The tumultuous meeting of two kindred musical spirits. Literary Romance
|“Hey, Sweetie, wanna dance?”
Duncan turned on his bar stool and skimmed the girl with a glance. “I’m workin’.”
“Not at the moment, you’re not.”
“No. At the moment, I am tryin’ t’ cool off a bit. Then I am goin’ back t’ work.” Pulling the rolled-up bandana from underneath the damp hair falling over his forehead, Duncan untied it, wiped sweat from his face and neck, again rolled it into a band, and returned it to where it had been mostly preventing salt from running into his eyes. The knotted end also helped to keep his hair off his neck, allowing the breeze of the fans around the band’s pit to dry the bit of skin between his nape and T-shirt. Accepting a frosted mug from across the bar, he took a large swallow, enjoying the coolness of the wet glass against his hand and the stream of liquid refreshing his throat.
The girl cuddled into his shoulder. “Are you ever here when you’re not working?”
Ignoring a snigger from the bartender, he again raised the mug to his lips, allowing time to consider an answer, to let the weak American beer quench the dryness of his throat. “Now and then.” The chill of the beer distracted him from the girl’s flesh pushing against his.
She broke through, sliding both hands around his fingers and the heavy mug, pulling it from him. “So maybe you’ll dance with me another night?”
Looking up to question her, he watched as she sipped his beer, keeping her eyes on his. Narrow eyes. Lashes painted longer than natural matching thick black lines extending from the corners; the brushed-on green of her lids attempting to extend the brownish-green of her pupils. It didn’t work well.
She rubbed a finger around the edge of the mug. Offering. She wasn’t bad-looking. Fake, but not snobbish. And who was he to be too particular? “Maybe.”
She grinned, pushing the drink back toward him.
He watched her move away, flaunting the beer to her table of friends, most likely repeating, and embellishing, the conversation. Duncan never understood the infatuation girls had with guys in local bands. Hell, this wasn’t even a good local band. His mates were okay guys, as far as it went, but barely third-rate musicians. It didn’t seem to matter. They were just background noise for the pick-up lines and the attempts at relaxation by intoxication in the dark out-of-the-way bar.
A movement from the table of Thiel College students caught his attention; one of them actually rose to retrieve his drink from the bar instead of barking an order at the waitress. The only male at the table without a cigarette hanging from his mouth or fingers. Worst part of playing in bars; the damn cloud of nicotine.
The guy was heading in his direction. Duncan turned back, waiting to catch the bartender. “Another draft.”
“Make that two. And a wine spritzer.”
Wine spritzer. For the girl at the table sitting sideways in the chair with her legs crossed and her shoulders straight, Duncan guessed.
“How long have you been playing?”
Glancing up to make sure the college student was speaking to him, he answered … barely. “A while.” He looked away again.
“Obviously. I meant, how many years?”
The guy took advantage of the stool next to him being vacated, and planted himself as if he actually belonged in the bar. “You’re wasting your talent here. You’re a hell of a guitarist.”
Duncan looked over, unable to completely dismiss the compliment, since it wasn’t from a girl this time. He sincerely doubted this guy was hitting on him. “You play?”
“Not much since I started school, but when I can.”
He nodded slightly and turned away again. Another beginner looking for pointers. Well, he had better things to do than to waste time on a college student who wanted to learn just enough to pick up girls.
“So, why are you here?”
His back straightened involuntarily. What made this guy think it was any of his business? Holding his thoughts, Duncan stood. He would rather hang with the band, though he didn’t care a lot for their company, than to be harrassed by some stranger.
The college student stood up beside him and Duncan swung around, throwing a warning look. “Man, wha’ do you want?”
The guy shrugged. “Just to talk. I don’t get to meet many guitarists of your caliber.” He chuckled a bit. “Actually, I’ve never met anyone who can play like that. I just wondered why you’re wasting your time here. I mean, with that accent, you’re obviously not from Pennsylvania.”
Hell, the damn accent. How long was it going to take to get rid of it? Anyway, the conversation was done. This guy was much too nosy. “I’m busy.”
“Your friends aren’t ready to play yet.”
“Look, ge’ lost. I’m no’ a guitar teacher, alright?” Starting to move away, Duncan felt a hand grasp his shoulder and he spun, seizing the guy’s arm and twisting it behind his back. “Do no’ push me, man.”
Instinct overriding his intelligence, Duncan cursed himself mentally for the overreaction and began judging the group of guys who pushed in toward them – Thiel students coming to the rescue, Duncan’s band mates ready to join in, and bar patrons waiting impatiently for a fight. He wasn’t much concerned about the other college kids. They wouldn’t be any trouble to take out, but the guy he was so far still holding was taller, and built bigger, and didn’t seem naïve enough to start something he couldn’t finish.
“I’m Evan Scott. Nice to meet you, too.”
Taken aback by the friendly tone and total non-resistance, Duncan cautiously released him and stepped away, studying the guy as he turned. He wasn’t a lot taller, maybe 5’10”, but his larger build had to be natural, though probably enhanced by weights. His eyes were just a shade darker than his medium brown hair and his clothes were less pretentious than those of his friends, but still decent, and meticulously put together.
“Evan, cream that guy! He’s no match for you.”
A Thiel boy, looking for trouble. Duncan eyed him, and the other two joining in agreement, edging closer. But he kept the most attention on his antagonist. The guy appeared to dismiss the fact that his buddies were pushing him for a fight, and that Duncan’s band mates were moving in, calling insults back. He just stood, waiting for a reaction, or an answer. Or trying to decide Duncan’s weak spot.
“Hell, I bet he can’t fight any better than he can play. What’s to worry about?”
Duncan grabbed the infuriated lead singer at his side to hold him back. “Le’ it go.”
“Let it go, hell! He’s insane!”
“So what? Le’ it go.” His voice hardened. “Le’ it go.” The singer wouldn’t go against him. They knew each other at least that well. Neither would the others.
“See? He’s chicken-shit. You could take him out easy.”
The antagonist chuckled. “I wouldn’t count on that. Brad, go sit down. There’s nothing to fight about.”
“Nothing to fight about? The guy attacked you!”
“No, he didn’t. And it was my fault, not his. Go.”
The younger man hesitated, throwing looks of disgust at the band. “Not before they do. You know, these locals carry weapons. They’re nothing but common thugs.”
Duncan pushed his band mates back away from the college kids. This guy didn’t want to fight, either. There was no point in letting the kid who was barely old enough to be away from home push something neither of them wanted.
But he kept pushing.
Evan Scott pushed back, but not physically. “Brad, go away before I personally throw you out of here. And take your henchmen with you.” The authority in his voice backed the others down. Hushed voices passed around the perimeter and Duncan’s band mates calmed but remained wary. The college kids sulked away, back to their table, yelling another drink order at the waitress before sitting.
Disappointed in a lack of action, the audience dispersed. Duncan thanked his band mates for the support and sent them away.
The bar owner approached, holding the two mugs of beer ordered before the confrontation, handing them to the two guys still facing each other. “On the house.”
Duncan accepted the second mug, nodding at the bar owner's friendly hand set on his shoulder. The other guy tried to insist on paying, to no avail.
He studied him. So, he could get riled if pushed hard enough, though his friendly eyes would’ve belied that fact. And he apparently had guts, since he sent his own friends away while Duncan’s companions were still standing with him.
Taking a swallow, he relented. “So what is it tha’ you want?”
“As I said, just to talk. And I prefer to know who I’m talking to.”
Duncan studied him a moment longer. He liked this guy’s style. He could just give his first name, as he usually did, but Evan Scott had given both of his, and he had gone to a lot of trouble just to talk to him.
He extended his hand. “Duncan O’Neil.”
"Rehearsal: A Different Drummer (2006)"