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I was right about one thing, Belle sure could medicate me. She made me take four aspirin, drink a can of ginger ale, and gave me a slug of cough medicine for good measure. “Jacket fits?” she asked.

“Yes.” I didn’t want to take it off even though I knew that might bring the fever down. I just felt cold, cold, cold, and the coat was lined and warm.

“You function okay when you’re stoned?”

“Excuse me?”

“When you’re stoned. Do you function? Can you deal?” Her maroon lips slowed down for me.

“Yeah, I guess.”

She gave me the bottle of cough medicine. “Then hang on to this. In a couple of hours you can take another swig. If it knocks you out too much, you can take a nap in my office.” She moved a stack of papers off the couch. “Do you remember what floor this is?”


“Good boy. I’m going to be out most of the day. I’ll check into the video shoot once in a while, but you can always use this couch.”

“Thanks, Belle, really.” The bottle of cough syrup went into the inside pocket of my new jacket. Belle patted me on the head and I didn’t even mind.

The video shooting and interviewing were going on in a large studio elsewhere in the building. I’d had no idea there was anything like this there–I’d assumed the whole building was offices. But there it was, a two-storey high room, with a stage and room for an audience of a few hundred, acoustic-paneled walls and two glassed-in control booths. I realized that all of our equipment was on the stage–someone must be taking care of all the details like getting the gear to the next gig after this. I wasn’t sure if I was happy or worried that I was completely ignorant of the details themselves.

The woman who’d brought the tape to Mills the night before was there. She and Belle had the same taste in business suits. As soon as she saw me she broke off her conversation with the video director and came over to me.

“I hear you’re sick,” she said, her hand on my arm. Her fingernails seemed strangely shiny and long.

“Belle gave me some aspirin,” I said. “I’ll be fine. Um, what’s your name again?”

She smiled and patted my arm. “I’m Patty Marshfield, Mills’ executive assistant.”

I had always thought assistants were fresh out of college types, but Patty looked to be in her late-thirties, maybe had kids of her own. Her partly blond hair was tucked up into a kind of roll on her head and she had slight wrinkles at the edges of her eyes that made her look like she’d spent too much time in the sun. If Belle was Anita Baker, Patty Marshfield was… Linda McCartney.

“How long have you worked for Mills?”

“About six years,” she said. “And I was in the marketing department before that. Here, let’s get started.”

The morning passed by in a haze thanks to the cough medicine. While the video crew filmed one or two of us on the stage, various reporters would talk with the others in one of the control booths. At one point I climbed onto the stage and picked up the Ovation and it felt like weeks since I’d played, even though the show had been, what, two, three days ago? The director wanted me to mime through the solo as recorded on the album–the live footage didn’t come anywhere near to syncing up because I’d played something completely different. The playback came through the PA and I started walking through the notes, my hand moving up and down the neck of the guitar like I wasn’t even controlling it. A strange sensation, but a familiar one, too. Sitting in Remo’s living room, playing note for note what was coming out of the stereo, Yes, Rush, The Police, rock songs, pop songs, didn’t matter. Only this time the song was something I’d written and played first. A little vertigo came over me, like double vision in the ears.

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