141 BIRTH, SCHOOL, WORK, DEATH

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BIRTH, SCHOOL, WORK, DEATH

I woke up to an ache, not a headache, my thumb. I moved it and the ache oscillated but did not go away. I wondered if I’d whacked it yesterday and didn’t notice. I felt it with the other hand. Yep, there were bones underneath my skin and beyond that I couldn’t tell. I opened my eyes. The goop I’d used yesterday had solidified my hair into pop art and my skin itched. As long as we’re cataloging my discomforts, it was 10:20 in the morning and besides the thumb hurting I think I was mostly awake because I was hungry. I never really ate dinner the day before.

Carynne was in the shower. I dragged myself down to my own room without disturbing her to find Ziggy nowhere in sight, though it looked like he’d slept there, and I got into the shower without investing too much more thought in that.

Add to the tally of life’s mysteries, why it is that some hotels have terrific water pressure but others are altogether deficient? This place was acceptable, with only minor variations in temperature and pressure as time went on. I’d been in some places where it was scalding one second and freezing the next, but which had hardly enough flow to do any serious rinsing. As my hair grew longer water pressure was becoming a crucial factor in my daily logistics.

I was putting on my sneakers when there was a knock at the door. Carynne stood there wearing purple-tinted sunglasses and yet another flower print dress. “We’re all down in my room,” she said, “whenever you’re ready.” For the meeting, she meant.

As we weaved through maid carts up the hallway I tried to think of what to say. Last night, postponing the crisis to a later date had seemed like a good idea. But now I wasn’t so sure. I stopped her with a hand on her arm.

“Who’s in there?”

“Digger and the guys. I let the road crew sleep in.”

“I can’t go in there.”

She pursed her lips and looked down at me over the tops of the sunglasses. “Daron, you called this meeting.”

“I know, but think about it, I’m going to, what, tell Ziggy his coming on to me on the stage freaks me out? In front of my old man?”

“Oh.” She rolled her eyes in what I was starting to recognize as an affected expression. “Jeez. Well, you have to tell them something. Or, what, should I go and say I couldn’t find you? You’ve run off somewhere? They all know you spent the night here.”

“Oh.” I gave a low bark of frustration and a maid popped her head out from the room she was cleaning and gave me a worried look. “Let’s go, just back me up in there, okay?”

“Okay.”

Her beds were already made and Bart and Chris sat on one, Ziggy lay back against the headboard of the other, his stocking feet crossed. Digger sat in a chair by the window, his head angled toward the floor, “hungover” in the literal sense and I wondered if maybe that’s where the word came from, from that tell-tale hunch.

I took the desk chair and turned it around backwards so I could lean my arms and head on the back of it. “Hi,” I said. A moment or two of quiet went by as I composed my thoughts. “I’m sorry about last night. I know I was kind of freaked out. I guess we’re dealing with stage fright, here.”

There was silence for a long minute while everyone thought their own thoughts about that.

Ziggy folded his hands across his stomach. His eyes were on the ceiling when he spoke. “I suppose I could try not to do anything that would spook you.” His voice was neutral but I felt or imagined so much more in it. I also felt or imagined Digger staring at us.

“Yeah,” I said, my voice a bit phlegmy, “I guess.”

“Yeah,” Digger said, with the same sort of croak. “Lay off the faggy stuff. I mean, who needs it?”

I imagined I could hear the gears grinding in everyone’s heads as they struggled not to stare at him, their eyes trying to turn his direction while their heads stayed rigid. And that was as close to the real issue at hand as anyone would state out loud.

“Hey, listen,” he said then. “The seats in that van are killin’ my back. I’ve rented a car for myself.”

“Okay,” I said, because he paused.

“Not to put too fine a point on it, but maybe we ought to keep you two separated. What do you say, kiddo, ride with me?”

I didn’t answer but Carynne flipped the daybook shut and said “We leave right after lunch,” as if that settled it.

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