“Oh! Play that back. See? I’m all blatted out.”
“I got it!” said Bobby. “Too much juice. You gotta hold back that tremendous gospel-mama voice till the second verse, when you’re risin’, and takin’ to the sky.”
“How’s the drums on that?” asked Mitchell. He turned one of 72 dials so they could hear.
“Goddamn perfect, said Jimmy, feigning disgust.
“Consider my ass kissed,” said Shawn.
“Are you from this planet?” asked Jimmy. “How come you know the changes before we make them?”
“I come from the galaxy Tam Boo Reen.”
“So you want to just re-cut the vocals?” asked Mitchell. “I can back off the guitars from here.”
Ivy was fighting not to laugh. Mitchell was so heroin skinny. And that spiky Kevin Bacon hairdo! She wanted to take him in her arms and gently yank him out of the ‘80s.
“Yeah, that’s fine,” she said, half-snickering. She took a U-turn down the hall and returned to the voice booth, where a circle of mesh dangled in front of the mic like a noodle strainer. She slapped on the headphones and heard Mitchell’s voice.
“Give me a minute to line it up. We’ll start from the blues lick.”
“Thanks,” said Ivy, closing her eyes. Minimize gospel mama.
The guitarists sat bass-lead-rhythm on the hallway couch.
“Hey,” said Pancho. “Where’s Tito Puente?”
“Prob’ly that bagel place across the street,” said Jimmy.
Exiting the studio, Pancho spotted Shawn at an outside table, watching his breath puff up toward the evergreen hills. Pancho sat on the table next to him and studied the overcast.
“Silverdale my ass,” he said. “Graysville.”
“Yeah,” said Shawn.
“You are really dead-on, dude. So important to have a good drummer on a recording session.”
“Thanks,” said Shawn.
“You seem tired, though.”
“Company Christmas party.”
“You have a...”
“Oh God! The boyfriend-on-a-stick thing. I hate that.”
“Tacoma’s company works in database management. And if you think that’s boring, you should meet the people.”
“Yuck. Did you at least get a meal?”
“Braised lamb shanks.”
“Yeah,” said Shawn.
Pancho went inside and bought a croissant. When he returned, Shawn was back to watching his breath.
“So what’s the problem?”
“Figured out a good strategy,” said Shawn. “Find a guy with an earring. Guy with an earring has to be halfway cool. This guy Mark was dragged along on boyfriend duty, too. And he plays guitar! Funk band. Hung out with him a good half-hour while the girls were makin’ the rounds, kissin’ corporate butt.”
“Pretty funny,” said Pancho.
“Turns out Mark’s girlfriend and Tacoma are best buds. We head up to their room for some Schnapps. Turns out Mark also had a pierced prick.”
“He showed you?”
“Nah. His girlfriend told us. No reason not to believe her. I just...”
Shawn quit the sentence as if he never started it.
“So what’s the problem?” asked Pancho.
Shawn emitted three more puffs of breath. The puffs joined up and set out for the sidewalk.
“Tacoma’s never had her own money before, and she’s got every right to enjoy it. But she calls and says, Honey, let’s do this, and let’s do that. All these expensive things. So I have to say, ‘I can’t,’ in that dreadful, pathetic tone, and now she’s in the position of paying for the both of us or not going at all. It’s like this smelly, annoying house guest, always in the room, stirring up trouble.”
“That sucks,” said Pancho.
“Yeah, and I got my resentments, too. Without Tacoma, I’d still be broke but I’d be having the time of my life. For Christ’s sake! I’m cutting a goddamn CD with a sexy new drum kit and a kick-ass blues band. Was that not precisely my life’s dream?”
“Yeah,” said Pancho. “But, without Tacoma, you’d be... without Tacoma.”
Pancho tried to manufacture a comforting thought, but then he spotted Ivy across the street, waving them over.
“I’ll buy you a brewski later, kid. Meanwhile, I think we’re back on the clock.”
“Gotcha,” said Shawn, and finished his coffee.
Photo by MJV