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Perfect Imperfections

By:Cardeno C.

Perfect Imperfections
Author: Cardeno C.

Chapter 1

WITH THE worn-to-hell baseball cap pulled low over his face, Jeremy Jameson walked into the bar. At least he assumed it was a bar, based on the lopsided sign out front that simply said "Bar" in peeling red paint and the stench of beer and cigarette smoke that permeated the air. The interior space wasn't any cleaner or hipper than the parking lot.

Jeremy tried to remember the last time he had been in a club or bar or restaurant that wasn't sleek with carefully positioned lighting and well-maintained fixtures. Never. The answer to that question was never. Even musicians who started on the bottom and worked their way up probably wouldn't have come to a dive like this; it was too small, too out of the way, and it didn't have a stage or any room to set up equipment.

Internally lecturing himself for thinking about work when he was supposed to be taking time for himself, he forced himself to stop focusing on music and start focusing on beer. A place like this probably wouldn't have imports or microbrews. Maybe he'd ask for whatever they had on tap and call it done. Easier to blend in that way.

"What can I get you?" the whiskey-voiced bartender asked the second Jeremy slid his butt onto the stool.

"A pint of whatever you have on tap."

"Coming right up."

Tugging the hat lower to make sure his famous green eyes were shadowed, Jeremy glanced around. It was early-seven o'clock on a Tuesday night-so the place was empty save for a table in back where a couple seemed to be arguing. Although for all he knew, the bar could be that empty every night. He'd never find out, because he had no plans to return to Munds Park, Arizona. The town didn't have a concert arena, and Jeremy couldn't think of any other reason to be there.

"Here you go, man." The bartender slid the cool glass in front of him and then wiped his hands on the towel he had tucked into his baggy Levi's. "So what brings you in tonight? Passing through town or looking to hide from the world?"

Both, actually, and the fact that the stranger knew that sent Jeremy's stomach dropping. He jerked his head up, which meant the man could see his eyes, and then he darted his gaze around the bar, fully expecting to find a gang of paparazzi equipped with cameras and microphones. Instead he saw the same grungy brown walls, scratched wood tables, and sticky concrete floor.

"Hey, I didn't mean anything by it," the bartender said good-naturedly. He patted Jeremy's shoulder. "Just shootin' the shit, you know?" He waved his hand around the bar slowly. "It's pretty dead in here."

Realizing his overreaction to the innocuous comment was obvious, Jeremy felt his cheeks heat. His attempt at being normal had pretty much consisted of hiding in less glamorous locations than his usual haunts and sitting in the driver's seat of a rented sedan instead of the back of a luxury car or tour bus or private plane. Same life, different scenery.

Drawing in a deep breath, he met the bartender's gaze, figuring he had either already blown his attempt at going incognito, or the dim light in the space combined with his well-placed hat were offering sufficient cover to keep his face hidden. "Sorry. I, uh, didn't mean to … ." He had no idea how to finish his sentence without admitting the reason for his strange behavior.

"No sweat, man," the bartender said easily. He rubbed his hand over the back of his closely shorn brown hair and grinned. "Everyone needs space once in a while." He started walking toward the other end of the bar, presumably to give Jeremy exactly that. "Holler when you're ready for another drink."

The booted feet had taken only two steps before Jeremy inexplicably said, "Both."

His eyebrows arched in question, the guy looked back over his broad shoulder, his brown eyes focused on Jeremy.

Usually he didn't like having people stare at him, but the bartender had seemed genuinely interested in chatting with him. He didn't know who Jeremy was, so that meant his interest wasn't in selling information to the magazines or gathering facts like a scientist examining a bug. He just wanted to talk. It was refreshing.

"You asked if I was passing through town or if I was looking to hide from the world." Lowering his gaze, Jeremy swallowed hard and said, "I'm doing both."

"Yeah?" The man turned on his heel and returned. "Cool. Where're you from?"

A simple question. Relaxing at the novelty of it, he kept looking the guy in the face. "California."

"Northern or Southern?" the bartender asked. "I was in a frat in college, and we had a bunch of guys from Cali." He shrugged. "Guess our out-of-state tuition's lower than your in-state. Anyway, the NoCal-SoCal rivalry was legendary."

Jeremy could have gone to college-he'd had the option even though his grades in high school hadn't been great-but he'd never had any desire or seen the point. Music was his life, had always been his life, and he had figured no professor could teach him as much about it as he already knew or could learn from his father's friends. Fourteen years recording albums, touring the world, and winning awards had proven him right. At thirty-one, he was at the top of his game. No degree needed.

"All right, so listen to this," the bartender said, smoothly moving on when Jeremy didn't answer his question. "This one semester, the guy in charge of the pledge class-" He paused and furrowed his brow in concentration. "Feltus was his name, I think. Anyway, he was from Palo Alto, and there were like five dudes in the pledge class from OC." He chuckled. "So one night, during hell week, Feltus takes the pledges out to the desert-this was in Tempe; I went to ASU-and he has them dig holes in the ground. Then he tells the SoCal guys to get in, has the other pledges bury them up to their necks, and makes everyone pile into their cars and drive back to campus." The bartender shook his head. "Fuckin' crazy rivalry, man. I tell you."

People said rock stars were wild, but Jeremy hadn't ever seen anybody get buried alive. Oddly fascinated by the story, he rested his forearms on the bar, leaned forward, and said, "Then what happened? Did anybody get hurt?"

"Nah." The bartender shook his head. "It sounds worse than it was. It's not like the dirt was packed or anything. The guys were able to get themselves out, and right after, a few of the other pledges drove back and picked them up."


"They must have been terrified," Jeremy said, shaking his head.

"It was hell week," he said with a snort. "They were too fucked up to be terrified."

Jeremy chuckled, took a drink of his beer, and sighed contentedly, feeling relaxed for the first time in a long time. It was nice to sit and chat with someone about nothing for no reason.

"I'm Reggie, by the way." The bartender wiped his hand on the towel and then extended it over the bar. "Reggie Moore. But everyone calls me Reg."

After sliding his palm on his gray skinny jeans, Jeremy held it out and shook Reg's hand. "Nice to meet you, Reg. I'm-" He paused, trying to decide if he should stop there, give a fake name, or be honest. He landed on something in between. "Jeremy."

"What brings you to Munds Park on this fine Tuesday evening, Jeremy?" Reg snagged the almost-empty glass, held it under the tap, and refilled it. "You on your way to Flag?"

"Uh … ."

Jeremy's confused expression must have given Reg his answer.

"All right, that's a negative on the journey to Flagstaff." He leaned over the bar and perused Jeremy, or at least as much of Jeremy as he could see considering the lighting was crap and Jeremy was seated. "No dirt all over your clothes, so you can't be on your way back from the canyon-"

"I am, actually," Jeremy corrected him.

"Oh really? Cool. Did you hike the south rim? I do that trail a few times a year