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Detroit is kind of an ugly town, at least the parts of it I noticed, haphazardly burned out and deserted right in the midst of otherwise normal-looking cityscape. I suppose New York is similar, only New York is so crammed it makes for a different effect.

The inside of the music hall was about the same as anywhere else, though. After sound check we met a reporter from a local magazine or newspaper who didn’t have very many questions and looked to be more interested in the band who were opening for us, a local act that BNC was courting much the way they had courted us. Sound check was uneventful except for the way Bart flubbed the ending of “Why the Sky” and took off his bass and left the stage. I can’t describe it as storming off because he seemed neither angry nor in a hurry. Chris and Zig shrugged at each other and then Zig looked at me and said “Must have been something he ate.”

I didn’t go running after him–why?–Bart would tell me what he thought when he was ready to.

I was walking down the hall toward the men’s room when I ran into Digger, literally; our shoulders bounced off one another and we both said “ow” in the same voice. And then we were looking into each other’s eyes.

“Sorry,” I said.

“Hey, kiddo, that’s okay. Are you doing alright?” This time I heard what I would have to call fatherly concern in his voice.

“Yeah. Yeah, just a little tense.”

He looked over one shoulder, then the other, and then he crooked me a smile. “Ah, I seen it all before. At your age especially, kiddo. Let me tell you something. I know you’re trying hard to be real professional here, and do this right.”

“Uh huh.” I could not guess what he was driving at with this, so I tried to hang in with encouraging nods.

“Sure thing, I see it. She’s sweet, and I know she’s Remo’s friend’s daughter, but come on, boy, she’s been going to bed alone every night, by herself, you know? That girl has a huge sweet spot for you. I know I’m supposed to be speaking as a manager here, but just man to man, I really think you’d feel better if you’d quit being a pansy about this and give her what she wants.” His voice dropped low on those last three words as if they were too obscene to say aloud, even without polite company.

“What she wants,” I repeated, a bit dumbfounded by the whole exchange.

“You’ll feel better. This kind of tension isn’t healthy. And I tell you what else, if you don’t, one of these other studs is going to get on her. That’s why they’re all so antsy; it’s an unresolved thing, like a pack of dogs and only one piece of meat, you know? Just do her, set the rules, you know, you’ll make her happy that way. It’s you she wants. She talks about you all the effin’ time. I think it’ll help you relax, too.”

I’m sure my face was red, not with embarrassment, but outrage. He’d just likened Carynne to a piece of meat, and my friends to a pack of dogs. I wanted to tell myself: he doesn’t mean it that way. But that’s just the thing, he did mean it that way. And then I had another icky thought–he probably thought of himself as one of those dogs, too, like he was eligible to have a crack at her if I didn’t do my duty. Ick. My pulse picked up and I stammered out “Yeah, I’ll think about that,” and took an obvious step toward the men’s room door.

“You do that,” he said, sounding jovial, to my back. “I guarantee! You’ll feel better!”

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