by P. Orin Zack
P. Orin Zack by Philip Zack
"Pardon me for asking, Mr. Welch, but you're not having stage fright, are you?"
Feeling very alone in the empty limo, Evers Welch gazed through the darkened window at the big display over the row of doors across the street. People were still streaming into the concert hall, eager to experience his latest work. He caught the driver's eyes in the mirror. "Maybe so, Jimmy," he said, a bit perplexed. "That's what's so strange about it."
The demand-pricing list on the display washed out to gray while the iconic photo of the disaster that had so traumatized the city years before faded in. It was followed by a series of rapid-fire overlays that turned it into the end-card from the trailer for the live cinema-cast of tonight's performance. The stage in question extended well past the wooden one across the street.
"I haven't had stage fright since the night I played my first song cycle in public. That was what, fifteen years ago?"
Jimmy nodded as the limo crept a few more feet. "The one about that Pinkerton guard in the Homestead Steel strike. I've seen the pirate video. You had stage fright? Could-a fooled me."
Across the street, the giant end-card dissolved to the house concert photo of a twenty-something Evers Welch that had gone viral after that video was uploaded, and then to the cover art for the commercial release of the Pinkerton song cycle, which used it.
"Uh huh. I was petrified. Up "til then, I'd never laid my soul bare to tell a story. That was the first one I wrote about a real person. Before that, they were all made up. Fictional. Safe."
"Then what's different about tonight's story? It's about someone real, too, isn't it?"
Evers turned away. "It was supposed to be," he muttered.
"What was that, sir?"
He shook his head. "Nothing. Look, just let me out. I'll hoof it around the building from here."
"Sure thing, Mr. Welch. I'll be parked by the stage door when you're through."
Standing on the sidewalk beside the gridlocked limo, Evers stared up at his name again. It was unnerving. Still, it was just his name, and seeing it there was no different from the signs at any number of performances over the last few years.
"Evers Welch: Live!" he read to himself. It loomed over him, taunting him with the promise of wealth and adoration if only he played it safe, daring him to speak his mind and risk throwing away the success he'd had.