6/05/2012

Night Bird Flying - Chapter 9: Earth Blues




In the Thursday morning rain, Johnny sat by the doorway that led into the cafeteria, which was sheltered by the brick structures above.  There were only a few days left before Christmas break and everyone was winding down for it.  He was practicing the riff for the power ballad, "Truthful Lie" only playing it without his amp.  He was fine doing without it, after all during the times that he couldn't have the amp in his possession, like the few years before he finally purchased one, this was how he would play normally.  The band hadn't practiced in a very long time and he was getting worried that when the time came for them to record in Marty's friend's studio, they wouldn't be ready.  He was the only one who still owned an instrument and none of the others had gotten the chance to play anything since the carjacking.  More unfortunately, Joey lost his Bass, so any chances of Johnny working with him in more of those private sessions were nonexistent.  It was a shame.  He was starting to make progress.

Joey and Chase were accompanying him.  They had become a collective group of comrades since the forming of their band and the idea of actually maintaining a friendship outside of their professional music pursuit seemed plausible for Johnny.  A wise man once told him that it was better to create a friendship through the pursuit of business than to create a business from a friendship; it makes the friendship more genuine and minimizes the chances of betrayal.  That was all Johnny truly wanted; the peace of mind that the people by his side would stay by his side until the end.

They were the only ones outside because of the rain.  It didn't bother Johnny but he was sure that the others were only out there with him to keep him company, not because they enjoyed it like he did.  It was cool of them to do so and Johnny appreciated it.  As he sat, he tried to come up with a way to shorten the length of the riff in the song to fit the cut-off point by the bridge when Chase tapped him on the shoulder.

"Dude," he said relentlessly poking away at his arm.

"What, what?" Johnny asked, getting annoyed.

"Look over there.”  He pointed to a location somewhere in the parking lot by the school.  Johnny got up from where he was sitting to get a better view.  There was someone walking onto the campus and making his way into the building.  "Look closely....looks familiar, doesn't he?"

Johnny squinted his eyes and saw immediately what Chase was referring to.  It was a skinny guy in all black with wild hair.  His hands were in his pocket and he walked with a hunch.

"Holy shit," Johnny muttered.  "That's the guy from the Battle of the Bands."

"No way," Joey said in disbelief, standing up to take a look for himself.  "The guy who's band carjacked us?  He goes to this school?"

"Go fucking figure, right?" Chase said, shaking his head.  "I saw him in the hallway this morning.  I was going to tell you a bit earlier but now you see for yourself.  I never noticed him around until I saw him that night.  Now I've been seeing him everywhere."

The guy proceeded into the building from another entrance gave a quick but unnoticeable glimpse in their direction before disappearing behind a wall.

"We've got to get him," Joey said, starting off after him.

"Hold on, man," Johnny said, grabbing him by the shoulder.  "We've got to be tactful.  Let's investigate a little more and see if we can tail him one of these days after school, then see where that leads us.  Followin' him now won't get us anywhere but to his classroom.  Right now, he doesn't think we remember him.  We've gotta keep the element of surprise.  He'll get his, don't worry."

Johnny began to sit back down by the doorway again, when it suddenly opened and the three of them were greeted by Hal and his group of friends, hostility in the air spiking at their very presence.

"Oh shit," Joey exclaimed as the group approached.  Hal was glaring at Johnny with a stare that could break an average man's spirit, although it was apparent that Johnny was anything but average.  The cold weather had stricken all of Ladyland in these coming winter months and combined with the rain, the entire environment was near freezing, yet Johnny was the only one still wearing a T-shirt and shorts without being phased.  No one could understand it.

Hal stood, exhaling the cold air heavily as he stared at the three of them without saying a word.  His crew was only there to back him up this time.

"You gonna say somethin' or can I just walk away 'cause this staring shit is gettin' annoyin'?" Johnny said with his head tilted back casually.

"You've humiliated me for the last time," Hal said in a whisper seeping with hatred.

"You humiliated yourself," Johnny chuckled.  "You're lucky nobody was there to see it happen, so you should be happy."

Hal's lip twitched slightly as if he were actually about to growl at Johnny.  This only amused him.

"Jeez, who raped you the wrong way?" Johnny said, briefly turning to Joey with a smile, who laughed along side him.  When Johnny turned back, Hal had his fist clenched and delivered a powerful blow to his face.

It sent Johnny back a few feet into the rain, holding his jaw from the jolt.  He hadn't anticipated this.  Actually, he did anticipate the punch, he had deliberately provoked it to get a rise out of Hal and get him to be the first to go on the offensive again.  But Johnny hadn't anticipated the punch hurting this much.  He felt the side of his face.  He was bleeding.  That was no ordinary blow.  Johnny glanced up at Hal and saw that his fist was equipped with metal.  Brass knuckles.

Johnny spit blood on the ground beside him and chuckled.  "Now we're talkin'.  Time to put that pent-up sensitivity to use."

Hal charged at Johnny swiftly and tried to send another blow at his head with the Brass knuckled-fist.  Johnny obviously saw it coming and ducked out of the way, following up with two strong blows to Hal's stomach and a finisher in the face.  Hal drew back but retaliated quickly.  He tackled him around the abdomen and began to push him toward the grass.  Johnny had a good grip on him but suddenly, a loose bank in the ground caused him to lose his balance, sending the two of them falling onto the mud-strewn grass.  Dirt and water flew into the air as they began to tussle on the ground.  In a matter of minutes, several students from inside who happened to be sitting by the window hopped from their seats and made their way outside.  Soon, the entire lunch room followed them to bare witness to these two tough guys battling it out in the rain.

Johnny was briefly stunned when Hal attacked again with the Brass knuckles.  He punched him in the gut with his equipped hand, followed with a punch to the face with his bare hand, and sent a blow twice as devastating with the brass.  The blow knocked Johnny into the crowd behind him, who pushed him forward to continue the fight.  Everyone was surrounding the two of them.  They were laughing and jeering at him.  They wanted a show.  He briefly thought of stopping the fight so as to not play into the demands of the people he hated so much.  But then he remembered who started the fight.  And he realized he had to finish it.

Hal swung forward with the equipped hand once again but Johnny knocked it away, stepping up and head-butting Hal in the face.  Hal stepped back, holding his nose as the crowd reacted to the blow.  Johnny took Hal's moment of incapacitation to rip off his muddy wet shirt as quickly as he could.  When Hal turned back to him, Johnny began to swing the wet shirt at him, which, soaked with rain water, was much heavier and served as a powerful tool in the fight.

Hal was temporary blinded by the flinging water and his skin was turning red from the blows of the t-shirt.  He tried to block frivolously and the crowd began to back away as the mud and water began to sling in their direction as well.  After a while, Johnny stepped back with the shirt and just as Hal looked over to see if Johnny was letting up, he tossed the shirt onto Hal's head, obscuring his vision.

Now with an open target, Johnny dashed forward and sent several blows to Hal's covered face before reaching around to his back and kicking his feet out from under him.  Hal hit the ground face first.  Johnny grabbed his shirt-covered head and began to slam it into the hard ground, splashing mud and water up with every move.  He grit his teeth furiously as he continuously ducked Hal's head into the ground with force, the crowd cringing audibly with each blow.  Their amusement over the fight was quickly turning to uncertainty; they weren't sure if Johnny was just trying to win or if the two were actually trying to kill each other.  A group of security guards, who had been several minutes too late, were the only ones that could stop Johnny from continuing to unleashing his anger again.  They pulled him off of Hal and dragged him away from the crowd, who all stared at him with awkward and nervous smiles on their faces.  Johnny returned the smile and filled the air with laughter as he was carted away, leaving a chilling testimony for the students, ensuring them that he was indeed a force to be reckoned with, on and off the guitar.

--------------------------------------------------

Because Johnny had provoked the fight with Hal, both of them were suspended.  He could have gotten away with a self-defense plea but the information gathered by those interrogated about the incident were against him.  Johnny was sent home early with Uncle Chuck, who was proud of him for finishing the fight himself.

"I still gotta punish you though," Uncle Chuck said losing the enthusiasm he'd gathered praising Johnny for his actions.

"Why?"

"I was talking to your mama on the phone before I came to pick you up," Chuck said cautiously.  "I accidentally let it slip that I needed to go pick you up 'cause you got suspended.  She wants me to put you on punishment."

"So?" Johnny said with a smile.  "She won't know any better."

Chuck turned to Johnny with a raised eyebrow.  "We're talking about your mother, boy.  She'll know."

Johnny shrugged.  "Whatever."

Chuck and Johnny turned into the neighborhood and pulled up the driveway.  They got out of the car, entered the home, and Johnny started to go up into his room when Chuck began to lay down his punishment.

"Alright now, uh....no TV, no computer, no games."

"I don't watch TV, use the computer, or play video games," Johnny replied before entering his room.

"Right....that should be good enough anyway," Chuck said to himself before walking into the living room.

Johnny had been without a shirt since the fight and he started to grab one from his closet and put it on, but he felt like it was warm enough in the house for him to be comfortable without one.  He did however have to get some ice from the kitchen and apply it to the bruises on his ribs and jaw.  His room had been slightly decorated now, complete with several music posters from an array of different bands and musicians of Johnny's liking and a couple of random decals that he felt would liven up his habitat.  He was about to break out the Night Bird and just reminisce over his day, when thoughts began to hit him like a locomotive.  He remembered the guy he'd seen at lunch and began to contemplate a means of how to go about receiving retribution for his actions.  Now that Johnny was suspended until sometime next year, due to the upcoming Christmas break, there would be little chance of him getting the van back before those idiots ruined or got rid of it.  There had to be some way they could keep tabs on him without blowing their cover and without Johnny being there to supervise the whole operation.

In the midst of thought, someone knocked at Johnny's door.

"Come in."

Uncle Chuck opened it.  "You got a visitor, boy."

"Let 'em in."

Chuck opened the door wider and Marty came into view with a vibrant smile.

"Hey Marty, whats goin' on, man?" Johnny greeted warmly.

"Hi Johnny, nice to see you,” he said as the door shut behind him.  “Cool tattoo."

Johnny looked over at the Black Fender Wild-vine tattoo he had on his left arm.  "Oh thanks."

“What’s with the ice?  You get into a fight today?”

“Yeah,” he muttered, shuffling the bag of ice on his jaw.  “I won though, so its all good.”

"What the hell are you doing without a shirt on?  It's like 30 degrees in here."

"45 actually.  And that's warm to me."

"You're from Louisiana, one of the warmest places in the country, and 45 degrees is warm to you?  You're something else, man."

"Entirely," Johnny said with a smirk as he took a seat on his bed.  "So what's the word?"

"Got great news, man," Marty said, his face lighting up.  "I'm going to be able to get you guys into the studio earlier than I thought."

"Oh really?  Nice, when?"

"Whenever is good for you guys."

"Well, we haven't gotten time to practice since our stuff got stolen, so we need to hold one with those instruments they have at the studio before we can officially record.  Can we schedule a practice at least, before the real thing?"

"Doesn't sound like that'd be a problem to me, but I'll check just to make sure.  My dad will be there to see you guys.  He's paying for the studio time so he wants to make sure its a good investment."

"Nice nice," Johnny said, thinking it over.  "I think this Saturday would work best for us."

"Alright, well if you want, I can go ahead and call just to make sure."

"That's fine with me."

Another knock came at the door.  "You got another visitor," Chuck said, opening the door.  "It's your girl.  You know I'm thinking maybe I should make one of them punishments no visitors.  What do you think?"

"Sounds like a bad idea.  You can let her in now."

"Oh yeah, all right."  Chuck stepped out of the way and let May enter the room, who greeted Johnny with a smile.  She had her hair tied back and wore a black beret over it.

Johnny smiled at the sight of her and walked her way.  "Hey babe," he said as they embraced and kissed.

"Whoa," Marty chuckled with raised eyebrows.  "I can tell I probably need to make this call outside."

He took out his phone and walked out of the room, leaving the two of them alone.

"Chase told me about what happened at school today," May said, her eyebrow raised suspiciously.

"Oh yeah," Johnny said, rubbing the back of his head.  "I didn't start the fight, I just finished it."

"That's what they all say.  Never took you for the fighting type."

"No?  I fight all the time."

"Yeah I can see by your many battle scars," May joked as she sat down on Johnny's bed.  "Why are you shirtless anyway?  Did you know I was coming?"

Johnny chuckled.  "Yeah, I'm tryin' to be Jacob from Twilight," he teased.

"Here we go again with that.  I certainly hope not.  Besides, I think you need to work out a little more to get to that point, honey."

"That's cold," Johnny said, grabbing his guitar off of the bed and sitting down on the floor by her feet.

"So where'd you learn how to fight?"

"My dad.  He taught me how to fight, taught me a bit of how to play guitar, a lots of things.  He's the reason why I am who I am today.  He was the toughest man I ever knew.  I used to get whipped by him pretty often."

"Isn't that kind of abusive?"

"Not really.  There's a difference between abuse and discipline.  I was wrong and I got punished.  I knew he still loved me.  The whips made me tougher, I respected him more for it as I got older.  I remember one time, I was cuttin' the grass in our front yard and I passed out from the heat.  He came outside, poured some lukewarm water on my face and told me to get up and keep goin'.  I'll never forget that.  I passed out three times that day."

"Wow, that's pretty harsh."

"Yeah, but that was his way of telling me to never give up, no matter what happens.  No matter what obstacles I face, I can't ever give up, never half-step on anythin' I do.  Tough times never last, but tough people do, was what he said.  I'll never forget that.  We struggled, but we lived a good life.  We lived in a log cabin in Louisiana that was constantly surrounded by evergreens.  Statistically speakin‘, we were living below the poverty level, especially after my dad died.  I remember I could never afford a guitar case, so I used to carry the Night Bird around in a gunny sack everywhere I went."

“No way.”

“Yeah, you can’t imagine how hard it was to keep it tuned in that thing.  As hard as things were though, it was always a little bit easier having my pops around.”

"What about your mom, you barely ever talk about her," May asked curiously.

Johnny sighed.  "Before my dad died, she never did much to help me do anythin''.  My dad helped me get to where I was before he died.  And when he did, she thought she could replace him and become a hard ass about everythin' I did, blamin' me for why he died, doin' all this stupid shit that I didn't care for.  After a while, I lost all respect for her.  I still love her, but honestly, I don't give a fuck if I ever see her again.  She doesn't believe in me like he did."

May looked away in surprise.  She never knew that his relationship with his family was so strained.  It was interesting to wonder what kind of man Johnny's father could have been to create such a strange and complex human being like his son.

"My dad taught me a lot of stuff about life that I'm really grateful for.  I remember one time, I had a crush on this girl and I felt like I'd never get with her 'cause she was way out of my league, much like yourself.”  May snickered dismissively as he continued.  “Its true.  All of the people who knew kept tellin' me that kind of thing.  But when I told him about my predicament, he told me that there's no such thing as a 'league'.  It's all an illusion, created to establish dominance for certain people in the social status quo.  A modern day hierarchy, only its all an illusion because not everyone has to except it as reality and as long as I choose not to, I'll forever be one of the ones that stand out.  I'll always be the one to see reality and see these disguised people for who they really are.  I think that I still do see like that, but....my teen years, my high school years were the worst years of my life.  They were the years when everyone I trusted turned their backs on me and I had no one else to turn to, so I went on my own.  That's the reason why I can be aggressive sometimes.  Sometimes, I feel like maybe....maybe if he was still alive, he could have helped me get through it.  I could have had a foundation to lean on instead of falling on my face with no one to help me up but myself.  I'm sorry, I don't mean to rant.  I just never got the chance to talk like this out loud."

May was silent while she listened to Johnny talk.  When he was finished, she finally spoke.  "What do you think your father would say to you if he saw you today?"

Johnny sat and thought for a minute.  "I think he'd beat the livin' shit out of me, to be honest," he said, laughing.

May smiled.  "I think he'd be proud of you.  Proud that even though he wasn't there to help you when everyone was against you, you survived on your own.  And now you're going somewhere with your life, I mean aside from getting expelled and suspended all the time.  You've got talent and a bright future."

Johnny turned to May and smirked.  "You know, you should be a therapist."

May rolled her eyes.  "Please, I can't handle hearing people's problems all day.  I can barely handle hearing yours."

"God, you need to re-evaluate yourself, I swear," Johnny said playfully.  "You are so mean, you should get your life together."

A knock came at the door and it opened slightly.  "You guys aren't doing anything I shouldn't be seeing, are you?"

"No, come on in," Johnny answered.

"Okay," Marty entered quickly.  "Well the thing is, my dad and the producer at the studio want to have a meeting with you guys first to see where your heads are at right now, you know, as far as dedication goes.  They're available tomorrow and if everything goes well, they can get you guys in to let you practice as many times as you need before you record.  Should be pretty awesome."

"Sounds great, bro.  So everything's set?"

"Yep.  Just let the rest of the band know what's going down and everything should be handled smoothly.  I've got to go now, but I'll be back around 4 tomorrow to pick you and whoever else you want to go with you to the studio up."

"Yeah, I've got to go too," May said, standing up.  "I just wanted to drop by and see how you were doing.  I've got to go run some errands for my mom."

"Alright, that's cool," Johnny said, saluting to them with a quick farewell.  "I guess I'll see you guys later then."

"See ya, man," Marty said, walking out of the door.

"Bye Johnny," May said, kissing him on the lips before following Marty out of the room.  When they were gone, Johnny yawned and stretched vibrantly before noticing that his phone had been ringing on the table by his bed.  It was a new phone, replacing the other one that was stolen during the carjacking, but it still carried the same number as his old one.  He picked it up just as it stopped and saw that he had gotten a missed call from Ramsey.  Johnny grimaced and dismissed it, leaving his phone on the table.  Ramsey had supposedly been on a "vacation" and hadn't been seen at school or by Johnny since their last practice.  He never bothered to get in touch with them after the incident.  Johnny's decision was final.  Ramsey was out of the band.  He wasn't committed to it from the beginning and they didn't need him anyway.

Another knock came at the door.  "Yeah?"

The door opened and Uncle Chuck walked in.  "You know what?  I can't do enough to punish you without messin' up the stuff you got goin' here, so I think I'm just gonna whoop your ass instead, how's that sound?"

"I'm 17, I'm too old to be whipped," Johnny said with an awkward smile.

"I didn't say I'd be giving you a whipping," Uncle Chuck said, cracking his knuckles.  "I said, I'd be whoopin' your ass."

"Oh....ah shit," Johnny said with a sigh as Uncle Chuck moved in to deliver the pain.

--------------------------------------------------

Marty took Johnny and Joey downtown to a large Community Center that happened to be right across the street from his house.  The main building had several rooms rented out by various people for specific purposes, one of which would be the location of their studio destination.  They walked down a hallway of doors and Marty stopped at one.

"This is it," Marty said, knocking on the door.  Someone from inside opened it up and the three of them entered.

The room was relatively large and appeared to be a legit studio.  There was a large soundboard with three large computers that sat on top of it.  In front of the soundboard was a large window that displayed a soundproof recording room with several mics, chords, and headphones set up on the other side.  It was just as professional as Johnny had imagined.

"OH-HO-HO SHIT!" exclaimed the figure greeting them at the door.  It was Arnold Berry, the guy who'd witnessed his fight with Hal after their first practice.  He'd given him a card to his studio a few months earlier.  This must have been the set-up he mentioned, Johnny realized.  "I didn't know you was bringin' Johnny B up in the building, Mart, damn!"

"You know, Johnny?" Marty asked in surprise.

"Yeah, we met a few months ago when we were first startin' out," Johnny informed him.
"Wow, small world."

"Fa sho, Fa sho, brah," Razzberry greeted, shaking hands with Johnny and Joey.  "Man, I saw that fight you had witcha boy, Hal, the other day, man.  Eh brah, this the dude that was fightin' yesterday at lunch, brah, he was killin' that dude, brah."

He was talking to a guy sitting in a chair by the soundboard who watched silently as they entered.  He was a young light-skinned black man in equally baggy clothing, his eyebrow raised at them when they walked in.  His eyebrows were shaved sharply at their ends and his skin was only a shade darker than Johnny’s.

"Eh yo, this is Ball-Z, ya feel me?" Razzberry said, introducing the group to him.

"Uh Ballsy?" Joey repeated in confusion.

"Yeah you know, Ball-Z, like Dragon Ball Z?"

Ball-Z got up and shook hands with Johnny and then Joey.  "Nice to meet you," he said in a monotone voice, sizing them up.  Johnny could tell that he was making his judgments silently.

"Yeah, he a rapper," Razzberry continued.  "I'm just finishin' up the mixin' on his tracks and then after that we'll get into yo shit, fa sho, man.  Just take a seat."

There were two couches set up in the room.  Razzberry took a seat in front of the soundboard beside Ball-Z, who both had their own individual rolling chairs.  Johnny, Joey, and Marty took seats on one of the couches by the wall and sat in silence for a while, as Razzberry and Ball-Z finished the touch ups on his demo.  After a while, Ball-Z turned to Johnny.

"What kind of music you doing, brah?" he asked curiously.

"Classic Rock with a touch of blues and some other genres," Johnny answered simply.
Ball-Z smacked his teeth and looked away with a smirk on his face, muttering something under his breath.

"Excuse me?" Johnny said, his eyes squinted suspiciously.

"I said I knew it."

"You knew what?"

"Knew you was tryin' be white."

Johnny and Joey exchanged looks.  "I'm not tryin' to be anythin', man.  I don't know what you're talkin' about."

"You don't know what I'm talkin' about?  Okay, Mr. Uncle Tom.  Why you tryin' to make rock music, why you tryin' to appease these white folk?"

"I'm not doin' it for white people, I'm doin' it because that's the music I choose to write, that's how I choose to express myself.  What, you're gonna hate me because I don't rap like you?"

Ball-Z chuckled.  "I don't even need to worry about that, I know you can't rap anyway.  The problem I have with you is that you tryin' to be somethin' that you not."

"You don't know who the fuck I am, so who are you to tell me who I'm tryin' to be?" Johnny asked, raising his voice.

"Eh eh eh, settle down now," Razzberry said, turning to them.  "It ain't that serious, brah.  He just sayin' what he feelin'."

"Yeah that's the problem," Johnny said, glaring at Ball-Z.  "If you got your facts straight, you'd know that black people pioneered Rock N' Roll through Jazz and Blues.  Don't think you can pass judgment on me because we're the same race.  I don't need to be anythin' like you or anybody else.  I'm not fake, no matter what you want to assume.  So why don't you just do you and let me do me and we'll all be happy."

"Aight, whatever you say, brah," Ball-Z said dismissively, turning back to the soundboard.  A few minutes passed and he turned back to Johnny once again.  "I got one question though."

Johnny sighed in annoyance.  "What?"

"Your girlfriend white?"

"Yes, she is."

"Well that just confirms everything I've been talkin' about.  You a Uncle Tom and your girlfriend's a snicker licker."

"A 'what the fuck was that' now?" Joey asked, intervening.  Everyone turned to Ball-Z in confusion.

"A snicker licker.  Girl who only likes black dudes.  Tryin' to piss off daddy."

"My girl's dad is dead," Johnny responded coldly.

"Well, tryin' to piss off mama or somethin', I don't know what the deal is.  Point is, she ain't whichu because she likes you, she's whichu because you black."

Johnny laughed humorlessly and got up from his seat.  "Okay, you run your mouth too fuckin' much, buddy."

"Eh eh eh, you don't need to stand up, brah," Razzberry said cautiously trying to calm him down.

"Nah, let him," Ball-Z said getting up to face him.  "I ain't scared.  He gettin' mad because he know I'm right.  She only wit him 'cause she want to lick his snicker.  Is your girlfriend lickin' your snicker, boy?"

Johnny stepped up into Ball-Z's face and whispered menacingly.  “If you ever call me 'boy' like you're talkin' down to me like that again, I will put an end to your life."

Ball-Z snorted slightly holding back laughter.  "Okay," he said, sitting back down and turning back to the soundboard.  "This dude....cracka-lovin' nigga."

Johnny instinctively grabbed a set of headphones and wrapped the wire around Ball-Z's neck, pulling as tightly as he could.  Everyone reacted immediately as Johnny closed his hands in around the wire, cutting off Ball-Z's air supply quickly.  Ball-Z's eyes were wide with fear as Joey and Marty pulled Johnny off of him.  Ball-Z jumped up and charged at Johnny, but Razzberry pulled him away.

"What?!  What?!  You think you bad 'cause you caught me off guard, fake nigga?  I show you how a real nigga roll.  Come on, where you at wit it?  Come on!"

"Brah, get the fuck out of here with that, man!" Razzberry shouted, getting in between Johnny and Ball-Z.

"Why?  He the one who attacked me!"

"Yeah, cause you startin' shit, Ball-Z," Razzberry said loudly.  "Quit bein' fuckin' racist man, I don't appreciate that kinda atmosphere in my studio, damn!  Just leave, we'll get this shit fixed up on Sunday.  Just go!"

Ball-Z turned around and headed for the door.  "Pussy nigga," he muttered before slamming it behind him.

Johnny was breathing heavily, blinded with rage.

"You all right, buddy?" Joey asked cautiously.

"Wish you would've waited a few more seconds before pullin' me off," Johnny muttered.  He turned to his side and saw a bit of soundproof foam laying on the wall.  He roared with force and punched it as hard as he could, denting the foam where his fist was positioned.

"Get it all out, man, I know how you feel," Razzberry said, lying back in his chair casually.  "Ball-Z's a bitch, he wasn't gon' do nothin'.  He was probably scared of ya.  Closed-minded prick."

"I'm not even mad at him right now," Johnny said with clenched teeth.  "I'm mad at the fact that there are so many people in the world that think like him and there's nothin' I can do about it.  That's what I'm mad at."

"I feel ya man, but that ain't nothin' new," Razzberry said, clicking away on his computer.  "People like him have been walkin' this Earth for years.  Some of 'em are only alive because its illegal to kill the mothafuckas.  Way I see it, you just gotta keep movin' and doin' yo thang till the day you die and leave this fucked up place."

"Yeah, you‘re right," Johnny said with a deep sigh, sitting back on the couch and cooling down slowly but surely.

A few seconds later, a call came from Razzberry's phone, which was laying on the table by the soundboard.  He reached over and answered it.  "Speak....oh okay, we'll see you in a minute."  He hung up and turned to Marty.  "Mart, ya dad just pulled up, he'll be up in a sec."

"Ah okay," Marty said, getting up to open the door, which locked when it closed.  "You're really going to like my dad.  He's cool, I know he'll like you guys."

A few minutes passed and soon they were greeted by a tall middle-aged man who entered the room.  His stride was smooth and natural, as if every joint in his body was juiced with confidence.  He wore a leather jacket and torn jeans with a chain wallet on the side, topping it off with a pair of steel-toed boots at his feet.  His in-grown beard, shoulder length brown hair, and aviator sunglasses which were hanging over the bridge of his nose displayed an image that was definitely not expected from the father of such an average fellow like Marty.

"'Ello Razz," he nodded at Razzberry, who waved in recognition.  Marty's father spoke with a thick British accent.

"Sup, Mr. Mcfly."

"What do we have here?" he said vibrantly, surveying the two visitors.

"Dad, this is the guy I was telling you about, Johnny B," Marty said, introducing him.  "He's the band's lead guitarist and singer.  And this is Joey, he‘s the bassist."

"Okay, and what're you still doing here, Martin?" Marty's father asked, pulling out a cigarette from his jacket pocket and lighting it between his lips.

"Well," Marty stuttered.  "I-I'm their manager."

Marty's father chuckled.  "Please.  Go out to the car and leave us to talk."

Marty started to speak but hesitated.  Instead, he obeyed, walking past his father and out of the room, visibly flustered.  Marty's father stepped forward and raised his hand to shake.

"I'm Paul McFly," he said as Johnny got up to shake his hand.  "Martin speaks highly of you."

"Yeah, he's a pretty cool guy."

"If you say so," Paul laughed, as he shook Joey's hand as well.  "So you say your name is Johnny B. Goode, right?"

"In the flesh."

Paul took the cigarette out of his mouth and rubbed his chin curiously.  "What was your father's name?"

"James Marshall Goode."

Paul smiled brightly.  "I thought so.  Unbelievable.  And your uncle's name is Charles Goode, right?"

"Exactly, how do you know?"

"Un-fuckin-believable, mate," Paul said incredulously, shaking his head as he laughed in disbelief.  "What a small world.  Your father and your uncle formed a band together called Guardian Avenue.  I was in that band!  I was the drummer!"

"No way," Johnny exclaimed in utter surprise.  "That's incredible!"

"I know, isn't it?  Yep, first job I got in the States was joining the Goode brothers' band.  Jimmy and Chuck.  Your father, Jimmy was on lead guitar and Chuck was on rhythm.  Or was it the other way around?  I don't even remember, its been so long.  I was about your age when we were together."

"I actually didn't even know my dad was in that band," Johnny responded, a bit overwhelmed.  That's....absolutely amazing."

"Oh yeah, more than you could imagine," Paul said with excitement.  "I mean we used to jam all the time.  We made dozens of records, got signed, had a nice following.  We had one song that was a hit on the radio, over here and overseas.  I imagine we probably have a cult following by now.  I was at your father's funeral.  I remember seeing you, but you were just a little bugger back then.  Now look at you, you're just as tall as I am!"

"So why'd you guys break up?" Johnny asked curiously.

"Ah, complications with our label and some other nonsense, I don't want to get into the details.  We remained friends afterward but I lost contact with your father after he moved to New Orleans to get married to that dreadful old bird....oh no offense!"

"None taken, believe me," Johnny said with a smirk.

"Your uncle Chuck and I have kept in touch for a while.  He said something about his nephew moving in with him, but I never expected that'd be the talented fellow I'd be meeting here today.  So you're thinking about getting into the music biz too, huh?"

"Yeah," Johnny smiled, taking a deep breath.  "I know its a hard business but I'm totally ready for it."

"That's a good sign, mate, you've prepared yourself, I like that," Paul said, nodding in appreciation.  "What does your friend here play?"

"Bass guitar, sir," Joey said, speaking up.

"How many of you are there?"

"Five," Johnny answered.

"What kind of music?"

"Classic Rock N' Roll; Blues, Psychedelic, Progressive, you name it."

"Interesting," Paul said, rubbing his chin once again.  "And you call yourselves...."

"Class of '70," he stated proudly.

"Ah, I like that," Paul smirked.  "Homage to the end of the Free Love era, very original.  I like where this is going.  How often do you guys practice?"

"Well we used to practice every few days or so, but some of our equipment got stolen a couple of weeks ago and we haven't gotten the chance to work on any new material.  I think everybody's pretty much got the notes in mind though."

"Well how many songs would you want to put on a demo?"

“We have like three or so finished ones."

"Perfect," Paul said, nodding his head.  "Okay, tomorrow I want you to be here with your band, bright and early.  I'll give you guys an hour to practice and I want you to perform everything you have, that means finished songs, riffs you're working on, all of that.  I want to hear it all.  If I like what I hear, you've got big things in store for the future."

"Okay," Johnny said, looking back at Joey who gave a nod of approval.  "Thanks for the consideration, Mr. McFly."

"Yeah, no problem, mate.  Anything to help the son of an old friend.  You know, Jimmy used to talk a lot about how he knew you'd be going somewhere with your life.  I never thought I'd be one of the people to help you get there.  Let's make this legacy happen."

--------------------------------------------------

Joey, Chase, Shelly, and Apricot all met at Johnny's house at about 7am on a Saturday morning to discuss exactly what they would be doing and how it would be done.  This was one of their most important pre-practice meetings yet.  This mini-performance would determine whether the band would get the funding they needed to record, buy new equipment, and work on the promotional process of the band's image.  They would be performing all of "North Nicole", "Magma Dance", and "Crossover."  They would do their absolute best on "Truthful Lie," which was the song that they had just begun to develop before the Battle of the Bands but it still needed a bit of work, and they'd do the first half of "Landscape," which was their least completed song at the moment.  If everything was done right, they'd impress Paul well enough to get a decent sponsorship.

At 8am, Marty pulled into the driveway and the band entered his van, pulling off and heading to the studio.  Everyone's head was in a different place, so the car was relatively silent on the ride there.  None of them had even eaten breakfast.  They were completely focused on the job at hand.  That is until Chase noticed something that drew their attention away.

"Holy shit," he muttered as he sat in the front beside Marty and pointed up ahead.  "Check it out!  Look in that guy's driveway!"

Everyone turned to the window and spotted a ragged dilapidated house with trash and broken items strewn across the lawn.  In the driveway, there were two vehicles; one was a broken down truck with bricks under the wheels and the other was....a psychedelically-colored Volkswagen van with an American flag decal painted inside of a peace sign on the front.

"It's the Retrovan!" Joey exclaimed.  "Holy shit, it's right there.  Right before our eyes."

"We've got to go get it," Chase exclaimed.  "They probably still have our stuff and everything."

"We can't go get it now, we've got to meet up at the studio," Shelly warned.

"We may never get another chance!  We're lucky they haven't sold it or ruined it by now.  That thing is vintage, a classic from the era, not just some knock off.  We have to get it back."

"It's your call, Johnny," Apricot said, turning to him.  "Should we go after it now?"

Johnny sat silently in thought for a minute as Marty circled the block, waiting for them to make a decision.  "When's your dad gonna be there, Marty?"

"He said, he'd give you guys an hour to practice, which means he should be there at like 9:30.  But he always seems to be fashionably late, which means he'll probably be there at like 10 or 10:30.  Thing is, he's a busy man.  If he happens to be there on time, he won't hesitate to leave you in the dust if you're not there."

Johnny thought hard about this decision.  Was it worth it?  These were obviously dangerous people they were dealing with.  They could just call the police and have them repossess it from them.  But then again, there was no guarantee, seeing as Chase's family didn't have insurance on it and there were no legal records claiming that it was theirs, making the carjacking the worst possible thing that could have happened to the van.  It was worth a lot, and on the off-chance that Paul didn't like their music, selling the van would be something to fall back on for profit, as well as a last result.  Chase was right.  If those other guys sold the van, there would be no getting it back and no getting retribution either.  Chances of getting a sponsorship would come again, especially with Paul.  Johnny was sure he'd give them another chance to meet again if they missed this one, since the two of them had an obvious connection from their first meeting.  But having an opportunity to retrieve the Retrovan at that very moment would be a one-time occurrence.  The pros were outweighing the cons.

"Fuck it," Johnny said finally.  "Drop us off around the corner.  Half of us can go after the van, half can stay with Marty.  The ones going after it will get to the studio via the Retrovan or not at all."

Earth Blues by Jimi Hendrix

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