The Cup Bearer
Behind him, Gypsy sensed Brian reaching down to rip the lead from the control box, and heard Shana's hissed warning. "You do that and we're finished."
"From glen to glen, and down the mountain side."
The women stared up at him in surprise As he carried on singing, 'a'cappella', one of Irelands best known songs. The women shushed the people on the next table. The word spread from table to table and slowly the noise died down till there was a rapt silence. All eyes were on him as he made his way slowly between the tables, pulling gently on the lead. It snagged somewhere, and someone grabbed it and paid it out for him. He sang to the women, picking out mothers with tears springing to their eyes, playing on their memories of the country of their birth. Hands reached out to clasp his own as he put as much feeling as possible into his singing, keeping his voice clear as a bell and reaching the high notes effortlessly, then he heard Joe find the key and began to accompany him on the keyboard. Together they held the audience spellbound with the emotion of the song and Gypsy urged them to join in the second time round. The atmosphere changed yet again as the room filled with the voices of the impromptu choir. Even the barmen stopped serving to add their own voices in harmony and at last the rest of the band joined in. When Gypsy turned to look at them, only Brian and Glen had scowls on their faces.
Gypsy was still in the middle of the room when the song finally came to an end after a third rousing chorus, and the cheering audience trapped him there, refusing to let him return to the stage as they clapped and whistled furiously and yelled for more. Gypsy couldn't believe he had won them over so easily but he didn't let it go to his head; the other guys were just as important. He had won the applause for all of them, not just for himself. Once the applause had died down he said into the mike, "Thank you, thank you very much! Muchos Gracias Mi Amigos. It was my pleasure to sing one of your best-loved songs. My mother was Irish and I remember when I was a little boy and I could not sleep at night, she used to sing that song, and the one I would like to sing now; Killarney." The applause threatened to break through again but Gypsy held up his hand and turning to Joe he called out. "Open key, please. Joe." Brian was forgotten as Joe began to play. Suddenly the lights went out and a spotlight shone down on Gypsy. All around him there was a stillness. On stage, the band followed Joe's lead and Gypsy began to sing and slowly made his way back to the stage where Shana caught his free hand and squeezed it affectionately. He sang the song twice through and at the end the audience remained quiet till the last note died away, as if expecting him to go on forever. For a few seconds there was nothing, and then it came like a tidal wave, thunderous in its intensity. The people were on their feet and cheering madly, stamping their feet and banging their pint pots on the tables. The women were screeching and clapping and yelling for more. Pleased, Gypsy turned to Brian and shouted over the din, "We can sing anything now, and they'll love it."
Brian fixed him with an icy smile. "How kind of you to tell me, bitch!"
Gypsy stared blankly at him, then at Shana. All he knew was they weren't going to be thrown out; the audience liked them and were ready to be entertained. Shana shook his head at him as a warning not to say any more, and Gypsy spent the rest of the first half of their show wondering what he had done wrong.
At the interval they were cheered back to their dressing room, which had been tidied up during their absence and the dressing table dusted. A tray of lager and sandwiches rested on the dressing table but Gypsy sent out for some coffee and wrapped a light scarf round his throat. When asked about it, the first time they had seen him do this, he had explained that it was best to keep the throat muscles warm, just like an athlete kept his legs warm. Brian had sneered but it wasn't Gypsy who lost his voice towards the end of the gig. Gypsy flopped down into a chair and wiped his face with a towel and was suddenly aware of a chilly atmosphere. He glanced round at the rest of the band and saw the glum faces. Brian seemed angry about something and Shana looked sad as she lifted her second outfit from her case.
He thought about his second spot. "What about my dance routine, Brian?"
Brian glanced at him. "What about it?"
"There is no dance floor."
Brian eyed him angrily. "You managed to improvise pretty well in the first spot; no doubt your brilliant mind will come up with some marvellous solution." He marched out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
Gypsy stared at the door then at Shana. "Okay, what am I supposed to have done now?"
Shana didn't answer but Archie did "You turned the first half into the Gypsy Diaz show."
Gypsy gave a surprised laugh; "I what?"
"You took over."
"You're joking!" Gypsy gazed round at the rest of the band and saw Archie's thoughts echoed on their faces. "Is that what you all think? Well thank you very much! You might have settled for being thrown out on your ears but not me. That is never gonna happen to me, ever."
At that moment Brian returned and everyone turned away to get ready for the second spot. Anger boiled up inside Gypsy. So this was the only backup he was going to get was it? Grabbing a T-shirt from his bag he changed out of his shirt and made for the door. Brian grabbed his arm as he passed. "I want a word with you. Where do you think you're going?"
Gypsy wrenched his arm free and glared at him. "You told me to use my brilliant mind and that is exactly what I am going to do." He stormed out of the dressing room and when he returned, carrying his coffee, most of his anger had dispersed and he felt quite satisfied with the arrangement he had made with some of the punters who had been more than willing to cooperate. Brian would soon learn that Gypsy Diaz always accepted a challenge. He used his coffee to wash down two painkillers, and began loosening up.
When it was time for the band to go back on stage, Shana was the last to leave except for Gypsy whose appearance was to be delayed until after the second number, Shana's solo spot, was over. He was standing in front of the dresser adjusting the red cummerbund over his tight fitting, black shirt. He smoothed down the pin tucks from shoulder to waist and checked his earrings were clipped firmly into place, then turned from the dresser and caught Shana staring at him. She looked away and Gypsy sensed she was wishing things could be different. It wasn't the first row he and Brian had had; and Shana had always tried to act as peacemaker. But that was not all she wanted to be, he was sure of that. Gypsy almost smiled at the idea; him and Shana? Now that really would stir things up.
She loved watching him dance, and their voices blended so well together, and she wanted to do more than mother him; not that he needed mothering from someone like her. She was six years older than him with a gorgeous figure and a dazzling smile, but he liked her hair the best; blue black like his own, and falling about her shoulders in long waves that bounced as she walked. How could a dish like this be involved with a creep like Brian? She came to Gypsy now and took hold of his hands. "About what happened earlier; you have to learn how to handle Brian. He likes to be consulted first when we do things; after all he is the boss."
"Even when he's wrong?"
"Yes, even then."
Gypsy shook his head and lowered his eyes to their hands, and he wondered how the band would react if he succeeded in pinching her off Brian. Her hands were small but gripped strongly. He squeezed them in return. "I can't let the band suffer, Shana. I'm surprised Brian's got this far. He doesn't have the instinct to size up his audience and know what they really want." He lifted his head to look into her eyes. "I know I'm still only a kid to these guys but I already I have that instinct. I used it for the sake of the band; not just for me. Brian would sing heavy metal in a church." He sighed. "His uncle warned me he'd try to cramp my style. I should have listened to him."
Shana nodded her agreement. "I'd be sorry to see you leave."
Gypsy's chin lifted defiantly. "Who said anything about leaving? I need the experience, so I'll use him as long as I have to. It'll be tough but I'll stay till he boots me out or I can ditch him."
"Good!" Shana smiled and suddenly placed a kiss on his lips. "Is it true what the boys are saying about you and a beach full of girls?"
"It was only a bit of fun. Does it bother you?"
She gave him a little shrug. "There's my cue, I'd better be going." She moved quickly to the door, leaving Gypsy staring after her and feeling that maybe the crazy notion about lifting Brian's treasure right from under his nose might not be so hard after all. He watched the tight red dress shimmer round her legs as she left the room. Out in the main room, wolf whistles greeted her arrival, and Gypsy listened as the applause accompanied her progress to the stage, the band already playing the intro to the second song. "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon." He sighed again, wishing he were on stage to sing it with her. Shana could sing it fine on her own but it sounded so much better in its original form as a duet; one of Brian's quirks was to have them rehearse a number together for weeks then split them up at the last minute. Brian was getting on Shana's nerves and on more than one occasion had heard her mutter. "Boyfriend or not, he's due for a piece of my mind or something heavier." With another sigh, Gypsy grabbed his hat, set it on his head and stood behind the door with his arms folded while he sang her song with her for his own enjoyment.
The number went well enough and got a good reception, and then all too quickly the band started playing his personally arranged version of "El Bolero". He waited at the door till the lights were lowered and a spotlight shone picked out a group of four tables which had been cleared and pushed together in the centre of the room at Gypsy's request, during the interval. He tested his ankle, rubbed with anaesthetising ointment then firmly strapped, and made straight for the tables. Vaulting lightly onto them and, hoping his ankle would not let him down, he struck an arrogant pose. Slowly he began to move, sensuously at first, and with the blatant conceit of a true Flamenco dancer as he interpreted Ravel's classical piece as a spectacle of slowly increasing passion. At first he had thought that combining The Bolero with a Flamenco dance would not work, but after years of honing his routine, he realised he had made the right choice.. The club members began to clap their hands in time to the fiery rhythm and it was hard to keep his face straight as he stamped and pirouetted on his improvised stage. The only thing that could have enhanced his performance would have been to have Maria dance it with him. The tables were old and solidly built but still they trembled and many hands reached forward to hold them steady; an emotional bond created between audience and dancer. In return, Gypsy strived for the ultimate in perfection, determined to give his best for these people who believed in him, just as much as he wanted to show Brian he was not easily beaten.
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