9/03/2012

Laughing Sam's Dice - Chapter 1: Bleeding Heart



(The following story takes place between the dates of Thursday, June 8th, 1978 and Monday, June 12th, 1978)

To prevent himself from wandering into unwanted territory, Sixeye would normally keep his mind occupied by playing his guitar.  Except for the fact that he couldn't play.  And for some reason this inability seemed to be the source for all of his problems.  As he lay back in his bed, staring up at the ceiling, his eyes would periodically gaze over at the Fender Stratocaster leaning against the corner in his room.  He would stare at it with deep contempt, as if it had singlehandedly ruined his life one note at a time.  And in some ways, this was true, but truthfully, it wasn't the guitar that ruined his life.  It was the trail of events that spawned from it.

Sixeye shut his eyes hard and leaned over toward the phone that lay on the nightstand beside him, spining the rotary seven times before the ringer sounded.  Sixeye waited patiently, pressing his eyes closed with hope that someone would pick up on the other line.  After about thirty seconds, the answering machine clicked on and Sixeye swore under his breath.

"Hello, you have reached the Jeter Residence," a calm female voice stated.  "We are unable to get to the phone at this moment, so if you leave a name, number, and a brief message, we'll get back to you as soon as possible.  Thank you for calling."

The beeper on the other line sounded a dozen times before a high pitched beep signified that the message was recording.  Sixeye took a deep breath and spoke.  "Hi," he said with a nervous chuckle.  "Um.  Its Billy.  Uh, sorry for calling again, its just a bit important that I get some information from Linda as soon as possible and I haven't gotten a call back for weeks now so I was just wondering if something was up or....I mean, I was told by a close friend of mine that something else was happening with her so"-

"-Hey," an aggressive male voice growled just as loud feedback echoed from the phone being taken off the receiver.

Sixeye was startled by the sound.  "Um, Hi," he greeted awkwardly.

"Yeah.  If you call my house again, I'm notifying the authorities.  Linda does not want to see you anymore, so leave it be."

Heat began to rise in Sixeye's throat, a feeling of desperation that was about to tear away at him if he didn't do something.  His worst fear was about to come true.  "Uh, with all due respect, Mr. Jeter, I just want to know why.  I mean, can she just tell me herself instead of ignoring me?  I'm just"-

"What, my explaination wasn't good enough for you the first time?"  Mr. Jeter barked firmly through the other line.  "You listen here"-

The sound of another voice echoed on the other side in the background.  Mr. Jeter stopped talking and Sixeye could hear muttering over the phone between him and someone else.  After a few seconds, the phone was passed on to another person and a female voice took Mr. Jeter's place.

"Hello?"

Sixeye took a sigh of relief.  "Linda."

Linda sighed as well, but in annoyance.  "What do you want, Billy?"

"What do you mean?  I want to find out what happened directly from you."

"What happened with what?"

"What happened with-" Sixeye stopped himself and frustratingly pressed his palm against his face.  "What happened with us, Linda."

Linda sighed once again and hesitated before speaking.  "Billy-"

"Just be honest with me for once.  Tell me why you've been avoiding me.  Tell me why you can't be bothered or brave enough to at least give me an answer after all this time."

"You know I have my personal reasons, I thought you would respect that."

"Don't you think after all this time I deserve something?  I mean, did I REALLY deserve all of this?  I've been nothing but good to you and all of a sudden you start treating me like nothing happened."

"Oh my God, Billy, you are not making this easy for me," Linda said loudly, even more agitated.

"Do you think I'm enjoying this?  Just tell me what's going on!"

"Its Danny, all right?!" Linda shouted at him through the phone.  "Danny."

Sixeye's emotions shut down and he swallowed hard, responding with a close touch of apathy in his voice.  "Danny."

"Yes....I know.  I'm sure it doesn't make any sense"-

"It makes perfect sense," Sixeye replied staring off into space stagnantly.  "Goodbye."

"Billy-"

Sixeye hung up the phone beside him and simply sat on his bed, sighing to himself at a lost for emotions.  He wasn't sure how he should feel.  Then he realized that it was obvious.  He should feel angry.  And so he did.  Sixeye reached over and picked up his phone, slamming it onto his carpet floor.  He swore at the top of his lungs, kicking the phone away from him as its cord snatched out of the wall.

He had every reason to be angry.  Billy Moses, a half-Caucasian, half-African American 18-year old high school dropout who's nickname, Sixeye, had been given to him by a friend after a bad acid trip, had been dating Linda Jeter, a straight edge, straight A, valedictorian vegan recordless princess, for the longest time, ranging back to their middle school years.  As different as they were, the two were very close to being a perfect match.  She had been the first girl to pay him any real attention, the first girl he'd lost his virginity to, and now the first girl to break his heart.  She left him for one Danny Crawford, a strapping, handsome, white kid with movie star good looks, long lucious rocker hair, and the charisma of Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson combined.  To top it all off, he happened to be known by a different name, Warsaw, the lead singer of the Furious Benjamins: A band that used to be local but was now signed to a major record label and currently making moves across the country.  A band that was receiving critical acclaim and loads of recognition from critics and teenage girls.  A band that Sixeye used to be apart of.  That is until Danny decided that it would be in the best interest of the band to remove their weakest link, which just happened to be Sixeye, their guitarist.  And so one can imagine the confusion in Sixeye's expression when he walked in for practice that afternoon to see another guitarist standing in his place and see the equally confused look on Danny's face, who innocently asked him why he hadn't checked his answering machine messages earlier that day.

So it went back to the guitar that had betrayed him from the very beginning.  The guitar that he'd owned for five years now and, for some reason, had made no real progress in his performance as of late.  Maybe it was because he didn't practice as often as he should have.  Maybe it was because he was too busy goofing off with his friends and wrecking shit around town to practice.  Whatever the reason, he was sure it was why Linda left him.  She'd been out with Danny before, prior to meeting Sixeye.  That was when Danny was still an aspiring musician, still naive and innocent.  However, when the two broke up, it was a mutual agreement and when Sixeye began to date Linda, he at least had the consideration to ask if it would be all right with Danny (the two were friends at the time), and he encouraged them to be together.  But that was when Linda saw potential in Sixeye.  Before he dropped out of school.  Before he started smoking with his friends.  Before she discovered that he couldn't play guitar and wasn't headed anywhere special with his life any time soon.  And then the interest began to fade.  It was apparent to him now that she wanted a guy that she could see herself clinging to and riding to the top with, should they achieve success.  And that person was now Danny, who in fact, was now successful.  Good call, Linda, Sixeye thought to himself with disdain.

Enraged, he reached for his guitar and smashed it onto his carpeted floor angrily, feeling the neck snap in his hands.  The strings popped from the bridge and Sixeye pulled them off of the wood aggressively, ripping them from the tuning pegs.  In the same motion, he pulled up on the whammy bar and snapped the bridge off the guitar, tossing it behind him as he continued to tear the Fender apart in anger.  Once he felt like the instrument had been properly tarnished, he tossed it across the room where it collided forcefully against his bedpost and fell to the floor beside his bed.  Sixeye sighed heavily, feeling slightly satisfied in his conquest but the relief was short-lived.

A knock came at the window by his bed.  Sixeye turned to it to see a pale skinned boy waving in his direction.  His long shaggy brown hair nearly shrouded his face as he continously tapped on the glass, well after Sixeye's attention had been caught.  Sixeye shook his head and walked towards the window, lifting it up.  The boy on the other side started to climb through but Sixeye was leaning down and blocking the entrance with his body prevented him from entering.

"I don't feel like being bothered right now, dude," Sixeye muttered with a touch of attitude.

"I'll only be a minute, man," the boy replied, smiling.  Sixeye rolled his eyes.  He couldn't deny him, even when he tried.  He stepped out of the way and helped the boy through the open window but as he climbed through, he tumbled to the floor without so much as an effort to successfully enter the house like a normal human being.  Or as normal a human being could get without using doors.  Sixeye helped him to his feet.  "Thanks, my man," he said gratefully once he was back up.  "I heard the banging you were doing in here.  I had to take my time because I didn't know if you were having fun with a girl or just having a tantrum.  I can see it was the latter now."

"Chalkface, what do you want?" Sixeye asked impatiently, hands on his hips as he stared intently at his old friend.  Chalkface, or Noel Nelson as he's known by his parents, got his nickname due to his pale white skin, which, despite the time during the summer he'd spent ditching his parent's house in the early mornings and not returning until the late evening, it was a wonder that he never caught any sun in the meantime.  Sixeye and Chalkface had known each other since early Junior High.  The first time they ever met, it was safe to say that they hated one another on sight.  The two were heated rivals, engaging in fights regularly that were usually scheduled after school in the back parking lot, the winner varying from time to time.  They would continuously spread rumors about each other around school and put forth an equal amount of effort to ruin each other's "reputation," without a touch of remorse in the matter.  After a few years, Chalkface's parents sent him away to a Boarding School in Seattle and after being expelled from it near the end of his 9th grade year, he was sent back to the surburban city of Ladyland, California, where they'd both grown up and currently resided.  Upon his return, it was apparent that he had transformed into an entirely different person.  He was no longer the abrasive competitive boy that threw punches first and asked questions later.  He was more relaxed now; he planned his actions before executing them and had a whole new outlook on life.  And so when he encountered Sixeye for the first time in a year, the two decided to squash their immature quarrel and actually work towards building a friendship.  What was it that led to Chalkface's sudden change of heart?  One word.

Weed.  And upon his discovery of the herbal lifestyle, he introduced Sixeye to the craft and the two became smoking buddies that shared life experiences, fears, secrets, advice, and various other forms of useful information over bong hits and joint passes that created a bond more sacred than any average friendship.  However, it was Chalkface who'd convinced him to dropout of high school during their Junior year and in that same respect, was partially to blame for this mess, although Sixeye would never confront him about it.  After all, Chalkface didn't force him; Sixeye did it of his own accord and he was always one to face the facts and take responsibility for the stupid decisions he made.  And they were plentiful.

"Dude, you cut your hair," Chalkface pointed out.  "And your beard.  Why?  I was digging it.."

"Come on, man, I told you I'm not feeling it today"-

"What happened?" Chalkface asked with concern.  "Because you've got the same look on your face that Talon did when he found out we went to go see Star Wars without him last year.  It wasn't something we did, was it?"

"No," Sixeye answered, turning away from him and taking a seat on his bed somberly.  "I just got off the phone with Linda."

Chalkface softened.  "Ah.  So I'm guessing you got her take on the matter, huh?"

"Yeah.  You were right all along.  She's with Danny."

"I hate it," Chalkface replied, shaking his head as he walked slowly towards the bed.  "I was really hoping I was wrong.  I really hoped you two would have worked it out.  I mean, she was a stella*, but still.  At least, you were happy."

Sixeye shrugged apathetically, staring ahead of him.  "Its whatever, I guess."

"Yeah, well listen dude," Chalkface said with anticipation, forming his next words carefully.  "Now here me out on this.  I think I have the perfect thing that might cheer you up."

"I don't think I'm really in the mood to be cheered up."

Chalkface sat down beside Sixeye with a puzzled look.  "But that's the point of it cheering you up, so you'll BE in the mood to be cheered up.  Now listen.  The Rite of Passage Festival is starting up again for the first time in five years tomorrow.  Now I know I told you it would just be me and my cousin going this time and everybody got bummed out that they couldn't go, right?  Well today, I actually managed to do the impossible.  I actually convinced him to bring all four of us to it!"-

"No man," Sixeye responded, shaking his head dismissively.

"Hold on, dude, I'm not finished!  Here me out!  Now, I know you remember what happened last time this Festival came around.  You were the one that convinced us to sneak in, remember?  Because we were underaged and it was 16 and up?  And then just recently they increased the age limit to 21 and up unless accompanied by an adult, which was why I was the only one that could go since your brother would be working and everybody else's family would be busy as well.  Well now I've just discovered that they've lowered the age restriction.  Its now 18 and up.  We just barely made the mark, dude."

"How does that change anything?"

"It doesn't have to, you said so yourself that night when we got thrown over the fence that we were going to get in someday."

Sixeye shrugged.  "Why can't we just go next year or something, man?" he suggested.  "I'm really not feeling up for it this time."

"Man, this is the Rite of Passage Festival we're talking about here.  Where there are riots, mayhem, chaos, flowers, the works.  I mean, I know you're still stuck on that hippie shit, but seriously, you know you want to go.  And you know that after five years fighting that legal battle from the last Festival, this one is the one where hell is going to rain down.  Chances are there won't be another one.  If we are ever going to end up going, its got to be now."

Sixeye chuckled without much emotion as he stood up and headed for the door.  "If that's the card you pulled to get your brother to take you, its not good enough for me.  In case you forgot, I'm kind of used to missing out on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities."

Sixeye opened the door and walked down the hall, Chalkface following behind him quickly.  "Okay, first of all, its my cousin, not my brother.  Second, if he heard you say that, he'd probably hit you in the mouth because his ego is more sensitive than an inner thigh rash.  Third, you're not seeing the big picture of all of this."

Sixeye walked directly into the kitchen of his one-story house to be greeted by another man that resembled him in appearance except he was much more fit and covered in spots of oil over his heavily stained tanktop.  His name was Buddy Moses and he was Sixeye's older brother.  He worked as a freelance mechanic in the garage outside of the kitchen, setting up amateur services that helped him earn a good deal of money to support the two, especially with how skilled he was at discovering solutions to problems that were otherwise unsolveable by the driver or previous mechanics their vehicle had been taken to.  Being that Buddy was ten years older than Sixeye, it was apparent that when their parents passed away as a result of an accident years ago, Buddy, now an adult, would be the one forced to take on the responsibility of caring for the both of them.  He ultimately did a decent job, with the exception of Sixeye's dropout status, which had slipped through his notice until the last minute when it was too late to make a difference.  When Chalkface came into view, he caught Buddy, who was washing his hands off in the kitchen sink, off-guard by his sudden pressence.

"How the hell did you get in my house?"

"Hey, Big Moses," Chalkface greeted.  "Can you please help me convince your brother to go with me to this thing?"

"What's this thing we're talking about?" Buddy asked, turning off the faucet and leaning back on the sink to give them his full attention.

"The Rite of Passage Rock Festival.  It's tomorrow.  Me and the guys are going."

"Isn't that the thing where the Ku Klux Klan and the Black Panthers had some kind of mini-war type deal a few years ago?"

"That among other things, yes."

"Somebody died there last time too, right?"

"Yeah, one guy.  But it was accidental.  I don't remember the details, but I remember it being his own fault.  Either way, this year's festival is going to be out of sight* and this guy is refusing to go because he wants to wollow in self-pity after his girlfriend left him."

"I've got to work, man," Sixeye countered.  "They need me down at the Spanish Castle."

"I thought you told me you were off this weekend?" Buddy asked curiously, after which Sixeye shot him an annoyed look and continued toward the cabinet where he pulled out a box of Cookie Crisp.  He walked towards the dinner table in the center of the kitchen and Chalkface's eyes went wide at the sight of it.

"Dude, you better share," he said threateningly as Sixeye rolled his eyes and reluctantly motioned for him to take a seat by him at the table.  Chalkface warmly obliged when Sixeye offered him the first hand dip into the box, pulling out a large hand full of miniature chocolate chip cookies.

"How come you don't want to go, bro?" Buddy asked with his arms crossed, studying his brother.

Sixeye shrugged apathetically.  "I mean, I just don't feel like doing anything right now.  The whole thing with Linda just kind of harshed* everything."

"So you're going to let her have that kind of power over you?  You're going to let what she did bother you so much that you can't go out with your friends and have a good time?"

"That's what I'm saying!" Chalkface exclaimed with a mouthful of cookies, crumbs spewing from the corners of his mouth.

"Noel," Buddy snapped in his direction.  "Close your shades."

"Gotcha."

"Look," Sixeye said loudly, throwing up his hands.  "I just don't want to go, all right?  Why don't we just leave it at that?"

"Dude, I wish I could just leave it at that," Chalkface replied with a touch of frustration.  "Actually, no I don't wish we could just leave it at that because I want you to fucking go.  Now listen, just two months ago, you were almost in depression because you found out you wouldn't be able to go with me and my cousin to this thing.  Now the opportunity comes around and all of a sudden you don't want to go because of what some bitch did to you?  Really?  Jeez-ma-Crisis, man.  Do me a solid and get over yourself for a little while.  Every turn around you're depressed about something or somebody and all I'm trying to do is get you to go to something you've spent your whole life envying over and hopefully get you to start feeling better in the process.  You know you won't regret it....Well I can't say that for sure because I don't know exactly what's going to happen there, but I can tell you right now, its an experience.  You're not going to come back the same person you left as.  But if you don't go, you'll stay here, heartbroken probably forever."

"If I may put in my two cents," Buddy said, holding up his hand to get their attention.  "I've been one year.  Its pretty amazing.  It'd be good for you, bro.  Who knows, you might meet another nice girl up there.  Get some action even."

"Yeah man, that place is like Wool-City*," Chalkface interjected.

Sixeye looked off in thought, but the two of them knew that they were getting to him, as he was displaying the puzzled "Maybe this is a good idea" look.  Before long, he turned back to Chalkface.

"Who all is supposed to be at this festival?"

Chalkface flashed an excited grin and shuffled in his seat.  "Dude, I thought you'd never ask.  In Cold Blood is going to be there.  Mercury Bleu is going to be there.  The Renaissance Gentlemen, Sideways Eight, Orgasm Donor, Jeff Wire and the Circuits, Valor of Anubis, Fallen Dreams, The 8th Deadly Sin, The Backburners, Beauty in the Beast, Crazy Gone Mad; the greatest bands in the world are all going to be there!  Its the greatest show of our lifetime, man.  No pun intended, because Lifetyme is going to be there too."

"Don't you have records for almost all of those, Bill?" Buddy asked curiously.

"Yeah I do," Sixeye answered frostily.  "I'm just - I don't know yet, all right?  I can't make a call just now."

Chalkface leaned in and placed a hand on Sixeye's shoulder.  "I understand how you feel, Sixeye.  Okay?  We've all been through this before.  But I know you want to go to this thing.  And I know you have no other reason not to go.  But if you want a reason to attend this thing in general, do it for your friends, man.  Me, Talon, and Blackhorse really want you to come with us to this Festival.  We've done a lot for you, man, can you at least return the favor with this?  I mean, its not even like you have to go through anything strenuous by being there.  This is going to be a fun time for all of us, maybe even therapeutic for you.  At least promise me you'll put some thought into it."

Sixeye sighed.  "All right, I'll at least think about it."

"Solid, man.  Now, its been real but I've got to skitty*.  'Happy Days' comes on at 7 and if I miss it, I've got to murder somebody.  Tickets are fifty dollars just like last time.  If you decide to go, meet me at my place at 4am tomorrow morning so we can get packed up and ready to go.  I'll see you two later."

Buddy and Sixeye waved in his direction as he left the kitchen and walked across the living room to the window by the corner.  He turned the lock on top of it and lifted it up, climbing outside and running across the backyard into the street.

"That kid, I swear," Buddy chuckled, staring at the window before turning back to his brother.  "So yeah.  You're going."

"Who says?"

"I do," Buddy responded, turning back to the sink and running the water over his hands once again.  "I didn't want to say anything while Noel was here because you know how big of a mouth he's got.  But I need the place to myself this weekend."

"Why?"

"Candice."  Buddy shut off the water and wiped his hands off with the towel beside him.  He held up his finger and walked out of the room, returning a few seconds later with a small case in his hand.  He leaned over toward Sixeye and opened it, revealing a rather large diamond ring embedded safely in the cushion of the case.  Sixeye's eyes lit up at the sight of it and he smiled with excitement.

"No way!"

"Yep," Buddy replied, smiling back and closing the case.

"Dude, congratulations!  Man, that's unbelievable.  My brother's finally about to get hitched."

"Well she hasn't said 'yes' yet, so we'll have to wait and see.  But I want it all to be perfect.  So no offense, but I would rather you be out of my hair, at least for the next few days."

"Look, Buddy," Sixeye said hesitantly.  "I can go stay at a friend's house or something for a couple of days"-

"What friends?  All of your friends are going to the Festival."

"I have other friends"-

"Bill, listen to me.  Listen good.  Do me a favor - scratch that - do yourself a favor and go to that Festival.  I know you.  I've known you for a long time.  And I know for a fact, that if you decide to miss out on going to the thing you've spent years talking to me about on the regular, you will regret it for the rest of your life.  Trust me.  I've done that before myself.  I let some girl get the best of me and in the end, I missed out something that could have changed my life because I was too devoted to her, too busy pouting over losing out on her.  Let me tell you this now, Bill.  She is not worth the giving up on the experience of being free.  She gave you nothing that you can't get on your own.  You don't need her and so at the same time, you don't have to spend your time sulking around the house over her latering* you like she did.  The festival will keep your mind off of her, sooner or later you'll forget.  But I guarantee you, if you don't go because you want to stay around here and remember the "good times" you two had together, then you're letting her win.  You've got to shine her on*.  What happened between you two was what it was, what it is, and what it should be."

Sixeye turned away from his brother and shoved another handful of Cookie Crisps into his mouth as he shook his head in thought.  He did want to go.  But he didn't want his time to be ruined because he knew that he would spend the majority of his time thinking about Linda, whether he was at the Festival or back at home in his room.  However, thinking outside of the realm of himself, it would be best for him to just go.  It would help out his brother and his friends would be happy.  At this point, given the circumstances the last turn of events had put him under, that would probably be his only motivation for doing this.  I guess its worth it, he thought to himself.

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

The doorbell began to ring.  Chalkface flailed from his bed and collapsed onto the floor, nearly taking the covers from the bed with him.  It was still dark out and he had nearly forgotten about the plan for the morning.  He stepped ever so heavily down the hall of his house, dragging and stomping his feet with the force of a lazy monster trudging through with no consideration for the sleeping residents in the house.  As he walked to the door, he stared through the peephole to see Sixeye standing on the other side with his bags packed, hanging across his torso as he swung back and forth on his heels patiently waiting for Chalkface to answer.  Chalkface smiled and opened the door in nothing but his underwear, morning wood on display and all.

Sixeye shook his head and looked away from him, smiling for the first time since the break up.  "Thanks for making yourself decent."

"So you decided to come," Chalkface greeted warmly.  "Righteous.  Come on in, bro.  Things are just about to get interesting."

Bleeding Heart by Jimi Hendrix

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