Are My Boots Big Enough? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Am I good enough to be like George? I wondered as I sat in the dressing room. I recalled all the things I had seen him do on TV and reviewed his voice as I internalized my first note. I was all alone and liked it that way. It gave me time to think. Even in a room backstage, the crowd’s pulse could be heard for those performing. Time to knock ’em dead, baby! I decided. It sounded cocky, perhaps, but that’s the way it was.

I unzipped the gold gym bag. There were my jeans, shirt and socks all neatly folded next to my boots. Thanks, Mom, I thought. She didn’t quite understand why I was doing this, and neither did I. It was an indescribable pull. Fate? Perhaps, but what fueled me more than anything was the urge to carpe diem. Why not live in the spotlight while you can?

I slipped on the socks (it’s murder to put on socks after skin-tight jeans) and pulled on my jeans, then looked in the mirror. I looked like one of those magazine models - minus the muscles. After tucking in my dark shirt, I wondered, Will people start calling me the man in black?

No, there was only one man in black. I slipped on my new boots and that’s when I started to feel real. It happened every time I put on Western clothes. I was still me ... just different. I took out the black hat, and tenderly blew it off. Dust collects like moths to a street light on that beauty. It was the most important part of my performance apparel. Without your cowboy hat, you’re nothing. I hated to watch people like Darryl Worley and Keith Urban who changed country-music fashion with their untucked shirts and loose jeans. They never wear cowboy hats. They just aren’t like George Strait.

Kris came in to make a call. He took one look at me and said, "Oh, my God," with a chuckle. Until now, no one had actually seen me in boots and a hat.

"What do you think?" I asked.

"Nice," was all he could say. He had done the previous skit, stunt wrestling. "You’ve got a belt?" he asked. I looked down and realized I had almost forgotten my belt with the silver buckle. I imagined it glistening in the lights as I sang. In 10 minutes, I would be out there, alone, in the lights, singing my heart out. "Go get ’em, Brad," Kris encouraged me.

"You gonna watch, ain’t ya’?" I asked. He grinned and nodded.

Taking a seat in a dark corner, I thought, Now, George does that head tilt a lot, so remember that. Make sure you point at the crowd at least once, and don’t forget to tap your heel and swing your shoulders every now and then. I started to wonder if my voice would be okay. My throat started to feel dry and a wave of fear washed over me like I was sinking in quicksand. I started to drink frantically at the water fountain. The minutes passed in a blur and before I knew it, it was time.

"Brad, you’re up!" called Ms. Shuba. I walked between the curtains and passed a couple of faces who smiled and gave me a pat on the back with hands I couldn’t see. My heart started pounding and then it leapt into my throat when I heard the people cheering as my name was announced. I looked onto the stage and saw the MC coming off. I stepped out into the lights to face my teenage destiny.

The crowd roared and I heard high-pitched screams everywhere. My boots kissed the center stage as I stood where I would sing. I grinned and smiled like it was nothing to be up there alone. Shaking hands grabbed the mic and adjusted it. My eyes darted from shadow to shadow in the crowd.

People say that what I did that night was nothing like me, but what they don’t understand is that what I did that night is me. When I heard the massive crowd, all my nerves vanished and the stage became home. With a nod to the sound crew, the tape started rolling. When the steel guitar notes hit the air, the crowd’s noise level jumped more than I could have imagined.

Was that clapping I heard? Yes!

I felt like I was in control of their every cheer. If I raised my hand, they screamed and if I closed my eyes and tilted my head, they howled. I felt like a god.

I could barely hear the music, but it was okay. The lights hit me hard and hot, and I was silhouetted, living in the moment. I began to sing and at that moment I was a country star.

When the music faded and I took off my hat and raised it for a bow, I wondered what had just happened. Had I actually done this? Yeah, and I’d done it well. I sauntered off stage and the crowd cried for me. I walked on air that night. I had lived out a dream.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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