By Ronnie Roberts
- Darlene -
3:00 PM, she reached across her night stand and slapped the alarm into silence. She sat up on the side of her bed and could smell the aroma of coffee and egg McMuffins drifting around her room. She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and pulled on her favorite pajama shirt. She got up and looked into her full length mirror; little kitties on her matching top and bottom staring back at her.
With some displeasure she finger-combed through her hair and plucked out any incoming grey’s before she headed downstairs. “Morning, mama,” Darlene said in her gravely morning voice; she remembered a time when she used to be able to sing as soon as she woke up. “Thanks for picking up breakfast.”
Her mother smiled her tired smile behind her thick glasses, “I was just about to come wake you up, sweetie. I wouldn’t want you to be late.”
“Mom, I don’t have to work until eight tonight,” Darlene said with some annoyance.
“I know, I know,” her mother said, smiling sweetly, “I just didn’t want you getting in trouble again at work.”
“Mom,” Darlene snapped back, shaking her head, “I’m 41 years old, I don’t need you to baby me!”
“Your right. I’m sorry dear, eat your breakfast, I just warmed it up in the microwave.”
Darlene smiled, despite herself, “Thanks. Mom, did you happen to wash my Hawaiin shirt? I was going to wear it and my leather pants tonight for karaoke.”
“Of course, honey,” she replied, “we wouldn’t want our little DJ looking silly at work tonight.”
“KJ, mom. Karaoke.” She shook her head and hoped she’d never be that uncool.
- Walt -
Walt smiled at himself in the mirror as he ran a comb through his hair. He had been donning this same haircut for the last thirty years. Should the need ever arise, he was sure he could comb his hair and trim his sideburns in the dark and underwater.
He sang “Suspicious Minds” to himself (and anyone lucky enough to enter the restroom at that time) while ensuring that all of his rings were just so. He loved those rings; they represented some fourteen months salary over the course of his life. He truly had spared no expense.
He raised the right half of his upper lip, shook his legs back and forth in a spot-on Elvis and went back to the bar.
He sat back down at his usual seat at the bar and flagged down Rosie. She poured him a heavy Coca-Cola and rum (Rosie had always poured heavier for him than the others). He flashed her a winning smile and sipped the concoction. He finished it quickly, Coca-Cola being the drink of choice of the King, and turned to watch these poor saps who didn’t know he was about to blow them out of the water.
Fifteen minutes and a drink or two later, the KJ came over the speakers, “Next up we have Walt for his third song of the evening singing Burning Love.”
Walt stood under the lights and worked the crowd a bit. He could tell by the looks that the women in the crowd loved him. They always had; the appeal of the King never dies.
He danced and sang his way through “Burning Love” while continuing the work the crowd. Once the song ended, the place exploded with applause. He smiled at the girl in the front he had wrapped his arms around while singing the chorus. She gave him a sly smile and tucked an errant strand of hair back behind her ear and returned to talking with her friends.
The King put in another song and exited the stage.
- Monica -
Monica frowned and look into her almost empty box of cigarettes; they had been here for 40 minutes and she was already on her fourth smoke break. “My coworker is really nice,” Misty had said, “you’ll really like him,” she kept telling her, “he’s really cute and a great singer”.
“Bullshit,” she muttered to herself as she rubbed out the butt under her boot, “should have known that a karaoke blind date was a terrible idea.” She braced herself and opened the patio door as the sound of Ben’s awful fucking rendition of Piano Man washed over her.
As Monica marched to the bar, on a mission to end the evening as soon as possible, she couldn’t help but notice the lonely girl in red sitting in the back; all dressed up and alone. Monica waved down the bartender and shouted “whiskey, straight” across the bar. While she waited for the stout man to pour her drink, she watched the girl in the red stare a hole in the head of some young kid wolfing down one of those disgusting egg things.
“That’ll be $5.50, sweetheart” the bartender said as he slid the glass to her.
“Monica,” she said bluntly as Ben bowed to some polite applause. Monica gritted her teeth and handed the bartender a twenty, “make it two drinks.”
The bartender poured her a second drink and turned around fumbling with the ancient register for a bit and turned back around with the change. As she was already gone, he picked up her empty and pocketed the cash with a satisfied shrug.
On her way back to Ben, Monica laid the whiskey on the table red was sitting at. “Trust me,” she said without turning to look at the young girl, “you’re better off alone.”
- Peter -
He hadn’t really wanted to, but Peter’s coworkers had convinced him to come to Nineteen Pages that night for some karaoke. He had initially passed on the offer, but found that his schedule had cleared when he heard that Brittney would be joining them. As luck had it, he had ended up catching a ride with Brittney; the night had started off on a really good note. That all ended though when she had bet him he wouldn’t eat one of those disgusting pickled eggs behind the counter.
He had been nervous, but after seeing that really drunk guy in the Elvis getup eat three of them, he figured he would be OK. He ordered one and washed it down with the darkest beer they had on tap.
He and Brittney had chatted for thirty minutes before the bubble-guts set in. Embarrassed, he excused himself to “make a quick phone call”. He ducked around the corner, found the nearest open stall, not even noticing that it didn’t even have a door on it. He was in a mad rush against time, fumbling so furiously with his belt buckle that he actually broke the belt. Were it not for the halfway decent rendition of Piano Man to drown him out, the whole bar would have been treated to a torrent of pained expletives and various unspeakable bodily noises.
He had been in there for thirty seconds, crippled with stomach cramps when the Elvis impersonator stumbled his way into the bathroom and began drunkenly coming his matted Pompadour. Normally, he would have made it a point to courtesy flush, but he didn’t have the strength. Surprisingly, though really not at all surprising, the man didn’t even seem to notice him. Even at the worst of times, he never broke the beat of his half incomprehensible song.
Fifteen minutes later, Peter staggered back into the bar and reclaimed his seat at the table. He pretended not to notice the snickers while he tried to explain over the music that his mom was having PC trouble. Before he finished explaining himself, the Elvis impersonator stumbled his way up to the stage, nearly knocking over their table on the way.
They all watched the man struggle to stand at the microphone as though they were witnessing a train wreck. He slurred out a few words and accidentally belched into the mic as the music started. About half way through what felt like a thirteen hour rendition of Burning Love, he half dances and half fell off the stage, and then walked over to their table. He leaned down and wrapped his arms around Brittney, shoving the mic into her face. Brittney awkwardly sang along as Peter struggled not race back to the bathroom when he smelled the rotten pickled eggs on his breath.
When they finally left, they had barely said a word the whole car ride. When she dropped Peter off, he muttered a thanks and goodbye under his breath and closed the door behind him.
He didn’t talk to her again for nearly a year after that.
- Leslie -
It wass 4:45. She wouldn’t be off work for fifteen minutes and the EPA had already setup a protected animal reserve for all of the butterflies in her stomach. She glanced up and the giant red circle on her calendar sent a shiver down her spine. February 15th, she had marked it, and with red pen! A red pen is a commitment to oneself; it was the engagement ring of personal reminders.
For the last six weeks she had scoured the Internet in search of one thing: the perfect song. She needed one that was within her range, was a crowd pleaser, and that she ultimately enjoyed. She had been through so many YouTube videos that Eric from IT had come to explain to her that she was being watched for using too much bandwidth.
Last week she found what she was looking for and made sure it was the only song on her iPod. If her iTunes was to be believed, she had listened to the song 1583 times in the last week. If that didn’t make her ready for her moment, then nothing would.
At five o’clock sharp, she punched out and raced home. She forced herself to eat and then spent two hours singing to herself while picking out a dress. By the time she finally settled on her favorite red dress the upstairs neighbor finally started banging on the ceiling.
Once at the bar she found a small table in the corner and waited for her chance.
Thirty minutes later, “Next up, we have Leslie singing a cover of Behind Blue Eyes by Limp Bizkit.”
They called her name three more times. No one knew she was already on her way home; a full glass of whiskey on her table.