Friday, April 19, 2013
At the Crossroads (#FridayFlash)
As always, I got a round of polite applause after my first number. I try to focus on the positive. This bar beats most of the gigs I’d played. The audience was polite, and tipped well. The stage wasn’t much—just a raised platform—but I had mikes for me and my guitar, and the acoustics were great. I played too many gigs where I deafened half the patrons, and the other half couldn’t hear at all.
“Good evening, folks,” I said. “And welcome to The Crossroads. Paisley’s the name, folk and blues are my claim to fame.” Again, polite applause. “I’m gonna go up-tempo with this next number, a little ballad called On the Centerline.” The lyrics for this number were rude, and I wouldn’t sing this song back home, but here? No problem.
I called Ma after the gig. She thinks I’m in L.A., playing different bars and trying to get discovered, and I won’t try tellin’ her different. “How’s things at home, Ma?” There was a time, not too long ago, that I would have done just about anything to keep Ma from tellin’ me everything that her neighbors were up to. Now, I just let her rattle on and on to her heart’s content. “Zach will be walkin’ soon,” she told me after about ten minutes. “He stood up by himself this mornin’, right in the middle of the kitchen, and took a look around before he sat down.”
“He’s growin’ fast, ain’t he, Ma?” I asked. Some dumb chick I met at one party or another, Amber or Opal or something, dropped Zack off at Ma’s place one day. Said he was mine, and took off as quick as she could. He sure looks like me, so he’s probably mine.
“He’ll be needin’ his father soon, Pay-pay,” she said. “When you comin’ home?”
“Soon as I can, Ma,” I lied. “You got the two hundred I wired, right? I think I’ll be able to send two-fifty this weekend.”
To make a deal with the devil…
Me and school were never close friends. I made my first money playing a gig at someone’s party, back when I was thirteen. I got straight As in music class, passed math, but I couldn’t bother with the rest. It was drop out or flunk out, and I got my pride. That and my guitar.
I hitched along the Gulf coast, playing gigs where I could get one, putting a hat on a street corner where I couldn’t. It was enough. Usually. Then that big mess with the oil rig, a few years back, gave me the opportunity for what Ma called “a real job with an honest paycheck.” So I worked for a while. I didn’t see the attraction. Sure, I could afford better booze, but I don’t have fancy tastes. Give me food, guitar strings, and a six-pack, and I’m good.
I was out on the road when Ma told me about Zack. I came home to see him, tried to remember the girl, and got back on the road. I had more than myself to support now, and I needed more gigs to cover the expense.
So, I figured trading off my soul for a better paycheck wasn’t a bad deal. Not like St. Peter would let the likes of me in, anyway, you know?
But someone else showed up.
I got everything I asked for, and then some. Ma might complain about my lifestyle, but she don’t complain about the money they conjure out of a computer and send to the Walmart across town for her. All my wants are taken care of—what I think is kinky, they think rather quaint. I can have pretty much everything I want, except for one thing. And you know, going home is something I never would have thought I wanted.
It’s time for me to go onstage again. I thank God for the bright lights shining down on me, so I don’t have to look at what’s out there watching me. Ma and Zack are provided for, so I guess it don’t matter that I’m traveling ever farther away from home, at half the speed of light.
It ain’t the devil I struck the bargain with. Maybe I got a better deal. Maybe.