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Copyright © 2011 by Jill S. Alexander
PARADISE AND HIS SMOKIN' SQUEEZEBOX
All it took to find Paradise was a five dollar bill and an ad in the Thrifty Nickel.
I was shocked, really, that the ad worked. For starters, cutting out all guitar players whittled the already-small field down to a nub. Most singers at some point in time had picked up a guitar. But Waylon, who considered himself anointed country-music royalty by right of his first name, never listened to reason. As a matter of fact, Waylon Slider didn't care what I thought as long as I showed up after school with my drumsticks and opened up my uncle L. V.'s airplane hangar to rehearse.
We'd been playing to the Piper Cub and the Miss Molly Moonlight—painted on the nose of the old World War II bomber—for about an hour when Waylon put down his six-string and snatched up the want ads. His rusty, reddish brown hair mounded around his head in a tangled bird's nest of coarse curls. Sitting on his stool with a fistful of the Thrifty Nickel, Waylon looked like a pouty little Tom Sawyer in a time-out. He raked his top teeth across his bottom lip and pinched his bushy eyebrows together. He just couldn't make out why no one had answered the ad.
I twisted a bit on my stool, practicing a drumstick toss and backhanded catch. "You know, putting NO in all caps made us look like we had a bunch of insecure guitarists."
"Shut up, Paisley!" He rolled the Thrifty Nickel into a club and reared up. If I'd been a boy, I think he would have hit me. But he mumbled, "Blondes!" instead and sat back down. "You don't know anything about band management. Nobody cares what you think."
That last part was truer than he knew. But with Texapalooza in less than two months, my shot at playing on the same stage as some of the best drummers in the state seemed to be slipping away. The Waylon Slider Band needed a lead singer. So far, Waylon Slider had managed to screw that up.
A gust of March wind blasted the metal siding of the hangar walls like an echoing gong. Cal unplugged his lead guitar. Levi cased his bass.
I had left the tall sliding doors slightly open on the west side, the pasture side of the hangar. The evening sun hung just above the pine thicket in the distance, sending a rectangle of orange light between the doors and glinting off the chrome on my snare.
"Waylon." I stood up, tugging at the frayed edges of my cutoff shorts. "I've got to close up and be through the woods before it gets dark. There's always tomorrow. We'll find someone."
I reached for the tarp to hide my drums when the sunlight went black. Afraid I might have misjudged the time, I spun around. Faced the doors.
Filling the gap was a tall figure in a wide-brimmed hat. He stood with his feet apart and something slung over his shoulder like a saddlebag. Eclipsing the light, he looked like a cowboy cutout etched onto the setting sun.
Waylon jumped to his feet. "You're not here about the ad, are you?"
The boy didn't say anything. He ambled across the concrete floor with a bronc-busting swagger like he'd just gone eight seconds on Boom-Shocka-Locka. He pulled up in front of Waylon, cocked his head at Cal and Levi. The boy caught me in his crosshairs, homing in first on my denim cutoffs, then my boots.
I reached into my back pocket. Pulled out my drumsticks. I tossed one into my left hand and twirled the other by my side. Just to let him know I was more than eye candy and the role of band badass was taken.
He grinned, and when he did, the smooth center of his left cheek dimpled.
I dropped my drumstick. Slipping from badass to dumb ass in a heartbeat.
The boy watched it bounce and spin...
About the Author-
- Growing up in her rural East Texas hometown, JILL S. ALEXANDER went to work at age 12 bussing tables at the local truck stop. There, she met folks from all walks of life whose eccentricities color her work today. Jill has survived a tornado and being caught on fire. She hates whining but loves fancy shoes, muscle cars, and Johnny Cash - preferably all three at once. Jill taught high school English and Spanish before deciding to take a chance on writing full-time. A native of Texas, she lives in Tyler, Texas, with her husband and son. Her books include The Sweetheart of Prosper County and Paradise.
"...Paisley fights the stereotypes of herself as a small-town girl, and her story blends the teenage rebellion and family confrontations with surprising turnarounds and a resolution steeped in sorrow."
"Readers expecting a fully happy ending will be both shocked and disappointed by the sudden tragedy at the end....However, the group's perseverance, development of trust earned and given, and practice of living wide open will inspire readers with dreams of their own."
Praise for Jill S. Alexander and The Sweetheart of Prosper County:
"A refreshing picture of teen angst, with realistic dialogue and memorable characters."--School Library Journal, Starred Review
"First-time novelist Alexander offers a delightful, funny story about teenagers living in a West Texas farming community...Austin's year of added responsibility and independence make for a substantive, enjoyable coming-of-age novel that will speak to rural and urban readers alike."
PublisherFeiwel & Friends
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