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Rated: ASR · Fiction · Arts · #2254127
Winner Country singer Gee wants to impress a record agent. Why is everything going wrong?
Co-Winner, Writer's Cramp 2021-07-08

Deke set the last amp beside the equipment case in the back of the van. He was singing, "Diamonds and pearls, would you be a happy boy or a girl..."

"Okay, Gee, we're loaded."

"Thanks, Deke. Oooh, I am so looking forward to this gig!"

"Me, too. We need the money to upgrade our sound equipment. This stuff is getting long in the tooth."

"I'm a little nervous."

"You'll nail it, girl. You got this."

"McPherson is why I'm nervous. This could be a big break."

"Don't think about the agent, just sing your heart out."

"Easy for you to say. I'm not sure I'm good enough. But I know you'll play your best to back me up. We'd better go, we don't dare be late. And as much as I like Prince, may I remind you that we're a country act?"

"No problemo. Climb onto your hoss, boss lady, and let us vamoos to the music hall."

Deke turned the key. He frowned, and tried it again. Nothing.

"Well, dammit! Thing was fine an hour ago. Lemme go get the charger."

"Deke, we don't have time to charge the battery!" She grabbed her phone and called a taxi. Her throat was feeling a little odd as anxiety tightened her vocal chords.

When the cab came, they piled the absolutely essential gear into the cab and squeezed into the front together, Gee in Deke's lap.

The cabbie protested, "That's illegal, man! You can't do that! Cop sees me, I'll lose my license!"

"Okay, okay, okay!" Gee got out and crawled into the back seat and sprawled over the gear. "That's probably illegal, too," grumbled the cabbie, but he took off. Gee began doing warmup vocal exercises. Being on her belly instead of standing up really challenged her breath control, but she did her best to fight her nerves.

They made it to the Six Gun Saloon with only minutes to spare. Deke had called ahead, and the bouncer and Gerry, the MC, had come out to help them unload and set up. "No worries," said the MC, "I'll tell a couple of stories to give you time for setup."

Gee did a mic test while Deke slipped on headphones and adjusted levels on the sound board. But when he did a riff on his guitar, there was no sound from the amp. While Gee got more and more anxious, Deke quickly checked plugs, swapped cords, and changed channels on the board. He was able to get sound, but not the full rich tone and volume he wanted.

"Come ON, Deke, we're on five minutes ago! Gerry can't tell stories forever!"

"Sorry, babe, I'm dead in the water. I've got no instrument sound whatsoever on my amp. I'm patched to yours but that will cut your sound. And I really want you to sound really good. Meh. Best we've got. Let's go."

Gerry looked over, got a nod, and introduced the duo. "Ladies and gents, the Six Gun is proud to host a rising young country star, Gigi Hawkes, accompanied by Deke Harrish. Please give a warm welcome to Gee and Deke."

Dee felt panic rising in her throat, gave a big yawn to relax. Her anxiety mounted as she stepped up to the microphone. She normally made a good connection to the audience, but she really didn't want to look over to where the agent was sitting. Her throat tightened at the thought.

Deke did a fast finger-picking intro to "In the Streets of Baltimore" and Gee launched into her version of Gram Parson's hit.

He sold the farm to take me just where I longed to be
We left our kin and all our friends back there in Tennessee...

She finished the song to mild applause, and knew it wasn't her best. Her throat was constricted and a bit sore. Signalling Gerry for a five-minute break, she went back behind the amp stack and dug in her case for her little "throat thermos" of honey and warm water, with a drop of lemon juice. She sipped, gargled, did some more vocal exercises to loosen up, then moved back to her mic. Gerry wound up his joke and welcomed her back onstage.

Gerry had done a sound check during the first number, and whispered to her that the sound was "okay". Well, okay would have to do. Feeling more confident, she and Deke hit their second number, "Gone Fishin' Again". Her honeyed throat felt looser, her confidence began to return, and she grooved into the lyrics.

I bin uptight but I'll unwind, jus' like my ol' fishin' line....

As the lyric said, she was starting to relax. The applause was a little warmer for this one.

Deke ran the intro for one of their faves, the Don Gibson '54 classic "Oh, Lonesome Me", a number they both loved.

Everybody's going out and having fun...

She was really into it, thinking that maybe she actually could impress the record agent, when the amp cut out. No mic, no guitar, just the beat track. Arrgh! Could anything else possibly go wrong?

Not missing a beat, she sang on a cappella while Deke frantically checked equipment again. The Six Gun was a big hall, and normally she was singing over the usual bar noise, but to her surprise the room was silent.

I've thought of everything from A to Z oh lonesome me,
Oh, lonesome me.

She held the last note into to a burst of applause, whistles, and stomps: they loved it. The last few butterflies fled her stomach. She had totally forgotten about McPherson, lost him in her connection with the song and the audience. To hell with him.

This was why she sang.

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