Chapter Twenty -nine- The Mexican hand-off
There he was in a clearing by the road with a brooding wall of forest on either side of him, the man and his mullet, in dirty, gray, overalls, like an escaped convict after tunneling out of the joint. He was squatting, bent at the knees, his ass jutting out toward me in greeting. However, the Honey-wagon was nowhere in sight this time, just the rickety shack of a house harboring this man behind its peeling white paint, broken eaves and veranda on the verge of total collapse.
Wally was struggling to pull weeds from a long stretch of garden, digging with a small three pronged clawlike tool. I rolled up the driveway and got out of my car.
He grunted to his feet, tossing the garden tool aside and brushed his hands together to expunge the dirt. “Frikin’ weeds are chokin’ out the corn.”
“Is that what that’s supposed to be?” I fired back. There were a few sickly looking stalks. They seemed far from producing an edible yield.
“Sparky, seems like you’re spending quite a lot of time in these parts.”
“You asked me to come, remember?”
“That I did . . . that I did.”
“I’m here. What’s so God damn important?”
“I wanted to let you know . . . ”
Here it comes, the foot to the groin. I never want to see your lousy fuckin ass again! Now get off my property!
“...I finished the song. I went back to the studio and finished the song.”
“You what? Christ! Who sang the lyrics?”
“Doc, he came with me.”
“Yup, We finished it and I got the business card out of the garbage and called Apples.”
I was stunned and just kept echoing parts of his sentences. “You called Apples?”
“That’s right Chico got the tape Tuesday afternoon and got back to me within the hour. I guess he listened to it right away.”
“Chico got the tape?”
“Sounds like a nice guy we chatted for some time on the phone. I’m meeting him and Apples on Monday for a more formal introduction . . . ” Wally stopped me from replying. “I’m meeting them Monday, Sparky. That’s why I called you and asked you to come up here. I felt I should talk to you, one on one first.”
“God Wally, I don’t know what to say. So Chico liked the song? What am I saying? He must have, why would he ask you to meet with him and Apples on Monday? Am I right? I’m right aren’t I?”
“Actually Sparky, he wasn’t impressed.”
“Oh— ho— ho— I see Wally. You’re fucking with me. Trying to kid a kidder.”
“No Sparky, I’m serious. He didn’t like it. He said . . . how did he put it?...oh yeah, ‘it was too antiquated for today’s market.’ He said, he couldn’t push it to the right people. He gave it a thumbs down, honestly.”
I looked at him solemnly, the broad smile disintegrated from my face. He was telling the truth. “I don’t understand Wally. Why bring me all this way to tell me our song sucks shit? The phone would do. Are you that angry at me? Do you want to see a grown man cry in front of you? Cause I will. I’m that close.”
“I’m not angry at you Sparky. We go way back you and I. I always remember the conversation we had right before I quit the band. How supportive you were I go out and do something elks. It’s funny how little things like that stay with you over time and make an impression, but I’ll always be grateful to you for it.”
I must have looked completely dejected, because Wally put a hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eye. “I’m sorry he didn’t like the song. We all worked hard on it and went through hell to get it done, but he did like the second song on the tape. He liked it very much.”
“Wally, we only recorded one song.”
“We did yes, but when you guys were at the casino, I recorded the other one. The song I told you about. The one with the phone number in it, remember? For a good time call. It was just me singing over a simple bass line with guitar and a drum machine, but it was enough. Chico said it was very catchy. 'A one hit wonder,' was how he put it. After I meet with him and Apples, he wants me to come into his studio and re-record it professionally. Then he wants me to put a band together and tour with Apples and Oranges. See! I told you that song would work.”
“That’s great Wally. I’m happy for you. You have every right to gloat. Looks like Wires was right. All it takes is one song. So you asked me here to wish you good luck, or what?”
“I want you to come with me on tour. Doc has already agreed and we could really use you. Chico’s supplying the rest of the musicians.”
“I don’t know Wally. I’ve got so much going on in my life right now.”
“Sparky you know that’s not true.”
“What about you and the sanitation business? Aren’t you two inseparable? Where is the Honey-wagon anyway? I thought they always let you take the Hino home?”
“I don’t work for them any more.”
“Aren’t you going to miss being . . . how did you put it....a waste retrieval engineer?”
“Seems someone called and complained, I misused their equipment to destroy their property. They fired me on Tuesday.”
“Tuesday was a busy day for you. What did you do that was so horrific?”
“I filled the trunk of some guys black sedan with shit from the pump-out hose.”
“Christ Wally! You’re one crazy motherfucker, do you know that? Mr. Black’s car? So that’s where you went when you stormed off.”
“Yup,” Wally chuckled. “Went out popped his trunk and filled er’ right up. I suspect Grub and Mr. Black were probably looking at one another at first, wonderin’ who farted. That is, until the smell got really bad.” Wally shifted his weight to his other leg and smiled. “Take heart Sparky, there is some justice in this world. You just have to bend a few rules to get it sometimes.”
“Speaking of which. This whole weekend debacle was caused by Megan, Wally. You remember that maniacal bitch. She and Alexander were— ”
“— I know.”
“You do? Why didn’t you say something to me? Christ!”
“Why? What’s going on here Wally? What else don’t I know?”
“I swore an oath.”
“An oath? Who to?”
I was stupefied. Wires had talked to Wally? The same Wally who’d rather attend a Monster Truck rally than pay his rent? The same Wally who thought mustard was a separate food group? The same Wally who . . . I wrestled control of my senses. “You were the one that called the Mayor and warned him things weren’t going as planned weren’t you?”
“Yes. I shouldn’t have done that, but they were fighting dirty and we needed some help. I’m sorry I had to keep it from you Sparky, but it’s what Wires wanted. He wanted to make sure you would do what it takes. That you really wanted to do this. After last weekend, I think you did.”
“But Wally . . . I’m ruined . . . the money I’ll be paying it off for years. I’ve got to pay for the studio. I don’t have that kind of money . . . ”
“Sparky! Would you just relax. No you won’t. The studio’s paid for. I took care of it and your mechanic bill too.”
“You don’t have that kind of money either . . . do you?”
“Wires new something was up. He was afraid his final wishes were in jeopardy after Alexander took over his file when Russell Brock was killed. He knew Griffin was married to Megan. He couldn’t do anything about it at the time, he was too sick by then, but there was money set aside for this. That’s why he called me and got me involved. He wanted a plan B as-it-were, in case things got funky. Swore me to secrecy. 'Promise me Wally,' he said while he was coughing something fierce. 'Promise me you won’t tell, till this is all over, and I promise I won’t tell anyone you were a hack guitarist'. That Wires, still cracking jokes from his death bed. So I promised him I would give it my best effort. It’s all been taken care of Sparky. You don’t owe a damn dime. None of us do.”
“I don’t know what to say . . . I” The tears were welling up in my eyes. Wires had still been fixing things from beyond the grave in true Wires fashion.
“Come with Doc and I, complete Wires’ last wishes. It will be just like the old days.”
I must have stood there for some time contemplating the decision. So long in fact Wally probably began to wonder if he should make a bed up for me. Finally I came to a conclusion . . . no . . . an epiphany Miss Agnes would have called it.
“No, Wally, I’ve had my fill of the music industry. Finally. I have the closure I needed. I know for sure now I did everything I could. Some of which I’m not proud of. I didn’t like the person it made me into. It’s not meant to be for me. In a way I think this was actually what Wires intended. For me to have peace, to know that part of my life is over. I need to embrace the unknown, not revel in the past.”
“Embrace the unknown with us.”
“I appreciate the offer, Wally. I honestly do, but I just can’t. It doesn’t feel right to me now.”
“Then what elks will you do?”
“Since you don’t think I’d make a good author, maybe I’ll travel. See where I end up. Writing’s too much like a massive jigsaw puzzle anyway, even if I do dumb it down for you. You never know where the story’s going most of the time. Hey! Maybe that’s how I should treat my life? You know, somehow I don’t think Wires would be displeased.”
“Are you sure, Sparky?”
“Here” he said reaching into his back pocket. “I think Wires knew. 'I’m having something delivered to you to give to Sparky when this is all over Wally', He said to me. 'You make sure he gets it'.” He pulled out a thick manilla envelope. It was a little crushed and he had spilt something on it at some point, but it was unopened. He handed it over. “He left me only one envelope. He said, there’s a little something inside he wanted you to have . . . you know to help you travel I guess.”
“But I . . . ”
“Yes you can Sparky. Start living your life Ok? And just remember, every time you see an occupied sign on an outhouse door, somewhere elks there’s a door that’s open.”
So it was, Skunk and Grub went back to their day jobs. Grub and I would cross paths from time to time and eventually we healed all riffs between us, but Skunk made no attempt to stay in touch choosing to forget it all happened and return to life with her husband and kids. We never saw each other again.
Wally and Doc, who had started out as a duo, got to record Wally’s song. A song that would put them in the company of other one hit wonders like Wang Chung, The Knack and Soft Cell.
Like Walking on Sunshine, Turning Japanese, and 99 Red Balloons, For a good time call . . . shot quickly up the charts. It lasted a full four weeks in the Billboard top 10. Although an old woman in Kentucky did have to change her phone number due to her unexpected popularity and the ceaseless calling the song created. Even after it fell out of favor, it was still played in light rotation and netted a livable sum of royalties. Doc and Wally enjoyed an endless tour playing the casino circuit with their band called, what else, Plan B- a true testament to Wires.
Unfortunately for Griffin Alexander, had he observed the fine print of the will and borrowed a little faith from Miss Agnes, he would have made a thousand times the money he received as executor. A clause, Wires had added a few weeks before his death, near the bottom of the third page stated: in the event of chart success the executor will be granted four points on royalties.
Eventually Alexander was found guilty of misappropriation of funds and improper and unlawful conduct. He was disbarred. Several of his connecting affiliates also came under investigation and were shut down including Tykes to Titans.
As for me, with the help of Wires, I traveled. I knew there was still much out there for me to see and do, I just had to go out and let it happen. Like Wally said, bend the rules a little. I had no doubt, out there somewhere was an outhouse door open just for me.