(I’M NOT YOUR) STEPPIN’ STONE
It was two o’clock when I went up to the studio, and from the look of the pile of gear inside the door Chris had been there and then left.
I set about setting up his Roland D-50 for myself on the off chance that I might have to play it. I was never a virtuoso at the keys but I could hold my own, especially with the right hand.
Getting the keyboard onto the stand with only one hand to grip with was awkward, but I managed to do it without damaging myself or the equipment. I ran through some scales. The phantom left hand twitched in my head, but I kept on. Now how did that chord progression go? I switched the timbre to a power chord sort of sound and sang a snippet of the song I’d been working on last night. Now I could build that transition from verse to chorus, and I sang a lead line over the backing, what I would have played if I’d had a guitar in my hands. I went back and tried it at the beginning, first verse, transition, second verse, chorus, third verse…
I heard a click then a bass note behind me–Bart picking up the line–and I stopped. I turned around and he was sitting on his practice amp with his Rickenbacker in his lap. “Did I startle you?” he said. “Try that again.”
“C’mon, that sounded hot. I wanna try it.”
“No. I’m…” I felt like I was blushing again, second time this afternoon. “I’m not ready for anyone to hear that one yet.”
“Obviously. Shit, you look like I caught you with your hand in your pants.” He was smiling, joking, but I couldn’t manage much of a smile myself. He put down the bass and knitted his fingers together. “Is something wrong?”
“No. Yes. Shit.” I sat down on the floor and felt the draft. “My hand’s messed up. Digger makes me jumpy as hell. We’ve got a show in less than two weeks. I can’t sleep and I can’t think straight.”
Bart nodded his head. “That’s called stress, Daron. It happens to lots of people. It’s why I thought it might be good for you to pass on some of the responsibility, you know?”
“Well, I told him. He’s bringing contracts by later tonight.”
“Well, that’s great!” He beamed at me. “So quit looking so bummed.”
“That still doesn’t solve the hand problem.”
“Nor how it got that way. Did you and Ziggy have a fight?”
“Yes.” What else could I say?
“Jeez, what is it with you two?”
I barked out a short laugh. “‘Creative differences.’”
He laughed, too. “Yeah, like Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend?”
“I guess. Only they got into it worse, I think.”
“Stewart Copeland and Sting.”
“You know Stewart had four words taped onto his toms? Fuck-you-you-cunt.”
“Yeah.” I looked at the splint in my lap. They say Stewart broke one of Sting’s ribs, accidentally, the day of the Police Shea Stadium concert. I was at that show and didn’t notice. I couldn’t hope for such a hidable injury. “So why does that make me feel better?”
Bart laughed and walked toward the refrigerator. “Because any similarity between us and The Police makes you feel better.” He popped open a bottle of Yoo Hoo. “Want some?”
“Sure. I ain’t singin’.” Not today anyway.
Christian came in shortly after that and we started working on arrangements. I didn’t want to take any chances with the hand and retuned the low-action Strat to an open tuning. Now I could strum chords with one finger, I could even play some mean slide with the slide on my ring finger. Bart already had a way of making it sound like he had three hands, and now sometimes it sounded like four. Still, if there was ever a day I wished we had another guitarist in the group, this was it.
About four thirty I noticed Ziggy wasn’t there yet and asked if anybody had talked to him.
“He called a little after two and said not to pick him up,” Chris said. “Said he had his own ride.”
We took a break and I pumped myself with aspirin and iced my hand.
“Are you sure he’s going to show?” Chris said to me.
“How should I know?”
He shrugged. “Look, I don’t know what went down between you two, but if it’s something we should know about…”
“I already gave him that speech,” Bart said.
“It’ll be okay,” I said. “We can handle it. No biggie. In fact…” I could hear someone’s boots on the stairs.
Ziggy sauntered in, trailing his scarf and hat in one hand and his coat in the other. He left them on the floor halfway between us and the door. “Sorry I’m late,” he said in a way that made me think he wasn’t.
We decided to go through the set song by song and see if there were any that needed to be cut because of my thumb, or rearranged to make the transitions from one guitar to the other easier. Every time we had to stop to let me figure something out or change something I could feel Ziggy’s eyes on me, blaming me, and honestly I couldn’t say that the predicament was anyone’s fault but my own.
Around seven Digger came upstairs, briefcase in hand, spread some papers out on the couch and waved a pen in our direction. We took a break, and I got the carton of lo mein out and ate noodles with chopsticks while I held a copy of the contract in my injured hand.
“It’s pretty standard,” Digger said, his overcoat still on but unbuttoned. “You know.”
No, I don’t know, I thought. “What’s clause 6a mean?”
“Look, it’s all bare bones, necessary.”
“This seems to be all about what we’re empowering you to do, but this bit here…”
“Power of attorney, I’ll need that to handle legal and financial matters.”
“This seems a little extreme for what I’m asking you to do at this point.”
“I’m just trying to make things easier, you know? I thought you were hiring me so you’d do less, not more. But I mean, how you expect I’m going to get anything done if you’re in Europe for three months or something?”
“Goddammit, Daron, don’t be difficult.”
I looked up from the paper into his face; it was stern and reddish. I stood up and was disconcerted to notice that we were exactly the same height. I made my voice quiet and slow. “I’m going to read this, all the way through, twice, and you’re going to answer any questions I have before I sign it.” What I didn’t say was: Or you can walk right out of here and we can forget I ever saw your face again.
He held up his hands. “Okay. No rush. Like I say, it’s boilerplate, some lawyers made it up, you know how they can be.”
“Yes,” I said as I sat down again. “Yes I do.”
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Daron's Guitar Chronicles: Vols 1-3General Fiction
Daron’s Guitar Chronicles tells the story of Daron Marks, a young gay guitar player, from about the time he is eighteen onward. He arrives at RIMCon (Rhode Island Musical Conservatory) in the mid-1980s, desperate to leave behind a dysfunctional fami...