Tony Wayne Brown
As she sat in the upper level of a bar where her friends were the karaoke DJs, Andrea wondered what in the world had possessed her to come out that night. With the way her ex-husband had treated her while she was being treated for cancer, she certainly had no interest in meeting a man, and the idea of getting in front of strangers to sing herself was foreign to her. Suddenly, though, the smile of a man who sat at the table on the lower level caught her eye.
“Excuse me, sir, could you sing a song for me?” she said hesitantly. Luckily, he hadn’t heard her. What are you thinking of? What about all those bad memories? Andrea again let her gaze wander toward the table below. Her chin tilted up; her eyes closed; wispy clouds being chased through her mind by a dove mystically shot through by radiant sunbeams.
A slight shake of her head cleared the clouds away; her head swiveling to the left in the direction of the stage where her friends were, but even so, the corner of her right eye kept a vigil for any sign of movement below. The sound of rap music made her almost long for the 70s disco days and white-suited Denny Terio from the Dance Fever TV show.
Well, almost, anyway.
Her sentry eyes alerted like a wine connoisseur spying a vintage chardonnay tucked into a row of two-liter Pepsi bottles. The inspiration for her fleeting daydream stood and looked in her direction, scratching the side of his head just below the purple and gold East Carolina University cap he was wearing. Taking a couple of steps, he rested his elbows on the railing next to her.
“Are you putting in a slip, I hope,” the man said, eyebrows risingand a more than pleasant smile lighting his face.
Brown eyes it seemed he had, maybe hazel. Too dark in the place to really tell. Whatever the color of his eyes were, the enlarged pupils, along with the tone of his voice, fired a shot across her bow. His attention was obviously prompted by more than any casual interest in her vocal stylizing possibilities.
“I’m just here because my friends are running the karaoke.”
“Oh,” he said, sighing. His head sank a bit, furrows appearing on his forehead. In an “I gave it a shot” tone he noted, “There’s not many people here tonight, huh.”
It seemed he was turning away, but something, something, was threatening to pierce the self-imposed coat of armor she had installed after her divorce when she’d decided there’s no good man to be found who was worth any effort at all. Not only had her husband spent their mortgage money on another woman, he’d wined and dined her with their Greenville Utilities payment, too! Surviving without electricity for a week until she came up with enough cash to pay the bill was an experience she'd never thought would happen.
With her undergoing chemotherapy at that same time, it’d been too much to bear.
Andrea was not going to fall into that trap again, no way, no how, and that was that. She was just beginning to recover from both her physical and relationship problems. Her life was full, and getting involved with another man so soon wasn’t on her agenda; the path of her life didn’t need to lead there at all. Nobody thought that was where it should go, not now, anyway. Her best friend Jill had even threatened to “lambaste” her with a skillet for just looking at a guy in the supermarket. Still, she felt a strange connection to someone she hadn’t even met, even if he weren’t all that handsome—and the past three years of battling cancer to remission had been mighty lonesome despite her circle of female friends.
“I’d like to hear you sing,” she heard herself saying, her voice sparkling like vocal diamonds. “I bet you’re good.”
The man refocused on her as he re-established his position at the railing and broke into a wide grin, lightly brushing her shoulder with his hand. He was back on the hunt. “Oh, I’m good all right. I’m so good the tooth fairy brings me two quarters instead of one.” He hesitated a moment, then mischievously smiled.
“Oh! You were talking about karaoke! Well, let me tell ya. Dogs howl and mamas cry when I sing. Songbirds fly away, and the drunks just ain’t drunk enough. When I sing, they say, ‘Elvis has definitely left the building.’”
She chuckled. “You can’t be that bad. So when are you singing?”
“As soon as the coast is clear, I guess,” he replied, shrugging as he scanned the stage.
“I don’t even know your name.”
“Tommy.” He extended his hand. “They call me ‘Tommy G’.”
She felt a completely unexpected tingle as her hand touched his, secretly admiring his well-toned torso. “I’m Andrea. Sometimes my friends call me Princess Ann.”
“Glad to meet you, your highness, Princess Ann,” he said, bowing lavishly. “Your every wish is my command. I live from this moment on only to serve you as your most humble servant.”
She laughed and said, “You are a smart man!”
“Smarter than a whiplash on a bare behind, my dear.” He patted his rear end; then scratched his head as he pondered. “The minute I laid eyes on you I knew you reminded me of someone beautiful and I just remembered who…that woman who was on The Rockford Files several times. Oh, yeah… Mariette Hartley.”
“I’ve been told that before,” Andrea said, appreciating the compliment, anyway.
“I bet you have. I love Mariette Hartley. You look just like her!”
Andrea felt another tingle at his obvious interest. “You’re cute, Tommy G. I thought that the first time I saw you.” She felt his hand grasping hers and didn’t mind at all, to her amazement. “You never told me what the ‘G’ stands for.”
“It stands for ‘Gun,’ like Tommy Gun. They say I sing until I completely run out of bullets.”
Another chuckle was interrupted by her friend, Mary, tapping Tommy on the shoulder. “The number’s wrong in the book for your song. Can you pick another one?”
Tommy scanned the karaoke song list she proffered and pointed at one as he showed it to Andrea, who nodded in response to his quizzical look.
“Okay, you’re next,” Mary said.
In a moment, Laymond announced, “Tommy G’s coming up here to do his first song for us tonight. Let’s hear it for Tommy!”
“Good luck!” Andrea said.
“Just don’t throw anything harder than a rotten tomato. I bruise easily.”
A ragingly unenthusiastic scattering of applause from the sparse crowd greeted the news as Tommy strode to the stage, looking so manly to Andrea in his jeans and tight purple ECU T-shirt.
Hmmm… but can he sing? Andrea kidded herself as she admired his physique. Her hand scolded her cheek as she felt heat rushing through her face, but yet a smile appeared despite her own reproval.
Tommy was not more than five-seven, but still she found herself examining him as he took his position at the mike. Momentarily, she allowed herself to think that maybe all men weren’t rats after all.
Just maybe, though.
The rap music mercifully finally ended, and the strains of a much-more to her liking style of music began emanating from the speakers. Tommy began to sing, quite pleasingly, to her delight.
“Who wants to buy-y-y, this diamond ri-ing-ing-ing. She took it off her finger now, it doesn’t mean a thi-ing-ing.”
Her thoughts turned to her long years of marriage all shot to pieces, but as the song continued, her blue-sky reverie raced through her mind again. Too bad she’d written off the male species in its entirety.
With the ending of “This Diamond Ring” came another smattering of applause, scarcely larger than the earlier one, but Andrea clapped enthusiastically. “Bravo! Bravo!” she cried as he left the stage. “That was good,” she said as he neared her. Tommy leaned farther over the railing than he had earlier and smiled the most infectious smile.
"Thanks, Princess Ann. It was really nice to meet you, but I guess I need to head on home. I need to get some shuteye because I'm working tomorrow."
Before he could leave, though, Andrea put her hand around the back of his neck and pulled his head to hers.
Oh, what the heck, she thought as her lips began erasing bad memories.
About the Author: USAF veteran Tony Brown, who hails from Greenville, N.C., has won Union Writers and Art Forum contests and received honorable mentions in Writer’s Digest and Writer’s Journal. In 2012 his work has appeared in/been accepted by Notes Magazine, In Between Altered States, Leodegraunce, Bartleby Snopes, and Sleeping Cat Books. Earlier he was published by Whortleberry Press, The Write Place At the Write Time, Short-Story Me, Blink Ink, The Storyteller, One Forty Fiction, Postcard Shorts, Down in the Dirt, Gemini, and elsewhere.