Busted Axle Road
Chapter 89

Copyright© 1993, 2001, 2010

"This sure is a hell of a party," the lead guitar player of the country-western band thought. "I just wish Karen hadn't been hitting the punch so hard."

Karen, the lead singer, actually could do pretty well for a country-western bar band. She had one of those thin, screechy, nasal voices that country-western fans kind of like, and she sounded a little hillbilly when she sang. But now, as she was trying to pick her way through "Your cheatin' heart," she wasn't doing too well. Halfway through the song, she dropped the mike on the floor and raced for the ladies room, presumably to blow her cookies.

He glanced over at the steel bass player and shrugged. There was nothing to do but finish the song, and then he'd have to sing again, until Karen could make it back. If she did.

He was still trying to put things back together when a blonde girl in a really well-turned-out cowgirl outfit walked up on the stage, picked up the microphone, and said, "Hey, turkey. You know 'Smoke-Filled Room'?"

"That chestnut?" the steel bass player said. This evening had been a loss, anyway, a total disaster, and now it was obviously going to be amateur hour. "Sure, we know it."

"Play it, then," Jenny said.

"Oh, well, what the hell, we're getting paid for this," the lead guitar said.

The band didn't know "Smoke-Filled Room" very well, and they were off key, but it wouldn't matter a whole lot, with some amateur singing. They swung into the opening strains, and the girl started to sing.

She wasn't more than about five words into the song when the lead guitar player realized that this girl really could sing. This brassy girl in the cowgirl costume and the big hat really did know "Smoke-Filled Room", at she grabbed the crowd right now. Karen, the girl puking her guts out in the ladies' room, couldn't have handled that song like that in a month of Sundays, and it brought the crowd to their feet. Everyone was paying attention; even the dancing came to a stop to hear that bell-clear, husky voice. As it finally wound down, the room filled with applause -- not the polite stuff that had been heard once or twice, but a thunder that filled the room.

"That was pretty good," the lead guitar said. "You want to try something else?"

"Sure, why not?" the girl in the cowgirl getup said. "Can you guys do 'Help me make it through the night' without screwing it up too bad?"

"We can do that," the steel bass said. If this girl wanted to give him some lip, she'd proven that she could sing worth it. This standby wasn't something that called for a lot of beat, but Karen usually screeched it so bad that they didn't try it; she was better with something with a beat.

"Take the ribbon from my hair," the girl started, in a voice so sweet and sexy and plaintive that it made you want to cry. The band swung into it, and she went on "Shake it loose, and let it fall...

A hush came over the crowd. There was something about the husky, sexy way this girl, and the steel bass player could see that there were a lot of men in this crowd that would have loved to indeed take this girl in her arms, and help her make it through the night. By the time they'd reached the end of the song, she had the crowd totally under her control, and all of a sudden, it was more like a concert than a party.

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