Tears Are For Mothers
CHRISTMAS DAY 1997
“I want you to know you ruined a perfectly good marriage,” Walter’s stepmother said from the side of his bed. “I want you to know it’s all your fault.” Although he didn’t know it at the time, these bedside words would be her last to him. Four years later she would be dead.
His stepmother had never wanted children, and especially not from her husband’s extramarital one-night stand during a business trip to L.A. But she persevered through the first ten years of Walter’s life on a heavy prescription of spirits and cruelty until they could no longer assuage her hatred for him. Now, less than two months away from his eleventh birthday, his parents were divorcing, and she’d awoken him in the middle of a chilly Christmas night to say her final goodbye.
As her rum-rotted breath bore down on him along with the full weight of her body, he wanted to cry, but instead he chomped into his lips until the insides began to bleed. He didn’t want her to see him crying. Tears are for mothers.
Walter’s stepmother had been threatening his father with divorce for as long as Walter could remember. In the last year, however, her threats had escalated upon Walter’s joining of the Mormon church ten months earlier. In the beginning, she not so much hated the church, just the person who introduced him to it, his maternal grandmother, the only relative he had contact with on his birth mother’s side. But once his father began showing an interest in the church and as a consequence was considering quitting drinking, his stepmother’s alcoholic logic stepped in and she began believing and telling him the church was of Satan.
Disturbed by this, his father decided to quit the church and became even more committed to his drinking. His wife’s happiness and respect for that happiness always came first as she was burdened with the constant sorrow of his infidelity: Walter. And when alcoholic logic is empowered by guilt, even fatherly logic doesn’t stand a chance.
Normally on Christmas Walter was with his grandmother, but this year she was across the country in her home state of Pennsylvania burying her sister who had died a week earlier. While he was allowed to visit his grandmother during Christmas and summer, back at home, he was forbidden to speak about her or make any mention of his time with her because it upset his stepmother too much. Also, while his father let Walter visit his grandmother against his stepmother‘s wishes, he too preferred not to acknowledge or hear about his grandmother’s existence.
That morning, however, when Walter couldn’t find the present he knew his grandmother had sent to his Arizona home, he asked his father where it was in front of his stepmother, and that mention was all it took. As punishment, she threw all of Walter’s Christmas presents away, which were only a few. But after his father found his grandmother’s present in the outside trash can, his father not only gave it to Walter, but also gave back all his other presents. To his stepmother, this betrayal by her husband was unforgivable.
They then spent the rest of Christmas in their shuttered “adult room”, which was essentially an at-home saloon, fighting and drinking, leaving Walter to fend for himself with the exception of a parakeet his parents kept in the living room. They didn’t bother to ever let the bird out of its cage or give it a name, but he had given it a name.
“Wally, look what I got from Grandma,” he said holding three cassette tapes to the bird’s cage, “new Metallica!”
Every year Walter sent his grandmother a list of songs for his Christmas mixtapes, and every year she’d take a trip to her local library to find the CDs to make them. The last two years, however, his mixtapes were nothing but Metallica. Although his grandmother wasn’t fond of the sound, the lyrics were scant of swearing, so she figured little damage was being done.
Back in Walter’s bedroom, his father at last came in and dragged the slurring and slobbering nightmare away from his bedside, but her rum and cigarette scented phantom lingered long after the door slammed and his parents verbal throttling moved back to their “adult room”. Ten minutes later, he heard car keys, then the front door slam. That slam would be the last Walter would hear of his stepmother. All her belongings would be moved out two weeks later while he was at school.
As he stared up at the ceiling, still processing, he became so overcome all at once with joy, guilt, anger, and fear, he didn’t know which to express. This happened a lot. His feelings would get so dammed up, they’d explode in bursts of either untamed energy or sapping incapacity. So he did what he always did when he felt like this; he prayed to God to kill him because it was a sin to do it himself. But this burden of feelings was crushing him from the inside in.
After praying, he then closed his eyes and plugged his ears, trying to disconnect himself from his body. He wanted to feel what he imagined death to be: a carefree nothing. He always hoped the nothing would remain, but yet again, after he opened his eyes and uncovered his ears, it never did. God always left him hopelessly alive.
After God failed him, Walter then turned to the only other option he had left: Metallica. He reached into his nightstand for a Walkman preloaded with a mixtape for sleeping, pressed play, and faded into the loud hiss of the worn-out tape and reels while pretending a gun barrel was down his throat repeatedly blasting his brains against the headboard. Nothing could calm his mind like fantasizing death and Metallica. If he wanted to die, it was “Fade To Black”. If he wanted his parents to die, it was “Dyer’s Eve”. If he wanted the whole world to die it was “Blacken”, “Fight Fire With Fire”, or the many others he could choose from. Tonight he wanted to purge himself of it all.
On Walter’s eleventh birthday, however, God did answer his prayers. He didn’t kill Walter, but potentially saved his life by granting him something a lot better for coping with his emotions than just Metallica: a guitar, a birthday gift from the one persistent source of love in his life: his grandmother.
Six months later, she was then granted full custody over him thanks to his father’s fist hospitalizing Walter after he dumped out three of his father’s newly-purchased rum bottles. That fist would be the last Walter would know of his father.
“Is my band here yet?” Walter asked over the microphone. The question bounced and repeated off the rising rock walls of the amphitheater, then jumped up the steep ascents of empty benches. “Woah . . . woah—woah—woah…” he said in amazement. “That was cool . . . cool—cool—cool…”
He then began warming up his Wurlitzer in front of him with a few caressing chords. The rock cathedral sang back, wrapping his body in an icy bliss, amplified by the Molly still in his system. It felt so good it produced a hard-on. Lola had been doing her best to find him distractions, and on a major U.S. tour for one of the biggest rock groups of the nineties, distractions were aplenty, including plenty of girls and plenty of drugs.
“Walter . . . Walter...” the sound guy said over the monitor.
“Yes?” he replied.
“You can stop playing now, we’ve got it dialed in.”
He had been repeatedly drilling a deep E chord into the amphitheater to see if he could get himself to cum.
“Oh sorry Joe,” Walter said, “just having fun. It just sounds and feels so good.”
“I know, Red Rocks, pretty spectacular, huh? I sometimes forget working here. Well, until the rest of the band gets here, your part of soundcheck is over. You’re using the Wurlitzer on how many songs again?”
“Just the new one. I might use it on a couple others, but I was hoping to run through them with the band during soundcheck . . . Lola, any word?”
Lola was above on one of the very upper benches. She threw back an invisible beer bottle, a familiar gesture between them now that the band was hungover again. Their one o’clock soundchecks were becoming increasingly more difficult to make.
“They should be here in about twenty minutes,” Lola shouted down. “So sorry Joe.”
“It’s all right,” Joe said over the house PA. “There’s an hour weather delay tonight anyhow. Those clouds in the distance are supposed to bring some lightning. Might still be a little rain when you guys get onstage, but supposedly it’s going to pass by eight-thirty or so. Anyway Walter, you’re free to go for now.”
“Uh, hey Joe. You mind if I run through a full song on the Wurlitzer first?” Walter wasn’t ready to stand yet.
“Sure, take her for a spin.”
Walter took a moment to compose himself while listening to the chirping birds and coiling wind roiling in the echoes of the amphitheater. It was already beginning to smell of wet earth. Amber always said she found something calming in the anticipation of a storm, and why “See The Sky About to Rain” was her favorite song.
Walter played her favorite song, and by the end he no longer had his boner, just a face full of tears.
When the rest of the band finally arrived for soundcheck they were a number of things, but mostly drunk. Whether this was from the night before or that morning was hard to tell. The tour was nearing its end and Seano, Squids, and Jimmy had fallen into all-day-all-night partying schedules where they were always drinking off ever-approaching hangovers. When this stopped working, they began adding progressively harder drugs, and although Walter wasn’t certain, he had suspicions at least Squids was dancing with the musician’s devil itself: heroin. After shows recently, Walter often saw his head nodding and eyes rolling a bit too much to just be drunkenness or fatigue. He’d also suddenly taken to wearing only long sleeves in the dead of summer.
While Walter was obviously enjoying himself too, drug use rarely went outside of weed for him. The Molly the night before was his first ever, and while he thoroughly enjoyed and was still enjoying it, no drug was greater than the stage to him. The stage was his oasis from the ceaseless, internal whispers of blame harassing him offstage. Onstage they no longer reached him because he was no longer in Walter’s head, he was in Quinn Quark’s. And everybody loved Quinn. Quinn was faultless. He only brought music and joy to people, not death and destruction.
The tour and Cirkus’s intensive PR work had done wonders for Perfect Crime—or more specifically Quinn Quark. Most if not all the press’s attention was shed on their charismatic and attractive front man, and it was deepening an already widening rift between Walter and his band. His band somehow felt he was to blame, but he felt they had no one to blame but themselves. He was the one putting all the work in while they were acting like all the work was done and partying was their new career, even though they had yet to record their debut album.
“So did anyone practice the new song?” Walter asked his band, again at the helm of the Wurlitzer.
“I don’t know how we could’ve when you haven’t even showed us how to play it yet,” Squids said.
“But I gave you all a demo and sheet music.”
“None of us know how to read sheet music, let alone your wacky version of it Walter.”
“But that’s why I created it. It’s easier to understand than traditional notation because it doesn’t require clefts, accidentals, or having to count leger lines since my six-line stave can accommodate all twelve tones in an octave. Each octave is then assigned to a variety of note shapes I use instead of just ovals. Really, it’s very simple.”
His bandmates looked at him vacantly.
Walter exhaled. “Well, regardless,” he said, “you should at least know how to learn by ear. For God’s sake, you’re professional musicians now.”
“Get off your fucking high horse,” Squids said. “ I think you’ve forgotten we’re a rock n’ roll band, not the L.A. Phil. Besides, this new song, well, I just don’t think it sounds like us.”
“What do you mean ‘us’?” Walter said. “When have you ever made a contribution to the sound of ‘us’ Squids?”
“Hm, maybe by being the one who started this fucking band.”
“You started a tribute band. This is not a tribute band anymore.”
“Yeah, so what? Does that mean I’m not allowed to have a say in the songs anymore? And I say this song isn’t us, and everyone thinks so but you Walter.”
“Oh really?” Walter turned to his guitarist and drummer. They looked around timidly, waiting for the other to answer. “Seano?” Walter asked directly.
“Uh… I mean the song is good man,” Seano said, scratching his mop of curly black hair while keeping his eyes to the ground. “But ya know, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here, just keep it going. We’re supposed to be a rock n’ roll band, and this song and the piano is... well, we’re not sure if it’s rock n’ roll.”
“Jimmy?” Walter asked his drummer.
“Yeah, I just don’t like the song,” he said. “And to be honest, I don’t know how I’d even play to it.”
“Sorry to interrupt,” Joe the sound guy said from their monitors, “but we’ve got to wrap this soundcheck up in ten minutes.
“Fuck! . . . fuck!—fuck!—fuck!...” Walter yelled into the heavens. “Fine. I’ll just play it as a solo piece tonight.”
Mischief hour. Front of house mixing board, ten minutes, Lola’s text read about half an hour after soundcheck. Mischief hour was what she and Walter called the typically two to three hour span between soundcheck and doors when the venues were left relatively empty for their exploiting.
“Where to?” Walter asked once at the mixing board. Lola had been scouting during soundcheck.
“It’s a secret,” she said, “but not far. We’ll need to hurry though, the sound crew just went to eat lunch backstage.”
“Yeah, I passed them in the tunnel . . . Wait, we’re not doing it here in the sound booth are we?”
“No,” she said smiling, “we’re doing it in the tunnel.”
“The tunnel? No... But yes. It’s so risky though. All the staff uses the tunnel.”
“I know, but most of the staff just went to lunch, so we’ve got at least a half hour where it will most likely be without traffic. But let’s not dawdle.” She took his hand and began walking.
“Don’t worry,” Walter said. “I shouldn’t be long today. Soundcheck got me pretty primed.”
While Lola always went on her bands’ first tours to build a close and personal relationship upfront, with Walter, it’d grown to a new degree at a dizzying speed. Neither of them saw it coming, but in the past month and a half she’d seen him through some heavy hours offstage, and under pressure, comfort can easily ignite into sex if the chemistry is right. Luckily for them, however, there was a safety net from falling in love; Lola was much more lesbian than bi. Although indifferent to her sex partners, mechanically, she could only fall in love with another woman, which for the moment was ideal for Walter. He wanted nothing to do with love after Amber, but everything to do with sex. He was finding it to be the only way he could silence his inner voices other than being onstage. And other than being onstage, Lola was the best silencer he had ever had.
“Whose signature do you want to do it by?” Walter asked once they reached the gray-brick tunnel, lined in white light and thick vines of electrical conduit and wire. It had become tradition for every artist who played Red Rocks to sign this tunnel. Its walls, floors, and ceiling were soiled in legendary names. It had also become a tradition for Lola and Walter to “christen” each new venue with his semen before the show for good luck.
“How about your signature?” Lola said and presented him a permanent marker from her purse.
“Can’t it wait until after?” he asked. “I wanted to write something memorable and it’s a little hard to think right now.”
“Nope, now. I want to look at it while we do it.”
“Fine,” he said taking the marker and finding a mostly blank space on the wall. “How’s this sound? For a good time, call Lola at 213-413—” she punched his side.
“Just write your name for now,” she said.
“But which one, Quinn or Walter?”
“I don’t know, you decide.”
“Well, it’s Quinn playing here, so I guess him . . . All right, I got it,” he said and began writing. “There: Red Rox, A little part of me will stay 4ever w/u. ♡ Quinn Quark.”
“Perfect,” Lola said and kissed him. “Now let’s get to it.”
“You bring the condoms?” Walter asked.
“Of course,” she said taking one out of her purse. “But make sure you take it off before you shoot this time. Remember it only works if the venue gets the full load. You need to show it who’s bitch.”
“I refuse to believe Merriweather was a result of me letting off into the condom instead of onto the floor,” he said taking the condom. “It was just the first time the place was as full for us as it was for Jester, and it’s the biggest venue on the tour. I wasn’t prepared for that many people and just freaked out a little.”
“A little?” she said undoing his belt. “Your band had to play an entire song without you because you forgot the words. You sure you want to risk Red Rocks?”
He thought about it, then shook his head no.
“Good,” she said as his pants hit the floor. She then took the condom out of his hand and put it on him. “Now come on...” she said positioning herself against the wall and lifting her cotton skirt, revealing a tattooed trellis of spider webs weaving in and out of her buttocks. “Show me how rock hard Red Rocks makes you!”
They began plugging away, but two minutes in, heavy boots began to knock somewhere down the tunnel.
“Someone’s coming,” Walter said.
“Then you better soon also,” Lola replied.
He tightened his hands around her small waist, lifting her feet slightly from the floor, and frantically but quietly worked her behind.
“I’m almost there…” he whispered, disengaging and pulling off the condom to finish the job. “I’m almost there. I’m almost—fuck!” He pulled up his pants and turned away just as a security guard appeared from a bend in the tunnel.
“Hey check it out, Cher,” Walter said pointing at the wall while Lola pretended to be interested.
“Oh, it’s just you,” the security guard said recognizing Walter. “Thought somebody might’ve snuck in here that wasn’t supposed to. You sign your name yet?”
“Yep, doing it right now,” Walter said concealing his crotch against the wall.
“You’re joining quite an elite club, you know? Everybody wants to play Red Rocks.”
“You got that right.”
“Well, break a leg tonight.” The security guard saluted him and retreated back down the tunnel.
“Shit, that was close,” Lola said.
“Yeah, a little too close,” Walter said, then showed her the inside of his sullied pants.
When Perfect Crime went onstage at Red Rocks, more than a little rain was coming down; it was hitting the stage so hard it was being sent back into the sky. However, the band, the poncho-covered crowd, and certainly not Quinn were dampened by it. Even when his guitar did malfunction from the water during a solo, Quinn humorously finished it by singing the solo instead, much to the audience’s delight, who had again filled the seats early.
Rounding off the end of “Minerva Dooms”, Quinn struck his guitar just to hear it swallowed by the roaring mass in front of him. Walter remembered when he got his first guitar and striking it in the same fashion in front of his bedroom mirror, imagining a scene very similar to his now reality. It was surreal to think he’d actually done it. The dream created that day in an eleven-year-old boy’s head was now a living and breathing existence. Quinn then struck the final chord, and the song concluded.
“Maybe we should bring the rain to every show,” Quinn said after to the cheering crowd as it sparkled in camera flashes and sizzled with whistles. “Can we get some lights on the crowd? . . . Ah, there you are,” he smiled and waved to them. “Nice to finally see the beautiful faces behind this hideous noise.”
Quinn then removed the wireless mic from the stand and began walking toward the Wurlitzer. “From the bottom of our hearts,” he continued, “thank you so much. Not only for bearing with the rain and the delay, but also for coming out early to see a band that was virtually nobody six months ago. I can’t tell you what it means to have this type of a response on your first tour, and Red Rocks, you’ve been the best!”
Another wave of static noise fell upon Quinn as he sat at the electric piano. He then began playing a snippet of “November Rain” in his best Axl, except his version was “Colorado Rain”, which got the crowd laughing again.
“Most of you probably don’t know this,” he said, “but Perfect Crime started as a Guns N’ Roses tribute band and ‘November Rain’ was the first song I learned on piano. Recently, I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration in the piano, including this new song I want to debut here tonight if that’s okay with you?”
Again they showered him with approval as his bandmates left the stage while a crisp beam of white light was tightened around Quinn and the Wurlitzer.
“It’s called ‘Bowie’s Nocturne’,” he said, “and it’s going to be on our debut album we’ll be recording in the fall called Love Songs in A Minor Crash. You, Red Rocks, are the first to know or hear any of this.”
Quinn waited again until the roar calmed, then began playing Walter’s eight-and-a-half-minute epic inspired by Bowie, but also the many new influences running through his ears: Radiohead, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Chopin, and Liszt were just a few. It began with a Chopin-influenced prelude, then came the first verse:
Our faces like two reflecting mirrors
Drawing together to see someone else
But only we know what we see
Infinite repeating realities
I am breathing my last breath of life
Death emerges dressed in a cobweb of lies…
The song then continued through several suites of unrepeating musical vignettes strung together to create what Walter grandiosely believed to be a new “Bohemian Rhapsody” and a new “Paranoid Android”, but Quinn never made it that far.
Halfway through the first verse, Walter realized people were leaving for the restrooms. Quinn was at first undisturbed by this, but as Walter became increasingly aware of the thinning and disinterested crowd, Quinn increasingly struggled to hold the song and himself together until both cracked and collapsed around him, leaving Walter’s formless and hapless ego to fry under the spotlight. As it congealed before the crowd, Quinn’s mouth went silent and his hands froze over the keys. The crowd then began whispering and hissing, frying and shriveling Walter’s ego even further until he was again that ten-year-old boy, reduced to wanting nothing more than to die.
Somewhere above, a saber of light then pierced the sky, the fissure clapping so loud it shook Walter and the amphitheater from its disorientation, then plunged them into complete darkness.
After what seemed to be an eternity, the lights came back on.
“Walter . . . Walter . . . Walterrrr!” Lola’s screaming swelled into his ears from the side of the stage. “Get off the stage! We were just struck by lightning.”
Although no one was harmed, the show was cancelled. With their night now available, the bands went to a local watering hole to drink it off, but no amount was going to satisfy Walter. He anchored himself to a back corner of the bar with plans to drink himself out of existence, wishing, however, he had a gun to do it faster.
As he sat mutely, fans from the show and press buzzed around him like a swarm of gnats. Despite showing little sign of life, they talked to his body as if it was still inhabited, handing him free drink after free drink.
“Hey beautiful! We’re going to need all those,” he heard one of the male gnats yell to the back of a nearby promotional girl hawking shots of Black Bat rum on an illuminated, neon green tray. Black Bat was the sponsor of the tour, and on every stop they chose a local bar to host an afterparty where fans could enjoy drink specials not only inside the bar, but—for the right price—after it closed on Black Bat’s enormous, promotional tour bus they parked outside.
The promotional girl turned with a reflexive smile into Walter’s line of sight. She gasped.
“Sai?” he said in drunken disbelief. She tried to hide behind her tray, but it was useless.
“Uh… Hey Walter,” she said.
“What—why…” he glanced over her body confoundedly. A mini skirt and bikini top was a stark contrast to the loose blouses and baggy khakis of his memory.
“Why am I working as a promo girl?” she said.
“Well, yes, but also why are you in Colorado? Have you been with Black Bat the entire tour?”
“Yes, and I almost went the entire tour without you noticing because normally you never come to these things.”
“But why wouldn’t you tell me?”
“Because I’m a promo girl. It’s incredibly embarrassing, especially since the last time I saw you I was leaving for grad school to become a neurobiologist.”
“Yeah, at NYU. That didn’t happen?”
“It did, and I graduated, but I didn’t get tenure after my postdoc, and haven’t been able to find another or really anything in the scientific field that pays since. My boyfriend, however, works in marketing for Black Bat, and when this job came up, I decided to take it. I’m a little disgusted with myself, but you can’t pay off a quarter million dollars in student loan debt with dignity alone. And, I must say, the money is great . . . Speaking of that, I’ll be back.”
Turning her smile back on, she went to the gnat who had requested the shots. He ogled her breasts and ass while slipping a hundred dollar bill onto her emptying tray. It saddened Walter because he saw her as so much more, even though her past with him was at its core a sexual one, but it was the core of his sexuality.
Sai and Walter had dated casually during his freshman year of college—or defined more crudely, they were fuck buddies. But also, she was the woman who had seized his virginity. And being four years older and much more experienced than him, she taught him everything from the basics of kissing to the advanced studies of exploratory intercourse. But sexuality wasn’t the only thing she enlightened him to. She also introduced him to one of his most important allies: Mary Jane. While music had helped him find a place for his insanity, marijuana helped him find the humor in it.
“Here,” Sai said handing Walter one of two shots left on her tray when she returned. “He bought one for both of us.”
“Sorry, but rum’s the one liquor I can’t stand. Plus, I’ve already been well taken care of.” He held up his mostly full beer glass.
“Suit yourself . . . Cheers.” She tapped her shot to his beer, then threw it back.
“So your boyfriend…” Walter said after, “is he the only one?”
“Yes,” Sai said smiling. “I left that polyamory shit back in college. While it seemed practical then, it’s a little trickier in the real world—believe me I tried.”
“Wow, Sai Patesh monogamous? It’s hard to fathom, especially since your views on society’s ‘mononormative narrowmindedness’ had such an impact on my philosophy of love for a time.”
“And how’d that work out for you?”
“I don’t know. I never could find another girl like you to explore polyamory with further. But so far, monogamy has proven to be the destructive force you always warned me of.”
“That’s just love,” Sai said picking up the other shot, but then thinking twice about it. “Monogamous or polyamorous, it always has the potential to destroy when you’re with the wrong person or persons. My mistake back then was believing I could mitigate this risk by investing it in a diversified portfolio. But by doing so, I also mitigated its satisfaction. All those ‘boyfriends’ I had in college—well, with maybe the exception of you, they were superficial attachments. But the scientist in me was determined to put logic in a place it has no place being.”
“So now you’ve found Mister Right?” Walter asked.
“Well, we’ve only been dating six months, but I have to say he’s certainly the best candidate—his name’s Dave by the way. We’ve gotten pretty close on tour.”
“He’s on tour with you?”
“Yeah. He’s outside on the Black Bat bus as we speak, but don’t say anything to anyone. Black Bat doesn’t know we’re dating and we’d both be fired if they did, even though the tour has really been our first opportunity to spend more than a week together. He was always gone on business travel before, but now that’s no longer an issue. Also, along with getting to see him every day now, the job really isn’t as awful as I imagined. Yeah the serving drinks part sucks, but it’s sort of fun waking up in a new place every morning, not knowing where or to whom the day is going to take you. I guess I can see the allure in being a touring musician. However, I have to ask, what happened to physicist?”
“Physics petered out for me about junior year,” Walter replied. “I just couldn’t keep up, mostly because the band started taking off at that point.”
“But you were so gifted. I mean, it’s great the world has your music, but science could really use your mind too.”
“Well—and you’re just another example, it’s far too often gifted minds don’t make it in science anymore. Instead, it’s the ones who can manipulate the system the best; those who can sensationalize shoddy studies for the sake of winning grant money and publishing papers. How much grant money you’ve won and how many papers you’ve published, that’s all that matters now. Peer review, replication, failure—all the things science actually needs—seems to be less and less of a priority. And once I realized this, I just chose not to be a part of it. I can’t tell you how many grad students I saw stab each other in the back over a name on a paper. And it’s sad, because science works best in collaboration, not for the ego.”
“True,” Sai said, “but still. It’s a shame school had to ruin physics for you. You really had a gift, a gift just as special as your gift in music in my opinion. But then again, your music has never been my cup of tea.”
She picked up her tray from the bar. “Anyway,” she said, “time to get back to work. The afterparty on the bus begins in an hour. I’ll be serving. You should come aboard. You can meet Dave too. He’s actually a big fan of Perfect Crime.”
“Can I bring friends?” Walter asked.
“Sure, as long as they spend money and tip well. It’s supposed to be VIP only.”
An hour later, in a drunken state of rented bliss, Walter approached the bus grinning with a cohort of girls, two on each arm and one on his shoulders. Sai, waiting outside the bus, shook her head disapprovingly.
“I thought I told you to bring people with money,” she said, “not a bunch of groupies.”
“They’re not groupies,” Walter said offloading the small girl from his shoulders, “just very enthusiastic fans . . . I’ll be in in a moment ladies,” he said as he ushered them into the bus. “Ah look, here come my beloved bandmates.” They staggered toward the bus with another half dozen girls in tow.
“I just wanna say I love you man,” Seano said as he swung an arm around Walter. “Fuck what happened at the show tonight. Thisiz what itz all about, fuckin’ chickz and fuckin’ beer.” Seano then downed the last of a beer bottle he’d snuck out of the bar and smashed it on the parking lot pavement. “Fuckin’ Black Bat?” he said looking over the monstrous black and green bus. “Fuck that puszy shit!” He then produced a Jack Daniels bottle from inside of his leather jacket and took a proud swig.
“You can’t take that on,” Sai told him.
“Lookz like I just did,” he said and escaped up the stairs into the bus. A thud was heard soon after, and he came rolling back out. “What the fuck?!” he cried from his back.
“The entrance has a low ceiling,” she said as she picked up the Jack Daniels bottle which had loosened from his hands.
“Hey, give it back,” he said, but Sai’s piercing green eyes sent him away empty-handed.
“When did you start hanging out with six-year-olds?” she asked Walter once everyone else was inside.
“Don’t all guys act like they’re six when they’re piss drunk?” he said.
“I don’t know. You never did. You didn’t even drink when I first met you.”
“That’s because I was still coming off my bout with Mormonism.”
A cringing shatter from inside the bus interrupted them. “Shit,” Walter said, “shouldn’t have left the six-year-olds unsupervised.”
“Well, Dave and the bartender are—”
“Fuck off Dave!” a lean and well-endowed blonde dressed like Sai—presumably the bartender—shouted as she came out of the bus. “Ain’t no amount of money that can make me put up with that kind of shit. No way.”
“Danielle, I’ll talk to them,” a man with a newsboy cap—presumably Dave—said from the bus’s door. “Please come back on the bus. The afterparty is about to start.”
“No. I want them off. That short fucker grabbed my tit.” She was referring to Squids, who was just a few inches over five feet.
“But Danielle, it’s good promo to have them here. I promise, if anything else happens I’ll kick them off.”
“No. If they’re staying, take me back to the hotel.”
“Dave…” Sai said. “I can’t bartend and serve, and look at all the people coming over.”
“I can get by as bartender for a while,” Walter offered. “Or I can also tell them to get off the bus. She’s right, no one should have to put up with that.”
“Hey! Quinn Quark,” Dave said noticing Walter. “First time I’ve seen you at one of these afterparties. It’s okay. I’ll just take Danielle to the hotel, if you don’t mind bartending for a little? Not sure how Black Bat would feel about it, but my hands are kind of tied. And it should only be for a little while.”
After Dave and Danielle left, Walter and Sai went inside the bus where his bandmates were already making moves on the girls.
“What the fuck is wrong with your band?” Sai said. “And these girls... Hey, hello! Attention everyone. Please take your tongues out of each other’s mouths and either buy some drinks or get the fuck out . . . Damn it. Everyone’s lining up outside. I need a drink.”
“Here, take a shot with me,” Walter said, taking his post behind the bar.
“But I thought you said you didn’t like rum.”
“At this point I’m drunk enough it doesn’t matter. Besides, it’s not like this bar has anything else.”
Not long after, with everyone coming aboard wanting to have a shot with Quinn Quark the bartender, Walter blacked out.
Sometime later in the early morning, he awoke to find himself fastened to a sleeping Sai atop a couch in the back room of the bus. He wasn’t exactly sure how it happen, but somehow she discovered Dave slept with the bartender after taking her to the hotel and had apparently been sleeping with them both for almost the entirety of the tour. The last thing Walter recalled was Sai furiously downing shots, but he was unsurprised to find the evening concluded with them in a copulative coma of comfort and revenge—although Walter failed to actually copulate due to performance issues.
He disconnected from her and pulled himself up by a stripper pole next to them. He then wobbled to the bus’s bathroom, trying his best to hold back stomach contractions. Opening the bathroom door, he found Squids sitting on the floor, desperately smacking his arm for a vein.
“Fuck,” he said trying to hide the contraband. Walter looked down at him.
“I… I knew it,” he said sluggishly. “If that’s what you want to do, then do it. I’m not gonna stop you.”
“Really. Shoot up until you’re dead for all I care, because once this tour’s over, you’re out of the band Squids. I don’t give a shit if you started it. It’s my band now . . . Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go puke outside,” Walter said and shut the door.
As he made his way to the front of the bus, in every neon green corner bodies were snoring in the sickly-sweet, rum-laden air. Stepping outside, he realized the bus was no longer at the bar, but in some suburb. He remembered someone saying something about a house party, but he couldn’t remember a house party. It didn’t matter anyway.
Back on the bus, relieved of his stomach’s contents but dizzy and exhausted from his outing, Walter found the trip back to Sai too strenuous, so he snuggled up on the mat behind the bar.
“Walter!” Seano shouted, shaking him forcefully while shivering like an epileptic himself. “Walter, wake up man!”
Morning light stung Walter’s pupils as he pried his sticky eyelids apart, X’s tracking across his face from his rubber-molded pillow. A warm and horrid breath then sucked into his lungs and he felt the urge to vomit again.
“Walter! . . . Walter!” Seano continued.
“Stop yelling at me!” Walter yelled back. “What? I’m up.”
“Squids is dead! Squids is fucking dead!”
Walter turned his head to the side and puked.