included in the flash fiction novel, Come As You Are, written for Camp Nanowrimo April 2016. This episode was written today for the Writers Quote Wednesday Writing Challenge with the prompt of Fantasy.
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
from Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddie Mercury 1975.
Everyone waxes poetic on making dreams reality. You’ve drunk the Kool-Aid—ignored the sweetness, the improbable color. Your guitar is your reality and your fantasy. Hard work rewards. Clichés abound, but you’re ready for the fantasy to be reality and for the reality to bear witness to fantasy.
Ramon promises this will be your break. An arrogant rich-boy named Mike, a friend of a friend, is looking for a guitarist and drummer for his band.
“The guy’s got connections,” Ramon says, nodding.
Connections mean everything: gigs and more gigs until you get enough exposure to lure a recording contract.
One great big fantasy and reality cocktail blend. You both jump on the wagon.
Having just taken the SATs, you recognize the word for guys like Mike: megalomaniac. His band. He plays his music, except for covers deemed worthy. He plays lead guitar, always. He sings, always. He is front and center, one hundred percent of the time.
He makes a big deal of taking you and Ramon on, as if you’re refugees and the ship’s full but he can take two more. His ego is staggering and unfortunately not based on substance and Ramon sees the look on your face and makes you promise to stick with it for a while at least to see where it goes. You think: to hell in a handbasket.
Practice sessions test your patience. Mike struts with his Gibson, makes grand gestures á la Townsend, but show can’t mask the fact that Mike can’t play. You so want to break in, just to show him how it’s done when he’s in the middle of massacring some fine riff or solo. But you bite your lip and play rhythm guitar and nod to yourself and keep from cringing when his guitar squeals instead of roars.
You’ve done a few gigs now. Nothing too memorable, but it’s good experience. Mike’s father’s money bought Crux the opening spot to Fallstar and that’s the gig that will be a turning point. It makes Mike crazy with stress, but not because he doesn’t think he’s good enough—it’s you all, you and Ramon and the bass guitarist, Deke. You all are making Mike miserable. “You’re making me sound bad on purpose.”
“He’s messing up because he’s lousy,” you point out to Ramon later when you two are sitting outside of Wendy’s sharing a Frosty and french fries because neither of you had enough money for anything more.
And then it’s Friday night and the gig is supposed to open with a cover of Pearl Jam’s Yellow Ledbetter, which relies on a wailing lead guitar, McCready’s homage to Hendrix.
Mike’s nervous, so much so he seems to be shaking and you find yourself feeling pity for him, which you never thought you’d do, since he is every bit of an asshole.
When the lights come up, the spot is on Mike and he goes to strum and the pick flies from between his thumb and forefinger and skitters across the stage. He panics and tries to play without it and he’s just not accomplished enough or mature enough to push forward. Now his anger rises and he’s going off-stage to get another pick or who knows what, because you really don’t care.
Your fingers take over and the guitar solo that should open the song is being played by you and your soul. The audience, who murmured during Mike’s juggling routine, is now silent. They came here to hear Fallstar, but you are the cherry on the sundae, the unexpected bliss.
When the song calls for vocals, Mike still hasn’t reappeared and Ramon takes over behind the drums. Between you and Ramon, you not only save the song, you make it rise like a phoenix. As your last solo concludes, you pour yourself into it because something tells you this will be the last song you perform tonight, your anarchy will not go unpunished, even if you did save the band’s ass.
As the last chord resonates, the audience roars and you grin because they are directing the adoration to you. You blow a kiss, which is so not the Lucy Cameron you were ten minutes ago.
Mike reappears and jerks his thumb at you, telling you to leave. You shrug, unplug your guitar and walk off-stage, head high, shoulders even, hearing hoots of dissatisfaction, but not caring. Tonight there was a shade of fantasy in your reality, and maybe that’s enough–for now.