14. Sauce Piquante
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Fourteen Sauce Piquante The parish gym was nearly empty when Steve and I walked in with our instruments on a gray afternoon in March. We saw little evidence of the festival we’d been expecting, aside from some Mardi Gras decorations scattered around. KP approached us, straining under the weight of her electric bass and amp. Looking a little wan, as though she really did belong home in bed, nursing her cold. I felt a twinge of guilt for talking her into this. “So where is everyone?” I figured maybe she’d know, since she’d arrived ahead of us, as usual. “I heard most people left after the parade at noon.They’ll be back later, for the evening dance.” Oh. We passed through the gym and into the chilly parking lot. I scanned the craft displays and concession stands, shaking in the wind, until I finally spotted Shirley, over by the CFLFM booth. She had invited us here, to play at the annual St. Edward’s Mardi Gras Festival her cousin helped organize. The warmth of Shirley’s smile reminded me why I’d wanted us to do this. Just a little informal music, she’d suggested, a nice addition to the CFLFM’s cultural display . No money was involved, but maybe it would provide some exposure to my fledgling band, along with a chance to contribute to the community. I noticed another CFLFM member, decked out in beads and devil ’s horns—and with a corrugated metal rubboard already in place, covering his chest like armor. Not exactly what I’d anticipated. But we could probably use some rhythm support—especially since our new drummer couldn’t make it, and we were “between guitarists” at the moment. Shirley scurried away to find us somewhere to sit. She returned 159 160 Danse de Poullard with low, sling-backed fabric chairs—with arms, not ideal for playing music, but I didn’t have much choice, since I hadn’t mastered the art of playing the accordion standing up. I sank down, immediately off balance, fighting against the strange sensation of being sucked into the collapsible chair. A biting wind swept across the parking lot, and I imagined the rain couldn’t be far behind. I pulled out my accordion and studied my song list, a slowly expanding collection of waltzes alternating with two-steps. We had just enough material for two short sets, sometimes a stretch for the two-hour dances the band had started to play last fall, but more than enough for today. So far, we’d had three public gigs, for a struggling Cajun dance club at a VFW Hall near San Jose, where the dancers barely outnumbered the musicians . I started with “Lovebridge Waltz”—always a secure beginning. I could hear the familiar sound of Steve and KP joining in on fiddle and bass, along with the harsh scratching of the rubboard. Two couples started to dance on the pavement, between the booths. I began to work my way through the list, waltz followed by two-step, trying to sing. But the rising wind threw my voice right back at me. I heard the desultory bursts of applause after each tune. But I couldn’t get comfortable. I kept leaning forward in the too-low chair. I couldn’t feel the music. Then my nose began to run. I alternated between playing an accordion lead, swiping awkwardly at my nose during the fiddle break, then playing again. Funny, I’d felt fine when I awoke that morning—even excited, looking forward to the first meeting of my new creative writing class and then music afterward. I had pictured a perfect day. But now I felt tired and sore all over. Maybe I’d caught KP’s cold at our last band practice. Pumping the bellows felt more difficult by the minute, especially with that heavy ache in my left shoulder starting to blossom into radiating pain. Then I put it together: I must be having a reaction to yesterday ’s tetanus shot. The rain started falling, with a few sprinkles turning into heavy drops. We relocated inside, to the gym. Although much more comfortable for playing, the big church hall seemed to swallow up our unamplified sound. Sauce Piquante 161 “We could play up on the stage—the sound might carry better,” someone suggested. “No, I don’t think so.” I quickly vetoed that idea. “We’ll be fine just playing down here...