Smoke On The Water

Digger left the contracts with me and I decided to read them later. The plan was to mail them to him with a list of the things we wanted done right away, and then he could get started. We left the studio shortly after that, Chris begging off with a tricky wrist and reminding me I was supposed to be resting. Bart had parked a few blocks away and Ziggy followed him to get a ride. I got into the van with Christian.

As he buckled in I let out a sigh and he said “What? What now?”

“I’m just having that feeling like it’s going to be a long night.”

“Tell me about it,” he said. “You’d think four good lookin’ guys like us, someone besides Bart’d be getting some on a regular basis.”

I didn’t know what to say to that so I settled for “Yeah.”

“You want to go to a bar or something?”

“I’m sure the splint’ll be great for picking up girls.” I found it easy to put genuine sarcasm into my voice, even if Chris wouldn’t understand the source.

He missed my implication anyway. “Sure it will, tell ’em you got it in a knife fight or something. Well, we’d have to go to a heavy metal bar maybe.” He pulled the van out into traffic and we rolled over pothole patches behind a city bus. “And you have to go to the boonies for one of those, these days.”

I hoped he wasn’t taking us to the burbs. “I could do with getting drunk.”

“Kids’ stuff,” he said. “Besides, you’re not old enough.”

I didn’t point out those were two contradictory statements.

“I’ve got something better,” he sing-songed. “Came in this afternoon. Prime hash.”

“I thought hash was something you ate with eggs.”

“You can eat it with anything you want,” he said with a cackle. “But I prefer to smoke it, myself.”

So that was how I avoided sitting up all night writing angstful songs jonesing for a guitar, or a lover, or anything.

The next morning–afternoon actually– I woke up with my eyeballs feeling like they had been coated in sand. It was three p.m. and I couldn’t sleep any more. I stood in a hot shower for a while, trying to remember whether I had checked the messages yesterday or not. The sky was dark by the time I sat down with the phone and I had the thought that, yes, it might be nice to have someone else do this stuff. Carynne had called and I called her back and left a message saying to get herself down to the Jingle Bell thing. The only other message was from Digger:

“Hey kiddo, had to run, didn’t want to disturb your beauty sleep. Let’s touch base tomorrow, you can fax me your hit list. I’m your Hit Man.” He laughed and hung up. What the fuck did he mean, beauty sleep? I’m being oversensitive, I decided. Hit Man?

I came downstairs to find Chris trying to pry two English muffins out of the toaster with a fork.

“Want one? Get a plate.”

I got two plates out of the cabinet and put them down on the counter. “Do your eyes feel like they’re coated in sand?”

He grunted.

“Just checking,” I said. I pulled an unopened jar of strawberry jam from the fridge. “Score! Where’d this come from?”

We sat at the table. “Gave it to Colin at his temp job, Christmas bonus, I guess.” He stood up, then sat down, and croaked “Coffee?”

“I’ll get it.” Compared to Chris, I was downright chipper. I scooped grounds into the coffee maker and filled the pot with water. “This might not be the best time to bring this up, but, do you remember what time we said we were going to rehearse today?”

He tossed his hair back like it was too much effort to lift his hands from his plate, blinked his eyes and said “You know what time it is?”

“It’s…”

“Time for you to learn how to drive.” He took a bite out of his English muffin. “Especially if we hit the road on our own.”

“I don’t think today’s a good idea.”

“Me neither. But soon, you got me? And we said eight, Bart’s got some thing with Michelle’s parents. Holidays.”

“Right.” I pulled the pot out and poured a mug for Chris then stuck it back under the drip. I could wait for mine. All this time and I still couldn’t stand coffee without milk and sugar. Maybe after I turn twenty one, I thought, I’ll get hair on my chest and start liking my coffee black. Two and a half more months. Seemed unlikely. I was much more concerned with the fact that in a few hours I’d have to rehearse with a sprained thumb and a singer who was not on the same planet as me. Which one of us needed to be brought down to Earth?

Before five o’clock rolled around I had another phone conversation with Mills. This time he came right out and said it. “The sales of Candlelight have really slowed down. The Christmas push isn’t really picking stuff up like we thought it would. I’m a little worried here.”

“Mills, look, we can get you a tape after the holidays. Right now we’re pushing to get ready for this show…”

“Just jam a tape into the board and Fedex it to me, could you do that? It’s important, Daron. Real important.”

“Why? What’s going on there?”

“I don’t want to get into too much detail, but you know BNC’s being bought by a Japanese company.”

“Yeah.” Actually, I hadn’t heard.

“Well, I just want to get as much stuff nailed down before the end of the year as possible. You know I think of you guys as my own pet project in a lot of ways.”

“Yeah.”

“I really want to be the one to shepherd this next deal through. If there is a next deal, I mean.”

The thing was, it was totally obvious to me that he was yanking my chain. The problem was, I didn’t have any idea what to do or say to change that.

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