Submitted into Contest #123 in response to: Set your story backstage at the theater. ... view prompt


Contemporary Fiction

I know I am going to screw this up. I have only been working for Premiere Catering for two weeks, and now this. I thought wedding catering was nerve-wracking, but backstage catering for a concert is beyond stressful. 

Marie is acting like this is no big deal, but it’s Ross Haskin! He is only the biggest name in pop music right now! I know she has done a lot of backstage catering, but she could show some excitement. I guess she’s not really the type to get excited about things or show any emotion. I have not seen her smile since I started working here. Maybe because she is the Catering Manager, she thinks she needs to be serious. 

I am so grateful that I got this job. I was already late with my rent payment, and my car needs new tires. I thought I was getting fired last week when I dropped a plate of chicken kiev on the groom’s lap. Good thing he, and the bride, had a sense of humor. If they hadn’t found it funny, I would have lost my job right away. 

The wedding buffet last weekend was easy. Two entrees, (chicken kiev and salmon), steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, a salad, and dinner rolls. Backstage catering for Ross Haskin is not easy. His manager emailed a concert rider last week. A rider is a document that explains, in detail, everything that is needed for a concert.  The longest part of Ross Haskin’s rider is the catering section. 

The catering rider has strict instructions for the dinner buffet. Fifty-two people, which includes the band, support acts, crew, and house staff. The buffet must include a meat entrée. It must also accommodate vegan and gluten-free diets, and nothing can contain cilantro. When Marie said she would handle the dinner buffet, I was relieved. 

Then she handed me a page from the rider. “Here, Missy, you are in charge of the dressing room.”


























I have spent the last week gathering everything on the list that I could get in advance. The rider did not specify sizes, so I got the largest of everything. I could not decide what kind of chips. I spent three hours looking at Ross Haskin’s Instagram and finally saw a bag of Doritos in the background of one photo, so I picked up Doritos and barbeque kettle chips.  

The only local specialty I could think of was something I saw at the Saturday morning farmers market. There is an old man who carves wooden canes. He is evidently quite famous in the carving world. The handles of the canes are shaped like the heads of animals. I chose a cane with a dog handle since Ross had photos of his Golden Retriever on Instagram. When I showed it to Marie, she rolled her eyes.

Today on the way into work, I stopped at a bakery in town and picked up a loaf of freshly baked sourdough. My final stop was to buy the local paper, the Centennial Times. I smiled when I read the front-page headline. ‘ROSS HASKIN TO PERFORM TONIGHT AT THE ROYALE THEATRE’. I was tempted to tell the cashier that this copy of the paper is for Ross Haskin himself, but I just thanked her and left. 

Premiere Catering’s kitchen and offices are in a small industrial area. I pull into the parking lot fifteen minutes before I am scheduled to work but I already see Marie opening the white box van. 

“About time you get here Missy. Help me load up this van.”

“Sorry, Marie.” I apologize, even though I’m early. “I had to stop and get the Centennial Times on my way in.” 

The dry goods are all packed in large plastic bins. We are taking those to The Royale Theatre now, and the kitchen staff will bring the food over in another van filled with hot boxes and coolers. Marie and I get the bins loaded.  She hops into the driver’s seat. I take the passenger side and we head to the theatre. 

“So, Missy, I know this is your first backstage gig, but there are a few rules,” Marie says, looking even more serious than normal. “You can’t act star-struck. You can’t ask for autographs. If anyone from the band or the band’s management asks for something, take care of it right away. Your job is to make sure the dressing room is stocked, stays stocked, and the band has everything they need. Understood?”

“Got it.” 

If I wasn’t nervous before I sure am now.

We pull into the backstage parking area. There are three big tour busses and a semi-truck parked already. Marie backs into the loading area like she has done this a thousand times. 

“Let’s get everything unloaded quickly,” Marie says as she gets out. “Then you can start to set up the buffet while I park the van.”

We stack the bins inside the loading doors and Marie pulls away. A short gruff-looking guy with shaggy brown hair rushes up to me. 

“You’re the caterer? You’re late.” He says, despite that we are early. He shoves something at me. “I’m Matt, the Tour Manager. This is your backstage pass. Put it on. I’ll show you where to set up.”

He leads me down a hallway to a large room with round tables in the middle and a row of long tables along one wall. The walls are covered with autographed concert posters and photos of performers. A big sign reads ‘Royale Theatre - Backstage Wall Of Fame’. 

“Here’s where to set up the buffet,” he says and gestures to the long tables. He points to the other side of the room. “Those doors over there are the dressing room and production office. There are tables in the dressing room to set up your stuff. You got everything in the rider?”

“Yes, I got it all,” I say. 

“Good. Get set up. The dinner buffet and dressing room are supposed to be ready in 30 minutes.”

Matt rushes off and I head back to the loading area to get the bins. I’m putting on tablecloths when Marie returns.

“I’ve got this,” she says. “You get started on the dressing room.” 

I drag my bins to the dressing room door. A sign on the door reads ‘Band and Band Guests ONLY’. I’m not sure what to do. Matt appears from the door marked Production Office. 

“Matt, excuse me.” He stops and looks back at me without turning around. “This says ‘Band and Band Guests Only’, is it okay if I go in to set up?” 

He turns fully around to face me, puts his hands on his hips, and says slowly. “Yes, of course it’s okay if you go in. How else do you think it will get set up?”

“Ha-ha, yea, of course,” I stammer, feeling like an idiot. 

“Knock knock.” I push open the door and peek inside. To my relief, no one else is there yet. 

One wall of the dressing room is a long counter with lighted mirrors. There are tables set up on the opposite wall, which I assume are for me. In the middle, there are a few couches and comfy-looking chairs. There are also some high-top tables with chairs and two full length mirrors. There are two other doors at the far end of the room. One is marked RESTROOM, and the other is unmarked.

I drag in my bins and start setting up. I try to arrange everything so that it looks nice. I leave enough room for the fruit, vegetable, cheese, and cookie platters. There is a large tub of ice, so I put some sodas and beer in that. There is a refrigerator in the corner, so I put the rest in there for now. I fan out the postcards and place the local paper so the top headline can be read. I shove the empty bins under the table. The only thing left is the wooden cane. I prop it up at the end of the buffet, where the cookies will be.

A few minutes later the kitchen staff arrives with the platters. I place them on the table and head back out to the main room. The dinner buffet is just finishing getting set, as the crew starts arriving to eat. 

“Missy, help out with the dinner buffet for the first 30 minutes. That will be the busiest time. After that check on the dressing room every 15 minutes. Keep everything well stocked,” Marie says.

I stand behind the buffet, near the desserts, and closest to the dressing room. I am offering slices of cheesecake and brownies when I hear a voice in the hallway say, “Hey Ross! Welcome to The Royale Theatre!” There is some small talk as the voices get closer. Ross Haskin walks into the room, with Matt by his side. I know I am not supposed to act star-struck, but I can’t help but feel butterflies in my stomach. My heart is pounding in my chest, and I think I may even be blushing. 

Ross pauses and looks around the room. “Dressing room is over there,” Matt says to Ross, and points in my general direction. Ross nods and heads towards the dressing room door. Just before he opens the door, he glances in my direction, and we make brief eye contact. He continues to push the door open, but pauses, and looks back at me for just a second. At least I think he did. No, he couldn’t have. It must be my imagination. My butterflies are doing backflips.

Over the next few minutes, 12 or 15 other people wander in and head towards the dressing room. I recognize a few of them as band members, but I’m not sure who the others are. I look at my watch and realize it is time for me to check on things. As I open the door to the dressing room, I hear some music playing. There are a few people at the high-top tables, and some talking on the couch. Some have small plates of snacks, and I notice that one of the wine bottles has been opened. 

Ross Haskin is sitting in one of the comfy chairs. He has the Centennial Times open and seems to be reading it. I restock a few cans of beer and soda and straighten the napkins. As I’m walking out, I glance back to where Ross is sitting. He’s holding up the newspaper, but I see he’s not actually looking at it. He’s looking at me. I hurry out.

I get back in line at the dinner buffet, feeling slightly giddy. One of the girls from the dressing room comes to the buffet line. According to her lanyard, her name is Nicole, and she is Artist Assistant. She asks for extra servings of almost everything. She makes a point of saying, “This plate is for Ross. I’ll be back to get mine.”

When Nicole reaches the end of the buffet, I offer her cheesecake or brownies. “I’ll be back for cheesecake,” she says and returns to the dressing room. A few more people straggle through the line when she comes out again. Nicole is walking directly towards me, so I start plating a slice of cheesecake. 

“No dessert yet,” she says. “Ross would like you to make yourself a plate and have dinner with him in the dressing room.”

I feel my jaw drop and I hear the cake knife fall from my hand to the floor. I don’t bend over to pick it up though. I can’t. All I can do is stand there and stare at Nicole.

“Did you hear me? Make a plate.” Nicole walks back to the dressing room then turns around towards me. “By the way, what’s your name?”

I squeak out, “Missy”. 

I feel in shock and notice that the room is suddenly much quieter. Everyone seems to be looking at me, including Marie. I look her way, and she nods slightly, then turns back around to refill the coffee pot.

I go through the buffet line. I have no appetite, but I choose a piece of chicken, steamed vegetables, and some salad. I grab two slices of cheesecake and head towards the dressing room. Nicole sees me walk in, motions to the unmarked door in the back, and says, “He’s in there.”

I feel a bit lightheaded and nervous. I don’t know what is behind that door. I have heard stories about what happens in backstage dressing rooms. As much as I like Ross 

Haskin’s music, I am not interested in hooking up, or whatever else he has in mind.

Nicole sees me standing still and goes to the unmarked door. She props it open with her foot, and, looking into the room says, “Ross, Missy is here.” Then she waves me towards her.

The room is a smaller version of the main dressing room. There is one high-top table for four, where both Ross and Matt are sitting. A small couch and a comfy chair are in one corner, and in the other, there is a small table with a mirror. An empty clothing rack stands next to that. 

Matt is talking when Ross notices me and stands. “Missy, I’m Ross. It’s nice to meet you. I think you’ve met Matt already?” 

“Yes, I have,” I say. Matt nods in my direction but continues to look at the screen of his laptop.

“Matt and I are just finishing up. There were a few changes to the tour that we had to go over,” Ross says. He looks at Matt and says, “Thanks, Matt. I think we’re good for now. Let me finish up dinner. I have to be on stage in 25 minutes.”

Matt doesn’t reply but quickly shuts his laptop and leaves the room. Ross motions for me to sit at the table. “Sorry about that. Matt is always in work mode. But he keeps us on track, so I can’t complain.”

I sit down and Ross and I both begin to eat. He asks where I’m from, and how long I’ve worked in catering. He’s surprised when I tell him this is only my third week. I tell him how nervous I was when I read the dressing room rider, and he laughs. “Honestly, I haven’t even seen the dressing room rider,” he says. “Matt and Nicole decide what to put in the rider. The only things I personally ask for are a local newspaper, so I can incorporate something relevant into the show, and a stamped postcard.”

“Why a stamped postcard?” I ask. 

“I like to send a postcard to my mom from every place I perform. She used to come to a lot of the shows, but she’s getting older, so now I send her a postcard from each city. She has a shoebox that she keeps them in. I handwrite a note to her on each one about something cool in that city, or someone I met. She says that shoebox is her most valuable possession.”

“That’s so sweet,” I say, feeling slightly guilty that I thought he may have had poor intentions earlier. 

As we each dig into a slice of cheesecake, I notice for the first time that the wooden cane is now in this room, leaning against the couch. Ross notices me looking in that direction and laughs again. “A cane?” he asks. I explain how the rider said to include a local specialty and I tell him about the old man at the farmers market. 

“I think they mean a food specialty,” he says, and this time we both laugh. 

Ross glances at his watch and says, “Sorry, I’ve got to go. It’s showtime. Thanks for the cane!” He rushes out and I’m left sitting, in disbelief, at what just happened. I had dinner with Ross Haskin!

The next hour is a blur. I clean up the dressing room, leaving only the cookies and beverages, and help break down the dinner buffet. Ross’s show ends just as we are finishing loading the bins. He is rushed off stage and into the dressing room. I had hoped to see him again to thank him, but it is time for us to head out. 

I get into the passenger side of the van when Matt runs over. “Hey, Missy. What’s your phone number?” 

I don’t respond. I just stare at him, dumbfounded again. Marie starts the van but doesn’t move yet. “Ross asked for it,” Matt says. “He really likes the cane,” he says, with a smirk. 

Still in a daze, I give him my number and Marie starts backing out. 

“Missy,” Matt yells. “I’ve been touring with Ross for 8 years, and he’s never asked for a girl’s number before!” 

I look over at Marie as she turns the van around and starts driving. She looks at me and smiles. “It was the cane,” she says. We both start laughing. We don’t say another word but laugh all the way back to the catering kitchen.

December 10, 2021 16:05

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Rachel Culp
20:33 Dec 21, 2021

I enjoyed the story very much. I think it gave a glance at a special moment in Missy's rather ordinary life. A moment that has given her a bit of confidence but could begin a string of special moments with the famous Ross or other upcoming performers. You took me from feeling her desperate need to fit and belong to her girlish delight that she had done a good job. You did a great job.


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Ben Rounds
00:15 Dec 17, 2021

Hello Dee Dee, Ben, critique circle. I liked the energy and the detail, the human interest and the anxiety. I have to admit, I skimmed the big list of requirements (sounds like a Harry Potter sequel) so it there was anything particularly important in there I missed it. Language was good, but not great, didn't read as smoothly as it might have done; perhaps some contractions? Just a thought. So, for a story with a lot of positives, what's the negative? It would have been nice if there were more of a point, more of a, zinger? perhaps. Ult...


Dee Dee Seaburg
18:08 Dec 17, 2021

Hi Ben, Thanks so much for reading my story! I appreciate the honest feedback and agree on some of your points. Your comments will help me to improve my writing. Thank you! Dee Dee


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Patrick Samuel
19:39 Dec 16, 2021

That was a sweet one, well-written and engaging. Made me feel good. Thanks!


Dee Dee Seaburg
19:50 Dec 16, 2021

Thank you! I appreciate your comment!


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Lydi B
15:03 Dec 16, 2021

Well done portraying and combining those jitters of a new job and super high stakes. I wasn't sure where this was going. The fact that the cane got Ross's attention was so fun. Great job, and thanks for sharing! Also, quick question: do you write novels as well or just short stories? I'm always looking for long-term writing buddies/crit partners. Let me know if you're interested.


Dee Dee Seaburg
19:49 Dec 16, 2021

Thank you Lydi. I appreciate your comments. I'm just starting to try my hand at short stories so no novels yet. But maybe someday... I would be happy to keep in touch and provide feedback to each other regardless!


Lydi B
23:40 Dec 17, 2021

Sure. I'll follow you on here. My posting has been pretty sporadic, but I'm trying to keep up with this place better, hah.


Ben Rounds
11:44 Dec 22, 2021

Hey Lydi, My name is Ben. I caught your comment to DeeDee. I too enjoy reading and critiquing new writing and used to be a slush pile reader for Grey Gecco Press, before they closed that program. Take a look at one or two of my stories and if you feel that you would like to try it we can swap novels. I'm the guy two comments down in the hat ;)


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Palak Shah
21:44 Dec 13, 2021

I love the way that this story has been written and it is a great story overall. Well done :)) Your writing style is great and I would love to read more stories from you:)) Could you please read my latest story if possible? :)) Thanks :))


Dee Dee Seaburg
19:51 Dec 16, 2021

Thank you! Yes, I will read yours as well.


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