Rain beat hard against the windows of Brock’s studio apartment.
“Alright, well I’d suggest sticking to your range though,” said Brock.
Randy pressed his lips together, nodding.
“Pat Benatar might be a little high for your vocal range,” said Brock.
Randy looked up from the floor to Brock.
“I just know that she likes that song is all,” explained Randy.
“Hey, you can try it,” said Brock, his back turned to Randy, sprinkling food over his fish tank.
Randy wrung his hands and then placed them on his knees as if he were going to get up from the couch.
“All I’m saying is that I’ve seen a lot of well-intentioned people go up there and try to screech their way through Pat thinking that they’ll be appreciated for the effort,” said Brock, capping the fish food.
Brock opened his mini-fridge and grabbed two Hamm’s. “Beer?”
“I gotta work in a couple of hours,” said Randy, shaking his head.
Brock stepped towards Randy, holding the can out towards him. “I always have at least one before going in to work night shift with Marvin. I think that everyone does. You sure?”
Randy smiled and reached for the can, Brock nodding.
“This party’s going to be pretty solid anyway, man,” said Brock pulling back on the tab with a crack. He tilted it back, gulping loudly twice. Randy looked on as Brock’s Adam’s apple thumped against the skin of his neck. Brock brought the can back down and belched. “Christine’s definitely going to be there, I talked to her at work on Friday.”
Randy couldn’t help but grin. Brock nodded at him, half smiling.
Two beers and couple of hours later, Randy walked into the Plaid Pantry, the familiar ding signaling his entry. His breath smelled of Crest. He turned to his left, expecting to see Marvin—arms crossed, bushy moustache protruding. Nobody was behind the register.
“Hey Randy,” said Christine walking out from the stock area.
Randy felt even more buzzed at the sight of her.
Christine was the only person Randy had ever seen that seemed to pull off the Plaid’s uniform without looking depressed and run down. Perhaps it was the combination of her petite body and the bubbly energy she seemed to carry with her everywhere, but Christine managed to always look like she was sparkling.
“Hey…Christine,” said Randy, taking off his jacket.
“Expecting Marvin, right? Yeah, I switched with him so I could get off on Thursday for Brock’s party. You going?”
Randy nodded. “Yeah, I’m going,” said Randy with a big smile.
“Right,” said Christine. “Well I bet it’ll be rad. I haven’t sang karaoke since I moved.”
Christine rounded the counter and headed for the register. She tucked in her striped Plaid uniform and Randy exhaled.
“From Colorado, right?” said Randy.
“San Francisco,” said Christine, nodding. “So one of us is supposed to head into the back and check in all the new candy stock and one of us is on register.”
“Okay, well I can do the candy stock, if you’d rather be out here,” began Randy. Christine, standing behind the register already, looked back at him. “Yeah, I’ll head back there and see what I can do with all that candy stock.”
Christine smiled at this, and for a second Randy felt that he had done something really wonderful by offering to do the candy stock. Working at the Plaid was very special. It was because of the people.
Randy moved around and organized boxes of candy for the next two hours using a green hand truck. Occasionally he looked at the full metal shelves behind which was a wall. Behind that wall, Christine was helping people with their transactions, or making change, maybe selling cigarettes to people, or maybe just coffee, but probably smiling. She was keeping her eye on everything going on in the store and also probably thinking about all the stuff she thought about. Like being from San Francisco until a while ago, or how it is to live in Portland now, or what it’s like to be so pretty, or how it’s hard to find jeans that fit so well on her legs, or how people sometimes think she moved from Colorado, and how they shouldn’t. She was probably smiling the whole time too and lighting up the whole store when she did.
“Randy?” Christine poked her head into the stock room.
“Oh, hey!” said Randy, immediately putting down the hand cart to walk towards her.
“Hey, I’m going to take my break now. Can you watch the register while I do?”
“Okay, see you when I get back,” said Christine with another smile.
Christine grabbed her coat and headed for the door.
Randy waved to her as she went, rounding the corner towards the register.
Sun beamed through the windows of Brock’s studio apartment.
“So you’re going with ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’,” said Brock, handing Randy a Hamm’s.
Randy nodded, pulling back the tab on his Hamm’s with a creak.
“Yeah, I think she’ll like it,” said Randy.
“Alright, man, but you’re going to have to do it up on that one,” said Brock, sitting down next to him. “That’s a popular song for people to sing. Do you have a backup?”
Randy looked at him.
“Nah, never mind that. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” continued Brock. “You’ve got to do that one with swagger. You’ve got to embody the outlaw that lived inside Jon Bon Jovi when he wrote it. Back in Jersey.”
Brock gulped heartily from his Hamm’s. Randy looked at his Adam’s apple.
“Alright, man. I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life or anything. I mean, it’s your three minutes. I’m just saying that you should do it differently. You do it, Randy. Randy, the outlaw that cannot be tamed. You got me?”
Winter, the KJ, called Randy’s name and he smiled at the table of his coworkers and Brock’s friends. Brock clapped for him as he rose from his seat, nodding supportively. Randy reached the mic, and the guitar intro began. He could feel the outlaw taking hold of his body.
“It’s all the same!!” Randy screamed. “Only the names have changed!!”
Somebody in the bar howled support.
Randy began to strut along the edge of the stage.
“The people I meet…always go their separate ways.”
Randy’s eyes were mostly on the monitor, though he tried to look over periodically at Christine.
He could still feel it, the outlaw, and thought she could too.
Finally, the instrumental break came. Randy could look over to the table. But then he couldn’t. He shoved the microphone back in its stand and walked off stage.
Somebody yelled, “the song’s not over!!!”
Randy grabbed his coat, trying not to disturb Brock and Christine.
The three of them—eyes shut, mouths open. Everyone at the table thirsty for more.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED