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."


1. Getting Dragged

 "Do I have to come?" Brad Ellison tried to shove too many clothes into a tiny gym bag.

His mother ducked her head around the door frame.

"We’ve been through this. Take something bigger than that-everything will wrinkle."

Shaking her head, she disappeared.

Muttering to himself, he dumped the now-wrinkled contents on his unmade bed and then rummaged his closet for something bigger and tossed the gym bag into a corner of the room. He had no idea which clothes to bring. He didn't want to go on this trip and his stubbornness was surfacing. He checked his phone for the temperatures in Austin. The next three days Austin would be like the ceramics oven that fired his ridiculous ashtray at school. He threw in a few more tee shirts.

“Better put a move on,” his father’s voice boomed from down the hall; “We leave in less than a half hour.”

Great, the countdown starts.

He didn’t need a wardrobe to sit in his hotel room watching TV—that was his plan. The three-hour flight from Newark meant he’d be watching a movie—if he stayed awake, but he’d still need to kill time in the airport. Better charge the phone.

 Brad fished through a larger duffel bag, bringing a crumbled underwear to the light of day, from where it was probably growing mold for weeks.  His nose wrinkled at the odor. Megan's ringtone chimed.

"Hey." He dropped the underwear onto the floor, missing the bed intentionally, and then kicking it underneath.

“Yeah, this sucks.” Brad sat on the bed and began reaching under the bed for the underwear. “I don’t wanna go but I’m stuck.” He snapped the charging wire into the phone and then found the underwear.  “Hey, it’s only three days.”

In the last three months of the school year, any waking hours not spent at school or in his room, he managed to spend with Megan, his girl of choice, selected from a dazzling array of cuties in his sophomore class.

“I could fake sick…how’s that a bad idea? Yeah, okay…I get it."

He closed his eyes and tried to push her complaining tone out of his mind. “I don’t want to go any more than you do, but I have no choice. We’re leaving soon. I’ll call you from the airport…yeah…love ya, too.”

Within a few minutes he shoved an eclectic choice of clothes into the bag and snapped his phone out of the charger.

His mother poked her head around the corner. “How are we doing, sweetie?”

He tossed his bag into the hall.“I’m packed. When do we leave?”

 His glum look was not forced. “Let’s get this over with.”

“Hon…better make that bed before we go,” his mother said, disappearing again.

Brad dragged the covers up and straightened the pillows, shoved the phone charger in his pocket, hoping he wasn’t scratching his iPod. The bump in the middle of the bed was a gift for his mom when they returned, the old underwear.

Traveling is one endless wait after another. He could never do this for a living. How does Dad do it?

He crashed moments after he settled into the back seat. The car was his rolling bedroom. Call it curbside service—from his house curb to the air terminal curb—it was magic. He got into the car, closed his eyes, and he was at Terminal A.

“Brad, honey, we’re here.”

Groggy from the short nap, he stumbled out of the car and scanned at the pile of bags by the curb for his duffel.

The waiting began. First at the check in, then at security, then at the gate, then joining the shuffling line of odd, assorted people, a Noah’s ark of misfits lining up at the gate, the long slow line of people waiting to sit down, waiting for still other people to smash their too-big belongings into the overhead compartments.

Finally, he reached his seat. If he rolled his sweater into a ball it almost swerved as a pillow if he jammed it against the side of the window. He could log another three hours of sleep before the reverse process at Austin. He slept through drinks and snacks, only vaguely remembering a question of which soda he preferred. He remembered mumbling something before he rolled over.

Waking when the plane touched down, the bounce waked him. He was now thirsty, remembering how he blew off the stewardess.

“I saved this for you,” his mother said, handing him a small Coke and a bag of chips. “I knew you’d want this when you woke up.” He eagerly accepted the snacks and was inwardly grateful for her resourcefulness. She was always planning ahead, looking out for him. That’s what mothers did without expecting gratitude in return. Must be wired in their DNA.

The endless waiting started back up but this time, without a wait for takeoff, the process seemed a bit shorter. If he was anxious to actually do something in Austin, that’d be different, but he didn’t want to be here and he wasn’t going to exert himself looking for something to do. Sleep was a good default, something he could do at the snap of a finger. Three days and he’d be back to normal and his girlfriend.

His parents seemed mildly annoyed with him but they were now occupied with the trek to the hotel. He had called Megan while they were waiting at the terminal but with nothing exciting happening the conversation lasted all of thirty seconds. For the next three days he planned on being a good listener on her calls, or at least that was the mental note he made to himself. He didn’t need Megan to be annoyed with him, too.

 His parents seemed mildly annoyed with him but they were now occupied with the trek to the hotel.

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