I’ve decided to participate in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), since I don’t quite feel up to trying NaNoWriMo this year. I am going to cheat and say that the last post of my Life as a Part-Time Bookseller series can be for November 1, even though I posted it on Halloween… shh. Today I’m sharing a story that I just wrote in my prompt journal. Each day in the journal has a central idea and words to be worked into the story. These were always fun when I did them as a kid. I remember losing myself in these assignments, so I wanted to see if it would be the same as an adult. (It is.) The prompt for today was:
“What’s the point in having a band when half of them don’t show up?” Dean muttered after hitting End Call with his bassist, who was running very late (but at least answered his phone). The drummer was nowhere to be found. Dean had tried calling him three times. Only the banjo player, Shyann, was reliable and had shown up to their equipment set-up and sound check at the Crocodile Rocks Restaurant & Bar.
A man who had clearly had too much to drink jostled past the stage lights, nearly knocking them over. Dean held his breath as he watched them sway.
“Excuse me, sir?” A timid blonde waitress had been trying to get his attention while he was lost in thought and worry. Dean turned around to look at her. “Did someone order the trout special?” She pointed to the plate she was holding and smiled, revealing the small, endearing gap between her two front teeth. “They told me to bring it back here.” Dean didn’t have the heart to send her away, even though he had a Stouffer’s lasagna dinner waiting for him in the mini-fridge back at his hotel. Maybe Shyann had ordered the trout.
“You can leave it here,” he answered, giving her a forced smile. “Thank you.” She placed it on the edge of the stage and looked back at Dean, her own smile still in place. He checked her out as she walked away.
“Sorry, man, I got stuck at the Federal Credit Union!” the bassist, George, huffed as he hurried past Dean, carrying his guitar case with the anchor sticker on it. Everyone thought George was in the Navy from his choice of symbol and his biceps, but really, he just thought it was a cool sticker, and he had always been a gym rat.
“Not taking out loans for another guitar, I hope?” Shyann quipped as she emerged from the ladies’ room. She stopped in her tracks, repelled by the smell coming from the stage. “Ew, who ordered the trout?”
“It wasn’t you?” Dean grew more frustrated by the second.
“You know I’m vegan now, silly,” she answered.
“Silly me,” he sighed, then busied himself with looking up phone numbers of other drummers he knew. There weren’t many.
“Shit!” Shyann hissed as she was unlatching her banjo case. “Broke my fingernail.”
Dean rolled his eyes. She was such a girl. He had real problems to think about.
“Be right back.” George had finished setting his bass in its stand. “Gotta use the bog.”
“What, are you eighty-seven years old?” Shyann joked. “Who says ‘bog’ anymore?”
Before Dean could focus his train of thought on the drummer issue for more than ten seconds, the waitress popped by again to check on the trout. “Not a winner?” she asked, pointing at the untouched plate.
“I don’t know where it goes, hon. None of us ordered it,” he said as gently as he could. His growing headache was where all the tension was going.
“Hey,” the waitress said softly, stepping a little closer. “Are you okay?” Normally she wouldn’t ask such a question of a stranger, but he was cute, and he was a guitar player. She liked those.
“Dean! We have to dance! Our anthem is on!” Shyann squealed. Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” was playing on the radio station that the restaurant’s sound system was on until their set started around six.
Dean wanted to ignore Shyann, but knew she would be pulling at his arm in a few seconds if he didn’t acknowledge her. “I’m not really in the mood today, Shy,” he said, trying to speak over the music. She dismissed him with a wave of her hand and went to dance on her own. He refocused on the waitress, lowering his voice. “I’m… worried. But it’s nothing that hasn’t happened before.” He tried to give her a slightly more reassuring smile. “Our drummer hasn’t shown or called, and as usual, I seem to be the only one who cares.”
“What do you guys play?” the waitress asked. “I’m Aurora, by the way. But most people call me Rory.” She held out her hand, slightly elevated since she was lower than him as he stood on the stage. He reached out to shake it.
“Dean, nice to meet you, Rory. We do all covers. Seventies and eighties rock,” he replied.
“I might know someone, if you’d like me to try giving him a call…” Her dad had an arsenal of local musicians in his cell phone.
“I’m sorry to say, I might actually have to take you up on that. But what ever could I do for you in return?”
Rory shook her head. “I’m just happy to be of service.” It was nice to feel helpful, and anyway, she still hadn’t gotten… him, out of her head. “I have a few other tables to serve, but give me ten minutes, and I’ll see what I can do,” she promised.
Dean nodded, feeling put off that he was going to accept a favor without a plan to repay it. Maybe he could ask her out, but that seemed tricky. What if she didn’t want to go out with him, and that wouldn’t be a good way of paying her back? He didn’t always have a sense for these things. He didn’t want to confuse kindness with flirtation.
“Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass came on the radio as she walked away, twisting the ring that she always wore on her right ring finger. She had forgotten to pick up the trout. She missed him, so much.
She wasn’t quite ready to open her heart to someone new yet, but at least she could do something selfless for him.
Shawn, the drummer, finally shuffled into the bar an hour late, hungover and un-showered. By that time, Rory was on her cell phone scouting around, and Dean signaled to her that everything was good before he went to have a few choice words with Shawn. She pulled the phone away from her ear slightly, making sure she was interpreting correctly. “Hey, Dad? Sorry, looks like he’s all right after all. Their drummer just arrived. Yep. Thank you anyway. All right. Love you too.”
“Thanks for using your break time to try and help me,” Dean told her later, sad that they had both been so busy working, he hadn’t gotten to talk to her much. Now it was almost closing time, and he was supposed to go help tear down equipment.
“Don’t worry about it.” She hesitated for a second and added, “I hope you won’t have to fire somebody.”
“Yeah, me too.” Dean exhaled and turned around to glance briefly at the stage. Shawn was a mess, and he hadn’t played very well. His timing had been way off more than a few times.
“Well, I had better go finish up.” She reached out to shake his hand at the same time that he opened his arms to give her a hug. She giggled and abandoned the handshake for the hug.
“See you,” she said, hoping it would come true someday.
Would you want to go out some time got stuck on Dean’s tongue, and he wordlessly watched her walk away to pick up dishes and wipe off tables.
“Shit. Fuck,” he muttered. It’s for the best. You don’t know that she really felt that way about you.
“Dean! This amp is really heavy!” Shyann yelled.
He glanced at her one more time. His blonde guardian angel. The only one who had checked in with him for a long time. He saw the ring she fidgeted with on her right hand and wondered where she had gotten it from. Then he decided he didn’t want to know, and he headed for the stage.