Falling Off a Log

By Driver

Chapter 20

After school, Scott and I met Dave at his car. I explained that I needed to go get my guitar, and we headed off to my house. As soon as we took off, Davey said, "Hey, I saw Keith talking with that punk Nick Cassarino. I hope he's not hanging around with him."

A giant Uh-Oh formed in my mind as a lump formed in my throat.

Scott opened his mouth. "What's wrong with Nick? He's our bass player and he's good!"

"That kid's no good. Don't you know he's queer?"

"He's a nice kid," I piped in. "He's lonely, but he's ok once you know him."

"But he's a queer!"

"A queer? I don't know what a queer is, but Nick's our friend. And our bass player. He's gonna be writing some of our stuff."

"Look, you guys. You do what you want. But don't go getting alone with him or you'll for sure find out what a queer is!"

Scott and I both adored Dave. I, for one, had never ever heard him put anyone else down, even when they desperately deserved it. Now he's calling our new friend a name that sounded bad, but meant nothing to me. I could see it meant nothing to Scott, either.

"What are you talkin' about Dave? What's he ever done to you?"


"Well, can we leave it alone, then?" pleaded Scott.

"Yeah, yeah. Just drop it. Forget I said anything. I'm sorry, guys."

We dropped it. I rounded up my guitar and stuff and we headed to Keith's house. Him and Nick were already there, and they came up and helped bring down all the parts of the new PA system. Nobody really knew how to set it up, so we pressured Davey to stay and help us. He figured it out in no time, just enough to hook up Scott's mike and get it working. He showed Scott how to work some stuff, saying that it could mix the whole band but he didn't have time to wire up everything today. He was way out of character. I'd never seen him look uncomfortable before, but he sure was today. He couldn't get out of there fast enough.

I got my new guitar out of the case. I thought Keith was going to hemorrhage. He was a drummer, but he went bananas when he saw the guitar. Everybody told him to go sit on a cymbal or something. We tuned up. Then Nick said to let me and him start what we were doing yesterday so Keith could get the beat. Then we'd try it for real.

"Don't let us get too loud, Keith. But it's hard not to."

We started, with Keith poking around on the drums until he indicated he was ready. Then we started again.

"One. Two. Three. FOUR!"

Bass, Guitar and drums did the short intro, then Scott started in. If you've ever played in a band you can appreciate that it's hard to concentrate on the whole thing. You try to do your part and blend in with everyone else, but mostly what you hear is your own part because that's where your concentration really is. This time, though, all I could do was listen to what the others were doing.

Scott's new PA brought his voice to the front of everything and he sounded like ... a sexy angel! Nick and I were doing what we'd done the day before. And Keith, well Keith was sounding like he never did before. Nothing fancy - this song didn't call for fancy drum work. But spot on. Solid. Mostly the bass drums and the snare. It felt like the rest of us were in a box, and the box was him. When it came time for my lead, I bumped butts with Nick. He got the message, and we started dancing like we had yesterday. The moves definitely needed work, but we were so into the music that it got hard to stand still anyhow. When it got back to the lyrics, Scott started moving around, too. He was half strutting around and half dancing and he got a little breathless from all the activity, but that only added another quality to his voice. On his last note he tried twirling the mike, but he sorta let go and it flew over and landed on one of Keith's tom-toms. We kept playing. Me and Nick had figured out that a short lead in the middle and a longer build up at the end fit the song better. We'd worked out a pretty good ending, but hadn't told Keith about it. He figured it out pretty well by himself.

When it was over, we all looked kind of surprised and happy. There was a loud "Woooo-eeee," from the stairs. Brian was standing there looking like he'd just found the gold at the end of the rainbow.

"I want to be your manager! I can see it now! Local punks get good, sell one billion copies in the first hour! You guys are fantastic!"

"We need more than one song," Scott said. "Me and Joey have some more. How about you guys?"

Nick looked at Scott and said "I got some things I been thinking of, but I never did much with it. I got Joey's other guitar now - give me a little time with it."

"Want me to work with you?" Scott asked. "I'm pretty good with words and tunes, but Joey always helps me put it together. Why don't we all try together? What's some of your ideas?"

Nick looked around. "Now? I guess. Joey, you want to try the bass for a little?" We switched instruments.

"Here's one. It's in E."

"Nick, Scott's voice breaks up a little in E. Worse in D. Try goin' up a little. F or G."

"OK, let me try F."

He started picking out a pretty neat melody line. He wasn't too sure of it because of the key change, but I got the idea of where he was going. I tried to add a little bass line, but didn't do too well as I'd only plunked on a bass a few times before.

"Let's switch back, Nick. I think I get what you're doing."

We switched instruments again and I just started plucking things out until he was satisfied that I had it right. Then he set the tempo on the bass and we fooled around with it for a few minutes. Keith started in with the drums and it started to sound pretty good.

Scott asked, "Do you have words for it?"

"Not on me. I'll bring them to school tomorrow, but they need work. I'm not much of a poet."

We messed around with Nick's song and a couple of other things until it was time to go home. Brian dragged his father down the stairs, and we had to play the first song again, not that we minded. It was way better this time. We were totally loose and moving around from the beginning. Scott was doing his dance/strut thing, and Nick and I tried to make our moves fit in with his. Nobody tried to add or subtract anything from what we'd started with. I mean, nobody did exactly what we'd done before, but we had the gist of it and we weren't trying to change that.

Keith's mother had joined his Dad and Brian on the stairs and they were all clapping and yelling when we got done.

While we were packing up we, asked Scott if we could move to his barn. He said he'd ask, but didn't sound too hopeful. He asked if I could stay over on Friday. I told him he should ask Nick and Keith, too, but he didn't want to. He did ask them to come over and hang out on Saturday and Nick said he would, but Keith had a fife and drum thing somewhere.

Davey was coming for Scott, but I decided to walk home with Nick. We declined a ride from Brian.

When we got outside it was cold again, and getting dark. "Wanna find a pile of leaves somewhere, Joey?"

"I don't think so. I am kinda glad we did that last night, though. It made me feel real close to you. Like we're really friends and not just in the same band. I really like you, Nick. And I can see Scott does, too. And you're already friends with Keith."

"I guess ... but I thought you might ... want to ... again."

"Nicky ...."

"Please don't call me that. It's ... it's kind of reserved for my Dad. He calls me Nicky. He's the only one who ever did. It's ... special ... that way I know it's really him."

"Okay, Nick. I just wanted to say that we don't have to do stuff like last night to be friends. We can just hang together and have fun, or just talk. I know everything about Scotty and him about me. We don't keep any secrets. No secrets at all."

"You didn't tell him what we did, did you?"

"A little. About hugging and kissing. He wanted to know if he should be jealous. But I will tell him about ... that other thing. He won't mind."

"How can he not mind? He's your best friend, then a little faggot comes along and gets horny with you the first time you're nice to him. He's gotta mind."

"I don't know what you're talking about! I don't know what a faggot is. Last night was nice, that's all. Most of it, anyhow. I had to take a shower in my underpants to get them off, then I threw them away. What I mean, if you really want to be friends, you don't have to do anything but be friends. Talk to me. Let me know what's on your mind and I'll try to help, and you gotta do the same things for me. That's all. It's not hard. At least once you get to know somebody."

"You really don't know what a faggot is?"


"I ain't gonna be the one to tell you."

Then, I went on to tell him my idea about Wank Tanks, and how I came up with it in the shower. He thought it was hilarious, and showed another side of himself as he expanded on it. We were in tears from laughter when we hugged, then parted. As I was walking away he yelled out "We could franchise it. Bigger than McDonald's. Who wouldn't go? A real public service! And we'd save all them horses too! Wank-Tanks, Incorporated."

His laughter faded from my ears as I headed home, but I had a feeling it hadn't diminished."

I wanted to talk to my Dad tonight.

... continued

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