Ziggy was an expert at reading a crowd and manipulating their moods. I wasn’t really, not in a conscious way, which was why I appreciated his skill so much.
That night he sensed that what the crowd wanted was more of me. More of him and me together at the front of the stage, and less of him out front and me on the band riser blending into the background in my dark stage outfit. More than once he came up onto the band riser and herded me or coaxed me to center stage.
There was no saying no to him, of course. And why would I want to? A couple of times he even didn’t do his part of an ensemble dance–or just did the arm movements while standing next to me, that sort of thing. It was thrilling to go outside the bounds of what we’d rehearsed, both because it felt rebellious and because improvisation of any kind is always a thrill. Oh, and because the crowd loved it.
Two people didn’t love it. One of them I bet you can guess: Linn.
The other one was the dancer who collided with me accidentally and knocked both of us ass over teakettle. If it had been Stella she might’ve bounced off me easily enough, but it was Josie, who was much bigger than me. Fortunately it happened near the end of a song when I’d been heading back to the riser and the dancers had been heading off the stage with a series of leaping spins. The band ended the song normally enough while I got to my feet and tried to figure out where my guitar pick went and/or where my mic stand was, which had a few taped to it.
I hadn’t even realized I’d knocked my head against something–the corner of an amp or the edge of the riser, maybe?–until I tasted something funny. A gash just under my hair was trickling blood down my cheek and into the corner of my mouth. I know because Flip motioned me over and tried to wipe it off.
“Candlelight” was coming up in a few. It would have been really bad to be bleeding from the head during that. As he went to get another towel or something I could feel the trickle starting again and I pressed my forearm–black tailcoat sleeve and all–against it to try to get it to stop. Apply pressure, right?
He came back with a chemical cold pack, and we delayed the start of the next song, while he held it against my head. I guess the idea was cold would help it clot better? Or stop it from swelling? I don’t know. It felt really good, though. In the end the bleeding was still not totally stopped, though, and we couldn’t really put a bandage on it since it was in my hair. Flip’s solution was to retrieve a black terrycloth headband from inside his guitar tech traveling case. Apparently he liked using the elastic terry wrist absorbers for a couple of uses and often bought them in a set with a headband. The headband held a pad of gauze in place and acted like a bandage itself, and kept my hair from getting any bloodier, too.
The whole delay was maybe two minutes but it felt like forever. After the first full minute, Ziggy went out and chatted with the audience, but it was like a ticking clock in my head was getting louder and louder.
Getting back to playing the set drowned it out, though. And then it was time to do our duet section. Thank goodness. No dancers. No band. Just him and me and the audience. My hand was starting to hurt a little and I wondered if I’d whacked it in the fall–which would explain the lost guitar pick–but I ignored it.
Him and me and one of our best known songs. All other worries were absent at that moment. Nothing was going wrong while we were doing it.
Did those five minutes of heaven make the other twenty-three hour and fifty-five minutes of hell per day worth it? At the time I would have said yes.
After the show, when I saw Josie with his ankle wrapped in ice and Ace bandages, I’m not sure I would agree.
He was sitting in a chair, slouched down, with his leg up on a table. He had dark circles under his eyes. I went to apologize.
“Hey man, I’m so sorry–”
He patted his chest, trying to apologize at the same time. “No no, I’m sorry. I was trying to keep an eye on the other dancers instead of looking where I was going.”
“Still, I was in the wrong place.”
Linn appeared like a vengeful genie, summoned by my admission. “Yes, you were. What the hell were you doing in that spot?”
“I was trying to get back to my spot!”
“Why were you out of position in the first place? You’re a menace!”
“Excuse me! It was Ziggy’s idea!”
She appeared not to have heard what I said, or didn’t believe it. “You think that just because you’re a media darling for five minutes that you get to share the spotlight?”
And that was when Ziggy came in, breathing fire. “Linn!” He practically leaped over me to get between her and me. His white silk bathrobe and sweat-streaked stage makeup and hair gave him the look of a murderous kabuki dancer. “I’m the one who should take the blame for any accident. I pulled everyone out of position.”
“I was going to criticize you privately!” she hissed.
“But it’s okay to tear Daron down in public? Stop it. Stop it right now. You come for him one more time and I’m sending you home, not him.”
“You can’t fire me,” she snarled.
“Oh, you’d be paid the rest of what you’re owed, but if you think I can’t revoke your traveling privileges, you’re quite wrong.” Ziggy sounded as bitter and vindictive as I’d ever heard him. It was a little frightening, actually.
Linn wasn’t intimidated. “You think my only job is to tell you how beautiful you are ten times a day? That isn’t what you hired me for.”
“I sure as hell didn’t hire you to attack other members of the entourage.”
“I am not attacking! I am defending! Josie is injured and the reputation of your show is damaged!”
Ziggy rubbed an eye tiredly and gave himself the worst raccoon eye I’d seen in a long time. “Josie.”
“Tell the dancers I want to meet with them.” He looked at his sooty knuckle. “In a half hour. No. When we get back to the hotel. In Barrett’s suite. No, wait. Josie, are you going to the hospital?”
“I don’t know. Maybe in the morning.” He stretched out one long, graceful leg and the ungraceful blob of bandaged icepacks on the end of it. “The swelling has to come down before a doctor can do anything, anyway.”
“Okay. Barrett’s then, as long as you can be there.”
“I’ll be there even if Tony has to carry me.”
“Good.” Ziggy glared at Linn. She glared back, but seemed to feel she’d won by standing her ground. When Ziggy looked away, she went away with a nod.
Ziggy squeezed my good hand. “Did you hit your head?”
“Um, yeah. That’s what all that was.” I resisted the urge to reach up and touch the bandage. “Do you want me at that meeting, too?”
“No, dear one.” He kissed me on my slightly bloody cheek. “It’ll be easier to talk about you if you’re not there.”
“Now, I’ll tend to my flock and you tend to yours, hm?” Another kiss, and off he went. I turned around slowly, trying to figure out what me meant about me tending to my flock.
Brad and Marvelle were behind me, but they didn’t appear to be doing or saying anything. I supposed they had been watching the spat and now were trying to seem inconspicuous.
What was the phrase military people used when they didn’t want their underlings to stress out over their presence? Right. “As you were,” I said to them.
“Hah, no,” Brad said. “Ain’t never going back.”
Marvelle snorted and walked away.
(Site news: may sure you read the earlier news post from this week to keep up on all the goings on. It’s *good* news, OK? Link: https://daron.ceciliatan.com/archives/11115. Slight update to it: at this point there are only a handful of people I haven’t heard from confirming yes or no receipt of the last Kickstarter book! In the good news department, several folks I was worried about confirmed that they definitely *did* receive it! So I’m just waiting to hear from a small number of you now. Check your email or your Kickstarter accounts for a message. If you did not get a book but you were due one, do not hesitate to ping me about it.
In other news, my gay Navy SEAL book, Watch Point, is doing pretty well, although it could use a few more reviews. If anyone would like to join a review brigade for it, if you can commit to reviewing it on Amazon by Nov 27th, drop me a note and I’ll send you either mobi or epub. Thanks, all! -ctan)
(Back to 1991 for this one. -d)