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When Woody drove into the parking lot at Country Connections, Brad, one of his unofficial bouncers was waiting for him. They entered the empty facility together. The usual routine involved Brad cleaning the restrooms and buffing the dance floor while his boss set up the concession stand where they sold soda and fruit juice for mixers, chips, dip, crackers and other snacks. Woody also took care of putting cash in the register, inking the stamps used to mark patrons’ hands once they’d paid, and unlocking the door at the back of the stage to admit the band.
Because the band played at a club in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Wednesdays and Thursdays, they carried their instruments with them from gig to gig. This meant they would arrive a little earlier on Friday nights to allow time for set up and leave a little later on Saturday nights after they packed up again. Patty had no instruments to set up, since all she used was a portable microphone, so she usually would sit at one of the tables near the stage and sip a Coke while reviewing the songs she would be singing during the evening, while the band prepared to perform.
The “beep, beep, beep” of a truck approaching the building in reverse told them the band had arrived. Woody kept an eye on the stage as the musicians carried in their guitars, drums, and keyboard. Then Patty entered, dressed in fitted black leather pants and an emerald green beaded top. Her red hair was pulled back in a ponytail and her heels made a clicking noise as she crossed the stage and descended the steps to the dance floor. She was carrying some sheet music and a bottle of Coke, which she placed on the table closest to the stage before pulling back a chair and taking a seat.
“Hope we get a good crowd tonight,” said Woody as he dropped into the chair across from her. His eyes were on her, waiting to get a close up look at the eyes that matched her top.
“Uh-huh,” mumbled Patty, never taking her eyes of the musical score in front of her. A couple more unsuccessful attempts at conversation on Woody’s part convinced him she didn’t want to be disturbed while preparing to perform, and he backed his chair away from the table and made a beeline for the ticket office and concession booth.
Strike one, he thought to himself. Either she really was concentrating on her preparation, or she wasn’t interested. Hopefully, it wasn’t the latter. He busied himself breaking down the large bags of ice cubes into smaller quantity Zip Lock bags and placing them in the baskets in the chest freezer for later distribution to customers during the coming evening. Brad gave him a little grin that told him his failed run at Patty Blanchette had not escaped notice. Woody responded with a look that dared him to make a wisecrack. Getting the message that his boss didn’t want to discuss it, Brad returned to buffing the floor.
“Hey, Brad, time for parking lot duty,” called Leo, the other “bouncer” from the doorway. As Brad returned the buffer to the closet, the voices of the first few customers of the night could be heard approaching the entrance. Brad’s wife Brenda and her friend Corrine came in and joined Woody in the concession booth.
“I’ll take the concession window and Corrine can cover the ticket window. We’re ready to go.”
Corrine gave Woody an approving once over with her brown eyes. He sure is one fine looking man, she thought to herself. If I wasn’t already married, I’d be all over that!
“What’s his story, anyway?” Corrine asked Brenda, after Woody had left the concession area. “He’s such a nice, good-looking guy, but I don’t see a wedding ring. I never see him with anyone, either—even in town.”
“He and his wife Heather were married for a long time before she died from complications of breast cancer. She was his whole life. He was devastated when he lost her, and for a long time didn’t even leave the house, other than to go to work. That was a few years ago—1975, I think. Finally, around 1978, Brad convinced him that he had to get on with his life. Eventually he bought this business, and has slowly come out of the dark place he was in. Brad’s been trying to get him to date again, but as far as I know, he has yet to venture out,” answered Brenda.
“Damn, that’s really sad,” mused Corrine. “I had no idea. I hope he doesn’t stay alone forever.”
“Yeah, Brad and I feel the same way. He’s such a good guy with a big heart. He deserves to find happiness again.” The two women shook their heads and prepared for the inevitable onslaught of customers.
(to be continued.)