12 Cross Country
“Man, it’s your life, but don’t fuckin’ blow it for the rest of us. Wait until after the set.”
Oh shit! Busted! “What’re you talking about?’
“Harry, I’ve known you since 1973. Boomer and I have known you’ve been drinking for the last week. Joey’s too caught up in his own shit to realize, but I think he may suspect. He might blow up if we told him, which we won’t.”
Fuck! “Yeah… well… “
“You know what the ironic part is, Harry? The reason we suspected was because you were having too much fun; you weren’t being so totally neurotic!” Ace laughed. “Listen, I am not going to come down on you. I don’t have the fuckin’ answers to life, do I? Look what I’ve gotten my own sorry ass into! But you’ve got to check your memory logs and watch the tapes, man. We can’t go through that again. We’ve only got what, a month? Then you can do whatever you want. And none of us care of you have a drink after the set. You just can’t go kicking your drums around the stage and screaming Fuck! into microphones. The Xeonosis marketing team wouldn’t understand you the way we do!”
Ace laughed and gave the embarrassed Harry a hug. “We love you, you old Jew-boy hippie trainwreck!”
Harry had a little moisture in the corner of his eyes. He hung his head for a second, then looked Ace in the eyes and said, “Thanks, old friend.”
“Well, you know that’s what you are, dickhead! Just drink with us, unless you dig the feeling of sneaking around behind the bus and eating toothpaste to cover up!”
Dr. Jonas Arkavarian was standing on the seventh tee at Sea Vista when his cell went off. Brubek’s Take Five. Stone pulled out of his backswing and looked disdainfully at him.
“Yeah, go.” Arkavarian’s eyes were hidden behind his really expensive Polaroids. His face suddenly screwed up like he had smelled a really bad fart. “You‘ve got to be kidding me! What’s the story?”
Stone, tan and dressed immaculately as usual in a powder blue golf shirt and white shorts, took a swig from a plastic water bottle. The sun-washed Pacific Ocean spread out below them. Pleasant sea-breeze zephyrs rustled the palm fronds on the big trees around the tee box.
“I haven’t heard anything from any of my patients. Maybe it’s bad surgeons.”
Arkavarian paced around, swinging his driver softly, sweeping the short grass. He held the phone out from his ear and mimed yapping to the coolly irritated Stone.
“OK, just keep me up on this. I’ll be back in around four for an hour. Thanks. Yeah, you too.”
He flipped the cell off. “Sorry, man, I wouldn’t have taken it, but that was one of my associates in New York. There’s a little situation.”
“There have been a couple of problems cropping up with the implant.”
“Such as?” Stone stepped back up to his teed ball. He seemed casual, but he had put $200,000 into Xeonosis on the advice of Greg Horn. He had watched it go to over a million, nice pocket money even for Stone, who owned castles and planes, but who watched every cent just the way he did as poor kid growing up in Upper Tooting..
“Such as, a couple of guys have had their penises hemorrhage when they were having sex. It’s probably a case of bad surgical work, but it’s not going to help sales when it gets out.”
“Is it getting out?”
“You know the media better than I do! What makes a better headline than an exploding cock?”
Josh Jones sat nervously on the edge of the leather sofa. God, there is nothing worse than playing your shit for somebody in their office! He tried to suppress a fake smile and look relaxed. It’s only my fucking work of the last five years! His music pumped out of the speakers. Sure sounds good on this fucker’s system, though.
Aaron Beckerman leaned forward, his head almost between his knees, listening intently. Refrigerator. Cool title. Jesus, this is good! Different, but really good. I can see it: intellectual geek- rock with a really intense rhythmic feel. A lot of good influences, a little Roulas Cartouche, a bit of Simon Eddie, a smidgen of The Hashemites, and enough hip-hop bottom to draw in kids who might be put off by the actual smart lyric content. A niche thing, but I get it.
He clicked to the next track, As Long As She’s Not Like Me and listened to thirty seconds. Then he clicked ahead to, I Just Designed the Fucking Thing. He let this one play almost all the way. The came the haunting Broken Town. Aaron shut off the CD player with his remote. He looked like he had to do something urgently.
Is he going to run out of the office? Is it that bad? Thought Josh.
Aaron swiveled his chair around. “You know what I think?” he grinned, “I think we better get this out into the world.”
Josh’s heart leaped. “Really?” He laughed. It was his best you’ve got to be fucking with me aren’t you voice.
“Yeah, really. I love your site, by the way; you’re a world-class dungeon master. I can see tying it in, if that wouldn’t piss you off.”
Piss me off? It’s what I’ve been planning for five years! “No, it’s what I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”
“How married are you to your band? You need someone like Joe Vostra playing drums with you. Your tracks are so precise. And real horns would be kickin’.”
Jesus, fuckin’ Joe Vostra! “Yeah, I haven’t been able to afford horns as much as often as I‘d like to. My band is what I have. The guys change all the time. Frankly, I could lose ‘em all except Spider.”
‘I love Spider’s playing. Listen, I’d like you to consider letting Tone Records help you to put this together in the way you really envision it. I love your whole thing. It just needs to go up one notch in terms of the recording. I see you as the next Mac Streeter or Taylor Domenic. Once again, I hope that doesn’t piss you off!”
“I dig those guys.”
Aaron stood up and stuck out his hand, “Well, Josh Jones, welcome to Tone Records!”
“Hi Molly-wolly. How’s my little girl?”
“I’m ok, daddy.”
“What have yo been learning in school?”
“Um…we’re studying Mexico and South America.”
“Oh, daddy loves Mexico. I’ll take you there sometime. How is Mr. Biggs?”
“Mommy says we need to put his house outside.”
“Oh, it’s too cold for Mr. Biggs outside.”
“Mommy says he stinks.”
“Well, Mr. Biggs is little stinky. All dogs are stinky!”
“Daddy, what does limpdick mean? Is that like a wet noodle wiener?”
“Mommy says you’re a limpdick.”
“Put Mommy on, OK, sweetheart?”
Damn that bitch! What the fuck would she know about it, anyway?
“Shee, what the fuck are you saying to our daughter?”
“She doesn’t understand what I’m saying.”
“Little pitchers have big ears. Don’t tell her I’m a limpdick, for god’s sake! She’s going to say that at school. I don’t know how anyone as smart as you are can be so dumb sometimes.”
“I’m through listening to you, Ace. What do you have to do with this family anyway? You’re not here. I’m doing all the work.”
“For the nineteenth thousandth time, I’m on the road, earning a living!”
“Your song charted this week. Number forty-three.”
“I know, Krystal calls me. We’ll see. There are a lot of songs ahead of it, but it’s got a chance.”
“Molly and I get our share of that money, Ace.”
I’d give it all to you if you’d just fuckin’ leave me alone!
“Well, duh. We are married, Shee. Hey, it’s too cold for the dog to be outside all day this time of year.”
“Your dog stinks. I won’t have it in my house.”
“Have a heart, will you? Just because you hate my guts, don’t take it out on the dog. He’s an old-timer; he can’t handle the cold.”
“He smells like pee. It’s disgusting.”
Mr. Biggs would like it Montana, Ace thought.
“Hey there, beautiful cowgirl!”
“Howdy, Lloyd, what’s new?” Roberta finessed two huge bags of dog food into the back of her Subaru.
“Have you met your new neighbor?”
“What new neighbor?” Roberta felt her stomach drop in panic.
“Some Californian just bought the Makin place. You’re surrounded.”
“Well, it s bound to happen. How did you hear?”
“Curly Sheeper told me. Inez sold the property.”
“Who was the buyer; did he say?”
“Some guy in the music business.”
“Jeez, what a surprise!”
They laughed. The whole state of Montana was being bought up by rock stars, doctors, actors, and Wall Streeters.
“Hopefully, whoever it is will only come here a couple times and figure out that fishing’s not always that good, but the deer flies are always hungry!” She said.
“Hey, those out-of-staters are our best neighbors. They pay their property taxes and they’re never around.”
Roberta worried that the new owner would come in and build one of the McLog McMansions near her little cabin on its three acres. Makin was a forty acre parcel with both sides of the river, but the best building site was in the meadow just upstream from her little place. The old bridge to Roberta’s place was technically on that property. A sniffy new Orvis-pants neighbor could make her access difficult. She’d hope for the best.
As she drove back to her place; Roberta fell into a reverie about Ace. I’m in deep, dammit! I’ve fallen for him hard. She loved it but it twisted her gut. She had to live with the fact that he was married and lived in Nashville. Jesus, Roberta, a married man! But she would never have slept with him if she thought that he really valued his marriage to Sheila. Sheila was so different from Ace. Over the years, on her occasional short visits to Nashville, Roberta had watched Sheila evolve from a fun girl into a high-powered executive. But that wasn’t the bad part. It was Sheila’s rabid materialism that made Roberta lose respect for her: the Excursion, the big house, the correct neighborhood, the parties, the rich friends, the right school. Ace was trapped in that, but he hated it. He was still the same funky artist he always had been.
Maybe I’m just allowing myself this fantasy because it’s safe. She had to admit that it was a possibility. She had her own life out here. She liked her solitude and self-reliance. But she hadn’t felt this alive in years, and it was because of him.
You’ve been holding yourself in all these years, little miss stony-heart. Afraid, that’s what I’ve really been. Ace has kept trying against all odds, even with his unhappy burdens. He’s a true romantic. He likes to call himself the Don Quixote of Love. Well, c’mon, lover; let’s go get us some windmills.