A piece of Sudden Fiction (under 750 words):
Opening for Bone Bayou Band
$25 dollars for center table tickets.
We leapt onto the stage. All of us were there except Walter, star of the band and lead bass guitarist. Other than that and the fact I felt like puking, the night was off to a great start.
“And now, from way over in Slidell: Let’s give it up for Walter!”
I’m always nervous before performances. A missing bass guitarist was just another thing. But the foot-stomping and applause was getting us pumped. I heard my wife over the crowd screaming like a crazy person.
We started jamming right off, creating a wall of sound to answer the crowd’s wall of sound. I’d give the “Hey, we’re Walter” spiel later. Right now, I wanted to keep the crowd. And give Walter time to show up.
Guys don’t generally worry about other guys, but I couldn’t think of anything short of death that would keep Walter from being up on this stage.
I went into a riff and was joined by our other bass guitar, Mike, splitting the difference between his parts and Walter’s. We played dueling guitars for awhile. The crowd was digging it. I no longer felt like barfing but was still obsessed with Walter.
We hadn’t named the band after him. We had named it after his name. It was a hilarious name, Walter. It’s the kind of word that plops itself down and sits like a rock in a field.
We’d been in the process of reinventing ourselves that night when Walter wandered into Tommy’s garage and asked to gig with us. Finger-picking, flapping, hopping tapping. Lead or rhythm. The dude could play.
Welcome to the band.
Hallahan’s was standing room only. Every table filled. The crowd clapping and cheering. Drinks were strong, the food borderline awful. Ancient waitresses on fast feet serving the most bizarre collection of people I’d seen in awhile. The place was something between a concert hall and dive bar, with great acoustics.
Walter would dig it. If he gets here and he better. We had a couple numbers that depended on his slap-bass.
“Hello Hallahan’s!” I had just started my “this place is a legend, we’re here to shake the walls, so what’s with our name?” speech…when the distinctive red and blue flashing lights pulled up, right outside, to near silence the crowd.
You could almost hear the collective “WTF?”
“Hey let’s see what’s happening,” I was suddenly emceeing a crime drama. “Maybe they’re here for a little rock and roll….”
Turns out my joke wasn’t far off.
Walter came hustling through the crowd and up onto stage with his Precision. The flashing red and blue lights drove off.
“Hey Walter. What’s up, man? You brought some friends?”
“Hello Hallahan’s,” Walter addressed the crowd. “And first, I’d like to say thanks. Y’all saved my bacon.”
They applauded again without knowing why.
“I guess I was going a little fast on my way here. And the Natchitoches’ PD pulled me over to talk about it. I told them I was gonna be late for a gig at Hallahans. And guess what? Instead of a ticket, I get a police escort the rest of the way.”
“No way!” Our drummer added punctuation.
“Way! Pays to have friends in the high places.”
“Or high friends in low places.”
The crowd erupted.
We broke into an impromptu cover of “I Can’t Drive 55.”
“Damn man. I thought you were dead,” I shouted to Walter between lyrics.
“Not yet. But I gotta slow down.”
© 2019 Susan Walsh