“I swear t’God, Lorraine, y’leave y’r shoes in the aisle one more time, I’m gonna wring y’r neck!”
“Cool it, Blanche,” she took a drag of her cigarette as Blanche tumbled off the bus.
“Where the hell are we anyway? This isn’t Kansas City.”
Stretched out before them lay miles and miles of mid-June corn. A line of trees, another field. And the sun coming up over the edge. Blanche sniffed the air.
“Jesus,” she snorted, “We’re bleedin’ fumes.”
“Al left half an hour ago t’find a mechanic,” she crushed the butt beneath her heel, “I guess it’s gonna be a while.”
Blanche dragged a stray curler out of her hair. Somewhere in the corn a bird skittered and fled.
“So what, we’re just stranded here?”
“Looks like it,” Lorraine rubbed her cheeks, pushed back the corners of her eyes, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we missed Kansas City entirely.”
“That’s the second show this week. I knew I shouldn’t’a signed up for this outfit…an’ I bet’cha this is commin’ outta our paycheck, I tell y’what.”
“What paycheck? I work for peanuts,” Lorraine ground the dead cigarette into the dirt, “A regular circus elephant.”
“Aw c’mon Lorraine, y’thighs ain’t that bad.”
“Not when I’m standing next to yours.”
“Ouch,” Blanche wrinkled her nose, “Why you gotta be so sour, huh?”
“I’m not sour.”
“Sure you are.”
Lorraine wandered forward, pushing about the the scrabbled tufts of grass and weeds with the scuffed tip of her shoe.
“I don’t wanna do this anymore, Blanche.”
“Nobody wants t’do this anymore. First chance I get, I’m outta here. I got a friend at the Savoy, says they might need a singer – backups and whatever. As soon as we get back to -”
“I meant the whole thing.”
“You don’t wanna sing anymore?” Blanche raised her eyebrows to the limit.
“I don’t wanna sing anymore, I don’t wanna tour, I don’t wanna get on anotha’ stage again for the rest a my life. I’m through.”
“Aw, c’mon Lorraine, you don’t mean that.”
“The whole dream ’s broke down.” The words barely made it out before her voice clammed up entirely. Her face went flush in an unbearable heat under the cake of yesterday’s makeup. It was too much, and too cruel. Lorraine ran the edge of her hand under her eye to catch the damp.
“Hey, hey now,” Blanche cooed, setting hands upon her shoulders, “It’s not that bad. Look, you’re just tired and this tour ‘s been shit anyway. But you love singin’, you don’t really wanna quit that do ya?”
Lorraine looked away into the distance, willing dryer eyes.
“I tell ya what, soon as we get to Kansas City, you an’ me ditch this gig and go see my buddy at the Savoy – give it one last shot someplace decent, ok?”
Lorraine’s breath went heavy in her chest. She would’ve allowed herself to fall if Blanche’s hands weren’t still clinging to her shoulders. It was so much. The ashes of her career felt insurmountable. It would be easier to forget it entirely, pretend it never happened – to shut down that part of herself and replace it with something stable and numb. But then…she slowly nodded her head.
“Good,” Blanche said with more relief than joy, “Now why don’t we go sit down again, huh? Take it easy this mornin’.”
Lorraine sucked in her tears and wandered back toward the gaping door of the bus. Once more. On the distant edge of the road, she saw a pair of figures – Al the driver was returning with a mechanic.
The picture is a public domain image from Wiki Commons.