It is pandemonium after we finish playing. The two gay guys lose their shyness and trap me by the speakers. Jace rescues me by creating a feedback loop that blows out the 15 inch woofer; I’m deaf for hours. No lame small talk at least. They do stick around as we move the equipment into the truck. Being deaf means, I can’t talk to anyone, a blessing. Everyone wants to talk with us. They’re stuck with Robby as Michael is helping his dad with the truck. Being a drummer, he says a lot, but no one has a clue what he’s means. He finally pulls out a joint. All the stoners join him in chasing away the fans. One of the gays finds my notepad and starts writing me notes, asking personal questions. I write that I’m a dropout, which only encourages them. They write their numbers, asking me to call, ‘just to talk.’ I smile and they go off. Maybe I’m the only other gay person they know. Jesus, it’s 1974 already, get out there.
Once the truck is loaded, we go to Michael’s and unload everything. His dad asks if we want more pizza. We pile into his Caddy. Soon Sorrento’s is bedlam from our unbridled enthusiasm. Pizza and beer – rocker heaven. When we finish eating and calm down, Michael’s dad tells us about the man who talked with him.
“I know you really don’t want me as your manager,” he smiles at Michael, “but he wants to be and has more holiday parties lined up for you, if you’re interested.”
I still have trouble hearing, but I realize a decision is being made. Jace writes me notes.
“We wanna keep it like it is, having fun and learning to play our own music,” I say.
“You mean ‘False Gods? How do you think that song went over.”
Jace scribbles and I answer, “Well, it wasn’t something they’d ever heard. It wasn’t anyone’s favorite song.”
Robby says, “They did start yelling our name. At least they know who we are.”
“This guy’s in the music business. He can get you music lessons, a practice studio, publishing rights, a recording engineer, and a record contract.”
“You think we need lessons?” Michael looks pained at his dad.
“I’m not a pro, but that’s the best performance I’ve ever seen. That’s more important than singing lessons.”
Michael smiles at his dad again.
Jace was scribbling notes, but I speak up.
“I don’t want anyone telling us what to do. Pardon me, Mr. Antonio, you’ve been great tonight. You seem to know how we feel. Michael is so lucky. If this guy wants to help get us parties, that’s fine. He can take his 15%, but we do this for love of the music and,” looking around, “each other. Let us find our own way. It got us here. I vote you remain our temporary manager. You deal with this guy. If we have to fire you, Michael can come live with me.”
Everyone laughs, even Michael’s dad.
“Whatever Michael wants. You have my full support.
“Three cheers for Mr. Antonio, and here’s the bill,” as I hand him the check.
“From now on that’s coming out of your pay.”
We all groan, and then laugh.
Back at the house, Jace and I sit in the window, silently loving our lives. He lets me hold him in my arms, wiggling his butt so I know we’ll be in bed soon.
“Do you think our song sucks?” he asks.
“We’ll work on it. But everyone there knows our name, that doesn’t suck. It was so great. Were you jealous when the gay boys cornered me?”
“No, ‘cause when I blew out the amp, you looked relieved.”
“Yeah, when you didn’t go off with the groupies to do coke, I was happy.”
“What are gay guys like? Are they just like us?”
“They seemed shy at first, but once they knew I liked them, they got too familiar.”
“Did you wanna sock ‘em.”
“No, they’re sweet, but I wish they’d go for each other. Being gay together doesn’t mean they’re having sex. It’s like a secret club.”
“How come they didn’t check me out?”
“You’re mine. They don’t dare.”
“We really fagged out, didn’t we?”
“It was pretty natural. Maybe I have to perform to be my real self, put it all out there.”
“I almost kissed you at the end of the Beatles’ ‘Love, Love. Love.’”.”
“Yeah, I felt it, too. Right place, right time.”
“You’re so wise. But I know where we should be and what we must do right now,” he smiles and leads me to bed.
Afterwards, with him sleeping in the tossed about sheets, I think about what makes us different from most people. I am so happy right now. People often say, ‘if I could stop time, this is the perfect moment in my life.’ We know it’s perfect and hope it won’t ever end. Planning for the end dooms the entire enterprise. ‘Beam me up, Scotty.’
The next morning, Robby, Mary, Jace and I go to Michael’s to clean up the equipment and do some jamming while talking about what happened. Each of us has a different point of view. Jace is amused by the girls wanting to fuck him by offering coke. I remember the whistling Robby did during ‘Free Bird.’ We’ll set up a mic so he can be heard. Michael is just into his drumming. He asks us to go with him to see Buddy Rich at a gig in the Grove.
“But he’s a jazz drummer,” I object.
“Yeah, but he plays so fast and does so much improvising, I kinda idolize him.” Michael admits.
“No false gods,” Jace wryly notes.
“But he’s a god on the drums.”
“Fall to your knees, useless flea.” Jace mocks him.
“What are we gonna do about our song?” I ask, thinking about what Michael’s dad said.
“Tighten up the lyrics,” Jace says, looking at me.
“Change the tempo,” Michael says to Robby.
“Make it a ballad, instead of metal,” I look at Jace.
“So the song basically sucks,” concludes Robby. “You guys wrote it, but it’s my song from the Samhain celebration.”
“It’s not bad. Just that it can be better. I’ll redo the lyrics.
“I’ll work on a simpler rhythm for Tim and change my leads to make it jump,” Jace smiles at me.
“Robby and I will fight it out on drum loops,” Michael says.
“I want to sing the vocals. It’s my song,” Robby asserts.
“We’re setting up a mic for you, so why not do lead vocals,” I don’t care that he’s asserting himself. “I’ll just do rhythm. Mary can sing harmony with you as backup vocals.”
“I wanna do a song about drugs,” Jace announces.
“Yeah, you can just tell everyone, ‘I take drugs.” Robby mocks him.
“Okay, that’s the first line,” Jace challenges him.
I add, “but I don’t understand.” “How we let things get so out of hand,” Jace finishes the line with a rhyme.
“Cool,” Michael said.
“That means it’s also a love song,” Mary notes.
“Let’s say what drugs do,” I suggest.
Jace rattles it off, “Heroin and cocaine make a speed ball, Dilaudin and codeine soften the fall, Thorazine puts me away for a while, XTC and beer just make me feel queer.”
I countered with, “Whiskey and ‘ludes make me real rude, acid and pot makes my brain rot, PCP you forget about me, Pills and beer chase away my fears.”
“Hot shit, that’s it,” we all agree.
Michael’s dad walks in and asks what we’re doing.
“Writing a new song. It’s about drugs,” Jace pops off.
“Oh, Jesus,” he says, hitting his hand to his head.
“No, Dad, it’s about what drugs really do and how it affects others, especially your girlfriends.” Michael rationalizes.
“So it’s anti-drugs?” he asks. “And when did you start having more than one girlfriend?”
“No, Dad, all of us have girlfriends, one each, except for Jace.”
I pipe up, “And he has Max.”
He laughs. We show him the lyrics we wrote. He asks how come we know so much about drugs.
“We see what it does to our friends. It’s not so much anti-drugs as getting kids to know that what they do affects others.”
“But it starts by saying you take drugs.”
“No one will listen if we aren’t singing about what it’s like for us. Otherwise we’re preaching. We don’t tell anyone they should take drugs. We try to show what it’s really like.”
“So you do drugs so you can tell people not to do it?”
“That’s hypocritical. I drink beer and smoke pot. Most kids do, or wish they did.” Now he’s going to quiz Michael and/or call my folks.
Mr. Antonio smiles. “I better let you do your thing, without any parental interference. I came in to tell you about that guy who wants to be your manager.”
“Yay, Marshall Stacks,” Jace shouts.
“Well, that’s not his name.”
“That’s just what we call him,” I say. Everybody but Mr. Antonio laughs.
“Anyway, he wants you guys to play a bunch of parties over Christmas, plus a fraternity gig at the University after finals, before Christmas break.”
“How much will they pay,” Robby is keen to know.
“Well, that Pete guy wants you back and says he’ll pay double after how much his friends liked your set.”
“Double the trouble, double the fun, double mint, double mint, double mint gum,” I sing.
“That’s two hundred bucks a party,” Robby calculates.
“I’ll tell him,” Mr. Antonio says.
“Um, there was some damage to an amp,” Michael nervously tells his dad.
I interrupt any family dispute by asking, “Hey, Mr. Antonio, how come you have such great equipment. Were you in a rock band when you were our age?”
Distracted from the damage issue, he tells us about his jazz combo during college. They still get together for reunions.
“That’s why Michael wants to see Buddy Rich in the Grove; he has all your jazz genes.”
“Buddy Rich. He’s a genius.”
“We’re afraid Michael will go all jazz on us, though.’
“Well, I’ll pay for all you guys to go if you keep an open mind. I also accept that rock and jazz will never merge.”
“Incorrect-o, Mr. Antonio,” Jace asserts. “You should listen to Stanley Clark, Jeff Beck, and Steely Dan. It’s progressive rock.”
“You play a sweet guitar, Jace. Is that a Gibson.
“Yes, sir, a Les Paul SG. Did you play guitar, Mr. Antonio?”
“Stand up bass, but we started to use a Les Paul Custom in the early fifties.”
“We could use a bass player, Mr. …” Jace starts before Michael interrupts him
“Dad we need to get Jace’s amp fixed. He blew out a woofer.”
“Sure, you can get one at Spec’s. Martin will charge it to my account. Can you install it?”
“No sweat. Also we need another mike set-up for Robby; he’s gonna sing that original song you criticized. Also, Tim could really use a better guitar, maybe a Fender Mustang.”
“Hold on, I’m not Daddy Warbucks here. Just get the speaker and maybe a couple sets of strings for Jace. I saw him break his strings last night.
“Yeah, he didn’t even know it, just adjusting his chords without thinking. He’s a prodigy, Dad.”
“I agree, and I’m leaving you guys alone, ’cause this is costing me money.”
“One last thing. Can I take driver’s ed this winter. I’ll be sixteen in February and no one drives yet.”
“God. What else do you need to ruin my life with? Of course.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Michael says. And we all echo him, “Thanks, Dad.” He looks a bit nonplussed, but the rest of us could only wish we had so cool a dad.
Before he finally leaves, he turns to Michael, “And who is your girlfriend, by the way?”
“Oh, your friend Mr. Lombardi’s daughter, Jenna. But don’t tell him ‘cause he might kill me. She’s only fourteen.”
“Oh my god.” He shakes his head and leaves before any other bad news.
Jace looks at Michael, “Why didn’t you ask for Marshall Stacks?”
“You’re lucky I don’t get you to pay for the speaker. I saw you blow it to save Tim from those gay groupies.”
“Yeah, thanks for the earache,” I add.
“What’s wrong with my dad’s amps, anyway?”
“I ain’t complainin,’” Jace admitted, “But I was promised Marshall Stacks.”
“And how can I sing without a mic?” Robby complains.
“You guys are assholes. And now I gotta deal with my dad a lot more. I had him on ice.”
“Well, thawing him out paid off. He’s so nice, how can you complain? You can have my dad any time in trade,” I tell him.
“Just don’t piss him off.”
“Hell, Jace invited him to be our bass player, False Gods and the geezer, now appearing at the old age home.”
“Hey, my dad’s not even forty.”
“Forty? Do people live that long now?” Robby asks.
We try to work on chords for the drug song, while I work on the ‘False Gods’ lyrics. Michael comes over and sits with me while Robby goes crazy with drum solos.
“Hey, man. Regardless, your old man is pretty great. I know it makes it harder for you, but he really seemed happy for you at the party. And he tries to stay out-of-the-way.”
“Yeah, nothing really suicidal. I have been using his equipment for years. This is my first real band.”
“Can you handle Robby being all competitive?”
“We’ve always been that way. When he quits over some slight, I’ll still be here. He’ll be back after a snit fit.”
“You guys are pretty good friends.”
“Ever since Mrs. Longbottom’s nursery school.”
“That’s her real name?”
“No, we always make up shit about adults.”
“Well, I always moved. I never had a real best friend until last year.”
“How come you and the jockhead fought?”
“Scott? It was over a girlfriend.”
“But I thought you were boyfriends.”
“He needed more than that, so when he got a girlfriend, we stopped being in love.”
“Wow, What a soap opera. But friendships don’t really break up over girlfriends. You just go back to where you were when the lust is done and you need a friend again”
“I hated him that day he came over when everyone was there. He totally rejected me. Called me a fag.”
“But that’s what you are.”
“Yeah. But I also have a girlfriend, just not like Scott’s. Mine’s only fourteen, so we can’t even talk about sex.”
“My girlfriend Jenna’s fourteen, and it’s the same. Our families would kill us if we went too far.”
“Tina’s dad listens to our phone calls. She lives in New York. All we have is the phone. But the feelings are so strong when we’re together, I know we’re in love.”
“But we gotta wait, right?”
“Yeah, she’s definitely a virgin. I never thought about Scott when we were together. She totally orgasmed when we made out.”
“The good thing about Jenna is how exciting it is to sneak around. It’s like Romeo and Juliette.”
“She Italian, too? Like the movie?”
“That was such a hot movie. I wish Shakespeare was always like that.”
“You want to live in the Middle Ages? Die for love?”
“I’m not that romantic, but we always have fun when she sneaks out. That’s why I need my driver’s license.”
“Not so you can drive us to gigs.”
“Fuck you guys.” We both laugh.
“What about you and Jace? I never thought there was much to him. He was always such a sad sack. Now he turns into a rock star. How’d that happen?”
“He stood up to his step-mom. They were going to send him to The Program. I hid him at my house until the guards who came to pick him up had left. It got to me that no one really cared about him before. We really clicked, and he talked his folks into not sending him away.”
“You waved your magic wand and the guards vanished, poof.?”
“I don’t call it my wand.”
“I knew you seduced him.”
“Totally wrong. He just knew my weakness for rescuing the abandoned. He’d plotted the whole hideout thing. When he found out I also wanted the band thing to happen, we just clicked. Once he had a reprieve from drug rehab, we started singing and playing guitar together.”
“So are you now boyfriends ?”
“Yeah. Will that bother you?”
“No way. I can see how much electricity you generate together. It’s pretty obvious what’s going on. Jace’s a totally different person. If I was gay, I’d want to be in on it too.’
“Don’t worry, ‘cause that ain’t happening. But I love being in the band with you two. It’s crazy watching you turn the crowd on with your antics. The covers we do express everyone’s fantasies. The girls love it when you fag off, making their boyfriends act out to get their attention back. I’ve never seen gay guys acting out. It pulls everyone in. These songs are like jungle love.”
I’ve never really talked with Michael before. He and his dad are alike in that they’re intelligent but don’t try to impress you. I want to talk about Jace and me, but the Joey rule prohibits it. I know he really likes us as we are, happy to be part of the band thing. What’s weird is hoping his dad will react the same way. I show Michael the lyrics I worked on. He doesn’t try to change anything, as if he has no opinion, other than he likes a line or doesn’t. It’s perfect criticism.
“Where others feared to tread,
they gave us up for dead,
memories linger eternally,
as Lucifer’s proud plea,
a world of our own,
on high a black throne,
sing to make them see,
happy for eternity
…we are False Gods, we are False Gods…
a world so meek and blind,
we laugh at all mankind,
we’re Satan’s band,
a world of endless flaws,
facades and miracles applause,
eulogized but despised,
shed your false disguise,
fall to your knees,
utter useless pleas,
…we are False Gods, we are False Gods…
pray in foreign tongues,
shoot your useless guns,
sacrifice hallowed sheep,
shun cold, dark streets,
you’re just nasty fleas,
Set your minds at ease
…False Gods, False Gods…
we live eternally,
we hear your painful screams,
keep cold certainty,
know just what we mean
….We are False Gods, False Gods..
… False Gods”
Copyright MIB David Delgado, Tar Larner
Michael grabs the lyrics and runs to Jace. He quickly reads them, then smiles his evil grin, and says, “False Gods.” Robby read them and wants to offer a prayer to Mael, but Mary hushes him.
“These are genius, Tim,” she says, and whispers, “we are False Gods, False Gods.”
Michael runs to show his dad. Jace starts adding his chords which fit perfectly in a four/four, four beats, three beats, then pause sequence, adding leads after each couplet. Michael’s dad comes rushing in with Michael jumping behind his drums. Jace hits a couple of leads, then I spit out, “Where others fear to tread…False Gods.” The song is exactly two minutes long. Mr. Antonio looks at me, shaking his head, “Life should always be this easy. You’ve created a completely different mood. This is poetry, not song.”
I fear he means that as criticism, but his enthusiasm tells me poetry can be good, not boring, classroom crap. He piles us into his Caddy and we drive to Spec’s. The owner, Martin Spec, greets him as soon as we walk in.
“Martin, this is my son Michael’s band. Set them up with anything they need, whenever they come in. Just send me the bill. If it’s too much, I’ll call you. You have a Fender Mustang for Tim, he writes the songs?”
“Sure, Mr Antonio, come here, son.”
It’s too much for me. The tears well up and I bolt out the door. I sit down hard on the curb. Jace comes and put his arm around me. I sob and sob, with the world spinning around me. Michael’s dad comes over,” Hey, isn’t that what you want?”
Robby answers, “He always gets this way when he can’t handle his emotions. He has to cry every day just to feel normal.”
They all laugh, but I’m so embarrassed
“Hey, Mr. Antonio, Tim’s had a tough year. He moves here from Alaska, his folks get divorced, he’s City Swim Champ, his best friend hates him now, his girlfriend lives in New York, his parents make him quit sports to get a job, he saved Jace from being sent to rehab by hiding him at his house for a week, we did a pagan ceremony at Halloween, and he has nightmares now. He cries really easy.”
Mr. Antonio looks at me and gives me tough love, “Well, if someone doing something nice for you makes you cry, I guess I’ll just be mean from now on.”
I laugh and choke back the sobs. He smiles. I feel what it’s like to have an adult on my side. Jace is fairly upset by my breakdown. I’m his rock. If I crumble so easily, he feels on unsure ground. When I see him trembling, I suck it up.
“Hey, I only cry when I’m happy. Don’t worry we’ll have some crisis to deal with to toughen me up.”
Martin Spec comes out and asks if everything is okay.
“Yeah, wrap up that Fender and throw in a few tissues, in case these tears of happiness come back, and get Michael to tell you which fifteen inch woofer needs to be replaced. And why not throw in a practice amp to go with the guitar. Anything else you need, Michael?”
Jace murmurs, “Marshall Stacks. Marshall Stacks.”
“Hang on, cowboy. When you get to play the Orange Bowl, your stacks will be there. Let’s concentrate on Gables parties for this Christmas.”
I stay on the edge of tears for a while, so we all agree that more practice can be delayed until we have better control of our feelings.
Robby shouts, “Pizza and beer. Pizza and beer.”
But Mr. Antonio says, “You’re having a real Italian dinner tonight, with Michael, his mom, and me.”
Everyone cheers, except Michael, but he’s out-voted.
Later, back in my room, I lay on the floor with my belly so bloated it looks like a blimp, unable to gain lift-off. Jace asks me why I cry so much when everything is so nice. I just got a rockin’ guitar.
“I cry when I’m happy. I don’t know why. Sometimes my feelings are too much for me, even when they’re good feelings.”
Jace started singing, “’ Good, good, good, good vibrations…”
Beach Boys – ‘Good Vibrations’
Songwriters: WILSON, BRIAN DOUGLAS / LOVE, MIKE E.
Good Vibrations lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
“Hey, Michael talked to me about us. He’s cool that we fag out so much on stage. He likes watching the straight guys get uncomfortable.”
“You told him what we’re doing?”
“No. I don’t kiss and tell. He asked if we’re boyfriends. He likes it. He also told me he’s not interested in participating.”
“He said that?”
“Word for word.”
“Well, there goes your dream of a four-way with all of us.”
“No thanks. I’ll just go for boyfriend fuck.”
I know all my emotional turmoil isn’t that attractive to Jace, so fucking has to prove we’re tight, top and bottom. He lets me take the lead at first, so we quickly go all the way to climax for both of us. It’s easy to tell how close he is, as he never holds back. I watch his face, eyes closed, changing from determination to holding his breath while he reaches the edge of his orgasm. He opens his eyes and stares with the happiest look as he starts to cum. The tears flow again as I spray in all directions. He sees the tears, and immediately drops and holds me in a double arm lock, licking my tears away.
“What’s wrong? Don’t cry. I won’t leave you ever,” he whispers huskily, thinking I am sad.
“You make me so happy. I don’t care about the future. I love you so much now. I know you are here forever,” I keep crying and sobbing..
“Please don’t cry,” he begs. Now the tears come from him, not tears of joy, not tears of pain, just tears of frustration and confusion. Well, so much for feeling sexy. No round three. I lead Jace over to the window, holding him close to me, seated between my legs.
“What happened,” he asks.
“I can’t help crying when I’m so emotionally overloaded. Please don’t think it’s you. You’re so great. You amaze me. You make me so much better, in music, in sex, in love, in life. We are together. I’ll never let you go.” And I’m crying again.
“Jesus,” he complains. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you. I’m the one who’s weak and needs you…. I gotta leave.”
He gets up and is gone before I can react. I’m stunned. He left because I wasn’t there for him. Now I have a reason to cry, but I’m so pissed at myself, I start pacing. I pick up my guitar and find sad, angry chords. Words come to match the chords:
“You who acts so true, finding me sometimes blue, take me in your arms, calm me with your charms, you need me to give, what we need to live.
Take my hands, shake my hips, all that we can, kiss my lips, invade my mind, don’t leave my side, forget my pride, I need you inside.”
Just when my need is out of control, I hear his footsteps come up the stairs. The door flies open and Max comes bounding in, licking my cheeks, tail wagging furiously, just so happy to be with Jace and me.
“I knew you needed Max-lovin’,” he stands there watching with his big goofy grin which I can’t resist returning.
“What was that song you were playing?” he asks.
I play and sing for him:
‘You act so true,
with me so blue,
you need me,
a reason to be.
Take my hands ,
shake my hips,
all you can,
kiss my lips,
invade my mind,
don’t leave my side,
forget my pride.
I need you inside.
He takes my guitar and plays it back to me note for note, adding the lyric at the end, “take me inside.”
Putting down the guitar, he stretches out his arms to me. I throw him on the bed and we go at it. After multiple orgasms, I look over at Max who’s in the corner in his ‘Our Gang’s’ Spot pose, with a paw over his eye. When he sees me looking, he jumps into bed with us. It grosses me out that he’s licking the cum off our bellies. Jace says, “Now this is true Max-lovin’.”
We shower. Max sleeps with us that night. I smell so much like Jace that he acts like we’re both his keeper. In the morning we walk Max back to his garage. As we leave the house, he tugs us to Robby’s and barks at Robby’s window. A sleepy face appears and tosses me a joint, saying it is for Max, not us. We proclaim he’ll get every hit, second-hand. Walking to the garage, a car drives by and recognizes us from the party, shouting as they drive by, “False Gods. False Gods.”
We give ‘em the devil horns. They give us the middle finger and turn around. I expect they want to kick our asses. They’re just college kids. When we take them into the garage to smoke the doobie, they’re stoked and insist on taking pictures with us smoking out.
Will our lives ever be the same? Not if we can help it.