Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
September 1994 – April 1995
Things seemed pretty bleak to Dayna after that. She’d had a lot of fun on the road with Sandy over the last several years; they were an inseparable couple who had been broken up. There was now a hell of a big hole in her life, with nothing to fill it.
Way back in the beginning, the first day the two had met, Dayna had told Sandy that she wasn’t real thrilled about being out on the road alone. After years of experience, she was even less thrilled about it now. It was more than just having someone to share the dangers, because many things weren’t as dangerous if you were with someone; that had been driven home to her time and again. She and Sandy had been in some tight spots, had some scary times, but between them had been able to pull each other through.
Sandy’s announcement just about killed any interest Dayna had in getting back on the road herself, even took away most of her desire to play music again. Over the next couple of days she was very depressed and couldn’t get the drive to do much of anything. Maybe the thing to do would be to get a square job, get married, and write the last few years off to being a kid running wild. Be a mom, have kids, all that normal boring shit. She and Sandy had often talked about how they could never hack that, and now, though against her will, Sandy was going to take a swing at it. Maybe that took more courage than Dayna had.
Dayna was still not very strong, but was working at building up her strength. One day, just from the pure boredom of being around the house and depressed by it, along with all the heartbreak over losing Sandy and not having any idea of where she was going, she decided to walk down to the Spee-D-Mart just for something to do. She wasn’t up to going fast, and it took her a while. Emily was at work behind the counter, stocking shelves, sweeping, checking out customers, all the little chores that a convenience store clerk had to do. They talked a bit, but Emily was too busy for much conversation, so Dayna just stood back and watched Emily, gathering her strength for the walk back home. Watching Emily, she realized that she was looking into a crystal ball and seeing her future if she gave up. Emily had gotten married right out of high school, and more or less stayed in the job she’d had as a high school student. She was assistant manager now, making more than minimum wage, but not much more. She had two kids, one still a preschooler, the other in kindergarten, so she had a dozen years and more before they’d be out of school and she’d able to do things again without them. Most of her friends had gone on to other pursuits, better things for most of them, but here she was, still stuck behind the register in the Spee-D-Mart, with no real hope of anything much better for the rest of her life.
Dayna realized that if she gave up, if she didn’t do something to rescue herself, then that was where she was likely to wind up. Maybe not at the Spee-D-Mart, maybe out at General, maybe running a machine in a factory like Emily’s husband. There would be no more applause, no more kidding a crowd, no more seeing what lay beyond the horizon – nothing but maybe a husband, a couple of kids, and one day more or less the same as the last, forever. It wasn’t something she dared even mention to Emily – but it was something that scared her more than some of the dangers of the road. It could happen to her, had a good chance of happening to her, but damn it, she resolved, she’d go down fighting.
After a while, she got up, said goodbye to Emily, and started walking toward home. She was tired and needed a rest part way, so found a park bench, sat down, and started to make plans for her comeback.
As much as she liked being on the road, it had plenty of downsides if she were to be by herself. Some of the riskier things she and Sandy had done could be avoided, of course, and she wasn’t in any shape to get back on the road soon, anyway. The best answer of all would be to find another partner, man or woman, and build a new act with them. The CDs might not sell as well, but they’d be there, and they did represent some bucks to be made if she could just get out and sell them. She suspected from her years of salesmanship on the road that they’d sell better if she sold them as a solo act – saying that Sandy was taking a health break – than they would if she had another partner, especially a guy. And finding another partner begged the question of how to find one who would be compatible, anyway. That might not be easy; it had taken Sandy and her a long time to get their act together, and finding someone new and with the talent needed who could break free for that kind of life might not be the easiest thing she’d ever managed.
Assuming that she was going to be pretty much on her own in the future, and that was the way to play it at this point, she realized she would have to keep the road risks to a minimum – things like busking in unsafe places by herself, staying just anywhere. For the short term, and with a little luck, she might be able to stay at the renfaire sites, or something like that. But in the long term, it wouldn’t do.
Face it, she was going to have to figure on turning into a solo act. If she did that, it would modify things a lot. It would be a handful to develop a solo act just for renfaires – she pretty much had the music down, but the ongoing jokes, the patter, the bullshitting the audiences, had been fine tuned over years of working with Sandy. It had been a long time since she’d done a solo act, so long that she couldn’t remember; the last one she was sure about was the time she’d locked Sandy into the stocks for her twenty-first birthday party back at Central!
Maybe the answer was to take a real serious push at a recording career. There had been some enthusiasm when she and Sandy had done Turn Me On, and maybe that could be built on, but still, she was going to have to sell herself as a solo. Maybe the thing to do was to go ahead and do a solo album – but she was a long way from that and she knew it. Health aside – and she was in no condition to do much anyway – most of the music they’d been considering for a new album was based on the two of them. Some of the music could be converted to solo, given good studio musicians, but some couldn’t; an album like that was going to have to play to her best strengths, and maybe she could build on that. But doing an album like they’d done in the past was not cheap, there would have to be a pretty large run of CDs, and the studio time and session musicians weren’t going to be cheap, either. By now she was pretty sure that she was going to have a few bucks left when the medical bills were settled, but probably only a few, at best a few thousand, an emergency padding, not anything to shoot the moon with.
It still came down to the CDs sitting in Home and in Kyle’s old room at her parents’ house. With those CDs, even marked down, there’d be some money to make the next move, more than enough money, even if it was to go back to college somewhere. And the key to selling those CDs was to be out playing, not just sitting thinking about it.
She still had two renfaire dates in the fall that she hadn’t cancelled, and one in northern California in the spring. One of the fall dates was a month off, and she wasn’t exactly sure she was going to be up to doing the dates in a month. Maybe if she just kept it to the weekends, didn’t try to do anything during the week, it might be possible . . . she’d have to call the managers, tell them Sandy was sick or something and that she wasn’t well, but she could probably put together a small stage act to carry a show over, at least for the fall dates. And maybe, in one of those fall dates, she could find someone to partner with her in the spring; there were usually loose musicians hanging around, and she’d have all winter to work on that and rebuild the act.
It wasn’t a simple knot to pick at, but working at it a bit made one thing pretty clear: if she was going to have a music career without heavy-duty busking in strange places, without living the life of a road warrior like she and Sandy had done the last few years, she was going to have to get back on the road in a limited way for a while, at least until she could make a dent in those boxes of CDs. If she could do that, it could be the way out. If she couldn’t, they’d be only useful as Christmas ornaments. It seemed like the only way out of ending up like Emily. For that matter, like Sandy.
With determination returning, she got up from the park bench and started slowly walking toward home, struggling with the problems of building a show and a career without Sandy’s help.
* * *
Predictably, Dayna’s folks were less than totally thrilled with the idea. "I can understand your desire to want to do those shows," Angie told her over dinner that evening. "But Dayna, you’re just not in any condition yet to do them."
"I’m a lot better, Mom," she protested. "And the first of the dates is still a month off, so I should be in better shape yet. The problem is the CDs. Sitting in boxes, they’re worth zilch. But if I can sell them, there’s fifty thousand dollars sitting there. The longer I wait, the harder they’ll be to sell. I’ve got main stage spots in both faires. I probably won’t be able to sell all the CDs, but I can make a good dent in them. The hats should cover expenses and then some, if I can put a good show together."
"Yes, I can see that," her father agreed. "But are you in any condition to even put a solo show together, much less perform it?"
"I just about have to try it whether I’m in shape to or not," Dayna sighed. "If I miss this opportunity, I’ll have a hell of a time getting a main stage booking for a while. That’ll just make it harder in the future."
"Dayna, have you even figured out how you’re going to handle the show, passing a hat, and selling and autographing CDs all by yourself? It was even a hassle for both you and Sandy to do that."
"I’ll just have to find a way," Dayna shrugged.
"For that matter," Bruce added, "do you really think you’re going to be physically capable of doing the shows, and living by yourself, with all that entails living out of the motor home?"
"It’ll be a hassle," she agreed. "I don’t know if I can do it or not. And I really don’t want to be out there by myself. Partly it’s being used to having Sandy with me, but partly it’s just the concern over having to do it all solo."
"I really don’t like the idea of you being out by yourself, especially in this condition," Angie said. "I don’t think you’re up to it, but I know you want to try. If you’re going to do this, you’re going to need to have someone with you, at least in the beginning, to ease you through the transition into doing the solo shows, and to give you an extra set of hands with the sales." She let out a sigh. "Don’t get me wrong, Dayna, I can see your logic. I’d be willing to go along with you for a while to be that extra set of hands, but your father and I have used up just about every ounce of vacation time and sick leave we have coming for a while. Maybe you could find someone else to help."
"You know, that’s not a bad idea," Dayna said. "I don’t know who I’d find, but I could ask around."
"My suggestion is to concentrate all the energy you can on the show," Bruce submitted. "I don’t know where we’re going to find someone to do it, but what you need is someone who can take care of the practical details, so you can save your energy for performing." He cocked his head back in thought. "I can’t come up with any obvious answers as to who that someone might be, but I’ll think about it, too. In the meantime, I’ll try and concentrate on getting the RV thoroughly cleaned out and disinfected, then stocked for the trip, but like your mother said, we just don’t have the time left to go with you. I’m not sure how this will work out, but I’m very reluctant to let you go do these faires by yourself. You may not be capable of doing them anyway, but this way, if you aren’t, at least there’ll be someone there to nurse you. Otherwise, I wouldn’t let you do it."
"I understand, Dad," she nodded. "You’re right. I guess that means we’re just going to have to find someone."
* * *
Pulling a show together, at least in the basics, was pretty simple; Dayna had done an awful lot of off-the-cuff shows over the years, mostly with Sandy, of course, but this was going to have to be different – partly because Sandy wasn’t there, but mostly because she was going to have to use these renfaires to establish herself as a solo act for the future. Not that a solo act is impossible, in renfaires or anywhere else, but she just hadn’t ever done one in a renfaire setting.
The music was straightforward. She and Sandy actually had developed two separate renfaire shows, and they’d alternated between them, mostly for the sake of variety; the shows both had been continually changing, both on the fly as audiences and situations changed, and again for the sake of variety, with new material being added and older material being cut. Most of the music they used involved the both of them, but between the two shows and some older stuff there was more than enough that Dayna could boil down to a good, quality single show. Those pieces had to be practiced as solos, to the point where she could do them on automatic and not be anticipating Sandy’s accompaniment in crucial places, so there was nothing to do but practice. She soon found the guitar calluses on her left hand had softened considerably over the last two months of inactivity, and only practice would build them back up.
But there was more to the show than just the music. There was a dynamic of joking back and forth with Sandy that would be missing, something that gave all their shows much more interest and spark. That was a tough one to replace. Again, it was easy enough to come up with the material, but to learn to integrate it into the show wasn’t as easy. It was going to be scary as hell to go out in front of a large renfaire audience by herself, and there was no way around it.
Then, one evening, that changed dramatically when Tim and Charlene called. They’d been calling regularly every couple weeks for months, just to check in and find out what was going on, and to offer their encouragement. "Tell you what, kid," he said when she explained her fears of doing a solo show. "We’ve got a weekend off with the week on both sides free to make the jump from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. No reason we can’t go by way of Missouri to hold your hand a little. I’m saying you do the show, but I’ll be there, bring me on for a guest spot or something so you don’t have to jump in totally cold turkey."
"Tim, I can’t ask that of you," she said. "I owe you way too much already."
"Unless you’ve forgotten, I owe you a little," he replied. "There’s a damn good chance that I wouldn’t be a grandfather right now if you hadn’t taken a hand with Jerry and Jim. And, Christ, Dayna. We’re buskers! We pitch in when someone we know has trouble!"
"But Tim . . . "
"Dayna, you’d do it for me, wouldn’t you?"
"Then don’t argue. See you in three weeks. Let’s try to get together a day or two early so we can run through your show a couple times and maybe I can pick out some spots that you could make some last-minute fixes."
That eased one major concern a little. It still would be a quick immersion into having to do a solo routine, but almost all Tim did was solo routines in his own renfaire show. Just having him around that first weekend would quell the jitters immensely and ease her into her own solo act.
That left the problem of a companion. Dayna kicked it around for several days without getting any real good ideas, and one day when she’d walked down to the Spee-D-Mart for exercise more than anything else, she and Emily got to talking about her plans to do the fall renfaires. She happened to mention her concerns about a companion for the shows, and how she was stuck for ideas.
"No problem," Emily told her. "Kevin has been working so much overtime we haven’t been able to take a vacation, and I’ve got to take a couple weeks vacation time or I’ll lose it."
"Emily, that’ll be a lot of help," Dayna said gratefully. "But, I’m going to need someone there for eight weeks, and the travel time to and from. Two weeks will be a big help, but it’s only part of the problem."
"This is pretty important to you, isn’t it?"
"It probably will determine whether I stay in show business or not," Dayna admitted. "If I can bring it off, then I’ve laid the foundation for a solo career. If I can’t bring it off, I might as well fill out an application to work here. It’s that simple."
"All right, let me see what I can do to help."
Having found someone for two weeks covered a quarter of the problem; it wasn’t the full solution but a start. Maybe two weeks would be enough, Dayna thought as she walked home, now without stopping to rest on the park bench. She was ever so slowly getting stronger, but would she be strong enough to do the rest of the gig solo?
Dayna was sitting in the living room the next morning, playing the six-string and trying to figure out how to crack some more of the companion problem when the phone rang. It proved to be Emily, calling from the Spee-D-Mart. "I wanted to call you earlier, but it’s been wall-to-wall people in here getting coffee and doughnuts like it is every morning, and this is the first real break I’ve had."
"Yeah, I know it gets busy for you," Dayna said, wondering what this was about.
"Anyway," Emily continued. "I worked the phones a little last night. Not all the pieces are in place yet since I need to know some details about your schedule, but you’re covered."
"Covered?" Dayna replied in surprise. "What do you mean?"
"Vicky’s got some vacation time, she’ll do a week. Scott and Sonja will do a week, maybe more; it depends on her vacation time. Did you know Andy Baker got married? He and his wife, Hannah, I think he said her name was, they’ll help out for a while. And Mandy said she can get free for a bit in November . . . "
Emily may have been nothing more than a clerk in a convenience store, but she was still the de facto permanent class president, and she’d called the Bradford Class of ’88 to the rescue!
"But Emily," Dayna protested as the tears were rolling down her face. "I can’t ask all those people to put themselves out like that!"
"Would you pitch in if the situation were different and you could clear up the time?" Emily asked.
"Well, yeah, of course."
"Then don’t argue. Besides, after all this time you’ve got a lot of people curious about what kind of life you lead, and they’d sort of like to experience show business a little, be a part of it a little. I don’t know if anybody can do much more than play the radio, but they can cook dinner and sell CDs and that end of things. Anyway, there’s a pot load of details that have to be worked out, like who, where, and when, so I need to get some information from you. Do you think you could slide down here this afternoon and fill me in?"
It was that one phone call, more than anything else, that turned the corner for Dayna. Up until this point, she’d been running on logic, on the pressure of those CDs sitting out there that had to be sold or else they were worthless. But to have friends who would give of themselves, time and money, becoming temporary roadies to buy her the chance to start building a new career – that went beyond mere logic. If they had that kind of faith in her, she was not about to let them down. At the same time, she knew she had to make the best of the opportunity and not let her time go to waste.
Along with the renfaire dates were a number of school dates in the vicinity that had been booked months before. She’d held off on cancelling them, just on the odd chance that she might be able to do them, but the decision time on the first of them was getting close. She hadn’t even thought about the school acts in weeks. The genie act, there was no way she could do that, there were things it took two carefully rehearsed people to do even if there was only one playing a guitar, and it would take too long to train Emily or someone to do that. But the renfaire version of the act was a different story. She and Sandy hadn’t used it as much as the genie act, but there were times that it was more appropriate. Just sitting in the living room and thinking about it, it seemed like she might be able to do it with a few modifications. But could she do it solo?
There was one brute force way to find out.