It happened just as we were finishing our first set at the Hole in Tucson, Arizona, running through a blistering version of "The Bucks of Oranmore"—one of the big box tunes, so far as I'm concerned. Miki was bouncing so much in her seat that I thought her accordion was going to fly off her knee. I had a cramp in the thumb of my pick hand, but I was damned if that'd stop me from seeing the piece through to the end, no matter how fast she played it.

So of course she picked up the speed again, grinning at me as we kicked into our third run through the tune. I grinned back, adding a flourish of jazzy chords that I shouldn't have had the space to fit in, but I managed all the same. It's the kind of thing that happens when you play live and was nothing I'd be able to duplicate again. Miki raised an eyebrow, suitably impressed.

And then, just as we came up on a big finish, all the strings on my guitar broke, even the bass "E." I snapped my head back, which probably saved me from losing an eye, but I got a couple of wicked cuts on my chording hand.

Needless to say, that brought the tune to a ragged finish. Miki stared at me for a long moment, then turned back to her mike.

"We're taking a short break," she said, "while Conn restrings his guitar. Don't go away and remember to tip your waitress."

I reached over to the P.A.'s board and shut off the sound from the stage, switching the house speakers back to the mix of country and Tex-Mex that the bar got from their satellite feed. Then I sucked at the cuts on my hand. Miki dropped the strap from her accordion and set the instrument on the floor.

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