This is an unedited preview of my upcoming novel A Song for Julia,
scheduled for publication December 15, 2012. If you’re a blogger, and interested
in helping out with the cover reveal
on December 1, please sign up here!
Suburban Princess (Crank)
October 26, 2002
But no… there she was, her mouth moving, and I didn’t understand a word. To be fair, she was hot… freakishly so, even if she did dress like a librarian; she wore a floral knee length skirt that hugged her thighs and a pastel colored sweater, with what looked like a thousand bangles and bracelets running up her right wrist. Her eyes were very pale blue, strikingly so with her dark brownish blonde hair. She had this schoolgirl look about her that made me want to lick the back of her neck. It was the hostile stream of words out of her sexy little mouth that caused me to step back, both irritated and defensive.
“What was that?” I asked, hoping to get the torrent of words to just stop.
She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. I grinned.
“What I said was, you guys can’t set up here just yet. Mark Tashburn is about to go on… then there’s a fifteen minute break. You guys can set up after that.”
I rolled my eyes. “And we go on at the end of the fifteen minutes?”
She smiled, apparently relieved she’d gotten through to me. I don’t think she liked me that much. Her smile looked fake. Those ice cold eyes? Her smile never reached that far. I wondered what a genuine smile from her would look like.
“That’s right,” she replied.
“That won’t work,” I said. “Takes longer to set up than fifteen minutes.”
She sighed. “And why, exactly, are we just finding this out now?”
“Hey, not my fault. I don’t know who organized the time schedule on this thing, but it’s a complete mess. If you want us playing in 30 minutes, we needed to start setting up an hour ago. Takes time to set up the equipment and tune up.”
She huffed a little, then said, “Fine. Just … try not to distract the audience too much.”
Jesus, whatever. She came running up the moment we’d started to carry equipment on stage. Not like the crowd was paying attention anyway, there must be a hundred thousand people out there. Bunch of hippies and peace freaks and what looked to be effing soccer moms. For the hundredth time I asked myself how the hell I’d gotten roped into playing at an anti-war protest.
Of course, this was the biggest venue we’d ever played. But seriously, so far, the speakers had been a series of retreads from the 1960s. If that didn’t show how disconnected this thing was from reality, I didn’t know what did.
Whatever. This was Serena’s deal. She was big in the anti-war politics. And what Serena was into, the band did. We didn’t have a manager, but she was the closest there was. She sang with me, and played rhythm guitar, and had a magic sense for what music would work and what wouldn’t.
So, we rushed to get set up without alarming the natives or hippies or whatever. Finished in record time, no thanks to the princess who was off to the side of the stage with a clipboard, directing people here and there.
So, between the setup, tune up, and start, I had about fifteen seconds to take a breath, then launched into the first licks. The college kids in the audience started to groove on it right away, but the senior citizens and soccer moms … and holy shit there were a lot of them… stared up at us as if the stage had been swept with radioactive contamination. I gave the guitar and vocals just an extra twinge for them, blasting out the raunchiest original version of the lyrics to our song Fuck the War, rather than the extra special sensitive studio lyrics we’d ended up releasing.
I don’t want to mislead you. Morbid Obesity isn’t really a punk band, more alternative rock, with a bit of an edge. I’m the edge. To date, our most popular song was Fuck the War, which we released on an EP a few months back. It’s a love song, about my mom and dad, but you’ve got to actually listen to the lyrics to get that. I put a lot of emotion into it when I was writing it and when I was performing it.
I was on the second round of the chorus when I looked to the right of the stage and saw Miss Princess. She was grooving on the music. Moving just slightly, her lips were parted in a way that caught my breath. Pouty lips. Kissable lips. I had to laugh at myself a bit: so not my type. Well, except that she was female, and kind of hot. Still not my type.
Back in high school, some freak accident of the Boston Public School system sent a group of rich kids from Back Bay to South Boston High. That was a laugh. It only lasted a year, though I don’t know if that’s because they got the zoning reversed, or the parents just yanked their kids from the public schools. This girl reminded me of some of those kids. Imperious. Superior. Some of them looked at the rats like me as if we were future criminals.
I wonder if that’s why she was turning me on so much?
It made me want to tease her a little, so when I launched into the second verse, I sang right to her, and her alone. I was on the second verse when she met my eyes. I held them. Her eyes, so distant and blue, were arresting. She noticed I was singing to her: she practically froze in place, a deer caught in the headlights. I love it when girls react that way. Showed she was human. If we’d been back home in Boston, I’d have grabbed her and pulled her on the stage, but that wouldn’t go over with this audience.
After a second though, she met my eyes and gave a sly grin, as if to say I know what you are up to. I grinned back, belting out the lyrics. The base and drums in this song were powerful, and demanded that the body dance. I broke off eye contact and took off across the stage, then threw myself into the solo, screaming out the lyrics at the crescendo, then brought the song to a crashing halt.
Despite the shock of the soccer moms and lobbyists in the crowd, the college kids loved it, and screamed for more. Suburban princess applauded, a mysterious grin on her face. I wanted to know her a lot better.
That wasn’t going to happen. This was an antiwar protest, not a meet and greet. As soon as the song finished, we started breaking down the stage, and golden girl jumped up to the microphone and shouted, “Give it up for Morbid Obesity and their hit Fuck the War!” I paused what I was doing to check her out while she was at the microphone.
The crowd went nuts again, which was nice. Hearing the name of my song on those lips was even nicer. But five second later she was introducing the next round of speakers, a bunch of broken down Vietnam and Gulf War vets who had been dredged up by the organizers of this parade to give it some credibility.
Mark and I dragged most of the equipment off the stage, while Pathin broke down the drums and Serena pulled the extra monitors and wiring apart. As I stepped off the stage for the last time, the suburban princess met me at the bottom of the stairs. I stumbled down the last step, and ended up less than six inches away from her, looking down into those fantastic eyes.
“You guys were pretty good,” she said, her head tilted back, eyes on mine. “Thanks for doing this.”
I shrugged and grinned. “It was fun.” Pretty good? That’s it? Jesus, she was close. I could smell her perfume, a faint, pretty smell.
“So…” she said, looking me in the eyes.
“How long is this thing going to go?” I asked.
“Half a dozen more speakers, then they march around the White House. Maybe another hour.”
Mark walked up just as she was answering the question. Our base player, Mark’s a big guy, who might have been a football player in an alternate universe where football players smoked too much pot and hung out in the Pit in Harvard Square. His eyes widened when I opened my stupid mouth again.
“So, after it’s over, want to grab some lunch?”
She opened her mouth. Like, in shock. I know I’m not exactly wearing frickin’ tweed, but I’m still a good guy.
“Come on,” I said. “It’s just lunch. I won’t do anything too offensive.”
Mark spoke in a sarcastic tone, “I don’t think she’s your type, Crank.”
She closed her mouth, eyes darting to Mark. Her eyes narrowed, and her lips set in a thin line. It looked like she wanted to hit him. This girl was volatile. I liked that. “Sure,” she said. “Where?”
I shrugged. “Um… I don’t know the area.”
She looked thoughtful for just a second. “Georgia Brown’s at 15th and K Street. They’ve got outdoor seating. See you there… four o’clock?”
Yes! Was it me, or had she actually moved fractionally closer to me?
Mark let out a chuckle and walked away.
“All right,” I said. “See you at four,” I said, looking at her eyes one more time.
I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.