Falling Off a Log
Copyright © 2003, 2015
I leaned away from Scott to break the kiss. It hadn't been romantic or anything - just a fat, happy smooch that was kinda wet. But it was on the mouth, and it was in front of everybody. I looked at the people in my field of view, not wanting to look around the room and make my embarrassment more obvious. I could feel my ears burning. Scott's Mom was looking at us, but nobody else I could see appeared to have seen anything. I looked at Scott and he was looking behind me at his dad. Just looking - no particular expression on his face.
"Scott. Come up here," his dad said through a microphone. There wasn't any malice that I could detect in his voice, but the loudness of it through the amp made me jump a foot. "You too, Joey."
I turned around and looked at him, still blushing like a beet. He made a little 'come-here' gesture, so I walked over with Scott. His Dad looked at us, then said "I've got a track I've been working on. I can play it back without my guitar part in it. Scotty, you've heard me working on this long enough, you should know how it goes. Joey, I want to hear where you can take this. You guys up for it?"
I looked at Scott and he just shrugged and said "I guess."
His Dad pushed a button.
The room filled with a driving drumbeat and bass line. There was piano and rhythm guitar in there. It sounded like your basic Southern rock. There probably should have been some guitar work up front, but I had no idea how it went. Scotty finally began to sing. It was a very inventive tune, though he clearly didn't know all the words yet. He was pretty much faking it. I started to try some fills to get the feel of it. When Scott indicated that it was time for a lead, I just played to fit the chord pattern, something like his father might have done. It wasn't working too well. You couldn't say I was making mistakes, because what I was playing was brand new. It was missing the cleverness of the song itself, and I finally just stopped. Scott's Dad stopped the tape.
"Joey, I can play like me. You should play like you. Try again. This time come in right on top of the piano."
He handed Scott a piece of paper. "Here's the lyrics." He pushed the start button again.
This time I jumped right in when the piano began, trying to paraphrase the tune itself. It sounded pretty okay. Scott sang until the guitar break, and this time I went in a completely different direction. I jumped up a full octave and was just thinking of Judy Garland - how she can go from sultry to shrill in a heartbeat. I was working on that feeling and ended up the lead part with the best string-stretch I'd ever pulled off. Scott came right back singing, doing a bit of the same thing, adding a little Janis Joplin type squeak here and there. Neither of us knew where the song was supposed to end or anything, so after he sang the last bit we just stopped. We looked at his father, who stopped the tape.
"Guys, that was fantastic! Could you hear yourselves?"
"I guess I was all intent on playing. I wasn't really listening," I said.
"Me either," said Scott.
His Dad was all intense. "Listen!"
He pushed a button, and suddenly it was Me and Scott coming through speakers everywhere.
Honest to God, if I heard what we'd just done on the radio or something I'd have been mowing the lawn hourly until I had enough money to go buy the record. It was the first time I'd heard either of us recorded, and this was with real equipment and a real band behind us. It was like it was somebody else. Somebody real good. All we'd ever done was for each other, the cows, and the occasional family member. I'd never heard Scott sound so confident and try so many things with his voice.
We looked at each other. With dumbstruck stares.
Scott's Dad said "Mary! Why don't you and Sarah go whup up something for lunch. Me and Sid have to have a talk with these boys about a couple of things. Davey, you stay here, everyone else out!"
My Dad and Scott's brother came over to where we were. Scott's Dad sat on a stool and my Dad and Dave did the same. Me and Scott just sat on the floor looking at the others, who towered over us. We got in our trademark position. Shoulder to shoulder, with our heads so close together our ears were nearly touching, our hands together with our arms streched out to our knees.
"First things first," Scott's Dad said. "Davey, did you catch that action after the first song they did?"
"Yeah, I saw it."
"What did you think?"
"Nothing, really. Just kinda those two cranking it up to the next level."
"Tell the truth, Sarah had to poke me before I even noticed they were kissing, it seemed so normal at the time." His face was unreadable.
"That's what I felt. Actually, I didn't feel - I just watched and had no reaction. It's like it was nothing new, even though I've never seen you two kiss before."
Scott piped in "Course you have Dad. We hug and kiss all the time. Not just me and Joe, Davey too. And his brother Sam."
"I guess I have, now that you mention it. The closeness you guys share is wonderful. I'm just a little concerned about where it might be leading."
"Dad!," Scott stood up. "Joey's my best friend! I love him! You've been making me hide stuff from him for years and and years, and he's told me every last thought he ever had! When I could finally say something today and make him happy and me happy, and after he did that stuff on the guitar with you, and you got him the new one and he's so in love with it, it just blew me away. I didn't have words for how I felt, so I kissed him! What's the big deal with that?"
He was trembling a little, but kind of puffed out his chest. "You know the way we were just sitting? With our ears together? We figured out a long time ago that we thought alike, so we just put our ears together to hear what each other's thinking. We don't need to talk much. One of the things we know is that we're both good musicians. We can blow this town someday and get rich and famous. Just like you did! Only we're not going to get all screwed up and do drugs and end up in a loony bin. We'll watch out for each other just like we do now. I know we're little, but we'll grow. And when we do, if we want to live in some little town, we will. But we won't hide who we are from everybody. If they want to know, so what? Who cares anyhow?"
Dave said, "Scott - you little twerp! You can't talk to Dad like that! He's been nothing except great to us. You too, Joe. He did whatever it took to get over the problems he had in the past, and you can't think it was easy. What if he'd had all of us and stayed the way he used to be? What kind of screwed up jerks would we be like?"
He looked at me, then back at Scott. "Where would we be? Probably in foster homes or something. I know you hate the secret, but it let us grow up normal and have friends. Besides, if you were in New York or London or something, you would'a never met Joey!"
He went over and pulled Scott into a hug, and I could see that Scott was beginning to cry. I was, too.
My dad stepped over and held his hand down to me. I took it. He pulled me to my feet and into a giant hug. "Joey ... I love you so much, and I want the best for you. Always. I know I'm not the best provider, but you are loved. Dearly. Every moment of every day."
"I know, Dad. And don't say you're a bad provider. Not at all. You give me everything I need and most of what I want. I love you."
Scott was sobbing. My eyes were watering, but I was pretty calm in my Dat's arms. We had a four-way hug going, but there were five of us. I looked over to Scott's Dad, and he looked pretty grim.
I pulled my dad towards him, and we each took one of his hands. He looked at us. "I blew it, huh?"
"How can you think you blew it?," I asked. "Scott!"
He looked at me, then at his dad. I could tell he was thinking about what he'd said and not feeling too good about it. He started to move towards us, then tripped on the microphone wire and busted through my dad's and his dad's hands and landed with his face in his father's lap.
It was a rather stunning position. Dave said "Don't worry, Dad. I can see it now. Scotty still loves ya," then started to snicker.
One by one, we looked at the situation and began to laugh, including Scott's father.
When Scott figured out what had happened and what we were laughing about, he looked up with the reddest face I've ever seen on a human being, before or since.
"You're all morons!"
By now none of the rest of us could catch a breath, and were all wheezing in near hysteria. Scott had a very red, very stubborn look on his face, but I guess our laughter and the nonsense of the situation won out. He started to giggle, then laugh. Then he lost his breath, too and just sat on his dad's lap, leaning on his chest and giggling his brains out.
When it finally petered out, there were five very red-faced, tear stained guys sitting and standing there.
Scott's dad said "Scott. You're right. Enough of this family secret. Just let me figure something out. I mean, we don't need to make an announcement or anything. Just that when the time seems right, we won't try to hold it in so much. How's that?"
"Great, Dad. What's part two?"
"Part two. You said there were two things we had to talk about. Now you know how I feel about Joey, there's something else I thought you wanted to say."
I hadn't yet said or been asked anything about Part 1, so I held up my hand.
"Scott got to say stuff and I want to, too. I mean, do you really think anybody will ever remember just one of us? Just Scott? Or just Joey? It's always Scott and Joey. Isn't it? It's like we're a pair. I only really met Scott because he wanted a friend and I did too. I know we're both shy, but that never mattered. It still doesn't. I don't think Scott's too shy now after what he said, and I still am, but I want to say something.
"People need friends. Not a lot, but some. And everybody needs a best friend. Scott's my best friend. I love him. Not like I love music or my family. It's different. We feel connected. We feel ... each other. When he just got embarrassed, I was embarrassed for him, and I wouldn't of laughed if I didn't just know that he'd join in. When he sings, it's like I give him his voice. When I play, it's like he shows me the notes. When we hold hands it's the way it should be. When we play for a cow audience it's all we need. The cows prob'ly don't care, but we do. We do it for each other. It's us. I don't know how to say it, really. But if anybody has a problem with him kissing me, it's their own problem, not ours. We might be the smallest kids in our class, but like Scott says, we'll grow. Together. Tell Mom to buy more Wheaties!"
Scott laughed, "Wheaties? Haha ... Haha. Good one, Joey."
Dave looked at us. "Woo! So much for my bashful little brothers. I'm hungry. What is Part two?"
If you have enjoyed this story please let the author know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org