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It was 8:00 on Friday night, and Woody’s crew were preparing for the evening’s dance. Patty and the Sidewinders were setting up their stage; Corrine and Brenda were dividing up the ice, Brad had the buffer shining up the floor, and Leo was outside picking up a few cans and bottles that had been left in the parking lot. As Woody set up the cash registers for admissions and concessions, he couldn’t help but wonder if the strawberry blonde he now knew as Sandy would be coming tonight.
Woody didn’t know if she was a regular; he’d never noticed her before last Friday night. And he might not have thought about her again if he hadn’t run into her at the Exxon station. She was very attractive in the pale green business suit she’d been wearing as she pumped gas into her Volkswagen. Probably on her way home from work, he thought. From the look on her face at the time, she didn’t even remember him until he introduced himself again. Most of the women patrons of the Connections approached him when they saw him in town, eager to flirt. Not this girl. She seemed totally unimpressed. That was not a circumstance to which he was accustomed.
As the crowd began to settle in at their tables, Woody scanned faces, looking for the strawberry blonde with the smile he remembered. When he had just about decided that she was a no-show, he spotted her. Wearing an emerald green t-shirt and black slacks, Sandy was buying her admission ticket. With her were two other women, and the three of them were laughing at a shared joke as they entered the dance hall carrying a picnic cooler. After some discussion, they picked a table on the left hand side of the dance floor, placed the cooler on the table, and settled into chairs, still grinning from whatever had caused them to laugh when they entered.
Patty and the Sidewinders were on stage, and when the lights dimmed a bit, they began playing “I Love the Night Life” and the disco lovers streamed onto the dance floor. That Patty could give Alicia Bridges a run for her money, thought Woody, as he involuntarily began tapping his foot in time with the beat. Country Connections was lucky to have a vocalist of Patty’s caliber, even if she wouldn’t give him the time of day, Woody realized, as he watched the dancers dipping and swirling with the music.
“What the heck is the difference between Disco and the old jitterbug?” Woody asked Brad, who had appeared next to him.
“Looks the same to me,” answered Brad. “I think it’s just the jitterbug slowed down a bit.”
“You’re probably right. Now that I think about it, the old ‘Rock Around the Clock’ we used to dance to definitely had a quicker pace!” Woody glanced once more at Sandy’s table where she and her friends were laughing and chatting and then followed Brad to the entrance to Country Connections. Cars were still pulling into the parking lot and Leo was busy directing the drivers into parking spots that would best utilize the available space.
“We need to cut down some of the trees over there and expand our parking area,” observed Brad. “We could accommodate another 40 or more cars.”
Woody shook his head. “Can’t do it. Those trees serve as a buffer between us and the neighboring houses. Chop those down, and we’ll have the residents of that neighborhood clamoring to get us closed down for being a noise nuisance. Right now, those trees block enough of the racket to keep the neighbors happy.”
“You know, Boss, when I see you all goofy-eyed over that redheaded singer, I forget how smart you really are,” teased Brad.
“Well, that’s all over; she shot me down,” Woody responded. “It seems she already has a man in her life.”
“No kidding? Wow, I’m sorry, but at least you can focus on this place again. No more distraction.”
“I never lost focus,” grumbled Woody. “I just thought she was a looker, that’s all.”
“That, she is,” agreed Brad with a grin.
“How about if you go over and help Leo in the parking lot, instead of harassing me? At least there you can be helpful!” suggested Woody, with an attempt at gruffness.
“Sure thing, Boss!” answered Brad, stifling a grin as he headed out the door.
Watching the man stride over to where Leo was working, Woody Stackhouse thought to himself that he was lucky to have Brad on the payroll. More than just an employee, the man was a trusted friend. During those years when Heather was so sick, Brad had been there. He was always ready to listen when Woody needed to vent his frustration; it had been hell to watch his wife decline in the throes of cancer, and he’d had to let it out somewhere. And when Heather finally lost the battle, it was Brad who’d helped him through that, too. Not too many friends would have hung in there when he was so depressed it was an effort to even get out of bed in the morning. But Brad had stood by him, and finally had single-handedly dragged him out of the dumps and back into life.
(to be continued.)