Itchy Boobs and Booger Sticks.

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The tensor bandage, plus a lack of blood circulation, is causing a major problem-- I want to scratch my girls. Badly. I resist only because in front of me are the people I'm auditioning for.

I'm going to wrap Akiko head to toe in a tensor if I ever make it through this.

I glance around the room as the last guy clears the stage. The inside of Crocodile Café is bigger than I'd imagined. And dirtier, much dirtier. The black walls peer between years worth of posters, stickers and graffiti. The floors are littered with coasters, ticket stubs and various bits of things that do a bad job covering the interesting diversity of stains.

I can't help wondering what musicians have gotten drunk here, which stains are theirs? -- that's probably why they don't mop the floor. Let's be honest, if a famous musician puked on my floor I'd probably leave it too. You know, depending on the caliber of musician and...moving along.

My phone vibrates and I pull it out to see a message from Akiko.

I imagine her fist pumping as she chants and it brings a smile to my face

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I imagine her fist pumping as she chants and it brings a smile to my face.

There's one table set up, it's in the middle of the room, in front of the stage. Sitting behind it, through the spotlights, I make out the silhouettes of four people.

"Raymond Harper?" A man says, as he stands. I shield my eyes from the light. He's dressed in a professional sport coat and has slicked back hair.

"Yes... here, uh, present."

"This is Taylor, Jack and Mason. They're the reason we're all here," he says nonchalantly as he points to the boys. They wave hello. I nod. My knees suddenly feel weak, my throat, like a boa constrictor, squeezing out the air.

It's not too late to run, is it?

"Cool," I say.

Cool? Gah! I think one of the bathroom zombies ate my brain.

"This is a two part audition," he continues, "first you play to the track of their new single. Second you have a chance to showcase your style with a drum solo, no music." He sits back and pulls out a pencil, jots down a few notes, and looks up to see me standing in the same spot. "Whenever you're ready," he adds.

I roll my lucky sticks between my fingers as I awkward-boy-strut-walk-attempt up to the stage. It takes me awhile to fine-tune my seat. Most likely because I'm trying my best to slouch like a boy and everything feels weird at these angles--I almost fall off the stool, twice.

When I finally get the perfect height I turn my attention to the rest of the kit. The sound of a throat being cleared echoes through the empty room. I rush to adjust one of the stands and the music starts. I panic, hit a symbol and throw off my rhythm. Next thing I know is I'm speeding through notes. I continue for a few bars into the song. It's bad.

"Uh, hello," I shout over the music. "Can I start over?"

Sport coat guy snorts a little laugh and turns to one of the guys. "It's your band," he says, in a tone that makes me think it's not their band at all.

One of them waves his hand. "Take your time."

Sport coat guy looks at his watch. "If he takes any more time we'll be here all night," he says loud enough for me to hear. "Just do the solo." He stands and makes a slicing motion in the air at his neck. "Can the music."

My palms are sweaty. I wipe them on the jeans as I adjust my seat.

This opportunity is slipping by-- like hair gel slips through sport coat guy's hair. I have to think of something to get their attention. And quickly.

I start twirling the sticks in my fingers, they go faster and faster, until they're a slight blur. Not every drummer can do this trick, I'm certain it will change a mind or two. Someone clears their throat with a cough. My fingers slip. The stick goes flying out of formation and... into my nose.

Behind the pulse of blood rushing to my face, I hear laughter and hissing "Owww's," come from the group at the table. All I can think while I dig out my lucky stick is;

ONE: At least some of them appreciate how much this hurts,

TWO: Zombies definitely got my brain,


THREE: I can no longer call these my lucky sticks.

This is the worst audition.

Plus, my boobs are new levels itchy. Seriously, is the fiber they use in tensor bandages the same stuff they make sandpaper with? Also, I'm wearing some weird gangster costume and I got a drumstick stuck up my nose. If 10FOUR hadn't pretty much laughed me off stage I'd probably do the job for them.

For some reason, despite all that, I feel the desire to finish. I need to do my best--for my dad, for Akiko, for me.

I suck in a deep breath and close my eyes, listening for the pattering beat of my heart. Its pulse flows through me, from the tips of my fingers to the soles of my feet. The drums become an extension of my limbs. I kick the base in rhythm with the beat.

The talking at the table stops.

I picture a crowd forming, they scream my name. I know it's not real. But it feels real. It feels right.

This is it.

I lift my sticks above my head, smack them together three times and smash them down on the symbol, rolling the beats into a sick solo. My arms fly about like a breeze, I linger on certain notes, crescendo on others. I leave nothing behind and let the rhythm guide me. And then, for the finale, my signature move, I do a snare roll, bounce the sticks off in a rim shot--they rotate in air, once, twice-- I catch them and finish with a two staccato beat.

My chest pulses. Sweat drips from under the wig. I'm smiling so big it hurts. Okay sticks, maybe you still have some luck in you after all.

The man in the sport coat stands. I suck in my breath. Ready. Waiting.

"We'll let you know," he says, his tone unimpressed.

There goes my solo-high. I was expecting a, "that was awesome," or maybe, "you're what we're looking for," not a, "we'll let you know."

"Oh? Okay." I force a quick smile of thanks in the general direction of the table, grab my sticks and hurry off stage. A lady at the door asks me something but I run right by her, outside, and I keep running. As I pass a dumpster I chuck the sticks in. They clink off the walls and the metal sides of the container. I keep running and I don't stop until I can no longer breathe--then I fall into an abandoned doorway, slide to the ground, bury my head in my knees and cry.

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