(Thanks to generous donations last week from readers to our Paypal account, here is a Saturday post! Enjoy! -ctan)
On the bus to the venue, Flip sat down with me to strategize pharmaceuticals management. We decided on a Flexeril 30 minutes before soundcheck, another one 30 minutes before showtime (five hours later), and debated whether there was something else I could do in between the two that wouldn’t interact badly (i.e. no booze) or wreck my singing voice (i.e. nothing smoked). He had been doing some research, he said–though he didn’t say how–and didn’t think it was wise for us to mix in most other downers or relaxants (i.e. valium) but he’d see what he could come up with.
The venue was an indoor sports arena at the local university and it was big. Twice as big as I expected from that description, anyway. This place was bigger than Madison Square Garden.
By the way, no one’s explained to me why arenas like Madison Square Garden are called “gardens.” In Boston there’s the Boston Garden (now the TD Garden, thanks to naming rights). There’s no field or grass or flowers at these indoor stadiums so why the name? Just to make us think of a time when all sports were outdoor sports? I don’t know.
I was more glued to Ziggy than usual. I mean, I was normally not one for public displays of affection where anyone outside of our very closest people could see us. But I couldn’t resist. I had my arm around him, or my hand in his pocket, or was rubbing his neck, or he was massaging my hand, or… you get the idea.
“You better come with us,” Clarice said to Ziggy. “Or we’ll never pry him off you to get him to do his exercises.”
Ziggy seemed delighted both with me being a barnacle and their reaction to it. It’s possible the rest of the entourage was less thrilled with it but they hid their disapproval well if so. Maybe they were just happy for me. “Well, it’s my fault he skipped doing them yesterday,” Zig said.
“Mm-hm. Thought so.” She wagged her finger.
We ended up in a very large team-sized shower that was labeled for the “Lady Vols”–whatever that was–and we ran through a warmup and then about half the usual exercises I was supposed to do. And then I got worried Ziggy was getting bored.
“Hey, teach us another gospel song,” I said.
“You still remember ‘It’s Me, Oh Lord’?” Fran seemed skeptical.
Ziggy clucked his tongue. “You don’t know Daron very well.” Or himself, he seemed to be implying, because he started to sing, and I joined in. After all, it wasn’t that long ago they taught it to us. Two verses in they joined in and we finished the song together.
“All right, all right.” Clarice looked at her partner. “What should we try them on next?”
“How about the way we used to do ‘Amazing Grace’?” Fran asked.
“I know Amazing Grace,” Ziggy said.
“Everybody does,” Clarice said, “but not like this.”
So they taught it to us with a harmony that wasn’t really like anything I’d heard before. Ziggy took the high part and I took the low part and we had so much fun working on it that Flip had to come find us when it was time for me to take a pill.
Ziggy sat in the pit while the band got plugged in and set up for soundcheck. Remo seemed a little haggard but I didn’t ask.
“So, who’s got a lounge act today?” I asked, once everyone was ready. “Nobody? Don’t tell me you guys are slacking off just cuz there are only three shows left.”
“What was that sweet sound I heard coming out of the women’s locker room?” Remo asked.
Alex busted his balls a little. “What were you doing lurking outside the women’s locker room?”
When the chuckling died down after that, I said, “We can do that one. Can’t we, ladies?” I turned to Fran and Clarice.
“If you and your beau join us,” Clarice said with a playful half-curtsey.
Ziggy climbed onto the stage without bothering to go around to the stairs. “Sure.”
So the four of us sang a spiritual for the lounge act that day. Vitamin F was starting to kick in while we were singing it. As I might have described, it didn’t really get me high. But it did make it feel kind of like there was a cellophane bubble between me and the world. When I had first started taking it, it also made me feel like a wet gym towel, heavy and inert. Now I didn’t get that feeling so much, but the cellophane wrapper remained.
After soundcheck was done, Ziggy read my mind. Well, more likely he guessed accurately what I was thinking, but I wouldn’t put it past him. “Maybe if you try hard to relax, the muscle relaxant will work better,” he said. “Like you could prolong the effectiveness if you don’t tense up.”
Of course playing music required a certain amount of tension but now that the soundcheck was over, I was all for the idea. “Sure.”
“Let’s go lie down in the bus.”
So we went back to the bus and he lay down along one of the long benches in the back lounge and I lay down more or less on top of him, and lo and behold, the wet towel feeling returned. Or maybe I was just sleepy.
We dozed like that. As was not unusual at that time of day, Randy was also taking his afternoon nap in his usual bunk (the bottom bunk in the very front) and the bus was quiet except for the HVAC hum. After about two hours, though, we both got restless again, and a little hungry, so we went looking to see what catering had set up.
Flip found me eating salami rolled around celery sticks. “All right, I think I have a solution,” he said.
“Yeah.” He handed me a hot to-go cup full of what appeared to be…coffee? I pried the lid off carefully. No, it was hot chocolate with melted whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
“Mexican hot chocolate?” I asked, before taking a sip.
“It’s got hash oil in it.”
“Aha. Okay.” I could live with the dairy, voice-wise. I wondered if I could taste the hash oil or if that was the cinnamon or what. It was too hot to do more than sip, but as it cooled I was able to finish it.
The next thing I actively remember is Flip prompting me to take Vitamin F, meaning two or three hours went by while my brain was essentially turned off. But at least I was relaxed? But I don’t think I said anything. I’m not even sure I was having thoughts. I don’t remember what Ziggy was doing at the time. Maybe Court distracted him. That’s two hours of my life gone.
I looked up at Flip, and watched his mouth form words.
It felt weird to know that when I answered my mouth would be doing the same thing. “I’m not sure I should,” I said. “I think that hash oil was kind of strong.”
“Too strong?” he asked.
“I’m not sure I can move.”
“I’m pretty sure you can, it’s just you’re on autopilot.”
Autopilot I could do. I could play this show in my sleep at this point. “Maybe I should try standing up.”
I stood cautiously. I did not fall over. That was a good sign. I walked to the stage to see if I could, and that was fine except that Happy Occident were playing quite loud and I didn’t have my earplugs in yet. I went back to Flip. “I’m impaired,” I said. “Have you seen my earplugs, by any chance?”
Flip made sure I had my earplugs and guitar and guitar pick, and that I could actually play, before he wound me up and pointed me at the stage for showtime. “When do we think this’ll wear off?” I asked, before I went on.
“Best guess is four hours, but if it’s hitting you harder than expected, maybe five?”
“Total? I can’t do math right now.”
“Total. In other words it should last you through the show.”
“So let’s skip the second Vitamin F.”
Flip put both hands on my shoulders. “Daron. You already took the second Vitamin F.”
“You did. You seem fine. I think you’re going to be fine.”
“Okay.” Believing him was easier than arguing.
He was right, I was fine, at least during the show. I was fine through the encores. I was fine right through to the final bow. But then as we were making our way off the stage, I started to feel dizzy. And then a nagging headache started, milder than what I’d been having but I couldn’t tell if it was a concussion headache that was being dulled by what was in my system or if it was a hangover headache starting to blossom now that my system was partly cleared.
I won’t go into detail, but it was a miserable night in the bus, overnight to Birmingham. I felt every kind of awful. Ziggy was there, and made me lie across a bench with my head in his lap, while he massaged my head and sometimes rubbed between my shoulder blades. Thank goodness he was there, though I said to him at one point, “I’m sorry.”
“What are you being sorry for?”
Good question. For making him take care of me? Keeping him up all night? I settled for, “Ruining your honeymoon?” with a weak laugh.
“Hah. You’re cute. I think I’ll keep you,” he joked back. “Now hush unless you can think of anything else I can do to make you feel better.”
I’d already taken some plain old ibuprofen and drank a Gatorade so I couldn’t think of anything else. “If you’re tired, you should get some sleep,” I said.
“I’m not tired,” he said. “We can work on sleeping when we get where we’re going.”
Alabama was our next stop.
(Meanwhile, update about the “adults only” bonus post coming from Ziggy’s point of view, it’ll be attached as a PDF in today’s Patreon patron update and I’m emailing it individually to everyone who has donated at least a dollar via the Paypal link in the past two weeks. If you haven’t chipped in lately, this is probably a good time to do it, and get your reward right away. :D I’ll point out we’re now less than $50 away from triggering a Saturday post next week, too! Go on! Make me write faster! And also remember, if you want the bonus but are low on cash, I also accept barter of actions that help spread the word about DGC or celebrate with fanworks of some kind. Review the ebooks on Amazon, post links to DGC on your social media telling your friends how much you love this story, send me fanart or DGC quote memes, etc. Email me at ctan.writer @ gmail.com if you want to trade for the story! -ctan)