THE ARTICLE HAS BEEN FIXED ON 05.05.2008
On the following Saturday Benny loads her bass and amp into her mother's car and drives over to Danny's house. The driveway in front of the Warren house is empty when she arrives, but she parks in the street anyway and carries her gear up to the front door.
Almost instantly after she rings the bell the door opens and Danny is standing there, dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, his hair still damp from the shower. "Hey," he says. "Come on in."
"Thanks." She carries her gear inside the house and takes off her shoes. The two of them stand there for a moment, awkward at meeting outside of school for the first time.
Carrie looks around the living room. The space seems wrong somehow: half-finished, disorganized, in the midst of being taken apart. There are spaces on shelves where selected items had been removed, rectangular patches of non-faded paint on the yellowing walls where family photos had hung for years until being removed only a few days before.
"The place is kind of a mess right now," Danny says. "Mom just moved out Thursday."
"That sucks," Carrie says. "You just found out she was leaving this week, huh?"
"Yeah." He frowns. "They didn't give us a whole lot of time to get used to the idea. Anyway, come on in. Um, do you want to play in here? Or downstairs? Or..." He trails off and shrugs his shoulders.
She shrugs as well, a cute smile on her face. "Where's your guitar?"
"It's not really my guitar," he says, "but it's in my room."
"Do you just want to go there?"
He shrugs again and nods. "Sure." He picks up her practice amp and carries it down the hall, leading her to his room. He'd never had a girl in his bedroom before, and even though the jam session was an innocent idea, the whole idea had made him anxious. He'd cleaned his room more thoroughly than he had in years, even leaving the window open for a few hours despite the fall weather to try and get some fresh air in.
They enter the room, and Danny sets the amp down on the floor next to the desk. He fumbles with the power cord and plugs it into an outlet, waiting all the while for Carrie to make some comment on the barely post-adolescent dcor of the room: the TV and video game console, the desk covered with gaming magazines and school books, the small stereo and the stack of CDs borrowed from Jay, walls covered in video game posters, the neatly made bed with a black guitar case lying across it.
She presses the button to pop open the CD tray on the stereo. Inside is an Iron Maiden disc, A Real Live One. She smiles. "Iron Maiden? Really? Like, not as a joke or anything?"
"Yeah," he says, pulling the chair out from the desk. "It's kind of cool. It's kind of old and cheesy and stuff, but some of the songs are good. 'Two Minutes to Midnight' is cool."
"I don't think I know any of their songs." She sits down on the side of the bed and unzips her carrying bag, pulling out a maroon Kort bass. Danny plugs the cord that she passes him into the little amp and switches it on. Carrie touches the E string, producing a low hum. "Ready," she says.
Danny sits on the chair and takes out Tyson's acoustic guitar, placing it in his lap. He takes a pick from the case and strums the strings slowly. They take a long time getting in tune, and once ready they sit looking at each other.
"Um, what do you want to do?" Danny asks.
"I don't know," she says. "Do know any songs you could teach me?"
"Maybe. Or do you want to teach me something?"
Carrie shrugs. "I don't know how to play guitar, so I don't know if I could teach you anything. If I just play something can you figure out what to play along?"
"Maybe. If you can tell me what notes to play, I can try to play the same chords."
She starts strumming an open E, and Danny looks at the strings and finds his E chord. They play for several measures before finally trailing off.
"Well, that was cool," she says, somewhat sarcastically.
"I'm really just learning," he says. "Sorry."
"No, no, I suck too," she says. "Um, do you want to try a song I wrote?"
His eyes brighten. "Sure," he says, and then wonders if he sounds too enthusiastic.
"Okay," she says. "It's like, super easy. The verse is just two different notes: E eight times," she plays the note in a simple thumping rhythm, "then B eight times. The E eight more times, B eight more times, then the chorus is just D, sixteen times. Then you play it all over two more times, and that's it."
"Um, okay." Danny takes a moment to remember the fingering for the B and D chords, and they play through the simplistic arrangement, thumping and strumming along together, keeping almost in perfect rhythm.
When they finish they hear clapping, and standing in the hall outside Danny's door is Jay, in his sweats and t-shirt, his hair messy from bed. "Pretty good guys," he says, his eyes still half-closed with sleep. "What was that called?"
"Um, it doesn't have a name," Carrie says. "Are you Jay?"
"Yeah. You're Carrie? Listen, thanks a lot for helping us with our web stuff. I'm not very good with that sort of thing. Our computer is ancient."
"It's cool," she says. "I keep telling Danny you guys need to record something. If you could get me some mp3s it would be easy to put them on your page."
"Right, right." Jay looks at Danny. The look on his younger brother's face says go away, I'm with a girl here. "I'll talk to you guys later," Jay says. "I need breakfast."
He turns and walks out to the kitchen. The plink-plank-plonk sound of two new musicians fumbling with their instruments continues while Jay makes himself coffee. Right on, he thinks. Give someone a guitar and watch what happens.
Just as Jay is filling his cup, the phone rings. It's Tyson on the other end of the line.
"So," the singer tells him, "there's good news and bad news."
"Um, good news first." Jay takes a tentative sip of the hot coffee.
"The good news is that the tickets are printed. Peter and I are going to take them around to the stores that are selling them today. And the posters are printed up too. We can start putting them up any time."
"Okay, that's cool. Bad news?"
"Guess who's having a show the same night we are."
"Aw," Jay says, setting down the coffee cup. "Aw, don't even say it."
"Yeah, Allsystemsgo, man," Tyson says. "They're playing The Station on the Seventeenth, and get this: they're bringing The Bantam All-Stars to play with them."
"The Bantam All-Stars are coming? Shit, we need to get a manager. We should totally be opening for those guys! How the hell did Allsystemsgo get that gig?"
"You don't understand, man," Tyson says. "I was talking with this chick Cleo at the bar last night. She knows the guys from Allsystemsgo, and I guess their bass player is old friends with one of The Bantam All-Stars. They're actually bringing them in, just for this. The All-Stars aren't on tour. They're coming here for this one show."
"Yeah, to draw attention away from us. Fuck, those guys are dicks. A lot of people will go to that. The All-Stars are awesome."
Tyson grunts in response. "Exactly. I think Allsystemsgo is setting this up to intentionally fuck us over. I don't want to sound all conspiracy-theory or anything, but I wouldn't even be surprised if they ripped off our gear."
"Yeah, except they were on stage when our stuff got stolen. Hang on a second." Jay's jacket is hanging off one of the kitchen chairs. He goes into the pockets and finds his cigarettes, opens the kitchen window, and lights one. He picks up the phone. "There's something else we need to figure out."
"Jay?" calls Danny from down the hallway. "Are you smoking in the house?"
"Yeah," he calls in response. "We're moving out anyway. Who gives a shit?" He turns his attention back to Tyson. "Look, we need to get something recorded for the web page. At least a song or two. Who do we know that could help us out?"
"Well, we know someone," Tyson says. "But you might not like it."
Jay blows smoke toward the open window. "You mean Rich."
"Rich, and that chick from Lady Endorphin. He said her recordings were so good he moved here to join her band, right? So she must be good at recording stuff."
Jay thinks about it. "Yeah. I guess beggars can't be choosers, right? And if she does the recordings herself, maybe she'll do it cheap. Or free, right? Maybe we could work the angle that we'll use the recordings to promote a show that her band will be playing, so it would be to her benefit to help us."
"Sure," Tyson says. "I'll call Rich and see if he can set it up. I just wonder if he'll be sore about last Tuesday."
"Right. If he sounds pissed, just apologize for me, all right? Tell him I was in a shitty mood because of my folks. I mean, he pissed me off, but fuck it, I don't care."
"Yeah. The guy is kind of a dick, but he seems happy to help out," Tyson says. "I'll give him a call. Maybe we can do it this week."
They hang up. Jay sips his coffee and smokes his cigarette, and listens to the plunking of a bass and acoustic guitar coming from down the hall.
Tyson calls Rich and Rich calls Casey, the enigmatic lead singer of Lady Endorphin. Casey agrees, and on Tuesday morning Rich picks up Jay and Tyson at the old Nova Caf in downtown Millenburgh. Jay loads his guitar into the trunk of Rich's big old Thunderbird, and the two members of Hellakill climb into the car.
"Morning boys," Rich says. "Nice day to cut an album. Just the two of you, huh?"
"Yeah," says Tyson, ducking into the back seat of the two-door. "Peter's working and Steve's in class. But we should be able to put down the vocal and guitar tracks today."
Jay pulls the heavy door shut and the car starts moving. "This will probably be better anyway," Rich says. "Casey is pretty shy. Maybe meeting you a few at a time will be best."
Rich pulls the car up in front of a small house in Millenburgh's west end. The yard is a mess, with a patchy, uncut lawn and overgrown shrubs sprouting out in all directions. They get out, Jay collects his guitar from the trunk, and they walk up to the front door.
Rich presses the doorbell, and they hear the bing-bong inside the house. There's no response. Rich presses the button again, and again, they wait in front of the closed door.
"Are you sure she's home?" Tyson asks.
"Yeah, she's home," Rich grumbles. "She pulls this sometimes." He digs a cell phone out of his jacket pocket, flips it open and speed-dials a number. "Casey?" he says. "Yeah, I'm out front with the guys from Hellakill. No, just two of them. The singer, Tyson, and the guitarist, Jay. Didn't you hear the bell? Okay. Okay. Sure." He flips the phone shut.
Tyson and Jay look at each other and then at Rich. The Lady Endorphin guitarist gives them an embarrassed shrug. "Just a minute." They wait, and there's a click as the front door is unlocked. It doesn't open however, and after half a minute Rich turns the knob and lets them inside.
The three musicians step into the front entrance of the house, which opens into the living room. Instead of the couches, chairs and coffee tables which usually decorate living rooms, this one is filled with amplifies, sound boards, a computer desk, a keyboard, chunks of lighting equipment, endless cables and cords snaking all around, and most conspicuously, the massive welded-metal microphone stand that they saw dominating the stage during Lady Endorphin's set at the women's shelter benefit.
But Casey, Lady Endorphin herself, is nowhere to be seen.
"Just hang out," Rich says, sitting down on a folding chair. "Plug your guitar into one of the amps and tune up if you want. I'm sure she'll be out in a minute."
"Jesus," Tyson says, looking around. "Is this her house?"
"Yeah," Rich says. "Well, I think her parents pay the rent. Or maybe they bought it for her. I'm not really sure about that."
Jay, spotting an ashtray on one of the tables, pulls out his smokes and lights one up. "This is a pretty elaborate setup," he says. "She must have a lot of dough to buy all this gear."
"I think she gets a lot of used and broken stuff and fixes or modifies it."
"Right. So... where is she?"
"Hello," says a small voice from the doorway to the basement. The three boys turn. Firmly in the minds of Jay and Tyson is the image of the girl they saw on stage weeks ago: a raven-haired beauty in a tight, shiny costume, strutting and showing off a sexy body on stage, screaming and singing at a captivated audience. The girl that stands before them in the house wears layers of bulky sweaters and loose-fitting pants to completely obscure her figure. A wool cap conceals her long black hair. Even her eyes are hidden behind dark glasses. She seems to be trying to hide in plain sight.
"I'm Casey," she says with a voice like a squeaking mouse. "Nice to meet you."
2008 Nolan Whyte