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Jimmy Catarino was having a hell of a time with the intro. The three guitarists played an opening riff while Shawn smacked hip-hop doubles on the snare. Then they would cut, count three beats (near as Shawn could tell) and come back with a trio of chords on the off-beats.
The problem came at the third go-round, where Stevie Ray Vaughan had tossed in two extra beats. Jimmy, having heard the song a thousand times, was going by feel when he should have been counting with the rest of them.
“Try it this way,” said Bobby. He played the riff then counted, “Five six seven eight one-and...”
Jimmy looked confused.
“No-no,” said Shawn. Just play to the break and count five beats from there. NA-na-NA, na-NAAA, na-na-na NA-na-NA – one two three four five NA NA NA na-NA-na-NA...”
Jimmy squeezed his forehead. “Brain... hurts!”
“It’s getting late,” said Ivy. “What say we leave this till next time and let Jimmy listen to the tape?”
“Yes!” said Jimmy.
Shawn was undoing the wing nut on his crash cymbal when Pancho came up, wearing a do-rag that made him look like a biker.
“Hey Shawn. That Guinness pretty good?”
“When I’m drumming, I drink nothing else. The Irish are a rhythmic people.”
“Sure. In the fridge. Just be sure to pour it in a glass right away. It’s got this little nitrogen activator that makes it fizz up.”
“It’s like the ball bearing in a can of spray paint.”
“Oh. Okay. Thanks.”
Next was Ivy, winding a mircrophone cord around her arm.
“Hey Shawn. Did you ask about the studio?”
“Yeah. We’re all set. All we need is some decor. I’ll handle the cleaning and painting, but I’ll need you guys to bring some furnishings: a rug, some chairs, posters.”
“Oh. I didn’t tell you – I can’t do Wednesdays anymore.”
“Nasty, dirty sex?”
“If you mean the good kind, yes.”
“Sorry. Living vicariously. What if we just show up an hour early on Thursday?”
“Groovy. What is that noise?”
“Metal sorta clicking noise?”
They went to the kitchen, where Pancho was shaking his Guinness like a can of spray paint.
Shawn didn’t know what to expect from Richard’s studio. So much more the surprise when Shelly opened the door to a blank white room with beige industrial carpets and a row of empty cabinets. The only oddity was a water stain next to a door that had been nailed shut. He surmised that Richard must have rigged a hose through the door for his “cooking.”
“By the way,” said Shelly. “I’m still paying you.”
“No way!” said Shawn.
Shelly put a hand to his forearm. “Awful lot of bad karma, Shawn.”
“I’ll use primer.”
She fixed him with her eyes. “It’ll take more than paint. It’s going to take hours and hours of music. So please, let me pay you.”
Shawn smiled. “I’m just poor enough to say yes.”
“Oh, and one more thing.”
“Go nuts. Colors that you would never recommend to anyone. And make them work. But for now, you’re on your, ‘cause this place is giving me the creeps.”
With such demanding deadlines – musical and decorative – Shawn was grateful for the new arrangement with Tacoma. He missed her, though, found himself audibly sighing as he worked. He had never believed that lovers actually did such things, had always dismissed them as Shakespearean exaggerations.
He painted the walls in a precarious lemon yellow, the mouldings, trim and cabinets in a lime green called Yucca Spring. Then he took a bright terra cotta to the front door, and the round wooden knobs of the cabinets.
He unscrewed one of the knobs, dipped it into the terra cotta and stamped circles along the tops of the walls. Using generous amounts and making three circles for each dipping, he guaranteed that each of his creatures would display a unique sets of drips and flaws.
“Wow! Shawn! Lemon-lime! Dude!”
Ivy entered with four exclamations and a cardboard tube.
“Here. We need to figure out our territories and mark them accordingly.”
Shawn extracted the posters and knew his at a black-and-white drumstick.
“Gene Krupa! Righteous!”
Ivy let out a shopper’s grin. “I knew you’d like it. You’ll also find Stevie Ray in a fringed sombrero...”
“Jimmy,” said Shawn.
“And old sepia-tone Robert Johnson...”
“Charlie Mingus in a smoke-filled room...”
“Bobby. And for Ivy, I’m guessing... Janis Joplin?”
“Not even close!”
“Ah,” said Shawn, unrolling a young Ella Fitzgerald. “Excellent choice.”
Pancho showed up with an old Persian rug, Jimmy with a rag-tag loveseat. Bobby brought beer. Shawn sat at his drums for half an hour as the guitarists tuned up and discussed obscure new devices for distorting sound. At the first second of silence they all looked at each other.
“Okay,” said Jimmy. “I have applied actual numbers to the Stevie Ray Conundrum, and I think I’ve got it. Count us off, Shawn?”
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