Elegy - Cover


Copyright© 2023 by Lumpy

Chapter 3

After our last band meeting, I’d started to let some ideas about a few new songs percolate in the back of my head. One had bubbled to the top and I’d given it a lot of thought during the hike with Sydney and over the rest of the weekend.

I shook off Monday’s weird encounter with Mr. Packer and finally sat down to write it down. I’d already been playing with a melody for weeks, not really thinking about specifics, and to my surprise it just kind of meshed perfectly with my song idea. The hook was a total departure from our usual classic rock-inspired sound.

I couldn’t pinpoint where the inspiration had come from, but it was clear that it addressed some of the concerns about our music, like Rowan’s warning not to get stuck with too many ballads. This new song definitely had a different sound.

I’m not even sure where it came from since it wasn’t the kind of music I listened to on my own. Maybe it was hearing people like Ronnie Ralston, who I never listened to, on tour. Wherever the inspiration seeped into my brain from, it did address some of the things I’d been thinking about our music. The closest one of our songs so far got to this was One Night Stand, but that was still a bit more metal than the sound I’d come up with.

“Hey, guys,” I said, walking into the garage. “So ... I wrote a new song.”

“Great. You just talked about us needing more stuff for the tour. Play it for us,” Lyla said.

“All right, but a word of warning. It’s still a work in progress, and it’s a pretty big departure from what we normally play.”

“How big of a departure?” Marco asked, sounding less enthused than Lyla.

“Big,” I said.

“Now I really can’t wait,” Lyla said, shooting Marco a glare, daring him to complain again.

Ignoring Marco’s skepticism, I hooked my guitar up to the small amp and began playing. The lighter, more upbeat chord progression was a stark contrast to our usual hard-strummed bluesy riffs. Even the intro was shorter, though I admittedly missed the longer lead-in.

With the last few beats, I switched to short, staccato notes that mimicked, I hoped, the cadence of the first part of the first verse, which acted as a lead-in. Lyla was immediately on board, her head bobbing to the rhythm and her fingers playing an invisible bass. I knew I had her hooked. Her own song, One Night Stand, was the closest thing we had to this new sound, sharing the same energetic vibe, although her song was more aggressive.

Marco, however, seemed less thrilled. He pursed his lips, arms crossed, not really looking at me.

The first verse was about life’s little joys, with mentions of ‘laughter filling a room’ and ‘every flower’s bloom’. I knew it needed some tweaking, as it got a bit cliché in parts, but that was fixable. What I really loved, though, was the chorus:

_A walk in the woods, holding hands too tight,

It’s the little things, the little things.

Lying in bed, on the phone all night,

It’s the little things, the little things.

Holding on to the little things,

It’s the little things._

The lyrics could use some work, but what I really liked was how the music progressed. In most of the music I normally wrote, I stuck with the traditional I-IV-V, usually with some variation, that was common in a lot of classic rock.

This time, I started with IV-V-VI-IV going from C to G to Am to F, but then varied it at the chorus, keeping the same progression but changing the key to E and finishing it with a I-V-IV progression before going back to C Major and the original IV-V-VI-IV progression. I also kept the tempo fast-paced through the chorus, and then slowed it back down for the verses, to add to the feeling.

The actual music side of song writing was where I was normally the most comfortable, so that’s where I usually spent most of my energy. I knew the lyrics could use some fixing, and we’d have to figure out how to get everyone else mixed in, but the bones of the melody sounded solid to me. The end result felt happy and upbeat, almost bubbly.

I finished and looked at them, guitar still in hand.

“It’s ... different,” Marco said cautiously. “I get that we need to change things up, but we still need to sound like us. We’ve got one album out, and we’ve started building an audience. The last thing we want is to change who we are. The lyrics are okay, but we should find a way to fit them into our style.”

He gestured with his hands, as if trying to physically mold the song into a form.

“What style?” Lyla shot back before I could respond. “We have eleven songs on our album and like four different styles. Pop, country, classic rock, and one borderline alternative. Didn’t Warren say we need to hone in on one style instead of being all over the place? Rowan mentioned that too in the studio.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “That’s what I was aiming for here. We need a style. I’ve been thinking, and classic rock isn’t where we want to land. I love it, but it won’t do us any favors. Kent would probably suggest mainstream pop, but I don’t want that either, or alternative.”

“Then what do you want?” Marco asked, frustrated. “Because you just listed like five different things that cover everything we do now. What, are we going to become an R&B band?”

“No, Marco. We’re not,” I said dryly. “So far, we’ve consistently mixed styles, but I think we’ve been doing it the wrong way. We’ve leaned towards ballads, which makes sense since that’s a big part of classic rock, but it’s not where we should be. I noticed during our gigs that the audience gets the most excitement and energy during One Night Stand. I think that’s true for most of our shows. People like its energy.”

“So, bubblegum pop,” Marco scoffed, rolling his eyes.

“That wasn’t bubblegum pop,” Lyla retorted. “If anything, it was like ... rock pop, glam pop ... I don’t know. I liked it. It was exciting and fun. Can’t you see that? Or are you too busy trying to smother anything that sounds even a little bit creative?”

“Guys, maybe we should...” Seth began, but Marco bulldozed over him.

“This isn’t about stifling anything, Lyla,” Marco snapped, his face turning red. “This is about keeping ourselves viable. And saying we’re running out of ideas is bullshit. I brought an idea, and you guys just ignored it.”

“Because it was a shit idea, Marco,” Lyla shot back, her fists balled up. “Your song sucked. It was unoriginal and boring. Everyone’s been too busy being nice to tell you, and I kept quiet because I knew Charlie didn’t want drama. But if you’re going to keep running your mouth, I’m going to tell you what goddamn time it is.”

“You f•©king bitch,” Marco said, taking a menacing step forward.

To Lyla’s credit, she didn’t back down. Her fists were balled so tight her knuckles were white, and she was leaning like she was about to take a step forward, but I wasn’t going to let this get that far.

Marco!” I shouted, using the tone Chef sometimes employed with me when I needed a reality check.

I shifted my guitar around behind my back, unplugging it as I did, getting ready to move in and intercept him. Thankfully, Marco backed off. I half-expected Lyla to start swinging anyway. She was always the most impetuous one of us, so I was pleasantly relieved when she didn’t press it.

As they glared at each other, I said, “We can talk about this, and I’m willing to hear your thoughts. But we need a direction for our music. In a year or so, we’ll need to think about another album. I’d like to record a single or two and release them in the meantime. This is my suggestion. Not all of our songs have to be this upbeat or be exactly like this, but I think this style will work off our strengths. It combines the best of the seventies with more modern stuff.”

I’d picked this direction partly because it offered plenty of keyboard options, giving Marco something to do. I also knew pointing this out would only antagonize him more, so I kept that part to myself.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea, Marco,” Seth chimed in, casting an apologetic glance his way.

“Fine. Yeah. Whatever. If you guys all like this shit, then I guess we’ll do it. I mean, we’re just playing in Charlie’s little world, aren’t we?” Marco snapped before casting one last heated glance at Lyla and turning his back on us to fiddle with his keyboard.

Lyla started to say something in return, but she caught my eye and saw me silently shaking my head and mouthing ‘no’. She rolled her eyes, shrugged, and went to fetch something from her car.

I took a deep breath. At least it hadn’t all fallen apart.


“Hey, Charlie!” David hollered, sprinting across the field towards me, his lopsided grin as wide as ever. “Ready?”

The first week back at school had us all easing back into the rhythm of things, with everyone who signed up for baseball practicing together. Carr’s policy was that anyone who wanted to join a team sport had to be allowed to participate.

Sure, joining a team didn’t guarantee actual playtime, but at least you’d get to take it as a class, earn your PE credit, and suit up for games. Even if it meant warming the bench.

I shrugged, “I’ll give it my best shot.”

Honestly, I was nervous. Last year, I’d done pretty well, making varsity after just a few games. But I hadn’t touched a ball or glove since the season ended. It’s not like I was planning on going pro or anything, but I’d enjoyed it, and I didn’t want to fall back to junior varsity after being on the varsity team. A lot of these guys either played football or fall ball, so I knew I’d be rusty compared to them.

“All right, everyone! Gather ‘round!” Coach Dean’s voice boomed across the field.

He and Coach Cooper were already standing by the backstop, clipboards in hand. To my immense relief, Coach Bryant wasn’t there. He’d been reinstated last year, and I knew he’d worked with the football team, but I got the impression he wasn’t the head coach of varsity anymore. Maybe he was on the outs with the administration, despite his chumminess with Mr. Packer. Either way, I just hoped he wouldn’t be participating in baseball. I’d done my best to avoid him all year, and I wasn’t keen on breaking that streak now.

“Some of you have been through this before, and some of you haven’t, so I’ll go over the ground rules. If you’ve heard it before, just shut up and sit there while I tell the other guys. Got it?”

Everyone just nodded.

“Okay. We have three teams here: varsity, junior varsity, and a freshman squad. Coach Cooper and I will be in charge of the varsity squad. We’re still sorting out our coaching situation, but by the time the season starts, we’ll have coaches for the junior varsity and freshman. Until then, you guys will train with us. Just because you don’t make varsity doesn’t mean we’re judging your ability. We want all of our teams to be competitive, so if we have some talented freshmen, sophomores, or juniors; you might be put on junior varsity, even though you’re good enough for varsity. We expect you guys, especially the juniors, to help coach up the younger players. Like I said, we’re short-staffed this season, so it’s time for you to step up. Got it?”

“Got it,” we all echoed back.

“All right. Today, we’re gonna do some fielding and hitting to get a sense of your progress. We’re looking for skill and athleticism, but more importantly, commitment and team spirit. That last one’s huge for me. I expect everyone who plays for me to be a team player. If you don’t think you can handle that, then you might have more fun in another sport ‘cause you’re gonna get real tired of running laps with me. Got it?”

“Got it,” we echoed.

“Good. Now, half of you guys will go with Coach Cooper for fielding drills, and the other half will come with me for hitting drills. Make no mistake, you’re being evaluated. Every year, I get a few guys who say they wanna be pitchers and don’t think they should do either set of drills. Tough. We’ll give pitchers a chance to show us what they can do, but you still gotta do the drills with the rest of us. Got it?”

“Got it,” the parrots repeated.

“Good. A through M, you’re with me. N through Z, you’re with Coach Cooper. If you can’t tell which section your name is in let me know and I’ll see if I can’t knock the alphabet into your skull with my clipboard.”

He grimaced when none of us laughed at his joke and said, “All right. Get moving.”

David and I ended up in the same group, just like last year. He was a pitcher, but as Coach Dean said, everyone had to do the drills. We jogged over to the outfield where Coach Cooper set up a bucket of balls and a bat by the left foul line. We were waiting for him to catch up. Coach Cooper must’ve been seventy by now and was as mean as he was old, but he could still smack the crap out of a baseball, and knew more about the sport than any of us ever would.

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