. Grant's description was superficial while Rusty's identified intrinsic qualities.
Question 10: Rusty jumped to conclusions when he saw Trisha with Grant after their breakup. What resulted from the lack of communication?
Answer 10: Rusty hurt himself, Trisha, and Adda. It resulted in a breakdown of trust, and slowed the progression of the lawsuit.