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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13. Lemon and Seltzer

“Remember how I said my boy turned the corner when we switched to Red Dirt music?” The manager grabbed his beer by the neck and swiveled so he could face Brad but keep an eye on the stage. That’s also part of my problem.”

“How’s that?” Brad asked.

“He’s never been nowhere.” The manager took a draw on the beer, looked down at the bottle and then placed it on the bar. “He’s from this little town in the panhandle. On his bio I list his hometown as Dumas, a little town north of Amarillo, but that’s a fiction.”

“Where’s he really from, I swear I won’t tell,” Brad insisted.

The manager laughed. “Nobody really cares that much. So far he’s a nobody. Not sayin’ that couldn’t change but back to my problem. He’s from this little nothing town of Stratford with just a shade under 2,000 people—about 20 miles north as the crow flies.”

“I don’t get why that’s a problem—he can sing and play, can’t he. I mean, I like what I’ve heard so far.”

The manager reached back for the beer and found it, still not taking his eye off the stage. “Brad, how old are you?”

Brad felt the blood rush to his face. In the back of his mind he couldn’t; come up with anything but the truth. “I’m 17.” He saw a look he didn’t like on the manager;s face. “Ok, I’ll be 17 next month,” he admitted.

“I figured that,” the manager said, managing a smirk. “I was just hoping you weren’t 15.”

“Will they throw me outta here if they find out?”

“Nah, you’re with me.”

Brad smiled back at him for not wanting to blow his cover.

"The problem is my guy must not have known any girls in that one-horse town because here the pick of the Longhorn sororities is after him every, flippin' night."

The small dance floor in front of the stage filled in a bit more than when the set had started. People had begun to drift in from the street. There was no cover charge so the only  money management would make would be if the listeners, soaking up the free music, wandered to the back or side bar and order drinks or sit at one of the high tables and ordered food.

The band was between songs, some reaching to glasses or bottles at their feet so a quick slaking of their thirst. The room had a high ceiling and in the seats the gentle down drift of cool air from the ventilation system kept the room from overheating. The stage was just inside the front door and the  heat from the street found it’s way to the back of thr stage which fronted on the street side. The dance floor was alongside the stage, so the front was hot and it got cooler as the floor advanced into the hall. The dancers might start out dancing at the front but as they realized it was cooler further inside, they drifted to the front of the stage in front of the lead guitarist.

“Two more songs until the set break and I’ll get them back here for the break.”

The band launched into a song with a driving beat and the dancing pace on the floor picked up. Body heat started to outstrip the ventilation system’s ability to keep up. No smoking was allowed but a haze materialized and hung above the general area of the dance floor.

The band followed with a slow, jazz-based ballad and the dancers welcomed the pace slow dancing with partners draped on sweaty bodies. After a couple of minutes the band drifted into the break running on fumes. One by one, they propped their instruments against a chair or stand. The drummer picked up a towel and wiped the back of his neck. The band members drifted back to the bar. Only the lead remained, his path blocked by the two girls who had been talking to him earlier.

“Cripes!” The manager slammed his bottle back onto the bar and hopped out of his seat. “I’ll be back.”

He strode in a bee line to the lead and slid in between the girls. This time the interruption was more pronounced. The girls didn’t seem to notice but the lead did and his frown spoke volumes.

“Young ladies, please excuse him but we need to talk and he needs to rest. I promise you, after the next set, he’s all yours.” The manager had no intention of following through on that promise but it was the only way to separate his lead from the admirers without a fuss. The girls melted back towards the side bar and the manager put his arm around his lead and led him towards the back bar. Almost like fighters returning to their corners, the flirtation was returning to their respective corners before the next round.

By the time they reached Brad the lead was smiling again. Whatever the manager had said did the trick. The manager released his grip and the lead raised his index finger to catch the bartender’s notice. “I’ll have whatever’s on draft.”

The bartender pulled a heavy glass mug full and slid it toward him. The manager intercepted the drink.

“I’ve got a better idea,” he said. He turned to the bartender. “Give me a seltzer and some lemon slices.”

The lead looked at his manager like a student regarding his teacher.

“I’ll take care of this,” the manager said, hoisting the draft and sucking the foam head off the top. “This,” he said, grabbing a lemon slice and twisting it into the seltzer, “feels good on the throat. The lemon quenches your thirst, and the ice cools you off. You can drink this all night and not get wasted. After a long night playing, when you’re done and relaxing, you can have a beer and, by then, you’ll really appreciate it.”

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