September 1, 1956 Every once in a while, Mark couldn't help but tack a sultry cadenza on the end of a number. For some tunes, it "just felt right," and as far as he could tell, people seemed to like it. That wasn't to say he or the band in general—Timmy Stern and the Backbeats, they were called—received much more than a lukewarm smattering of applause as he let the last note trail off. He was used to that, of course. Playing on a bandstand for a party or other event was nothing like playing in a concert. People who played in concerts got respect. Even the other artists here at this fair, the ones performing square pop tunes or country-styled classics on proper stages, were probably slated to take home a fatter hunk of dough than Mark and his colleagues. They were the food court background music. There was no glory in that. Timmy had just lowered his trumpet and stepped up to the microphone, donning his usual practiced smile. "Arright, folks, we're gonna take a little ten-minute break hereabouts, so don't no one leave, y'hear?" There were a few chuckles from the members of the crowd that were paying any amount of attention, and as he turned back towards the band, the mood changed wordlessly from music mode to break mode. Everyone in the combo fell back and either tweaked their instruments or set them down for a minute to stretch. Mark slipped his neck strap over his head and set the tenor saxophone down on its stand with care. He was of no mind to let any harm come to the instrument his family had saved up so much money for. A real Selmer, it was, and it played like butter. A hand clapped down on his shoulder before he stood up, more caring than forceful. "You hangin' in there, son?" "Yeah. What, you think I'm apt to quit? Too long a day for me?" "No, no," Timmy assured him. "Just...look, we can take longer than ten minutes. Five sets is a long time. Go get yourself somethin' to eat, walk around a bit, see the sights. A growin' boy's got to eat and rest. We'll take the flak." Mark chuckled in defeat as he stood up and looked his senior in the eye, his face grateful. "I appreciate it. But y'all need to get well fed too, y'hear? I couldn't live it down if y'all were givin' me special treatment." Timmy's smile twinkled. "Aw, now, I'd say our star tenor boy deserves it." Mark ducked away, secretly glad blushes were never very apparent on his skin tone, but he couldn't shoo away his pleased smile, at least not yet. "I'll try to be quick," he said, and then he was gone. His walk was brisk, as he didn't want to dawdle on the sights. The fair passed him by in a sort of haze. The folk here were enjoying themselves, eating, socializing, watching the entertainment from their safe distance as the audience. That wasn't Mark's world. He was a stray member of the entertainment now, sticking out like a sore thumb. The best he could hope to do was slip carefully through the common folk's realm and slip back out as unobtrusively as he could. He found a booth selling corn dogs for a pretty reasonable price after a minute, and though he spoke up clearly to give his order, he broke eye contact with the vendor right afterwards and kept his head down as he waited for the food. He couldn't tell if the vendor had been giving him the stink-eye or if he'd only imagined it.