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Helen plans a big splash


“By all means, baby, eat in peace,” Helen St. James said when Keith complained about the interruption. “By all means.” And whisked everybody out of the dining room. Keith thought on it a hot minute, then shelved the idea of singing, polishing off what was left of his breakfast. Then, went to the hotel, packed, and caught a puddle-jumper back to Minneapolis. For a brief meet with Jeff Christensen, who lived in Stillwater, was recording there, and had called and asked Keith to back him up. Continue Reading →

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Mensah out, Yohannes in

His wake-up call came at nine on the nose. He was up and in the shower a few minutes later. Turned out, Helen and company — she’d got Yohannes Tona to sign on for a week and a half — were going north to Duluth, then Canada. He was tempted to stay on, but took a pass. It was just too important, right now, to handle things on the home front. In the hotel dining room, he sat down to a nice plate of eggs over easy, bacon and grits with toast and a pitcher of coffee. Reading the NY Times. Looked up and who should be sashaying out of the elevator but her ladyship of the hour, the illustrious Ms. St. James. Magnificently strutting across the carpet. Coming up behind, seriously hung over, Sam and Luis converged on the buffet. Shortly, everyone was at Keith’s table. Mensah’s goose, Helen had decided, was cooked. With dressing. Bad enough he’d been stupid enough to stand around toking up on the sidewalk. But getting caught with coke? Continue Reading →

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A toast to changing spots

There was no convincing the kid that watching the great Helen St. James work had been mostly boring. “Oh, no it wasn’t,” she said with a smile. “Trust me.”

“Come on.”

“Smitty, listen…”

“What did you just call me?”

For some reason, it seemed to fit. “Smitty, you’ll find out, believe me.  Ain’t none of this nearly as exciting as it looks from the outside. Continue Reading →

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Keith a singing movie star?

He’d caught a catnap on the flight from the Twin Cities. Middle of the afternoon, filming in Chicago at Rosa’s Lounge, Keith sat at the bar wondering just how much longer it’d take. He’d never quite got used to the hurry-up-and-wait of making a movie. Even the tech crew, who were all accustomed to this kind of thing, clearly were bored to their bones. He finished thumbing through the local edition of the New York Times, absently humming Bobby Womack’s “Facts of Life.” Sipped at his drink. Continue Reading →

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The show must go on

Hey, Helen!” Keith hollered across the stage. “You ain’t gon’ b’lieve this!” She was on the stage scanning the surroundings, taking a breather. And idly responded, “Yeah, yeah, what?”

“Your boy just got arrested.”

Helen gave him an ugly look. “What’re you talking about?”

“Cop got Mensah.” He went over and picked up the half-can of beer he’d left sitting around. “What!?”

“Go outside and see for yourself.”

Which she did. Continue Reading →

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Lesli and Keith get back to their lives — with a twist

When Lesli dropped that “Just decided to keep it” bomb, Keith couldn’t believe she hadn’t at least talked with him before making up her mind. And told her so. On the one hand, yes, it’s her body. On the other, that was him in there, too. He glared out the window. “Don’t sulk.”

“Ain’t sulkin’.”

“Are so. You’re angry because I didn’t consult you before coming to a conclusion. And I don’t blame you. Sue me. I should’ve said something and, for once, kept my opinion to myself.”

“Picked a hell of a time to do that.”

“You didn’t want me to —” She leaned close, so the driver wouldn’t hear. “You didn’t want me to have an abortion, did you?”

“Hell no!” At that the driver did glance at them in his mirror. She nestled close. “Good.”

This woman, he thought, is going to drive me off a cliff. They got to the station and, even out here, someone recognized him. A pretty little strawberry blonde, probably about 16, sat with what likely were her parents and older brother. Gawking. Then walked over in something that resembled a trance. Keith and Lesli were trying to figure out when they would next see each other when Lesli noticed the girl. Standing a few feet away. Continue Reading →

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