In The Van On Comeback Road. Part 3

author: Nolan Whyte date: 03/16/2006 category: fiction
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It's Stratford, Ontario this time, and the show's over. We're playing smaller towns, but we seem to be having good luck getting half-decent venues. I guess I did a pretty good job getting us booked in all these places, considering I did it without the aid of a promoter or an agency. The only complaint about the gig tonight, is that we weren't the headliners. I'm out back of the bar with the drummer and the guitarist from the headliners, some up-and-coming locals named The Meatles (pronounced like Beatles). They had just launched their debut EP called Beat The Meatles, and were busy trying to tour the hell out of it. Even though I wasn't happy about playing as openers, I couldn't complain about how the show went, since the place packed up with people here to see these young kids. The Meatles' drummer has weed, and the three of us stand between the vans behind the bar sharing a spliff. We're chatting about the tour they're on, and the tour we're on, and all things musical in nature. The two of them kind of talk to me like I'm a hundred years old, which bothers me, because I'm not yet forty, but I guess that's probably twice as old as they are right? So because I've got some wrinkles they figure I've seen it all, and they ask me a lot of questions. I'm talking and smoking their weed, but I'm distracted. I keep thinking about how the show went, and I keep thinking more and more about what a fuck-up I've saddled myself with for a guitarist. I wish I could chat about it with Bobby Metronome, my drummer, but every time Jason, the fuck-up in question sees Bobby and me talking, he thinks it's a band meeting and he rushes over. Right now, Bobby is inside chatting up the ladies, while Jason is getting retarded on tequila poppers, blowing his tiny cut of the gig money on a world-class hangover. I interrupt whatever the hell The Meatles' guitarist is talking about, and ask them, Hey, you guys watched our show, right? What did you think of that kid we've got playing guitar? The drummer, whose name was Kevin I think, shrugged and took a drag on the joint. I don't know. He wasn't too bad I guess. I didn't notice him too much. The guitarist, Jared, was equally non-committal. Yeah, I noticed a few mistakes, but nothing too serious. Why? Is he trouble? Kevin passes me the joint and I take a drag. Yeah, I think so, I say in a squeaky voice, trying to hold the smoke in. He messed up a few times tonight is all. I blew the smoke out. Like in 'Dead Fingers Play,' he screwed up the solo, got lost, and instead of just trying to cover it and pick up with chorus, he tried to start the solo over again. When Bobby and I hit the chorus, Jason kept trying to finish the solo. It sounded horrible. I wanted to throw him off the stage. Kevin nodded. Yeah, I heard that. It sounded pretty bad, actually. I don't know. He's an okay player, but he's not Meatles material. He and Jared both laughed. I've got to ask you guys, I said. What's with that name, 'The Meatles?' No offence, but that has got to be the worst band name I've ever heard. Is it supposed to be clever, or a joke, or what are you going for with that? Jared laughed again. Yeah, I know it's awful, isn't it? It's awesome how bad it is. We picked it because it was the worst name we could come up with. I looked at him like he might be handicapped. And you think that was a good idea? He kept laughing. I guess we'll find out! Besides, I don't think a bad name has ever kept a good band from making it, right? Just like a good name doesn't mean you will make it. I nodded. Okay, that's a good point. All the same, I don't know how a name like that will help you. Well, what about you? asked Kevin, looking a bit pissed off that I've been ripping on the name of his band. Do you guys even have a name? Since Jared is finishing the joint with a massive bogart drag, I light up a cigarette. We're not using a band name. We're just playing as Terry Wilson and Bobby Metronome, even though most of the ads say 'Terry Wilson and Bobby Metronome from Tremors of Intent.' So why don't you just keep calling yourselves Tremors of Intent? Now I laugh: Because there are four other former members of Tremors of Intent out there that would either sue us or beat the shit out of us for using the name without their permission. Kevin looks smug. I guess I must have struck a nerve by making fun of what is, clearly, a horrible name for his band. Anyway, he keeps after me. Where'd you guys get that name, anyway? he asks. Tremors of Intent? I don't see how that's any better than The Meatles. I shrug and take a drag on my cigarette. It wasn't my first choice either to be honest. It's the title of a book by Anthony Burgess. The guys thought it had a nice ring to it. Who's Anthony Burgess? asks Jared, still giggly and silly from the joint. He wrote A Clockwork Orange. Kevin laughs. So why didn't you call yourselves The Clockwork Oranges? I sigh. This conversation is boring the shit out of me, and this runt Kevin is getting on my nerves. Because that would have been too obvious a reference, you know? Like referring to The Beatles in your name, right? Now Kevin's getting really pissed off. Hey, fuck you man. The Meatles is a good name. Fuck you too, and no it isn't, I say, flicking away my unfinished cigarette. Anyway, thanks for the pot. I'm going back to the bar. I walk back in before the kid can say anything else, and I find Bobby as quickly as I can. He's got his arm draped around some cougar, who in dimmer light would have looked a bit like Iggy Pop. Hey Bobby, I say, tapping him on the shoulder. Let's get out of here. Why, what's up? We've got a long drive tomorrow. And also, I may have picked a fight with the other band. The Meat Heads? he says. Yeah. Where's Jason? Bobby jerks a thumb in the direction of a table where our guitarist is sitting with a couple of high school-aged girls who surely got in with fake I.D.s. He looks completely plastered, and when I tell him we're leaving, he starts to get up, but stumbles and falls, whacking his chin on the table. You fucking wreck, I seethe, helping him up. He seems able to walk, so I head back and pry Bobby off his new lady-friend, and together we head to the back exit. We get outside, and all five members of The Meatles are already waiting for us. I try to see how we can get past these guys to our van. The Meatles' singer, a skinny six and a half feet tall, steps forward. Hey, he says. You got a problem with us? You fuck with one Meatle, you fuck with us all. I can't resist commenting again on the shocking stupidity of that name, I remark, and I find it impossible to take you seriously as long as you call yourself a Meatle. You asshole, he says, taking two steps towards me. Bobby cuts him off though, and thumps him so hard in the gut that the big kid folds up like a deck chair. The other Meatles take a step back. Bobby might not look like much, but he's actually tougher than old boots and twice as ugly. You little shits gonna get in our way? he screams. He takes another step forward and they back up, and Bobby leads the way to the van. I stuff Jason in the back with the equipment and get in the driver's seat. Bobby's not finished yet though, and he stands by the passenger door yelling at the kids, who are trying to help their lead singer to his feet. You assholes better change the name of your band, because if I ever cross paths with a Meatle he's going to the hospital! he screams and gets in. I start the van and we pull out of the parking lot. I can see that Bobby's hands are shaking. Nice work, I say to him. I forgot about your temper. Give me a cigarette, he responds. You quit smoking ten years ago. Shut up and give me a cigarette! he yells, and I quietly obey, giving him one and lighting one for myself. So, um, I say, afraid to talk too much, does this mean we can smoke in the van now? Shut up, Terry, he says, taking a drag. Just shut up for a while. I keep my mouth shut and listen as Jason, our bad guitarist, has begun to snore in the back of the van. -Nolan Whyte
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