Peter guns the engine, and the four senior members of Hellakill hold on tight as the van speeds through the intersection, narrowly missing the light's change to red.
Damn, take it easy, Jay says from the back seat, although he's fairly sure that Peter can't hear him. The van's cheap factory stereo is cranked right up and Tyson, sitting in the passenger seat, is practically screaming along with Axl to Sweet Child of Mine.
Steve leans forward and pats Tyson on the shoulder. Take it easy, buddy, he shouts in his singer's ear. Save the pipes.
Too much Red Bull, Jay grins.
The van pulls around a corner and the guys grab onto the roof handles to avoid slamming against each other. Peter cruises down the residential street and slows to a stop in front of the Warren house. The autumn evening's light is already falling and the front porch light is on. Peter leans on the horn, and in a moment the front door opens and Danny, Benny and Kev run down the steps toward the van. In the front window of the house stands Jeff Warren, Jay and Danny's father, smiling and waving.
Steve slides the door open and the three high school kids cram into the van's rear bench behind Jay and Steve. Lucky we don't have any gear, the bassist says as he slides the door closed. Otherwise we'd never fit all you guys in here.
Yeah, we're so blessed not to have any gear, Jay says. He's started bouncing his feet and tapping his hands on his knees, getting the nervous-excited feel he always has before a show. What was Dad doing?
He picked us up from The Venture, Danny says. It was pretty cool. He ordered pizza for us and everything. He says good luck with the show tonight.
Gee, great, Jay says. What's with the nice guy routine?
I think he's starting to feel guilty about selling the house and you and me having to move out. And about mom leaving. And him moving away. You know. About the whole family basically falling apart.
The whole family isn't falling apart, Jay says. Those two are falling apart. You and I are fine. We're going to have a great show tonight and we're going to make some good money to buy new gear. And next month you and I are going to go out and find an apartment. And we're not going to have to count on mommy and daddy for cash either. I got a job today.
Sweet, Danny says. Something good?
Nah. Warehouse job at a tractor place. Should be shitty, but money is money, right?
Just don't get your hands broken on big-ass tractor parts, Steve says. Otherwise, Danny here will have to take over for you. Right Slash? Slash Hendrix?
Yeah, right, Danny grumbles from the back seat. Peter takes another corner at speed, and Benny slides in against him, her body pushing against his. It makes his cheeks feel hot.
They arrive at The Venture shortly after seven. Peter parks the van in the gravel lot and they all tumble out, with only Jay needing to carry his guitar.
Not many cars here yet, Tyson observes.
Too early, says Steve. Doors just opened five minutes ago. Nobody shows up right when the doors open.
There's Ron's piece of crap car, Peter says, pointing out one little vehicle. And there's Rich's boat. Man, he's here early. Probably a couple of these belong to staff, too.
So that means it's only staff and other bands so far, right? Jay says. Who cares? Only squares show up right when the doors open. Don't worry about it. Pattern Disruption doesn't go on until eight. There's lots of time for people to get here.
The group heads around the side of the building to the entrance. We can get Kev and Benny in, right? Danny asks. Like, free tickets or something?
Sure, Tyson says. They're staff. He looks at Benny. She's our website administrator.
Yeah, MySpace page administrator, she says. How hard is that?
Tyson looks at Kev. And you're our roadie. You can carry our imaginary gear.
Woo-hoo, Kev responds dryly.
In the corridor leading into the main hall the venue staff has set up the ticket table with a grey metal cash box. The limp-looking girl that was at the office reception desk in the afternoon is sitting behind the table. Next to her is a young man with a goatee and Deicide shirt. Do you have tickets? she asks as Hellakill and their friends approach.
No, says Jay. We're Hellakill. The organizers and headliners. The beneficiaries of the benefit.
Oh, right. Do you need wristbands for alcohol?
Um, some of us do.
The older members collect their wristbands and all seven get hand stamps before passing inside the dark empty space of the main hall. The room is lit at each end. On the left is the stage, with its lights half-down, but still brighter than most of the space. At the far right is the bar, brightly lit. The guy with the long blond pony-tail from the office is behind the bar, and a few early-birds are standing around.
I'm going to ditch my guitar backstage, Jay says, and leaves the rest of the crew to mill around the room, mingling with the few odd characters square enough to show up right at seven.
Jay squeezes through the door at the right of the stage. As he expected, the little prep room is jammed full of equipment, including piles of drums, amps, and a bunch of guitar cases. But the room is not only stuffed with equipment: on the ratty green sofa sits Rich of Lady Endorphin with his arm around Julie of Pattern Disruption.
There's a tense feeling in Jay's stomach when he sees them sitting there looking so comfortable, but it passes quickly. He knew that Julie was into him a few months ago and he didn't make a move on her, so he can't really feel jealous when he sees her cozying up with Rich. He feels the pain of a missed opportunity, but that's all. And besides, these two helped set up this whole event to potentially save his band. How could he possibly feel jealous of their happiness.
Well, he does. A little.
How's it going, man? Rich asks, as Jay hunts for space to place his nylon carrying bag.
Good, Jay says. I'm getting that little nervous buzz. You know. The good buzz. Are you guys ready to play?
Hell, yes, Julies says with a sparkling smile. The rest of the band is in the lounge. Where are your guys?
Out there, Jay says, jerking a thumb over his shoulder. The band, plus Danny's fan club.
Nice, Rich says. We brought our lighting rig and all the other crap, so all the bands can have some extra flash.
Cool. Is your band here?
Yeah, except for Casey, he says, referring to Lady Endorphin's enigmatic lead singer. She's got a bit of a cold. She's going to come down closer to the time we go on.
Is she all right?
Yeah, she's a trooper. She wouldn't miss a show, even if she was having a kidney transplant.
Okay. Jay stands there looking at them, and they sit there smiling back at him. Well, I guess I'll go find my guys, he finally says, breaking the silence. I've got to find out about drink tickets for the bands, too. Pattern Disruption is on at eight, right? Okay, I'll catch you guys later. He steps out through the door and back into the main hall.
At the other end of the room Peter, Steve and Tyson have lined themselves up along the bar and ordered soft drinks, waiting for later in the night before indulging in a first beer. Danny, Kev, and Benny start to explore, eventually peaking inside the lounge room behind the bar, where the members of Hellakill first met Rich on the fateful night their gear was stolen.
Without actually entering, Kev looks inside and spots Ron, Scott and Kathy of Pattern Distortion sitting at a table, a pitcher and glasses of beer between them.
Check it out, Kev says. It's those dudes from this afternoon with that chick Kathy. So, refresh my memory. Those guys know we're in high school. Does she still think we're in college?
Danny looks over Kev's shoulder. No, man, she never did. It was a big joke on me.
Well, what should we do? Benny asks, squeezing in next to them to get a look at Kathy. Should we go hang with them?
I don't know. I feel weird about that chick. I thought she liked me or something, but then I found out she was basically laughing at me behind my back.
Well, we should do something to screw with them, she says. Let's make her jealous or something.
How do we do that?
Oh, come on, stupid, she says. She slips her hand into his. Follow my lead. She pulls him into the lounge, and Kev follows behind.
Benny and Danny walk to the table hand in hand, with Kev close behind. Ron, Scott and Kathy look up and smile.
Hey guys, Danny says.
Hey, Kathy says. Grab some chairs and have a seat.
Thanks, Kev says, pulling up a chair from the next table. It'll be good to sit down. We're all tired from all of the college classes we had at college today. Yep, it sure is tough being a college student sometimes, but you know, I think it's worth it. It's just...it's just expanded my mind, you know?
They all stare at Kev. What's everyone looking at? he asks. Did I suddenly grow antlers or something? We're all college students here, right? You all know what I'm talking about.
Danny and Benny sit down next to each other. To his surprise, Benny leans close against him, holding his hand in both of hers and crossing her legs so her leg rubs against his. He looks down at her fishnet-stocking covered knee, and the thigh coming out from her plaid skirt. Whether she's playing a game to make Kathy jealous or not, she's freaking hot, and he can feel his cheeks getting warm again.
He sees that Kathy is watching them, despite the idiotic display that Kev is putting on.
Kathy smiles. So you guys are all at IUM?
Danny laughs uncomfortably. No, none of us are at IUM. I never said I was at IUM. Like um, if you somehow got the idea that, ahem...
No, no, Kev says, cutting off his stuttering friend. He's fucking with you. We are all definitely at IUM. Like you, he says, pointing at Ron. Didn't we have some kind of class together once?
Ron shrugs and smiles as he takes a sip of beer.
He's kidding. We go to McLaughlin, Benny says. You know, the high school in the east end of town? Oh, by the way, my name is Benny. She reaches across the table to shake Kathy's hand.
Right. I'm Kathy. Actually, Danny's brother Jay told me that Danny went to college. I don't know why he would do that, unless he just wanted to play a joke on us all.
Of course, you must have been able to tell it wasn't true, Benny says, leaning back and putting her hand on Danny's arm.
Kathy sips her beer. So, are you two going out?
Danny and Benny look each other in the eye. Danny isn't sure what to say. Frankly, he's had enough of jokes and pretending and making things up for appearance's sake, and he doesn't want to say yes if it isn't true. But in a split second of looking into Benny's blue eyes, he makes a decision. Here she is. She obviously likes him. She's cuter than hell with her pink and blue hair and punk clothes and fishnet tights, and sure, maybe she likes Fallout Boy, but who is Danny to judge? The only music he knows is the stuff his brother gives him. So maybe they both have a lot to learn about music. And maybe she's not such a great bass player, but he's only just learning guitar, so really, aren't they perfect for each other?
Instead of trying to think of the right thing to say for the sake of everyone else, Danny just says what he wants to say: Yeah, we're going out.
A subtle smile and a twinkle in her eye is Benny's only response.
Jay comes in and approaches the table. Hey, Pattern Disruption, he says. You're here. Ready to kick ass? I got you drink tickets. You're not already drunk, are you? Sorry I'm talking so fast. I get a little wound up before a show.
Hey, Jay, Kathy says. We were just talking about you. Do remember telling me that Danny is a student at IUM?
Yeah, Jay says. I thought you might want to bang him, but I figured you wouldn't go for a high school kid, so I lied to you. I'm sorry. My bad. Have you guys had your sound check yet?
Scott laughs. You're hilarious, dude. Come on guys, let's go do the check. He pours the remaining beer from the pitcher into their glasses, and everyone trails out of the lounge toward the stage at the far end of the darkened hall, Benny's hand warmly held in Danny's.
2008 Nolan Whyte