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."


7. The Death of the Killer Bees

Funny how a trip that was supposed to be a crashing bore turned into something completely different.

Jenn and he were attached by an invisible cord, making their way through the different rooms of the gallery. Sometimes they talked about the painting or sculpture in front of them. Jenn asked his opinion. Nobody ever did that before with much sincerity. Her interest seemed genuine. Not much of what he thought was ever seriously considered before.

Sure the guys all chimed in about who their favorite sports player or rapper but that wasn’t serious. Not deep questions anyway. The questions she asked were more like an interview. She seemed to ask questions in a way that made him think before he spoke. Another odd thing—he didn’t normally do that either. Before, whatever was first in line at the top of his head or shaken loose from his front lobe came screaming out.

There were other times when they talked about something that had nothing to do with the art in front of them. She was easy to talk to and he felt himself very open. It wasn’t as if she were prying him open but things just tumbled out of him easier when she was around. A voice inside his head complained at first. You’re telling her that. Awe, don’t go saying that. What didya say that for? Geez.

They walked close to each other, their hands at their side. They bumped and then she reached and gathered his in and squeezed it.

“What gets me about these old West paintings is how Remington portrayed the Indians,” Jenn said. “I mean you hear all this stuff about stereotyping, like Indians having feathers in their hair is such a bad stereotype. Well, these Plains Indians did and that’s how he painted them.”

“Howdya know all this?”

“I cheated—I looked a lot of it up before we left.” Brad gave her a look she hadn’t seen on his face before.

“You knew we’d see these?”

“Duh, I read the brochure.”

“What brochure?”

“The one that came with the all the convention information. Then I simply Googled the museum and saw that their best exhibits were. Turns out, they had these Remingtons and I started recognizing them from our history books. One thing led to another and I got hooked on his life story and his style of painting.”

“You sure plan everything ahead.”

“Not everything,” Jenn protested. “I didn’t plan on you.”

Brad felt the blood rush to his face. He didn’t say anything, terrified what lame remark might escape his head. He felt her hand squeeze harder. If he cared before what they were looking at, he cared even less now. Just being with her, the time flew.

The museum PA system barked out a notice that the buses were leaving in ten minutes. When they approached the buses, he asked her to wait a moment and he told the bus driver that they were both going to return in bus number two.

Then he asked her to text her parents to let them know so they wouldn’t worry. He did the same to his parents. Great everything was working out. They climbed into bus number two and found seats near the back and curled up together. Unfortunately the ride back wasn’t very long. They debarked she asked him if her were going to the convention’s gala that night.

“I’m not sure; I may have to,” Brad said. “Will I see you there?”

“I’m not sure because I’ve been telling my parent all along that I didn’t want to so I’m not sure what they expect—or want.”

As he rejoined his parents he looked back and she was gone. Rats! I didn’t get her cell number. I don’t even know her last name. Now what? If went to the gala, she might not be there. He didn’t even know what her parents looked like to ask them. If he didn’t go and she did would she think he stood her up or wasn’t interested? Girls get some pretty messed up ideas. He’d hate to blow this up because he did something stupid again.

The bees in his pocket buzzed again. This time they really felt angry.

“Where have you been all afternoon?” Megan sounded exasperated.

“Sorry my phone was set on ‘meeting,’" Brad said, wondering if Megan would buy it.

There was a long pause on the other end. “You still there?” Another pause.

“Why do I always have to call,” Jenn asked. “Ever think of calling me?”

“I was busy,” Brad said, immediately wishing the words hadn’t left his mouth, they sounded so lame.

“I remember you told me this trip was going to be so boring we’d have a whole lotta time to talk.So now, I keep trying to call you, and I get nothing.”

Oh God! She’s flying off the handle.

“Well things seem to have gotten pretty busy down there, so I really don’t want to take up all your time,” Jenn said.

Oh no! There she goes.

“Don’t bother calling me back.”

“No, Jenn, just wait. Wait…Jenn.” Brad found himself suddenly alone, making a one-way call. He knew from that point on the killer bees were now dead.

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