Elegy - Cover


Copyright© 2023 by Lumpy

Chapter 6

Kat was completely wiped out when we got back home. I guess battling her anxiety and the surge of emotions that came with them had really taken a toll on her. She went to bed almost as soon as we stepped through the front door. I was pretty exhausted too, but there was something I needed to take care of before I could call it a night.

“Hey, Warren,” I said when he picked up the phone. “Sorry, I know it’s late.”

“No, it’s okay. I don’t usually hit the sack until after one.”

I knew most people in the industry were night owls, which made sense since gigs often went until bars closed, but I’d always been a morning person. Playing at the Blue Ridge had spoiled me since Chef usually had me wrap up by eleven considering I was, or at least had been, a minor. With emancipation that had changed, though. Willie was starting to slow down, and I was no longer considered to be a minor, so we’d been playing later and later most weekends. That was probably for the best, though, since this was the life I’d signed up for.

“Good. I need to ask you for a favor. I know you’ve already got a bunch of shows lined up, but could you see if you can get us a gig in Raleigh?”

“I guess. Was there a particular place you wanted to play, or some kind of event you wanted to be a part of?”

“No, nothing like that. You know Hanna’s at UNC, and I need to visit her for personal reasons, but the band is still tight on money after all the stuff that happened before Christmas, and I didn’t want to leave them without a weekend gig. I figured if they can’t play the Blue Ridge because I’m in Raleigh, maybe they could come with me and we could play somewhere Saturday night.”

“So you’re looking for one venue that’ll pay you as much for one night as you’d make at the Blue Ridge for three? That’s a tall order.”

“I know, and I understand if you can’t get all the way there, but I’d like to get as close as possible. I checked out some of the contracts you were working on for Philadelphia and Charlotte, and they seem like serious money.”

“They are, but those are really large venues, at least for bands at your level. Unless you want me to schedule it around spring break, I’m not sure how big of a show I can book for you. How soon do you need this?”

“Honestly, the sooner the better. Preferably by the end of the month or early next month at the latest.”

“That’s pushing it, Charlie. I mean, if you wanted a small club like the ones you did last summer, I could probably swing that, but for something that pays enough to cover what you’re asking for I need more time.”

“I get it, and I’m not expecting any miracles. Just do the best you can. I know it’s a big ask, but I really need this if you can make it happen.”

“Can I ask what’s going on?”

Kat’s past trauma wasn’t exactly a secret, but we’d all decided to keep her diagnosis and anxiety issues in the family, as it were. She’d had a few episodes while traveling with us over the summer, but they’d been fairly minor and we’d managed to brush off questions on specifics. I guess there wasn’t a real reason not to tell Warren, except that I knew Kat was embarrassed by her condition, and knowing that others knew might increase her anxiety, defeating the entire point of this trip.

I had to tread carefully, though. The label was still unsure about me after the stunts Dad had pulled, so the last thing I wanted was to give them the impression that something was wrong with me. I had to remember that, while Warren worked with us and was a decent guy, he didn’t work for us. He worked for the label, which meant his priority was protecting them, not me.

“It’s personal. That’s all I can say. It’s not really my place to talk about it.”

“Ah,” Warren said, thankfully reading between the lines. “Okay, I’ll see what I can do.”

“Maybe you could use our pull in that area to help sell us. From our streaming numbers and the turnout at our last shows there, the largest part of our fan base is from Raleigh and the triangle in general. Yeah, the venues last summer were small, but we had pretty good crowds, and that was before the album release, opening for House of Grace, and the New Year show. I know we don’t have all of the post-New Year show numbers, but from the report you gave me last week, we’ve seen a noticeable increase in streaming numbers since then, so our visibility is up. That’s got to help our Q score.”

Hanna had talked a lot about Q scores and visibility when she was home for Christmas. I don’t think it had been covered in any of her classes since she was still mostly taking basic courses and hadn’t started her more focused degree plan classes yet. She hadn’t mentioned it explicitly, but I got the impression she’d spent a lot of time talking to Professor Cross, one of the heads of the Business School at UNC.

A Q Score was a measurement used by Hollywood, the music industry, Broadway, and basically everyone else in entertainment for tracking popularity and influence among the general population. The higher a performer’s Q Score, the greater their ability to influence the public. Hanna had said Q Score didn’t necessarily mean popularity was good or bad, and there were plenty of disliked people with high Q Scores, although they were mostly in politics and the media rather than straight entertainment.

Q Scores were developed by a marketing research company in the ‘60s, and while they were mainly used when evaluating a celebrity for endorsement deals or to take the lead in something like a movie or TV show, there were other applications too. The music industry had increasingly been using Q Scores to decide who to feature in streaming, and venues used them as a measurement to help determine if they should book someone. Venues were always trying to get the biggest names they could. The bigger the name a location or platform could secure, the easier it was to break through the noise that bombarded the general public every day.

I think Warren was surprised I knew what Q Scores were because he paused for a moment before saying, “Ah ... huh. I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Sorry, I know you’re familiar with all this. I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job or anything. I just really could use this.”

“No, it’s fine. I’ll see what I can do. I mean, if we can squeeze in another booking before the summer tour, it’ll make my bosses happy. At your level, touring is where most of the revenue comes in, and they’ve always been a little concerned about your availability limitations during the school year. The more we can get in, the easier it’ll be to get them to listen to us in the future.”

“See, I’m out here just trying to make your job easier,” I said with a chuckle.

“Yeah, I’m sure that’s what you’re doing. Okay, consider me on it, and I’ll still see you in two weeks in Charlotte.”

“Yep. Thanks, Warren.”

“No sweat,” he said, and hung up.

Warren really was such a step up from our previous manager. With his success so far, I couldn’t wait to see what he had in store for us when I had the entire summer open.

Friday, I swung by home early before heading to the Blue Ridge to set up. Snow had started falling the night before, and by the time we usually started baseball practice the field was blanketed in white. Snowy baseball fields at the beginning of the season weren’t unusual, but this year the team was caught off guard.

We had an indoor pitching area and a batting cage for practice, but neither was ready to be used. It had been a warm winter with only light dustings of snow. I thought it snowed every year, but Coach hadn’t prepared for it. So, I got to skip practice, leaving my afternoon wide open.

With Kat away in Asheville, where she was going to do her training until the weather warmed up, I had the house to myself. Relishing the idea of some peace and quiet, I grabbed a bag of chips and a jar of salsa, plopping down at the kitchen table, ready to zone out. But as soon as I started to open the chips, the doorbell rang. Letting out a sigh, I pushed away from the table and went to see who it was.

“Charlie Nelson,” the postal worker said.

“Yeah,” I replied, hesitantly.

I rarely got mail, especially not hand-delivered by a postal worker.

“I need you to sign here, please,” she said, holding out a small green card.

“Okay,” I muttered, taking it and signing my name.

She handed me an envelope with what looked like the other half of the green card attached to it and left without another word. I’d assumed it was from MCA, which was the only non-junk mail I ever received. But they’d never sent me anything certified before. I was shocked to see the return address on the envelope was for the Buncombe County Clerk of Court instead. I wracked my brain, but for the life of me, I couldn’t imagine why the county court would be sending me anything.

I sat down at the table, tore the envelope open, and unfolded the stiff, official-looking papers inside. It was a summons, listing Aaron’s father as the agent of the court and me as the defendant, along with a court date set for three weeks from next Monday and instructions on how to respond. If that wasn’t confusing enough, the spot where it listed the charge the summons was for showed felony possession of marijuana.

I’d only been accused of drug possession once in my life, so it wasn’t hard to connect the dots. What baffled me was why this was happening at all. Mr. Packer had admitted the drugs weren’t mine in front of Sheriff Gibbs, and I’d thought that would be the end of it. If he planned to charge me, why not do it at that moment, not file it with the courts a week later?

I was thinking about Mr. Eaves’ multiple admonishments to me as I picked up the phone. I knew he’d be upset when he found out what I was about to do, but I also remembered what Sheriff Gibbs had said that day after Mr. Packer’s plan failed. I needed answers, and I just couldn’t believe he’d do this.

“Charlie,” Sydney said when she answered the phone, recognizing my number.

As part of her dad’s wild overprotectiveness, Sydney wasn’t allowed a cell phone, so the only way I could reach her was by calling their house phone.

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