Falling Off a Log
"That what you're wearing?"
"Kinda clashes with your geetar, doesn't it?"
I looked at my shirt. He was right. The guitar was orangy-red, and the shirt was sort of cranberry/white checks. I went back upstairs and spent another fifteen minutes looking at what I had. I had the same shirt in charcoal/light gray and decided on that. I went back downstairs. Levi was there.
"That what you're wearing?"
"Buttons don't line up."
I went into the front hall and looked in the mirror. The buttons lined up fine, I just had them in the wrong holes. A whole lot of horrible thoughts went through my head. If I didn't even remember how to get dressed, how the hell was I going to play in front of a whole bunch of people? I started to get more nervous. I went up and sat on the toilet way longer than any healthy person would have. I looked through the entire stack of magazines and catalogs. It was somewhere in my mind that this wasn't a half-bad way of spending a Sunday. But I knew what I had to do. I went back downstairs and asked if somebody could give me a ride to Scott's. There were no volunteers, and I was ready to walk when Jen finally relented.
"Nervous?" she asked when we were in the car.
"No, not nervous."
"What's wrong, then?"
"I'm petrified! I can't do this, Jen!"
"You'll do fine, Joe. Dad says you're really good. I can't wait to hear you. You were getting pretty good last summer, but Dad says you've broken the barrier between good and super. Anyhow, you're playing with your friends. I bet they're not nervous. Just enjoy yourself."
Right! Nobody except Keith was nervous. The rest of us weren't nervous. Not at all. I was scared stiff though, and I knew if I was, then Scott would be worse. I wasn't too sure about Nick, but if yesterday was any indication he was no better.
I was at Scott's house two hours before we were supposed to begin. Scott was in the bathroom, so I had a coffee with his Mom. She offered me food, but I figured if I ate I'd just puke it back up. Scott's Dad came down in his bathrobe. He didn't look too well, kind of white and bleary eyed.
"You okay?" I asked.
"Yeah. Just didn't sleep too well."
"I told you this stuff always scares me." He said.
"You're scared for us? Why? You don't have to do anything!"
'I know. 'Scuse me, I gotta pee."
He left and I went up to see Scott. He was still in the bathroom, and there were three sisters lind up outside yelling for him to hurry up.
"I been here for a half hour. You're pretty enough. We got stuff to do."
I heard the toilet flush, and a few minutes later he came out wearing his bathrobe. "Can't a guy take a crap in his own house?"
"I couldn't go either," I said. Get dressed. We got a lotta time. We need to relax."
I watched him get dressed. I should say, I watched him put on a pair of jeans, then go through his closet fifty nine times looking for a shirt. He pulled out one after another and put them back. He couldn't decide. I finally told him to wait and see what Nick and Keith were wearing, and pick out something then. He ended up just putting on a sweatshirt and we took a walk up in to the meadow. It was pretty neat this time of year. There was frost on the grass and it crunched under our feet. We were holding hands, but today it was a necessity.
"I can't do it, Joe."
"You're a lotta help. Let's just keep walking. We can come back around dark and say we got lost in the woods."
We kept walking, right into the woods. Far into the woods. It wouldn't be easy to get lost since the leaves, save for a few diehards, had fallen weeks ago. I finally stopped, and when Scott turned I pulled him into a hug.
"Scotty. We gotta do this. There's too much into it to back out now. We gotta think of Nick and Keith, too." I felt tears running down my face.
Scott put his head on my shoulder. His voice was a whisper. "I know. I know we gotta go back. I wish we could just keep walkin' though. Forever. You crying?" He ate a tear off my face. "Let's go back."
I was a little surprised at how far we'd actually gone. By the time we could see the house, the caterer's truck looked like it was leaving, and several cars were already parked on the lawn. Keith and Nick were waiting for us and looking pretty perturbed. Actually, only Keith was anxious about us. Nick looked like he was going to throw up. Scott put his arm over his shoulder.
"Dammit, we thought you got lost!" Keith said.
"We tried," I replied.
"You're pricks, ya know that? I got nervous Nellie here with me for an hour and you guys just disappear! You wearing that, Scott?"
Scott looked down and realized what he had on. "Nicky? Help me pick out a shirt." They disappeared into the house.
"God! You'd think those guys are queer for each other or something," Keith muttered.
I looked at Keith. He honestly didn't know! I put a finger to my mouth and went "Shhh." Keith's eyes widened for a moment, but then he just shrugged and looked at me. I think he was looking for a response, but I just shrugged back, looking right back at him.
Scott and Nick came back out. Scott had put on a blue dress shirt, unbuttoned and not tucked in, with no undershirt. I thought it looked pretty cool.
Scott's father kind of swooped down on us and hurried us around the barn. We went in through the back door and down into the music room I'd caught a glimpse of several people milling around munching on stuff upstairs, and suddenly I was starving. Scott's father showed us a room I hadn't seen before, with a sofa and a few chairs and a bathroom. It was like a doctor's office. I mentioned that I was hungry, and Scott's Dad told us to just stay put. In about two minutes he was back with a whole tray of sandwiches. Then he left and came right back with a plastic bag full of sodas. Then he disappeared again.
"Scott, your Dad's as nervous as I am."
"He told you he always gets scared."
"But he's not playing. We are."
"I know. I think it's the show, not who's playing. It's gotta be perfect."
Ouch! Perfect? It's a good thing there was a toilet there. Suddenly all of us had to pee with startlingly regularity. When I finished my turn, I might as well just get back in line. Nothing came out after the first time, but I just knew I had to go again. Scott's father, @@@@@, came and banged on the door a few times, no matter who was in there. I still don't know if he was doing it because he had to go, or just for effect, but after a while I was laughing about it. Keith went in as often as any of us. I guess nobody's immune to stage fright.
"Ok, here's how it's gonna work guys. I'm goin' out and working the lights. Keith - you follow me and get on the drums before I light the stage. Start playin' as soon as you're ready. I'll start lightin' you up real slowly. Nick, then you run out and pick up the bass line. When I start lightin' you up, Joey comes out and starts with the guitar. Scott - as soon as you start seein' Joey's light, you run out and grab your mike. Dig into it right away. You shouldn't be able to see anybody at first, so it'll be kinda like playin' in a dark room. Just don't jump too high when I throw all the stage lights on. It's gonna get real bright real fast. I just gotta pee one more time, then you're on. Have fun, guys!"
We glanced at each other. Keith looked a little nervous. Nick and Scott looked like I felt, which was sorta like just before gettin' a needle or something. Except needles only hurt for a second. None of us said anything. I don't think I could have moved my jaw if I tried, anyhow. It was pretty well locked in place.
"Let's go guys!"
Scott's father and Keith walked out. We were all trying to see what we could from the doorway. The audience looked pretty bright. The lights were pointed at them, I guess to hide what was about to happen.
After a minute Keith started a simple drum beat and the people started clapping and whistling and yelling. Then a dim light came up on the stage and reflected off the drums. The lights on the audience went off altogether. Me and Scott had the door blocked and Nick had to pry his was past us. In another minute drums and bass were playing together and Nick started to appear under his light. Scott pushed me out and I kept going. I got on the stage, picked up my guitar and started playing the rhythm. People were makin' a lot of noise.
Suddenly, Scott was there. He grabbed his mike, waited on the beat a second, and began to sing. We all had our own spot of light. When we got to the part that goes 'We don't care what momma don't like' the stage suddenly looked like the surface of the sun! All the floods and spots came on at once and we truly might as well have been playing to a black hole. But we were playing. Not our best, maybe, but not badly at all. It was a tough key for Scott and his voice kept breaking. I guess we were the only ones who noticed, because the crowd didn't know what he was supposed to sound like, and probably figured it was part of his style. Nick sounded a little boomy on the bass, but he wasn't making any mistakes. I lost the tempo right at the beginning of my guitar lead and had to pause a second to get back with the beat. It wasn't anything fancy, anyhow.
Keith sounded perfect through the whole thing. We ended the song on key and together, which isn't as easy as it sounds, and got a nice loud response from the crowd. Keith immediately began tapping the tempo for the next song on his snare rim, and as soon as the noise started to die down, we jumped right into it.
I had not really calmed down, but I wasn't scared anymore. My heart was still racing, but it was more like an adreneline rush than a panic. We'd all started to move with the music, and as our eyes got adjusted to the light we could see the crowd was, too. They seemed to like what they were hearing for sure. We did every song better than the one before it. I was playing pretty well, and my excitement at that had me on an emotional high that I'd never felt before. The other guys were feeling it, too, especially Scott. Shy little Scotty Johnson was really putting on a show, and you could tell he was loving every minute of it. He danced and pranced and swaggered all over the place and the light in his eyes said he didn't ever want it to end. I could see love written all over Nick's face when he looked at Scott. Keith was bouncing up and down on his stool and his head swung back and forth with the beat.
The seventh and eighth songs on our list were the most challenging technically, and we breezed through them. The last song we planned was the only one that was remotely slow, but the only one that really scared me. It had two short verses, then about a five minute guitar solo. I thought the song was beautiful, and that day Scott sang it so perfectly that by the time it was my turn to show off a little I actually had tears in my eyes.
I think my emotions worked for me, because I played the best I ever had. Everything I tried worked. I had Judy Garland in my head and I was getting just the sound I wanted. Sultry when I wanted, and shrill when I wanted that. Down low, up high, in the middle, way up high. I wasn't looking at my guitar at all, just feeling my way around it. In my mind, this was wailing at its best. At the end of my part, I just looked up and bent a string to the highest note possible on that guitar. I was staring directly into a green spotlight and when I finally looked away I had a colossal orange circle in front of me.
Scott started in on the last verse, but people were already clapping and hollering. After the last verse we just faded out on some spacey sounding notes.
The crowd lights came on and people were jumping and clapping and hollering all over the place. Nick and I each held out our guitars like we'd planned, but without thinking I just grabbed Scott's hand before we tried our bow. Nick already had the other hand. I glanced back at Keith and he was standing up with his arms up and a drumstick in each hand. Following Scott, the three of us made a deep bow from the waist. When we came up we held Scott's arms straight up. The crowd didn't settle down, so we did it again and again. We were all beaming by now. Then a sound started from the crowd. "Encore! Encore." Something we hadn't planned on. Scott's older sister came running up and handed him a note. We all looked at it. It read, 'Special guest. @@@@@. play XXXXX'. People were still on their feet and making a ton of noise. I backed over to Keith and handed him the note and said, "You start." He grinned, then sat down and started hitting the rim of his snare again.
First a cheer rose up, then Scott went up to the mike and said, "I'm not s'posed to bore you by talkin' during a show, but we got something real special now. Hang on to your seats! Get started, guys!" Nick and I started right in and, suddenly, Scott's father jumped on stage in full @@@@@ regalia. He started to play and sing right away. The crowd lights were still on and we could see a lot of stunned faces. But they got right in to it and started whooping and hollering and singing along. We went on for a full ten minutes, Scott singing with his Dad and me playing duets with him. It was the best ten minutes of our young lives. When we were done the crowd went wild and started screaming for more, but @@@@@ yelled into the mike "That's it! Food's upstairs!" The stage lights went off, and we were left there looking at the audience. They were looking back at us as if they'd somehow been cheated. Scott hugged his Dad. I hugged Keith, then Nick, then we were all hugging. And crying. It was over. I'd stayed high during the whole show, but my strength was draining so fast I thought I'd collapse. The hugs turned into physical support for each other as we each went through the same stages of comedown. We finally went back to the little room and just collapsed.
"You guys were great! That was soooo perfect! You blew 'em away, guys! You blew me away. Now you gotta go upstairs and meet your fans." @@@@@ was changing back into Scott's Dad.
He pushed us out and we trudged upstairs. As soon as Keith's face appeared, someone squealed, "Here they are!" The next half hour was a scene of total craziness. People we knew and people we didn't know, All seeming to want their own moment with each of us. All ages, from our grandparents to Scott's little sisters. And a whole bunch of kids from school. It was like a cross between a wedding, a funeral and a political convention. We got hugged and cried on, we got kissed, we got our hands shook and we got our backs pounded. We got asked the same things like 'Where'd you learn to play like that?' and 'How long you guys been playing together?'. Especially 'Was that really @@@@@? How'd you get him here?' We got told the same things, too: 'I knew you could do it!' and 'You guys are really great!'.
I kept trying to hang onto Mandy, and kept getting dragged away. I most wanted to hear what she thought, but it seemed it would have to wait. My favorite moment was seeing Nick with his father, mother, stepfather and Mandy.
They all looked happy and proud, and Nick looked like I'd never seen him. He was beaming. Like the big hole and all the ifs in his life had been cemented over with love and acceptance, and that everyone he cared for truly loved him back.
There was a bar set up, and two bartenders working there. I went over, just to have something to lean on.
"What'll ya have, kid?"
"You want'a get happy or sick?"
"I am happy. I was already sick."
"Hmmm." He started pouring things in a glass. "Tropical rum punch. One'll straighten you out. Two's happy. More'n that's trouble. It's not strong, but don't drink too fast."
I walked away sipping it. It was fruity and delicious, and I couldn't detect any taste of booze. I figured he probably didn't really put any in it. People had started leaving us alone a little, though I didn't notice anybody actually leaving the party. I saw Keith at the buffet and walked over to him. When he noticed me he put a big smile on his face. "Good show, Joey. Awesome."
"Wasn't it cool?"
"I mean you. You and Scott. You guys went so far over the edge I thought I'd never see ya again."
"Me and Scott? What about you and Nick? It's a band. We all make it what it is. You guys played perfect!"
"Perfect ain't what I'm talkin' about. You two made music! You never did half that shit in practice. You were awesome, Joey. Totally awesome. Nobody plays like that. I mean, when @@@@@ himself came out he didn't do what you did to that crowd."
"Don't say that too loud around here."
I think there might actually have been a bit of rum in that drink, as I started to feel steadier. I finished and went back for another, thinking about what Keith had said. Scott's Dad always called it making music. I always thought of it as playing the guitar. Now Keith had used the same phrase, and I liked the idea. I made music!
My Dad saw me getting my next drink and his eyes went wide for a second, but then he just relaxed and looked away. The bartender told me that two should be the magic number and if I came back it better be for a soda.
I looked around for Scott and finally spotted him talking to Davey and some of his friends from school. I wandered over and, after several minutes of the same old questions and comments, Scott said, "Joey. We're gonna get some jobs! They want us to play at the New Year dance and maybe even the Junior Prom! Are you drinkin' booze?"
"Fruit punch. They got it at the bar." I grabbed him and we walked away from the others. I actually was getting a little happy from my drink, and I wanted to be with my friends alone somewhere. We scouted out Keith and Nick and went up to the house, where we sat squeezed together on the porch steps. I really wanted to say something profound, but couldn't find any words. I kept my mouth shut. I was between Keith and Nick, and we all had our arms over each other's shoulders and sat in silence.
Finally, Scott asked, "So! Wudja think?"
Suddenly we were all yammering on so fast that I don't think anybody heard a word anyone else said. The words 'awesome', 'totally cool', and 'blew everyone away' were at the top of the list. We were all talking about each other, not ourselves, or the band as a unit for that matter. Every part's important, but it's like a food chain. The singer's at the top. Out front most of the time, putting on the show. Lead instrument's out there some of the time, whether it's a piano or a guitar or a sax. The bass and drums kind of put it all in an envelope and send it out to the audience. And they never get a break. What Keith had said earlier bothered me and I tried to let him and Nick know that nobody could shine for even a couple of minutes if they didn't have something solid to hold them out there. I just didn't want them ending their day thinking somehow that Scott and I had been the stars of the show.
We noticed a few cars leaving and made our way back to the barn. We wanted to stay together, but Nick's father insisted they were all going out to a restaurant to celebrate. Mandy had to go there, too. I kissed her goodbye and she promised that tomorrow we'd get together after school. Keith's family was doing the same thing as Nick's, and he had to leave, too. My family wanted to leave, and my father tried to get me to go with them, but I was adamant that I wanted to stay with Scott and I'd find a way home later. I got hugs and kisses and 'good job' comments from all of them, then they were gone. By now, the only people left were the serious drinkers at the bar and some of Scott's family. We climbed up the ladder to the hayloft and laid down side by side, holding hands.
"Joey?" Scott whispered.
"I know, Scotty. I'm just tired of hearing it."
"We did it, Joey. We went out there and did it. And I wasn't scared. Just at first, then I just had the best time ever."
"I don't mean do you. I mean will you?"
"Scott, I can't even picture not being your friend ... not loving you."
"I don't mean in the future. I mean, will you love me right now? Make love with me, I mean. Please, Joey. I need to do this just once. Please, Joe. I need this." He was hugging me with all his strength.
"What about Nick?"
"Don't tell her. Joey, you don't hafta do anything. I just need to really love you, at least once in my life."
I laid there silently. I was feeling the need to take a leak. I was scared of what Scott was saying, how it could ruin everything we had. Or maybe not. This was my best friend. Now he wanted to have sex with me, or me with him He hadn't been specific. Would he be happy if we just kissed for a while? Would he hate me if I said No? What harm would it do if I said Yes? We had the foundation in friendship my father had talked about. We also had the one-sided need Scott himself had talked about just that morning. Nick and I had done a few things, and I had felt bad afterwards. I'd come close with Scott a few times and felt bad then.
"I gotta pee."
"You coming back?"
"I'll be back."
Normally we'd just piss out the loft door, but there were people and cars down there now. I went back behind the barn and did my business. I decided that, maybe, if I took the initiative, we could cuddle and kiss for a while and that would be enough.
When I got back up to the loft, I pulled Scott into a hug and kissed him on the mouth. He actually struggled at first, probably thinking I was just fooling around. That passed quickly, and our kiss deepened. I parted my lips enough to slip my tongue out and it found his waiting for it. Just the tips played with each other for a while, and the feeling was exotic and exciting.
We'd done this once before, but it was accidental. Now we both had a little more experience. I opened my mouth a little while pushing my tongue gently at his lips. He opened up a little, and my tongue slid in between his teeth. Now, I'd done this with Mandy and Nick before, but something about the taste of Scott sent a jolt to the center of my soul. There was almost a metallic feeling as we began to brush tongues together. It was like nothing I'd experienced with either Nick or Mandy. I was losing my breath, so I backed off a little and just looked into Scott's eyes. I saw wonderment and love staring back at me. He wasn't smiling or anything, just looking.
He still had his shirt open and I gently traced my finger down his breast bone and back up, feeling the tiny bit of almost invisible hair that had started to grow there. He leaned back in to kiss me. I kept stroking his chest, barely touching the skin. Scott pulled me down from a sitting position. He started unbottoning my shirt as we kissed. I had to help him pull it out from where it was tucked in. Then he slid his hand up inside my tee shirt, brushing across my tummy and up to my breast bone, where my bunching up undershirt prevented any further movement. I mumbled for him to wait, then sat up and pulled off my shirt and tee, spreading them under me for a little protection from the hay. Scott did the same, and we laid back down and resumed our kiss. I started stroking his back and he did the same to me. I loved the feeling of his skin under my finger tips. I felt his hair and loved the feel of that, too, running my fingers through where it was long in back. He was stroking my back at the same time, and he eventually touched that spot at the top of my ass and made me jump.
"Where?" he whispered.
I pulled his hand to it and jumped again. "There. Right there. Wait ..." I undid my belt and opened my pants, then rejoined our kiss. His fingers slid back and forth across that spot, then felt their way across my underpants and down one of my ass cheeks. He hit another spot about halfway down and I jumped again. I managed a giggle even with Scott's tongue in my mouth. Then I put my hand on his ass. I was really surprised by the sensations I got from the feel of it through his jeans. The roundness and softness of it felt really nice under my fingers, and I soon found myself feeling all around it with my whole hand. I pulled closer to him, and suddenly my boner was pushed into him. My zipper was down, so all I had covering me were my thin underpants. I took my hand off Scott and reached around to touch myself. When I did the back of my hand brushed against Scott's hard dick. He jumped so fast he actually hurt my chin with his. I turned my hand around and started to stroke him instead of myself. I couldn't believe how huge he felt. I moved my hand up and managed to get his belt undone, then the snap to his jeans, then the zipper. I went back to his dick, feeling it much better through his underwear. I stroked him all over.
He was breathing so hard he couldn't hold the kiss any longer, and just leaned away gasping for air. I sat up a little and tried to tug his jeans down. He lifted up some and pulled them down himself. I touched the inside of his thigh as lightly as I could, then moved my fingers down below his balls and stroked up over them and along the length of his dick and to the elastic on his underwear. I slipped my hand inside and bumped into his dick, which I wrapped my hand around, causing it to jump. He rose up again, and pushed his underpants down into his jeans. I started to stroke him off, and doing that, seeing his reaction, hearing it, feeling it, seemed suddenly to be the perfect expression of my love for him.
I tasted Scott that night, the one and only blow job I ever gave anyone, and I didn't stop when he started frantically tapping my shoulder. I knew what was coming, and part of me feared it, but most of me wanted it to happen, and it wasn't awful when it did.
Afterwards, I rested my head on Scott's tummy for a while. He was breathing pretty heavily. He lifted his hand and began to stroke my hair. I eventually found the strengh to pull beside him and look at his face. I kissed him on the cheek. "Scotty?"
"How was it? Did I do okay?"
He gazed at me with a dreamy look in his eyes and the beginning of a smile. "Oh Joey .... I can't believe you did that. I never thought ... I mean ... I don't know what I mean. It was just so awesome! Are you okay?"
He moved his hand and started to stroke me. I took hold of his wrist and held him away. "Scotty, don't."
"That was for both of us. You don't have to pay me back or anything."
"I want to."
"Scott, you have Nick. He loves you. You can tell him I raped you or something, but if you tell him you raped me back it won't sound so good."
"I don't get you."
"If you make love back to me, where's it leave Nick? I know you think he's ok with it, but I don't. I don't mean he'll say anything, but he'll always know what we did, and he might start to not trust you. He wants to love you as your lover. I want to love you as my best friend. I don't ever want to do anything to mess up either one. So, can we just get dressed and be friends?"
"If ... if it's what you want."
"It's what I want, Scott."
"Okay, boss. But I owe you big time." We stood up and straightened ourselves out.
We looked into each other's eyes, both of our expressions quizzical. Had this changed how we felt about each other? I tried to read his expressionless face. He started to smile. I smiled back at him. This was Scott. Nothing had changed between us. I grinned.
"You don't owe me a thing. Not a thing. You taught me how to love, Scott. You've already paid me back a million times. Let's see if there's any booze left. I got a funny taste in my mouth."
We both laughed and climbed down from the loft to finish growing up. It was going to be as easy as falling off a log.
T h e E n d
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