Lesli briefly froze, going through a few mental clicks to make sense of Keith’s remark. Then fell out laughing, pitching forward, blouse bulging. Finally she collapsed, spilling from her chair to the floor. Howling. Keith stared at her like she had lost her mind.
She finally subsided to giggling, said in a gasp, “You and me, buddy boy, we have to talk.” Then lost it again, laughing like a hyena. “You hung up, didn’t you?” she managed to get out between coughs.
Keith nodded. “Yeah.”
“I thought, don’t know why, but just thought it might’ve been you. So, I did one of those instant trace functions. Meant to call you back. But we were so busy.” Catching the pain in his eyes, she amended, “We, the office, dummy. Everybody, including Troy, was over my place, preparing for a little party. The celebration before the celebration.”
She lowered her voice. “Without,” rolling her eyes, “all these stuffed shirts, the big brass. When you called, stupid, I was in the kitchen, baking beans. And said for whoever was closest to the phone to pick it up. Happened to be him.”
“Oh,” she mimicked. “No, I’m not seeing him. If you must know, I’m not seeing anyone. Especially you. But, yes, you and me, we do have to talk.”
Keith couldn’t agree fast enough. “Yeah. Let’s talk.” She smiled and he felt a hell of a lot better. He went to kiss her cheek. He wasn’t sure she’d let him. She did. “I gotta get back on-stage.”
“Yeah,” she said. “And I gotta put on the brakes and get some coffee in me. Call it an early…” She looked her watch. “Well, a reasonably early night. Y’ know, you really do sound great. And it’s good to see you. Now go work and let me say my obligatory goodbyes and goodnight.”
“G’night.” She shook her head. The same exact way, it occurred to him, that he used look at Bruno when the cat had done something spectacularly stupid. Like wandering all over Lesli’s condo, yowling to be fed, having forgot where his food bowl — with food in it — was.
She turned, got up and strolled across the room. God, did she have a great body. Keith took a swallow of his drink, then went to go find Bubba, who had to be smoking a joint, a blunt or a bowl somewhere. “This might turn out to be a whole lot easier than I thought.”
As it turned out, he couldn’t have been more mistaken.
When the sun came up, Keith, Bubba, Brenda, the guys in the band — she’d raked and scraped together a damned good gang of guys at the last minute — and a whole bunch of good-looking women were still raising hell. Soon as the last customer was out the door, somewhere around three o’clock, they kicked it into overdrive.
There was, to this particular crew, nothing like hanging around at a gig until well after the last dog had been hung. In short, they loved playing music. Except when Bubba tried to sing. That’s when his wife would make him go sit down in a corner and get a head start on sleeping it off.
The sound man had stayed around, too. Never being without a beer, Keith noticed. Yet skinny as a rail. The cat had been recording all night — both sets and the jam session. “Man,” Keith whined, “my fingers are falling off.”
“Pussy.” That was Brenda, still standing at the microphone, armed wrapped around one of the women, diminutive, pretty. Keith watched Bubba snore in the corner. And damned fell off the floor in hysterics. Brenda sucked greedily on an empty glass and glared around. Keith wasn’t sure who, but somebody hurried up and made a bottle of gin happen.
“Fellas,” she said, “let’s put this out as a album. Three discs.
Doesn’t cost but 20 cents more and man, come on. Did we throw down tonight or did we throw down?”
Who was going to argue? But, just for the pure fun of messing with Brenda — what else are friends good for — he jibed, “Well, that would depend on the ratio of royalties versus a flat fee, versus…” He paused to stroke his chin.
She shot back, “I got your verses, alright.” Marketed smart enough, new music from Brenda Jones, live no less, could, should, and undoubtedly would turn a tidy profit. For her and whichever label had the sense to release it. Wouldn’t hurt any of the backup musicians’ reputations one bit, either.
He wasn’t the only pussy. Everybody was starting to think Bubba was the lucky one. They began deserting the ship. Brenda let her husband sleep. Locked the place up. And went someplace with that woman who she’d been squeezing like she was Charmin. He and the drummer, a tight if not all that imaginative cat who was booked years out — the guy actually had a waiting list — split a cab back to town.
Next week: Lesli pays Keith a surprise visit.
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