Elegy - Cover


Copyright© 2023 by Lumpy

Chapter 10

I loved performing and this latest gig might be one of our best yet. We’d sold more merch than any other single show, and there had been a line of people wanting to stop and talk to us, which was also new. It wasn’t as big as opening for House of Grace or the New Year’s Eve show, but there was a big difference between headlining and just being an opening act.

While I’d do a show like this again in a heartbeat, I was also completely wiped when we finally got back home. We were still going cheap on the travel arrangements since we wanted to keep as much money from our shows as possible, which meant the four of us in one budget hotel room. I appreciated my bandmates, but Seth and Marco snored, and while we gave Lyla her own bed, we faced the choice of trying to share bed space or sleeping on the floor, neither of which offered decent prospects for sleep.

And it wasn’t like we could sleep on the five-hour van ride back, either. We learned on our first tour how much it sucked to get to a show and then find that the venue didn’t have something we needed, so we made sure to carry everything we could possibly need with us, which didn’t leave a lot of room to stretch out.

I gave Mrs. Philips a half-hearted wave as I dragged myself up the stairs to my room, collapsing on the bed. I’d already texted Chef on the way home and told him there was no way I was making practice, but we still had to play at the Blue Ridge that night, and if I didn’t get some sleep, there was no way I’d make it through.

Instead, I just lay there, staring at the ceiling, not sleeping, even as tired as I was. If I was being honest with myself, the cramped and uncomfortable conditions weren’t the only reason I couldn’t sleep the night before. My conversation with Hanna kept rolling round and round in my mind.

I’d handled it wrong. My temper was getting worse. I recognized it after Dad came back and all the chaos he created. I’d started getting angrier faster, reacting instead of thinking through how to handle situations. I’d lost my cool with Hanna, and I’d made it worse. Criticizing her and demanding she change was only going to make her dig her heels in more. She needed empathy, not judgment. It wasn’t going to fix the problem, and she was still going to make the mistakes she was always going to make with Troy, but I couldn’t control that. The only thing I could control was my own reaction, and I had to manage it better.

I was still lying there, unable to turn my brain off enough to fall asleep, when my phone rang. I really didn’t feel like talking to anyone and almost didn’t pick it up. I reached over, all the same, picking up the phone to at least see who it was. Warren was one of the few people I had to take a call from, no matter how tired or upset I was, but especially following a gig.

I kept saying that in my head, trying to convince myself I had no choice but to answer, as I hit accept and lifted the phone to my ear.

“Yeah,” I said, my words slurring together.

“Did I wake you up?” he asked.

“No, I just got home.”

“Good. I didn’t want to bother you last night, but I wanted to check in about the show. I already got a call from the Pavilion last night, but I always like to hear how you felt it went too.”

“I think we did okay, all things considered. Did they mention we had to shut down for almost fifteen minutes in the middle of the show when Marco’s keyboard broke down?”

I had thought I’d covered the delay well, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the venue called to complain. The issue had definitely been on our end, so any problems from it would land on us. Which was too bad, because I really liked that venue and we’d gotten one of the best reactions from a crowd yet.

“They did. They also mentioned how well you covered it. They’ve already started getting calls asking when you’re coming back, and I’ve seen a bunch of positive posts about the show on social media. It was a hit.”

“Really? I was worried the venue might have been upset, since it was our equipment that broke down.”

“No. These things happen and they’d only have a problem if you’d ended the show then or lost the crowd. You did exactly the right thing. As long as the crowd is happy, the venue is happy. They said you put on a guitar clinic for the crowd, playing crowd requests. The manager told me they’ve even started talking about adding something like that as an occasional event, where the crowd could call out requests for a band to cover. I’m not sure how well something like that would work, but if they’re discussing it, then you made an impact.”

“Good. The crowd seemed to eat it up, but you never know how reasonable a venue is going to be, even if the people are having a good time.”

“That’s true. Don’t worry. You did good.”

“Good, because we really liked that place and would like another shot at playing there in the summer, when it’s not freezing. We had the best sell-through of merch we’ve ever had at one show. We sold most of those CDs I bought.”

“Really? That’s the kind of thing the execs will like hearing. Be aware that if you start doing really well on merch, they might decide to take it over. It’ll mean less work for you up front, since they’ll hire people to run the merch table for you, but you’ll also have to take a smaller cut.”

“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” I said.

I’d already accepted that someday we’d lose control of the merch, but I’d hoped we could put it off a while longer. We were just starting to figure out the process and, while we didn’t make as much on it as we did for actually playing shows, it was starting to bring in close to what we got on our cut of record sales. If we handed over all of our merch to the label now, we’d see a noticeable decrease in the actual money we took home. I guess if it was just the four of us, the trade-off that the label would be taking over the work of getting it produced and selling it would make it worthwhile to handle, but with Hanna’s work getting it made and her and Kat’s helping to sell it while we were on stage, we had enough back end support that it wasn’t much of a problem for us.

“Yeah, that’s how these three-sixty deals end up,” Warren said. “Honestly, it’s ... never mind. You guys did really great. If you keep having shows like that, I’m not going to have any problems booking you more shows. Speaking of which, I got you the show you wanted in Raleigh.”

While I was very curious about what he’d almost said, the news that he’d gotten us the Raleigh show was big. Of course, I still had to talk Kat into taking a weekend off and joining us but, unlike Charlotte, this time I’d actually have an argument for her. Even though she was already accepted, she still wanted to do a walk-through of the campus, since she hadn’t done that except for when we’d gone with Hanna. Kat was more interested in the math department, which Hanna had no time for.

“That’s great news. When?”

“Unfortunately, that’s the catch. The show’s next weekend. I know it’s short notice, but a spot at a really good club opened up. It’s smaller than Charlotte, but a lot bigger than most of the places you’ve played before. It’s in this converted warehouse, so the actual main stage area is huge, fitting about fifteen hundred max. They also have a well-organized sales area in the front section, a dedicated booth for your merchandise sales, which should help with the chaos. I’ve had other bands play there in the past, and they had great shows, but this venue usually only books more established acts. The band you’re replacing has a similar style of music, so you’re not going to have problems with people who already have tickets getting mad at a bait and switch, or at least not as mad. It’s a real opportunity.”

A week was very short notice, especially if I was going to get Kat to go, but it also sounded like another good opportunity for the band, and we still needed as many of those as we could get. Warren had come through last time, so I trusted him when he said this was a big chance for us.

“Okay, I’ll let everyone know. But I have a strange request and, honestly, it’s okay for you to say no.”

“I’m all ears.”

I took a deep breath, bracing myself for the ask, “This is wildly beyond your job description and I feel kinda lousy for even considering asking you. But ... I’m going to have trouble persuading Kat to join us on such short notice, and she was the reason I pushed for this gig in the first place...”

Warren said when I paused to gather my thoughts, “I’m not quite following...”

“Well,” I continued, “I was thinking, what if we set up a swim practice with the UNC swim team? She’s already been recruited by them and will be on the team next year. My problem is that I have no idea how to go about doing that. Her private coach would, but he’s relentless, pushing her to train every week and giving her no time off. I doubt he’d be much help.”

“Are you asking me to contact the UNC swim department to arrange a practice for your friend?” he asked, his tone unreadable.

Warren was a good guy, but for a moment I wondered if I’d crossed a line.

“I am, but you can say no. Like I said, you’re a music promoter, not a sports agent. I was just thinking that since you’re experienced in making these kinds of calls, maybe...”

The silence on the line stretched out before he finally spoke, “Yeah, I’ll see what I can do. Just, don’t make a habit of this. The label wants us focused on having you out there making money, and I’m not your personal assistant.”

“I get it, honestly. I felt awkward just asking. Forget it, I’ll handle it. I’m sorry. I’m sure I can figure it out.”

“No, I wasn’t trying to shut you down. You’d be surprised at the stuff other clients have asked me to do in the past, and you’ve always been reasonable. I just didn’t want you to start thinking you could make a habit of it.”

“I won’t. I promise.”

“Good. And see about getting Marco a new keyboard before this gig. You managed to get away with it last weekend, but there’s no guarantee that will work every time.”

“Yep, we’re on it. They’re heading down to Asheville this week to grab him a new one.”

We’d talked about that already on the way home this morning and agreed the band would fund his new keyboard out of our payments, before any of us got paid off, essentially spreading the cost to all of us. This way, the weight was equally distributed among us, a shared responsibility of sorts.

Once we were back at their house, I’d pulled Lyla aside and asked her to go with him this week to Asheville when they went to get it. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust Marco to choose not to buy the most expensive thing they had. No, in fact, it was precisely because I didn’t trust him that I wanted her to go, considering he’d only be footing a quarter of the bill, and Seth didn’t exactly possess the ability to stand up to him. If anyone was going to be able to ride herd on him, it was Lyla.

I just hoped they didn’t come to blows or anything while they were out shopping.

I did manage to doze off, at least for a little while.

It took a while for me to realize the sound that kept annoying me was the alarm on my phone going off, telling me it was time to head to the Blue Ridge. It felt like I’d just closed my eyes, and if anything I was more tired now than before I’d fallen asleep. Everything seemed fuzzy and out of focus.

In the dim light of my room, everything seemed to morph and blend, the familiar shapes of my existence melting into the encroaching shadows. I found myself lying there, entranced by the pattern of fading light on my ceiling. It was a silent battle of wills, me against the pull of gravity, the comfort of my bed, and my crushing exhaustion.

The way I was feeling, I wasn’t sure I’d even be able to get up until I heard the door downstairs open, and Kat’s muted voice drift up the stairs. Glancing at my phone, I noted with a grimace that I had just about an hour before I needed to be at the Blue Ridge. I had to talk to her before I left. If she was going to get out of practice next weekend, I needed to give her as much time as possible.

I was still wearing the shorts and t-shirt I’d put on at the motel that morning. For a moment I considered getting dressed into my show clothes, but I decided I could do that after I talked to her, partly because I wanted to get our conversation out of the way and partly because I just didn’t have the energy.

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