If the Good Lord’s Willing, Part Four

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Here’s the fourth installment in another short story that began with one of my songs.


Red and Andy mapped out a few songs while the band was finishing up. Andy thought he heard someone say they’d be doing one more.

“Just sit tight,” Red said. “They’ll have to tear down their stuff. Stay out of their way, and then we can set up ours. Just got big amps, one monitor, and the guitar amp for you, and a mixing board. It won’t take long. We can do a quick test song, get the sound in the right neighborhood. It won’t take too long. Just relax, son. It’ll be fine.”

Red really wasn’t so sure. Andy’s confidence was lacking. The beers might help, but he needed to get off to an uneventful start and trust his instincts. He could do it, but would he? There wasn’t anything Red could do but keep on trying. Andy knew how to play, but it wasn’t natural enough. He was afraid to do what his skills told him.

The boys left the stage and ambled into the dressing room as someone cranked up some old Steve Earle on the sound system. “Guitar Town.”

“Need some help breaking your stuff down, boys?” Red asked, just being polite.

“No, thanks. It’s nice of you to offer, though,” the chunky lead singer said. “Me and the boys was talking among ourselves onstage. Would you like to use our equipment? We figured we’d hang around for your show.”

“That’s mighty nice of you.” Red thought about it. “Tell you what? What say, y’all play with us? I’m accustomed to keeping time myself with the guitar, but having a drummer always makes me feel like I’m singing about three times better. How about y’all go back out and do an encore, then tell ‘em you got a surprise. Don’t let on that it ain’t planned. Say you and the boys are going to sit in with me and my son. Then we’ll come out, do a few covers that I’m sure you know already. Y’all already played, what, ninety minutes? Each of you, just take a break whenever you feel like it. After three or four numbers, y’all can all walk off, and I’ll do a few acoustic numbers, just me and Andy here, then y’all come back out when you’re good and ready. I’ll take a break and y’all can do some of your songs, I’ll come back out, after an hour, we’ll all take a ten-minute break. Then we’ll go back out and just mix and match, do what we feel like. How’s that sound?”

It would make it easier on Andy. It was just what he needed.

“What’s your name?”

“Mr. Hawthorne, I’m Bobby. Bobby Willard.”

“Nice to meet you, Bobby. Call me Red. This year’s my boy, Andy.”

Red tried to memorize the names. The drummer was Wade. Joey was on bass. Todd played lead.

“Todd, you bring an acoustic with you?”

“Yes, sir. I got my Epiphone I brung it with the Stratocaster.”

“You can play acoustic lead, and let Andy play alternate lead on his Telly. That work?”

“Shit, yeah, it does. I really kind of prefer acoustic.”

“Great. Most all songs got three verses. A few of mine got more, but no matter, I’ll let y’all jam after the second chorus every time. Just step up. Signal each other by lifting up the neck. You got something else you want to try, hell, step up a second time. It’ll be just like we was sitting around back here in a circle. Be fun.

“Now y’all get back out there and play your encore. Me and Andy’ll be waiting in the wings. Work for y’all?”

They looked at each other. “Shit, yeah, it does,” said Joey the bassist. They were obviously fond of the phrase.

“Well, better hurry,” Red said. “They’re getting restless.”

They hurriedly quaffed their beers and headed back to the stage.

Burp, boys. Don’t forget to burp, else you might have to right in the middle of a line.

Red and Andy listened. The crowd seemed a bit uneasy, like they were worried the band was back onstage because Red was passed-out drunk or something.

“We better mosey on back out there, edge of the stage,” Red said. “I don’t reckon you got an idea what them boys’ name is? I mean, the band.”

“Beats me,” Andy said. “I think they’re the Bassmasters or something.”

“By God, I hope not.” A few patrons recognized him, standing in the darkness. “Why don’t you wander out, see if they got a souvenir table, find out what their name is. Come to think of it, I forgot all about my CDs and tee shirts. See if the boy at their table will sell our stuff, too. If he ain’t got no problem with it – and he won’t, being as how I’m giving them boys a hell of an opportunity – go get that first box you see when you open the tailgate, and the box of the new CDs – and see if you can put some of it out. That’s probably gonna take longer than they’re gonna play, so I’ll get started, and soon as you’re good and ready, just walk up and plug in.”

Andy started to walk away. Red tapped him on the shoulder.

“You’re good with all this, right?”

“Sure, Dad.”

Red gave him a good long look as he walked away. He didn’t seem drunk. A little buzz would do him good. Everything was going to be fine. All in all, it felt like a night Red might have had twenty years ago.

On second thought, these boys weren’t half bad. Earlier, he reckoned, he’d been listening for their worst. Their best was a good bit better.

Red felt his mobile phone vibrating. It was a text from Andy.

Dude sez fuck you. Well, me, not you.

Hal thought a minute. The band hadn’t sprung the surprise yet. They hadn’t been to their merchandise table.

Give it 5. He’ll be looking for you.

“Y’all wondering why we still up here, ain’t you? This is really exciting for me and the boys,” Bobby said to the crowd, which was now quite respectable. “The great Red Hawthorne, and his son, Andy, are going to let us sit in with ‘em.”

A lusty roar arose. Red could see the boy at the merchandise table stand up and start looking for Andy.

Red walked out on the stage, waving and tipping his hat. He plugged in his Martin 000-1, circa 1994, and noticed he had another text from Andy.

Bobby Willard and the Unborn Calves. I shit you not.

Red walked up to the microphone. “I ain’t played with unborn calves since I was a young’un,” he said.




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