In all his years in the business, for all the traveling it required, he’d never got quite used to flying. It amazed him, in a scary way, when these monstrous machines got off the ground and kept right on going.
In the airport bar, Lesli had tried to explain the physics of an airplane getting off the ground and was amused, when she got done, that he was just as confused as when she started. He’d given up trying to figure it out, tossed back the last of his drink and flatly stated, “Aerodynamics my Aunt Fanny.”
She’d chuckled, finishing off hers. He flagged down the waiter for another round and decided he didn’t give a flying figure-eight how airplanes worked as long as they did and could get him to work. Her smile had waned as she’d rattled the ice in the bottom of her glass, then gave a speculative look through the window at the airfield.
He knew he was nuts about her. And that she liked him. Keith couldn’t help but wonder if she felt any stronger for him than that.
The drinks came in short order. “Are you,” the waiter had asked, “somebody famous?”
“Huh?” Keith responded.
“Some people over there asked me if it would be okay if they asked for your autograph.”
“Get the—.” Then it had occurred to him: Some music buff had caught him either on television or backing somebody up on tour. Didn’t happen often, but, it did happen. “Yeah, sure.”
“Who are you?” the waiter had pressed.
“Nobody.” With which he’d looked at Lesli and shrugged.
She chuckled again as the waiter went away. “Nobody, huh? They want Nobody’s autograph?”
“Probably music students.”
Toying with her rum-and-coke, moving the ice around with the stirrer, she’d looked from the drink to him. “When do y’ think we’ll see each other again?”
“Not soon enough, lady.”
“I don’t have that many opportunities to go East. Or reasons.” She’d nestled her legs between his under the table. “Before.”
He took her hand, lacing his fingers through hers. Lesli continued, “I’m not so sure I wanna wait ’til you have another movie to do. Or Broadway tour. Or recording session. Until I can get my hands on you.” She’d winked.
“We’ll work something out. When’s your next vacation?”
Her fingers stopped playing with his and her face froze in a blank look. “I haven’t the foggiest idea. Haven’t—.” She’d grinned at him with a self-deprecating smile. “Baby, I haven’t bothered with a vacation in about two years.”
“Well then, I guess you’re overdue.”
“I’ll say.” The waiter had materialized with three youngsters — the oldest couldn’t’ve been more than 20 — in tow. Sure enough, they studied at a Westchester conservatory, flying back from an international competition. This he’d learned from the breathless, wide-eyed White boy who kept staring at Keith’s fingers. Turned out he was a guitarist. The young, light-skinned, Black cat with a short ’Fro and comically serious demeanor had volunteered, “We listened to you on Red Calloway’s album and Sheila Rush, her album.”
The third student strolled up, relaxed. One thing Keith always could figure out was someone’s ethnicity, especially if the someone was female. With this one, though, he was having a hard time. The only thing he could certainly tell is that she wasn’t White. Not all the way, anyhow.
She’d stopped a sensible distance away while the other two had hunched almost close as they could get without sitting in Keith and Lesli’s laps. She looked at the other two standing just behind him. “I pointed him out,” she’d said. “Otherwise neither of you would’ve known he was in the same room.”
They’d turned and fairly shrank before her gaze. She’d nodded over his shoulder for them to back up, and they sheepishly stepped aside.
“Hi, Mr. Jackson,” she’d said pleasantly with a nice smile. “I’m Samantha.” With which she thrust out her hand.
This kid, Keith had mused with an admiring smile in return, is a piece of work. He still couldn’t figure for sure how much of what she was mixed with, but one thing for sure: He could see in his peripheral vision that Lesli seemed to instantly dislike the girl.
He shook Samantha’s hand, then signed napkins for all three before turning back to Lesli. The kids took the hint. As they left, Samantha had called over her shoulder, “Mr. Jackson, would you be willing to listen to a demo?”
“Why not?” Lesli hadn’t liked that either.
Samantha came back over. “Where should I send it?” When he told her his address, Lesli had shot him an evil look.
“Thank you,” Samantha had said, quite simply, and strode off.
“What,” Lesli had wanted to know, “is she going to send you a demo for?”
He’d shrugged. “Doesn’t much matter. She’ll send it, I’ll give it a listen and, if it’s worthwhile, see who I can pass it along to.”
“Networking.” She’d seemed skeptical.
“Well, if you say.” His flight finally was announced. Keith fairly sprang to his feet, Lesli slowly rising. And giving him a great big hug and a sloppy wet kiss.
He’d walked away in a complete daze. Then found himself, several sheets to the wind, looking out the window, thinking about her.
Next week: Lesli’s reach extends all the way back to New York
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.