That’s What Friends Are For

The show in New Haven was nothing special—good, but not special. Everyone seemed to have blown out so much extra energy in New York that there wasn’t much left for this one. Backstage, when the packing was done, Martin was the only one with any pep. He drummed out a pattern on my shoulder. “Hey, I know this bar, wanna go?”

“Long as you realize I’m still underage.”

He gasped with maniacal glee. “Wonder what the Connecticut penalty for corrupting a minor is?”

“I think you’re too late, ” Remo cut in. “We beat you to it.” He didn’t say who the ‘we’ was, but I knew he was thinking of Digger and himself. “Going to the Bullfrog?”

“Yeah, you coming?” Martin ushered us both toward the exit.

“No, I’m heading to Boston tonight. Publicity,” he growled. “I’ll see you in a couple of days.” He dropped behind us and put a hand on my shoulder. “You take care of yourself.”

It wasn’t a long walk to the place, and New Haven reminded me a lot of Newark, which gave me the urge to walk faster. Sketchy, to say the least. The real reason Martin wanted to go to the Bullfrog Bar and Grille, I discovered, was to scope for Yale co-eds. But with classes out of session, the place was almost empty. He settled for the world’s largest margarita and flirting with the blonde bartender. She brought us round after round of exotic drinks until I couldn’t tell what they were anymore. The light was dim at the bar–bright behind it where the bartender walked back and forth in her white Reeboks, but murky at the actual seats. I told Martin about music school, he told me about how he was buying a house.

“Somewhere to go when all the traveling’s done?” I asked between frothy gulps of something that wasn’t as sweet as it looked.

“No, no, man. You gotta learn this now: once your bank account hits a certain size, you have to start buying things like houses, collecting cars, that kind of stuff. So when your career goes down the tubes later, you have all this shit to sell off for much more than you paid for it. The word for it is: Equity.”

I laughed. “Are you serious?”

“Yes.” He balanced a wet straw on his nose, or tried to. “You gotta learn all this shit now, you know.”

“What do you mean?”

“Before you get too famous and have a lot of accountants and investors trying to get at your money. Your liquid assets,” he drawled and shook his long-stemmed glass at me.

“It’s going to be a long time before I have to worry about that, if ever.”

“Don’t kid yourself.” He leaned closer to me and his cowlick flipped into his eyes. “You’ve already played in front of what, twenty thousand, thirty thousand people in the past month? And you got mentioned in a review. And you’re the hottest thing since Hendrix. And,” he paused to drain his glass, “you’ve got connections.”

I sat back. “Maybe.”

“Come on!” Martin hit me a little too hard on the shoulder. “You’re made for the big time, Daron! You think Remo’s dragging you around just for a favor?”

“Well, yeah…”

“Bullshit!”

Suddenly, I was angry. “Bullshit, yourself! What do you know!” I banged my fist on the bar and it hurt. The bartender raised an eyebrow but I looked away and lowered my voice. “Remo’s giving me a handout because he feels too guilty to let me end up busking for loose change in the subway.”

“Fuck you, this ain’t charity.” He knit his eyebrows in confusion. “He was bitching for a month before he called you that he couldn’t play these parts. We had a guy rehearsing with us for a while, but Remo fired him, said he just didn’t ‘mesh.’ But you, man, you mesh. You mesh like you never left.”

Remo had said something similar about charity or lack thereof. And I was either too drunk or too sober to say anything beyond that. Martin went on. “Like we never left, I mean. Did I ever tell you I thought it was stupid?”

“What was stupid?”

“Moving us all to LA.” Martin motioned to the bartender. “I mean, I didn’t argue of course. I was like twenty two, right? And I wanted to get away from my parents, so it was like ‘Bye Mom! We’re off to get famous!’ And it worked, you know. But I think we would have done just as well if we hadn’t switched coasts.”

“How do you know?” I smiled at the bartender as she brought us two more drinks. Mine had a tiny plastic monkey hanging by its curved tail from the edge of the glass.

“It’s just what I think. I mean, Artie was our main record man and he was from the New York office, the media behind us were from all over, they could have been anywhere, why did we have to be in LA?”

I returned his shrug. “Maybe Remo always wanted to move there.”

“I doubt it.” He took a swig of the drink. “Yow! What is this stuff!” He made a horrible grimace. “I like it!”

I couldn’t really taste what I was drinking, most of me felt wrapped in a soft haze, warm and numb.

“So tell me more about Boozeville or wherever the hell it is you live now.”

“Providence?” I thought about it. “It’s small. But Boston’s only an hour, New York is like three. I can live with that.”

“You looking forward to going back?”

“Maybe.” Yes and no.

“Missing someone? Got a girlfriend?”

I forced my eyes to stay on my drink. “No.”

Martin laughed, there was no malice in it. “You’re just like Remo, married to his music. So let me rephrase, missing someone? Your band?”

“A little.” I felt the corners of my mouth jerk upwards. “I don’t think they’re going to last, though.”

“Why not?”

“Singer’s a flake and my roommate, not dependable, bass player’s excellent but has classical aspirations, and we haven’t been able to keep a drummer longer than two months yet.”

“Sounds great. I liked your demo tape, by the way.”

“You heard it?”

“Yeah, I stole it out of Remo’s tapedeck when he wasn’t paying attention. So I can ransom it for megabucks when you’re rich and famous.”

The bartender wiped down the dim spot of bar in front of us. “Last call, guys,” she said. “Any last requests?”

“Yes! I’d like a last cigarette and send a note to my wife saying I died happy.” He looked at his glass, still half full. “Stick a fork in me, I think I’m done.” He hit the bar with a dramatic slump. Then he jerked upright, “Oh wait, I don’t have a wife.”

I nodded at her. She smiled at us both and went away.


(I know, I know, you were expecting Stevie Wonder
and Dionne Warwick. They’re awesome, too. -ctan)

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