Keith turns down a tempting invitation


Keith let the shower water pour over him, pleasantly jolting his bourbon-soaked brain into a reasonable semblance of awareness. As the spray washed away the rest of his hangover along with last night’s funk, his thoughts gathered his memories into something close to clarity.

By the time Helen had turned around and got back to town, Keith had been working on another project. He’d held onto the guys, and they’d all given the kid Samantha a hand getting her own act together. That also was going fine. Just a couple days ago they’d knocked off, at the same rehearsal hall, after a good, strong run-through of about half of her set list before calling it a day.

They’d be going back into the hall on Thursday to tighten up the other half of her set. And, he’d decided, add a couple songs. This would be her recording debut as an artist and his as an A&R man. He wanted it to shine for himself as well as for her.

Accordingly, solid a body of work as Samantha had, sales would be all the stronger with a hit or two on the album. Okay, fine, that’s easy enough to say, but how to do it? You don’t just go to the supermarket, pick a chart-topper off the shelf, and go home with it neatly tucked under your arm.

They’d start recording in a week, so this would be a good time to talk to her about adding material. As he was drying off, a light bulb went off over Keith’s head: “Got it!” He hopped into some fairly fresh jeans, a light N.Y. Mets sweatshirt, stepped into his slippers, went to his desk and rang her.

When she came on the line, he broached his idea: “There’s this tune you need to add if this project is going to make some real noise!”


“Ever hear of a Celine Dionne cut, “If There Was—?”

Smith laughed. “You’re kidding, right? What am I all of a sudden? A Las Vegas lounge act? What makes you think in your right mind that I’m going to cover Celine flippin’ Dionne? On my very first CD?”

Keith frowned, drumming his fingernails on the desk. She’d instantly soured his mood. Because, he considered saying, you’re not spending a damned dime on this thing, and since I am, you’re going to sing the damned song.

He took a minute, then said, “Sam, look. I’ve got a copy of her album with that cut laying around here somewhere. I’ll find it, courier it to you tomorrow. Before you turn it down, at least give it a listen. Can I get that?”

He’d wanted to say, “What you’re going to do is listen to the song and learn it.” And, if it eventually came down to it, those would be his exact words.

After a moment, Samantha answered, “Yeah, sure.”

“Cool.” Keith was about to hang up when she asked, “You know Alena Sheridan?”

“Only to nod to.” THE Alena Sheridan with a capital THE. One of the more powerful casting directors. More juice in both L.A. and New York than all the orange groves in Florida put together. Or, so it sure seemed.

If Sheridan said you worked, you praised the fates. If she said you didn’t, you cursed them and might as well keep driving a cab or waiting tables as a lifelong career. At least until she died. Keith deliberately kept himself at a distance from anyone with that much clout. “Why?”

“She’s throwing a bash this weekend. And I’ve been invited.”

“That a fact?”

“Well, indirectly. Mensah actually was invited. He invited me. And he doesn’t have any problem with me asking you along.” Mensah, bass player on the project. Also, the original dog. With fleas.

Quite honestly, Keith had seen it coming, her invitation. Not one like this, maybe. More a thinly veiled overture. Something on the order of, ‘Why don’t we get together to do so-and-so. Look over the music. Have dinner. Both.’ Nothing like this, though.

“Uh…Sam, do you know what kind of party Alena Sheridan throws?” To tell the truth, it was tempting. That is, to knock boots with this gorgeous, hot-bodied kid. Tempting as hell. And, to be honest, while he’d stayed clear of Sheridan and her storied, wildly libidinous doings, he had to admit to being curious. Not curious enough to find out, though.

“Yes, I’ve heard.”

“Well, I’ll pass.”

“Oh, come on. Don’t be a prude.”

“Look, Samantha, would you just listen to the song I send you? I’ll get off the phone and start working up an arrangement tailor-made for your voice.” He had no trouble envisioning the smile that likely spread across her face. “Later.”

“OK. Later, Keith.”

Returning the receiver to its cradle, he had to chuckle. Had Lesli the first idea how little he was attracted to this child, she’d see there was absolutely nothing about which to be jealous.


Next week: Samantha blows the gig

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