Night Bird Flying - Chapter 4: Up From The Skies

“So what's the story behind the name, Johnny B?” Joseph asked with curiosity as they walked back to the cafeteria.

“When I was in elementary, there was another Johnny in my class so they kept track of us by callin' us by our middle initial, Johnny B and Johnny C.  Eventually, Johnny C moved away, but they continued to call me Johnny B, so I kept it, 'cause it separated me from the other Johnny's of the world.  As for my middle name, I tend to make sure nobody knows it, just for my own personal reasons.  I feel like if people know your whole name, they have limited control over you, so I keep it on a need-to-know basis.”

“You and your non-conformist techniques.  You really like being different, don't you?”

“I'm not strivin' to be different, I'm strivin' to be myself.  Apart from havin' a girl in my arms, I don't see any point to followin' others.  Speakin' of girls, do you know this chick who goes here named Maybelline?”

“Maybelline Walker?” he asked in surprise.

“Yeah, I guess.  I don't know her last name.  Do you know her?”

“Oh yeah,” Joseph chuckled.  “I have history with her.”

“What, you dated her?”

“No, just friends.  She's crazy though.  She takes some type of medicine for something.  Why, did she blow you off?”

“Big time.”

“I'm not surprised.  She's been single for as long as I've known her because of her attitude.  We don't really talk much anymore; I've known her since the beginning of high school, as with most of the kids around here, which is why I know them so well.  Back in the good old days, I guess you could say I was the most popular kid, being the class clown and everything.  I don't know what happened.  Everybody just grew up and changed.  Only a handful of them actually remained friends with me and she's not really one of them.”

“I thought she was racist or somethin' to be honest.  That's why I got expelled from my last school.”

“No offense, but I think its expected for black people to feel paranoid that every time a white person disrespects them, that person is a racist.  I don't blame you guys.  That's why I respect everyone, even when they don't deserve it.  Causes less problems that way.  So you said you were expelled from your last school?”

“Yeah,” Johnny said, reminiscing over the moment, as if a flashback was being displayed over his eyes as he spoke.  “Racist faculty tried to get me to break up with my girlfriend so I lost it, destroyed a bunch of stuff and ended up here living with my uncle.”

“Damn, that's bad-ass.  Way to stick it to the man.  But to return to what you said earlier, no, she's not racist.  Her only deal is that she's not a big fan of ignorance.  And not just in terms of knowledge.  Ignorance as in blind to the ways of society and the deterioration of our culture because of it.  Shit like that.”

Johnny chuckled.  “I believe you, me, and her are probably the wisest people in the school.”

“Well you'll soon find out that we're not the only ones that think this way.  Let me see your schedule.”  Johnny took the folded piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to Joseph, who unfolded it and read it.  “Let's see, you've got World History, Physical Science....HA!  What a coincidence.  We've got the next two classes together, English and Theatre, and most of the people I want to introduce you to are in those classes.  One of them isn't in either, but he has our lunch, so we should go check him out.”

“Right,” Johnny said cautiously, taking back the schedule.  “I hope this isn't a bunch of bullshit.  For your sake.”

“Trust me, its not.  When you leave here this afternoon, you'll have more of an understanding of what goodness is hidden beneath this rotten onion.”

As Johnny and Joseph continued through the outdoor cafeteria plaza, eyes fell on them and the laughs followed almost immediately.  Johnny knew what they were thinking.  Two of the biggest losers in the school, the old one and the new one, were now best buds.  Cute.  Fuck that.  Johnny instantly wished everyone in the school had one throat and he had his hands around it.
They entered the building and walked through the lunch room.  Joseph was scanning the crowd as they passed through while Johnny tried to avoid eye contact all together.  They walked into the hallway before Joseph stopped, spotting his target.

“There he is,” Joseph said, pointing to the boy drinking from the water fountain.  “Chase!”
As he shouted his name, the boy called Chase accidentally pressed the fountain button with too much pressure, splashing the water directly into his face.  Chase exhaled from his nose forcefully after the water irritated it and rubbed it with unnecessary force to rid it of liquid.  He shook his head like a wet animal and walked over.

It was understandable that Johnny was already having reservations about him.  “I hope you're confident about this, Joseph.”

“Call me Joey,” he said.  “And yeah, I'm pretty damn confident.  This is Chase, probably the best drummer in this school.  I've known him since freshman year.  We used to hang out all the time.  We only conversate occasionally these days but we‘re still cool. You'll definitely want him in the band.”

Chase was very short in stature with a traditional Punk-rock/Scene mix hairstyle that forced him to hold his head with a slight tilt to keep it out of his eyes.  He wore a Batten The Hatches T-shirt(A Black Metal band) and pants ripped at the knees, leading Johnny to realize that he was now going to be dealing with a serious Metal-head, the likes of which in his past experience, he’d rarely gotten along with.

“What's up?” He said, sniffling slightly from the water ordeal.

“Hey Chase, this is Johnny B. Goode," Joey introduced.  "Johnny B, this is Chase.”

“Nice to meet you,” Chase greeted, rubbing his nose one last time and then holding out his hand to shake.  Johnny, instead, made a fist and bumped to avoid any unsanitary passage of germs.

“Likewise,” he said with a nod.

“Johnny B wants to start a band and he needs a drummer,” Joey mentioned.

“No kidding.  What do you play?”

“Guitar,” he said, gesturing to the guitar case wrapped around his torso.  “That's why its on my back.”

Chase snorted arrogantly.  “You any good?”

“Wouldn't be my last name if I wasn't.”

Chase sighed.  “Yeah well, I don't know just yet if I'm available.  I've got several other bands asking for my membership at the moment and I don't know who I want to commit to.  But I'll tell you what.  We'll get together some time and maybe have a jam session or something.  If I like what I hear, then I'll consider it.”

“Okay,” Joey responded.  “How about after school today?”

“I guess I can free up my schedule.  This better be good though.  I don't want another disappointment like last time, Joey.”

“Hey, that was nobody's fault but your own,” Joey chuckled.  “You shouldn't have came on to Shelly like that.”

“How's it my fault if she's gay?”

“She's not gay, Chase.  She just decided to change up her style.”

“Whatever.  My throat still kind of hurts from that shit.”

“Right,” Johnny said with a nod after listening a bit.  “Its about time to go, so where are we gonna meet and how long is it gonna be?  I don't know what my uncle is gonna say about this and I need to have all of the information when I call him.”

“How about until 3?" Joey suggested.  "We'll meet up in the auditorium after school and hang out for a while to get to know everybody; understand what they play and how they play it.  If we can get some instruments in there and actually hear a little of it, that'd be great too, but I can't make any promises.  All in all, we'll schedule an actual practice once we figure out if we're content with everyone.  I think that should do it.”

“Alright,” Johnny said, rubbing his chin in thought.  “I'll call my uncle later and give him the news.”

“Works,” Chase said, nodding.  “Can I go now?  I've got to piss like a race horse.”

“Yeah yeah, we're done,” Joey said, waving him off and they watched Chase run down the hall and clumsily jump down a small flight of stairs, out of sight.

“Should have known you'd try to fill my band with arrogant outcasts and misfits,” Johnny muttered as the two walked away.

“Hey don't pick on Chase, okay?” Joey defended.  “He's a great drummer.  I would know, I was in a band with him once before.  He has an amazing sense of rhythm.”

“So you say.”

“I love when people have reactions like that.  That way I can witness the look on their faces when they realize that I was right all along.”

“So assumin' you are right, who else is goin' to be added into this band?  More emo wannabes?”

“No.  But I can guarantee you that when people look at our band, they won't see a bunch of dark, spiky-haired eye-shadow-wearing idiots that you can barely tell the difference from.  You're really going to get some diversity with this group and people are going to like that.”

“No, they're not.”

“Yeah, you're right.  But at least we will.”

“What about that guy?” Johnny asked, referring to Chase.  “He seems like he's already got a lot on his plate.”

Joey chuckled.  “Right.  That's one thing you've got to learn about Chase.  He's a compulsive liar.  It's best to just disregard anything he says unless its something involving the band itself because he's full of bullshit.  There are absolutely NO other bands that have been formed in this school in the last few years or so, unless he's talking about a band outside of school, in which case its very unlikely because he doesn't exactly have the people skills for that.  Within this school, nothing interesting, at least not of this caliber, is going on.  I should know, I keep tabs on everything around here.  Everyone would rather listen to music more than make it themselves and then they like to treat the music and the musician as if they were one entity instead of keeping them separate like its supposed to be.  And as for Chase, he always wants to make it seem like he's had something going since our first attempt at a band in freshman year, but he's as free as a bird these days, just like the rest of us.”

Johnny walked the hallways with Joey in silence for a while before he spoke up.  “Joey, you do realize that we need people we can trust in this band, right?  I already explained this to you, a compulsive liar in the band doesn't exactly reinforce that.”

“Dude, you can trust Chase.  He's just a little rough around the edges.  You do realize that I asked you to trust my judgment, right?”

“Hardly.  You're not God, so your judgment won't always be right.”

“Well we can just nix this idea all together if you want,” Joey said with slight agitation, stopping his stride and confronting Johnny.  “Because if you keep your mind on the negative side of this, it'll only go down hill from here.”

Johnny thought for a moment.  He was being a little rash and in a way, breaking his own philosophies to not judge others based on first impressions.  He had to trust Joey, or else his time at Garfield High would consist of his constant paranoia of having the entire school staring down at him from their self-appointed thrones.

“Alright, I'll trust you for a little while longer.  This better get better.”

“It all depends on how you look at it, Johnny.”

The bell rang and the classrooms changed in an instant.  Johnny and Joey were the first ones to their classroom, English 4, which was located in the hall adjacent to the cafeteria they‘d just past.  As Johnny took a seat near the window once again, he slipped his guitar case off his back and laid it on the side of the desk alongside his amp.  Joey took the seat in front of him.  A few more students entered the classroom as the two sat there waiting.

Johnny tapped Joey on the shoulder.  “Hey dude.  You said there were a few more people in this class that you wanted to introduce me to?”

“Huh?” Joey said, turning his head slightly.

“I said, there were a few more people in this class you wanted in the band, right?”

“Oh, uh....no, not in this class, in the next one.”

The whole time he said this, Johnny noticed that Joey kept his eyes on one particular student in the class.  She definitely stood out from the rest of the them as Johnny noticed.  She was petite with straight blonde hair that nearly went down to her waist.  A thin red ribbon was wrapped tightly around her head and she was dressed in a tie dyed t-shirt, and bell bottoms covering a pair of sandals on her feet.  Several people that made it to the classroom ahead of time snickered to themselves at her wardrobe.

“How do I get the feelin' you're lyin' to me?” Johnny asked with a smirk.

“I'm not lying.  The two people that you need are in the next class.”

“I told you I needed a drummer, someone on keys, a rhythm guitarist, and a lead singer.  You got me one, now I need three more.  And you're tellin' me there are only two more in the next class?  I thought you said you'd have all of them.”

“I'll get you your key player somewhere else, now drop it, Johnny!”

Johnny leaned back in his seat and folded his arms with a smile.  He'd gotten what he needed out of Joey.  The person Johnny needed on Keys was in the class and it was apparently the girl Joey had just been previously staring at.  Joey turned his head back to the front of the class, swearing under his breath once he realized his mistake.  After a while, he turned back to Johnny with a look of frustration.

“Her name is Elizabeth Apricot but she goes by her last name.  She's an amazing keyboarder and knows a lot about synthesizing and making cool sound effects with it.”

“Just what I need.  Now tell me about her and why you're so reluctant to get her to join the band.”

Joey hesitated for a moment.  “She pretty much belongs in the 60's era.  She's a modern-day hippie, smokes a lot of pot, but she's all into the civil rights, anti-war, and peace movement.  She's probably the nicest person you'll ever meet.”

“And the problem is?”

Joey hesitated again.  “Don't laugh but....I have a massive crush on her.”

Johnny guffawed quite loudly, drawing the attention of other students.

“What'd I just say?”

He got up from his seat, still chuckling.  “I'll handle this.”

“What're you doing?” Joey said cautiously, watching Johnny walk by his desk.  It reminded him of when the principal of Brooks High asked him the same thing, just before he went on the assault.  “Johnny, No!”

Johnny strolled across the classroom and sat in the seat in front of the girl who went by the name Apricot.  She had a sketch notebook open and was applying the shadows to a disturbing design for a surrealistic creature of her own creation.

“Hey....Apricot, right?”

“That would be a positive,” she said, looking up quickly at Johnny, then back at her art.

“I'm Johnny B.”

“I know who you are.  I listen to people talk.  You're the black guitarist who everybody seems to have a problem with.”

“Yeah, that sounds about right.”

“Hmm....you sounded interesting." she said, giving him her attention though she still kept her eyes on her work.  "Anything I can help you with?”

“Yeah.  I heard you were a good with the keys and I'm starting a band that I'd like you to be apart of.”

“All right, I'm in.”

“Really?” Johnny asked with a little confusion.  “You don't want to know who else is in it?  What kind of sound we're going for?  Whether you'd be able to fit it in your schedule?”

“I can get along with everybody, if its music I can make it, and I'm completely free for as long as I‘m aware for as far as I‘m concerned.”  Apricot looked up at Johnny with large ocean blue eyes.  “Seems like you're the kind of person whose had so many disappointments in life that you think everything has to come with a catch.  I guess I'm the only thing that doesn't.”

“I guess so,” Johnny said, smiling.  “We're meeting after school in the auditorium to catch up with everyone and have a quick jam session to see what everybody's got.  If you could meet us there that could help-”

“Get up,” growled a student that was standing over him.  Johnny looked up to see a angry-looking guy with thick eyebrows, a five O'clock shadow, and a poor disposition staring down at him menacingly.  He was larger than Johnny in muscle mass, but Johnny seen and taken down bigger individuals in the past.

“Can you wait for a second?” Johnny asked, irritated by the student's rudeness.  “I'm in the middle of a conversation.”

Johnny tried to turn back to Apricot but was punched in the shoulder with a bit of force.  “When I say 'Get Up' you get the fuck up!” the guy shouted aggressively.

It was obvious at this point that Johnny was no longer sitting.  He was now confronting this bold assailant, close enough to bite his quick-moving lips off at any second.

“Whoa!  Whoa!  Whoa!” Joey yelled from across the room, as he rushed to Johnny and the student‘s location.  “Let's not let this get to where it looks like its headed, okay?”

“It looks like my fist is headed into this bitch's face, is what it looks like!”  The student began to shout viciously at Johnny, who kept his cool through all of the commotion.  Ironically, the anger was boiling inside of him just as it had with the principal and he could feel himself about to unleash Armageddon again.

“Hal, calm down,” Joey said slowly.

The guy whose name was Hal edged closer to Joey.  “Hey, Joseph?” he said with false enthusiasm.  “You talking to me?  The guy who's about to have your ass handed to you for screwing me over?”

“If you even try, you'll hit the floor before you can hit him,” Johnny said with a harsh whisper.

“Don't talk to me, you little-” Hal attempted to grab Johnny's mouth to shut him up.  Unfortunately for him, he was trying to accomplish a near impossible task, for a millisecond after the skin on Hal's hand made contact with Johnny's upper lip, Johnny's forearm made contact with the inside of Hal's elbow, knocking his arm away.  In the following millisecond, Johnny sent a devastating blow to Hal's eye sending him back into the desk behind him.  “AAAHH!”

“Holy Shit!  Johnny!” Joey yelled as the entire class reacted to the shots.

“Ah-Ah-Ah, we'll have none of that in here,” Apricot declared, getting out of her seat.  Johnny, Joey, and Hal all turned to her quickly.  “Violence never solves disputes and it won't start here.”

“Tell that to the rest of America,” Johnny said, his fist still up as Hal stared at him, one eye covered with his hand, the other glued to Johnny with the intent of murder.

“Johnny, I want you to apologize to Hal,” Apricot commanded sternly.  “Sincerely.”

“What?” Johnny asked in confusion.

“You heard me.”

“I'm not apologizin' to this douchebag.”

“Apologize or I'm not joining your band.”

Johnny hesitated.  What the hell?  It wasn't going to hurt anybody.  But unfortunately, that was the problem.

“I'm sorry, Hal,” Johnny said as sincerely as he could, although it still sounded forced.
Hal sprung forward and grabbed Johnny by the shirt, pushing him back onto the table.  It took all of the will power Johnny could muster to not form another black eye on his face.

“Next time I see you, I'll shut that mouth of yours up for good.”

Hal let go of him and headed straight for the exit without giving him a second glance.  Apparently, he wasn't even attending this class, Johnny thought.  So why was he there harassing us in the first place?

“Well that was uh....tense, to say the least,” Joey sighed.

“What's your history with that guy?” Johnny asked with a stern tone.

“Johnny, not here,” Joey said in a near whisper, eying Apricot.

“Yes here.  Right now.  Why did he threaten you?”

Joey sighed and looked at Apricot, who had been staring at him curiously.  Then he looked back at Johnny.

“Hal used to be on neutral terms with me, despite being in one of the more popular crowds around here.  He was nice to me sometimes.  One day, I borrowed money from him in a desperate moment and never got to pay him back, so now he's been after me for payment.  That's the reason why I attacked you back behind the school.  I was expecting either him or one of his goons to come after me.”

Johnny sighed.  “I thought you wanted to respect everyone to prevent problems.”

“That's one problem I haven't been able to get around.”

Johnny shook his head and looked back at Apricot who smiled brightly in return.  “Thanks for preventin' that from gettin' bloody.  You still in?”

“Yep.  Is he in the band?” she asked, pointing at Joey.

Johnny looked at him to see that he was furiously trying to avoid eye contact with her.  He rolled his eyes.  “Yeah.  He's our bassist.”

“Nice to meet you,” she said, holding out her hand.

Joey took it awkwardly and shook it as the final bell rung to start the class.  “Y-Yeah, same here.”

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