Authors: Cecil Castellucci
“I have every single bootleg of Suck. I also have every single version of every song that any band has ever covered of Suck. I mean, you guys are like
Los Angeles band.”
“Well, thanks,” The Rat says.
“I mean, I’m just so honored to be breathing the same air as
“Well, don’t hyperventilate. I’m just a guy like you.”
“I’m a drummer, too, you know.” Garth Skater air drums intensely and bobs his head up and down and bites on his lower lip. I think it’s supposed to show his passion, but it just looks kind of dorky.
He finishes with a fake flourish and bows. The Rat actually applauds.
“Wow, The Rat!” Garth dorkily punches his fists together. Then his skateboard slips from between his knees and rolls away from him.
“Well, see you,” The Rat says after Garth as he goes and chases his runaway board. “Oh, and Suck is playing at Sunset Junction. You know. If you’re around.”
Garth catches his board with one hand and clutches his heart with the other hand and kind of staggers around like he’s having a heart attack.
“Are you shitting me?” he asks.
“No, it’s true. We’re going to start playing out again.”
“Oh my God. I’ve died and gone to heaven,” Garth says. “I’ve got to go post this on my blog.”
Then he flicks us the thumbs-up, jumps on his board, and skates away.
“What’s Sunset Junction?” I ask.
“It’s a street fair.”
“I like street fairs,” I say. “I want to go to a street fair.”
“It’s at the end of August,” The Rat says.
“Oh. I’ll be back in Montréal.”
“I know, it’s too bad. It’s a good time,” The Rat says. “Hey, how about we walk over to the Vista and go see a movie? We can get a break from this heat. Sit in some air-conditioning.”
“What’s playing?” I ask.
“Does it matter?” The Rat asks. “Most movies are crap. Hollywood crap. Made to the lowest common denominator. Made so that people don’t have to think.”
“So you don’t care what’s playing?”
“I just care that it’s gonna be cold,” he says. “And that I’m gonna be with my best girl.”
He throws his arm around my shoulder and gives me a squeeze.
His best girl. That’s not me. It’s Trixie. Or my mom. His best girls are the ones he actually knows. Not me. I’m like a smudge.
Like Lake says. I’m
I’m still thinking about how excited that kid was. He was actually freaking out over The Rat. I almost feel bad that I was sitting there having coffee with him and I didn’t care.
When we get to the Vista Theatre, The Rat and I go and grab some seats, but there is still some time to kill before the movie starts.
Ask a question. Ask a question.
I’m thinking of all the names I’ve heard so far. The Punk House. The Yellow House. The Rockplex. Grunge Estates. It’s not just houses either. It’s the celebrity Mayfair Market. The Rock-and-Roll Denny’s. The Rock-and-Roll Ralphs.
“Why do people refer to your place as Grunge Estates?”
“It’s from back in the day,” The Rat says, already digging in to the popcorn.
“It’s like you guys nickname everything. And everyone.”
“It’s easier to remember sometimes.”
Like when you’re drunk. Or high.
The lights go down and the curtains open and I am happy for the cold air, the dark theater, the not having to talk, and the being transported out of here. Even if it is only for two hours.
The phone rings. When I pick it up, the line is staticky.
I feel blubbery. Just hearing Mom’s voice makes me all quivery and sad inside.
I don’t want to lose our connection.
“I’m here! I’m using the satellite phone.”
“It’s amazing. I wish I could show you the site. It’s in pristine condition. Vittorio says that the site is outstanding.”
I love her little French accent. It’s more pronounced to me now since I haven’t talked with her for more than a week.
“I wish I were there,” I say. I want to be there. There’s still time! I want to ask,
When can I come down to Peru?
I almost ask, but it would be so much sweeter if she asked me.
“How’s L.A.?” she asks.
I say. She thinks I can take it. I don’t want her to know that I can’t. That it’s terrible. Get me out of here. You misunderstood my e-mails and text messages. I am
having adventures. I miss you.
“And The Rat?” she continues.
I look at The Rat, who’s trying to do his own thing and not listen in on my conversation but really is. He’s in the doorway of the hall, straightening out a poster.
“He’s OK,” I say.
“I want a full report,” Mom says.
But instead of telling her what is really going on, I come up with things to tell her. I tell her about Millie’s and the pool. I tell her about the Suck show and Guitar Center. I tell her about Lake. I try to make everything sound interesting, as interesting as she then makes the dig sound.
It is so good to hear her voice. It’s so good that I just let her talk and talk and talk. This is music to my ears.
“The site is really robust,” she says at the end. “There’s a lot here. I’m really going to have to take my time.”
“I’ll see you soon. Only eight more days!”
For a minute I think maybe we’ve been disconnected because Mom doesn’t say anything. But the line isn’t dead. I can hear more static and Mom’s breathing as she kind of sighs before she speaks.
“Well, I think we have to have a change of plans, Katy-bon.”
“What do you mean?”
But I know what she means. She already said it. The site is
She’s going to have to take her time.
“I think I’m going to have to stay a bit longer,” she says. She says it gently, using the voice that she used to use to tuck me into bed with. It makes me miss her more.
“How much longer?” I try not to sound like a needy baby.
“Well, I need to talk to Beau. It depends on him. I’d like to take as much time here as I can.”
I’m quiet. I don’t say anything.
“Katy. I won’t stay if you don’t want me to,” she says. “We’re a team.”
I want to say,
Mom, get on a plane and come back to North America. I am dying here. I am stifled. I am not with my people. I want you back. I want my life back.
But I am a good girl. A nice girl. I love my mother. I know how much this means to her. To
And the site is
It’s a robust site. And I know what I should say. I can hear it in her voice.
“You should stay,” I say. “You should totally stay.”
“I knew we were of the same mind about this. I’m so glad you agree, Katy. I think I should stay, too. It’s a risk and it’s going to cost me so much money, but I think it’s worth it. I think my research is really onto something. Vittorio thinks so, too.”
She talks more about the site and her thesis and her theory and her site boss, Vittorio, the Italian. She sounds different. Brighter. Happier.
Do I sound different? Or do I sound the same? I know I don’t sound desperate enough for her to change her mind and stick with the plan.
When she’s done, I pass the phone to The Rat.
“She wants to talk to you,” I say. “She has a favor to ask.”
“Me?” The Rat says. “She wants something from
The Rat enters my room without knocking.
“Oh, shit. I’m sorry,” The Rat says. “You could have been naked.”
“You could’ve been naked,” he says. “Or in here with a boy. I always hated that my parents wouldn’t respect my space. Next time I’ll wait till you say come in. OK?”
Then he leaves the room and closes the door behind him. I hear three knocks.
He was already in the room. Why is he making such a big show about this? It’s stupid. I make him wait a bit.
“Come in.” I say it as though I don’t already know he was there. As if it were a surprise.
The Rat comes into the room. He smiles. He’s probably pleased with himself for getting it right. He comes over to my desk and sits in the chair. He
s on the desktop. Then he digs into his pocket and pulls out a pick. Then he grabs the guitar from its stand and plucks at it.
I don’t know what he wants, and I’m not going to ask, so I go back to reading my book.
“We’re going to have to figure out a new plan for you,” The Rat finally says, kind of in time to the music. “Suck is going to be practicing a lot, since we’re going to give it another go. And that’s on top of the other bands I’m in. I’ve also got some gigs set up that I can’t get out of, and I’ve got to start working again.”
He won’t stop fiddling with the guitar. It’s annoying. “Maybe it’s not too late to register you for camp or something,” he suggests.
I think hopefully. Or adventure camp. Like
I could have a pup tent and make my own food on a fire. I could eat berries and mushrooms and wild game. You can live off that. I know. I read it in a book.
“In any case, it’s going to be
to have you here for the whole summer!” The Rat says.
I nod. I smile. Yeah. It’s going to be
I’m trying not to look as unsettled as I feel. Two and a half weeks was OK. The whole summer is
OK. How could my mother expect me to be fine with this?
I just want to be away from this room and the piles of crap everywhere and the dirty kitchen. Everything that doesn’t feel like home. I just want to transport out of here. I look back down at the words in my book. I can’t concentrate on them; they just lie there on the page, promising me an adventure out of here. But I can’t focus with The Rat making noise. He’s either speaking too much or he’s plucking or drumming away.
“Maybe I could get a library card,” I say. “I’m running out of books to read.” The advantage of having a book is that I can read at the table while I’m eating and look like I am doing something. If I’m reading, then I won’t have to talk that much. I can be alone in my own world, block out the real one.
“That’s a great idea,” The Rat says. Then his face gets all serious as he plucks out a few notes on the strings. “I think, since you’re going to be here awhile, I should tell you that I’m seeing someone.”
“Trixie,” I say. “I met her and Auggie the other day at the pool.”
He kind of bangs on the strings a bit. He looks at the strings and at his hands, but not at me. It’s like he can’t look up at me. It’s like he knows he should have told me.
“You OK with that?” he asks.
I don’t say anything until finally he has to look up.
When his eyes meet mine, I shrug.
“I should have told you,” he says.
At least he knows it.
“I don’t want to jinx it. It’s still new. I really like her.”
He strums the guitar some more. He hums badly. He should stick to just strumming, or drumming maybe. I want to tell him to get out of my room, because I want to be alone and miserable by myself. I want to tell him to please stop with the humming — it’s making me feel worse.
But he just keeps sticking around, like he thinks I need someone in the room with me. Like it’s going to comfort me. It’s not. The only thing that would comfort me would be my mother coming home and taking me away from here. But that is not going to happen. She is in Peru. I agreed to the new plan. And now I’m not going home.
“Hey, I’ve got an idea. You know what always makes me feel better?” he asks, not waiting for me to answer. “Pounding the skins. Let’s go to the jam space and jam. There is no one there tonight. I’ll play drums and you play guitar. It’ll be great! All right! I’ll just go change into my practice clothes.” He places the guitar back onto the stand and runs out of the room to get it together.
Sid Vicious sits in the doorway and lets out a moaning meow.
“Shut up,” I say.
Sid Vicious meows again.
I look over at the guitar. It’s kind of just staring at me, making me feel all guilty. I get a knot in my stomach.
“Let’s go,” The Rat says.
He’s pulled on a faded T-shirt that says
which is fitting because that’s what he looks like. He’s just standing in my room like some kind of overgrown teenager. But I think Adolescents are a band. I think I saw the name on one of the rock posters in the hallway. Most of his T-shirts are band T-shirts.