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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12. Professional Hazards

The music Brad heard through the open windows drew him in but what he saw on stage was likely to keep him there for whatever portion of the evening he had left. There was no telling how long his parents would be at the gala but he knew for sure that “don’t wait up for us” meant at least one o’clock. If they beat him back to the room, he’d just say he walked to the fast food burger and taco place that they could see in the distance from their tenth floor room.

There were other ways that he could screw up, like if the bouncer somehow decided he was as under-aged as he looked and threw him out. That was unlikely because now, settled in, he was off their radar. He could draw attention by doing something incredibly stupid, like having too much beer and either getting sick or knocking over something or—gasp—falling down and spilling his drink on someone.

Five-dollar beers would prevent him from over imbibing—he had enough money on him; it was just the idea of laying out thirty to thirty-five dollars for a royal buzz kept him in line. He had already redirected some of that pocket change to the greasy burger and fries he had ordered. The sight of them ordered by other people and packed trays coming from the bar’s kitchen compelled him to order food. The ceiling fans sucked much of the steaming aroma from the plates but enough leaked to the side and demanded his attention. Even though he had eaten not too long ago, he could never quite fill the hole in his stomach.

The fries seemed different—dark and laced with hot seasoning, some sort of cayenne pepper and paprika seasoning—spurring the need for additional beers to quash the fire. Maybe he’d go light on those. They were incredibly good.

But he was here for the music not the food. The danger would be eating too much, drinking too much and then getting sick when his stomach couldn’t handle the spices or eating heavy but greasy food that late. He would play it safe—stay with the music—and eat just a few fries. The burger was irresistible. That had to go.

The band was good but the lead guitar, also the lead vocalist, stood out. Normally the lead singer commands attention but this guy’s flair demanded you not to take your eyes off him. His powerful arms suggested he could snap the guitar neck off at any time but there were times when he feathered his grasp suggesting his instrument was made of fragile glass or eggshells. Either way, you couldn’t take your eyes off him.

When he wasn’t holding his guitar, he was grabbing the mike with his left hand, allowing the instrument’s neck to dangle towards the stage. He held it off to the side of the mike stand and cupped the mike like an auctioneer. But his demeanor suggested he was telling a secret just to you.

A couple of girls who were dancing off to the side stopped and sidled over to the front of the stage and were gazing up at him in a way that might make their boyfriends uncomfortable. The first time the band took a break, the girls positioned themselves near the small, single step near the center of the stage. The singer bent down to pick up a beer bottle that was near his feet that he somehow managed to step around without kicking over during the last set.

Brad could tell their remarks caught his attention because he cocked his ear to the side and when he stood up he was laughing. That spurred movement from the manager sitting next to Brad at the bar. Seeing the girls successfully gaining the singer’s attention, he bounded off his high stool and made a bee line for the stage. He slowed as he approached the girls and slid in between them and the singer.

Brad saw him smile so he assumed the conversation was still friendly. But he had hijacked the conversation because the girls and the singer all focused and listened to him speak, completely absorbed in whatever he was saying. A grin spread into his face and the girls were now smiling. One looked down at her feet, laughing and the other covered her mouth to laugh. The singer also looked amused and took a couple of sucks on his beer, removed his hat and used the end of his rolled up shirt to mop his brow.

Like breaking a huddle, the conversation circle suddenly broke up. The singer wandered off to the side, the girls both moved in a different direction, most likely to the restroom, and the manager returned to his spot at the bar, next to Brad.

“Dadgum women,” he muttered under his breath. “They’ll be the death of me, fer sure.” Brad was staring at him and noticing, he stuck out his hand. “Hi, I’m Stan, that stud’s manager.” Brad reached over and shook his hand. “If I had a buck fer every pair of tits that try to meet him, I could retire early.”

“I’m Brad, by the way. He’s got a good looking fan club;“I won’t lie.”

 “Yup, one in every city on the Red Dirt Circuit,” Stan said, shaking his head.

Brad laughed and drew a sip from his beer. “Isn’t that a good thing?”

“Long as they don’t get pregnant— long as they don’t get pregnant, my man.”

Brad didn’t know what to say to that and drew another sip from his bottle.

“It’s like I been telling him, you can have all that later, right now you need to focus on what you do up there. No telling who’s in the audience on any given night. Could be a label guy; you just never know.”

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