Living in Spotlight's Shadow. Part 14

If I'm honest, the idea seemed insane at that moment.

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Like I said, some things require action, not thought. Making the call to Kevin was the first step, talking was the second, intermediary step. That conversation lasts a long time, well until after the sun goes to bed. Of course, talk is cheap, as they say; a sentiment the two of us seem to understand. Talk soon becomes action, and time dances that simultaneous awe-inspiring and infuriating dance, making seconds seem like hours, as the rest of the weekend passes without much event, save for picking up an extra shift on Sunday, which I don't mind. More money in the bank is always fine by me. Plus, it gives Art and D, who makes a rare appearance at the Gastown store to collect the week's receipts, to hear of the tale of blood, sweat and booze which I've come to refer to as "Friday at Funky's" which resulted in the interesting wounds on my face and left arm. Art listens with growing astonishment over lunch in the backroom, while D leans back in his chair, a mischievous and yet nostalgic look written on his face.

"Damn, kid," he says when I finish my tale and tuck into the remaining half of my sandwich. "Quite a tale. Reminds me of the on-stage blowup between members of Mammoth at the Commodore back in '94." One of the many casualties of the independent metal scene, I reason. "Well, congratulations are in order, I guess!"

"For what?" I say with a mouthful of tuna on whole wheat.

"Playing the phoenix."

"What's that?"

D leans further back, the chair squeaking and groaning, and holds his hands in the air like a football referee signalling for a touchdown. "It's like this: Sooner or later, every band faces a gig from hell. Your equipment goes belly-up, the crowd hates on you for no reason, a knife flashes in the moshpit, or one guy gets too sh-tfaced to perform and you go through a set looking like the biggest idiots on the planet."

"I know what you mean. Ours was called Curtis the Bassist. If I never hear that name again..."

"Exactly," D says. "Point being: When the blood starts flowing and the sweat starts rolling and you're thrown into the thick of it, you're faced with two options. You crumble, or you weather the storm. There've been too many who crumbled to dust and got carried off by the winds in my time. But those rare few who survive and live to play another day?" D looks at me through half-closed eyes and gives a firm nod of his head. "Those are the real deal, the ones who are in it for the long haul. You, my friend," D gets up from his chair and walks past me, clapping a big hand on my shoulder as he goes out to the store front, "You're the survivor of your group. Those other guys you were with? F--k 'em. They're not worth it. Hope this new project works out for ya."

Whoa. Praise from Derek Drummond, the local metal messiah who claims to still remember the first time Iron Maiden played Vancouver, and who can tell a hell of a story about it, is rare. He's right, too. Too many wannabes have come through Cage's doors, even during my relatively short tenure, trying to make a name for themselves. Less than a fifth have come back for seconds, which says something. Either the heavy metal scene is a lot tougher to break into than it looks, or else this city is full of a lot of fucking quitters.

Whatever it may be, it's this knowledge, coupled with the sense of near awe at D's encouragement, that allows me the audacity to feel hopeful - dare I even say, excited? - as I climb the steps and ring the doorbell of the home of the Ravenclaw duo that Monday after work.

***

There is no actual playing for almost an hour after I arrive. Lindsay Wagner greets me with more enthusiasm than other times, yet I can still sense a wall built around that heart of hers, (oh well), and proceeds to demand the whole Friday story from me before I'm even halfway down the stairs leading to the basement studio, despite her being there for a majority of it. I decide it's a far less waste of energy telling the story once more, than raising a fuss about it only to fold in the end anyways. Kevin greets me from behind the drum kit. We slap palms, and then he moves past me and disappears upstairs while I take a seat on one of the couches, setting my case down by my feet. He returns a moment later with a six-pack so cold, I can see vapour rising off the cans, flush with condensation. He pulls a can out of the plastic ring and offers it to me. The hesitation feels a lot longer in my head, but I take it and crack the top, taking a tiny sip as part of a group "Cheers!" and putting it down on the coffee table, not wanting to touch it again.

The story is told, with the added bonus material of the bathroom confrontation with Curtis the drunk, and the consequences resulting from the two man swan dive off the stage into an already violent moshpit. Lindsay, who's made no bones about sitting with me on the couch, almost falls off, seized with an unexpected fit of hilarity when we get to the part where Tub o' Lard and friends pull me and Billy apart, leaving me with a cluster of greying hair. Kevin, lying prostrate on the floor, double-fisting cans, also laughs, though more contained.

"Tub o' Lard," Lindsay giggles, wiping at her eyes. "Oh. Ha-ha. Oh man. That's a new one." She straightens up, and sips from her own can, and clamps a hand on my shoulder. "You're alright, Jay."

Not the first time I've been told that by a female this week. I shrug and offer up my hands in a "Whaddaya know?" gesture, offering my own laugh alongside the others. I pretend not to notice the long time it takes for her hand to eventually slide off my shoulder.

We get down to playing soon after. Time does another dance here, a spirited tango, compared to the waltz that dragged on through the weekend. Three hours pass. I become familiar with most of the songs, (there aren't many, unfortunately), in the Ravenclaw catalogue, along with the parts to "This Love" - surprise, surprise. What I don't learn, Lindsay gives me tablature for, written in thin, neat cursive. I've never been able to read standard notation very well, beyond the basic E-G-B-D-F, but tab is like a second language to me. I suppose I should feel a little ashamed at that, but so what? It's all the same music in the end.

We spend about an hour shooting the shit after practice, after which my tenure with Ravenclaw, and the upcoming recording sessions, are discussed in greater detail. Kevin, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the first to cast his vote for me to officially join the band, declaring me "the man!" Lindsay takes a little longer in reaching a decision, although the coy smirk she doesn't even attempt to hide is a giveaway.

"Well Jay," she says, "what say you?"

"Jay wants to say 'Yes!' right away, but..."

"But?" Both Kevin and Lindsay ask together.

"The last time I jumped into a band feet-first, I ended up losing five months of my life and a lot of money I didn't have, putting up with tyrants and alcoholics." I sneak a longer look at Kevin, who's into the third can of the evening. He doesn't notice my glance. I look to my own can, sitting in a puddle of water, warm to the touch and still two-thirds full. "Which as we all know, culminated in my being thrown off a stage and minus one bass, crappy though it was."

I decisively shove the can across the table and rest my booted foot on the lip, tipping my head back, holding the gaze of the others. "I like you guys, you're cool, you definitely got the stuff. I just don't wanna end up stepping on any mines here. No offence."

Lindsay tips her head in consent. "Can't blame you for that," she says. "Those guys gave off one hell of a bad vibe when I came out to that joke of a practice last week. That guitarist of yours was alright, though."

"Yeah," I say, feeling another sharp twinge in my gut, "he is - was - I don't know what."

"I don't suppose he...?" Lindsay starts to say, then studies my expression. "Never mind." Things grow quiet for a little while, everyone sits around, sipping drinks (save for yours truly) and looking thoughtful, waiting for someone else to pipe up first. When it becomes obvious that the men aren't going to, Lindsay straightens herself up on the end of the couch and announces, "Stick with us." When Kevin and I look to her, she quickly adds, "At least until the demo's recorded and given a chance to sell. If things work out; we start selling copies and landing gigs and you want to stay, awesome. If things don't work out, then it's good luck and go with God, no hard feelings."

"So far, so good," I say, feigning interest while hoping my dancing heart won't give me away. "Go on."

She does. "The studio's booked for the week of the 18th. Monday's move in and setup, we record from the 19th to the weekend. The guy who runs the studio's a buddy, so we've got the option of a second week at the friend price."

"And what's the damage for that?"

"One thousand."

My breath escapes from me in a single whoosh. "That's a pretty heavy investment," I say, even though I know full well that big names will tend to pay a hell of a lot more than that for recording and production on full albums. My bank account is already pretty thin, and I know my credit card won't prop me up for long.

But still, this is a chance to actually have something with which to put my name out there...

"Alright," I say, trying to sound like I'm bored and growing weary with the conversation, "let's say I'm interested. How much do I need to kick in, assuming we need the extra week at all?"

Kevin and Lindsay trade curious looks, appearing to communicate telepathically as they try to figure out an appropriate figure. After a few moments, Lindsay shuffles on the couch and leans forward, raising a hand to the side of her mouth to keep me from deciphering whatever she's whispering to Kevin, who listens thoughtfully, then offers a simultaneous shrug and nod, then lowers himself back to the floor.

Lindsay shifts her gaze toward me. "First, we'll need the second week, I all but guarantee it," she says. "Far as numbers go, three hundred should cover it."

I blink, feeling suddenly lighter, as though a great invisible weight has just been lifted off my shoulders. "Three hundred," I mull the figure over, feeling the words roll off my tongue like rain drops off a freshly waxed car hood. "That's better than I was expecting. Hell, it practically seems a steal."

"Oh no," Lindsay says, raising a finger, "that's three hundred per week, not total. And since the first week's already been paid for in advance, you can split that share evenly with me and Kev."

The weight that had just been lifted off my shoulders a moment ago drops from the heavens and lands full force on me, sending my stomach into my knees and back. "And what would my potential return on this timely investment be," the word strains in my throat, and I have to swallow to force it out, "pray tell?"

Lindsay doesn't hesitate. "Twenty percent of all future sales of this new demo, thirty on any future gigs. Plus..." she feigns calculating a number in her head, "oh let's be generous! Twenty on prior demo sales."

Generous! I didn't know whether to laugh or swear. I'm no mathematician, it was in fact my worst subject in school by a long shot, but I didn't need to consult the calculator app on my phone to see where this was going.

"Generous, huh?" I say, part of it coming out in a laugh. "That's a bit of an exaggeration. You're offering me less than I would have raked in had I continued to stay with DoM."

Lindsay laughs. "Well sh-t, Jay, what did you think you were getting the Robert Trujillo deal? This ain't Metallica you're joining."

"The what?"

"Forget it."

"You're missing the big picture, dude," Kevin says cooly, trying to play the role of peacemaker. "You're only thinking in the short term. Give it some time, allow for momentum to build up, push the demos, nail some gigs down; not just local but other places across the province, hey why not the whole country?"

If I'm honest, the idea of travelling cross-country seemed insane at that moment. Hell, the entire f--king deal seemed insane. It's at this moment that the first twinges of regret begin to nag at me the same way a tiny headache can start out before quickly growing into a massive blinder. Have I just gone and pulled the biggest boner of my life?

Then, with that brilliant sense of revelation the obvious can bring, the situation lays itself out in a much simpler picture. This is much less about money than it is about control. That's what it really boils down to. Back with DoM, I may not have had any actual control over the day-to-day of the band like Billy-f--king-a-shole-Glass did, (or liked to think he did), but there was just enough chemistry in that sick joke of a band to allow me a certain grasp of leverage to keep Billy in check, at least for the most part. And what do I have here? The remainder of my life savings for a proposal that could potentially leave me grasping the very short end of the stick; if there ever even is a stick.

Sh-t. Stephen was right, after all. Although I suspected the opportunity for "I told you so's" was now a thing of the past. And who's fault is that, Jay? How are you going to blame Billy for this one?

Kevin causes another ripple in the awkward silence by rising to his feet, dusting off the seat of his pants and announcing a need to use the gentlemen's room, although the phrase he actually uses is far less genteel. As soon as he's out of earshot, Lindsay turns all of her attention towards me and says, "So is that a 'yes' or a 'yes'?"

"You seem awful sure of yourself," I say, steeling myself.

Her lips twist in a lopsided smirk. "Well, it's obvious you're going to say yes."

"Oh, is that so? So you can predict the future now?"

Her smile vanishes. "Oh come on, Jay-Jay, you can drop the bullsh-t. The answer's as plain as the nose on your face."

"Indulge me."

"Well, what else have you got?" She sees me start to open my mouth and continues before I can interrupt her, "Let's say you tell us 'thanks but no thanks' and go your own way. I don't see anyone else waiting in the wings to offer you an opportunity such as this. Okay. Sure. You could always strike out on your own and form your own group. That's a hell of a process, and a costly one too, take it from someone who knows from experience. Who's to say you aren't going to find yourself in another pathetic situation like the one you just came from six months from now?"

I know she has a point, much as I don't want to admit it, either to myself or out loud. "And who's to say this arrangement won't turn into another Dichotomy of Mind?" The look Lindsay gives me reinforces the realization of just how f--king stupid I must have sounded. "Bad example," I say.

"You think?" She's slumped back into the couch.

I spend the next few minutes trying to make sense of the maelstrom of scenarios wreaking havoc in my head, when the smallest sliver of light peeks through the storm, offering a brief but powerful moment of clarity. I move towards my lukewarm beer, catch myself in the act and make myself pull my hand back. It lands on the couch, dangerously close to the curve of Lindsay's thigh. She doesn't seem to notice, and keeps her thoughts internal if she does.

"Twenty-five."

She looks over to me. "Huh?"

"Twenty-five percent of the new demo, or EP, or whatever the f--k this thing turns into," I say. "Same terms for the old demo, plus a guaranteed three-way divvy on any future gigs. I'm not risking the remainder of my finances on something that will only yield peanuts. And one other thing, as well."

"Yes?" she asks, not indicating agreement but a willingness to hear me all the way out.

"I have a pair of amps that are currently collecting cobwebs in storage just across town. If we're gonna do business, they're coming out of retirement and living here when not in studio or gigging. In return, I could be persuaded to use part of the saved monthly fees for day-to-day sh-t for the band. Within reason, of course."

"Of course," says Lindsay, in a voice so thick with mockery, I can almost see the drips falling from her mouth like molasses. Then the lopsided smirk re-appears. "Twenty percent across the board for both demos, for a third of all gig profits."

"And the amps?"

"They'll look good stacked up against the Marshall Twins." She gestures her head towards her own setup.

"All right then."

"All right then," she says. "Now kiss me."

The words send a shockwave through my system. I actually twitch right there on the couch. "What?"

"You know you want to."

It's next to impossible to resist erupting in laughter. "You're one crazy broad, you know that..."

Lindsay decides to take matters into her own hands, reaching out her hand, grasping a fistful of hair on the back of my head and pulls me forward until our lips meet in an embrace so passionate and fiery I begin to think she may come close to tearing my face off.

What she tears instead are a couple of hairs out of my head, drawing a muffled yell out of me. I instinctively push away from her, feeling for where the hairs used to be, expecting there to be blood, but of course there isn't. I look at her, astonished and outraged at the same time.

"Never use that word again in my presence," she says with no trace of humour in her voice. I quickly assure her that I won't.

The sound of water rushing through the overhead pipes draws our mutual attention. Then Lindsay rises from the couch as cool as a cucumber and says sweetly, "My turn." And she disappears down the hall toward the downstairs bathroom. Kevin returns to the room, gauges my baffled expression and breaks out in that cheeky smile I can't help enjoy seeing, and makes some off the cuff remark about how pink really isn't my colour. A quick wipe of the hand across my mouth and I discover a smear of lipstick colouring my palm.

"Swell," I mutter, a reaction Kevin also finds funny. "You sure took your time," I say after the hilarity dies down.

He shrugs, the smile still lingering. "Call it 'man's intuition.' You don't wanna be interrupting Lindsay when she's got her negotiating hat on."

"A fact I had to learn the hard way."

Another laugh, more of a chuckle than a bray, then the smile leaves his face. "So, what's the verdict?"

"Well," I say, "I'm sorry I have to be the one to tell you, but..." The alarm that come over Kevin's face is too much for me to keep a straight face. "You're gonna have to put up with me for a bit. I'm in."

Kevin claps his hands together, then punches the air. "Love it!" he yelps, and goes to a mini-fridge resting between a pair of stacked cinder blocks, opens it and retrieves two frosted cans. Jesus H. Christ, I think, how many places has he got liquor stashed? "Catch!" Kevin calls and throws a can towards me. I reach out, but before I can grab it, another hand comes into the picture and seizes the can in midair. I look up and see Lindsay standing there, lopsided smirk intact.

"How dare you start the party before me?" she asks. Then bursts out laughing and cracks her can, holding it up in the air. "To us."

"To us!" Kevin says, opening his own can with his front teeth.

I hesitate opening my can, thinking over the rise and fall of time over the last six months. Where it's taken me, who it's taken out of my life, and who it's brought in with the return of the tides. There are still some emotions connected to my time in Dichotomy of Mind, and I suspect there always will be. Some good, some not so good. But as the wisecracking muskrat from "The Lion King" observed so many years ago, "You gotta put your past behind you."

I snap the top off my can, letting lager suds flow down the sides in streaky, foamy icicles. Then I hoist my own can up to meet the other two. "To us."

And we drink.

4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Arby911
    There's the episode I've been waiting for (and BTW, keeping your loyal readers waiting so long...not cool!! ). Excellent pacing and suspense and enough incidental drama to support alternatives in the story line, what's not to like. I can see more than a few possibilities from here, it will be interesting seeing where the characters take us.
    G.N.
    Partly my fault, partly the time it takes to process a chapter, God knows how many submissions UG gets a day. I'm writing a chapter ahead to avoid this in the future.