One Thing You’ll Learn Quick

Mike squeezed the grip of his pistol once to reassure himself that he still had it.  “You’re not a rock band.”

“Sure we are,” Eddie said.  “We’re a hard-working rock band, too.  It’s how we pay our way, limited engagements, strictly cash.  Hell, we’re even good, in our fashion.  New name for the band every gig, of course, so we’re harder to track, and that makes it impossible to build up a fan base, as does the fact that we can’t record.”

Mike rattled down stone steps.  “And what’s with the tambourine?”

Eddie was quiet for a moment.  “Everyone in this band,” he finally said, “has a bone to pick with Satan.  The tambourine is mine.”

Mike almost laughed out loud.  “Do you have any idea how silly that sounds?” he asked.  “What does that even mean?”

“It means I’m the best damn tambourine player in the whole damn world,” Eddie said gruffly.  “Bar none, nobody else is even close.”

Mike remembered the agent at Butcher’s and the pleading look in his eyes.  “I still don’t get it.”

“What I wanted to be was the world’s best guitar player,” Eddie said.  “I was okay, starting to make a name for myself in some of the bars around Chicago, but I needed to get much better, and much faster than I could on my own.  I needed it for my kids, you understand?  For my family.  It wasn’t an ego thing, I didn’t want screaming fans or limousines or coke to snort off the backs of expensive hookers.  So I did like all the songs said.  I let a hoodoo woman take me down to the crossroads.”

Mike stumbled and almost fell.  “You mean you sold your soul to the devil?”

“Keep running!” Eddie was quiet again.  “Yeah,” he continued, “only I screwed up.”

Mike said nothing to that.  He’d screwed up plenty, himself.

“I told Old Scratch—or his errand boy, anyway, you hardly ever get to meet the poobah himself in person—that I wanted to be the world’s best rock and roll musician.  Damn me, if I’d just said guitar player, it would have been all right.  Instead, I sold my soul and just about lost my sanity, and all I got for it is that I’m the world’s most amazing genius at the tambourine.”

Mike gulped.  “Lost your sanity?” he was ahead of Eddie, and after the story he’d just heard, didn’t feel really comfortable looking back.

“Out of my left eye,” Eddie said, in a voice that sounded like gravel and razor wire, “I see Hell.  All the time.  And when I sleep, I dream my death.”

“Mierda,” Mike muttered.  He thought of Chuy and shuddered.

“One thing you’ll learn quick in this band,” Eddie added somberly, “if you ain’t learned it already, is that Satan’s got game.”

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