Chapter Fifteen- A sixth sense
“What do you mean you won’t be able to play?”
“Look, Sparky. Broken wrist. I’m a drummer. I kind of need my hands to perform.”
“How in the hell, in the name of rhubarb tarts, did you break your wrist?”
“Excuse me Doc, for trying to stop myself before I was propelled through the windshield.”
“What exactly did the doctor say?” I asked.
“He said he feared it was a hairline fracture in the thumb, forefinger and wrist. He gave me a shot for the pain, a prescription and said I shouldn’t play drums.”
“Shouldn’t? Shouldn’t play? Not can’t, shouldn’t?”
“Je-sus Sparky what are you going to do tape a god damn drum stick to the man's hand?” Skunk said.
Wally interjected, as he wolfed down the remainder of his burger. “Maybe you could do it like that one-armed drummer from Def Leppard?”
“He’s got foot-pedal triggers to make it sound like a full kit. We don’t have that luxury.”
“Then we have to find a replacement and fast.”
“Doc, it has to be the original members on this recording you know that.”
“Why?” Grub asked. “I’d like to know. You never explained it to me.” He seemed quite perturbed.
“Look, guys we’re wasting valuable time by standing here. We have to get back. I can tell you the reasons why on the way.”
“Woh . . . ho . . . ho . . . wait a minute Sparky. I can only take three people at a time in the Honey-wagon.”
“You’re going to have to bend the rules this one time Wally. We still have to send someone back to Skunk’s car for the equipment and It’s not like we can hail a taxi or hop the next pig truck that happens by. I won’t tell your boss. I promise.”
“Alright, Alright! But you’ll have to take those damn boots off.”
We all crammed into the front of the Hino like we were trying to break the world record for most people in a sanitation vehicle. With Tiny’s boots firmly wedged between the tank and one of the Honda motors, we started off. Between the labored breaths of our confinement, I informed Grub and Skunk of our own trials and tribulations, and the specifics of what I had been told. At the end of all things the fingers pointed to one person- Griffin Alexander.
“So you see Grub you have to perform on this recording. Everything is null and void if you don’t and I couldn’t tell you until now. Everyone had to agree to do this first. But you can see this is a great opportunity for us to finally accomplish something.”
Skunk huffed. “That is the strangest arrangement I’ve ever heard of. Something’s going on underneath it all, I’ll bet on it. It reeks of dirt.”
“The Mayor thought so too.” Again I found myself wishing I’d heeded his warnings. “But these are the cards we’ve been dealt people. We’re committed to this game now. We have to bluff our way to the pot.”
Doc spoke out. “The thing I’d really like to know is, why do I get Grub on my lap?”
“You get him because Wally’s driving.”
“Then you could’ve given me Skunk. She’s smaller. No offence Grub but you’ve put on the pounds.”
“Who here hasn’t?”
Skunk protested, "Hey Doc don't talk about me like I'm some sort of tart to be passed around."
“Skunk has a boney ass Doc, I’m going to have bruises for weeks. I thought most chicks put on ass as they get older?”
“Anyway, what was it you used to say Doc? 'It doesn’t matter where we are as long as we’re all together'.”
“I didn’t have homoeroticism in mind when I made the statement Sparky.”
Wally spoke up. “I guess this as good a time as any to tell Skunk and Grub about my song idear?”
“No it isn’t.”
Wally ignored Doc. “We write a song with a phone number in it, see. It has a catch phrase like For a good time, call, and . . . ”
“Not now Wally,” I chided.
Grub snickered. “That’s the worst idea I’ve heard since you wanted us to call our first album Three and the magic worm, Wally.”
Skunk rubbed her ribs tenderly making her breasts nod in affirmation. “So what happens next with this Griffin Alexander?”
“I’m going to call him as soon as we get back. I’d like to see him wiggle out of this.”
Our trip back took less time and Wally turned onto the winding dirt driveway leading up to the house within twenty minutes. We passed the graveyard of junked cars laying in wait behind tall grass. Up over the hill the bible village came into view.
“Mother of God! What the hell is all that?”
“It’s creepy looking,” Grub moaned. “If I find a devil pinata in my room, that’s it, I’m going home.”
“It’s much worse at night, I assure you.”
“Hey, devil spelled backward is lived.”
“That’s wonderful Wally. The teacher give you a gold star?”
“Why do you have to spoil everything, Doc?”
Wally parked up behind the tractor and we all poured out with sighs of relief. The rest of the group went about taking in what instruments and bags were there. Tiny thundered out to help them. He shook the hands of the astonished new comers and gobbled up most of the gear under his elephantine tentacles.
I met Suds inside. He was sitting at a desk going through the mail as his little legs dangled over the edge of his chair. He had a small pair of bifocals that teetered on the brink of his nose.
“I need to make a call.”
“There’s phones all around,” he said. “The control room, the pool, the bathroom, take your pick. There’s one in the hallway leading to your room, if you need the privacy.”
Wouldn’t I get that in the bathroom? I thought, but instead I just said, “Thanks.” I marched off to my room and flung my bag on the bed. Digging through it, I found Griffin Alexander’s card. In the hallway there was an inlet where a small stand supported a phone next to a cushioned, pillbox, window ledge. I grabbed the phone from the table and began dialing.
The phone rang several times before a female voice answered. “Alexander, Myers & Brock,” she said. “How may I direct your call?”
“Griffin Alexander please.”
“Whom may I say is calling?”
“Tell him it’s John Malveen and it’s urgent I speak with him.”
“One moment please.”
After what seemed like hours, a voice answered. “Mr. Malveen?” It was Griffin. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting. I had another long distance call. I had to take it first. Listen, Mr. Malveen, I have an important message for you. Do not. I repeat. Do not follow the directions I gave you to the studio. It has come to my attention they are erroneous. I tried repeatedly to get you yesterday at Faith Studios, and on the cell number you gave me.”
“That’s Doc’s number. He’s been having trouble with reception up here.”
“Where are you now Mr. Malveen?”
“I’m at Faith Sound. We found it without much trouble.”
“Thank God. I was worried when I couldn’t get in touch with you. I expected the worst. And as you know, this is the final weekend to fulfil the stipulations set out in the will. Monday will probably be here quicker than you expect.”
“It always is. No, we’re all here working hard, getting it done. Right on schedule. Not to worry. Everything is running smoothly.”
“I assure you. I am looking in to what happened.”
“Thanks. I appreciate it. Look I have to get back. We’re ready to lay some tracks down.”
“I understand. Mr. Whitmire would have been pleased. Call if you need any more assistance.” He hung up with a click, and severed our vocal umbilical to dial tone.
I felt like such an idiot. I had lambasted the man up one side, and down the other. Yet, here he was trying to get hold of me. To warn us the directions were wrong, even as I was lighting the fire to burn him at the stake. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt like such a boob, so often, in a short period of time. “That’s it,” I said to myself. “No more conspiracy’s. No more excuses. We wipe the slate clean and get this thing done. Fuck all obstacles.”
When I informed the others of my conversation, they seemed a little disappointed. The gung-ho rally cry of, Get him, seemed to ignite us into a unified front, but now I had the sense the winds of passion had been sucked from our sails. Griffin was no longer the common enemy we had made him out to be.
By the time everything was collected and Skunk’s car towed to a mechanic it was getting late. It was well after supper before we were set up completely, ready to get some sounds. We all sat around in the control room on a plush black leather couch beyond a center console of encased effects and modules. The room sat above the main studio. The only link to the musicians below was through two television monitors above the sound board. Suds and Tiny sat next to each other creating forced perspective. Atop the sound board was a lava lamp sending green waxy bubbles floating to the surface and creating a contaminated greenish glow on the walls around us. The room had been hot and had a smell of burnt dust until the lights were dimmed and an upper door was opened letting in the refreshing evening air. The portal opened onto a small deck with a walkway draped down the backside of the house.
Suds fiddled with the equalizer and volume pots as he instructed Grub through a system of checks. Say what you want about Tiny’s mental capacity, but the boy followed all instructions he was given with ease — amazing considering his size. He plugged in effects, routed direct lines and adjusted microphones with the skill of a surgeon. We watched intently as Grub tested his kit behind a plexiglass sound barrier in a corner of the room next to a vacant stone fireplace and a row of storage cabinets. He looked as if he were being imprisoned by a heap of stabbing microphones and two Telefunkens hanging from boom-stands above his head. With his good hand he pounded away on his drums over the monitor screens.
Doc groused. “Anything else on? This is boring to watch.”
“Who owns this place?” Skunk asked.
I shrugged in non compliance. All I knew was Suds was the engineer and Tiny helps Suds, cause Tiny likes to help.
Without turning Suds told us. “Ned Cooley. Mr. Cooley bought this place years ago and turned it in to a studio. He was a great lover of music and the arts in general.”
“Yes. He passed on several years ago.” Suds slid off his seat and turned to us. He began flipping through a series of reverb effects over the repeated smacks of Grub’s snare drum. “He was also a great lover of water as well, but couldn’t swim. After he put the pool in, he went for a dip, but his water wings came off and we found him floating face down the next morning. Shame that. His daughters inherited the place, but they rarely come to the studio. They keep the place running, but they don’t have the interest in it like Mr. Cooley did.”
“So I guess he was responsible for all the little bible doo-dickies we see on the lawn?” Doc questioned.
“Mr. Cooley was a deeply religious man..yes. They were put there in his honor. A memorial if you will.” Suds hopped back up on his seat and pulled himself into the console. He pressed a button and instructed Grub to whack the snare drum again.
As the evening wore on and approached the move into a new one, it became evident our drummer could not use his left hand to full effectiveness. He would be relegated to keeping time only. This sparked a new debate.
“What do we do? Grub can’t play.”
“He has to Skunk.”
“What about you Sparky? You played drums at one time.”
“That was when I was a kid, Doc. I’m way too rusty to attempt it now.”
“Then, I say we get the Mayor up here. He’s played with us before. He can handle the chops.”
“The Mayor’s not an option either. He had to go out of town for the weekend on assignment. He won’t be back until after Monday or Tuesday, and that’s too late. Besides, Grub has to play on this thing. There is no other way.”
“What if we get someone to come in and over-dub some percussion on top of what Grub lays down. Alexander said it has to be the original members but he didn’t say anything about having a guest musician or two. As long as there are some of Grub’s tracks on the recording, I don’t see a problem in that.”
“Where are we going to get a drummer up in these neck of the woods Doc? Old Man Thompson, the farmer with the fork in his head, Johnny Two Fingers & Phil Screaming Eagle? Perhaps the receptionist Mrs. Bugupherbutt? I’m sure all she does on the weekends is beat on things. Probably at home now banging away on a nice set of Pearl drums like it’s a damn computer keyboard. Fuuuck. This is so frustrating. Think guys. Think!”
“There’s a band at the casino this weekend.” We all stopped gabbing and turned to Suds as he swung around on the swivel of his chair. Tiny stopped him before he made another revolution. “Perhaps you could convince their drummer to come out and over-dud the parts you need. ? It’s a long shot, but I don’t feel you have much choice at this point to get this done by Monday. From what I’m hearin’, the little fellow’s not going to be able to do everything you need.”
Sud's calling anyone little was comical, but I avoided the giggles. “What’s the name of the band Suds?”
“I don’t know but I can find out for you. It’s too late to do anything more about it tonight. By the time we got there, they’d be done and packed up for the night. I say we turn in and try to establish some concrete tracks tomorrow. Then we’ll go and make an attempt to convince this guy to come here Sunday and dub over what we have.”
Everyone agreed with the plan and turned in. Skunk called her husband and kids. Grub took his pills, Doc retired to his quarters and Wally decided to pass out on the couch with the TV on.
I found myself in the solitude of my room once more, away from the chaos and the noise of the outside world. I was about to turn off the light when I realized, the contract! I told Doc I was going to take a close look at it when we got here. But with all the wrenches thrown into our plans, I forgot. We all forgot.
I leapt out of bed and plowed my hands through my bag like they were searchlights. I retrieved a manila envelope containing the document. I sat on the edge of the bed and glared at it intently. As I opened the flap there was a knock at the door. I put the envelope down. “Come in.”
The door opened. It was Grub. His arm swung from a makeshift sling of fabric. I was sure until recently it had been a dish towel hanging from a rung by the kitchen sink. Grub was fully clothed like he was getting ready to leave.
“Christ Grub what are you still doing up? Aren’t you tired?”
“Are you in pain or something?”
“Then go to bed!”
“Why not! Out with it.”
“There’s a ghost in my room, Sparky.”