Sticks And Strings. Part 17

"What are you going to do now? You surely don't plan to go back there?"

Ultimate Guitar

We didn't talk very much at first. True to his nature, Adam seemed to sense now was not the time to launch a barrage of questions that had already been asked and answered one too many times. He ushered me through the house to the safe havens of The Garage, went to the fridge, pulled out a brown glass bottle from the fridge, cracked the cap off and placed it in my eager hand. It was cold and dripping with condensation. One of the drops ran down the long neck and onto my hand and that was alright, I was grateful for it. Cheers, I said, raising the bottle to him and taking a swig - Pale ale, his, and mine, favorite local brew.

He nodded and put his own bottle into a big blue bin underneath the workbench. When you're ready, he said, going over to his drums. I was just taking a breather when you knocked, been laying beats down all evening. Of course he was. When was he ever not behind that kit?

Your dad must have the patience of a saint not minding you tearing away all night, I said in between sips.

Soundproofing, remember? he said with his reassuring smile, grabbing his drumsticks which sat at attention on one of his toms. Besides, he's out of town this weekend. Up north to visit some old friends. If the mood strikes you, feel free to grab some power and join in. I would've told him the GIO was in need of a replacement string before that would happen, but once he began to play, any hope of being heard went out the window. He spent the next few minutes repeating a sort of call and response rhythm between the double bass and snares spliced with occasional crashes of the ride cymbal. He could've been playing in 4/4 or cut time, I couldn't tell, watching and trying my best to follow along. Drums always eluded me. The few times I'd ever sat behind a kit, even ones much simpler than Adam's behemoth setup, I'd always lose the beat only a few measures in; yet give me either guitar or bass and my timing would be spot-on. I suppose it didn't make much difference in the end. Drums were Adam's territory, and it was actually sort of funny, because he couldn't hold a candle to the rest of us when it came to strings. Isn't fate kind of mischievous that way?

As Adam continued to cycle through that pattern, toying with different cymbals, I remembered the bass part Jason was experimenting with last practice and began to pair it against Adam's rhythms. Yes, I thought, feeling the spark of excited inspiration beginning to grow. I went to my guitar case, pulled the well-worn notebook from the outside pouch, flipped it open and scrawled a reminder to bring it up at Sunday's practice. With a little working, we just might have a second song in the next few days, I thought, about to return the notebook to the pouch when a series of scribbles on the adjacent page caught my eye:

"Turn your back on me; that's what you do Write me off like I'm nothing to you Ignore my cries Feed me only lies As arguments fall upon deaf ears"

Reading the small paragraph brought back the urge to write, along with a flood of bad memories. I remembered writing that after one particularly bad fight with Captain Bob some time ago, I'd almost forgotten all about it, and looking back it seemed pretty tame compared to today. The pen which had been hanging off the tangled metal coils was in my hand a minute later and doing what it did best: Downloading words to paper while the thoughts were still fresh in my mind. At one point, I began walking in a circle, the enthusiasm almost outrunning the speed with which I wrote. Adam stopped playing and watched me with amusement and intrigue.

No, I said, waving my pen hand at him.

No? What'cha mean no?

Keep playing, please, it helps. I just found my groove, don't stop. He resumed playing without objection while I continued to write for a few more minutes. When I was done, I tossed the notebook onto the couch with a satisfied fist pump.

Love that inspiration, huh? Adam said, slightly out of breath, beads of sweat dotting his forehead.

Yeah, who'd have guessed a couple of backhands from my old man would later fuel songwriting? I said, glancing over at him. I'm not sure whether it was the sudden revelation as to who was responsible for my latest facial alterations or the nonchalance in which I spoke that caused Adam to jump. His reaction was so sudden he knocked over his hi-hat, saving it from crashing to the floor with a lightning thrust of his arms. The sticks he'd previously been holding clattered to the cold concrete, one of them rolled towards me.

Bullsh-t! he cried, getting up from the stool, walking over to the runaway stick with an outstretched arm to retrieve it.

I agree.

With stick in hand, Adam walked over to where I'd set down my bottle, gave it a shake and took it over to the recycle bin, opening the fridge at the same time. I think we need another, he said, sounding dazed.

I agreed with that as well.

We talked for a long time, during which I shared all with Adam, from finding the microphone in QuikPawn, to being plucked off my bike, to my time at Contrast, the series of events replaying in my mind like a horror movie stuck on repeat. Of course horror movies generally didn't leave you with a cut lip and bloody nose. Rattled brains were debatable. The more I shared, the more Adam's face went blank. He looked like I'd just told him I was quitting the band to become a cabbage farmer. There you have it, I finished, another sad chapter in the House of Demin.

Adam shook his head and chugged half a bottle in two giant swallows, wiping his lips with the back of his wrist. He rested an arm across his knee and leaned into it, the stool creaking a little. Sh-t, buddy. I knew you had a hard time at that place but I never imagined something like that happening. Why didn't you say something before?

Man, I don't know, I said, sucking the last few drops of ale from my own bottle. You just try to ride it out best you can; try to isolate yourself from all the crap and just focus on the dream, but it's always there. The more you try to tune out, the more in your face' it gets until everything just comes to a head and... well, this happens. I pointed to my face. Feeling was coming back into my cheeks. My lip, though still sore, wasn't throbbing as violently and the nosebleed had stopped.

Adam thought for a minute. Did you always know about Kayla?


I'm just saying. I never figured her as having the hot's for you.

What? And I was supposed to know? I said, wincing as soon as I'd said it. Sorry, that was rude. Adam shrugged it off. It's like I said, she caught me right off guard.

Hmm, Adam said, tipping back the rest of his beer, setting the bottle down on the concrete step. This isn't going to cause problems for you, is it? The look on my face was more than enough to satisfy his doubts. Gotcha, he said with a cheeky smirk. You better not say it, I thought, watching his smirk grow. Just don't be making out during practices is all I ask.

He ducked, just managing to avoid a flying couch cushion a moment later and then he was on the floor, rolling around in a fit of hysterics. Soon, we both were. It seemed illogical to laugh, considering all I'd been through today, but it felt good all the same. By the time sanity had been restored, my head was throbbing again from laughing so hard and both of us were wiping tears from our eyes. Adam retook his place atop the stool and, with a dying chuckle, asked me, What are you going to do now? You surely don't plan to go back there?

I snorted, partly out of amusement. Am I that predictable? We both chuckled again before I said, Tonight, I've no clue. If I had any choice in the matter, I'd never go back to that den of iniquity, but at some point I'll have to. One can't survive on the same clothes for long.

True. Well, tell you what. Since Dad's out of town this weekend; there's a guest room downstairs, dunno if you ever noticed it before. Far as I'm concerned, you're welcome to it while shit settles down.

It took a conscious effort to force myself to speak. What? You mean it?

Hell yeah, man. And if you need to get some more of your stuff, I can give you a hand with that sometime in between practice tomorrow.

Tomorrow's Saturday. A sudden flash of Kayla saying that in Contrast flashed across my mind. It wasn't the most welcome thought right then. Adam just looked at me.

So? Doesn't mean you and I can't jam, does it? He almost looked shocked at the prospect of me turning down a jam session. I caught on quick and agreed with my own hell yeah. He smiled that excited, all knowing smile that had the power to make anyone's restless nerves feel at ease in only seconds. He was right. What difference did it make with only two of us? It was music dammit, not high tea. We could write the most God-awful, sucky song imaginable and neither of us would mind that much, it would just be one step closer to that next gem. Practice really did make perfect, or as near as one could obtain it.

Besides, you think I can wait till Sunday to see - hear, that is - whatever it is you wrote down tonight?

I smiled again. You know the rules. Not until it's done.

Very well, very well, he said, moving the stool back behind his setup. In the meantime, the night's still young. Let's rock! Hook the GIO up. It'll do until we get that microphone. I didn't share in his confidence. That mike was coming nowhere near The Garage until I figured out how to come up with the extra cash needed, but that was a problem for another time.

The case was in my hands before I cried, Ah crap, I forgot it's still missing a string. It broke when I was plucked off my bike earlier. This bit of news didn't faze Adam, who only shrugged and more or less ordered me to fix it. Kind of sad how often the bloody obvious solution evades you in the heat of the moment, isn't it? Of course I had spare strings in my case. The swap out was quick and the GIO was plugged in, tuned and ready to go before much longer. On your count, maestro, I said, flashing the horns skyward as Adam brought his sticks above his head.

One, two, three, four...

We jammed, covered, and practiced well into the night. Nagging concerns stuck around, but their voices were drowned out by the shrieking wail of the guitar and the beat of the drums. Tomorrow was going to be interesting, no doubt. What happened next in the ever-unfolding saga of Demin v. Demin would bring would bring its own set of obstacles. Trouble was far from over, that much was certain.

To hell with tomorrow, I thought. It will come when it comes. Tonight belongs to the music.


Morning came and went. We both slept until the crack of one, when nature no longer called, but came trumpeting the wakeup call through a megaphone. By saving grace, the closest bathroom was next door to the guest room. Thank God. I grabbed a shower after relieving myself of last night's beer; the remnants of the case had been consumed with perhaps a bit too much zeal, the inside of my mouth felt like it was lined with wisps of cotton. I dried, changed into last night's clothes with some displeasure, I hated wearing torn anything, band shirts above all else, and went upstairs to find Adam standing hunched over the stove, clutching a frying pan by its long, smooth handle. He jumped a bit when I greeted him, my footfalls likely drowned out by the hiss and crackles of the frying bacon. God, I loved that smell. We were both unshaven with hair wild and messy, even though his was considerably shorter and spikier than the long, tangled black carpet mine was becoming, and looked as though we'd only been asleep five minutes. Our mutual look summed it up: F--k the mild hangovers Last night rocked.

Man I haven't slept this late in... Quite a while, Adam said over a plate of bacon and eggs a few minutes later. I nodded with mouth too full to answer intelligibly. Worth it though, he added, taking a swig of coffee from a tarnished white mug. That was a friggin' great idea you had, recording those beats on the stereo. Mitch and Jase are gonna dig it, I just know it. We shared a chuckle, knowing that Jason would've glared holes through us if he'd heard us colloquially referring to him by that despised nickname. Hopefully it wasn't too loud for the tape to handle.

Let's hope. Lucky you had the blank tape to begin with, I said between mouthfuls. I know I have a couple kicking around back home. Home... Oh, boy that was going to be an unpleasant encounter, to say the least. Resigned, I admitted to Adam that I needed to go back, if for nothing else to gather more clothes and other essentials. Despite the neutral tone in my voice, Adam could tell how little I wanted to go through with this.

I'll help you out, he said. We can go together after we're done eating if you want.

Nah man, it's okay, you don't have to.

Richard, let's not stand on some outdated bullsh-t idea of pride here. We got nothing else to do right now. And who knows, it might not be as bad as you fear.

You don't know Captain Bob, I muttered. In his eyes I've committed treason. The minute he sees me, it's say goodbye and order your lilies, because I'm as good as dead.

All the more reason I should come with, Adam said, pointing his fork at me as if to emphasize the point. Maybe he would show restraint with me around.

That I doubt. I chewed on a piece of bacon, much longer than bacon needed to be chewed. Alright, I finally said, swallowing. Thanks.

There was that reassuring smile again. What are friends for?

We ate for a while longer. When the food was gone, Adam gathered the dishes and dumped them in the dishwasher, adding a sprinkle of some terrible smelling powdered soap, closing the lid and punching the start button with his fist, adding a satisfied There. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little amused at the vigor with which he cleaned up. We jumped into his truck a moment later and set off, after a bit of struggling with the stubborn starter, for the Demin house. My stomach knotted up once the engine turned over, and didn't loosen for what would be one of the more challenging times of my life.

At first I was struck with relief when we pulled up to the curb outside my house. The driveway was empty, no other car in sight, no signs of life coming from any of the windows. The only sign of life if one could call it that was the pair of garbage cans sat by the foot of the driveway, lids fastened tight. Odd, I thought, garbage day isn't until Monday. Adam killed the engine, plucking his keys from the ignition. Hey, you're in luck! he said. Looks like nobody's home. In fact, it seemed that half of Maple Crescent was out to lunch, not even old Mr. Wilson's station wagon was in its place. Of course that was no guarantee things were going to be any easier from here. We climbed out, shutting the doors behind us, walking towards the front door. My own keys felt heavier than normal as I fished them out of my back pocket, sliding a fat brass one into the lock, turning back the bolt and pushing the door open with an air of here goes nothing'.

The deep silence that greeted us was both a comfort and terror. So far so good, I suppose. I stepped in and climbed the stairs with apprehension. With more of the living room revealed the higher I climbed, seated in my father's big leather chair was nothing but a folded newspaper.

Phew, crisis all but averted.

Let's go, I told Adam, quickly, before somebody gets home, just a simple grab and go. He didn't question, following behind me towards my room, looking around the house with wonder and curiosity, much like a tourist through some national heritage site; take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, that kind of thing. I don't know what he found so fascinating; I never thought my house that interesting. Approaching my bedroom door, I was unnerved to find it open - wide open. That never happened, even when I wasn't home. I stepped through the doorway, my stomach knotted tighter than it ever had before.

The scream sounded louder in my head than it really was.

It was gone - all gone. My room looked offensively bland, robbed of every ounce of soul. No huge mess made, the bedspread a little wrinkled and papers scattered across the desk, but everything else: The posters, the music; vinyl's, cassettes and CDs, books on everything music, all of it had been removed. The culprit's identity was immediate in my mind along with a sudden understanding as to why the cans were out two days early, giving a distasteful new definition to the term taking out the trash. I became a walking ball of hot fury of a kind I never thought myself capable of: Fists balled so tight, my fingernails cut into my palm, white spots appeared in the corners of my eyes and my face burned something fierce as I walked back and forth, snorting and sputtering. I'll kill him, so help me I'll f--king kill him, who does he think he is, thinking he can just throw out all my stuff, I should throw out all his records, see how he likes it. I don't remember what else I said; though I'm sure it was foul and not just a little violent.

Adam's attention seemed torn between watching me resist every urge to put my fist through the wall and observing the blank walls. Total bullsh-t, he whispered, his mouth hanging from shock. Total understatement was more like it, I thought. With some hesitation in his voice, he added, careful Richard, don't do anything you might regret now. Part of me expected to snort at the suggestion. Instead I was surprised to find myself relaxing, just a bit. He put out a hand and gripped my shoulder tight. This is bullsh-t, he said in commiseration.

You can say that again. I unclenched my fists and looked at one palm. Tiny dots of blood formed in one of the lifelines, nothing severe. He's not getting away with this, I said, storming out of the room towards the kitchen, grabbing a large black garbage bag from the pantry and proceeding to go and grab every article of clothing I could find and stuff it inside. Adam lent a hand and together, we emptied my closet of the few band shirts my father's sudden spring cleaning had missed. When the bag could hold no more, I pulled the handles taut, tied a knot and dragged it towards the stairs. I'm done, I said, huffing and puffing.

We carried the large bag off to the truck, pausing just long enough for me to pull the door shut with a resounding bang. The hidden symbolism of this act wouldn't strike me until later. Before we drove away, I dared to open the garbage cans and salvage what I could. One was full of rotting produce and the worst stench possible. Forget it, anything in there belonged to the sea of boiling maggots pooling around the black bags. The other bin held a hidden jackpot: One large bag, dry and void of any unpleasant odors. Adam watched me, looking a little puzzled as I plucked the bag free and tore the top open, an expression somewhat justified.

In whatever possessed state Captain Bob had been in when scavenging my room, he'd only gone so far as to bag and bin my stuff. From the looks of it, nothing had been too damaged apart from some of the posters. One corner, jagged and torn, hung over itself in a flimsy peak, it screamed SLAY-' amidst a dark green background. Checkmate, I thought, permitting a smug grin while I tied the bag back up and tossed it into the truck's cab.

Let's blow this hellhole.

We were off and running a moment later. Some time passed before either of us spoke. He doesn't get to win, Adam, I said. He just doesn't get to win this way, I said, looking out the window. Bright blue patches cut through the solid greys above.

I'm not arguing, dude. Did you get everything you needed?

Oh, I sure did, I said, taking the notebook out of my hoodie pocket. And then some. Adam saw and laughed.

You just always gotta have it at hand, don't you? He watched my face react and laughed even harder. Ask a stupid question...

Cheeky. I'll forgive you this time. I think I've a name for these lyrics. It'll be pretty good, I think.

Cool! What are you calling it?

I'm calling it: 'Betrayed By Blood'.

I clicked the pen and put it to paper once more, as the Demin house rolled out of view of the rear mirror.

1 comment sorted by best / new / date

    Nothing bad to say, still as good as ever. Enjoyable read and I look forward to the next installment.