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."

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18. Close Circuit

Seemed like he was logging a lot of time in wheelchairs lately. He had never ridden in one before but now he needed them to get anywhere. The hospital got him to the curb in one. Thankfully the hotel had some available because they hosted a World War II reunion the previous week and still had several rentals. At the airport, a wheelchair met him and he rolled all the way to the plane’s door where he gingerly made his way a few feet to the first available seat. The airplane bumped him at no extra cost into First Class after a discrete call from the police department detailed his heroics and medical condition.

Instead of being reprimanded for sneaking out to a bar, he got a pass for “saving” Jenn. The cost was being tossed around like a ragdoll into a brick wall and a risking a possible lifetime paralysis. While his predicament had been dangerous and dire, the risk begat a reward.

The police were surpr5isingly mute about his underage drinking. As it turned out, that group who tried to molest Jenn wasn’t students of the University at all. The police had been trying to identify the perpetrators for the last several weeks. There had been several instances just like this where a girl had been sectioned off from a bar dance floor and steered outside to a secluded area where they had been robbed and raped. That explained why the thugs all had that rusty brown UT shirt—they were desperately trying to leave the impression that they were UT students. If a victim would remember anything, it’d be those shirts.

The gang had been coming down from just north of Austin and terrorizing the local music scene. Brad finally slowed them down enough to get caught. Skip had insisted to the police that Brad was in his care, and looking back, he was, because Skip and the band had saved his hide. Skip said later he noticed a group of guys and one girl going out the side door as if joined at the hips. He thought it odd at the time but his impression was only a passing notion. When Brad started out that door, Skip again subconsciously registered his departure and when he heard the scream and the trash cans, he bolted for the door. The band was nearer the door and the scream made them react immediately, seeing Skip moving to the door, they beat him to it.

Without Brad, there would have been no crash of cans or shrill scream. Jenn would have been just another victim.

He was glad to be back in New Jersey. After a few, too-interesting days, the boring routine at home would be welcome. No doubt Megan would be back in his face but he was no longer interested. She had no idea what she wanted. That was normal for her age. He had just grown up a bit and now he was out of her league. Neither to puff him up nor to tear her down— it was just fact. Jenn made him take a hard look inside himself and he saw some things he didn’t like.

Megan was a nice-enough girl, cute too, but a bit less mature than Brad needed. He realized Megan didn’t stretch him—everything was within easy reach, no challenges. He was impressed that Skip and the band so readily took him under wing and he thought it might be because he kept an open mind and accepted them for what they were—a scrambling band looking for interested souls. Being on his own allowed him to create his own direction; it gave him the freedom of choice. Megan was limiting. He could run around with Megan in circles or forge out on his own path, wherever it might lead. Some paths lead nowhere but a few, here and there, and they’re not always easy to find, lead to places like the Red Dirt circuit.

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