Luis stands by his friend

Keith-&-LesliWhen Lesli said she still loved him, Keith threw in the towel. “I still love you, too.”

Luis’ jaw fell open knowing there could only be one woman in whole world on the other end of that line. He fixed him a drink and fixed one for Keith.

Who said to her, “You got a lot of explaining to do. You know that, don’t you? And lady, I’m not bluffing. I’ll need to like what I hear.”

“You will. Well, you’ll understand it, anyway. I hope.”

“Yeah, I hope so, too.”

Lesli evidently decided not to push her luck. “I’m staying with Mom and Dad a few days. Call me, here?”

“Yeah, babe. I’ll call you there. Tell ‘em I said ‘Hi’.”

“I will. Love y’.”

“Love y’.” And got off the phone.

Luis raised his glass in a toast. “So, that’s good news. Here’s to getting back with your lady.”

Keith raised his. And sarcastically said, “Yeah, here’s to it. Man, there should be my picture in the dictionary. Right alongside the definition of sucker.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself.” To lighten the mood, he threw in, “I mean, yeah, you gettin’ led by the nose. But, shoot. Look at whose leadin’ you. Know how many guys would stand in line to get led by that woman?”

Keith cracked up, nearly spilling his drink and completely catching Butch and Sundance off guard. They hopped down and scrambled back to the corner.

God, he’d needed that. He still was way off-kilter but did feel better. Luis might be the devil himself when he wanted to be. But only a good friend would’ve picked his spirits up like Luis just did. “What’d she say, man?”

“Not much. She’s sorry, wants to see me. Wants to do it right this time.”

“That’s a lot.”

“Yeah, I guess.” He scowled. “She got lousy timing, tell y’ that much.”

“How so?”

“You know how many fine women fans I expected to meet on this gig?”  Luis cracked up and did spill his drink. Part of it, anyway. They clinked glasses and sat back to finish watching Richard Pryor. Butch and Sundance looking for something to get into.

Keith still wondering had just happened. His nervous system seemed to shut down out of shock, sheer overload. As he slipped straight off to sleep.

Several more hours later, Luis shook him. “Game time!”

Keith brushed Butch and Sundance off his chest and sat up. First wondering where they were. Then remembering Lesli was, out of nowhere, back in his life. Never really had left. Wanted himself a good strong drink.

They stepped off the bus — this was Philadelphia at Club 700 — went in and were shown to the dressing room. Then did a sound check and quick rehearsal. “You know,” Sam asked, getting up from her piano and going for a beer, “why do we have to rehearse so much?  Every time we do a sound check, we rehearse.”

Keith was not in the mood. Still reeling from the phone conversation, on top of that still adjusting to travel and not particularly feeling like being challenged by someone with less than half his experience. “Sam,” he quietly said and glared a bit harder than he meant to. “Not now.”

“I just—” Luis gave her a wave that silenced her. “Okay, we’ll talk about it later.”

“Thanks, Sam.” She was lucky he hadn’t said, ‘We’ll rehearse as much as I say we will because I say it, and if you don’t like it, get out.’ He was, he realized, lucky he hadn’t said that, too. No percentage in it.


Next week: Louis being Louis, Sam being Sam

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