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Promises in Purple Ink

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Leo's sick again, and Tommy just can't afford to go another day without bringing in some cash. So he sets up in their assigned spot alone. It feels strange and uncomfortable to be out in front. He'd much rather sit behind Leo, where nobody notices anything but the music he plays.

He's got Leo's rainbow painted pot set up out front and he's seeded it with some small bills and change. A few people have drifted by, mostly tourists, looking at him curiously, but so far no one's stopped.

Rolling his shoulders, he picks up his guitar and starts playing.


Sometimes, through the music, he hears the rattle of coins hitting ceramic. Not as often as when he's accompanying Leo's juggling, but enough to give him hope that he can feed both of them and still have something leftover for that month's rent. He refuses to regret turning down the call center job.

He pauses to take a sip from the much-refilled water bottle next to his foot. He's got a few people watching: a group of teenagers, and a couple around his age with their kid.

"Got a request?" Tommy asks, because sometimes that gets people to pony up.


The teenagers yell out some songs that he can't do on an acoustic, and a few that make him shudder. Then a guy steps out of the shade at Tommy's left. He's wearing dark sunglasses and a baseball cap pulled down low to shadow his face. His friend reaches out, muttering something Tommy doesn't catch, and the guy shakes him off.

"20th Century Boy," the guy says. He dangles a few bills, at least one of them a twenty, over the pot and then drops them in.

Tommy grins and starts to play. "Dude with the cash wins every time."


Time passes quickly after that. Song follows song, and by the time everyone's packing up around him and the tourists are heading back to their hotels to get ready for dinner, Tommy's more than ready to be done.

He moves the jar in closer, but doesn't empty it. His guitar goes into its case first, nestled carefully inside so that it can survive just about anything, even the drive from Venice to Burbank in Tommy's old car.

Then he picks the bills out of the jar. He's straightening them out so they'll fold into his wallet when he finds it.


It's a card for a tattoo and piercing place in Venice with See over scrawled on the front. When Tommy turns it over, there's purple writing on the plain white back.

Call this guy, it says with a phone number next to it, and then Come audition for me tomorrow.

Tommy's heart starts thudding in his chest. His hands are shaking so much that he drops money all over the pavement and almost knocks over the pot.

He blinks and reads the card again. This time, he notices the initials in the corner: AML.

"Fuck," he says, and then, "Yeah!"