Sandy wasn't the one anybody cheered for.
That was Rolanda's job.
She and the rest of the Brass Valkyries
made the music that brought fans screaming to their feet.
Sandy's job was to drive the van,
tote the instruments and hook up the amps.
Rolanda was the beauty, tall and slim and blonde,
fierce as the warrior maidens for which the band was named.
The other performers were slightly dimmer versions
of Rolanda's shining glory. Beside them,
Sandy looked like a small beige lapdog,
short and fuzzy and kind of cute.
Sandy didn't mind, though.
She had her own ways of getting by.
Say what you like about her looks or her music,
but Rolanda was no cheapskate; she liked to spread the wealth.
So did Sandy.
Sandy's job was before and after. During the gig,
important people working the concert hall or wherever
would take charge of the sound and the lighting and all that.
For an hour or two or three, she could slip away
and explore whatever city they were visiting.
Sometimes she just walked aimlessly,
but other times it seemed that things called to her.
There was the litter of kittens that she found in a dumpster
and carried, under her coat, in the rain, to a shelter.
There was the boy in the bus station with two black eyes
in need of a ticket home that Sandy bought for him.
There was the taxi driver who needed someone
to listen to him for a change.
Sandy was good at listening.
Sometimes she drifted into an alley or under a bridge
where the bums gathered, and listened to the
scraps and tatters of their lives.
She would pull out her battered old harmonica
and play, giving voice to their regrets,
making their pain howl at the hazy moon
until truth fell into lyrics like a wash of acid rain.
It was never the Valkyrie music of battle songs
or hard rock that Sandy sought out.
Hers were the songs of Loki and Angrboda,
forgotten songs for forgotten people --
and when the songs ended,
the clouds scattered and the sky cleared,
and took sorrow with them for a time.
Even the harmonica had come to her
out of someone's grief, pressed into her hand
by an old black roadie who said in his whisky voice,
"I'm getting too long in the tooth for this job.
Go on and take this, girlie -- you got soul to blow."
Sometimes Sandy thinks it is all just chance
and a bad habit of walking through places
that are probably too dangerous for a girl,
even one with band-toting muscles, to go.
Sometimes Sandy thinks it is all about the soul,
and the songs she scrapes out of the wheezing reeds,
and the places she falls into as if they were her own.
Perhaps they are.
If Sandy will never know, well,
neither will the Valkyries, smiling down at her
as she heaves their gear back into the van,
and climbs into the driver's seat that she would never
trade for the spotlight on the stage,
harmonica hidden in her butt pocket
like a secret heart.