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The Back Up Plan

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Nothing said three day weekend like a concert at The P*lace. Whenever Kids Incorporated put on a show to start the three day weekend, the concerts were more energetic and crowds were more enthusiastic. Besides, both the Kids and the audience were glad not to think about school for one more extra day.

The same could not be said of last week. A flu bug went through town, and a lot of students got sick. Ryan was one of them, and their keyboard player, Gina, as well. Because of it, Kids Incorporated had to cancel a couple of shows at The P*lace. But with the flu bug gone, everything seemed to be back to normal.

Friday after school, the P*lace was bustling, as the Kids were getting ready for the show. Ryan, back at one hundred percent, was fine tuning his guitar. Gloria, Renee, and Stacy,
were double checking the set list, and The Kid was checking the sound level on his microphone.

Their back up musicians and dancers were also in rehearsal mode. Mario was adjusting his drum kit, Darren was tuning his bass guitar, Gina was adjusting the tempo on the keyboards, and Andrea and Wendy were going over some dance moves.

Meanwhile, at the soda fountain, Riley was doling out the orders of sodas and milkshakes to the kids inside The P*lace. Business was very good on days like this.

A few minutes later, the show was about to start. Gloria and Ryan, the two oldest of the band, gathered the others around.

“Is everyone ready?” Gloria asked.

“YEAH!” they all said.

Stacy coughed. Everyone looked at her.

“Are you all right?” Renee asked her sister.

“Of course I am,” the ten year old tyke answered. “It’s not like I have the hiccups again.”

“Okay, then,” Ryan said. “Let’s get ready to rock!” Everyone took their places on the stage.

The lights came on, the curtain went up, and the show began, with the opening lines of “Is There Something I Should Know?”

The crowd went up cheering for their favorite after school band.

For a while, the pressures of being a teenager were gone. No school, no teachers, no homework. Just a bunch of kids on stage rocking out to the music. The kids inside The P*lace cheered wildly for the band.

And then the song ended…

Everyone took their bow. But Gloria came up a little slow. So did Stacy. Ryan noticed it.

“Are you two okay?” he asked.

Before either one of them answer, Gloria and Stacy quickly ran off the stage. Ryan, Renee, and The Kid followed them.

Gloria and Stacy went right into the ladies room, the door slamming behind them. The others stopped at the entrance.

“Are you two okay?” Ryan asked again through the door.

The only response they all got was a loud “ACK!”

“That didn’t sound good,” The Kid said.

A few seconds later, the door slowly opened. It was Gloria, looking a little pale.

“What happened?” Renee asked.

“You know that flu bug that went around last week?” Gloria replied. “I think it came back.”

“Are you sure?” Ryan asked.

“Stacy’s sure,” Gloria said.

Stacy called out “If that’s mom, tell her to get some Nyquil!”

“I’ll tell mom!” Renee said back. Then she added, “’Cause I think I need some too!” She pushed past everyone and ran into the restroom.

“I thought the flu bug was already gone too,” The Kid said. “So much for modern medicine.”

“I can’t believe this,” Ryan said. “I’m sick last week and everyone else gets sick this week?” He looked at The Kid. “Well, at least you’re not catching it.”

As soon as Ryan said it, The Kid made him regret those words. The Kid turned at least six shades of something that wasn’t his natural skin color. He turned around and ran for the men’s room.

Ryan was alone backstage, unable to believe the ultimate in bad luck. In less than five minutes, four members had come down ill, all after one song.

He could hear the crowd outside getting restless. Riley came into the backstage area. And even he wasn’t looking that good.

“Riley, are you all right?” Ryan asked.

“I think so,” Riley replied. “Why, what’s going on?”

“They’re all sick. They all got the flu. All at the same time.”

“Oh,” Riley said. “You know what, Ryan?”

“What?”

Riley clutched his midsection with his right hand. “I think I got it too!”

Ryan threw up his hands in obvious disgust. The black plague seemed to just hit at the worst possible time. “Look, go out on stage, get the others back here,” Ryan said to Riley. “Tell the audience to bear with us. Tell them the truth if you have to.”

“Tell them that everyone is throwing up?”

Ryan shrugged. “Sugar coat it!”

Riley quickly made it to the stage. He motioned to the rest of the group – Mario, Darren, Gina, Andrea, and Wendy – to get backstage where Ryan was. As soon as they left, Riley took the microphone and made his announcement.

“Sorry for the delay folks,” he said, smiling through the pain. “Please bear with us. We’re just having some technical difficulties.”

As soon as he said that, there was a loud retch coming from the backstage restroom. The kids in the audience turned their heads in that direction, then back at Riley.

“As well as some intestinal difficulties!” he added. Including his. He quickly came down the stage and headed straight for the men’s room.

Backstage, the girls had come out of the restroom and made their way to the dressing room. Ryan filled the rest of the gang in on the situation. “Please tell me none of you are getting sick right now.”

“I had the flu last week,” Gina said.

“Mom got paranoid last week,” Andrea said. “Nothing but chicken soup.”

“I got a flu shot,” Wendy said, rubbing one of her arms. “So did my whole family.”

“No flu here,” Mario said.

“How bad is it?” Darren asked.

The door to the dressing room opened up. Out walked Renee with a box of Kleenex in one hand and a waste bucket in the other. To say she looked like death warmed over would be an understatement.

“I wouldn’t come in here if I were you,” Renee advised. “It’s a disaster area.”

“That bad, huh?” Ryan said.

“Call every doctor from every soap opera,” Renee said. “We’re gonna need ‘em.” She turned around and went back inside the dressing room, shutting the door behind her.

“So what’s the plan?” asked Mario. “Cancel the show?”

“That idea crossed my mind,” Ryan said. “Or we keep going.”

“But we’re down four singers,” Andrea pointed out.

Ryan looked at Wendy. “Are you over your shyness?”

“Of course,” Wendy replied.

“Congratulations, you’re up.”

“Thanks.” Wendy didn’t sound enthused, but given the circumstances.

“I agree,” Gina said. “We’ll keep going.”

“The show must go on,” Darren added. “Just don’t break a leg.”

“Or get sick,” added Mario.

There was a loud belching retch from inside the dressing room.

“On second thought,” Darren said, “maybe it’s better to break a leg.”

“Look, if you guys want to change your mind,” Ryan said, “I’ll understand. The others would too.”

“No,” Mario insisted. “We’ve come this far. We aren’t gonna stop because of a little flu bug.” He looked at the others. “Agreed?”

Andrea, Darren, Gina, and Wendy nodded in agreement. “Like you said, the show must go on,” Andrea said.

“Okay, let’s do this,” said Ryan.

Everyone began to head back to the stage. “What song am I singing?” Wendy asked Ryan.

“’Words’ by Missing Persons,” Ryan replied.

“WHOA!” Wendy stopped in her tracks. “I don’t know that song!”

“What?!” Ryan exclaimed, as if today hadn’t already gone from bad to worse. “What do you mean you don’t know that song?”

“I don’t know that song,” insisted Wendy. “I’m not trying to back out, I really don’t know that song!”

“I know it,” Andrea suddenly said.

Ryan and Wendy looked at Andrea. “You do?”

“I do,” Andrea said again. “Seriously. I don’t have the squeak and sqauwk like that girl who sings it does, but I can sing it.”

“Okay, then,” Ryan said, “you’re up.”

And the band took to the stage. No Gloria, no Renee, no Stacy, no Kid. Just Ryan and his guitar, the drummer, the bass player, the keyboard player, and two dancers turned singers.

The crowd inside The P*lace looked at the band on stage, wondering what was going on.

“Please bear with us,” Ryan announced to the crowd. “We’ve overcoming some technical issues, but the show will go on.” And the show did…..

Singing “Words”, Andrea sounded really good. Like she said, she didn’t have the squeak of the person who sang it, or thankfully, her fashion sense. And judging by the looks of some of the boys in the audience, Andrea looked good singing it as well.

After the song, Ryan informed the crowd there would be a break. The crowd took it easy as Ryan went backstage, with Mario following him, into the dressing room. They both entered and saw Renee, Stacy, and The Kid all hunched over on the chairs they were sitting on, next to an old sofa, looking at least four shades of green.

“How’s everyone doing?” Ryan asked.

Renee and Stacy just gave them a look that said What do you think?'

The Kid said, “They would say something, but they’re afraid something else might come out.”

Mario looked around. “Where’s Gloria?”

Before anyone could answer, Gloria burst out of an adjoining room. “I’m ready to go!” she proclaimed.

Ryan looked at her. “Gloria, are you okay?”

“Of course I am!” she said. “I’m not a hundred percent, but I’ll fight through it!”

“Looks like you’re losing the fight already,” Mario said.

Gloria did look a little pale, but she ignored it. “I’m feeling better now! I can dance! I can sing! I can do anything!” She walked up to Ryan and Mario, saying with a flourish, “Let’s go!”

Then she teetered and wobbled and stumbled backwards, falling onto the sofa on the seat of her pants. Ryan and Mario watched, as her eyes crossed as she sank down past the cushions onto the floor.

“She went down with her sofa,” Ryan said.

Renee, Stacy, and The Kid, would’ve laughed if they were sure whatever was in their stomachs would stay down.

Ryan and Mario helped Gloria back onto the sofa. “Sorry guys,” she said wearily. “I thought I could go back on stage.”

“Don’t worry, we can make it without you,” Ryan said. They left the dressing room with Gloria wrapped in a blanket, along with the rest of the sick.

The show resumed on stage. Mario put on a headset microphone and helped Ryan out on the vocals for “It Can Happen” by Yes. In a way, the words seemed to be fit the situation at hand. “It can happen to you/It can happen to me/It can happen to everyone eventually…..” Whether it was a sudden bout of sickness or being thrust into the spotlight, it can happen, and in this case, it did.

The next song was Wendy’s. Ryan knew the story about Wendy’s shyness when it came to singing and how the band helped get over it. She sang “Allies” by Heart, which was supposed to be Gloria’s. Though she hadn’t sung in a while, it was apparent that Wendy hadn’t forgotten how to. And like Andrea, some of the boys in the audience seemed to like the fact that Wendy was singing.

During a break, Ryan went backstage to check on the sick. He opened the door and found the walking wounded. “Feeling any better?”

Gloria, Renee, Stacy, and The Kid were up and around, though moving very slowly. “A little better,” Renee said.

“At least we stopped throwing up,” The Kid said. “Which reminds me, tell Riley that he may need to disinfect everything back here.”

“As soon as he gets done being sick himself,” Ryan said.

“How did the show go?” Gloria asked.

“It went great,” Ryan replied. “They really came through us.”

“All of them?” Stacy asked. The four of them looked at each other, then Ryan.

“They all did great.”

Ryan left the dressing room. He found the others waiting for him.

“Is everything okay back there?” Mario asked.

“Quarantine’s over,” Ryan said. “They’re up and around.” There was a sigh of relief.

“Glad to hear they’re feeling better,” Gina said.

“I’ll let them know.” Then, Ryan said to them, “Hey guys, thanks for everything.”

“No problem,” Mario said.

“No, I mean it,” Ryan said. “All of you.”

Andrea, Wendy, Mario, Darren, and Gina all looked at Ryan.

“I guess me and the rest of us don’t say it enough, but thanks,” Ryan said. “For everything. Me, Gloria, and the rest of us are always at the front, but you guys are there as well. We can’t do it without you. Thanks. Especially for today.”

“You’re welcome, Ryan,” Wendy said. “We’ve always known we’ve been appreciated.”

“We’ve always been here for you guys,” Andrea said.

“Always will be,” added Darren.

Ryan headed back to the stage, as the others lingered behind a little bit.

“Did you see all those guys gawking over you when you were singing?” Wendy asked Andrea.

“Probably the same guys who were swooning over you,” joked Andrea.

“Any of those guys ask you for your phone number?” Mario asked.

They all laughed as they headed back to the stage.

“Any girls ask you for your number?” Darren asked Mario.

“I got all the phone numbers I need,” Mario replied. “Remember, I’m on the wrestling team.”

“You’re all hopeless,” Gina said.

Gloria, Renee, Stacy and the Kid, had all left the dressing room, and made their way to the audience, but standing off to the side, so not to start another flu epidemic amongst the crowd. They watched as Ryan, followed by the rest of the group, came on stage for the finish of the show.

Ryan announced to the crowd, “I’d just like to thank you all for showing up today, and putting up with our difficulties. You were a great audience today.” The crowd applauded. “And let’s not forget our backup musicians. We couldn’t have done it without them today.”

One by one, Ryan introduced them, and they each followed with a brief solo – Mario on the drums, Darren on the bass, and Gina on the keyboards – that melded into one prelude for the final song. Ryan then introduced Andrea, who did a couple of spins before taking a bow, and then Wendy. At first, Wendy appeared to turn away shyly, then spun around for her bow with a beaming smile on her face.

The audience cheered, as did Gloria, The Kid, Renee, and Stacy. Like Ryan had said earlier, they knew their backup musicians and dancers were just as much a part of Kids Incorporated as they were. They were all in the spotlight, whether they were up front or not.

The band on stage immediately launched into the final song of the show, “Fascination.” Darren’s bass and Gina’s keyboards heralded the song, as Ryan, Wendy, Andrea, Mario, Darren, and Gina, all shared the vocals. When the song and the show was over, the audience wildly cheered the band on stage, and Ryan, Mario, Andrea, Wendy, Darren, and Gina all took a bow.

They weren’t the Kids everyone knew, but they were still part of Kids Incorporated.