“Adean never forgave you, you know, Chev.”

“I know, Mama.”

“What will you do if he doesn’t show?”

“Carry on, as usual, I expect.”

“He doesn’t think it’s fair, you expecting us to play for free.”

“You can tell him I never had such expectations. He’s welcome even if he leaves his fiddle at home. Always has been.”

“I know…”

“Anyway, I thought Daddy said family shouldn’t expect family to pay.”

“I think he was talking about the food, Chev.”

They laughed together. “You might be right, Mama. You know I don’t do that.”

“You want me to sing? I’m here.”

Chev touched his mother’s hand. “I’m glad, Mama. Can I get you anything?”

“No, my Chevy. I’m fine.”

Chev stood. It took some effort as he was a big man. Nothing little about him. But his Li’l Chev nickname stuck since school.

He stood on the veranda fronting his restaurant, ‘Li’l Chev’s BBQ.’ He converted a barn on his land south of Ida, Louisiana. The logo, depicting a dancing pig playing a fiddle was famous from Shreveport all the way up the 71 to Texarkana.

Chev surveyed the lot. People would soon arrive for the weekly ‘Bayou Blowout,’ famous for its ‘great music and good cooking.’ Friends said he should change ‘good’ to ‘great’ but Chev’s modesty kept it as is. He’d had enough grief for choosing this path from his brother, Furman. He didn’t want anyone thinking he got too big for… you know.

Adean fiddled and Furman played steel guitar. Chev became the family scandal by never picking up the bass as they expected. Mama sang and played keyboards when needed. They all felt he let the family down. The family could have been the next… whatever.

Furman said, “What are you doin’ Chev? Anyone can cook. Hire someone. We need a bass player.”

Chev could play in a pinch, but his heart wasn’t in it. He made sure to stay busy behind the pit. He figured he gave them plenty of exposure letting them play here. That should count for something.

People have to eat. And feeding them provided a better living than picking bass lines at occasional weddings.

The music was nice. But everyone knew the food brought them in. They came and ate, music or not.

Chev figured Daddy forgot things. When Chev was coming up, if they didn’t bring food home, they didn’t eat.

Adean worked on the Gulf oil rigs. The shifts ran ten days on and ten off. His fiddling was a hit with the roughnecks. Weeks when Adean wasn’t manning an oil rig, he and Chev spent days together, drifting and fishing the bayous along the Red River. Adean knew some great holes. They caught some big old cats out there. Those were good times.

Adean would play the sweetest fiddle while Chev tended the catfish lines and watched for gators. Adean always kept his pistol handy in case a gator got too friendly. Or so he said. Chev never saw him use it.

Then, come fall, they’d hunt and bring home a feral hog or deer and eat well for a week. Chev kind of got in the habit of regular food. Chev could not apologize for liking that consistency.

“Sure,” he thought, “I can play bass, but what am I going to eat in the meantime?”

The family would sit around jamming after dinner but Chev got busy. After a while, he and Daddy didn’t have time for each other. They never talked much, even on the bayou. But distance separated them at the table too.

Instead of learning music, Chev apprenticed himself in the high-school kitchen. He signed on at the slaughterhouse and paid his way through cooking school. Bottom to top, he learned it all. Chev proudly bought this land and began to raise his own stock.

Hunting with friends, one of them said, “I watch you dress a deer, Chev… and I need to skip dinner and rush home to Alice.” That made everyone laugh. They understood.

Another said, “Chev, you’re more a sculptor than a meat cutter. You cut away everything that doesn’t look like a feast.”

Chev was a master now. He knew what spices combined to the best effect. Even if an experiment went south, Chev knew the way home. 

Chev preferred the nickname ‘Maestro’ to ‘Li’l Chev.’ That’s what he called himself. He likened the whole process of cooking a meal to conducting an orchestra. Others prepped and seasoned sauces and salads to his direction. Chopping and the syncopated clatter of pots and pans punctuated the sizzle and spat on the grill.

He dressed the meat in graceful musical motions demanded by the lay of muscle over the structure of bone. The tempo, rhythm and flow to the prep created a symphony of flavor and smells.

But he wasn’t accepted by his family because he didn’t play their music. There’s only so much time.

Oh, they came to play. And of course, they ate. But he knew he was the other, the misfit. The cook. They didn’t invite him along anymore. They didn’t want to hear excuses. They knew where to find him.

Furman didn’t seem to care much. He liked to eat too. He’d sit and nod if Daddy said anything. But on his own, not so much. Chev knew what he thought. He didn’t have to repeat it.

“You still at the Pawn, Gun and…?”

“Loan. P. G. & L. Yeah. Steady work.”

People were lining up. Ribs and steaks were waiting. The open barn doors greeted the evening breeze. Hanging paper lanterns moved with the air. Long tables with paper covers lifted in counterpoint. Children ran in and out with shrieks of laughter. Dogs barked.

The bartender spent his time filling pitchers and mugs on the double.

The musicians ate early. Furman and Mama sat with two guys, a drummer and a bass they picked up for their set. They were up last but still ate early and sat for the music. Daddy didn’t show. He always acted like that. Chev figured it was his loss. Why be like that?

Others set up and began to play. Soon regulars moved onto the rough wooden dance floor. Three bands were scheduled but by night’s end, they all ended jamming together. It was a party.

Li’l Chev oversaw it all. He manned the grill.

Mama waved him over.

“What’s up, Mama?”

“Where’s your Daddy?”

“You’d know better than me.”

“I’m worried. We’re about up.”

“You’ve sung without him before. He’ll get here and have a story as to why.”

“I hope so.”

“He’ll be here. Or he won’t. Either way, you’ll be fine.”

Time for their set. Chev saw Adean’s headlights turn off the highway. A cloud of red-tinted dust drifted after him. Chev nodded at Mama and she raised her glass to him.

Daddy walked past Chev and straight to Mama’s table. He put his arm over her shoulder and kissed the top of her head. Then he put his fiddle case down and walked over to Chev for a plate.

He nodded. “Chev.”

“Glad you could make it, Daddy.”

“I see you still use that fiddling pig for your sign.”


Chev served up a plate for him and watched him return to the table. Adean ate while the band finished their set.

Then they were up. They were the headliners for a reason. Everyone wanted to hear them play their bluesy zydeco. Anyone not on stage was dancing. Except for Li’l Chev.

They didn’t disappoint. They played well and supported each other’s solos. Furman’s pedal steel dazzled. Daddy’s fiddle got them yelling. Mama’s sultry voice got them moving.

After everyone left, Chev closed the big barn doors. Carrying their instruments, the family walked by on their way out. Mama gave Chev a hug and thanked him. Furman nodded.

Daddy came out last and then turned. “Oh, Chev?”


“Good food, tonight.”

“Thanks, Daddy. Good playing. Hope to see you next week.”

Adean nodded. “We’ll see.” Then he walked to his truck where Mama waited. He opened her door for her and helped her in.

Chev watched them pull out of the lot and killed the outside lights.

He was on his own.

January 30, 2020 16:30

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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