Falling Off a Log
Copyright © 2003, 2015
I met up with Scott and Keith right after the last bell. "Where's Nick?"
Keith said, "He'll meet us there. He had to stay after."
We waited a few minutes, then Keith said, "Here comes Brian. Let's go!"
An old Jimmy was pulling up to the curb. Keith's brother was pretty much like a bigger version of him. It was a two-door vehicle, so Keith held the seat forward while Scott and I climbed in back. Keith introduced us to Brian, who seemed just as pleasant as Keith.
"Where we headed?" Brian asked.
I said, "Bell Street, right near Park Avenue. It's just around the corner."
We pulled into our driveway, and I told Keith and Brian to wait while we went to get my stuff. Scott and I ran upstairs. I grabbed an extra set of strings and some picks, and shoved them in the case with my old guitar. My old amp was just a little practice amp, and you could carry it with one hand. When Scott went to grab the new one, he could barely budge it. Mike and my Dad had brought it up to the room, and I had no idea how heavy it was. We decided to get it just outside my door. I didn't want anyone seeing all the things in my room yet. We carried the old amp and my guitar down and asked Keith to come and help with the new amp, explaining that it was too heavy for us. Brian came with him and in a few minutes we were on our way to Scott's to get a microphone. After about forty five minutes total, we pulled up at Keith's house.
We hassled all the stuff down the stairs into the rec room, which was really a partly finished basement. One end was sectioned off with paneling and carpet. There wasn't much in there besides the drum set, a couch and a couple of chairs, end tables and lamps. The drums took up a lot of the space, and it looked like a nice set. A big set, too, with two bass drums.
Scott went about hooking up the little amp and the microphone. He had to keep moving the amp until he found a position where he didn't get feedback.
Keith helped me set up my amp, which still had the tags on it. I didn't even know how to use it! I got my guitar out and started to tune up when Nick came running down the stairs.
"Sorry I'm late. Detention."
He hooked up his bass, then tuned up to me. Keith sat at his drums, pumped the pedals a couple of times, banged the snare, tom-tom's and cymbals, and said "I'm ready. Whatcha wanna do?"
"You said you like @@@@@, right? Scott, you know some of that don't you?"
"I think so. Which one ya wanna try?"
Nick started the bass riff to one of Scott's father's most famous tunes. I asked him what key, and started to play the chords with him. Keith started on the drums. Luckily, it was the kind of intro that could go on forever. Scott looked petrified. I got beside him and yelled "Sing!" I lost the beat, as usual when I tried to talk and play, but I could see him mouthing "OK, bwana."
He came in on the next measure. His voice cracked immediately, but he stayed with it. He sang a little louder and it came out better. I could see the wisdom of my father's words. After about the first line, he just started to sing without any more nervousness. Everything sounded pretty good for a first try. Keith could definitely play the drums, and Nick had a great sense of what a bass means to a band. We were a little clunky and missed some changes, but it wasn't a bad try at all.
Keith suddenly stopped, and we all did. "Wow! That's great! We need to start again. It should be faster. Joe, try to play a little tighter."
I'd been playing a bit sloppy on purpose, having no idea what these guys would be like. "Sorry. Just a little nervous, I guess."
This time, Keith started off by setting the tempo on the rim of the snare drum. Nick and I started at the same time, and I threw in a little bit of the lead. Scott came in so strong that it startled me. He was singing more like he did yesterday. I started to just play a little more like I wanted. When it came time for the lead guitar part, I pretty much did what was on the record. I could be a great mimic. Nick was really into it, improvising the bass line while I did the guitar part. It really sounded pretty good!
When we ended, everyone was grinning. We were all looking at Scott, who was beaming all over.
"Holy shit! You can really sing!" cried Nick.
Scott grinned, "I always sang. I just didn't know it could be this much fun! You guys are great, too!"
Keith said, "Yeah! This is gonna be too fine. We need a name!"
I said, "Not yet. Let's get some stuff down." I looked around. Nick, little like me and Scott, so dark and with black hair. Keith, a big red lunk with a cheery face. Scott, all blonde and blue eyed. I had brown hair and kind of gray eyes. "How about Mutt and Jeff and Jeff and Jeff for now, until we get some stuff together? Or just MJ. It doesn't have to mean anything, does it?"
We stayed at it for about two hours, until Keith's father came home. He listened to a few songs and was very complimentary. When he got introduced to me and Scott, I knew right away that he also knew the Secret. It wasn't anything special, just the way he reacted when Keith introduced them. You could just see him trying not to say something like 'Like father, like son' or something else lame like that. Anyhow, you could see where Keith and Brian got their personalities and looks. He was a big red guy, too. But real friendly and nice. Not condescending at all. I liked him right away.
We packed it up for the day with promises of big things to come, compliments about each other's abilities, and how we'd blow the roof off the school if we got a job at one of the dances. Suddenly, Scott and I each had three friends. And, based on one afternoon at least, it looked like we would become friends.
Keith's Dad gave me and Scott a ride to my house. I left my amp at Keith's, but took the guitar. Scott sat in front, and I sat in back. On the way, Mr. Hensley told us that we'd have to look out after Nick. He said Nick was a nice kid, but he had some problems stemming from an unstable home life, though he didn't give us any details. He told us that if Nick tried to withdraw from whatever was going on to just leave him be for a while, but to stay nearby. He could get moody, but hated to feel abandoned. If we wanted to be friends with him we'd have to make considerations, but not to worry, Nick wouldn't hurt a fly himself, it's just that he was easily hurt by others.
When we got to my house, my Dad was in the garage with the lights on. Mr. Hensley got out with us. He knew my Dad a little, I guess, and just went to say hi and make some small talk.
"Dad! We had a band practice and it was unbelievable!"
"Yeah!" said Scott. We played all my Dad's stuff and it sounded real good. For the first time, anyhow."
My Dad's glare told Scott that he had slipped up, but if Mr. Hensley made anything of it, he gave no indication. My Dad said, "You punks didn't waste any time. So who's in the band?"
"Keith Hensley and Nick Cassa... something."
"Nicky Cassarino," said Mr. Hensley. "They really sounded pretty good, Sid. Maybe the next big thing coming from this town. If they can come up with their own music."
"Is Mom home?" I asked.
"Not yet, but there's stuff for sandwiches if you're hungry."
We sprinted for the kitchen and, after filling up, went up to my room.
"This was another awesome day, Scott. I can't believe so much could happen. I'm flyin, man." I hugged him. He hugged me back.
"I had fun, too. You're Dad was right. As soon as I started to sing, I felt fine. I felt great. I loved it!" We were still in a tight hug. Cheek to cheek. Scott pulled back a little and looked me in the eyes. He looked seriously happy. "We're on our way, boss. We're growing up."
He kissed me. On the lips. He backed, off and looked at me again. Then we began kissing in earnest.
I wondered if the feeling I got was what people called the hots.
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