The Red Dirt Circuit

Brad is dragged along to a convention in Texas by his parents. Left alone in the hotel while they attend the convention dinner, and told not to wait up for them, he decides to hit Sixth Avenue, take in the Austin music scene, and then return to the hotel, before his parents get back. The rewards are fraught with "complications."


6. A League of her Own

Brad watched Jenn board the bus and wondered if a seat next to her might be left open. Everything slowed down when they got to the man with the clipboard. People he had just cleared and given passes to were still clogging the steps up into the bus.


The  entire trip seems to be the hurry-up-and-wait variety. Now he actually had something interesting to do and everything slowed to a snail’s pace. Finally, he gained the top of the bus stairs and the aisle was nearly empty. In the middle of the bus, he could see Jenn and the seat next to her was open. Great—his enthusiasm soared. Brimming with confidence at what he thought would be a warm welcome, he strode towards the seat.


An older adult, whose back was to him, even with the empty seat, quickly whirled, as if on cue, and plopped down next to Jenn. She smiled at him and he introduced himself. Man, he could have been her grandfather. Too late, she saw Brad and gave him a palms-up look, raising her eyebrows as if, “I couldn’t help this.”


Now he had a problem, the seats he had passed were filling up. He saw his parents sit side by side but the people entering the bus were quickly filling in the seats. As he reached the front, there were no seats left.


“How’d you get shut out?” The bus driver just looked at him. “You’ll have to go to the next bus. I’m not allowed to carry any standing passengers.”


“No problem,” Brad said and then bounded down the stairs. He had no intention of standing, especially if he had no idea how long the drive would take. He turned and waived to his parents, who had a strange look on their face. Brad figured they were confused since he was ahead of them boarding and now he’s on the second bus.


This did not work out. Hopefully, Jenn wouldn’t have noticed that much. Still, finding him not on the bus will make her wonder if she caused him to be bumped somehow. She didn’t but Brad wasn’t so sure that girls’ minds didn’t work that way. A guy’s brain—his specifically— was wired to think that someone swiped his place next to her and then the bus ran out of seats.


A girl’s brain took on the form of a complicated chess match, with twenty possible outcomes. In this case, maybe seven possibilities that he gets the seat and eleven that he gets shut out. The last two complications are still in the cloud and being worked on by her subconscious brain. Meanwhile, for all he knew, she was thinking of other things, like answers to the questions from that lecherous guy who stole his seat.


Brad wondered where her parents were. Did they see the whole thing? If he knew for certain they weren’t on the bus, he could hook up with her at the destination and then get her to sit with him in the less-crowded second bus for the trip back. He’d tip off the first bus driver so he wouldn’t freak out when he did a head count. Chances were that her parents were probably sitting right there. Okay, I’m making too much of all this.


His worst fears were realized when the bus pulled up in front of the museum on the campus of the University of Texas. This is like Day Camp for adults. The first bus was unloaded and the occupants disappeared into the museum by the time Brad’s bus wriggled its way out of the traffic jam caused by a fender bender. A Smart car getting rear-ended by a Prius. Weird as it was, he hadn’t bothered to pull out his phone for a picture. Now he regretted missing a great tweet—could have gone viral. This isn’t my day.


“There you are,” Jenn called out. He looked up towards the voice and there she was hanging over the balcony. “What happened to you?” Back in the psychological saddle, Brad skipped up the stairs and almost piled into her.


“I was daydreaming getting on the bus; it was dumb.” Brad allowed.


“I’m so excited—this place is so cool,” Jenn cooed, almost bubbling. “They have a number of Remingtons here.”


“Like the gun?”


“No, silly, the paintings. Frederic Remington was a painter who did these awesome western scenes of cowboys and American Indians—mostly great plains stuff. These are the pictures you’ll recognize from your history textbooks, but here you get to see the originals—and some are huge and spectacular.”


Brad felt color coming to his face. Compared to her, he was such a boob. She seemed sharp and it was obvious she’d been around the block. He didn’t know any of these things.  “You really like this stuff?”


“If you mean ‘history,’ yeah, in fact I am thinking of being a history major when I get to college.”


Brad had heard few of his friends talking about the future, usually college. His future was only out to next Thursday. “Why history? Except that you like it. I like Division I football but I’m not going to play for USC.”

Jenn started to answer but then paused, and widened her smile, “I know I’m good at history and I know I’ll get good marks, but I really want to do it so I get a high average for law school.” So there it was. Not only was she cute, smart, ambitious but she was mapping out a future studded with success. He imagined her as the sultry, agency model- type librarian, who takes off her black rimmed glasses, shakes her hair out, and sets men on fire. She was the whole package and her intelligence made her that much more sexy.


It wasn’t that she was out of his league. It was just that he had no idea that the league she was in, even existed. He didn’t say anything. Inwardly, his mind gulped.

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