On Monday morning Danny drags his ass out of bed and gets ready for school. He catches the bus, which takes him on a slow tour of the warehouse district before crossing into the residential neighborhood that host McLaughlin Collegiate. It's a cool fall morning and Danny can see his breath as he walks across the lawn to the front steps where his friend Kev is waiting for him.
Danny and Kev are a lot alike: neither of them really give a shit about anything except being left alone to play video games, smoke the occasional joint and laugh at all the fools who want to work their asses off to "get somewhere" or "make it." The pretty clones that populate the halls and classes of McLaughlin talking about their Facebook and MySpace pages get a lot of whispered abuse from these two. Kev and Danny don't carry cell phones and they couldn't give a shit about sports, celebrity culture or really anything except themselves.
Kev gets up when he sees Danny coming. While Danny has a plain grey t-shirt on under his jacket, Kev has an over-sized black Slipknot t-shirt on over his hooded sweatshirt. This summarizes one major difference between the two friends: where Danny doesn't care or pay attention to music, it's one of Kev's key interests.
They walk up the steps and into the school. Kev asks Danny what he did on the weekend, and Danny tells him about going to see his brother Jay's band Hellakill.
"Right, Hellakill, Kev says. Were they playing an all-ages show somewhere?"
"No," says Danny. "It was at The Station. Jay snuck me in through the back door."
"The Station? Sweet! Was it full of chicks?"
"Yeah, there were some chicks."
Kev nods. "Awesome. They get like, real bands at that place. Not just crap local bands, but bands on tour. Too bad you were there to see Hellakill."
"What's wrong with that?" Danny asks as they stop in front of his locker. He begins fiddling with his lock.
"Well, no offence man, but they're pretty much an emo band. I saw them last summer at that outdoor concert at Leish Park, and all their songs were like, 'I'm angry because of this,' or 'I'm sad because of that.' All they do is sing about their feelings. It's emo."
Danny pulls open his locker and grabs his books. "I thought emo was like all, cry-baby type stuff. Like, whining voices and shit like that." He slams the locker shut and they continue walking.
"Yeah," Kev says, "It's all talking about feelings and stuff. That's Hellakill. They're emo."
Danny shrugs. "Nah, I don't think so. You're saying any band that talks about feelings is emo? What about metal bands that are all like, 'I hate you and I'm going to kill you.' That's emo too, right? Because hate is a feeling."
Kev shakes his head. "No, because it's not a wimp feeling. Being angry because someone broke your heart is a wimp feeling, and that's what Hellakill is like. Sorry dude.
"They are emo to the extreme-o."
"What about Slipknot?" Danny says, pointing to Kev's shirt. "Are they emo too?"
"Hell no. They talk about being insane, not about being sad."
"Well, that's an emotion too. They're emo."
Kev stops walking and takes a deep breath. "Look," he says, "I know you're just saying Slipknot is emo to get back at me for saying your brother's band is emo. I would like to point out that there are people living in America today that would kill you for saying Slipknot is emo. They are not emo, and being insane is a mental condition, not an emotion."
"Okay dude, whatever. Calm down."
"I want you to say that Slipknot isn't emo."
"Okay, Slipknot isn't emo. Shit, look how mad you got, Danny says with a grin. You're all worked up. You know who's emo, Kev? You're emo."
Kev laughs and shakes his head. "I'm not emo." He points to a student wearing tight jeans and huge sunglasses. "He's emo."
The two part ways and Danny walks into his math class. He sits down next to a kid named Doug and gives him a try. "Hey Doug, do you know what emo is?"
"Emo music?" Doug says. "Isn't that where the guys have hair in their face and eye makeup and shit?"
"Oh, like Barry."
Two rows over a kid with black hair and eyeliner turns around. "I'm not emo, you stupid asshole! I'm goth."
"Oh. Sorry, Barry."
"Yeah, sorry." Doug looks back at Danny. "Why do you ask, anyway?"
"Kev said my brother's band is emo."
"Right." Doug laughs. "Kev thinks every band in the world except for Slipknot is emo. What kind of music does your brother play?"
"I don't know. Rock, I guess."
Danny spends the rest of the day thinking about Jay's offer: Jay will teach him to play guitar and then Danny can try out for the vacant spot in Hellakill's lineup. It sounds pretty simple, except that Danny knows how many years Jay spent mastering the instrument. He took lessons, and for years when Danny was sitting in the living room playing on an ever-changing series of video game consoles, Jay was sitting in his room practicing.
One thing that had never interested Danny was spending time practicing something, unless it involved a hand-held controller and kick-ass graphics.
A little after four Danny arrives at the forty year old bungalow in Millenburgh's eastern suburbs where he and his family live. It's too early for his parents to be home from work, but the screechy noise of an electric guitar coming from the basement tells him that Jay is home. Danny decides what the hell, drops his bag, and heads down the stairs.
Jeff and Cheryl Warren, Jay and Danny's parents, bought the house twenty years ago, but they never got around to finishing the basement. The concrete floor is covered by ill-fitting pieces of carpet and the walls are covered with unpainted drywall. The space is divided into two rooms: the laundry area and the work area, where Jeff Warren stores his tools and where Jay practices the guitar.
Usually Danny doesn't bother going down there unless it's to wash his clothes, but he heads down and finds Jay sitting on a folding chair facing his amp, strumming on his guitar. When Danny comes in Jay puts his fingers against the strings, silencing the electric instrument.
Hey man, Jay says. What's up?
Nothing, Danny says. "I came for a freezie.
I don't think we have any.
Danny heads into the laundry room and opens the freezer. He knows they don't have any freezies, but he looks anyway. Nope. He walks back into the work area and leans against the wall. Go ahead, play something, he says to Jay.
What do you want me to play? Jay asks. I'll try and do something you know. What's your favorite band?
I don't know, Danny says. There were some good songs on the last Tony Hawk game, but I don't know who the bands are.
Yeah, but don't you have a favorite band? Isn't there any band you like?
Danny shrugs. Slipknot, I guess.
Jay adjusts a knob on his amp and begins strumming softly. Slipknot? I thought that was Kev's favorite band.
Danny doesn't answer.
Here, how about this, Jay says, and he adjusts the knob again. He grabs the neck of the guitar and belts out a riff, three notes going up and then back down: Duh-duh, di-di-Dah, Dah di-di di-di, Duh-duh. He plays it over a few times, stops, and looks up at his younger brother. You know that one, right?
Yeah, I recognize it. I've heard it on TV and stuff.
It's 'Satisfaction' by The Stones. You could play that. It's just three notes. Watch. He plays it over again, more slowly this time.
Yeah, I could play that after like, five years of practice.
It's just three notes. It's not that hard. I could teach you. Shit, I can't believe you don't know that song. Are you really that clueless about music?
Oh, kiss my ass, Danny says, and he turns to walk up the stairs.
Hold on, hold on, Jay says. No joking around. Do you want me to teach you, or what?
Maybe, Danny says. Um, you guys play rock, right?
Yeah. Well, we play whatever we want, but yeah, we're a rock band. We're not quite metal. Hard rock, I guess.
So you're not emo, then.
Jay snorts. No. We're not disco either. Who told you we're emo?
Danny shakes his head. Never mind. Can you show me how to play that song?
Um. Jay looks at the guitar in his hands. You're right handed. This one is lefty. I'll have to borrow a guitar from Tyson for you, okay? I'll see him tomorrow night. That cool?
Danny nods. Yeah. Cool. He turns and heads back upstairs. Ten minutes later he's lost on a World War Two battlefield, game controller in his hands.
2007 Nolan Whyte