Keith enjoys an evening of Zsamé

Keith-&-LesliKeith had always known New York wasn’t really Lesli’s kind of town. So far as he thought, it was a case of the other shoe dropping. She had, he guessed, got over the mystique. After all, once you got down to it, unless you enjoyed getting up in the morning, hitting the ground at 90 miles an hour, then picking up speed, it wasn’t anybody’s kind of town.

If she was more comfortable moving back West, he was cool with tagging along. Sure, most of his work was here. So? He could live with switching that workload to Los Angeles, a transition to which Scott would handily tend. There was no way, though, Keith was ever going to root for the Dodgers.

What bothered him was how she got off the phone. That just wouldn’t go away. Refused to let him be.

Keith, as a habit, solved women problems — was there really any other kind? — by throwing himself into work, letting it process, and then, nine times out of 10, telling whoever it was to take a walk. Lesli, it went without saying, was the tenth time.

Good luck telling this woman to take a walk. She’d driven him to complete distraction during the breakup. Throwing himself into work had worked then. Reasonably well, anyway.

Just his luck, he didn’t have any work at hand to throw himself into. Not for another week. So, all he could do was sit and stew.

Scott called: “When are you going to stop giving Wendy a hard time?”

“When it stops bein’ fun.”

“Whaddya want?”

“Zsamé Morgan is at Sorcerer’s and ain’t no tickets left. Hook me up.”

“Done. Anything else?”

“Nope.”

“Okay, see you when you get back to town.”

“Yep.” They rang off. He hopped in the shower and couldn’t wait to catch him some Zsamé. She sang like a cross between Sade and Aretha Franklin and was gorgeous: pretty as a picture, thick as a brick. He would love to someday get called in to sub for her guitarist.

He shaved, splashed on some Aramis and got dressed. Or what passed for getting dressed — sneakers, jeans and a shirt. Before remembering nightclubs insisted patrons wear shoes.

Called the front desk. “Yes, Mr. Jackson?” Jessica in reception fit the universal hotel profile to a tee: polite, efficient, and put pretty to shame.

“Where can I go and buy a pair of shoes?”

“My first guess would be a shoe store.” Keith smiled: She was also a natural-born smart aleck but quite sensibly didn’t share that side of her personality with every guest. She gave him the name of a nearby shop. He thanked her, rang off and jotted the note. It was roughly an hour to show time.

He went and after trying on several styles settled on a pair of loafers. Switched into them and dropped his sneaks in a Goodwill box. Was of a mind to have his staple, a burnt cheeseburger with a side of fries and coleslaw with pickle, all washed down with a Coke. Went to the club, sat down and asked for exactly that. Oddly, the wait staff treated him like royalty. He looked around. Wasn’t nobody else getting special treatment. It occurred to Keith they were responding to his having pulled strings. Okay, he joked to himself, if I’m lucky, this includes being invited backstage to meet Zsamé.

He was not lucky. He did, however, have a ball not only getting in but sitting in the VIP section, drinks and dinner comped. And sat ecstatically entranced by Zsamé Morgan on stage. If Lesli had a problem with Helen and the kid, she’d lose her mind watching him watch Zsamé. He seriously considered poisoning her guitarist’s food.

She closed her set covering “Another Sad Love Song” and hit the high note in the bridge so hard, keening straight into the stratosphere, the note should’ve hit her back. As she took her bow, the crowd stood and clapped. Keith’s night was off to a very good start.

Next week: Keith tries to distract himself from his worries.

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