Gord walked out of the grocery store, felt the wind in his hair, pulled his last joint from his breast pocket, and got another great idea. He smacked his pants to see if there might be a pen or a pencil in his pocket, but there wasn’t. He didn’t have paper either, but he could have fished around the bag of groceries and used the receipt. If he had a pen. But whatever, he lit up, inhaled, and repeated the idea in his mind until it began to take shape.
Pussy Lingus and Kitty Vulvus: All girl punk bands. Lead singers have to be hot and raunchy.
It was already a good day. Kathy had left fifty bucks to cover a small grocery list: sausages (or at least good hot dogs), buns, prepared salad greens, and razors. Her morning note, taped as always to the refrigerator where Gord was certain to find it, urged him to take a cab both ways, because of the high humidex and the way it had been wreaking havoc lately with his delicate immune system.
Gord’s plan however was this: walk the twenty five minutes to the grocery store, lie to Kathy and tell her they were out of razors, but buy fancy buns, big salads, and all beef wieners. Maybe a six pack of butter tarts. It would still look like he spent a majority of the money; therefore she wouldn’t ask for her change back. He could either cab back, or buy a Gyro for lunch, and keep a cool twenty in his pocket.
Pussy Lingus and Kitty Vulvus: Identical twins who hate each other form two identical dirty-girl punk bands. They always seem to be playing at the same club, on the same night, right after each other. Every song the one band plays sounds eerily like a song from the other band. Every show ends in a horrible, yet tantalizing girl fight.
Smoking up outside the grocery store at eleven o’clock in the morning delighted Gord to no end, so he made sure to do it brazenly. Pent-up mothers with their toddlers would smell what he was doing and flash angry looks his way. Professional women in nice office clothes would smile from the corners of their mouths, obviously attracted to Gord’s rock energy, possibly yearning to escape their lives and have a puff with him.
Pussy Lingus and Kitty Vulvus: The thing could be, I could play bass in both bands. The girls could fight over me. That would be awesome.
He flicked his tiny butt at a passing car.
They knew him by name at the Gyro shop. He bought one, extra hot sauce, to eat later, and walked twenty five minutes home. He was so tired when he got back to the apartment, he had to lie down on the couch and watch two episodes of Court TV. The phone rang a couple of times, but he let the machine take it. He fell asleep for fifty minutes.
He dreamt about breasty Japanese women. Fifty minutes was just enough nap to throw him off his rhythm, but not enough to make him feel like he was going to waste another day. He rubbed his eyes and started a pot of coffee in the kitchen to get rid of the headache he always woke up with. Kathy claimed the headaches were because he never drank water. What the hell does she know? Coffee has water in it. “Crap,” he said aloud. “What the fuck was that idea I had. It was good.”
Gord fished out his Gyro from the grocery bag, removed it from its foil and put it in the microwave. Then he walked over to the sunroom of the apartment, the one that he and Kathy had been slowly transforming into a home recording studio. After only a few months, he was able to cobble together a good microphone, drum machine, used portable digital recorder, and a few effects boxes. Kathy sewed a heavy curtain at her mother’s house, which was then hung in the doorframe to block out noise. Kathy also constructed a large dry-erase marker and cork board with the title ‘Gord’s Music Epicentre’ rendered in heavy-metal calligraphy, flanked by a two angry looking musical notes.
The home studio was overwhelming in its way. His current project, a series of long, complicated instrumentals organized under the title ‘The Key to All Mythologies’, was so sprawling it sometimes sucked all the initiative out of him; there were days he couldn’t even look at his instrument, let alone play it.
But today was going to be different. Gord stood in the room, concentrating on the dry-erase bulletin board, which had been organized into three columns: GIGS / PROJECTS / BAND NAMES. The last column was there because he had a knack for thinking up good band names, song titles, and concepts for shows. He tried as often as he could to write his ideas on post-it notes and stick them up on the board. It was just a matter of time before he would hit upon some idea that would make him boatloads of money.
He stared intently at last week’s ideas:
SWEET LADY WINE (’70’s hippie rock)
4 STAR MOTEL (any kind of band, any kind of genre)
UNISEX UNITARD (name for a small indie label, could have a great logo)
CLINICAL TRIALS (trash-punk, gotta be a girl on drums)
THE CREAMS (retro-glam pop)
FRENULUM (prog metal without the goth)
FORGOTTEN GYROS (Mediterranean jazz fusion)
“ALL MY FRIENDS ARE HORSES” (some sort of hideous new country song.)
“Fuck. What the hell was that thing I thought of this morning?” The microwave dinged. He ate his Gyro with two cups of coffee at the kitchen table. Within about twenty minutes he started cramping up. Gord hobbled to the bathroom, and found the near empty bottle of No Name Pink Liquid Antacid (hidden in the corner of the bathroom medicine case, behind the vitamins and pregnancy tests and creams and jars and whatnot Kathy had brought home with her last night). He took the bottle, and swigged it down watching more Court TV. It was always best to sit still and wait for the pain to pass.
When he woke up the second time, there was a soap opera on the television, which meant it was sometime after three o’clock. But his cramp was gone, so all Gord needed to do was go to the bathroom, and set about his work. The phone rang again, in the middle of his business, so again the machine took it. Gord remembered the phone had been ringing earlier in the day. After washing, he went back into the living room and listened to four new messages:
“Hello Kathy dear, (and hello Gord), it’s your mother, I just wanted to say that if we are going to do any scrapbooking this weekend, we’d better switch it from Friday night to Saturday night because your father seems intent on taking me to some infernal boat show. Come for dinner if you’re not too busy; tell Gord your father will be doing steaks, so he needn’t be frightened of my cooking.” (beep)
“Hey. yeah, uh, I hope I got the right number. I’m Lars Henry, I’m looking for Gord Reed. Lou at the Corktown gave me your number ‘cos our bassist just fucked off on us, and we got these two label guys coming down to see our show, right? Lou said you were good, and could play from charts, so I was wondering if you might be interested. It’s like not a lot of money or anything, but we gotta get someone, right? Let me know, okay?” (beep)
“Gord honey, if you’re there, pick up…..if you’re not, I hope to God you didn’t walk home just to save money. We’ve talked about that. I don’t want you falling asleep with sun stroke again. Not tonight anyway. You know what night it is. And I think I might have a little surprise for ya. Anyway, luv ya..”(beep)
“Oh, shit, yeah, it’s Lars Henry again, I just called like an hour ago. I don’t think I left my number. Sorry man. Oh yeah, and the gig is soon, it’s a one hour set and we do it at the Corktown on July 22. Plus we got a rehearsal tonight, and it’d be great if you could make that too. So call okay? Jesus, oh yeah, the number is 905 525….”
Gord stopped the machine because he had no pen. He fished around in his pants for one, but then remembered how he didn’t have one earlier in the morning. He knew who Lars Henry was; he sang for a band called ‘Spliffylis’, formerly ‘The Fateless’. They were heavy, fast, completely humourless, and really fucking good.
The Four New Messages: Christian acapella quartet.
His head began to throb. Gord hadn’t played a show in maybe a year, not since the last show he played with Maggots in the Meat, the funk-metal outfit that by now would have had its own major label deal if it weren’t for the hissy fits of the lead guitarist. Spliffylis seemed like a much more stable entity. Who knows what kind of opportunities this might create.
“July 21st. I don’t even know when that is.” He walked into the bedroom, to Kathy’s oak vanity set. Near the mirror there was a oval wooden box covered in black felt, where Kathy stored a set of expensive ball point and calligraphy pens (she often hand-wrote letters). Beside that was a miniature desk calendar. Gord sat down. There weren’t many times when it occurred to him how unlikely a couple he and Kathy really were, and it had been for nearly five years now. Ever since the night she waited around for him after a gig. He never asked why someone like her would be spending time at sweaty hard rock shows. He never asked himself why mousy girls in wholesome clothes were such a turn on. She didn’t rag on him, and she was real tiger in bed. So why ask questions?
He looked at the page of Kathy’s desk calendar. Today was Wednesday, July 19th. Wednesday. That’s why Kathy sounded excited on the phone. Wednesday was ‘Navy Crime Unit’ night on television. It was usually one of the two times each week they made love. That’s why she wanted something good for supper. “‘Pussy Lingus’. Fuck me. That was it. That was totally it. That was the name.”
He grabbed one of the good pens from the box. He thought of getting up to write and post his idea immediately on the dry-erase board, but was distracted by Kathy’s desk calendar. For a moment, he sat and marveled at the strange symbology she used on it, the incomprehensible shorthand:
JULY 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pdue? X X X X X 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 X X X X X X$ X 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 X X X (TEST!!) Prnts. 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 $ 30 31
Then he realized something. If he took this gig with Spliffylis, he would have to bail on Kathy and ‘Navy Crime Unit’ so he could make tonight’s rehearsal. But it would also create an opportunity to duck out of Saturday dinner with her parents. Kathy would get sucky about it for sure, but this was a serious opportunity. Gord needed to be serious about this. Spliffylis was a dream band, the sort of outfit he could easily take ‘the Key to all Mythologies’ to when it was finished. The sort of band that would tour across the country for long periods of time, play big shows, maybe get somewhere.
His stomach gnarled up inside. A smoke would help right now. He went to the phone machine, retrieved Lars Henry’s number and immediately dialed.
“Hey, I’m trying to find Lars Henry.”
“It’s Gord Reed.”
“Oh, hey man. Cool. Thanks for getting back.”
“No problem. What’s up? You said your bass player fucked off on you?”
“Yeah, well, not really. Not for good. He’s getting married on Saturday, so he’s kind of, you know, tied up with that.”
“Yeah, he’s really pissed to miss the gig, but it’s the only time these label guys could come out. So we just got to make it happen, you know.”
“Huh. So you’re not looking for a replacement guy, just someone for the night.”
“Yeah, think you can help us out with that?”
“Yeah, I mean, man, I don’t know, you know? I got these commitments I gotta sort out first. Is there money?’
“Uh, not really. We’re on with three other bands and are splitting the door. I mean I can get you $50 for sure, but you know, not really tons more. Lou kinda said you might just be looking to get out and play, you know?”
“But you’d really be helping us out.”
“Yeah well, okay. Um, let me just see if I can squeeze out of some stuff, and I’ll call you right back. If you find someone else in the meantime, that’s cool. Otherwise let me see what I can do. I’ll make some calls and call you back.”
“Yeah. I’ll call you once I find out for sure. Either way I’ll call.”
He hung up the phone. Instinctively he fished around in the breast pocket of his shirt, even though he knew he had smoked his last that morning. He then thought about using the twenty in his pants to buy some more No Name Pink Liquid Antacid, because his stomach was acting up again. He was maybe even sweating. Something was wrong.
No Name Pink Liquid Antacid: Double NPLA: Power funk, maybe like ten guys in the band. Lead singer should be a rapper. Hot looking back up singers.
Gord tried in his mind to piece it together. It had started out as such a good day, not like the others. There was all of this good energy. And now it was as if the day had split off into a variety of different strings, and he had to choose which one to follow. Or worse, it had become a kind of math puzzle, something you had to think very clearly about in order to resolve. And as he sat there, he felt the coming moments become more and more important, more critical. He clenched his abdomen.
In the refrigerator, Gord foraged for a cola and found one. He chose cola because the bubbles sometimes helped his stomach to calm down. Even though Kathy always insisted that peppermint tea was the answer.
He went to the home studio and looked at the dry erase board. Nothing. He went back to the couch and turned on the television. The only thing on was a woman’s talk show. The topic today was “How to Raise Kids and Kick Start Your Dream Career”.
In less than two hours, Kathy would come toddling home. She would bound through the doors and begin to enthusiastically ferret out the details of his day. If he had nothing to say, she would still find a way to be supportive. Or she would segue and suggest that they make supper together, perhaps open a bottle of wine as they worked (although she hadn’t been drinking that much these days).
Then she would begin to tell him about her ‘surprise’, whatever the hell that was.
There was no way he was going to sub for a band if the pay was shit and it had no promise of leading anywhere. What’s the point? Why bother? Still, it would get him out of the house. And fifty bucks is fifty bucks.
If he really had guts, he would tell Kathy about the rehearsal tonight and then go somewhere else, maybe the donut shop that sells the $2 beers. Get some space. Whatever, it seemed like an impossible decision to make, it seemed as if there was no satisfying answer.
Down the hall, near the door, a row of delicately framed photographs hung clustered together on the wall. Kathy’s mother and father, Kathy graduating, Gord and Kathy in a rock club about a month after they met, Gord looking especially jowelly and uncomfortable in tight suit at Kathy’s sister’s wedding. And Gord standing with the band he formed in high school, ‘Broken Ice’, a moody black and white taken on the floor of an abandoned textile factory. The band name was his idea. It was his idea to have all of their faces buried by shadows.
The Daytime Ladies: All girl band, must wear business appropriate clothing.
He belched, and then winced. He stared intently at the breasts of the curvy host of the talk show. The answer would come to him. It always did.
Tor Lukasik-Foss is a musician, visual artist, and writer from Hamilton, Ontario. Since 2003 he has been active as a freelance writer, has written and released three independent CDs of his songwriting (under the name ‘ tiny bill cody’), written and performed several spoken word performances for public galleries and small performance venues throughout (and occasionally outside) Ontario. In the midst of doing all that, he has recently completed his first novel.