No one else is in the house when Danny arrives home from school on Friday afternoon. He drops his bag on the kitchen table and checks the mail. There are some bills for his dad and an oversized manila envelope. The return address on the envelope is his aunt's house in Fort Wayne. It's addressed to "The Warren Men." He opens it and finds three separate envelopes inside, one addressed to his father, one to Jay, and one to him. He tosses two down on the kitchen table with the bills and takes his letter to his room.
Lying on his bed, he tears open the envelope. There is a two page letter inside, and folded into the center of the pages are four crisp twenty dollar bills. "Cool," he says. "Bribery."
He reads the letter. It is melodramatic, overly emotional, and full of attempted explanations and apologies. "Your father and I had grown apart... we didn't think it was healthy for us to live together any more... I want you to know I believe in you... I'm still your mom and you're still my baby boy..."
Danny folds the sheets of paper back up and puts them on his night stand. "What crap," he mumbles, but wipes his eyes despite himself. He puts the cash in his wallet and starts to go to the kitchen for something to eat, but finds himself unbearably tired. He drops back onto the bed and rolls himself up in the blankets, squeezing his eyes shut.
His reverie is broken when the phone rings. Feeling like his chest is full of ice, he rolls off the bed and goes to the kitchen, picking up the ringing phone. "Hello?"
"Oh, hey Danny. It's Steve."
"I'm actually glad I got you instead of Jay," the Hellakill bass player says. "I'm still a bit pissed at him after Tuesday. It wasn't cool him being late because he was getting high, and then there's the shit with the recording It wasn't very cool, you know?"
"You put the recording up on the MySpace page, didn't you?"
"Yeah. Well, I had my friend put it on. Was that wrong?"
"No, no. We need something on the page, even if Peter and I aren't playing on it. Don't worry about it. We'll replace it with something better when there's more time. By the way, I know you were lying about that panic attack stuff too. I'm not blaming you though. You were just trying to cover for your brother. That's natural. You're family, right? But you've got to view the band like a family too, okay? You have to think that what's best for the band is best for Jay. So covering for him when he's getting high instead of practicing is not really the best thing, right?"
"It's all right. I know you're new to this. I just want to help you out, okay? Help you fit in. And I can't really blame Jay anyway. That Lady Endorphin chick is smoking hot. Did you meet her?"
"Too bad, man. Smoking hot. Anyway, here's what I was calling about. I know a guy who knows a guy who has a show on the Millenburgh campus radio station. I caught up with the dude and I think we'll be able to do some kind of interview to promote the benefit. We need to move really fast on this, because we only have like, what? Two and a half weeks before the show? We'll need to do it this coming Thursday or the next Thursday. The show is at eight p.m. and we'll need to figure out who's going on. He figures two guys would probably be best. And we'll need recordings from all the bands that have committed to play. Get Jay to call me or Tyson and we'll sort out the details. Once again, fast as possible. Got it?"
"Yeah, I got it. I'll get him to call you."
"You okay, Danny? You sound down or something."
"I'm okay. I'm just... I guess I'm sick."
"Well, take care of yourself. We need you. You're in the band now, right? So stay healthy."
Danny feels a little glow inside, melting away some of the ice. "Okay. I will."
"Talk to you later." Steve hangs up and Danny drifts back to his bedroom. Tyson's guitar is there. He picks it up and starts strumming. In the band now, he thinks. In the band.
* * * *
Jay gets home a few hours later, smartly dressed in a collared white shirt and ironed slacks. Danny is on the living room couch watching TV. "All dressed up, huh?" Danny asks his older brother. "In court today? Murder charges?"
"No, jackass," Jay says, hanging his coat. "I was dropping off applications. I have to get a job, you know. Otherwise we'll either have to go live with Dad in Indy, or live in a cardboard box."
"I can see your Metallica t-shirt through your dress shirt."
"I know," Jay says, sitting down in an armchair. "I didn't take off my coat in any of the places I went. I figured they would just see the collar."
"Right," Danny says, flipping through channels with the remote. "I've been wondering. Hellakill has played shows for money before. Can't we earn enough playing to pay the bills?"
"I wish," Jay says. "It's not that easy. We could probably get gigs a couple times a month, especially if we ran around and played the small towns all over the state. Maybe we could get a thousand a show. Take off twenty percent for expenses and band funds, and split the remaining eight hundred four ways, that two hundred each. Even if we manage to sneak you into every show and split it five ways, eight hundred five ways is, um, I think one-sixty each, so that makes three-twenty per show between the two of us. That's like, six hundred a month."
"That's not bad," Danny says. "At least we're playing and making money, right?"
"Yeah, we're playing, but those are cover gigs. We play classic rock and country covers all night, because that's what the farmers and bikers want to hear. You do that shit for a while and eventually you get a reputation as a cover band and you're stuck doing that. And it's still not enough to make rent. If we want to break the band and do this as a career, we have to focus on shows where we can do our own stuff, even if they don't pay as much. I mean, we do the cover shows sometimes, but they're not the whole answer. I still need a job."
Danny shrugs. "Okay. Oh, Steve called."
"What did he say?"
Danny tells him about the interview with the college radio station. Jay gets up and calls Tyson, and they start to make their plans.
* * * *
The practice on Tuesday night goes well. Everyone is meticulous about showing up on time. They play smoothly through all of their songs, according time in between to help Danny on parts that give him trouble. Julie sings "Speed Up The Clock" with them, and Rich attends as well, bringing along his Schecter guitar and amp to practice "Walk This Way."
"Still no Lady Endorphin?" Steve asks when Rich arrives alone again. "Is she doing this with us, or what?"
"She's doing it, for sure," Rich says. "She and I have played it through a bunch of times already and she sounds awesome. She's just not quite ready to come out here and do it with everybody staring at her."
He pulls a minidisk recorder out of his jacket pocket. "I'm going to record this tonight so she can hear what we all sound like together, if that's cool with you guys. It will be good for her to practice with."
Later, when they are through playing and Rich has left, Tyson, Jay, Peter, Steve and Danny stand in the garage and talk about the radio interview. They jumped on the chance to do it on the sooner Thursday, and just need to decide who will show up at the Gilroy Building at the Indiana University Millenburgh campus where the college radio station is broadcast from.
"I'd like to do it," Steve says, "but I'm completely swamped with class-work. I've got to read like, two hundred pages before I go to sleep tonight."
"I'll go," Peter says. "I don't think we need to leave this as the Jay and Tyson show. Not like the recording, right? I'm free Thursday."
Tyson and Jay look at each other. "It's up to you," Tyson says to the guitar player. "Do you want to do it?"
"I wouldn't mind, but people always want to hear the front man," Jay says. "You're the singer."
"Nah, people are bored of singers," Steve says. Then, with a look of grave severity, he adds "I blame Bono."
Jay shrugs. "Well, I'll do it if you don't want to," Jay says. "Could be fun, right?"
"Yeah," Tyson says. "You boys better sell some tickets, though. We're a long way away from making our money back off the deposit and expenses, let alone replacing our gear."
* * * * *
On Thursday night Peter drives over to Jay and Danny's place. He beeps the horn twice, and the two Warren brothers come out the front door. Jay climbs in the front seat and Danny gets in through the sliding door to sit in the back.
"Hey boys," Peter says. "You're coming too, Danny?"
"Sure," Danny says.
"He won't do the interview," Jay says, fumbling with his cigarette pack. "It could be cool for him to watch. Come along and check it out."
"You're not going to smoke in my van, are you?"
Jay realizes what he's doing and slips the pack into his pocket. "No. Sorry. This is weird, but I'm actually pretty nervous about doing this. Are you nervous about what you're going to say?"
"Not really," Peter says, turning onto Main Street. "I mean, you've done interviews before, right? And shit, you're on stage all the time. What have you got to be nervous about?"
"Yeah, I guess. But I've only done print interviews before. And I never have to talk on stage. I don't know. I guess I'm just worry about saying something stupid. Or uncool."
"Just don't say anything offensive," Danny says from the back seat. "We talked about this in English class a while ago, how people work hard their whole lives, and then ruin their careers by saying something really racist or something in public. And they're finished like that." He snaps his fingers.
"Thanks, Danny, that's a big help. That makes me feel a lot better."
"Just don't say anything about butt-sex," Peter laughs. "Or cock."
"Jeez, I'll try, smartass. You guys are assholes, you know that?"
Peter looks in the rearview mirror and smiles at Danny.
They arrive on campus and park behind the Gilroy Building, pausing outside for Jay to have a smoke. Once inside, they follow a maze of signs to the audio-visual department which houses KJHG 97.3, Indiana University Millenburgh Radio. There is music playing over ceiling-mounted speakers, and Peter and Jay recognize it immediately.
"Are they playing Allsystemsgo?" Peter asks.
"Yeah, I think so," Jay says. "Weird. I didn't think they'd released anything for radio."
"Maybe it's just a demo."
Down the main hall where the station is administrated, they find the broadcast booth and the production room. Both have windows looking out into the hall, and the three musician peer first into the production room. There is a skinny, bug-eyed student in front of a control panel. He sees the guys from Hellakill, looks up at the clock and mouths the words, "Just a minute, okay?" to them through the sound-proof glass.
They nod and move along the hallway to look into the broadcast booth. They see the DJ sitting on one side of a broad desk. On the other side of the desk, two members of Allsystemsgo sit wearing earphones, chatting amiably with the DJ.
2008 Nolan Whyte