In The Van On Comeback Road. Part 6

author: Nolan Whyte date: 04/12/2006 category: fiction
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I come back out of the bathroom, weaving a bit from all the beer I've been drinking over the last five hours. I want to be pissed off at myself for getting loaded before a gig, but I'm just drunk enough that the irresponsibility switch has been flipped, and I can't help smiling and giggling over the trouble I've gotten myself into (this is part of my personality that drives my soon-to-be-ex-wife absolutely nuts. Good thing for me she's a few hundred kilometers away, probably getting naked on a stage in front of a bunch of sweaty, beer-bellied men in a bad part of town). I get back to the table. Some girls have slid into the empty chairs and are chatting with Jason. Bobby isn't getting much attention, but he doesn't seem to mind. He's leaning way back in his chair, with a silly grin on his face. I hate to say it, but he's sticking his gut out a bit, which is not a good look for a forty year old guy. Jason is leaning forward with his elbows on the table, talking to these girls. The girls must have figured out that we were at the band table, and moved in when some chairs freed up. Jason, being a young and good looking guy, was their immediate target. I actually have to pull up a chair from another table just to sit down. I give Bobby a big goofy grin, and he smiles back, raising his beer, which he proceeds to drink down in three big gulps. Ready for another beer? he asks, shouting over the noise of the bar. I shrug. Do you think we need more? I'm pissed. He laughs. Yeah, me too. Will you be all right to play? Yeah, I'll be fine. Maybe I'll go up to the bar and get some coffee. Cool, I say. I'm going to head outside for a smoke. Bobby gets up and walks away from the table, weaving as he goes. I turn to Jason, who is refilling his glass from the pitcher of beer. Hey Jason, I shout. He turns his attention away from his beer and his girls towards me. What's up, man? You getting pissed? I grin so he knows I'm not giving him shit. Not bad, he says, but his squinty red eyes tell me otherwise. Just take it easy, okay? We'll have to play for a whileI mean, in a while. You know. Um, Bobby and I are switching to coffee. We're both pretty pissed, so we're going to take it easy. Yeah, man, he says, nodding. Good idea. I'll switch after this one. I get up and leave him to talk to the cute chicks that have sat down with him. They hold no interest for me. Not only are they much too young for there to be any mutual interest between us, I'm also not very fascinated by the female sex these days. Divorce will do that to you. Beyond that, I want to let Jason have some fun. I was pretty hard on him in the van on the road here. I just hope he doesn't get too wasted. I get outside the front door of the bar. It's dark, and there isn't any street traffic. Sarnia is too small to have lots of people strolling around at night. I smoke a cigarette and lean against the side of the building, waiting for the evening chill to sharpen me up. I don't get sharper, but I do get cold. I flick the butt away and head back inside. The music is deafening compared to the small time local opening act. Machine Within A Machine are on stage and have ripped into it, blasting out a cacophony of distorted alt-rock. I stop by the bar and get a cup of coffee. Bobby is standing nearby, watching the band play. I stop next to him. How do you feel now? I ask, screaming over the noise. Still drunk, he laughs. No, I'm okay. How about you? The same. What do you think of these guys? They're okay. They need to practice more. They're not too tight. Yeah. I watch the band. The lead singer jumps around, screaming out the lyrics. I can't understand a word. The rhythm section is kind of loose, the drums and bass banging away together, almost in time. The guys head-bang away, trying to rock out as hard as they can. Gina, the guitarist, stands out from them. She stands casually, ripping along with the tune, a rock song that sounds almost industrial with the heavy distortion. She looks relaxed, but her fingers moves fast and tight over the strings. She watches the other players, nodding to the bassist to indicate the changes. She plays with confidence, like she's not challenged at all. She plays with the confidence of an Olympic downhill skier at a Saskatchewan ski resort. My first impression was right; she has tattoos on her arms. I squint, but I'm standing too far back to make out the designs marking each of her shoulders. She's wearing a tight white tank-top, and her purple hair has been teased up into a big punk Mohawk, with purple tendrils spilling down in front of her face. She looks perfect. Perfectly punk, perfectly rock and roll, and when she plays her first solo, a screaming, mind-blowing solo, at that moment Terry Wilson falls in love. Bobby, I scream over the noise, We've got to get that chick for ourselves. What, like a threesome? I don't want to see you naked, dude. No, you asshole. For the band. We need her for our band! He looks at me. Man, you are drunk aren't you? Terry, she's already in a band. Besides, you've got Jason. Or do you want to add a second guitarist? I think about it. No, I don't want to split money four ways. Besides, Jason's shit anyway, you said so yourself. I'll need to fire Jason, break up Machine Within A Machine, and grab Gina for us. Wait, no: I'll break up their band, and then fire Jason. You're fucking evil, Terry. Besides, you know you're just talking shit. I laugh. Yeah, maybe you're right. Fuck it man. Hey, come on outside with me for a minute. I need to clear my head. We get out into the street, and I light up a smoke, and give one to Bobby. I know I smoke too much, but it's hard not to have one when you're drunk. Bobby's the same way. He quit years ago, but he still has one sometimes when he's pissed. You just want her to be in your band because she's hot anyway, Bobby says. I don't say anything. I can't stop thinking about Gina. Bobby looks at me. Did you hear something? I shrug. What, you mean the band? No, I thought I heard someone puking. I wait and listen, and a moment later, I hear it too: a retching sound coming from around the corner of the building. Curious, we stroll around to the alleyway where the sound is coming from. Jason is there, standing with his back to us, leaning with one hand on the brick wall of the bar. There's a conspicuous amount of puke on the ground in front of him. Bobby puts his finger to his lips, telling me to keep quiet. He takes a long drag off the cigarette and flicks it, hitting Jason squarely in the back of the head. The kid twitches, straightens up, and turns around. What the fuck are you doing? laughs Bobby. Jason is as pale as a glass of milk. I didn't want to puke inside the bar. Yeah, the back alley is much classier. You gonna make it? We've got to play soon. Jason leans one hand against the wall again. Yeah, I'll be okay. I justumI just need some water. Bobby laughs. You're so fucked. Bobby and I bring him back inside, get him sitting down, and bring him some glasses of water. Look at it this way, I say to Bobby. Better he pukes now than on stage. He laughs and gets himself another cup of coffee. I look back to the stage. The band is pounding out their songs. I only watch Gina. She looks brilliant. The heat of the lights and the effort of playing have brought forth a glistening sheen of sweat across her face and bare arms. I want her. I must make her mine. I must break up her band and make her my guitarist. She really is a very good guitarist. With a crash of cymbals, Machine Within A Machine brings their set to a close. Jason, Bobby and I move up near the stage so we can set up our gear as soon as the other guys get their stuff off. Gina passes by me with her guitar. Good show, I say. Classy. Smooth. Thanks, she says. Busy. Disinterested. Are you guys sticking around? I ask. No, she says. We've got to head back to Toronto tonight. Oh, right, I say. Well, you guys did well, anyway. Yeah, thanks, she says, and heads off to help carry the equipment. I stand out of the way while Machine Within A Machine clears off the rest of their gear. They head off to settle up with the manager and by the time we've got the drums ready to go, they're slipping out the door. I step up to the microphone, and bang a string to see that the sound is up. Good evening, I say to the crowd. I can see Gina walking out the front door of the bar. I look to Jason and Bobby. Jason is having a hard time keeping his balance, but they both nod to show that they're ready. I count in the first song, and together, the three of us stumble through the worst set I've ever played. 2006 Nolan Whyte
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