When I’m in pain I’m not exactly the most rational person and also my memory of what happened in what order is all messed up. What I do remember is fighting with the paramedic who was trying to get me to let go of my eye so they could have a look at how bad it was, and I just wasn’t going to let go. The fact that my hand was burned didn’t help either.
My right eye was fine, but I had it squeezed shut in sympathy, I guess. It was the left that was the problem.
I don’t know how they did it, actually, or how many of them it took, but they finally pried my hands off, pried my eye open, and got a drop of something in there and I thought, holy crap!
I mean: Holy crap, that’s much better. The pain went away instantly. I immediately felt like an idiot for fighting so hard to keep them from doing it. I was blinking up at a face, a young-looking guy. He spoke.
“Is that better?”
“Yeah.” I was going to say, next time tell me it’s an anesthetic, except then I realized they probably were telling me and I was fighting too hard to listen.
“Okay. Let’s flush them to make sure you don’t have any ash or debris in there. The left one’s probably going to start to hurt because that’ll flush the anesthetic I just put in. But I promise I’ll put another drop in when we’re done.”
“Okay. Okay.” I steeled myself. They did the right eye first and it felt fine. Then they did the left and I really had to keep from hitting the guy, but as promised, that last drop took the pain away instantly. My entire body went from wired to limp in the snap of a finger.
Then they worked on my hand. I think that all happened in the ambulance. Or maybe I was just on the gurney and then we went in the ambulance. I don’t know.
When you go to the emergency room in an ambulance gurney, you don’t sit around the waiting room, apparently. They wheel you straight in. I guess maybe at that point they still thought I might lose the eye. I don’t know how they decide these things.
I remember wondering what happened to the guitar. Did it catch fire and I didn’t remember it? (It didn’t.)
I also didn’t notice what was going on with Ziggy. He rode in the ambulance with me, but they didn’t rush him through triage like they did me. Triage, a word I only know because of the old M*A*S*H TV show.
They shined a lot of lights in my eye. I guess first a nurse, then an ER doc, then I guess an eye specialist. Sorry for all the guessing, but no one was really telling me anything and I probably couldn’t remember if they did.
Then I did whatever I do after a stressful experience. I slept. Or maybe they gave me something to knock me out. I’m not sure.
When I woke up Digger and Courtney were sitting in chairs next to me. Digger looked half asleep. Courtney was reading a magazine. She saw me raise my head.
I blinked and realized I was only looking out of one eye. I put a hand up to my face and the hand was heavily bandaged. Bandage met bandage–there was something bulky over my eye. Well, that would explain why I couldn’t see out of it. No panic then.
“How are you?” she asked.
“I have no idea,” I said. “Did they tell you anything?”
Digger stood up and came over to me. “They think you’re going to be okay. You’re going to have to wear a bandage for a day or two and put antibiotic drops in it, and see an eye doctor when you get home.”
“Well, could be worse, then.”
“I’ll go see if we can finish the paperwork to get out of here,” he said. He ducked around the curtain.
Ziggy came in. I lifted up my bandaged hand and we did a sort of awkward fist bump with his own bandaged arm.
“Well?” he said.
“Looks like I’m going to be okay.”
“Thank god. Otherwise someone was going to make a horrible joke about it being fun until someone lost an eye… and then I was going to have to keeeel them.” Ziggy cracked his knuckles for effect and Courtney and I cracked up.
A nurse came in then with a clipboard. She had blue scrubs on and dishwater blonde hair to her shoulders. “Okay, we’re springing you both. Here are your discharge instructions.” She handed me a piece of paper and a small bottle. “Two drops in the eye twice a day, don’t skip, for ten days, don’t slack off.” Then she handed me an eye patch. “When the bandage gets annoying, you might want to switch to this. It’ll probably be light-sensitive and this will help. You can also just tape your eye shut with this.” She handed me the end of a roll of thin, white bandage tape. “If it flares up, gets worse, et cetera, go straight to the nearest ER. Got that?”
“As for your hand, it’s going to itch like a mother as it heals, but you’re probably not in danger for infection or anything like that. The skin’s going to be tight and painful. Here’s some cream that’ll keep the blisters to a minimum. Try to take it easy and keep it covered.”
“Okay,” I said, although I was sort of worried that playing the guitar wouldn’t be considered “easy.”
“You,” she said to Ziggy, “got it a little worse, so we’re giving you an antibiotic cream as your door prize for coming in tonight.” She handed him a tube. “You’re going to have to keep your bandages on for a few days and change them if they get icky.”
“Sounds good,” Ziggy said.
“And if it gets bad, this.” She handed him a bottle with a few pills rattling around in the bottom. “All right then, last thing.” She pulled out a copy of the “1989” CD, which she’d been carrying under the clipboard. “My daughter is a huge fan and she will never believe you guys were here if I don’t get your autographs.”
That made me smile. It was just funny, you know? And kind of nice. It’s always nice to know someone out there loves you. Ziggy and I both signed it. Digger had a couple of promo photos in his bag, too, and we signed those and gave them around to some of the other workers.
And then we caught a cab back to the bus, which was still at the venue. It was past two in the morning by then and Pensacola was pretty much a ghost town. At first I thought they were still there just because they were waiting for us. Then I realized the police were there. Digger and Carynne put their heads together for a minute or two, and then Digger convened a meeting in the bus to bring us all up to speed.
“So what happened?” I asked, when we were finally all in one place and no immediate crisis appeared to be happening. “I remember something like a giant sparkler going off in my face and not much else.”
“Gerbs.” For a second I thought Digger had called the guys in Megaton “gerbils.” But he was talking about the fireworks. He was standing in the middle and the rest of us were all sitting around on the bench seats around the edges. “The Megashits stuck gerbs all over the stage.”
Louis was nodding in agreement. “Four by fours, I would guess,” he said. “They’re supposed to shoot four feet high for four seconds.”
“They’re saying it was an accident.” Digger said it with a kind of sneer that made me think he didn’t believe a word of it. “One didn’t go off during their show like it was supposed to. It was just a coincidence that it went off when you guys were over there, or maybe something you did even set it off.”
“Is that even possible?” I asked. “Like, I stepped on it and that made it go off?”
Louis rubbed his chin. “It’s just barely plausible you triggered it somehow…? But I find it very suspicious. And even if there was no malice behind it, they’re fucking responsible for sneaking unapproved pyrotechnics onto the stage anyway.”
“Right.” Digger looked around at us. “So, the venue’s upset over that anyway, and then double upset over the incident. Any kind of injury is all kinds of paperwork and insurance problems for them. We’re upset, obviously, because our people got hurt. We’ve already been threatened…” He waved toward the back of the bus where the graffiti was. “So they’re getting it from all sides.
“Here’s the basic deal. We’d be totally within our rights to cancel the next two dates and just send them home with the bill for two shows of lost revenue or sue the fuck out of them for it. Atlanta would really hurt–that place seats almost twenty thousand and it’s sold out. They’d be on the hook to repay all the promoter’s costs, our tour costs, and our lost revenue, which I’m guessing would wipe out everything they’ve earned on the tour so far plus put them in the hole. However, the Shithead Brothers–”
I had to hold back a snicker that he had taken to calling them that, too.
“–they’re both lawyers. Crappy ones, most likely, but it means they can represent themselves. Threat of draining the kitty with legal costs isn’t a concern to them. They could probably drag that kind of thing out for years, too, before we’d see a dime. And meanwhile we’d be draining OUR kitty to pay legal, so yeah. So we don’t necessarily want to go down that road to an actual lawsuit, even though we’ve completely in the right. Everybody with me so far?”
There were general murmurs of agreement.
“That doesn’t mean we can’t use the threat of a lawsuit if we think it’ll get us somewhere, but there you go. Now, the reason the cops are here, is we can up the ante. We can threaten to press criminal charges. I don’t know how well the bashing angle would fly in this part of Florida. I’m guessing not real well, so a criminal intent case might be too flimsy to stick. But right now they are shitting bricks that the cops are here, and even if we get them with criminal negligence, they’re screwed. Again, we don’t want to actually have to press charges or take this to court. We want to pressure them into doing what we want. So, for now, Daron, if anyone asks, act like you might lose your eye.”
I was actually too scared shitless at the thought of a huge legal battle to blink when Digger said the word “bashing.” If he’d actually said “gay bashing” I probably would’ve fainted, but he didn’t. I tried to match his business-as-usual tone. “Okay. But what do we want? What are we trying to pressure them into doing?”
“Well, I’m here to ask you what you all think is fair.”
“Kick ’em off the tour,” Bart said. “We can do the last two shows solo or get local openers.”
“What happens if we get a lot of people demanding their money back?” I asked. “Just playing devil’s advocate, by the way. I would love to get rid of them.”
“There is that,” Digger said. “But if that’s the only concern?”
Louis spoke up. “You could let ’em play, just fire their whole crew. I want them all gone. Our people can handle all their tech and gear. Leave them one security man and one manager. The rest: gone. And they don’t leave their dressing room or their bus until it’s time to check or go on, and then they go right back. If they want to play those last two shows, that’s the only way I’d let them do it. Like they’re under lockdown.”
Ziggy spoke next. “I’d like to kick ’em to the curb if we can. But Louis’s idea is a good compromise.”
“If we just cancel the next two shows, what happens then?” I asked. “We’re on the hook for a lot of money?”
“Yeah.” Digger started tightening his tie. “I mean, some of it would be wiped out by force majeure, but there would be lawsuits upon lawsuits, I would bet. Okay, so what I’m hearing is we want them gone or at least neutralized, but nobody wants me to go after their firstborn or put them out of business.”
“I didn’t realize that was an option,” Bart said. “Or I might’ve said so.”
“Well, you can be sure I won’t have nice things to say about them to our mutual friends at the record company,” Digger added. “Everyone agreed? Once I fire the bullet I can’t put it back in the gun.”
“Go for it,” I said, “and tell us if there’s anything else we need to do.”
Carynne raised her hand like she was in school. Digger nodded in her direction. “One logistical question, then. If Digger gets them to go quietly, who do you want to replace them on the bill with?”
“It’s too bad Stumblefish isn’t really together right now,” I said.
“Eh, we should replace metal with metal, though,” Bart said. His eyes got suddenly round. “Wait, I have it!”
“An idea. It’s perfect.” He turned to Chris. “Miracle Mile.”
Chris shrugged. “They’d do it.”
“I know they would. I was just on the phone with Dave the other day.” Bart looked up at Digger. “I’ll give you his number.”
It was generally agreed that Bart’s idea was, in fact, perfect, and that was the end of the meeting.
Most of them went back into the building then, except for me and Ziggy. We poked around in the fridge in front for drinks. I was starting to get hungry. We sat down at the little dinette behind the driver’s seat, sharing the last Gatorade and the chicken wings that were left over from Denny’s lunch earlier.
“This is pretty fucked up, isn’t it,” he said.
“I mean, if they did it intentionally, either of us could have been killed.”
“Um, I don’t think we could’ve actually been killed. Not if it was just a gerb.”
“Well, maimed or blinded isn’t much of an improvement.”
“And if they did it unintentionally, that’s just fucked up in a completely different way.”
“Yeah.” I didn’t know which I’d rather be the victim of, hostility or stupidity.
We both looked up, then. Someone was knocking on the bus door. Out the window I could see Cain. He was waving.
Ziggy and I looked at each other. Ziggy shrugged and went to open the door.
(I see Jim Kerr has a white shirt, too. No wonder Ziggy likes his. -d.)