Meat Stick

North Portland 

 Taking advantage of the early evening lull, Calvin crafted a cardboard sign and pinned it proudly in front of his truck's side window, complete with puns and sharpie doodles.


 Content to spend much of what he'd earned on fair goodies, he did a lap and came out with a kebab, a corn dog, and chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick. Sidling along, he worried a piece of gristle between his top and bottom teeth, never missing a stride. Towards the back of the carnival was a main stage where all manner of small freckle-faced children had belted out 'Tomorrow' or shimmied to a television theme song for the festival's afternoon talent show.

 Now a throng of sweating people dressed in black were setting up for something entirely different. Amps, cords, and instruments were shuttled up the rickety metal steps for sound check, and while he hadn't known or expected her to be there, it was a nice surprise. He waved, corn dog in hand. "Hey, Dina Doo. Wanna piece a mah meat?"

 Things like this weren't particularly lucrative in the sense of their upfront and immediate earnings - but they tended to plant seeds. Made the shop look good in a storefront sense, generated conversation, good as any flickering neon sign or blurb on the radio. So she did it, yearly for that matter - at least since the first time she'd gotten her feet good and properly situated on the ground.

 Mix chord wrapped around her arm and resting on her shoulder, she was working to unfurl it while a fellow crouched in front of her taped it down every couple of paces securely. Glancing over in part from sound but more the sensation - hard to explain in any human sense. Surprised for a beat and then all together not as she looked from one Calvin Bates to his meager fried offering.

 "Thanks, but I have a five second rule about eating shit you've touched." Turning from him just long enough to make sure the chord clicked into place before she hoped down from the stage. The echo of the metal easily lost in all the screaming, cheers, hullabaloo that swirled around them. "Patriotic or whoring your goods?"

 "Better make it three seconds. I don’t wash mah hands." Finishing the breaded, emulsified sausage, he wiped his fingers on the side of his shirt, the grease making faint, shadowy stains. He made no move to step back, his cat trilling out a sharp and vibrant greeting.

 It was a quiet comedy to see the two felines size each other up in the bone-dry grass of the festival grounds, cotton candy to their right and plush bears to their left.

 "I ain’t really a flag wavin’ summa bitch, but I sure am personable. I come fer the masses, an I feed ‘em too. Just call me backwoods Jesus." If the loaves and fishes averaged $5.99, that was. "What all are ya settin’ up fer? You gonna be playin?"

 "Me?" She recoiled a bit, as if he'd found himself switching to a long dead dialect in the middle of his thought. "No. I just help set this shit up, rent out the equipment, break it down and take it back when it's all said and done." She wiped her palms on the thighs of her jeans, nodded her head in the direction of a large weather proofed banner that was tied to the metal railing of a barrier that separated the stage. A good sizes advertisement for the shop with all the pertinent information that proudly proclaimed their involvement in the evenings entertainment.

 "If I was playing they'd need a bigger dirt clot to do this bitch on." Deadpan even as her beast bristled and swung at him with a sheathed paw. Friendlier, technically - though she wouldn't draw any attention to the tepid reception - not the calm and aloof she aimed for otherwise. "So when I'm done, sandwich discount - right? It's just fair considering everything." As if it were some brand of sacrilege to fine a fellow feline.

 "That right?" He asked, less dubious than impressed. It was easy to imagine Adina on stage, back-lit and shredding. She had the edge, the confidence. The bigger question was why she'd ended up here. "Sure, Dina. I'll give ya a sammich. One condition, though. Gotta play me somethin' - if not taday than soon. Gotta sing fer yer supper." Or strum for it.

 He'd been teased with her musical prowess more than once now, and he wanted to match a set of skills to the blustery boasting. His cat nudged her, a little less demanding, a question of companionship as he settled next to the smaller beast. "If ya ever do play somewhere, gimme a holler. I'd love ta see ya perform."

 Playing was a luxury these days - a passing hobby and a passion, but not a way to make ends meet. And while there was an invasive part of her brain that mumbled 'has been', more days than not she just accepted it as a part of growing up and growing older. "Next time you're close to the shop, maybe." Frequently happy to test run and fiddle with the newest product whenever it passed through.

 "You can bring your banjo or your washboard or whatever." Low hanging fruit but still worth a swat as far as she was concerned. Dusting off the thighs of her jeans and motioning for him to lead the way to the promised greasy, high carb, land to come.

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