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Fly the Rain 4

Sondra arrived at 1:00 PM sharp. Billy-Eye’s Arcade and Dance Barn was located on Highway 87, north of town. She was not impressed. It was nothing but a huge commercial metal building with the name painted in big lettering across the front. There were about fifteen cars in the small gravel parking lot—mostly older models like hers.

She walked in, and saw a line of people standing at a closed office door. Clearly, they were band members waiting to register for an audition. A couple of the guys had their electric guitars strapped on their backs.

Sondra was quite familiar with Billy-Eye and his two sons. She’d eaten her share of Buttard Biscuits growing up. And she still remembered the time in high school when Craig walked up to her in the hallway and asked her for a date. She had nearly laughed in his face. He was just a kid—three grades below her.

A couple of years later, when she found out about his reputation as a stud, she wished she had accepted his offer. She would have given the little punk the ride of his life.

While she was still thinking about Craig, the office door opened, and he walked out.

He glanced at the long line of rockers. “Okay, we’re about to get started, Guys.” Then he spotted Sondra at the back of the line. The blonde six-footer was not easy to miss.

“Sondra Crench? Is that you?” He walked up to her.

“How are you, Craig?”

“Well, I’m impressed that you remember me. So, you’re here to sign up?”

“Yeah.”

He checked out the young men standing in front of her. “Are these guys with you?”

“No.”

“Well, where’s your band?”

“I’m working on it.”

“Follow me.”

She hesitated. There were at least thirty people in front of her in line.

“Come on,” he insisted.

She followed him into the office.

“Hey! That’s not fair,” somebody yelled.

“Look,” said Craig to the crowd, “I’m doing the hiring, so I will decide what’s fair. Understood?”

Nobody said a word. He closed the door.

There were four metal chairs facing a large wooden desk. Craig offered her a seat. The leather executive chair behind the desk gave Craig a superior position from which to look down on lowly band members sitting in old metal chairs in front of him.

He surprised Sondra when he grabbed one of the metal chairs for himself, and dragged it right in front of her. When he sat down their knees were nearly touching.

“It’s great to see you, Sondra.”

What’s he doing? she wondered. Is he going to register me or make a move on me? “Yeah. It’s been a long time.”

“So, what have you been doing with yourself?” He acted as if he had all the time in the world.

“Living in Houston, playing clubs. Sometimes solo, but mostly with a band. I sing lead, play rhythm guitar. Write songs.”

“I always loved it when you’d perform at the annual high school talent show. I just knew you’d get a big record contract some day.”

“Nope. Came close a couple of times. But it’s a tough business.”

“I’ll bet. So, are you living here in the Golden Triangle now, or did you come back just to audition for (he cleared his throat and used his movie trailer voice) Billy-Eye’s Arcade and Dance Barn?”

“That’s good—you sound just like one of those announcers. I saw your ad in the paper, and thought this might be a cool gig.” He was asking too many questions. But she really wanted the job. And giving him a bloody nose was not likely to help her get it. “I’ve got plenty of work in Houston,” she lied. “But this just sounded like fun.”

“But you don’t have a band right now?”

“I can get one together before the audition. It’s not a problem. And I’m writing a couple of songs especially for this place.”

Craig smiled. Original songs for Billy-Eye’s. If they were good catchy songs, that would be a big plus. “Can’t wait to hear them. Do you have anybody in mind for your band?”

“Yeah. There’s a bass player I used to work with in Houston.”

“Have you talked to him yet?”

Her. I left a message, but she hasn’t called me back yet.”

“So, are we talking an all-girl band?”

“Yeah.”

His face lit up. “Then I have a suggestion for you.”

“What’s that?” She didn’t really want to hear it. Nobody was going to tell her how to put her band together. She’d been in the business for fifteen years.

“Yesterday I met this girl named Cindy Banya. She’s a drummer.”

“How old is she?”

“Late twenties, I think.”

Then she’s not a girl, thought Sondra. I’m not a girl. We’re women. But, of course, Craig is just a big boy. And he’ll probably never grow up. “Have you heard her play?”

“Well, no. But I’m sure she very good.”

“She’s hot, isn’t she?”

“Uh, yeah, she is.”

“Look, Craig, I’ll give her a listen, but she’d better be a rock-solid drummer, or I’ve got no use for her.”

“Oh, I’m sure she is. And a sexy girl band would stand a much better chance of getting the job. So—“

“—I get it. When can I hear her play?”

“Tonight. I’ll set it up.”

“Okay.”

He reached across the desk, picked up a clipboard and pen, and began to study the audition schedule. “Let’s see…we want to give you a good time slot…”

“Is everybody auditioning on the same night?”

“Well, we had hoped there would be enough bands to spread them out over three nights, but—you saw the line out there. It looks like we’re going to be able to do everybody on Friday night.”

“I want to go last.”

“Okay. But the kids might be pretty tired by 11:30. And some of the younger ones might have already gone home.”

“So, is that how you win—by getting the most screams and applause from the kids?”

“Yeah. Sort of. But I make the final decision.”

“Of course.” Sondra understood. Wink, wink. If she accepted Craig’s new little plaything into her band, they would be sure to win on Friday night. But what if the kids went crazy over one of the other bands, and she was stuck with a lousy drummer? Billy-Eye might override Craig. Her band needed to be the most exciting, unique, outrageous group Orange County had ever seen.

“What’s the name of your band? Oh, I guess you don’t have one yet.”

“I’ve got some ideas.”

“Well, I don’t whether you’ve heard, but we’ve put the word out that we would prefer a band with a local-sounding name. You know, like The Sabine Rivers, or The Triangulars. Of course, you won’t want to use either of those names since I’m giving them as examples. Chances are, one of these bands will.”

Don’t worry, she thought. She’d already had something a lot better. It had just hit her. But she didn’t want to tell him yet. That would spoil the effect. “What’s the latest I can give you the name?”

“Wednesday morning. I’m going to record a radio spot that afternoon.”

“Okay.”

They exchanged cell phone numbers. He said he would call her a little later to set up a time to meet with Cindy.

She walked out the door and saw the line of losers. They don’t stand a chance, she thought.

Then she noticed a newcomer at the end of the line. She was petite, mid-twenties, long black hair. Did she bring that big red guitar, or did it bring her? Sondra had no idea whether the girl could play, but she loved her instrument. It was a Gibson ES-335 with classic 1957 humbucker pickups. “Nice.”

“Thanks.”

“What’s the name of your band?”

“Rainbow Bridge.”

“Y’all renamed your band for this gig, didn’t you?”

“Yeah. Dumb, huh?”

“Well, they do want something local sounding.”

Rainbow Bridge was about twenty miles from where they were standing, between Bridge City and Port Arthur. It was built in 1938, yet is still the tallest bridge in Texas.

“I don’t know where the rest of my band is. They should have been here by now.”

“I’m Sondra.” She offered her hand.

“E. Z.”

Sondra looked amused.

“No, no. Not Easy. It’s initials. E. Z. Bender.”

“Oh, I get it. You play lead guitar.”

“Right.”

“I like it.”

“Thanks.”

Sondra leaned in, and whispered, “Could you come over here for a minute?”

E. Z. nodded and followed her some thirty feet away from the line.

“Would you be interested in auditioning for my band?”

“I told you I’m already in a band,” said E. Z. “They’re just running late.”

“Yeah, but would you consider a change for the better?”

E. Z. studied Sondra’s eyes, and saw mischief—maybe even danger. “Sure.”

“Good. How about getting together tonight?”

“That’ll work. Do you already have a name for your band?”

“Yes, I do.” She waited a moment, for effect. “Orange Puke.”

“Sounds nasty.”

“Yeah.” Sondra laughed. “We’re gonna blow chunks. But in a good way.”

End of Excerpt
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