Snippets Clutched From Other Lives -- Part Three
He finally found a place downtown near the club he was playing. A underused city parking lot that required no fee. He parked the beast and made note of where. He needed to make his getaway as effectively as possible. He was sick of playing these gigs. He usually opened for some upcoming metal band, whose fans hated his music. They tacked him on the bill because they loved it. He dealt with hours of inane hipster talk with little recourse – he played the blues, at least an archaic crossroads form of it. They loved it, but there crowd always wanted Metallica. He had no problem with the music. He just wanted to some day open for musicians more his stripe. Hell, he figured he deserved it. He had done penance long enough.
He pulled his short, but solid frame from the car. His weather worn skin and brutalized stetson spoke of his days as an old dog. Long in tooth, but still strong in talent. His bones ached a little more each day, but he had his pride. He played blues originals and nothing else. No requests for "Freebird." No requests for Robert Johnson. He knew men like that. He spent time at those crossroads. No devil had ever shown. But a lot of boys had driven by on the weekend, loaded on booze and pills. Someone was always looking for a fight. They could barely take Charlie – that other old boy was a different problem entirely. You didn't fuck with him. He was sick of that old cowboy mantra. A deal with the devil was no deal at all. He knew all about that. The boozing, the pills, the women. Those days seemed long gone. Now it was just playing his old guitar to the college crowd. His old guitar felt good in his hands all those long nights. It's shredded carcass had seen many a year, many a tour. It had been there every night and seen it all. Hell, it had even jumped a few trains. He grabbed the case from the backseat.
The club was typical. Larger than last night's venue, but still small and cramped. He could already smell the spilled beer and stale pot, if they packed them in. Otherwise, he would have to settle for the stale cigarette smoke and the bouncer's bad breath. The bouncer had set up the show. He was barrel-chested and heavily tattooed. He looked at Charlie with disdain. “So you're opening? Not sure the crowd's going to like it? What do you play? Old blues, right. It better not be boring. I'm doing those guys a favor by putting you on the bill.”
Charlie wanted to punch him. Once really hard, right in the face. He shrugged it off. “Yeah, I play the blues. I don't think you'll find it boring.” He was sick of playing the sycophant to these fucks. At least he didn't have to haul that much gear in. He just wanted some quiet. He would probably go back to his car before the show to get some sleep. A few hours shut eye before the gig, and then he would just coast through the pre-show. He asked to use the bathroom. It was dingy and dark. He turned on the light and spit in the sink. He fixed up his beard with a straight razor and peered at his bloodshot eyes in the cracked mirror. What the fuck was wrong? Why did he keep playing these shows? These questions ran through his mind before every gig. He knew the answers. He had to play. Despite all the pricks that he had to deal with, there were still a few people that enjoyed his show. A real bluesman was hard to find after all. At least one who seemed true. If nothing else, he was authentic. He had lived the life. He knew about what he sang. He used the bathroom and checked out the stage. It was small, but no smaller than usual. He liked that. He could really mesh with the audience. The band's equipment wouldn't take up too much room. Hopefully they wouldn't ask to sit in. He like to be the lone person on stage. Once he was satisfied with the setup, he went back to his car. He had been driving all day and the sleep would be nice. He always had a hard time sleeping after shows. He needed to drive out of town and find just the right spot to park. Then there was his nightly ritual. He plopped down on the back seat and fell asleep, his hat over his eyes.