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."


4. He Saw Her Standing There

“How do I dress for this thing tonight?” Brad shouted from his adjoining room. He was stretched out on his bed, channel surfing the flat screen TV. He feared the door between the two rooms was going to be open for the duration of their stay. They’re freakin’ spies.


“A nice polo and khakis will do, honey.” There as a pause and then his mother asked if he needed his pants ironed, knowing full well that Brad had balled them into the bottom of his duffle.


Later, he waited with his dad in the hall, hanging over the balcony in the atrium. Finally, after what took forever, his mom appeared and he shuffled down the hall towards the elevator, staying a few steps behind them. At least the food would probably be good. His plan was to make a bee line to any shrimp. Hopefully he could snag some wine, especially if he saw a glass and no nearby owner.


The room was filled. The bar at one end was so crowded that his chances of getting a soda would have to wait. He hated crowds of adults almost as much as crowds of little kids. Thankfully, there were none here, in fact, he didn’t immediately see anyone his age. Just as well. He just wanted to quickly stuff his face and then get back to the room. He might kill some time if the workout room looked cool or if the pool was empty. This hotel had a smallish kidney-shaped pool. With the temperature in the 90s, he suspected the water would be the temperature of a bath tub’s and figured his bathing suit might have to remain dry this trip.


The buffet-style thing sucked. How are you supposed to hold a drink, a fork, a napkin, and a plate too small to hold any decent amount of food? You really need three hands. There was no good place to put anything down. The last few chairs were taken and no spaces appeared to be empty at any of the tables. There was a rolling cart with a tablecloth that might do so he walked towards it and just about got to it when a waiter piled a stack of half-finished hors d'oeuvre plates on the cart and pushed it away.


Brad scanned the room for another spot and that’s when he saw her standing there. She couldn’t have been much older than him, at least, that was his best guess. She was hot but somehow he felt that she wasn’t one of those girls who knows it and has an attitude you can sense at a thousand yards. The short skirt did her legs a huge favor, making them look almost freakishly long and model-thin. She looked as bored as he felt—until that moment when he saw her.


He promised himself that no matter how much he panicked, when he  walked over to her, he would not open with something incredibly stupid. That he promised himself but he didn’t always keep those promises, especially when he was tongue-tied, soaking in a vision like this.


She recognized he was advancing toward her when he was about fifteen feet away. That made walking those last ten feet feel strange, like he’d never quite got the hang of smoothly putting one foot in front of the other. Fortunately, he got within speaking distance before he did something stupid—and he promised himself he would not—like stumbling.


“Hi. Enjoying this?” Brad asked.


She smiled back at him. “Probably as much as you are.” Brad laughed and she laughed with him. She looked even better when she laughed, but who doesn't?


“You can’t be having that bad a time, can you?” Brad said. She laughed again and looked even more attractive—if that were possible.


“I guess if I have to be dragged to this convention then they better feed me,” she said. “Oh, my manners, my name is Jenn.” She stuck out her hand and he held it a moment, probably a wee bit longer than he should have.


“I’m Brad. Yeah, I got dragged, too.” His phone vibrated like an angry swarm of bees in his pocket. It had the feel and timing of a Megan call. He let it go, hoping Jenn didn’t notice. But why would she be looking at his pants, anyway? They just met.


"Something's moving in your pocket," Jenn said, holding her hand over her mouth when she laughed.


"I'm sorry: I'd better get this." Brad half-turned and Megan's voice faintly seeped through the noise of the cocktail party.


"I can hardy hear with this noiseI'll call you back in a bit." He watched the emoticon disappear and slid the phone back into pocket. His back pocket this time.


"My parents are wondering where I am. I better find them."


"Nice meeting you, Brad, I'll probably see you around the next few days. Maybe you can help me get through the boring parts," Jenn said.


Did she just say that? Brad stumbled through an awkward goodbye and then looked around for his parents. This convention was starting to have possibilities. New Jersey was receding into the background.

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