I drove and Court navigated. She had of course already looked up the directions on how to get there. Carynne had taught her well.
At one point she told me to get off at the next exit. I could see the toweringly tall Waffle House sign so I asked, “If we’re getting off here, anyway, what do you think about stopping for some food?”
“The only reason we’re getting off here is to get some food,” she patiently explained.
So we each demolished a heaping plate of carbs and I drank a lot of coffee. I was still really tired behind the wheel, though.
“So were you serious about what you were saying,” I asked her at one point, “about us like… swapping off every other week?”
“Or something like that,” she said. “You know I’m only free this week because it’s my spring break.”
I had forgotten. “Wait. So why do you feel so guilty? You can’t just up and quit school because of Claire’s cancer.”
“You think Claire thinks that?”
“Does what Claire thinks matter?”
“Of course it matters!”
“Hang on, hang on, listen to me for a second before you jump down my throat, will you?” I didn’t hear a comeback to that, so I guess she was listening. “I know Claire would think that you should feel guilty for leaving her side for any reason at all, even a legit one. But does that mean you should feel guilty? Just because Claire thinks you should give up everything to be with her?”
“Oh, I see what you mean.” She was silent for a mile or two. “It could also go the other way. Sometimes people are like ‘oh don’t worry about me, you go do your thing.’ That doesn’t mean you automatically don’t feel guilty for helping them out, though, right?”
“In other words, your feelings of guilt have more to do with your expectations for yourself than other people’s expectations?”
“Yeah. Something wrong with that?”
“No, I guess not.” I was trying to track down a stray thought and I was too tired to do it. “I think my therapist would say it’s a good thing to be meeting your own expectations instead of everyone else’s.”
“Yeah, mine, too.” She shrugged.
“Is Claire’s stuff putting your graduation in jeopardy?”
“I sure hope not,” she said. “I’ve got a hell of a lot to do between now and May, though. Did I tell you I’m turning your fan club into a thesis project?”
“No. What does that mean?”
“That means I’m writing a five-year business plan for an artist-owned direct-to-consumer company that encompasses both merchandising and PR.”
“Isn’t five years a long time? I mean, in pop music that’s like… longer than some band’s whole careers.”
“Moondog Three case in point,” she said matter-of-factly and my blood ran a little cold, like we were speaking ill of the dead. “Although, the longevity of a band is one of the things I’ll be talking about. Like the fact that while M3 is ‘dead’ to the record labels, it’s not to the fans.”
“Oh, hell no. I get email every day from someone wanting to know if you’re still around. Half of them assume they just aren’t finding you in the stores or they missed an album or something.”
“Okay, maybe not half. But a lot of them. There’s never been a band breakup ammouncement or anything like that, you know, and the savvy ones with Spanish-speaking friends know that Ziggy’s solo stuff in South America was billed as ‘Ziggy Moondog.’ So they all assume that the various Moondogs could get back together at any time.”
Goosebumps ran uncomfortably down my back, like a spilled iced coffee. I think I said something like, “Oh really.”
“Yeah. And even if you never record another album together, there’s still very little reason not to market T-shirts and stuff to them. At least if the budget I’ve cooked up in the business plan is real.”
“Real? As real as I can make it. I’ll show you when I’m done. I’m supposed to go over a draft with Carynne this week. To make it as real as possible.” She cleared her throat. “I mean, that’s the ultimate goal, right? To make it actually real.”
“Is there a downside to it? I mean, what happens if it doesn’t take off or it doesn’t do what you predict it will?”
“I guess the worst case scenario is… we waste a bunch of money paying me to tilt at windmills? I think we need to commit to a minimum of two years or we might not really know if it’s working or not. One thing that helps is that I work cheap and you already pay for my housing and have been giving me money to live on so from your perspective this won’t cost you a whole lot more than that. In a more general way, though, I’d like to prove it can be viable even for artists who don’t have a similar source of labor.”
She went on in that vein for a while, but my mind kept turning over the idea of people out there wanting Moondog Three to record again. The band is dead to the label but not to the fans. Those words ran back and forth between my ears over and over and most of what I felt about it right then was anguish.
Maybe anguished was how I was feeling about everything, though, given where we were going and why.
When we got to the hospital the first person I saw was not the person I expected. But there he was, sitting on a bench right outside the doors, though he stood up the second he saw us. The seam between shoulder and sleeve on his dun-colored denim jacket had frayed and the wrinkles around his eyes looked deeper than I remembered.
“Hey, Remo,” Court said, going on tiptoe to kiss him on the cheek. “How you holding up?”
He said the words going through my mind, which made me wonder which of us learned it from the other: “It’s not me who’s got cancer.” He then reached out a hand to me. I froze for a second–are we about to shake hands?–but then he pulled me into a man-hug and said, “I’m glad you’re here.”
I had just gone through about ten emotions in the space of two seconds. I was kind of angry at him for being there, but maybe I was just surprised, but I wanted to know what him being there meant and what fallout there would be from it, and so I was annoyed, but I was also worried and sympathetic, and ultimately what I said was, “I’m not sure I’m glad I’m here, but it’s nice to see you.”
“She’s out of surgery,” he then said. “Still conked out in the recovery room. Oughtta be waking up in a little while, though.”
“He and Chief are out stocking up. They’re due to hit the road in a few days, they said.”
Right. I knew that. That’s why I was supposed to come back here anyway, just not quite as soon as I had. I’d promised Ziggy a week in New York and I hadn’t kept that promise. Ziggy hadn’t said anything about that specifically but it just occurred to me he might feel betrayed.
“Anyway, it’s good you’re here, because although they’re tolerating me and Flip hanging around, they really only want to talk to her next of kin.”
For some reason when he said that I felt like a heel for lying to the rental car agent about me and Courtney being spouses. A chill crept over my neck, like I might have somehow jinxed my own partnership by lying. What had the woman said, a lie will come back to haunt you?
This is why people go to confession, I think. To get rid of those ghosts. The power of Jesus’s almghty forgiveness will blow away those petty sins. That is, if you believe in Jesus.
I suppose it was silly to believe in jinxes but not Jesus. There was no proof of either one other than a lot of other people believed it. And I didn’t believe in either, even if I have my superstitious moments.
I resolved to call Ziggy as soon as I had a chance, though.
(So I write these without looking at the song list. I know Daron prefers the songs to be a sideways meaning or double-meaning, but sometimes there’s one that is just so spot on I have to use it. -ctan)