Kisa’s message takes Keith back in time to a road tour and London…


Keith woke surprisingly refreshed. Hopped out of bed, went straight to make coffee, promising himself that soon as he was thoroughly conscious, he’d call Lesli. And be careful not to mess up.

There were two messages on his voicemail. One from the cleaner reminding him for a third time to come get his clothes. And one from Kisa: “Keith, call me. At home.” And left her number.

He stopped still. Even while Lesli’d been with him, there’d been  something in the back of his mind about Kisa that wouldn’t go away. Was he the kind of man who cheated on his woman, it would’ve damn sure been with Kisa Mathews and her fine, intelligent, wittily articulate self. He weighed calling Lesli in one hand, calling Kisa in the other.

They’d met ages ago on tour. His agent had talked him into signing on for the opening leg — six weeks of it anyway, Keith seldom spending more time than that on the road — of Phantom of the Opera launching in London. Six weeks of lousy weather, worse food, and fantastic television shows.

He’d clock out at the theater, head back to the hotel, maybe get a cheeseburger and a beer from room service. The pubs always got the beer right but could never cook a decent burger. One night, he met her. In the lobby.

Keith’d dragged himself in on a Saturday after having played the matinee and evening show with an 11 o’clock call for more of the same double-duty tomorrow, except an hour earlier because it would be Sunday. He couldn’t wait for Monday to get here. Beat to his socks, plodding to the elevator, he’d happened to look around and see, sitting at the bar, in one impossibly gorgeous face a pair of brightly intriguing eyes giving him a very wet look.

The woman put him in mind of, say, a dark-skinned Whitney Houston. Coal black. Pretty as hell, slim without being all the way skinny — some heft to her hips. Probably one very expensive hooker, he’d thought. Though, when they got expensive enough to hang out at this hotel, they weren’t hookers. They were ladies of the evening.

Either way, he gave it some serious thought before deciding to pass. He returned a half-assed smile and kept going. Man, anytime you didn’t want someone that hot, you truly needed to get a good night’s sleep.

She’d called after him. “You’re Keith Jackson, aren’t you?”

He stopped, wondering who the hell would know his name at all this far from home. Much less recognize him? He turned. “Uh…yeah.”

“Buy you a round. You sure look like you could use it.”

He managed a grin. She waved him over, then signaled to the bartender. Turned out Kisa Mathews was with the tour. Head assistant to the production stage manager. And, of course, had a dossier on everybody connected to the show.

She’d been poring over production notes on a legal pad, using two pens, one black, one red, while consulting a folder with the show’s logo on it. Instead of wearing something like jeans and a show-logo sweatshirt as one would expect of a road staff, she wore a sharp pants suit over a blouse with a sensible, but nonetheless awesomely plunging neck line.

She’d had a meeting with her boss and some of the execs, was kicking back at the bar to make some notes and then head up to her room. She was glad to take a break. “Quite honestly”, she’d said, still giving him that glistening gaze, “When I saw you come in the door, I had to say something to the guy my boss said they moved heaven and hell to hire for this gig. Do you have any idea, by the way, how pissed the producers still are that your agent won’t commit to a length of the run contract? Or at least a few months?”  She closed her materials and stood. “Let’s get a table.”

They’d sat, the waiter came over, Keith ordered a drink. “Everybody else in the pit is doing three, four months and longer,” Kisa continued. “Very glad to get this kind of payday.”

“Yeah, well, good for them. I’ve never been much for staying out on the road. Didn’t really want to leave New York in the first place.”

“Got a girl back home?”

He’d shrugged. “Got a couple of ’em. But that’s not why. I just like the town. And there’s work, there, too. I’m booked solid the rest of year.”

“That a fact?” She raised her glass in a toast.

“That’s a fact.” They clinked glasses.


Next week: Where did this chance encounter lead? 

Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403. 


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