Freddy was up early. He went to the bathroom, put some water into his eyes and opened the medicine cabinet. The headache was getting worse. Shit, there's no aspirin in here. Dad was in Nam... sure he didn't need no aspirin for headaches, but he could've kept some. He shut off the cabinet and looked at the mirror.
I was born today in 1963, when Bob Dylan released Times they are a-changin, and now I am nineteen, he thought, but the times they don't change anymore like they used to. It's the same shit as it was 7 yrs back. Dad came back from war and ma died in cancer. I was this quiet good-for-nothing twelve-year-old and now, seven years later I'm still the same. No job, no education, no girl - good for nothing, he thought as he brushed his teeth.
It was eight-thirty in the morning when he came out of the house after a messy breakfast. The band he was in, Thorns and a Rose, were going to have their rehearsal from nine at Tommy's garage. But he was out early as he'd be calling Peter, their bassist, first and then go together to Tommy's. Freddy didn't own a drum kit. It was Tommy's and he'd been playing it for almost over a year-and-half now. He had considered himself pretty okay considering the fact that he never had a formal training. But lately he'd been listening to some stuff given to him by Georgie, their much older guitarist... stuff like The Who, Jefferson Airplane... and he suddenly discovered that he sucked as a drummer.
It sure helped to have George around in this band, he thought. That guy's a pro, toured with professional big name acts. And he played his instrument like shit. Tommy's good too, but what he liked about Tommy was that he was hardworking. Only if me and Pete were as good as them, he thought as he made his way to where Peter lived.
When they entered Tommy's garage they could hear him strumming his acoustic guitar and humming a tune. That's typical Tommy, he thought, so much into his music. The guy might be a little too serious and sometimes an irritating pain in the ass in the name of being a perfectionist, but Freddy secretly admired the quality. Freddy couldn't recognize the tune. Maybe it was something new Tommy wrote.
Tommy stopped strumming as he saw them entering the garage. Ah, there you are. Where's George?
Freddy shrugged. I don't know, man. Does he know we're supposed to start from nine?
Tommy threw his arms up a little in desparation. What? You didn't tell him? F-k, I told you to let him
Peter interrupted, Relax. I told him last night that we'll start here from 9.
Then where is he? It's ten past nine. He's supposed to show us a new riff for Dead Liars' today. Tommy said, But let's start without him already. I have something new to show you.
You wrote a new song? Peter asked.
Tommy's face lit up. Well, kinda. It's still in a preliminary state. I mean I haven't written the lyrics yet or even any concrete melody for that matter, but I cooked up a basic structure. And I tell you, it's pretty complex. He nodded, smiling, Nothing like those shitty four-chord stuff I wrote before.
Freddy got interested. At least I'm in a cool band, he thought to himself. Well, let's hear it.
Tommy stared at his guitar for a few seconds. Then he said, Hm, it kinda goes like this. I'll just hum, okay?
He started playing and humming along with it. Freddy noticed it was indeed a fairly complex tune. He himself didn't understand too much about scales or keys or atypical chord progressions, but it sounded like Tommy was singing the bridge in a slightly different key, playing some chord that didn't exactly belong to the basic melody, and thus giving the whole thing a slightly dark, serious sound.
When he finished, Peter spoke up. Wow, that's some good shit. Pretty brooding and, you know, mature. Right, Fred?
Freddy nodded. It was easily one of the best music Tommy's ever written. And Tommy's been writing music before they dropped out of school.
What's the chord you were playing there? Peter asked.
Um, just when you start the bridge section before the chorus?
Tommy took up his guitar again and played it. This? Oh, it's just a B7.
Peter considered it for a moment. Okay, and um... the chord before that?
That's a Cmaj7... you know, the song's in C... so here Cmaj7 functions like a bridging chord. C, then Cmaj7... then B7. It's a cool sequence I cooked up... but when you play bass with it, you should play something like just hitting the C, B and A notes in succession.
Freddy of course didn't understand any of this, but Peter seemed to calculate something within himself for a few seconds, and finally said, But why would I hit the A note? Where did A come from? You said C... then major seventh and then B seventh, right?
Tommy let out a big sigh, threw his arms up in despair and turned away. Look at this, he said in a sarcastic tone, My bandmates don't understand my music, let alone the audience. Then after a pause he added, A little basic music theory wouldn't kill you, you know. Lord knows why I'm stuck with you.
Peter fell silent. Freddy rolled his eyes and moved towards the drum kit. He took off the covers and sat on the stool. He wiped the dust off the cymbals and adjusted the screws. Then he took his sticks and started a simple 4/4 rhythm on just the hi-hats before Tommy interrupted him.
Hey, hotshot. We're not doing this until our irresponsible old hack of a guitarist shows up. I want you two go and check. Take my van and drag him out of whatever shit he's doing, if you find him alive.
Freddy stopped and looked at Peter. He didn't meet his stare. Then he got up to take the keys from Tommy.
Once inside the van, Peter raised his voice. What the f--k does he think he is? A messiah of rock or something? Like he's been doing us a huge favour by letting us play with him or what?
Chill, Freddy said as he took the wheel, He's written a good song and he just wished we could appreciate it more. Plus he's frustrated, and quite justifiably so, that George hasn't showed up yet. You know how easily little things set him off.
Oh come on, Peter slapped on the dashboard, now don't you defend him. You are not on his peer list either, buddy. We're like, common people and shit... and he's like a self-proclaimed musical genius or something. So don't get his back on this.
Freddy didn't answer. It's true that Tommy treated both of them like shit more often than not. Everyone liked to bully Pete, it's true, but Tommy didn't ever say anything good about Freddy either. He didn't insult him directly, but criticized him every now and then.
Peter continued, We'll make it clear to him that in this fked up town he'll just have to do with us. Or we quit. And no way he's gonna have someone else. Because there's nobody. That was also true. It's indeed impossible to find a bassist and a drummer in this town willing to play in a rock band. There were a few country musicians of course.
They had reached in front of George Becker's small house (better to call it a shack, Freddy thought). Peter got out of the van and slammed the door behind him. Then he rushed up to the porch and knocked loudly on the door.
Hey George it's past nine-thirty. Where the fk are you? he called out.
But the door was unlocked and it opened wide as he knocked. They looked at each other and slowly entered.
As soon as they entered the bedroom they had to come out. Freddy found George sleeping on his bed totally naked, embracing a woman in a skimpy nightdress sleeping beside him. Their clothes were scattered all around. But on their hurried way out Peter upturned a chair, thus waking them up. Georgie saw them, squinted his eyes and cursed.
The woman with him also got up and sat on the bed. Oh fk, she said as she rubbed her eyes. Isn't this the woman Georgie was talking to at the bar a few days back? She's fking gorgeous, Freddy thought. Then she reached her arm out to get some water from the bedside table. At this, one strap of her nightdress fell off, revealing her perfection of a right breast, with the reddish brown nipple at dead centre. Instantly Peter turned away, but Freddy couldn't. His eyes remained fixed on her, a fact probably didn't go unnoticed by George.
After a few minutes, while the woman left and George put on his boxers, Peter opened his mouth. Dude, you're supposed to be at Tommy's from nine. We have a rehearsal.
George lit up a cigarette. I know. But last night was fkin wiiiiild! He grinned as he said this.
And dude, Peter continued, that woman... she's married, dude. Her husband is the deputy sheriff. Don't mess with the wrong people, man.
George yawned and stretched his arms. Relaaaaax, he said, Camille told me her husband is out of town for a few days. No one will find out. Unless you shitheads spread it. But then of course you know what'll happen. I'll blow your little brains off. He laughed.
Peter shook his head. I'm not saying that, man. But you should know that she has slept with a number of other men before you.
George raised his eyebrows and said in a light tone, So what? Am I supposed to feel sad for that, kid?
No, Peter sighed, It's just that she really doesn't care as much as you think she does about whom she sleeps with. Word's on the street that she sleeps around because her husband cannot do it.
George took a drag from his cigarette. Meaning?
Peter shrugged. Poor guy just can't get his dick up.
Now, still sitting behind his drum kit in his music shop, Freddy Hicks let out a sigh. He made a mental note to visit Camille this afternoon. He got up slowly, went inside to have a glass of water. Then he sat on his desk, lost in his own thoughts for some time. Finally he took the telephone and dialled a number.
(to be continued)