Another weekend on the road lay before me. I had packed my survival kit, which consisted of my homework, my body pillow, and my knitting project. My kit would sustain me through the 10-plus hours of driving to and from our country club gig, with Steven Mallard's show band.
This gig came after another dull week of classes at college, where I was stuck in a major I despised but was completing just so I didn't delay graduating. Homework was the last thing I wanted to do. I needed to decompress, and having free time to knit was all I yearned for. I was working on a scarf -- which, as all knitters know, is the simplest project. You make a long rectangle by knitting rows of stitches back and forth, on and on. Very repetitive, very mundane, very soothing.
But boy, did those musicians give me shit for knitting. At least I had Leslie in my corner -- the only other girl in this outfit. She understood, she was into crochet. But our guitar player Sid, who was normally king of the one lined insults that could cut you to the bone in the most charming way, was strangely quiet. He kept to himself, vacillating between staring at our leader in disdain, and looking over my shoulder at my knitting with an amused smirk. His dislike for Mr. Mallard was not invalid. The list of backwards policies, poor judgment calls, and instances of unprofessional outbursts was longer than Sid's guitar case; and the rest of us were sad to see the day approaching fast, when there would come the straw to break the camel's back. Sid was an older gentleman who had spent a lifetime as a touring musician, and carried himself with all the poise and confidence that comes with years of perfecting one's craft. He'd been through it all, and seen it all, and never hesitated to tell us kids that "this band sure beats all I've ever seen."
We were trucking right along, flopping up and down with the van's wheels being out of alignment, and we pulled up to our chosen gas station. Mr. Mallard was cheap: he rarely had maintenance done on his vehicles, and he was somehow an expert on which were the cheapest gas stations between home and any given venue -- and I don't mean he knew which town had the cheapest gas. I mean he knew which specific station, in the cheapest town, had the cheapest gas. Decades of knowledge accumulated from being on the road pays off, I guess. He always planned our itineraries around refueling at these spots.
Steve Mallard's right hand man, and our male vocalist, Anthony, parked the vehicle and began pumping, while the great Steve himself hoisted his obesity out of the passenger's seat and onto the ground. The worn tires reinflated, and the van rose higher above the pavement, once it was no longer supporting his weight. I had nicknamed this band 'Planet Steve and the Satellites', due to the fact that he weighed over 400 pounds, and expected everyone else to orbit around him, catering to his every whim.
Once Steve got out of the van, the rest of us knew we would be stopped here long enough to go into the store for the conveniences. The back seat doors flung open wide, and stiff musicians came lumbering out for a cigarette. But all I wanted to do was continue knitting.
Sid was climbing out from one row back, but just before he slid out the door, he paused to lean over my shoulder, and inquire in his deep, smoker's southern droll: "Are you...knitting Steve...a THONG?"