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Authors: Scotty Cade

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BOOK: Final Encore
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The song was about a down-and-out man

attempting suicide by jumping off a bridge and being

rescued by a homeless person. He knew the song

would touch some hearts. It had great range, a good

story, and more importantly, something people could

identify with. He figured at one time or another most

people, even if it was just a fleeting thought, fantasized

about ending it al. He knew it wasn’t an upbeat song,

but it showed off his vocal range, and besides, al of the

performers before him had done songs like Garth

Brooks’s “Friends in Low Places” and George Strait’s

“They Cal Me the Fireman” as if it were karaoke night

at the local bowling aley. This was his chance to stand

out. It was a make-it-or-break-it song. As he reached

the first chorus, he looked around the room, and he

knew in his heart that he had captured everyone with

the song. From that point he didn’t second-guess his

song choice; he just sang.

When he finished, the audience jumped to their

feet and went wild. Bily was blown away and didn’t

quite know what to do. As he looked over at the bar,

he saw Jules and Jean, eyes wide with amazement and

clapping like there was no tomorrow. As Bily exited

the stage and made room for the next performer, the

crowd caled for more, but he just removed his hat,

bowed, smiled, and walked offstage, knowing in his

heart that he would have another chance to sing for

them.

When he exited the stage, Bily nervously headed

over to join Jules and Jean at the bar to watch the rest

of the performances. When he reached them, he

received a big hug from Jean as she said, “No one was

puling your leg, honey, great job!” He got a warm

handshake and accolades from Jules as wel as a few

people standing at the bar.

He ordered a beer, took a seat, and watched the

rest of the acts, sizing up the competition. When just

about everyone had sung, he went over al the acts in

his head. In his opinion, there were only a couple as

good or better than he was.

The first of the two was an attractive dark-haired

lady named Melanie Dodge. Melanie had a Gretchen

Wilson look and a similar sound as wel. He thought she

would be tough to beat. The other contender was a

short redheaded guy named Greg Ryan, whom he

dubbed Opie, because he reminded Bily of Opie

Taylor, the little boy Ron Howard played on
The Andy

Griffith Show
. His size and looks were deceiving,

because when he opened his mouth to sing, out came a

deep, sweet, soulful sound that was as good as Bily’s,

if not better. As he continued to size up his competition,

the sound of applause snapped him out of his

concentration.

Jules leaned over and said, “Just one more act to

go, son, and if she’s any good, it’s going to be a close

cal.” The last performer was Buck’s girlfriend, who

looked to be in her late forties with auburn hair, hazel

eyes, and a pretty good body for her age.
However old

she is
, he thought,
she’s in great shape
. Jean walked

onstage and stood in front of the microphone. “One

more entertainer to go,” she said. “I’m sure you al

recognize this little lady. Please welcome back to the

stage Ms. Tina Roth.”

As the intro to her song began, Bily knew

immediately that she was singing Tammy Wynette’s

“Stand By Your Man.” He looked around as if

everyone could read his mind, blushed a little, and

secretly thought,
Man, I hope she can’t sing.
He was

immediately relieved as Tina, somewhere between a

twang and a howl, began, “Sometimes it’s hard to be a

wo-man.”

He and Jules looked at each other with sly smiles,

and Bily took a deep breath. He felt fairly certain he

was in the top three. When Tina finished, everyone

politely clapped, and a few of the guys whistled while

she took her bow. Al that was left now was to

determine, by a round of applause, who were the top

three.

As Jean took the stage again, she asked al the

performers to join her. One by one, they walked up and

fel in line. She caled their names, and each one

stepped forward. By audience applause, she would

determine who would be the winners of round one, get

to do a second song, and ultimately win the

competition.

Just as Bily had previously thought, when it was

Melanie’s and Greg’s turn, they received thunderous

rounds of applause. There were only four of them left.

The next two performers received polite but minimal

applause, and then Bily heard his name. He stepped

forward and received the same thunderous applause as

the other two, plus the extra bonus of a few ladies

jumping up and down in the front row. Needless to say,

he was happy with the outcome. Only one more to go,

and it was Buck’s girlfriend, so he thought he had a

pretty good chance. Just as he thought, she received the

same polite applause as the two acts before him. He

was in round two, and he couldn’t be happier. As Tina

walked off the stage, he saw Buck grab her by the arm

and lead her to the restroom area. He could hear

Buck’s raised voice from the stage.

Bily ordered another beer and bought a round for

Jules and Jean while the house band played a set before

the final three performers did their last songs. The two

other newcomers were very good, and as he sipped on

his beer, he thought it could go either way. He chatted

with Jules and Jean about the competition, and then the

band finished their set, the dance floor cleared, and the

house lights came up. Again, Jean took the stage. As

she was about to speak, Buck rushed by with his meal

ticket in tow and again, deliberately and more closely

this time, brushed Bily’s shoulder and glared at him as

he passed by. Bily shook it off but thought, that guy

might be trouble.

Jean again thanked everyone for coming and

promised them three more great performances. She

welcomed al three finalists back to the stage and

greeted each one with a hug while the crowd went wild.

After the three took additional bows, they were

lined up onstage. Jean held out her hand, already made

into a fist with three even straws protruding from the top

and the bottom of the straws concealed. She explained

that each finalist would choose a straw and the shortest

straw would take the stage first, the next longest

second, and finaly the longest straw would go on last.

As each performer took a straw from Jean’s

hand, they determined that Greg was up first, Bily next,

and then Melanie. Bily was a little disappointed, as he

realy wanted the last spot, but was thankful he wasn’t

up first.

Bily and Melanie left the stage while Greg chatted

with the band and Jean prepared to introduce his

second song. Jean tapped the mic with her finger to

make sure it was live and said, “Singing Garth Brooks’s

‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’, let’s hear it for Mr. Greg

Ryan.”

As Greg started singing, Bily thought it was going

to be tough to beat him. Although his voice was very

good, Bily saw that he wasn’t connecting with the

crowd as wel as he had in the first song, and he hoped

that would go in Bily’s favor. When Greg was done,

the crowd sprang to their feet for a standing ovation that

lasted at least thirty seconds.

Bily was up next, and his heart was pounding so

hard, he thought it would beat right out of his chest. It

took him a minute to calm down, but he told himself this

song was no different than any other song he had ever

sung, although he knew it was.

Jean took the stage and thanked Greg for a great

performance and began to introduce Bily. Bily again

wiled himself to calm down and to connect with the

audience and do what he did best: perform.

The last thing he remembered was Jean saying,

“Put your hands together for Bily Eagan.” The next

thing he knew, he was seated in a soft spotlight with a

microphone in his hand and the band playing his intro.

He looked at the audience, took a deep breath, and as

the band reached the bridge, he started to sing. As he

relaxed, he became one with the song and felt more in

the moment than ever before. When he hit the chorus,

the crowd went absolutely wild. At that moment, he

thought he knew how a drug addict must feel. The

energy he was receiving from the audience was like a

drug, and he wanted it, he needed it, he bathed in it. In

a flash, the song was over, and Jean was back onstage.

The crowd stayed on their feet for over three minutes;

even Jean couldn’t calm them down. She was finaly

able to get the crowd to settle down as she introduced

the last performer.

Bily knew firsthand how hard it was to folow an

act that affected the crowd in such a way. He had done

it many times and didn’t envy Melanie, not because he

was so good, but because the crowd would not accept

anything less than perfection. Jean had told him earlier

that Melanie had chosen “Take Me as I Am” by Faith

Hil, so he knew she had to nail it to have a shot at

winning. Jean again took the stage and said, “Ladies

and gentlemen, please welcome to the boards our last

performer, Melanie Dodge.”

As Melanie took the stage, she was noticeably

shaken. When the band finished her intro and she began

to sing, “Baby, don’t turn out the light,” her voice

cracked and broke. Melanie stopped and asked the

band to start again. She made it through the song, but

just barely. The crowd reacted as such, and she left the

stage in tears. Bily felt terrible for her, but at the same

time he was also relieved to have a little less

competition.

The time had come for the winner to be

announced. Jean caled Bily, Greg, and Melanie to the

stage, and they al shook hands, hugged, wished each

other luck, and stood at Jean’s left. As Jean caled out

Greg’s name, he stepped forward, and the crowd

erupted into a thunderous round of applause. When the

crowd settled back down, Jean caled Melanie’s name,

and as expected she received limited but respectful

applause. When she caled Bily’s name and he stepped

forward, he thought the roof was going to rise right off

the place. Men and women alike were on their feet,

waving hats and screaming Bily’s name: “
Bil-ly! Bil-ly!

Bil-ly!

At that moment, Jean, Melanie, Bily, and Greg

knew who the winner was. Greg and Melanie again

shook Bily’s hand and congratulated him one last time

as they exited the stage. Jean gave Bily the biggest hug

and said with a tear in her eye, “I knew you could do it,

honey, congratulations.” Al Bily could do was smile

and bow. When he finaly left the stage, Jules was there,

this time with a bear-hug and more congratulations as

he and Jean walked Bily over to the bar with their arms

over his shoulders like proud parents. At that moment

Bily was overtaken with emotion, and a tear slid down

his cheek, not because he had won, but because he

knew his parents would be so proud of him. And he

knew they would be happy that he had these wonderful

people in his life.

For Bily, the rest of the evening was heaven. He

had a few more beers and relived the entire

performance over and over again in his head until he

finaly alowed himself to accept that he was realy on

the way to living his dream at last. He mentioned to

Jean and Jules what had happened with Buck, and they

were not surprised. Jean told Bily that Buck’s girlfriend

was at every open mic night with Buck at her side. “She

never wins and most times looks embarrassed, but

nonetheless, she’s always here. I don’t like that Buck

Stevens one bit,” Jean added to Jules, “and I wish you

would fire him at the ranch.”

“That wouldn’t make him stop pushing Tina to

sing here every month,” Jules replied.

“Wel, maybe he would leave town in search of a

new job and leave that poor girl alone,” Jean said.

“Bily, you keep your eyes and ears open and let

me know if anything out of the ordinary happens,” Jules

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