Guy maneuvered his Dodge Charger through the traffic of I-21 toward Bigburg. I-21 was often congested, and there never seemed to be any pattern or reason for the heavy traffic. Guy remembered leaving for a snowboard trip at 5 AM, confident he’d have smooth sailing. He had been delayed an hour and a quarter in crawling traffic for no reason he was ever able to determine. He quickly checked his look in the mirror; he had skipped his shower and headed straight to the TV station where he worked. He saw red eyes blinking back at him; bloodshot partly because of lack of sleep, partly because of the Taco Hole special salsa he had rubbed into them when he got the call from Jameson about half an hour before.
Guy’s mind was turning over and over. There were great things happening for his band, there were exciting possibilities for his team, and one good fortune threatened to nullify the other. The Flamefarts might soon play at some of the most prestigious spots around, and the Marauders had lucked into the playoffs. Guy was a planner, a strategizer, but every time he went over the situation in his head, he could only come up with one course of action: wait and see. Guy hated waiting to see. He preferred to act.
He had about a quarter mile to go before he reached his exit. His mind had been wandering, and he realized he had little time to cross three lanes of traffic to make his exit. In the lane to his right was an 18 wheeler that had been tentatively slowing and speeding up, as if the driver was not sure where he was headed. It seemed like every time Guy tried to slow down to get behind, the truck would slow down, and when Guy tried to speed up to pass, the truck would accelerate. Finally Guy saw a gap in front that he could just make it into. He stepped on the gas and deftly slipped into the next lane. The truck driver was evidently unhappy with Guy’s move; his horn blared.
Just as the truck driver’s horn blasted, Guy’s phone rang. This was a different ring tone. The phone was playing “Take My Butt to the Stars” by Randy Rank. “Holy crap!” Guy whispered hoarsely. He had set up that ring tone on his phone so he would know when Roger Pretentious was calling. He fumbled briefly through his jacket pocket, looking for his ear piece, and realized he had left it at home. He had to try to exit and pull over so he could take the call. This could be the call; the Flamefarts might be getting their chance to play The Spot. Guy clicked on his turn indicator, and glanced over his shoulder. He was glad he did, because a motorcyclist he hadn’t noticed was coming up very fast on his right. He waited for the bike to pass, and sailed across two lanes and made the exit ramp just in time. Once he was off the freeway, he pulled onto the shoulder and stopped, kicking up a cloud of dust. He jerked the phone to his ear. “Hello?” he said. Worried he sounded a little scared, he added, “Guy here.”
“Good morning to you, my lad!” Roger Pretentious sang on the other end. Pretentious liked to use British-sounding expressions. Guy figured it might be because Pretentious had spent a lot of time in England and Europe, but more likely it was because he was a poser trying to sound important. Either way, Roger Pretentious was a man with connections so Guy was obliged to play along.
“Are we rising early to catch the proverbial worm?” Pretentious crooned.
“On my way to work, so, I guess. Yeah.” Guy was never quite sure how to respond to Pretentious.
“Well I’ll just keep you for a wee moment, if you’re game. Have you a moment to chat?” Pretentious said.
“Sure, sure,” Guy said, allowing his hopefulness to register in his voice. “What’s up?”
“Well, I should say, my lad, you are up. You and your group. I’ve an opportunity I think you’ll find quite exciting.”
“That’s great news! Are we playing The Spot?” As Guy heard himself say this, he wondered if he should make more effort to conceal his enthusiasm.
“I say! You are quite keen on The Spot, now, aren’t you? No, I’m sorry to say, that is not what I’m calling about, although that is still an imminent possibility.”
Guy was confused and worried that this might be the beginning of a runaround. He had been given the runaround enough times to recognize it almost immediately. He had learned to spot the ones he shouldn’t waste any time with.
“Another club? You book bands in Pleebston too, right?” Guy pressed.
Pretentious laughed pretentiously. “Pleebston! No. But indeed, my proposition might involve travel for you and the Farts, if you’re interested.”
“Uh, we really like people to use the full name, Flamefarts.” Guy said quietly.
“One of the things I’ve admired about your little group is your versatility. You all are such multi-talented chaps. The guitarist with his fiery thing he does. And your stunning keyboardist. She is a wizard with audio, eh what?”
“Thanks, yeah. I’m lucky to work with great talents. But, uh…I am on my way to work…”
“Yes, yes!” Pretentious sang again. “I’d like to meet with you and discuss a different kind of a gig for you and the Flames…”
“Flamefarts,” Guy said.
“But it is going to be a bit difficult to enumerate the details. Can we meet at The Spot this evening? Say 7 PM? Oh, do say you’ll come.”
Guy was confused, hopeful, excited, and pressed for time. He hated that he had to play along with this Pretentious fellow, without knowing what the man was really about. But he was not going to miss opportunities, or burn any bridges.
“Ok, I’ll be there. It might be a little tight for me to get there by 7, so I’ll call if I’m running behind, ok?” Guy said, trying to assume a little control.
“Splendid! Jolly good.” Pretentious chortled.
“Ok. I’ll see you then, Roger,” Guy said. I’ll call the band and see if anyone else can come.”
“No, no,” said Pretentious, his voice sounding like he was trying weakly to be reassuring. “Just your lovely self will do.”
Guy wasn’t sure that he cared for the sound of that. But he resolved to play along, at least until he found out what all this was about.