Falling Off a Log
Copyright © 2003, 2015
I couldn't talk. I could hardly breathe. I'd spent the last four years with Scott Johnson. He was my best friend. My soul mate. I loved him so much and trusted him so much that there's nothing he didn't know about me. My likes, my loves, my fears. And I'd always felt I knew the same about him. He could sing like an angel and, literally, charm the birds out of the trees. I'd seen him. I'd encouraged him about his singing and he encouraged me about my playing. We were both private about it. We were both good, but the only people who had heard us were our families and a bunch of farm animals. I don't think either of us had the nerve to play in front of strangers, let alone an audience.
Yet something inside of me made me think we were wasting it. We'd made up some things that we both really liked and were positive other people would like, yet we were too shy to get anyone to listen. Mike at the guitar shop had heard me play a little bit and was flattering about it, but Scott wouldn't even join his church choir.
His shyness was sweet to me. But, as with my own shyness, it really limited our ability to go out in society. It hurt like hell to be so afraid of what people would think, but we were both very afraid.
Now Scott's father was somebody else than I'd thought he was. Scott's father was my idol. Not as Scott's father, who was nice, but as @@@@@. He'd listened to me play for four years. Every time he heard me, he said it sounded better than last time or some little comment like that, but that was it. Not a clue that he was the guitar master of all time. Not a single suggestion that something might be done better or differently. No sign of emotion when I butchered, then eventually learned to play, then built on his own stuff. Famous stuff. Stuff everyone listens to. Stuff that made him very rich and famous. Why the f.... was he living on a dirt farm?
"Scott, grab Joey's guitar. Cancel that! Dave, grab Joey's guitar! We're gonna make some noise!"
I didn't even have an amp with me. He turned and headed towards the barn. The barn I'd been playing in for four years. The barn with hay, a horse and some cows.
I walked dumbly behind. Scott ran up and grabbed my hand. "Sorry," he whispered.
"I'm not mad - just kinda stunned."
"We'll talk later, and I hope I can get you to understand."
"I think I do understand. My dad talked to me. I just don't get it. Why here? Why me? Why the guitar?"
"I been working on Dad ever since you started to get good. He just didn't want to risk our little family secret. Everything's perfect in my parents' minds. It took me two years to get him to even talk about it with your Dad. Then they came up with the little plan for this week. They said they had a plan B in case you couldn't commit. Mike helped me, and Dave's been on my side all along. Everybody loves you, Joey. They just had to be sure you could deal with it." He squeezed my hand a little and looked at me. "Wait'll you see the rest of the barn!" Colossal grin now. We started to run.
We entered the dimly lit barn and Scott pulled me in the direction his father had gone. Through a door next to the horse stall. Down some curving stone steps to - "HOLY SHIT!"
"Joey Goldman!" My Mom's voice came from right behind me. "Your language!"
"Sorry, Mom, but ...."
"Just this once, then. Oh, my - this is impressive, isn't it?"
It certainly was.
We were standing in a room that had to be about fifty feet long and twenty-five across. It was rounded at the near end, and seemed to contain at least one of every music-making device known to man, plus all kinds of amplification and recording equipment. I'd never seen so many wires and dials all in one place. It was totally carpeted in dark gray. The floors. The walls. The ceiling.
"Welcome to my secret hideaway, Joey," said Scott's father. I'm glad you know the importance of keeping it secret."
"I'll only say this once. I expect you've been hearing it all morning. Our secret must be kept. It's the only thing that lets us live like normal human beings. If it's even hinted at, everything could be ruined. Every time I release new stuff, the heat turns up on my lifestyle. That's why I keep places in Miami and L.A. It keeps people looking in a different direction. I try to pop up in the world often enough to keep the wolves at bay, but nobody - nobody - in the outside world knows about my real lifestyle."
He smiled expectantly, "Joey, I've come to love you like one of my own kids. But I need to hear this from your own lips. Promise that you'll keep my secret?"
"I promise. I promise!" Scott was still holding my hand, so when I went up to give Mr. Johnson a hug we ended up in a three-way.
He grinned down at us, then said, "Grab that new guitar and let's hear what it can do."
Dave was holding it out to me, and he'd plugged it in somewhere. I checked the tuning, then proceeded to start playing what I'd been doing in the music store that morning.
I looked around, and Mom and Dad and most of Scott's family were there watching. I stopped.
"What is that? I'd never heard it before this morning," Scott's father asked.
"Just something me and Scott been working on. Scott came up with the tune, and I just messed with the arrangement."
"Why'd you change the key? You were playing in F this morning."
"My old guitar had a bad spot, so I was just trying to find a way to work around it where Scott could still sing."
"Go back to F." He grabbed his guitar. He started to play my part. I went back to what I was doing in the morning. Suddenly we had drums and bass. I looked at him - he just nodded to a console. Jeez, a band at the push of a button.
I looked around. Everyone was staring at me. At ME! I looked at Scott and he was drop-jawed. I tried to yell 'SING' but started to lose my line. I really needed to learn to do two things at once. His father kicked him in the butt, and Scott got the message and grabbed a mike.
He began to sing in that voice that was only his. His voice was just beginning to change and it cracked once in a while, but the half-note change up to F kept him in a safe range. He was really on! For a little guy who was so soft spoken, he could really belt them out. This was a rockin' song, and with two guitars and real amplification everything sounded fantastic. After the words ended, we kept on playing.
I was totally turned on. I didn't really have an ending worked out, but I didn't want it to stop anyhow. I was going places I'd never tried before. You could see that Scott's father was loving it. I could do stuff on this guitar that didn't exist on my old one. I could reach frets that hadn't been there. I could bend strings clear across the neck without distortion, and it never lost tune. I moved over next to Scott's Dad. He had his eyes closed. I looked around, and everyone was still staring, but they were all reacting in one way or another to the music. Scott's little sisters were dancing. Everybody else was bouncing around and clapping. Scott's Dad nudged me, then brought the song to an end in a perfect way. He did something with the electronics at the last second, and there was some lingering sound even as I unstrapped the guitar. I looked up and saw that trademark grin. I saw something else, too. He looked at me, then at Scott, then at me again.
"You guys made that up?"
Scott came running over to me. He looked me straight in the eyes, said "FANTASTIC!"
Then he kissed me on the lips.
Right in front of God and everybody.
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