Another setback keeps Keith on the road

Keith-&-LesliKeith wanted nothing so much as to get back home. That, though, was not to be the case.

Jessica flagged him down as he crossed the lobby. “Mr. Jackson, there’s a message here for you marked urgent.”

“Thanks.” He took the piece of paper from her, stuffed it in his pocket and went up. Starting to pack, beginning with his beloved shaving kit, he saw the telephone’s message light blinking. Between that and the piece of paper, somebody sure wanted to get his attention. Maybe it was Les. Wrong.

He listened to the voicemail: “Hey, Keith, sweetie.” Before he heard another word, he already was unhappy. It was Helen, and he knew very well by the way she was buttering him up that she was calling him back to work.

Well, he wasn’t going. If the guitarist from Duluth didn’t come through, well, them’s the biscuits, baby. The directory is full of musicians — pick one. “We need you. I need you.”

“Horse manure,” he absently said to thin air.

And sat, listening to the rest. “You have to catch a red-eye soon as you get this. And be back on set in the morning. Please, call me back.” After a breath, she added. “This comes straight from Al. From Alena. I love you.”

He slammed the receiver down. Bad as he had to get home to Lesli, duty called. Well, more to the point, a pint-sized pretty with more power than the law should allow — Helen didn’t run errands for just anybody — called. If he turned his friend down, she’d be hurt but would understand and eventually forgive him. Sheridan, though — when she said jump, you asked how high.

His first instinct had always been to avoid her as much as possible. Well, much as possible wasn’t enough. And it didn’t take Einstein to suspect she had more of an investment in this film than as casting director. Probably her own money sunk in it. If he wanted to get any more decent work in life, he’d better take this job.

Keith didn’t bother checking with the airline. There’d be a ticket waiting. He did call home. The voicemail picked up and he put the receiver back down. Then he called down and asked Jessica to please call him a cab. And went back to packing. He’d fly to New York from Chicago. Had only come back, anyway, to get in some thinking time.

Getaway plans completely shot, seeing to it everything was straight with the lady in his life postponed, he was in no sweet mood or frame of mind. He wanted to carve Sheridan’s heart out. With a rusty butter knife. And wasn’t feeling real charitable once he got there and found out why.

Sheridan had pulled her own power play, forcing him to fall in line. To record and videotape. It would be more trouble than it was worth to not join the band.

He wanted to talk to his woman. She had a way of making the world go away when she sat across the table with that warmhearted smirk she characteristically wore.  And said something like, “Baby, life can drive you only so crazy as you let it.” Then with a wink, “Old Chinese proverb.”

Next week: Things with Lesli’ll be fine — he hopes.

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