My short story "One Night Minstrels" is my contribution to the ERAuthors' anthology Erotic Escapades.
ERAuthors is a a critiquing and writing group I'm very proud to be a member of.
Here's a brief excerpt from Chapter One:
No one had seen him come, no one would see him go. Gaines pulled in his lips and sighed. Hell, no one would even remember his name. The gig had been unexpected. A fill in spot for a band whose only singer came down with laryngitis. He’d happened on the club when he stepped out of a truck that had picked him up hitchhiking. Another sip of Jack Daniels camouflaged inside the coffee cup burned his throat. He lit a smoke, allowing the tar and nicotine to claw into the tatters of a voice that could carry a tune – once upon a time. A long breath pushed the smoke between his teeth.
Brushing back his graying hair, he watched the cloud rise to the plank ceiling. There had been a day…. A morose chuckle rattled in his chest. There had been a day when he believed his fame would rise. But like the smoke, it disappeared into sour, booze laden air too. No roadies, no managers, nobody to find him work. He snorted. Shit. No band anymore. He took another hit off the cigarette before grinding it out under his boot toe and settling onto the wooden stool.
One more sip of his road companion, the one friend that remained, and Gaines strained his eyes to view the tables in the hazy backwater bar. When he’d played his first song, the dump had been filled with customers. Standing room only. Plaid shirted men in cowboy hats and farmer’s caps had lined the walls. Bared navel women had gyrated on the dance floor under the men’s watchful eyes. Now…. Now the chairs sat empty at the round tables. Warped paneling covered the walls instead of bodies. Empty beer bottles and overflowing ashtrays provided the only evidence he’d played to a packed house.
In the blue glow of a neon beer light, the bartender scrubbed the bar at the far end of the room.
Gaines raised his chin. A swell of the old days squared his shoulders. He leaned into the microphone atop a chrome stand. “I had ‘em tonight, huh?” His voice echoed in the desolation. “Damn good show.”
The bartender shrugged and tossed some bottles into a bin. Glass clacked and cracked. “We’ve had a lot better crowds. Stayed longer and spent more too. Guess we got what we paid for. Nothin’ much.” Then he slogged out of the room.
The insult bulldozed over him. Gaines bit back the loneliness and reality the bartender had spoken the truth. Half the place had hit the exits before the end of his first set. His jaw quivered. “Damn good show,” he mumbled, and swiped a tear.
“You didn’t play Whispers,” a woman’s voice rasped.
Gaines dragged his palms over his eyes and stared into the gloom. “Who’s there?”