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Battle of the Bands

BOOK: Battle of the Bands
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Battle of the Bands

K.L. Denman

orca soundings

Copyright © 2006 K.L. Denman

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Denman, K.L., 1971-

Battle of the Bands / K. L. Denman.

(Orca soundings)

ISBN 1-55143-674-4 (bound) ISBN 1-55143-540-3 (pbk.)

I. Title. II Series.

PS8607.E64B38 2006    jC813'.6    C2006-903259-9

The Lunar Ticks are on their way to the top.
First published in the United States, 2006

Library of Congress Control Number:

Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.

Cover design: Lynn O'Rourke

Cover photography: Getty Images

Orca Book Publishers
PO Box 5626 Station B
Victoria, BC Canada
V8R 6S4

Orca Book Publishers
B PO Box 468
Custer, WA USA

Printed and bound in Canada.

09  08  07  06  •  5  4  3  2  10

Chapter One

The smell in the garage is lousy. No matter how much incense Cia burns to cover it up, the aroma of mold and car exhaust lingers. Old bulbs coated with years of dust and cobwebs don't cast the best light either. But when I pick up my guitar and my fingers find the strings and that first riff comes screaming out of the amp, the only thing that matters is sound.

Kel joins in on bass and then Cia gets going, pounding out the beat, making
snarly faces because she thinks drums ought to lead off. The girl does set down a solid rhythm, but I keep telling her, original doesn't follow any rules. Kel and I grin at her and she scowls. Then she smiles too and we get in sync, start gelling.

Sometimes that whole rush of being perfect lasts for all of two minutes and then one of us messes up and it's over. I say,
, and Kel says,
, and Cia says nothing, just rolls her eyes. Then we go again. We keep going because, someday, everyone's going to listen to The Lunar Ticks.

That's us, our band. Kelvin is on bass guitar. He is over six feet tall, and on a lucky day, after pizza, he might weigh 130 pounds. His hair is long and thin too, and his feet! Let's just say his parents have his shoes special ordered. They look like modified skis. The only wide thing on Kel is his mouth, and maybe that's what attracted his girlfriend, Amy.

Almost everything on Amy is wide. Her bottom end has a hard time staying
inside the confines of her jeans—it's like she's oozing out everywhere. Her chest is mega, and then there's her mouth. It's not just the actual size, it's what she does with it. Her mouth is one of the band's main problems. She talks way too much, and every time we finish a song she has to plaster her lips to Kel's. Our practice time is seriously shortened by all the breaks for mouth to mouth. It's like some sort of lifesaving routine, and it's not pretty. I try not to watch, but sometimes I still catch a glimpse and it's scary. Scary because Amy's eyes are usually wide open and glaring at Cia.

Cia never watches the face-sucking act. She either keeps her sticks tapping or she lights up a cigarette and stares at the smoke drifting into the rafters. This leads to more delays. There's scenario
, in which we have to wait for Cia to finish her smoke, or scenario
, in which Cia's mom smells the smoke and starts yelling. I hate scenario
. It goes like this:

“Alicia Stanton, what is that revolting stink? I'm going to count to ten and then I'm coming into that garage and all of your guests had better be gone because you are in trouble, young lady! Do you hear me? You are in deep trouble.”

So then Mrs. Stanton starts counting, and Kel and Amy and I have to grab our stuff and make a run for it because if we don't make it out in time, we're in for a long lecture. We have to hear about how we ought to thank our lucky stars that she lets us kids use her garage for practice. We ought to be more considerate. Don't we know how bad smoking is for our health?

Cia never says a word. She just keeps staring at the rafters as her mom rages on. The funny thing is that Mrs. Stanton never blames Cia directly. Don't ask me why. It's not like Cia is the picture of sweet innocence. She has shorter hair than Kel or me, a spiky mix of purple, green and black. She has too many piercings to count.
There's hardware in her nose, her lips, her eyebrows, her ears and who knows where else. I figure Mrs. Stanton knows it's Cia who smokes, but she pretends it's us so she can get her message across. Something twisted like that.

And then there's me, Jay. I'm not exactly perfect either, but I'm the leader of The Lunar Ticks. I'm the guy who got us together. We're a dedicated band. We have to be, because now is the time if we're ever going to be big. One day soon we're going to win a major battle, like the one coming up in June. It's just a couple of weeks away, and we need that win. The prize is an entire day in a professional recording studio. We're going to send out copies of our shiny CD, and all the DJs are going to play it and everyone's going to love it. We've got it all planned.

Chapter Two

Life outside the band is mostly boring. My parents aren't too harsh, and they did buy me my Gibson guitar. They got it secondhand, but it's a beauty with a flamed maple top and a tiger green nitrocellulose finish. It has a sweet rosewood fingerboard, and a mahogany body that fits me like it was made for me. Once in a while I play for my folks, and
my mom puts on this bright little smile, nods and says, “That's great, Jay.”

My dad squints and tries to find the rhythm with his fingers tapping the table, says he wishes he'd learned to play. And that's about all I have to do to keep them happy.

That, plus keep curfew and go to school, although grade eleven isn't my favorite gig. The other thing my parents do is keep a five-dollar bill taped to the door of the fridge. It got stuck there when they said I had an attitude problem back in grade ten. It came with the message,
If you don't want to follow the rules, there's your one-way ticket out of here, Jay.

How far am I going to get on five bucks? I'm not stupid. I do what I have to do, be a regular guy who lives with a regular family in a regular house in the suburbs of Vancouver. If there's an upside to school, it's the band battles we have at lunchtime. Every couple of months we get to set up in the gym and go at it. Lately, we've won every time. Which leads me to
another upside of school. The girls seem to like musicians. I get a fair bit of female attention. Okay, so maybe that isn't a good thing. I know I shouldn't complain, but it seems like a lot of those girls are like Amy. Pushy types who probably have way more experience than me.

Experience. That's my biggest problem. I just don't have enough experience in anything, and I consider this a flaw. How's an average guy like me supposed to come up with good music material when I haven't done anything yet? Sometimes I think I ought to take that five bucks and go, just hit the streets and find out what life is really about. It sucks to be stuck in kidville.

Today, Kel and I are headed for the music store. We won't be able to buy anything, but we go there just to pick out what we're going to buy when The Lunar Ticks make it big. It's like a ritual, same thing every time. We pause before entering the store, scan the display window, draw out the moment. Then we walk in and Kel
forgets to breathe. He forgets to drop his backpack at the sales counter. He forgets that he usually trips over his ski feet when he moves too fast. It's like his brain is erased every time he enters the presence of the Fender Precision bass with sunburst finish.

Once we're standing in front of that glass case, Kel always whispers, “It's still here.”

He puts his nose within a hair of the glass and drinks in every shiny, sexy curve of that guitar. His long face actually gets longer as he gazes, probably because his mouth hangs open. I figure he's hearing Roger Waters from Pink Floyd laying down the bass line for “Money” on his Sunburst Fender. I swear, if Kel ever starts drooling, I'm going to hit him.

“Yeah,” I say. “There it is.” I don't know what will happen to him if someone else buys the Fender. He'll probably keel over on the spot. I hope that day never comes.

A tinny bit of a Green Day tune breaks the spell this time. Kel startles and his nose bumps the display case, marking it with
a smudge. Then he digs in his pocket for his cell. “Hey,” he croaks. His voice isn't back to normal yet.

“Where are you?” The shrill demand comes from Amy. I wouldn't be surprised if everyone in the store can hear her screeching over the phone.

“Down at the music store. With Jay.”

“What? I thought you were coming over to see me! You promised, Kel.”

“I did?” says Kel. He sounds truly surprised. He probably did agree to be there when Amy asked him over, but I know he tunes her out and just says yeah, yeah, yeah while she goes off. Can't say I blame him.

Still, it's not my problem. I leave Kel stuttering into his phone and head over to the amps. I could use a new amp. It's not that there's anything wrong with the one I've got, but I'd love to have one that puts out more distortion. Some of the tube amps are fantastic for producing some really wild stuff. I figure we could use some wild.

I'm studying the specs on a very fine, very expensive amp when I become aware of someone else across the aisle doing the same thing. Usually I wouldn't notice the other dreamers, but it's like some kind of crazy feedback loop starts a reverb in my gut, and I look up and there she is. Smooth pale skin. Silky black hair. Long legs in tight black jeans. Her.

I don't know her, not really, but I do know this. Her name is Rowan, and she plays lead guitar in a band that's beat us in every battle outside the school. Her band is Indigo Daze and they are good. Really good. And she's really hot.

Rowan must feel me looking because her head snaps up and she nails me with a clear blue stare. A flicker of recognition dances across her face and she smiles, this tiny lift of the lips that makes me wonder. Is she mocking me? I can't tell, and that makes me mad. Or nervous. Or something. My first impulse is to smile back, but then I just drop my eyes and turn away like nothing happened.

And the moment's gone because here's Kel saying, “Hey, man, I've gotta go.”

Chapter Three

When you're experience deprived, you should do something about it, right? Especially if you happen to be a creative type, like me. I've tried a couple of the obvious things other kids around here do when they want some excitement. Drinking, smoking weed. Remember that “attitude problem” back in grade ten and the five dollars on the fridge? Let's just say I never got too far with the obvious
stuff. Not only did it get me grounded for a month, but it didn't give me anything unique or real. It just got me sick or high, like everyone else.

Maybe I wouldn't feel like I need to live more if it weren't for Kel and Cia depending on me. When we first got together and formed the band, I came up with some good lyrics for a song, and ever since they've expected more. I have to admit it feels good to have their admiration, but that's also a lot of pressure.

So here's what I do. On the night of the full moon, I go looking for life. I know that sounds lame, but I've heard that people get crazier when the moon is full, so chances of finding something cool must be good. Plus I needed something that would keep me on a routine. The moon is on a routine, right? It fit. Nobody knows I do this, nobody. I tell my folks I'm spending the night at Kel's, and Kel covers for me and that's it. Kel has asked what I'm up to, but I just shake my head and say, “It's about the art, okay?” That
always shuts him up. He just doesn't know what to say.

BOOK: Battle of the Bands
2.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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