Sunday, September 02, 2007

HMH #6

Chapter Six- The cha-cha never stops

Some days are the products of the subconscious. They slide by, locked in the filing cabinets of the barely read activities of the psyche. It’s like driving between locations with no memory of the journey. Other days are secured underneath the soil of the gray matter garden. They are the memories suddenly pushed to the surface in search of sunlight, tended in their growth by key words, familiar smells, or textured touch. Then, there are the days forever etched in memory. Burned in acid by pain, shock, sadness, the you-name-it social order of emotional duress. Days like Kennedy being shot, the Twin Towers coming down, or a time frame of less significance, but of a highly personal nature. For me it was personal.

I will remember the day in vivid detail as long as I live. It might as well be tattooed to me— a work of art so graphic that no color, curved line or dot, would escape unnoticed. Although it was only a little over three weeks ago, I knew it would not fade, three months, three years, three decades, from now.

***

The phone was ringing as I struggled to get in the door, my hands were loaded with groceries. My keys were inadvertently caught-up between a snag on my jacket and the keyhole. The bags tumbled to the floor. A carton opened up and began chugging orange juice on the carpet in gloppy spurts. Just fuckin’ great! I managed to struggle to the phone by the sixth, or seventh ring. I picked up. A voice on the other end spoke. “Is this a Mr. John Malveen?” It said.

All that for a cold call? I hate these guys. “He’s not in. Can I take a message?” I watched as the last trickles of vitamin C bled out of the empty carton into a wet puddle of pulp.

“My name is Griffin Alexander.” The voice said. There was an audible reverb. He must be using a speaker phone. I hate those things almost as much as cold calls.

The voice continued. “I am the executor of Mr. Neville Whitmire’s estate.”

“Executor? Wait a minute. Mr. Malveen just came in.” I crushed the phone to my chest. Silence, except for the rush of blood in my ears and the thumping of my heart in its bondage behind bone. This has to be a joke? Calm down. What was Wires up to now? Probably in town wanting to get together. Letting his agent prank call the king of prank calls. I put the phone to my ear. “Hi this is John Malveen,” I said, changing my vocal register slightly.

“Mr. Malveen my name is— ”

“— Yes my wife told me all that.”

“Wife? But a man answered. ”

“Uh yeah, I’m gay so what of it? I’m the bottom to his top. You have something against same-sex, life partners?” I’ll show him who he’s dealing with.

“No I ahh— ”

“— what’s this concerning?”

“I regret to inform you. Mr. Whitmire has passed on. He died quietly at his estate in Palo Alto yesterday. The funeral will be on Tuesday. It will be a quiet service for family only.”

“Tell Wires that’s not a very funny joke.”

“I assure you, Mr. Malveen it’s no joke. Mr. Whitmire wasn’t a household name, but it was on the news and in print media.”

The light outside was suddenly snuffed out by a passing cloud. The tick . . . tick . . . tick of the clock on the wall cut the air with annoying precision, in unison to the drip of the kitchen tap. The space around me suddenly felt thick and constricting to the point I contemplated having to cut my way out with a knife. I already felt weak and powerless from the speaker phone. I wished the voice— this Griffin Alexander— would have more compassion and talk to me like a real man. It was like someone had stuck their fist in my gut with violent force when I wasn’t looking. I felt severely winded. My Adam’s apple had swollen to three times its size, obstructing my ability to swallow. It took everything in my being to push out the air and form intelligible words. “Oh my God. How did . . . I mean he was my age . . . I don’t understand?”

“Lung Cancer. He’s had it for some time. They gave him six months but he lived another four years . . . ”

Lung cancer? He’d known even back then he was dying and never said a damn word to me. I felt anger add to the shock like I’d just been injected with a syringe of it. Maybe I could have helped him ? Stupid ass! Just like him to keep smoking too. 'If I’m gonna go then I’m going on my terms'.

“Mr. Malveen . . . Mr. Malveen!”

“Yes.”

“I though I lost you for a moment.”

“No, I’m here. I’m having a hard time with this . . . this news about Wires . . . uh that’s what we used to call him.”

“Yes. I am aware of Mr. Neville’s alias. Look if you’d like, I can have someone come back another time. I can— ”

“— Come back?”

“Yes I’m calling from the limo on the street. I’m surprised you didn’t notice it when you walked by with your bags?”

I guess today was slated for one of those barely registered memory days, but it had now been thrust to the forefront.

“Mr. Malveen, may I come in? I have some documents. I must go over them with you.”

“Uh . . . yeah . . . OK,” I responded, but I was saying it to dial tone. The receiver felt hot in my hand and I had to put it down for fear of burning up from the heat of it. I banged the phone down on its base and walked slowly to the living room. I fell into the sofa and sank my chin into my hands waiting for the slow descent down the steps to my basement apartment, with the ensuing knock on the door. “Come in.”

The graying head of an older gentleman peered around the door as it crept open. Perhaps he wouldn’t say he was gray as much as he was executive blonde? “Mr. Malveen?”

“Yes.”

“Griffin Alexander,” The head said. It dragged in a well-dressed body. He was chiseled and obviously spent a fair bit of time working out. He slid into the smudged orange interior of my apartment with its ubiquitous decor of wrought iron artifacts. He sidestepped the bags and the slushy puddle. He pointed to the orange juice carton still wounded and dripping behind the door. “Oh my! What happened here?”

“I don’t have any cups.”

“Oh . . . ”

“No, just an accident of stupidity. Sit down.”

I studied him as he took tiny steps toward me. He was distinguished looking, with narrow eyes, and a thin upper lip supporting a mustache, sculptured to pencil thin. He extended his hand and I shook it and his wafting cologne easily extinguished the citrus smell of my carpet mishap. He presented me with his card. His hands were manicured but surprisingly devoid of jewelry. No watch. No rings. “May I see some identification Mr. Malveen? It’s just a precaution, I assure you.”

I dug into my wallet as he sat down on a chair to the side of the couch and rested his brief case on his knee as one might a small child. “Where is your . . . um life partner?”

“Doing laundry in the back.” Better to keep going with that story line than expose the fib at this point.

He tilted his head as if trying to activate his super human hearing and decipher whether I was telling the truth or not. I tossed my drivers licence on the table to distract him and he studied it briefly. “Yes, well everything seems to be in order. Unfortunate to meet under such troubling circumstances but I must return to L.A. tomorrow for the funeral. On my way to the airport now for that matter. I was unable to reach you earlier but thought I’d give it one final try before I departed.”

“No. That’s alright, but I . . . I don’t understand, why are you here to see me in the first place? Wires was a good friend . . . a great friend, but it’s been two years since I last saw him.”

“I have a document with your name on it Mr. Malveen.”

“Call me John.”

“Right, John,” he said. His nimble fingers popped open the attache and he presented me with a copy of some papers in a white embossed folder. “It was Mr. Whitmire’s wish that I contact you to inform you of his passing. He has also left you money to be used for a specific function. One of our local lawyers will be in touch with you over the coming weeks as to the intricacies, provided you can take care of a few simple tasks first. Are you sure this is a good time to discuss this?”

“Money? Me? Tasks? Like what? I don’t”—

— “It was his wish that you seek out the original members of the band The Oral Blondes. Is that correct? The Oral Blondes?”

“That’s what we called ourselves, although I’m sure there were times when we were called a lot worse, but the band is—”

“— The members of which there are five, including yourself are, Reginald Bartholomew Barlow, a.k.a. Doc, Randal Avery Wallace a.k.a. Wally—”

“— I know who they are Mr. Alexander. I can read.” I peered at him from above the document.

“Of course you do. Sorry . . . As you will read in the second paragraph, once the members have expressed their interest to pursue this venture you are to contact me and I will arrange recording time for you at one of our affiliate studios. You are to write and record one song of original content. Representation will be made available to critique your work and decide if any further course of action is necessary. The expenses will be paid by Mr. Whitmire’s estate. Do you follow me so far?”

What am I stupid? I’m beginning to think this guy is a smug son of a bitch. “Yes, I follow you. Find guys I haven’t seen in years and ask them to drop whatever they’re doing to write music together. Then have some musical judge come in and rip it apart. Would you like to know where to find a Sasquatch? I thought you said, ‘a few simple tasks?’ None of us have played music for years Mr. Alexander.” I was still feeling the anger. How could Wires know he was dying and not tell his friends? Motherfu . . .

“— Mr. Malveen . . . John . . . if you wish not to do this, it’s your choice. The monies allocated for this venture will go to charity. It makes no difference to me. I’m just carrying out Mr. Whitmires final wishes as obscure as they may seem.”

“I’m sorry . . . no . . . It’s just that . . . this is all so sudden. I’m hearing all these details and you’ve just informed me, someone, who I feel I’ve known forever, has just . . . just . . . passed on.” My anger was subsiding but this was a lot to digest. “Maybe you should come back at a later date after all Mr. Alexander.”

“Sure. I can have one of my colleagues do that. Unfortunately, please be aware, time is not a luxury you possess in this venture Mr. Malveen. Don’t wait too long to contact me. There is a thirty day time frame.” He snapped the briefcase closed.

“Thirty days to find everyone . . . I don’t know?”

“No Mr. Malveen. You misunderstand me. Thirty days to complete everything including the recording.”

“Thirty days?”

“That is correct. You must have something concrete no later than Monday the 31st of August.”

“Thirty days to get it done?” I went silent. This was madness. It couldn’t be done. Christ! Wires, you were in the music business at one time. You should have know it would take longer. Thirty Days! Talk about throwing down the challenge. I spoke softly. “One song, Sparky.” It was almost a whisper, like I was talking to my inner-self, but it was loud enough for Griffin Alexander to hear.

“Pardon me?”

“Sorry . . . Something Wires said to me the last time I saw him. If this is what he wanted to do for us . . . for me . . . I have to try.”

There was a brief hint of a frown on Griffin Alexander’s face, almost disappointment. “Very well. This however, by no means, guarantees you any further successes. That will be entirely up to you. Do you understand?”

“I figured as much.”

He continued to speak as he rose to his feet and checked his tie in a nearby mirror. “The other members are not to know of this arrangement. They must choose to do this of their own free will. If they are made aware of this agreement before they acquiesce, the entitlement becomes null and void.”

“What if they already know? I mean if it’s in the paper or on the news and internet like you say— I’m not the only one who followed Wires’ career you know.”

Griffin turned back to face me. “If they know, then they know. But they are not to be made aware Mr. Whitmire is behind the financial allocation of this reunion. That much is specific. They all have to choose to do it because they want to. Their decision has to be made without financial bias. It’s all right there in black and white. Mr. Malveen I can appreciate, at the moment this seems a rather daunting and unattainable project, but Mr. Whitmire had a lot of faith in your abilities. He believed it was a foregone conclusion. All you needed was a little help . . . should you choose to accept it.”

Help yes, but a push at the top of a long winding stair?

“... but if for some reason you are unable to accomplish these obligations simply let me know within the thirty day time frame and you will not be held accountable.” He bent forward. He thumped his index finger on his business card like a little treasure map and he was pointing to the X. “My number is right there and I am easily accessible.”

“Thirty days is not a lot of time Mr. Alexander.”

“That’s the problem with life Mr. Malveen. We never feel like we have much time. Unfortunately, Mr. Whitmire found out first hand. He was a great man. — I’ll send someone over with the final documentation once you are ready. Is there anything else I can help you with at this time?”

“No . . . unless you can find everyone for me? Not really.”

“All right then. I’ll be in touch to monitor your progress. I’ll see myself out. Regards to your . . . uh . . . wife.”

I tried to digest the Herculean effort it was going to take to do this. I understand nothing comes easy, but why had Wires made things so difficult? Was this a test of some kind? I thought of him in the hotel the day I’d gone to see him. I could see him reaching into the mini bar for Grand Marnier to add to his coffee at 10:00 a.m. That should have been my first clue, the damn Grand Marnier! All those years I’d known him he’d been friends with Jack Daniels. I’d written it off like it was merely a token of his success, a success he’d wanted to share with all his old band buddies, a success I was sure he felt guilty about.

It’s funny. The image I see when I think of him now. He had a far away look as he sat across from me in the suite gazing out the window, drinking his spiked coffee, with his drawings strewn hither and yon on the table cloth. Knowing his time was short, he’d wanted to relive those moments. A time in his life when he felt alive and didn’t adhere to cross merchandising, royalties, and public appearances. A time when things had been less complicated.

To look at him you’d never known he felt any pressure what-so-ever at his celebrity. They were talking about making a movie based on his work and he couldn’t have cared less. “It’s only money Sparky. It’s not like I can take it with me. I’ve lived without it long enough. The real trick is learning how to live with it.”

I didn’t understand until now what he’d meant. I had been busy fawning over the life he’d carved out for himself. How great it must be to travel to all the different places? All the interviews, the notoriety, and to get paid to do what you love.
Blake Cole had once told me, “Success changes everyone. No one escapes it.” If Wires hadn’t dodged the asshole bullet of fame, he’d certainly hid the scar well and would still be doing it if it hadn’t been for that damn....cancer . . . fuck!

Wires had said, “Man plans while God laughs,” but he had continued to live life and done a little laughing of his own. One song. Christ, how he kept harping on about it. He was really telling me to go out and live life. I could see it now.

The phone call and subsequent intrusion of Griffin Alexander had thrust the entire spectrum of emotion on me like I’d been forced through a hole ten times too small for my body- sucked out of the fuselage of a jet spiraling out of control. My head swam with these thoughts racing frantically back and forth across a tiny pool, til I could decipher order and sensibility from everything that had transpired.

So it was, I had done what I could. I talked to Doc Barlow and against all odds found Wally with Apples’ help, and got him to agree. I’d been so excited when Wally gave me the green light, I hadn’t called Doc. I phoned Griffin Alexander. Ha! In your face you smug son of a bitch! I felt the worst was over. Things would simply fall into place from there. I could accomplish anything. Skunk and Grub were the least of my worries. I needed to hear the surprise in Alexander’s voice, reward myself with the justification for a near impossible task completed. I craved it like the chocolate cake after a long diet. He was surprised I had pulled it together too. Don’t go signing the check to the charity just yet. You have some work to do buddy! My words, I’m sure, were daggers piercing vital organs now bleeding out slow and painfully. So what if I’d jumped the gun before all the pieces were in place? Things would work out and there would be no stopping me now.

After I phoned Doc to tell him it was game-on, I had looked Skunk up in the phone book at the Mayor’s insistence. The former guitarist of the Oral Blondes had been surprised to hear my voice and a little suspicious. However, she told me where she worked and agreed to meet me for lunch the next day.

Skunk had dropped off my radar when she left the band. She, under her own assessment, was living quietly nine to five on the outskirts of endemic bliss with a husband and two kids. The music business had soured her thirst to continue and there had been people at the end who squeezed the lemon of discontent further. She had packed up her cables and effects, abruptly saying, so-long, to a vocation that sucked out her passion to pursue it. But inside, I was sure, if I dangled the carrot of the unknown, her curiosity would get the better of her and she’d agree to join my little venture.

I walked through the tight cubicles of ringing phones and vivacious working girls in the reception area. I stepped into the cavernous warehouse of clanking metal, the whir of small engines, and the intruding scent of solder. The flickering strobes of blow torches had sunk into subterfuge and everyone appeared to be rushing to the back of the building with a growing sense of urgency. I found Skunk there. She was standing with her back to me, her arms obviously folded across his bosom, as she surveyed the damage of a forklift hanging precariously over the loading dock next to a transport truck. Her once flowing mane of black parted by a white shock of hair was gone as if it had been sucked into her skull and was currently seeking another way out of her body. It was now a film of fur; a velcro matt for her hard hat. “Skunk!”

“Only one person I know would call me that here.” She swung around to greet me. A smile, like beams of light bursting through the clouds, replaced her otherwise dour expression. “How the hell are you Sparky?”

She’d been drinking for many years and her face now showed the memory of long night binges. Unlike the rest of us, who had watched as time had pulled our stomachs out to a visible place in front of us and chiseled our asses away to a flat unscalable wall, Skunk still commanded a svelte physique, still bordering on hot now with a MILF quality. Around her people were scurrying in an attempt to get the loader back on the dock.

I motioned to the accident in progress. “You want me to come back?” I hated myself for saying it. It made me sound like Griffin Alexander.

“You being here won’t affect the lunatics from making things worse.— Oh man I need a break from this place.”

“This happens every day?”

“I wouldn’t be the foreperson for long if it did.”

“Don’t you guys have a safety inspector, or something?”

“Who do you think drove the forklift off the dock?”

There was a groan of metal as the machine seesawed on the precipice. Bodies scrambled to and fro in an effort to keep the craft from falling, or stay out of the way of an imminent plunge. Men threw lines of rope around the metal beast and pulled on it as if they were trying to save some yellow elephant trapped in a bog.

Skunk motioned to me. “Let’s go into my office. We can talk there. Besides, I’ll have to fill out an accident report.”

“But the dock?...”

The forklift finally gave way and crashed to the pavement below kicking up dust in a discernable crunch. The workers slowly gathered at the edge and peered over in unison through the cloud of debris, as if their motion had been choreographed.

“Like I said Sparky, I have to fill out a report.” Skunk wiped her hand over her face as if she were trying to remove part of it. “ . . . this place . . . I swear they must all be walking around with hard-ons- none of them have any brains.”

She led me up a flight of wooden steps to a small barren office overlooking the warehouse floor below. The room was sparsely decorated with a plain grey desk, a few chairs and a clock overseeing a chalkboard of scribbled white lines. Instructions and destinations were mapped out like a football play book.

She signaled with her left hand for me to sit down as she closed the door with her right. With a click, the tangle of voices and wreckage were silenced. Skunk closed the blinds to save herself from further visual agony.

“Coffee?”

“Please.”

She grabbed a couple of cups from a small desk and blew into them. She poured the java from an ancient coffee maker, stained brown and spotted from years of use. I looked at the pictures on his desk.“This the hubby and kids?”

“Uh huh. Most people here joke, it's just for show. You know what they call me?....Queen lesbian and that's one of the nicer comments.”

“You? A bush piolot? You used to get laid more than all of us put together.”

"Don't ever tell my husband that. He still hasn't gotten over the fact I play guitar better than him. - Still taking it black?”

“You remembered.”

“Yeah me too . . . fuckin’ Doc! Except on days like this I add a little somethin’ somthin’ to take away the pain.” She reached into one of the desk drawers and pulled out a bottle of whiskey as she plopped herself into her chair. I had a flash of memory in a vision of Wires reaching for the Grand Marnier. Skunk offered me a dash but I declined. She topped up her cup and passed me my mug.

After a brief exchange and further game of catch up with each other’s lives, I went into the details of my visit while she filed her report. I told her of Doc Barlow, my meeting with Apples and Oranges and Wally’s response to recording again. She had heard of Wires’ passing and was saddened at the loss. “Lung Cancer huh? He finally found something he couldn’t fix.”

“Yeah Skunk, but he lived his dream, went out on a high note. We got close to the cigar without lighting up, but Wires . . . he made it to the top of the pyramid man. That’s why I believe this is important, if for no other reason than to do it for him.”

Skunk chuckled and sipped from her cup. “You’re really reaching Sparky. Why the hard sell?”

“Then let me put it another way. You said it yourself Skunk, you need a vacation from this place. The studio’s serene and we won’t be bothered for a whole weekend. No screaming kids, no idot husband, no plummeting forklifts. You can come back recharged. Plus it’ll be fun to see everyone again and talk about old times.”

“Who said my kids scream and my husband's an idiot?”
“He has a dick doesn't he? You said it yourself. Besides I can see it in your face. Do this Skunk. You owe it to yourself.”

“I’m working next weekend.”

“Come on Skunk. It’s one weekend away. You probably have accumulated sick time from here to Hoboken?- Take the time.”

Skunk leaned back in her chair with a creak. She hooked a finger around the blinds drawing a section downward as she took another swig from her mug. She peered out at the pandemonium still in progress. “I don’t know Sparky, I’m a little rusty. Haven’t picked up the axe in a while. I’d hate for you to be out the cash.”

“Don’t worry about the money. Search your gut.”

“Wally said, ‘yes’ huh?”

“Once I got out the bamboo for his fingernails.”

“You know. I’d like to see the old fart again.”

“Have you realized Skunk? We’re all old farts now, present company excluded. That’s why it’s crucial to give this one last shot.”

“What about Grub?”

The Mayor’s words danced in my head and I decided to be straight up on this one. “I haven’t talk to him yet but I’d say he’s the one slam dunk in this whole operation.”

“All right then. Go see him and get back to me. If everyone’s doing this, so am I.”

***

“I’m not interested John.”

“But Grub . . . ”

“I’m not! I left the band because everyone was fighting towards the end. We couldn’t agree on the time of day. What makes you think, in a pressure situation things are going to be any different?”

“What pressure? It’s a weekend away to record one song. Besides, we’re older, wiser and more experienced now.”

“So am I, and the answer’s no.”

We sat under the protection of a street cafe’s awning as the rain came down in sheets. It was miserably overcast with frequent cloudbursts. A day suited more for lying in bed than meeting old friends. I was convinced, not even a water dwelling creature would change places with me on this day. It was a different rain. Unlike the cleansing drizzle washing away my self-doubt the night I’d met Apples, this was an obtrusive downpour, an annoyance like a fly buzzing your head in an obvious effort to upset the serenity. It created a distraction of noise in the pitter-patter of droplets on the vinyl awning, the sizzle off the tires of passing motorists, and the splash of clomping boots in nearby puddles.

Grub sat across from me. Although his hair was shorter and he was beginning to show the signs of age, he still had the baby-faced smirk— the one so prominent when I’d performed with him. He loved the rain as if it were a favorite topping on his pizza. Yeah Tony gimme a pepperoni pie with extra cheese, mushrooms and sprinkle some precipitation on there too will ya pal? He loved the melancholy atmosphere, the dank slop of eternal depression, and the midday darkness. He could sit outside as the skies opened up on him and it wouldn’t bother him one iota. He’d sit there until he was drenched like the chess pieces glistening from their stone podiums in the park across the street— standing timeless— stranded in some unfinished game where knight was about to take bishop and render the king to checkmate.

Grub finished packing the bowl of his pipe with Old Viking, and shook out the match that had lit the leaf. “Look, you guys might need closure, or reclamation of your past because you’re discontented with the life you have now, but I have a great job.” He returned his attention to his tea bag which he bobbed up and down into his cup as if he were torturing the poor thing.

“Don’t you find it boring sitting behind a computer console all day, typing out mindless shit?”

“I’m happy, comfortable financially, life is good. There’s no reason for me to go back. I know this is something you feel you have to do because of Wires dying and all, but I didn’t know him like you did, or the rest of the guys. I won’t be conned into doing it. I don’t care, and I don’t have the same drive as you. In my opinion it just wouldn’t work.” He blew out a gust of smoke. It smelled like someone burning orange peels.

“Grub, we need a drummer.”

“You need a drummer? Get the guy who replaced me.”

“Who, Arsehole Party? Everybody hated the guy. He’s the reason Skunk quit after you.” Arsehole Party wasn’t really his name although we were convinced his parents made a serious error in judgement by not considering it. I’m talking about Alistair Pare’ III, the percussionist who replaced Grub after our little drummer suddenly departed. It had been another grueling search and I remember the Mayor had to fill in until we found the right guy. Alistair was the best of a bad lot. We had taken him out of desperation with a major showcase looming.

I thought of all the rehearsals with the lead-up to that disastrous gig and begged Grub to reconsider. “Arsehole Party’s a drunk and a dotard with a fake English Accent. We can’t use him. No how, no way.” Also, trying to pass him off to Griffin Alexander as the drummer a.k.a. Grub wouldn’t be easy. Executor or not, he seemed thorough and probably had dossiers on all of us complete with pictures. “Honestly, I wouldn’t know where to find him Grub. Shit I was lucky to find Wally. Don’t make me get down on my hands and knees.”

“No need John. I’m not going, and I don’t understand the importance of me being there anyway.”

“It has to be the original members.”

“Why?”

“Because it just does. I can’t explain it. I feel that’s the way it has to be. All the parts in the original machinery.”

Thoughts race through my head with a fury of a cyclone, Griffin, Wires, The Mayor, why didn’t I listen to him? Wally, Doc. I’ve become what I despised about this business— conniving, lying, doing whatever it takes. There was Blake Cole amidst my twirling inane brainstorm. He was standing in my vision at the end of a tunnel with light all around him. He was calling me to the Almighty. His band, Bone White Oblivion, too cool to take notice of me, posed beside him. He spoke to me. “You’re finally learning what it takes to be successful.” “But I won’t have any friends left,” I pleaded. “At least you’ll be rich! You have to do what it takes.”

I looked at Grub. He was still manipulating his tea-bag as his pipe smouldered on the table beside him. He leaned his face into his elbow propped hand and looked back at me like the bust of some obscure Roman Emperor, frail due to inner breading. “Remember The Torture Never Stops?” He said.

“Of course. Our first hit bound single that never was a hit bound single. The Mayor used to kid me about it. Said It sounded like I was singing Cha Cha instead of Torture and that’s why it never succeeded. What about it?”

“That was the most commercial song we had and it didn’t cut it. What makes you think we’re going to come up with something better in three days?”

“I don’t know, but we can try can’t we? Grub please think this over. You are the one we feel most comfortable with. No other drummer can do this trust me. We need you to be a part of it.”

Blake Cole whispered in my brain. “That’s it. Butter him up. Do what it takes.”
Grub pulled the bag out of his tea again and tossed it into a napkin on the side of the table. It was like he was flipping a minnow to hungry birds of prey. He reached for the sugar and began scooping mounds of it into his cup. He gave it three quick laps with the spoon. “Unfortunately this is one part of the machinery you’ll have to do without. Coming to see me is a lost cause John.” His pipe had found its way back to his mouth and chugged like a slow locomotive. He crossed his legs and leaned back in his chair while the tempest in his tea cup swirled with the ferocity of a miniature hurricane. Bug looked back up at me. “The answer is no.”

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