This week’s rehearsal “studio” for the Flamefarts was a basement room in an old elementary school which had been converted into a small community center, where they held tai chi classes and square dances and fund raising spaghetti dinner events for local organizations. The band was practicing in a janitor’s storage room. In school days, this room had been the teacher’s lounge, and the walls and ceiling were stained yellow with nicotine. Now there was cleaning paraphernalia and many folding chairs and tables everywhere, as well as a few broken down vending machines. The room smelled of high-powered cleaning chemicals.
After the second verse of the new song, “Barb-wire Streisand” things had fallen apart.
“That’s where we go to F sharp, Lump,” Guy said for the sixth time that night.
“You sure?” Lump Bumpus, the bass player, said for the fifth time.
“Yeh, it’s badda-daaa, ba-da, ba-da, ba-ba, bamp, bamp, bob, F SHARP!...” barked Herm Rottweiler, playing it lightly on his guitar as he barked.
“…Oh yeah,” mumbled Lump.
“Ya know, I’m not sure that change is working for me,” Dude Igneous said, adjusting his hi-hat clutch. “The chords are fine, but it feels like it should have a new feel. Something like-” Dude played a driving beat on his drums; a lot of ride cymbal, syncopated snare.
Rott shook his head. “Sounds like John Bonham trying to play jazz. What if we do the chords a little differently, like-” Rott set the chords high on the neck of his strat, playing off-beats.
Guy shook his head. “Sounds like Dick Dale trying to play reggae.”
Lump waved a hand. “So the F sharp part goes…?” Lump played a lick that no one recognized.
“I think that’s from ‘Lord of the Flies’ by Iron Maiden,” Guy said eventually.
“…Oh yeah,” mumbled Lump.
“I’ve always thought it just needs more drive there, like-” Guy drove the rhythm hard on the fat strings. He spat the rhythm through his teeth as he played. The others in the room watched, motionless. Lump’s jaw gaped. Rott had that sneer (it was hard to tell if this was good or bad; Rott sneered at everything). No one said a word for a few seconds after Guy had stopped. There was only the faint hum of the amps.
“Nah.” Said Mary and Rott in unison.
“Let’s just try it once more like we had it.” Dude was getting impatient.
“So the F sharp part goes…?” Lump played another unknown lick.
After a pause of indredulity, Rott chimed, “I think that one’s from ‘No More Lies’. Hey, it’s ‘Guess the Iron Maiden Tune’ night. For now, just peg on F sharp.”
“Let’s just try it again.” Guy said.
Dude counted off. The band was solid on the first verse and chorus. After the second verse, things fell apart.
“It’s getting late. The janitor’s gonna want to lock up pretty soon.” Guy said. “Maybe we should call it. We’ll sort this tune out next time.”
Most of the band started breaking down and packing up. Lump was still trying to remember what they’d shown him for the F sharp section after the second verse. After a few minutes, he was back to playing Iron Maiden licks.
“Come on, Lump.” Guy said. “Time.”
As Guy was angling his amp into his trunk, Mary Dynasty crossed the parking lot from her vehicle to him.
“Hey, didn’t you meet with Roger Pretentious the other day? How’d that go? What’d he say?” Mary asked.
“It was kind of confusing.” Guy began, “No. It was VERY confusing. He wouldn’t tell me anything directly. He asked a lot of questions, and when I answered, he would either giggle, or just say, ‘Mm hm’. He asked a lot about you, as a matter of fact.”
“What kinds of questions?” Mary asked, not sure if she was flattered.
“He knows about my job, and the Marauders, and how tight my schedule is right now. But that didn’t seem to matter to him much. The kinds of things he asked about seemed to indicate travel. I’m wondering if he has some kind of tour in mind for us. But the questions were weird. He asked stuff like, do I get homesick; do I have problems with altitude; do I like foreign food. The kicker was he wanted to know about my bladder. It seemed important to know how much I pee. I mean how often.”
“How often you pee?” Mary asked.
“Yeah. I told him about the time I drove from here to Lake Bink two states away, and only stopped once. That seemed to impress him,” Guy laughed, and was disturbed by how much his laugh reminded him of Pretentious’ giggle. “He said he hoped the others in the band have similar self-control.”
Mary was confused, but noticeably excited. “What was he asking about me?”
Guy shook his head. “That was one of the most confusing parts. He wanted to know how familiar you are with Russian classical music. It seemed very important to him. Do you know anything about that stuff?”
Mary’s eyes widened. “I did my final research project on Prokofiev,” she whispered, awed by the coincidence.
Guy shrugged. “Pretentious will probably love that. He might want us to throw a few samples of Russian music into our songs.”
Mary explored the possibilities in her mind. “There is the one part where we use Glenn Miller in ‘Fur-Lined Garbage Can’. I could change it to Mussorgsky or something.”
“That would heighten the drama, I guess.” Guy said. “But let’s not change anything just yet. I don’t even know what he’s getting at. He said he needs to check a few things, and he’ll call next week sometime with more details. That’s why I didn’t say anything at practice; I don’t know anything yet. Maybe we’re going on a Russian tour. And maybe there’s no porta-potties in Russia.”