fairly productive weekend. got a couple small chapters reworked into one that I think is better length. guess the proof will be in the reading. at any rate, hope it’s enjoyable. I think I’m actually starting to get back in the swing of writing. or at least – REwriting…
8 ~ Subject to Change ~
Jared’s car sat in my drive. I had not yet left the passenger seat; my last quickly gulped whiskey was starting to burn its way through my system, leaving me somewhat sluggish. Jared had turned in his seat and was studying me, a gentle look in his eyes.
“Are you ok? You’re looking flushed. Thanks again for coming, Paul. It was nice checking the place out with a friend.”
I stretched languidly, unbuckling my seat belt. “I had a good time, Jer. It’s a nice enough place, though might be nicer once the newness wears off. And yeah, I’m ok, just a bit … tired I suppose.” I reached for the door handle but missed it. Grinned and tried again, this time working the door open but almost fell through the opening.
“Hold on, let me help you.” Before I could protest, he had left the car and moved around to my side. He put a hand under my arm and lifted. “Up slow now.”
I stood and leaned back against the car frame. “Guess it’s been a while since I had anything hard. Seems to have gone straight to my head.”
Jared laughed. I knew that sound and was expecting exactly the kind of remark I got.
“I could help you with something hard. Especially if you’re having strange sensations in the head.”
I looked him in the eye. “If that was a come on, it was a bit vague, my friend.”
“I’m not going to take advantage of your condition.”
“What condition? Ok, maybe a touch tipsy, but I can still function.”
“Functioning could be good…”
“There you go again. If you want something, you should just come out and ask for it. Keep in mind I will most likely turn you down.”
“Then what’s the point in asking? You know I’m fond of you. And you know how much I would love sharing your bed. I have always enjoyed sex with you. But, like I said, I’m not going to take advantage.”
“If I said ‘yes’ you wouldn’t be taking advantage.”
“Wouldn’t I? I’m not so sure. Are you saying ‘yes’?”
Moment of truth came and I paused to consider. Yes, I was mildly ‘under the influence’. Yes, I was horny. And yes, I too enjoyed sex with my friend. But something else nagged at the back of my brain. “I think, maybe, I will just say goodnight.” I turned to face him. “I don’t want to do this drunk.”
His smile could have melted steel. “Yeah. Me either. But I did have fun.”
“Me too.” I leaned over and pecked his cheek. “Good night, Jer.”
“Good night, Paul.”
I pushed myself from the car and headed for the kitchen door.
“You ok to get in?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Woozy but aware.” I pulled my keys from my pocket and unlocked the door. As I stepped in I paused and turned back to him. “Thanks for having me come. I really did have a good time.”
“Me too. Good night.”
Jared closed the passenger door then moved around to climb in. I closed the kitchen door and latched it, then watched through the window as he backed out the drive. Once he was gone I made my way through the dark house to my room, pulling the snaps of my shirt open. I sat on the bed to remove my boots, then undressed and slid into the bed. I was out before my head hit the pillow.
~ – – – ~
Sunday. Nine-thirty in the morning and I was just waking up. Normally by this time Annie and I would be in church. Holding hands while reading … I sat up and swung my feet to the floor. I scratched my head, stretched, then stood – quite happy to not be suffering from anything more than a dull headache. A couple of aspirin and a long cool shower and I was feeling good again. No regrets from the previous night with the exception perhaps of the run-in with Tommy. Somehow I had the feeling my next time at the club might be uncomfortable. Though that had seemed to be the ‘norm’ of late, maybe it wouldn’t be too bad.
I threw on sweat pants and a t-shirt and padded barefoot to the kitchen. A good breakfast just sounded great to my brain, and my stomach was loud in agreement, so I pulled the pan and started to rifle through the refrigerator. Ham and egg omelet with English muffins. Perfect. I grabbed a small ham steak, block of cheese and the egg bin and set them on the counter. Then back to the fridge for a green bell pepper and pulled a stalk of fresh celery. A firm tomato and a portabello from the pantry, and I was ready to rock.
I grabbed the cutting board, a good knife, the grater for the cheese and setup shop to the left of the sink. I started by dicing the celery and sliding the pieces into a small bowl to be joined soon by the diced tomato. A quick wipe of the mushroom with a paper towel, then it was sliced and added to the growing bowl of ingredients. I grated some of the cheese onto a small plate and laid three eggs on the plate as well before returning the eggs and cheese block to the refrigerator. I was cubing the ham steak when the phone chirped. I leaned over and hit the ‘speaker’ button.
“Veroll house, Paul speaking.”
“Hey Paul, it’s Mike.”
“Mike? What’s going on?”
“I need your help.”
“My help? How can I help?”
“I need you in Chicago as soon as you can get here.”
“Ok Mike, you’re losing me. Chicago?”
“Yeah, it’s in Illinois.” He laughed.
I added oil to the hot pan and tossed in the ham chunks, giving the pan a couple shakes to coat the meat. “Oh, that Chicago. C’mon, Mike. Give. What’s going on?”
“What’s that sound? You washing dishes?”
“Making breakfast. Don’t change the subject.”
“Omelet. And you’re still changing the subject. Why do you want me in Chicago?”
“Need, Paul. I need you here. A.S.A.P.”
“Can it at least wait until after breakfast?”
“Only if you bring me some. Seriously, dude. I can use your help.”
“Anything I can do. But what is the problem? Why Chicago?”
“Mac fell during the set last night – they think he had a stroke.”
“Damn, man, I’m sorry. But I still don’t get why you need me there. I’m not a doctor.”
“Ha. I’ve known you to play doctor. But you’re missing the point. Mac is down. Out. I have no piano player!”
“Oh.” I removed the pan from the heat and turned my attention fully to the call. I picked up the phone and switched off the speaker. “Sorry, guess I’m a little dense. Late night last night. Anyway, is Mac ok?”
“They say he’ll be fine, but motor skills may never be back to what they were. I think it’s breaking his heart.”
“I can imagine. Ok, so I’m guessing you want me to cover until you find a new pianist?”
“No, Paul. I want you to be my pianist. You know my style, you’re strong on improv – I know you’re a quick study. I’d like you to take the position. Permanently.”
Silence. On both ends of the line.
“Hello? Paul, are you there? What’s going on? Hello Paul!”
I think I went into shock. My mind was in a whirlwind, so much information flashing from all direction, music, work, friends, family – almost too much to handle. Certainly too much to try to sort out all at once.
“Sorry, Mike. I’m still here. Just … surprised.”
“Understandable. But will you do it? Can I count on you?”
“Ok, I have to think. But, for now, yes – I can get to Chicago and at least help you out of the immediate crunch. I’m not going to make promises for the long term. Not yet. You have to give me time.”
There was a heavy sigh at the other end of the line. “Alright. Thanks. I guess I can understand, I did dump a large load in your front yard with this. Ok, next downbeat isn’t until Friday so we have time to get you to Chicago and run through some things. How long for you to catch a flight?”
“Wednesday. I can be there Wednesday morning. Maybe Tuesday night.”
“Awesome.” Another sigh, this one of relief? “I can’t thank you enough. Let me know if you need help, I can wire you money.”
“What? No, I got that covered, but thanks. Keep the cash – you’re taking me out to eat someplace expensive when I get there.”
He laughed. “Deal. One more thing. I’ve left word for Jared. I need him to come with.”
“You haven’t met Stacy have you?”
“Stacy?” Now I was fully confused.
“Stacy is Mac’s wife. Well, girlfriend actually. Anyway, she runs our sound. With Mac down she’s out too – I need a sound engineer.”
“Can Jared get the time off? Work at the Sound Labs keeps him hopping.”
“I know; I’m hoping he has time. If not maybe he’ll know of someone. Anyway, could you touch base with him, make sure he got my message and understands how big this is?”
“Sure, Mike. I’ll let you know what he says.”
“You’re a true friend, Paul. But hey, this could be fun, the three caballeros back together.”
I laughed at the Disney reference. “You do realize that was the three gay caballeros?”
“Whatever. Look, I gotta check on Mac. Just get with me to give me details of when you arrive and all so I can pick you up. And thanks again, Paul.”
“Sure thing, Mike. Talk to you soon.”
I hung up the phone and shook my head in a vain effort to settle down the rush of information. I started to punch up Jared’s number when there was a screech in the drive followed shortly by someone banging on the door. I put the phone down and walked over to let him in.
“Has Mike called you?” he asked, half out of breath.
“Just hung up with him, was about to call you.” I closed the door behind him as he stepped in.
“So fill me in. Mac had a stroke and he wants us to come to Chicago is about all I got out of it.”
I moved to the stove. “Right. Look, I’m about to make myself some breakfast. You want some omelet?”
He plopped onto a stool at the island counter. “Oh yeah, sounds good. With pepper and mushrooms?”
I grabbed two more eggs from the fridge. “Of course.” I turned on the stove and grabbed my bigger fry pan to set over the flame. As it heated I added some olive oil and dumped in the ham chunks from the smaller pan, smiling at the comforting sizzle.
“Like you said, Mac had a stroke. So he wants me to help out on the piano. Also, I guess Mac’s girl Stacy normally runs sound and has bailed also to be with Mac. So Mike wants you to come along and take care of sound. Can you get the time off from the ‘Labs’?”
“Huh? Oh yeah, shouldn’t be a problem. Sounds like Mike though – he doesn’t let much keep him from gigging.”
“I imagine he’s got contracts to fulfill. Music world isn’t all that forgiving.”
“No, I suppose that’s right. Damn, man that smells good.”
I laughed and added the celery. I grabbed a clove of garlic then glanced at Jared. “You don’t mind some flavor, right?”
“Garlic? Nah – add it.”
I crushed the garlic, removed the shell then chopped it up and added it to the oil. “Sorry I’m out of onions.”
“I think we’ll live. So, did Mike say how long he thinks he’ll need us for?”
The smell of garlic filled the room as I added the bell pepper and gave the mixture a toss. “You’re sitting down? Good. I’m not sure about you – but he asked if I would take the piano position permanently.”
“Awesome. And the world turns full circle. You were just getting into the studios when you met Annie.”
“Yeah. Seems a lifetime ago now. Those were fun days.” I whipped the eggs in a bowl with a fork, stirred in the tomato, then poured the mixture into the pan with a quick stir to blend. “Was a rough time for a while, deciding between my chasing music and starting a family.”
“You actually surprised me with that one. At the time, I didn’t think even Annie could convince you to settle down.”
I had to laugh. “It was push and shove; for a while I doubted we’d make it through. But I made the right choice. I wouldn’t change any of it. Well … most of it.” I sighed and pulled at the eggs to check doneness. “Ok … cross your fingers.” I lifted the pan and swirled it to make sure everything was loose, then did a flip. A wide grin split my face as the omelet turned over and landed centered on the pan.
“Nice work! I should have caught that on video.”
I laughed again. “Probably should have. Not sure I could duplicate that again. Hey – do me a favor? Split a couple of the English muffins, they’re at the toaster, and pop them in for me.”
He stood and moved over to get the muffins ready. I sprinkled the cheese over the eggs then used my wooden spatulas to start rolling it. Once done I took it from the heat, split it onto two plates, then garnished with the remainder of the cheese. I set each plate at the table, grabbed a couple of glasses and pulled the milk from the fridge just as Jared was bringing the hot muffins fresh from the toaster.
“Timing is everything,” I stated.
“I’ve always thought so,” he retorted with a wink.
I just shook my head. “Sit down and eat.”
The next few minutes we ate in silence, my mind still half-numb with the offer of going back to my music full time. Can I do that? I want to, there’s no doubt there. But do I have the energy to do it now? At this point in my life am I ready to uproot everything and start over? And what of Cheryl? I drank half a glass of milk and glanced to my friend on my right. Or Jared. Do I really want to start over with my life?
“You’re too quiet,” he said. “That can’t be a good thing for your digestion, it means you’re thinking and if I know you, over-thinking.”
I munched on an English muffin. “I do not over-think things … that much.”
He looked around the room. “Coffee?”
“Right, give it a minute. I set it up but forgot to start it when the phone rang.” I stood and reached over to hit the ‘On’ button for the coffee maker.
“Thanks,” he said around a mouthful of omelet. “You know, you’d make some guy a great husband.”
“I already was one.”
“Well, maybe a great wife then.”
“Shut up, Jared.”