The Cup Bearer
When at last he brought his routine to a dramatic finish, the ecstatic audience marooned him on the tables while they clapped and cheered him, and demanded that he sing some songs with a Spanish flavour. He looked towards the stage and shrugged his shoulders at Brian, who stared back at him, wooden faced. One enthusiastic punter hurried to the stage and lifted Gypsy's acoustic guitar from its cradle, carrying it in triumph to the tables. Brian's expression turned dark and Shana was shaking her head at him, but how could he disappoint these good people. He raised his hands, palms upwards, in defeat and pleaded for Brian to understand it wasn't his choice. Dave and Glen had their heads together and were frowning, but Les, Joe and Archie were grinning at him. That alone made his mind up for him. A bar stool was lifted up and set on the tables and once he was perched comfortably he played his guitar the way his father had taught him in the short time they had together, and he sang songs in Spanish; as they were meant to be sung. No one understood the words but they liked what they heard, and rocked to the various rhythms. He had them in his pocket and he was going to keep them there. Even when he later belted out the songs Brian wanted him to sing, their applause seemed to be for him alone and Brian knew it. They loved 'The Gypsy', they loved Shana, and by the end of the show they loved the band as well and yelled for more. They wanted the band to come back the following weekend and if the band wouldn't come, they wanted The Gypsy to come back; on his own and bring the girl with him.
In the dressing room, Shana, Archie and Joe hugged him with open delight and even Glen shook his hand and said, "Well done, kid," but Brian pulled him from them and pushed him down into a chair, then stood over him with a face full of fury. "I don't know what your game is but just you remember; you turn a gig into a one man show like that again and you're out; finished."
Big mistake, Brian! Gypsy was on his feet almost before Brian had finished his tirade, his Latin blood boiling. "Listen, Cabbage Head; I worked hard tonight to stop us all being thrown out into the street." For the first time that night he was aware of a throbbing pain building up in his ankle and he knew he shouldn't have danced, but he was not going to mention it and have Brian accuse him of looking for sympathy. Instead he gritted out, "I talked to the club secretary during the interval. They didn't like the last band that played here and the equipment was in pieces when they left. That is never going to happen to me, anywhere. And just you remember, I don't sing for you or myself; I sing for the people who pay us to perform and have the right to decide what they want to hear."
Brian sneered at him. "You know it all, don't you? You think you can do anything you like. Well I'm telling you, no one does that in my band. You toe the line or you are out."
Shana stepped between them. "For heaven's sake, stop this, they can hear you out there. Brian leave him alone, he did his best to save all our necks."
His fury on full throttle, Gypsy pushed her out of the way a little too roughly and sent her into Les's arms. "I don't need anyone to speak for me; I can do my own talking." Almost spitting the words, he snarled at Brian, "No-one does what he wants in your band because Mr. Big Brian MacCaffrey wants all the glory for himself. He thinks he's so big he keeps everyone else under his stinking feet."
"Is that so? Well let me tell you - "
"No, let me tell you. Glen is a brilliant trumpet player, but you won't let him have a solo spot because you're scared he'll make it and you won't. You told him he's not ready and he believed you. You try a trick like that on me and I swear I'll make you pay. I'm out front and that is where I am going to stay, and as far as the contracts are concerned you can burn mine." Let Brian sack him, he didn't care anymore. He had said his piece and he just hoped the rest of the band had listened and realised how Brian was out to wring them dry before he dumped them. His ankle hurt like the devil and all he wanted to do was get back to the flat they had rented and get some sleep.
Brian's eyes were dangerous slits. "You can't talk to me like that; you can't just walk out on me."
"Oh can't I?" Gypsy looked round at the others and saw they were hanging onto every word. "I have news for you guys. I can do anything I like, and so can you. We still have until the thirty-first of the month to cancel the contracts; not that they're worth anything. My guardian is a barrister and his brother is a solicitor. I had them check mine out. I don't suppose any of you have read your contracts properly yet. The way they're worded, if Brian drops us, we can't claim a penny, but you walk out on him and you're in trouble!"
He expected Brian to hit him but he didn't. He just smiled and said quietly, "Well, well! You are a bastard, aren't you, in more ways than one?"
Gypsy had never thought about his status in life before; up to now it had never bothered him all that much. The room dissolved as the words echoed round his brain and their full meaning hit home. It hurt like a knife twisting deep inside his guts. When his vision cleared he found his right hand throbbing and Brian picking himself up off the floor. Gypsy groped unsteadily for a chair and swept away the hands that reached out to help him. No one offered to help Brian.
The holiday flat Brian had found was roughly in the centre of the area where the week's gigs were being performed, no gig being further than a one-hour journey. The flat sported two rooms, with the use of an extra toilet along the landing. One room had two double beds in it, with an en-suite shower and toilet in the corner. The main room had cooking facilities, a large table, six chairs, a double bed and two singles. Brian naturally claimed the double in the main room for him and Shana. A pointless gesture, Gypsy thought, as the accommodation offered little privacy. He had grabbed one of the singles and Archie the other, leaving the rest of the band to fight over the beds in the other room. Gypsy could hear them arguing about it now as he sat at the top of the stairs outside the flat. He had refused to go into the flat after Les and Archie had helped him upstairs, and they had left him on the top step to be alone in his misery. He longed to get to bed but was determined not to move till Brian was asleep. He didn't have to put up with that moron glaring at him all the time, so he sat and listened to the muted voices above the clatter of dishes and cutlery being laid on the table ready for supper. Yet again, Shana was acting as an unpaid kitchen maid. "Where's Diaz?" he heard her ask.
"Sulking downstairs," came Brian's voice, "he can stay there all night for all I care."
"He's out on the landing." Archie corrected him.
"Well someone ought to bring him in," Shana replied. "That ankle needs seeing to and he ought to be in bed."
"Are you, he's mother, or something? If he wants to behave like a spoilt brat, let him!"
"You've never liked him, have you?"
"I don't have to like everyone I have in my band. While he's good I'll use him."
Gypsy bit his lips in pain and anger. Stuff you Brian! Nobody uses me, not any more.
"Oh, you do admit he's good, then?" he heard Joe declare. "Wonders will never cease."
"Of course I admit it, even if he is a bastard."
Gypsy wanted to dive into the flat and shut Brian's mouth for him but he knew he wouldn't get halfway before his ankle gave way. He heard Joe say quietly, "Okay, Brian, I've kept my trap shut till now, so now it's my turn to say something. If what the kid says about our contracts is true, you can tear mine up and use it to wipe your arse with. He's pulled us out of a bad scene tonight and you should be grateful to him. The kid's good. He knows what he's doing which is more than can be said for some of us. If he goes, I go."
"Okay, okay! Go. Leave the band; see if I care. I don't want anyone in my band who'd rather listen to an arrogant little faggot."
Gypsy heard the scuffle then Archie's usually lazy gravelly voice raised half an angry octave saying. "Listen Pinhead, that kid was performing on a duff ankle tonight, only you wear your blinkers too tight to notice things like that."
"How awful! He only has to prick his finger and he's in hospital."
Archie wasn't finished. "Anyone else would have cried off, but the kid carried on. And as for him being a faggot? I couldn't care less if he's a raving queen. He's more professional than all of us put together, and that's what counts. In any case, I don't listen to malicious tittle-tattle like you do. You want my contract too? You can burn it with the kid's."
Seconds later Gypsy heard Les and Dave chorus, "And mine," followed by Glen saying. "Mine too," which gave Gypsy a jolt of surprise.
When Brian spoke again he sounded really mad. "What about yours? Do you want to burn yours too?"
Shana's voice was low and dry. "Sorry, Brian, you seem you have forgotten; you took me so much for granted you didn't even bother to give me one. Go see a solicitor before it's too late, boys. He'll show you what a good contract is." There was a short silence apart from the rattle of cutlery then Shana said, "Don't you touch me, MacCaffrey! I've had just about enough of your moods and tantrums. If you think I'm sleeping in your bed tonight you've got your brains in a twist."
"Don't you talk to me like that."
"I said leave me alone."
"Do as you're told. Brian." Archie's voice was dangerously soft.
"You keep out of this. Now you black bitch -."
Gypsy heard the sound of someone's face being slapped followed by Archie's soft chuckle. "Serve's you right Pin Head, she did warn you."
The flat went quiet, and soon after the lights went out though the door had been left open. Gypsy stared down the darkened stairwell lit only by a dim safety light, and felt more depressed than ever. He had caused a rift among the band and an augment between Shana and Brian. Suddenly the professional world he was trying to build for himself was crumbling about his ears. Granted he wanted to lure Shana away from the creep, but not this way. Why did everything have to keep on going wrong?
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