Music City Madness: Chapter 40

Leland awoke in his bed to find Abby’s cat vigorously licking his forehead. He threw the blanket off and rolled over to check the time on his alarm clock while the orange tabby remained strategically perched on a queen-size pillow. Dressed in the same clothes from the night before, he dragged himself to the kitchen and fed his furry companion a can of leftover Fancy Feast. Then he powered on the TV to catch the morning news.

In the wake of record-breaking flood conditions, muddy waters continue to spill over the rising Cumberland River, flooding Lower Broadway along First and Second Avenue, engulfing warehouse spaces and destroying millions of dollars in music equipment, including a sixty-foot-wide video screen assembled for Brad Paisley’s upcoming tour. In other areas, floodwater inside the Gaylord Opryland Resort caused substantial damage with more than two thousand rooms decommissioned indefinitely. This comes at the height of tourist season as local businesses continue reeling from the lingering effects of this unprecedented storm. The downtown Nashville Hilton accumulated ten feet of water inside its underground garage, but no rooms were impacted, and hotel management has made rooms available for guests evacuated from the Opryland Hotel. The Hard Rock on Second Avenue will be closed for several days due to basement flooding that destroyed most of their produce and dry goods. And in some residential communities, hundreds of families are finding water, food, and gas in scarce supply due in part to weekend power outages. So far, nine people have perished with at least two thousand homes destroyed or damaged by the flood. City officials peg damage estimates above the one billion dollar mark. Meanwhile, President Obama has declared the four-county region a natural disaster area and has unlocked federal money through FEMA. While county officials stress the fresh water supply is safe, they are urging people to limit unnecessary water usage and avoid traveling, if possible. With flood waters now receding, recovery and clean up efforts have begun as county officials and municipal workers focus on high priority tasks like power restoration and sanitation issues. Nashville Mayor, Karl Dean, announced that much of city government would reopen by Thursday and that every effort was being made to restore city bus services. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more…

Leland rinsed a coffee cup in the sink and poured a shot of Jim Beam. He ran his hand through his matted hair and went outside to find his newspaper floating in a plastic bag at the edge of the driveway. He carried the soggy edition to the house, pausing to inspect several saturated cardboard boxes on the wet garage floor. The Tuesday paper’s front page headline read: SWAMPED.

A quick shower and shave restored his energy before he left the house with his keys and guitar.

The drive to the hospital seemed like an eternity, fraught with winding detours punctuated by standing water, broken roads, downed power lines, and fallen trees. Police managed roadblocks city-wide while the persistent buzz of chainsaws filled the airwaves. On some streets, kayaks, canoes, and inflatable boats outnumbered cars. In other neighborhoods, displaced homeowners used shovels and rakes to clear rubbish left behind in the wake of the devastating flood.

Leland found an open space in the hospital parking lot and carried his guitar inside. He took the elevator to Abby’s room and found her sleeping on her back while a ventilator pumped oxygen through her endotracheal tube. Flower bouquets scented the room with the blinds closed to block the morning sun.

“How is she?” he asked the first nurse who entered the room.

“She’s stable.”

“Is she getting better?”

“We’d like to get her off the ventilator.”

“Where’s her doctor?”

“He’s on rounds, but I’ll let him know you’re here.”

Leland touched Abby’s hair. He kissed her cheek and parked a chair beside her. He missed the sound of her voice and her guarded smile.

He took his guitar from the case and softly strummed a few chords. He tightened the D and G strings to sharpen the notes, vaguely aware of the empty bed behind the curtain bisecting the room.

He’d played the same song over and over in his mind the night before; every word and every note, painting his emotions on a lyrical canvas. Now, his callused fingertips caressed the strings along the guitar neck while his right hand slowly danced above the rosewood sound hole until he found the strength to sing…


I’ve been trying to find

A way to convey, I love you

But the higher I climb, the further I fall away

Now every note I send you, comes out wrong…


You are my song!

My soph-is-ti-cated, four part har-mony…

A twelve-note composition

A Beethoven symphony…

A soothing voice, to carry me along

You are my song…


I’ve been try’n to ignore

What my life would become, without you

But the harder I try, the greater the weight of it all

Now every word I write you, comes out wrong…


You are my song!

A sentimental five chord melody…

A twelve-note composition

A Schubert symphony…

A soothing voice, to carry me along

You are my song…


Remember this My Love, before you’re gone…

The notes I tried to find for you

Were right here all along…


You are my song…

My soph-is-ti-cated, four part har-mony…

A soothing voice, to carry me along

You are my song

You are my… song


Leland kept strumming the acoustic Gibson until he heard someone enter the room. The doctor, he presumed, but when he looked up, the person he found in front of him was the last one he expected to see.

* * *

Nicole stepped around Abby’s bed to touch her hand. “I heard about what happened. I got here as soon as I could. After you called me, I started thinking…”

“I thought you were on tour.”

“Me too,” Nicole professed. “He dumped me for some skank he met at the bar.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. He was a loser. I’m the one who should be sorry.” She watched Leland gently rest his guitar in the case. “Don’t stop on my account.”

“Abby’s probably too old for my singing, anyhow.”

Nicole moved around Abby’s bed to get closer to Leland. “A girl’s never too old to hear her father sing to her.” She put her arm around him and kissed his face.

“Good to know.”

“I just wanted to stop by and check on Abby. I’m staying with my sister until I get a few things squared away.”

“How’s she doing?”

“Better, now that the rain finally stopped. Her yard got flooded, but her house was spared.”

“She’s lucky.”

“Not as lucky as Abby is to have a father like you.”

“That means a lot.”

Nicole squeezed Leland’s arm. “She’ll pull through.”

“She doesn’t give up easy.”

Nicole gave Leland a gentle hug. “Neither do I.”