“Band meeting,” John Miller repeated, standing up. Then he looked at me and said, “A little help tonight would be greatly appreciated, Remy. A good word, maybe?”
“I can’t promise anything,” I said. “But I’ll see what I can do.”
He seemed happier, hearing this, as he headed into the kitchen. I got up and grabbed my purse, finding my keys. “Let’s go,” I said to Chloe. “Band meeting and all.”
She nodded, stuffing her smokes in her pocket and walking to the front door, pushing it open. “I’ll call Lissa from the car. See if she wants to meet us at the Spot.”
As the screen door slammed behind her, Dexter walked over to me. “This is big,” he said, smiling. “I mean, maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’ll be a crushing disappointment.”
“That’s the right attitude.”
“Or maybe,” he went on, pulling his hands through his hair the way he always did when just barely able to contain himself, “it’s the beginning of something. You know, when Spinnerbait got that meeting with the label, they immediately got an in to the bigger clubs. We could be in Richmond, or D.C., easy. It could happen.”
He was just standing there, grinning, and I made myself smile back. Of course this was good news. Wasn’t it me who wanted everything to be transitory, anyway? It was the best-case scenario, really, for him to get some great chance and ride off in the dirty white van into the sunset, tailpipe dragging. In time he’d just be some story I’d tell, about the crazy musician I’d spent the last days of my senior summer with, just the way Scarlett Thomas was only a footnote now to Chris. They had these stupid songs about potatoes, I could hear myself telling someone. A whole opus.
Yes, definitely. It was best this way.
Dexter leaned down and kissed my forehead, then looked at me closely, cocking his head to the side. “You okay? You look weird.”
“Thanks,” I said. “God.”
“No, I mean, you just seem-”
“Band meeting!” Ted yelled from the kitchen. “We’re recon noitering right now!”
Dexter glanced toward the doorway, then back at me.
“Go,” I said, pressing my palms to his chest and pushing him backward, gently. “Band meeting.”
He smiled, and for a second I felt a tug, some alien feeling that made me, for an instant, want to pull him back within arm’s length. But by then he was already walking backward, toward the kitchen, where the voices of his band mates were now building as they made their plans.
“I’ll see you at Bendo around nine,” he said. “Right?”
I nodded, cool as ever, and he turned the corner, leaving me standing there. Watching him go. What a weird feeling that was. I decided I didn’t like it. Not at all.
By ten-thirty, as Truth Squad’s second set was about to get under way, the A &R chick still hadn’t shown up. The natives were getting restless.
“I say we just go on and forget about her,” Lucas said, spitting some ice back into his cup of ginger ale. “All this worrying is making us suck anyway. Ted was off key the whole last set.”
Ted, sitting next to me and carving lines into the table, glared at him darkly. “I,” he said, “am the only reason she’s coming. So get off my fucking back.”
“Now, now.” Dexter tugged at his collar, something he’d been doing all night long: it was completely stretched out of shape, hanging lopsided. “We need to go up there and do the best job we can. A lot is riding on this.”
“No pressure, though,” Lucas grumbled.
“Where the hell is John Miller?” Ted said, pushing up from the table and craning his neck around the room. “Isn’t this a band meeting?”
“It’s impromptu,” Dexter told him, tugging at his collar again. “Plus he’s over there with what’s-her-name. The coffee boss.”
We all looked at once. Sure enough, at a booth by the stage, John Miller was sitting with Scarlett. He had his drumsticks on the table and was talking animatedly, using his hands. Scarlett was drinking a beer and listening, a polite smile on her face. Every once in a while she’d glance around the room, as if she’d expected this to be more of a group thing and was wondering where everyone else was.
“Pathetic,” Ted said. “Totally blowing us and the band’s future off for a chick. That’s Yoko Ono behavior, man.”
“Leave him alone,” Dexter said. “Okay, so I’m thinking we should start with ‘Potato Song Two,’ then do the kumquat version, and then…”
I tuned them out, drawing my finger through the circle of water under my beer. Off to my left, I could see Chloe, Lissa, and Jess talking to a group of guys at the bar. At the Spot earlier, Chloe had decided they all needed to “get back out there” and make the most of the “summer single-girl thing,” appointing herself ringleader for the effort. So far there had been progress: she was sitting on a barstool next to a blond guy with surfer looks. Lissa was talking to two guys, one really cute, who was still scop ing the room as if in search of an upgrade (bad sign), and one not-so-cute-but-decent who seemed interested and not completely offended that he was most likely an also-ran. And then there was Jess, trapped by the beer taps by a short, wiry guy who was talking so excitedly that she kept having to lean back, which could only have meant he was spitting out more than words.
“… decided that we’d do no covers. That was the entire upshot of yesterday’s meeting,” Dexter said.
“I’m just saying that if the potato songs don’t go over well we need a backup plan,” Lucas argued. “What if she hates potatoes? What if she thinks the songs are, you know, infantile, frat-party crap?”
There was a moment of astonished silence as Dexter and Ted absorbed this. Then Ted said, “So that’s what you think?”
“No,” Lucas said quickly, glancing at Dexter, who was now tugging his collar hard enough that I had to reach up and unlatch his fingers, bringing down his hand. He hardly noticed. Lucas said, “I’m just saying we don’t want to come across as derivative.”
“And doing covers isn’t derivative?” Dexter said.
“Covers will get the crowd going and show our range,” Lucas told him. “Look, I’ve been in a lot of bands-”
“Oh, God,” Ted said, throwing up his hands dramatically. “Here we go. Educate us, oh wise one.”