Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chapter One

Tucker sensed the early darkness settling in before he actually openened his eyes, and a momentary panic set in. Was he late to the show? Instantly the familiar panic that plagued him often on the road set in. Being late was for showtime was unforgivable for a professional.

His clouded eyes searched for the glowing dial of an alarm clock somewhere in the room. He hoped he had remembered to set it before he laid down for a nap. He didn't always. Scanning the room, he settled on a red number with two dots on the nightstand. One dot for PM. One dot for alarm on. Good. And it was five minutes until the time he had set it for. Better. Five more minutes. Could he sleep for five minutes? He wanted to try, as unlikely as it was.

Still, the room seemed inordinately dark for this time of year. Wasn't it brighter a just a couple of days ago? Wasn't he used to waking from these afternoon naps in the daylight? Daylight...Ah, yes. It was Fall now, his foggy brain was trying to tell him. He would have to change his clocks soon. Which way did it go? Spring back, fall ahead? Or was it the other way around. He didn't have anyone around to ask, and so he guessed as best as he could.  Fall back. Fall back? Yes, fall back.  And fall back to sleep...Buzzzzzz! Damn, five minutes went fast when you really wanted it to last for an hour. He wanted to hit snooze and get nine more minutes of sleep. But, he knew it would be fitful sleep at best, and he was in fact a professional. Get up, he told himself. Get yourself together. Get to the show.

Tucker forced himself into a sitting position on the bed and stretched a little as he tried to orient himself to the room. This was always the difficult part for him on the road. Where was he? What was the layout of this room? What side of the bed was the bathroom on? Was there anything to trip over on the way there? He had slept in so many different rooms in the last few months that disorientation was a familiar feeling. Comforting even, if it could be so.

Sitting, but not yet moving. As he wiped the crust from the corner of his eyes, he let his mind wander to the blur that the Summer had been, extending on in to the Fall. He’d been in a new city almost every night. Campus towns, mostly, all looking the same after a while. Quads to walk around during the afternoons, full of kids skipping class to sprawl out across the grass to read or flip a frisbee or football around. Amazing campus architecture to explore with his lens and get his shutterbugging fix. Bookstore cafes to catch some free wi-fi in around the used textbooks to blow a couple of hours surfing the web for social networking, blogging, or hitting the news forums for his version of fun - newsjunkie debates in the virtual world. Ivy covered classroom buildings that reminded him of the hours he had spent in classrooms a lifetime ago. Eventually, as night rolled around, he would invariably hook back up with his three coworkers again onstage in a theater or large lecture hall to dazzle the crowds again with their wit.

He had a ritual that he had developed over the many nights in hotel rooms to find his will to move. Feel around under the covers. Find the remote. Turn on the TV. Scan to a news channel to hear a voice. Use the sudden unbearably bright light of the TV to scout your way to the bathroom. Exert your will to stand up and move. Find the small wrapped soap and the tiny bottle of shampoo and get showered. Groom and dress. Leave, looking back to remember the number on the door that night so that you could come back to the right room in the early morning hours after the show. What room number of what floor of what budget hotel was he in tonight? Remembering that night after night, that was a trick.

He looked and felt around in the covers and found the remote and pointed it at...

His TV. His widescreen TV. Not a generic 25" GE TV with scuffmarks. His familiar big LCD with the picture-in-a-picture that took a few seconds to warm up and come on. Ah, that did the trick. Now he was awake. Now Tucker knew where he was.

He was home, in his own apartment, and not in a hotel room. And he knew what that meant. If he didn't get up and get moving he would be late for the last show of the tour.

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