For those of you who didn’t see the Story Time Shorts request by ‘Lynner’ last week, here it is:
I love it! I suggest a romantic story about country singers. Who knows what goes on in those gigantic tour buses when they’re traveling the 50 states? The rivalries to get that CMA award? I mean c’mon we all know country men are the hottest .. ok I’m a huge fan of Blake and Luke (whew! is it just me or did it get hotter in here) ….and I’ve always loved Reba and Dolly and Loretta because I’m a coal miner’s daughter as well 😉
Anyway good luck to you!
My first thought was, “There’s no way I can get all of this in a short story!” But then I realized if I changed one little thing I could. I could use the tour bus, traveling, the awards show, and the country singer. I even worked in the names Loretta and Luke, though not the ones you’re thinking of, I’m sure.
It’s a tad longer than the 500-1000 words I’d originally planned on, but I knew that was likely to happen, which is why I kinda/sorta upped that number to 2500. But here it is. I hope you’re pleased with the results, Lynner. 🙂
Photo credit: Morguefile
A Country Love Story
With parents and grandparents who lived and breathed country music, who played everything from oldies with enough twang to make the edges of my teeth vibrate, to contemporary songs you could hear on ‘normal’ radio stations, it’s no wonder I wound up being named after Momma’s favorite female singer, Loretta Lynn. However, as talented as the woman is, Loretta just wasn’t a cool name for a third-grader in 1995, so I’ve been going by ‘Etta’ since I was eight. It’s also no surprise, I suppose, that I wound up working in the country music industry.
Well … in a manner of speaking. Technically, I do, just not in the way most people think when I tell them who I work for.
And to make that very clear, I don’t sing. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy singing along with my favorite songs – none of which are country, by the way – but I can’t sing. Nope. I couldn’t carry a tune in the proverbial bucket.
So what do I do?
That’s easy. I’m the tour bus driver for Lucas McCoy. One lone little woman driving five big guitar-pickin’ men from coast-to-coast seven months out of the year. If that sounds a little weird to you, it’s not. The way they all treat me, I’m just another one of the guys. Like Les in that old Elvis movie, Spinout. Yeah, I’m a sucker for old movies, especially musicals.
Anyway, I’m just the driver, and the lucky person who gets to run all the errands and do all the shopping because people don’t recognize me. And why would they? I’m not standing on the stage night after night singing and playing my heart out at fairs and concert halls in every state of the Union.
Not this week though. We’re headed back to Nashville from Nevada for the big awards ceremony in the industry. Lucas – Luke – has been nominated in three categories, and for a change, it looks like he has a good chance to win at least one of them. He’s been pretty much bouncing off the walls since his manger called to let him know. I can’t blame him though. Since his first single was released a little less than three years ago, he’s secretly harbored a hope that he’d be nominated for Male Country Artist of the Year. He’s finally getting his wish.
You might be wondering how it is I know this? The answer is quite simple, really. I like driving at night. There’s less traffic because most people are home in bed. So are the guys. They’re usually pumped for an hour or two after most concerts, then one by one, they start dozing off. And frankly, not being a country music fan – at all – I prefer listening to their snoring rather than their practice sessions.
Except when it’s just Luke…
I don’t mind listening to him as he works out the lyrics for new songs long after the members of his band have headed off to dreamland. His voice soothes and relaxes me, but it never takes long before he gets bored. Then he’ll come up to sit in the passenger seat everyone else ignores. The seat they’ve ignored for the entire time I’ve been driving for them. The one next to the driver’s seat.
As in right beside me.
Close enough that it wouldn’t take much to reach out and touch him. Not that I would, tempting as the thought might be sometimes. I value my job too much to let an ill-fated crush get out of hand. For one thing, the money is great. For another, so are the benefits – the main one being the talks we have most nights after everyone else has fallen asleep.
I can see in the rearview mirror that he’s making his way to the front of the bus again and I try to calm my racing heart. I’m as bad as a lovesick teenager – or a star struck fan. Except I actually know the guy. Everyone else I deal with on a daily basis treats me like I’m part of the background. I’m the wallpaper or cobwebs, or all of the other things you don’t notice unless someone points them out. Just the bus driver and gopher (as in go-for this or go-for that for those of you who don’t get it).
But Luke sees me. He always has. And we always have these great discussions about everything from politics, to who will win the Super Bowl (like I care), to the best ice cream and southern side dishes.
When my grandpa had bypass surgery last summer, Luke was always asking after his health and letting me know I could have some time off if I ever needed it. I’d have worried he was trying to get rid of me except every time he offered, he promised my job would be here – for as long as I wanted it. And one thing about Luke, to quote my Great-Grandma Jean – and about ten-thousand other people in the world, “he’s as honest as the day is long.”
So yeah, I guess you could say I know Lucas McCoy a little better than most people.
“I wonder if this storm is ever going to let up,” he says, folding himself into the seat beside me and buckling his safety belt.
“After almost two full states of this, I’m beginning to wonder about that myself.”
We’ve been driving through everything from light sprinkles to a blinding downpour so heavy I had to pull over and wait it out just this side of Little Rock a few hours ago. It kind of reminds me of that one cartoon character – I can’t remember the guy’s name, but you know the one I’m talking about. A raincloud follows him everywhere he goes. Well this one’s been following us for what feels like forever.
“I hope it’s gone tomorrow night, or there are going to be a lot of unhappy singers. Can you imagine what this might do to all the ladies fancy dresses and hairstyles?”
I liked the sound of his quiet chuckle as he thought about it, but everyone knows if that happens, some sort of awning will be put up. The limos will let them out at the end and no one will get so much as a single drop of rain on them. Nashville knows how to treat their celebrities. Of course, their special treatment has nothing to do with the fact that scores of photographers will be there snapping pictures for their magazines, television shows, and newspapers. Yeah, right.
“Last time I checked, it looks like it’ll be over the east coast by late tomorrow morning, so I think ya’ll will be safe.” He snickers again when I throw ya’ll in there. He always does. Born and raised in Milwaukee, I don’t have an accent like people in the rest of the country, but I like some of the southern sayings, and ya’ll happens to be one of them.
We ride in companionable silence for the next few miles, until I hear Luke clear his throat. Then he clears it again and I hope he’s not coming down with something. In addition to the nominations, he’s also presenting an award for Favorite Single of the Year.
“You know,” he says, and it sounds like his voice might be shaking a little bit. “I’ve never actually taken anyone to an awards show before. I was thinking maybe it’s time I changed that.”
Great. He’s met someone. Not only that, he obviously knows about my crush and is trying to break it to me gently.
“Yeah, most people do take dates and such to them. It’s probably a good idea if you do too.” I hope I got that out with enough nonchalance to hide the fact that my heart feels like it’s just been crushed.
“I was hoping you felt that way.” He clears his throat yet again. “So- Do you think you might want to go with me? I mean, don’t feel like you have to say yes. Your job won’t be in jeopardy if you don’t want to, but I just thought it would be nice, you know.”
“What? You want to take me?” I manage to squeak out as I try to remember how to breathe. Did he just ask me on a- No. No, that’s not what this is all about. It can’t be.
“If you’d like to go, yes I would. Very much.”
“I – don’t have anything to wear.”
“We’ll be there before noon. There’s plenty of time to shop for something. I can rent a car and take you to a couple of boutiques around town. Then I was thinking – maybe, we could go to supper before the show?”
Any oxygen I’ve managed to suck back into my lungs seeps out like the air from a balloon with a slow leak.
I glance over at Luke, who’s smiling at me. And not just smiling, but smiling at me in a way I’ve imagined he might for three long years. He reaches out and strokes my cheek with the tips of his fingers, and I feel like a bolt of lightning just whizzed through every vein and artery in my body.
“Say yes, Etta. Please?” he whispers.
“Yes,” I manage to whisper back.
“Jeez, it’s about time,” Alan, one of the backup singers, mutters from the back of the bus.
“He finally ask her out, did he?” George, the steel guitar player, asks, sounding groggy.
“Yeah he did.”
“Thank God,” the keyboardist, Merle, sighs. “Maybe he’ll start writing love songs again. I was getting tired of all that heart-broke crap.” I glance at Luke to see if he’s sorry he asked me to the awards show now, but he’s still smiling that beautiful smile as he says, loud enough for everyone to hear,
“Yeah. No more heart-broke songs for me.”
The sun peeks over the horizon and I see a rainbow begin to form over the road we’re traveling on. Everyone who knows anything about science knows it happens because the light reflects off the raindrops at just the right angle. Or is that’s what’s happening now? I prefer to think it’s a sign. A good one.
“Do you see that?” Luke asks, dropping his hand from my cheek – but only to take one of my hands in his. I can only nod as he brings it to his lips.