IN THE KEY OF FUSCHIA MINOR

By Jonathan Gagas

 

Calloway Records, Inc.
42 Willow Lane
San Francisco, CA 94116
October 24th, 2002

Dear Secretary, Businessman, or Whoever's reading this:     

I was only 18 when I experienced a night I'll never forget.  Now I know what you're thinking, "Is this guy living in a creative vacuum with his 'night I'll never forget' trash?  What the hell kind of opener is that?" but hear me out.  It's not every day you get to see a 19-year-old kid playing a beat-up, worn-out bass guitar, probably tripping out on some kind of mushroom grown by fairies from a bad rerun of David the Gnome, looming over a club full of hicks freshly picked from the local trailer park, chewing them out like some goddamn backwoods fire and brimstone preacher condeming "drinkin', dancin', and rock n' roll, Satan's own music!"  Got your interest yet?  Good.

Ten years ago, I wasn't exactly in the best of shape.  There was no degree hanging on my wall, that's for sure.  I always wanted to be a street performer, like the kind you see on the street corners in my hometown, good ol' New York.  Whether they were playing the sax or juggling china plates, they always had this "magic" about them, you know what I mean?  They didn't have much money, but they had soul.  That's what I wanted.

My dad thought otherwise.  He was a colonel in the army, and "no son of his was gonna make a living wandering willy-nilly around New York tootin' on a kazoo, no siree."  His son was going to military school; his son was gonna do his country proud.  He just never listened to me, never. 

To make a long story short, I flew the coop in '92.  It was just me, my guitar, and the greatest city on Earth.  To make another long story short, I didn't find any soul.  I did find out that not everyone wanted to throw money into the guitar case of the kid playing Clapton.  Being hungry really, really sucked.  I had to get out of the city, away from the stares and the drugs and the booze.  Oh, the booze.  That's another thing I found in New York.  That unshaved homeless guy with the whiskey bottle in the paper bag that I always used to laugh at?  Well, that turned out to be me.  I managed to sober up for a couple of hours and hitchhiked as far as I could go.  I ended up in a town up in northern New York halfway between civilization and the boondocks. Unfortunately, it was all of the Big Apple that I hated and none of it that I loved.

I didn't realize that, though, even when the asshole driving the Chevy shoved me out of his door and onto the cold, hard ground of reality.  Hey, it wasn't the best entrance I'd ever made, but it worked for the moment.  I saw a sign in the distance.  "Welcome to Weltlich, an All-American Town."  Weird name.  Anyway, by that time, that gnawing urge for a drink was back.  Hey, you have to gimme some credit; I didn't have a drink for five hours.  I wandered up to the nearest bar; I didn't have to walk very far to find it.  The sign said "er."  And with that, the story begins... 

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Gerodi's Bar was much like all the other bars in Weltlich, and, as a matter of fact, much like all the other bars everywhere.  Just imagine a bar on the wrong side of the tracks in your town, pretend it's dirtier and more run down than it actually is, and you'll have a good picture of Gerodi's in your mind.  The pink neon sign on the front was written in cursive; the lettering would have been more appropriately used for words like "hookers" or "peepshows 25 cents."  Only the "E" and the "R" of "Gerodi's" were still in working order, and the "R" was on its last legs, flickering on and off every once in a while.

The building looked fairly small from the outside, with pea green stucco walls gradually succumbing to the elements.  An old blackened ivy plant resiliently climbed the walls.  It seemed to be mocking the exhaust fumes that constantly tried to kill it, daring them to come closer.  The narrow street over which the bar loomed looked like something straight out of a Charles Dickens novel, with exhaust fumes clouding the air and garbage overflowing from the nearby dumpster.

Gerodi's was fairly large on the inside.  It was so filled with smoke that it could have made a good set for a B-rated horror movie, had the smoke been fog.  Ask one of Gerodi's frequent customers what his favorite aspect of the bar was, and after the obligatory "Real cheap beer!" and "Easy pussy!", you would probably get a response like, "Man, me and my friends has ourselves a real good time on karaokee night!  We git up on the stage, and, an'... Did I mention they got cheap beer?  Real cheap."  In plain English, Gerodi's boasted a small dance floor and a pathetic excuse for a stage.  Occasionally, the bar utilized this stage for karaokee nights, during which some of the patrons would stumble around the stage and "sing" in a drunken slur.  Speaking of patrons, Gerodi's had more than its fair share of alcoholics, no-hopers, whores, dirtbags, and other fine upstanding citizens.  They crowded the bar stools, they milled about on the dance floor, and they drank their problems away, only to be rudely reminded of them by mind-numbing hangovers the next morning.

As a scruffy-looking fellow with a bird's nest of a beard fountaining out from his face was brushing himself off and picking up his guitar after being rudely shoved out of a Chevy on the city limits of Weltlich, a  van several blocks away trundled along toward Gerodi's.  It contained the members of  "Etc.," a curious band that was truly a labor of love by its creators.  They were slowly (and not all that eagerly) making their way to their next gig.  The van itself, which had seen better days, seemed reluctant to go, as it made a loud sputter! or pop! every few minutes.  "I don't like the looks of this place," said Cameron, the band's drummer. 

Kevin, a grungy-looking fellow with a goatee and spiky necklace who played guitar in all its forms, replied, "Cameron, lighten up.  If any guy gives you trouble, you know you could kick his ass any day." 

Cameron stuck out her tongue and playfully punched Kevin in the shoulder.  "If you weren't driving, I would've hit you harder," she retorted.  Cameron stood about 5 feet, 4 inches, and was slightly plump, although not unpleasantly so.  Her black hair was done up in 2 braids which hung over her crimson shirt, which reminded one of a painter's smock.  "Hey Perrin!" she said.  "Perrin, yoo-hoo, anybody home?"

"Huh, whuh?" said the figure in the back of the van as he snapped out of his daydream.  It was a nice daydream, one in which he died, went to heaven, and played guitar with Jimi Hendrix to entertain the angels.  Perrin had been having that one a lot lately, and it sometimes took him a while to be "rudely awakened," as he liked to put it.  He had the manner of an absent-minded professor, a sort of detached nervousness about him.  His dirty-blonde hair stuck out in all directions, and combined with the 4-day-old stubble on his chin, it made him look as if he was pretending to be older than his nineteen years, although that was not the case. 

Bubba, who was sort of a "jack of all trades" for the band, couldn't resist chiming in.  Raised on the classics, he played keyboard and violin and occasionally did turntables.  Looking at him, you'd think he was a bouncer, with his shaved head and 215-pound frame, not a violin-player.  "I think Perrin was daydreaming about all the fiiiiiine women he's gonna meet at, uh... where are we goin' again?" 

"It's called 'Gerodi's,' and from what I've heard about the place, I wouldn't touch one of those bitches with a ten-foot pole," Perrin said, suppressing a laugh.

SLAP!  Cameron's hand struck Perrin's face.  "Why, Perrin Mandar, do you kiss your mother with that mouth of yours?" she said.  The whole van exploded in laughter.  Even Perrin's red, stinging face managed to contort into a  grin.

"Ah well," sighed Kevin, after the laughter died down.  "This place has to be better than our last gig.  I think you all remember Timmy's birthday party; am I correct?"

Perrin's eyes narrowed into little slits.  "Yeah, I remember.  Little Timmy cried to his dad that he didn't like us, and they replaced us with that retarded clown.  That bastard!  He tried to rob us with a bubble-gun after the party!  What was his name again?"

"Jesus, what got up your ass?  Calm down, man," said Bubba, between giggles.  "You have to admit that it was funny.  Oh yeah, I believe his name was 'Mr. Bubbles.'"

"I know, I know," said Perrin.  "I guess it was kind of funny, now that I look back on it.  It's just that, I don't know, it's like nobody realizes what we're trying to do, ya know?  I wish people would just turn off the TV and look at the stars, really look at them, you know what I mean?  Then maybe they'd understand.  I see these manufactured, no- talent corporate 'musicians' on MTV every single goddamn day.  It's like they're not even people; they're just pop-culture icons created by these record exec bastards to scientifically part people from their money.  They're just another corporate scam to cover the bottom line.  I'm not asking for some huge record deal; I just want to get a decent gig for once."

"Perrin, I know what you're tryin' to say, but for chrissakes, is it too much to ask for you to get down off your soapbox and be, I don't know, positive every once in a while?!" said Kevin.

"Whadda you know?  Fuck off!" Perrin growled.

"Guys, guys!  We're all friends here, remember?" said Cameron. 

"It's not my fault that Kev here wants me to live in Norman Rockwell Land."

"PerRIN!" said Cameron, giving him a stern, motherly look

"Alright, alright."

Bubba, who had seen his band mates have these little spats too often to keep taking them seriously, let out a deep, throaty laugh, and a grin lit up his face.  "The audience may not like us, buy at least you guys keep me entertained!" he said.

Everyone else in the band glared at Bubba.

"What?" said Bubba, with all the innocence of a boy who's just eaten his dessert right before dinner.

The rest of the ride was taken in silence.  As the van approached Gerodi's, the members of Etc. consoled themselves with the hope that this would be a "decent gig for once." 

Kevin managed to find a parking space, and the band quickly sized the place up.  "Hey Perrin, I think that whatever you heard about this place is probably true," Bubba said as his face crinkled up like he'd smelled a long-dead animal. 

"Er," said Kevin.

"Er what?" asked Cameron.

"Er.  Just look at the sign."

"Hey Kev, that was almost funny!" Perrin quipped.

"Perrin, shut up."

A burly man in an apron, apparently the bartender, ran out of the bar as fast as his thick legs would carry him.  "You guys better get in there and play something!  That crowd's gettin' rough!" he shouted.

Cameron smirked.  "Nice to meet you too," she whispered under her breath.

Etc. walked through the bar's swinging doors and was greeted by the musty aroma of sweat, body odor, alcohol, and cigarette smoke.  The crowd cheered; they hadn't had a live band in quite a while.  The band's hopes lifted, even though the people on the dance floor didn't exactly look like music afficionados.  Maybe the band wouldn't be replaced by a clown this time.

Since the crowd was beginning to grow impatient, the band members set up their equipment in merely ten minutes.  Perrin picked up his bass guitar, walked up to the beat- up old microphone, and said, "Are you guys ready to rock?"  The crowd cheered yet again.  Inebriated though they were, they were playing into the palm of his hand.  Perrin was getting good vibes.

Etc. started off with a song they had recently written, "Amputate My Heart."  Perrin began strumming a slow, ominous bass line.  Cameron came in with a light tapping of the cymbals.  This went on for about two and a half minutes.  Someone in the back of the crowd yelled, "Sing the damn song already!"  Etc. kept playing; they had become almost deaf to these sorts of comments after two years of hearing them.  Ghostly pipe organ chords from Bubba's keyboard began to waft through the bar like the thick smoke.  The rhythm of the song was finally established, and Kevin began strumming the main melody on his synth guitar.  Perrin's heavily distorted voice floated through the tinny speakers, completing the transformation of the bar from a roach motel to an eerie, beautiful symphony hall.

The people on the dance floor looked at each other nervously.  Their line of thinking went something like this: they could not dance to the music or sing along; therefore, their chances of getting laid were markedly reduced. 

Seven minutes and forty-five seconds later, Etc. finished its song.  The crowd wasn't "ready to rock" anymore.  When Bubba picked up his violin and began the opening notes of the next song, someone screamed, "Go home!"  Etc. noticed that one, but they let it slip by; the crowd would come around soon, hopefully.  As Perrin reached the climax of the song, a gorgeous reflection on the meaning of death, something whistled through the air.  A beer bottle,which missed Perrin by a fraction of an inch, fell on the stage and spider-webbed into a thousand pieces of glass which scattered across the stage's floor.  The performers recoiled.  Perrin, visibly trembling and drenched with alcohol, stepped up to the microphone with a crunch.  Silence descended on Gerodi's for the first time in years.

Two years of rage that had been building up inside of Perrin, shaken up by countless taunting crowds, began to bubble forth. "WHO THE FUCK THREW THAT?!" he screamed. 

No one answered.  Cameron grabbed Perrin's arm. 

"Perrin, come on, nobody got hurt.  Let's go.  This is getting out of hand."

"OUT OF HAND?  OUT OF HAND?  I'LL SHOW THESE FUCKERS WHAT OUT OF HAND IS!!!"

Perrin blasted the mike stand with his foot, sending it careening into the crowd along with a wave of broken glass.  A piercing WAA-OOOMM of feedback split the silence as Perrin paused to catch his breath, his eyes moist and his nostrils flaring.

Cameron gave Bubba and Kevin a knowing look. They all knew Perrin, and once he started like this, there was no stopping him.  They grabbed what they could carry and walked out without fanfare.  Perrin would get this out of his system eventually, right?

            "You fucking Neanderthals!" Perrin shouted.  He pressed his face up to the microphone, practically putting it in his mouth, snarling at the audience like an angry pitbull with a chew toy.  "Why the fuck did God even put you on this earth?  You're a waste of fucking oxygen!  Go home and vomit in the fuckin' toilet, if you even have one!  HOPEFULLY YOU'LL PASS OUT IN IT AND DROWN YOURSELVES!!!"  The crowd recoiled.  Although they were intoxicated beyond belief, they heard the suddenly imposing figure on stage loud and clear.  But Perrin Mandar wasn't finished with them yet.

"You should all be CASTRATED, so you're DIRTBAG SEED WON'T GET SPREAD AROUND THE EARTH ANYMORE!!"  Sweat ran down Perrin's body, which was shaking with unbridled fury; his breathing became heavy.  Perrin was rapidly wearing himself out, and the fact that the speed he had taken earlier was wearing off didn't help matters much. 

"AND ANOTHER THING!"  He was beginning to wheeze.  "And another, cough, and anoth...  Aw, fuck it.  Wh- Why am I wasting my goddamn time?"  Perrin stormed off the stage and through the crowd, which parted for him like the biblical Red Sea parting for Moses.  Just before he left, he thought he noticed a man with a full beard and a guitar strapped to his back, holding a bottle in a paper bag.  Didn't Kevin go home already?  Kevin's beard wasn't that disheveled, was it?  Everything was starting to bleed together.

Perrin stumbled into the alleyway.  He didn't think anyone from the bar was going to come after him and didn't care if they did.  He gazed up at the stars, a million points of white light.  They stung Perrin's eyes.  He spread his arms out like an exhausted Christ and collapsed on a heap of garbage.  The last thing he remembered before passing out was the colors dancing in his mind.  A purple flat soared by a turquoise chord in the key of fuschia minor.  Normally, at a time like this, Perrin would be grabbing a pen and any scrap of paper he could find to translate the visions in his mind's eye into notes and ] words, a medium everyone else could understand.  Right now, though, he was just too tired.  At that moment, if he could've bored a hole in the ground and crawled into it, he would've.  Perrin's eyelids sank; everything was sooooo hazy.  As his consciousness faded, something within him seemed to die as well.  His head slumped back and he remembered no more.

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...Well, there you have it.  I told you I wouldn't disappoint.  The last thing I ever saw of them, that kid storming off the stage, hit me like a bad hangover.  Right then and there, I don't know how, but I just knew those kids were something special.  I don't care what you have to do:  sign 'em.  In that dive bar in Weltlich, I found soul.

Sincerely,

Randy Cunningham Randall Cunningham

514 W. 42nd Street New York, NY
10138
October 24th, 2002

 

The vice president of Calloway Records put down the folded up piece of paper.  "You know," he said, "These guys sound like something...different.  Something this label needs.  And that guy, you know, the crazy one, he could be the next big personality in rock."  A smirk found its way to his face.  "It's too bad we'll never find the poor schmuck!  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!  He's probably either dead, in jail, or hanging out in Central Park holding a 'Will Work for Food' sign!" 

"That's what I like about you Jim," said the president, between chuckles.  "You've always had that great sense of humor.  You know what?  I'm up for some coffee.  Starbucks sound good?"

"Yeah."

"Good man.  I'm buying."

The president and the vice president, arm in arm, like father and son, stepped onto the elevator, but not before sharing a final guffaw.

In a small cubicle several floors below the president's office lurked a small figure.  He sat, bleary-eyed, staring at his computer monitor.  His fingers hammered across the keyboard like pistons in a finely tuned machine.  Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap.  He concentrated hard on the productivity charts, the projected sales graphs, and the financial estimates for the next fiscal quarter.  Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap.  Who knows?  Maybe someday, he would get his own office.

Every once in a while, the colors still swirled in his head, but he quickly shoved them aside, something which was becoming easier to do by the day, and replaced them with sales figures and numbers.  Who knows?  Maybe his new office would have its own coffee maker, and maybe even a nice view.  Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap.

 

What do you think? Leave your comments on the Guestbook!

Jonathan Gagas is currently a student at Ursinus College.  If you would like to send him constructive criticism, random thoughts about the story, or even money (Please?  I'll be your friend!), you can e-mail him at dunedain524@email.com  

 




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