"Hello. Yes, this is Chas Jeffery, may I ask who I am speaking with?" Chas' head was tilted as he kept the phone pinched between his cheek and shoulder. With his free hands, he wrote down information into a notebook on the desk in front of him. His british accent was highly evident. "Ah yes, we received the payment we asked for on Tuesday. It was a little late, but we were able to make use of it on time, so we appreciate it.....Wait, what do you mean you need it back? No, that was the amount we asked for, $50,000....Well we can't just give it back, we've already invested it in the Festival. Yes, in order to get Nowhere Fast to play, you realize they're the most expensive of all our guests....We agreed on paying you back when we cash in on Tuesday....What?! No, you listen, you dumb son of a bitch, we are not going to give you $100,000 for some stupid mistake on your part, who the fuck do you take us for"-
"Uh sir," a young man called to his boss delicately as he sat at the desk opposite him, filing paperwork. "Remember what the doctor said. You have to avoid getting riled up."
"Hey, Intern," Chas responded venomously. "I'm out of cigarettes, so either get me some more so I can 'avoid getting riled up' or shut the fuck up. I'm two seconds away from kicking you in the balls so hard, they end up in your throat. That should be a familiar taste to you."
"Chas!" A woman by the door stepped into the room, her hands on her hips as she stared at Chas with a look of contempt and disbelief. Her skin was a silk caramel shade and her light brown eyes were squinted as she shook her head, staring Chas down by the door. He simply shrugged in response.
"Tell the prick to shut his mouth. Now where was I? Oh yeah, this bitch." Chas turned his attention back to the phone. "What the hell kind of investor loans money and then asks for twice back when we already established the agreed upon amount of $65,000?! We've put up so many bonds, we have loans that we owe, and we already have the local council and several of our other investors putting pressure on all of us. Its not our fault you were a dumb ass and gambled away half of your funds....Well it sure as hell sounds like what happened to me. Hey, hey, listen....I don't care. We agreed on 65 grand. You get 65 grand. End of story. We'll send an invoice when we've got it, all right? Fuck you and have a nice day."
Chas hung up the phone angrily and sighed, brushing his fingers through his long blonde hair. His heavy side burns traveled down the side of his face to his jaw bone and his eyes were burning with stress. He yawned and rubbed them. After a few seconds, he got up and walked past his desk. "I'm going to go check up on the guys."
"They're doing fine, Chas," the woman by the door said calmly, but Chas continued on.
"I'm sure they are, Ruby, but a good look wouldn't hurt. With so much on the line and so many assholes jumping down my throat about this money business, I can't afford to assume anything."
Chas stepped out of the conference room and walked outside, where there was a large tent covering the side of the building that he had emerged from. Surrounding him was a large group of men gathered around speaking amongst each other, all of them employees of the ROPF Committee. In the center of the tent, several of the men sat by each other in chairs surrounding a rather large pile of money in front of them. They collected it and counted each bill, wrapping stacks of them in rubberbands and tossing it in a stash of trashbags by their sides. Just as Chas walked up, another guard arrived, pouring his collected share into the center of the circle, multiplying their income.
"That's what I like to see," Chas said with a smile and a sigh of relief when he saw that the turn out was looking impressive.
"Hey Chas," one of the men called to him vibrantly. He was an elderly gentlemen whose nametag read "Steve." One of the agents. "This is looking pretty good. We've got money from all over the world in this pile: some from the UK, some from Austrailia and New Zealand; a few from Germany, hell, even a couple of bills from Japan. This is incredible."
"Isn't it, though?" Chas replied. "I mean there are people coming from all across the globe to see this show. Its historic."
"Well, I'm sorry to say this turn-out isn't looking too historic," said one of the other men who sat directly in front of where Chas was standing. He was a thin-faced dark-haired man with slightly jagged teeth and an overbite that was so distinct, it effected the way he spoke. His nametag read "Daniel."
"What are you saying?" Chas asked with a bit of worry.
"I'm saying, this looks like its good, but from what we've been counting, we're no where near our budget right now."
"Well its all good, Dan, I'm sure there are going to be more of those kids coming up here and paying to get in. We'll be able to surpass the budget in no time."
Daniel turned to Chas with heavy bags under his weary eyes. "The Festival has been on for an hour and thirty minutes and considering the people who camped out over night and the current amount of people that are out there right now, which is about 100,000, our income should be at around $500,000. Its at $200,000 right now, foreign bills included. And our budget is $5 million all together."
"Wait wait, $5 million?!" Chas exclaimed. "I could have sworn it was $2 million, when did we borrow another $3 million from investers?"
"When you decided to book Valor Of Anubis AND Beauty In The Beast AND Nowhere Fast, AND The Punchlines all in one day. Those are the most expensive bands performing this weekend. Granted, they were the ones that got us the most press, they also drained us the most financially. If we hadn't booked them and somehow still generated enough press to get the 600,000 that are projected to attend the festival, we would have approximately $3 million, leaving a million left over for us all to profit from. Now it looks like we're going to be short."
"What about food, beverages, and merchandising? That should be a huge cash cow."
"Not really. Most people brought their own food and beverages, so merchandising is all we have and none of it is specific to any of the bands. Its all to promote the Festival. Studies projected it would only be about 35% of the income. We'd still probably be short."
"Oh, you've got to be fucking kidding me," Chas said bitterly. He walking away from the circle and heading over to the opening of the tent where the guards were continuously going back and forth from their posts to dispose of their loaded income. He walked outside and instantly shielded his eyes from the bright sun that overlooked the entirety of Villanova Junction, now filled to the brim with a crowd as far as the eye could see. Several yards beside him was the stage where the blues rock foursome known as the Renaissance Gentlemen were continuing their set. Chas looked out onto the people that layered the ground, watching the stage from their blankets and atop the large towering scaffoldings that were lined up around the area. They clapped and sung along to the music and Chas grew tired of watching them quickly, heading back under the tent. "That looks like way more than 100,000 people out there, Daniel."
"That was just an estimate, Chas, I'm sure there are more arriving every second. There are six entrances to this place. But I heard from a few guards that they had some customers turn away at the door because of those metal fences we put up around the area. They didn't like the idea of us blocking them off."
"Just some hippie pricks that don't deserve to get in, I say. They want it to be all 'love is free, music is love, so music should be free" and all of that bullshit. The money management business doesn't work like that, sweetheart, somebody has to get paid in the end. If we could do it all for free, we would. What do they want us to do, tear down the walls so everyone can gatecrash and see the show like they did last year and make me fucking hyperventilate on stage? No. Fuck that. Not happening again."
"I think that's exactly what they want," Daniel said, continuing to count his money as he spoke. "Aside from that last part. And regardless what you think of them, their money is still good."
"Well there's nothing we can do about that. If they can't be pleased, they can't be pleased. Without the fences, everyone would be able to see the shows and we wouldn't make any money at all."
"That's the thing though," Steve interjected, turning to Chas. "There's a reason why Villanova Junction hasn't been the place for the Festival for several some odd years now. Its like a valley with a huge hill-slash-mountain on the right side. And they only lined the metal fences up half of the hill. That means the majority of those kids that are turning away at the door are going up there to watch the show. They have a good view and don't even have to pay. I'm willing to bet that's where the broke kids are as well. So yeah, we're probably losing money."
"Son of a bitch," Chas said. "Somebody send some guards up there to send them away."
"No can do," Daniel mentioned. "We were given Villanova Junction but we only have jurisdiction over the Festival Grounds, which is what those fences were for. Anything beyond Festival Grounds isn't apart of our territory."
"Those assholes don't know that. What are they going to do, sue us if we snatch them up and throw them the fuck out?"
"Most likely, yes. Remember, the Age of Aquarius is pretty much over. The stoners out there are still stoners, but they're smart now."
Chas pressed his palm against his face and sighed audibly. "This is annoying."
Soon, Ruby had made her way into the tented area and approached Chas with restriction in her voice. "Chas. Fallen Dreams' manager is on the phone. He wants to speak with you."
Chas left the circle and followed Ruby back into the building where his intern waited for him, holding the phone out in his direction. Chas grabbed it forcefully and put it to his ear. "Hello?"
"Yeah, hey, its Roger, we spoke before," the Fallen Dreams Manager and Promoter greeted over the phone.
"Right, yeah. So everything still a-go with the band? How far out are you?"
"We're still in Indianapolis," Roger said simply.
Chas frowned. "What? You haven't left yet?"
"No, we haven't."
Chas waited for a second for an explaination but there was silence. "Uh....Are you going to tell me why?"
"Yeah, sorry, I'm sitting here reading this press release for the Rite of Passage Festival. We just got it in the mail."
"Right and you have a problem with it, I'm assuming."
"Yes, we do. On the pre-press release we received a month ago, you had us booked for the Festival on Friday, June 9th, with the Renaissance Gentlemen, the 8th Deadly Sin, Mercury Bleu, and some other bands I don't give a fuck about. That was on the pre-press release, which was what we were going by."
"Okay," Chas said, eying Ruby, who was looking back at him worriedly.
"Okay," Roger repeated, mocking his voice with a deep simplistic drawl. "Well now I'm looking at the official press release that we just got and now I see different. It has the Renaissance Gentlemen, The Floor Is Lava, The Lords Of The Morgue, Sideways Eight, Beauty In The Beast, Jeff Wire and the Circuits, The Furious Benjamins, and Lifetyme on Friday, June 9th. And we got pushed back to the early morning of Saturday, June 10th. This kind of advertising is what's killing this thing for us, on top of the fact that we weren't notified of this change until a day before showtime, or hours before showtime as far as we knew."
"Well what can we do now? Its already being printed and everything, you know."
"I knew that was the only answer you could give"-
"Well what can I say? I mean I don't even see what the problem is-"
"The problem is that its bad press, man!" Roger exclaimed. "Its a direct breach of contract! We don't even have to show up now! The pre-press release was perfect, you had an entire blues-southern rock ensemble on the line-up. Each of them, with the exception of the Renaissance Gentlemen, are fair-aged experienced rockers who know how to put on a show. Professionals."
"Roger, the reason why we did that was because we didn't want to sort the line-up by genre. We felt like that would dull the experience for certain people who came here with a preference, like punk rockers coming for bands like Crazy Gone Mad and Black Rainbow Ninjas. Their experience wouldn't be as enjoyable if there was one day dedicated to one rock genre each. We wanted to switch it up."
"Bullshit! Why the fuck would you do that, we could have attracted new fans and everything! Now you've got a bunch of no-nut monkeys with instruments performing all on the first day! All of them, including the Renaissance Gentlemen, are young and vibrant, so all of the teen girls can get up there and scream and throw their panties on stage for them. Every single one of those bands get headliner treatment for the night. Then the crowd wakes up tomorrow morning to hear Fallen Dreams's crooked asses and probably boo them the fuck off stage for waking them up and shit. You couldn't have put us on at a shittier time. You pretty much said, 'Well let's get all of the young performers to go first and get all of the washed-up has-beens to perform later when no one gives a fuck.' That's what I got out of that press release."
"No, no no no no no," Chas said quickly with a cautious chuckle, trying to do damage control. "Roger, it was nothing like that, I swear. This is good press, I promise you. These young blokes are pretty much opening the show for you guys. You guys are the real headliners. These kids are only going to warm up the crowd, so they're ready for you to rock their socks off."
"Again, bullshit. The guys are really angry about this. I'm sorry, but you're going to have to find another band to fill that spot."
"Wait, you're backing out?! You can't do that, you signed a contract!"
"Apparently, you didn't read your own fine print, asshole. Says here that 'if the performer or performers feel compromised, at any time, by the actions or decisions made by Rite of Passage Festival Attendees, Staff, Committee Employees, Security, or any other entities affiliated with the Festival, said performer preserves the right to back out of their performance at the Rite of Passage Festival without the need to refund any amount of the fee invested in their services."
"Listen, Roger," Chas said delicately, his voice near desperation. "Backing out could ruin us, mate. That's the last thing we need right now. Is there anything we can do to convince you to stay?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, there is."
"What is it, friend?"
"Grow a fucking pair and don't fuck up next time around."
There was a click on the other line and Chas moved the phone from his face, looking into the speaker with disbelief. Suddenly, he reached up with the phone and slammed it onto the receiver repeatedly and angrily, growling with each motion. Ruby leaned forward and pulled Chas from the phone as he dragged it off of the intern's table, the intern staring at him and shielding himself in fear. As the phone fell to the floor, he kicked it in the opposite direction, ripping its cord from the wall and sending it plummeting into a nearby wall.
"Chas, calm yourself!" Ruby shouted, shaking him by the shoulders. "You can't think straight when you're angry! Do you want to have another meltdown?"
"YES I DO!!!" Chas screamed at the top of his lungs. "Maybe then I can escape from this nightmare of a Festival this fucker is turning out to be! God, nothing ever fucking goes right when we do this shit. Nothing!"
"CHAS! We will figure it out, okay?! We will figure this out! Just calm down and think about this rationally."
Chas finally slowed his breathing and closed his eyes, shaking his head until he opened them again. He took a step past Ruby, who eyed him curiously.
"Where are you going?" she asked.
"To have a smoke."
"Chas, you know the doctor said"-
"Fuck what the doctor said."
"I know the first thing I'm gonna do is hit up that merch booth," Chalkface muttered, leading the pack down the immense hill as they made their way past the teens and young adults that populated the Festival Grounds. The sound of a motor gradually increased in the distance until it passed closely by them, revealing a guy on a motorcycle that narrowly missed them as he zoomed down the hill towards the mass of tents that were lined up around their end of the area.
"Hey, watch it, buddy!" Sixeye called out, but the roar of the motorcycle's engine drowned out his words.
"Is that a Ural?" Blackhorse asked, examining the bike as it zoomed out of sight. "They don't sell those in the US, I don't think."
"Well there are people from all over the world at this thing," Paul explained. "Myself included."
"Dude, you should stay here," Talon said to Paul. "This is going to be a rocking show. You told us yourself you're into music. You should stay for that alone. Its not like you've got anywhere better to go."
Paul shrugged. "Its definitely more of a party than it was when I left. I guess I can stand to wait out the show. At least I can see Sideways Eight in action."
"That's the spirit, bro," Chalkface said warmly, patting Paul on the back. "Now to find out where Fritz Sheppard set up that tent."
"Fritz Sheppard?" Paul repeated questionably.
The group exchanged disapproving looks with each other. "He's the blowdick that nearly screwed us out of this experience," Sixeye answered. "Nothing much more to him than that. Try to just address him as Chalkface's cousin. Don't even bother with saying his name. Its not worth it."
"Ah okay. I think I understand."
As the five of them traveled farther in, they began to scope out the crowd that was currently populating the Festival. Sixeye and Chalkface, who walked side by side with each other repeatedly pointed out each of the girls they spotted, closely admiring them with a mix of desire and envy for whoever they arrived with. Blackhorse and Talon did the same, but felt a feeling of anxiety that in the next three days, they would have to lay with one of these girls or spend the rest of the summer completely broke. As they reached the community of tents and small camps along the side of the valley, there was already a thick cloud of pot smoke swirling through the air. It wasn't long before they discovered the whereabouts of Fritz Sheppard's half-set up tent by the bags that were located outside of it; All of which belonged to them.
The group grabbed hold of their belongings and walked into the tent to see Fritz Sheppard on one end of a circle of fellow hippies, all of which turned and looked at the group in surprise.
"What the hell?" Fritz Sheppard called with unnecessarily angry shock. "Did I tell you you could come into my tent?"
"Shut the fuck up, Fritz," Chalkface exclaimed. Fritz Sheppard drew back in offense and the other hippies gasped.
"What the hell did you just call me?"
"I called you Fritz because that's your goddamn name. You didn't show us enough respect to wait for us at Blackhorse's house, why the hell should I show you any respect here? As you can see, we didn't need you to get us to the Festival after all. Thanks for nothing, asshole."
The hippies began to laugh with an instigating tone, looking back and forth between Chalkface and Fritz Sheppard. "I didn't know your cousin was so much like you, Fritz Sheppard," said one of the hippies, leaning over and whispering in his ear.
"Yeah, like me," he repeated with a passive-aggressive smile before addressing Chalkface. "You listen here, dickhead. You're lucky I'm feeling all Peace, Love, and Granola right now, or else I would be giving you a nice, lucious, curb stomp."
"Bite me. We'll be setting up our own tent elsewhere. Hopefully, we won't see you around."
Chalkface turned to leave but one of the hippies, a long haired blonde, bearded, and shirtless pothead, called for them to return. "Hey hey, bros, I need to ask you something. Sit down and smoke with us for a little while."
Chalkface exchanged questionable looks with Sixeye. They knew they hated being there but they couldn't pass up a free joint. The five of them stayed, taking a seat in the circle as it opened up for them. Fritz Sheppard rolled his eyes impatiently.
Sixeye sat beside an absentminded hippie chick who continuously stared at him when he settled himself. He flashed her a quick awkward smile before trying his best to ignore her.
"Here." The hippie who'd called them back reached into a paper bag beside him and pulled out a handful of Hershey's Kisses, offering some. "Have some chocolate. They're Hershey's, like my name."
"Your name is Hershey?" Talon asked, taking the first handful.
"In the flesh," He replied, continuously passing around the chocolate. "And mind. But not in the soul. Because in the soul, none of us have names. Names are simply labels that we obtain for the purpose of knowledge, of making sense of things. But what happens when you take that away? Our humanly established sense of order collapses and what do you have? Beauty. Beauty in knowing that without the chains that constrain each and every one of us through the labels we attach to ourselves, we become free beings, the absolute nuance of what makes up this universe of ours. Do you know what I mean?"
The group exchanged looks with each other. "Not really," Blackhorse responded. "Maybe if you pass the bud, it'll start making a little more sense."
"Ah right right," Hershey responded, snapping his fingers in the direction of the hippie who currently puffed the joint being passed around. The hippie handed it to Hershey who then passed it on to Sixeye. "You should check out that chocolate though. Its going to taste like heaven once you token up. It's as grade A as this stash, man, straight from the factories. You know where chocolate comes from? It was invented almost 3,000 years ago by the Aztecs. From the seeds of the tropical theobroma cacao tree. They used it in various ways: to make drinks, spread on their foods, basically everything. The raw shit is actually good for you, it didn't become unhealthy until the Europeans started mixing it with sugar and milk, which were unknown to the Aztecs at the time. Its just like people to process the natural shit until it hurts you, just like with Pot. And considering how the reasons why Mary Jane is illegal now is because of corporate profit protection, racism, fear, and other propoganda bullshit, its only a matter of time before they take chocolate away from us too. So eat up, folks, while we still have it."
"Amen," said one of Fritz's friends who leaned forward and high-fived Hershey.
Sixeye turned to Paul as he took the joint. "Do you smoke, Paul?"
"I've done my share, trust me," Paul said with a chuckle.
"Okay now," Hershey muttered as the group passed the joint between each other and took a single toke. "Now I know you're going to write off any word that comes out of my mouth as hippie stoner shit, but I want you to hear me out about something. I'm going to tell you about this far out short story I read a few years back. It was basically about this guy who had just died and he met God in this like void in space, who told him that he would be reincarnated again, instead of going to Heaven or Hell. So the dude was all like 'reincarnation is real, so who am I gonna be this time?' And God was all like "You're gonna be a young Chinese peasant girl in the year 540 AD.' And the guy's like 'You can send me back in time?' and God's like 'Well time only exists in the way you know it in your universe. Its different where I come from.' And so after a while, the guy asks 'What's it all mean?' And God says, 'I created all of this, your entire universe....for you to mature.' And the guy's like 'You mean for mankind to mature, right?' And God's like 'No, just you. I created this whole universe for you.' And the Guy's like 'But what about everyone else?' and God's like 'There is no one else. Just me and you.' And the Guy's like 'What about the people of Earth?' and God's like, 'All incarnations of you.' So the guy goes through the motions, realizing that everyone who ever existed on Earth is him. He's Abraham Lincoln but he's also John Wilkes Booth. He's Adolf Hitler but he's also all of the people he killed. He's Jesus but he's also all of those that followed him. Everytime he victimized someone, he victimized himself. Everytime he showed compassion, he was showing compassion to himself."
"Whoa," one of the hippies said in wonder, slowly nodding his head. "That's some serious shit, bro."
"Yeah, so like, according to the story, we're all the same person, just reincarnated into different lives. And we're so engulfed in our own existence, that we don't even realize it. Ultimately, once that being that is every single one of us has lived every life that ever exists and ever will exist, we will have ultimate knowledge of the world and eventually take God's place and create a new world using the same formula. Its like we're all one entity, one literal child of God, you know? And this universe that we live in is just an egg....that's what the story was called, 'The Egg'. It was by this dude named Adam Weir or something. Blew my fucking mind, man."
Sixeye felt that Hershey's story was incredibly profound and actually sent him into a deep thought. However, Chalkface had been annoyed from the very beginning of it.
"This Super-Ego talk is really really fascinating, really, but I need to get something from the Wagon. Fritz, where did you park it?"
Fritz was already about to burst with laughter before he spoke. "Up your butt and around the corner, through the tube and out the boob." He exhaled forcefully and leaned forward, barely catching his breath in a laughing fit.
"How fucking old are you?" Chalkface said with anger. He stood up and shoved his chocolate into his jacket pocket. "Fine, I'll find it myself. Come on, guys."
"Hey, you coming back?" Hershey called, as Chalkface left the tent but neglected to answer.
Sixeye turned back to him with a reassuring look. "I'm sure we'll be back soon. We're going to be here for the whole three days, so if we don't come back immediately, I'm sure we'll see you guys around."
"Groovy, man," Hershey said, He waved at them as they exitted the tent. "Next time we talk, I'll tell you a little about this urban legend going around about this thing called Laughing Sam's Dice. Its some fascinating shit. Stay connected, brothers."
Once again, Chalkface was leading the pack as they traveled outward into the cluster of tents. There were already couples smothered together, exchanging kisses. A few of the tents were rocking back and forth with audible noise coming from inside, while other couples had a huge enough supply of dignity to handle their business out in the open without caring who witnessed it. The place had become a jungle in T-Minus two hours.
"Jeez-Ma-Crisis," Chalkface exclaimed in annoyance. "That damn hippie doesn't shut up."
"I don't know, man," Sixeye said, chomping down on some of the chocolate he'd been given. "I thought what he had to say was pretty interesting."
"Yeah, it was pretty enlightening," Blackhorse agreed.
"You guys are always easily amused. He doesn't look like he'll be getting any wool tonight. Guy looks like somebody set his face on fire and tried to put it out with a fork."
"Damn, Chalkface," Sixeye replied, shaking his head. "Your whole family tree must be a fucking cactus. Because everybody on it seems to be a prick, including you."
Chalkface forced his laughter and turned back to the group until his broad smile turned into a scowl. "I find that unconvincingly hilarious. Now you guys stay put, I need to go find the Wagon and get some stuff."
"What stuff?" Talon asked curiously.
"None of your business. You'll find out soon enough. Meet me at the Food and Beverage Stand on the upper West Side. Check the map for directions. Its on the schedule."
Chalkface began to head back up the hill to the parking lot outside of the Festival Grounds. Sixeye turned to the others, leading them farther down the hill closer to the massive crowd in front of the stage. "Guess we should scope this place out and see what kind of trouble we can get ourselves into," Sixeye shrugged.
"Man, there are so many people," Talon said, his eyes gazing over the sea of tents that stretched out in front of them. "Its like a freaking village out here."
"Yeah, this thing is no joke," Blackhorse replied. "Its a beautiful morning and everybody seems so damned happy. This couldn't have been a better day to start the concert. Forecast says its going to rain on Sunday though. Hopefully that passes over quickly if at all."
"Where exactly are we going, guys?" Paul asked, following closely behind them.
"I want to see what the view is like from the scaffolding," Sixeye answered. "Oh man, I totally forgot, you needed to get your stuff. You want to go get it and meet us there?"
"No, its fine. I'll wait until later. I know you'll probably want in on the backstage action too. I can probably get you guys in."
The others smiled at each other and nodded in approval. "Yeah, man, that sounds awesome."
Once the boys reached the scaffolding, there was a single ladder fixed on the side that led up to the higher levels where a bunch of shirtless dudes and barely dressed girls were watching the Renaissance Gentlemen's show, clapping their hands lethargically to the music from what looked to be the perfect position. Sixeye started up the ladder as the others followed and once on the first level, they spotted another ladder that led higher up. The wooden floorboards creaked with each step they took but felt sturdy enough to hold them. When the four reached the top, they saw exactly why there were so many people clammering to get on the scaffolds. The view was perfect.
"Man, they are really killing this show," Talon exclaimed, watching the Renaissance Gentlemen's drummer and guitarist enter their extensive solo, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Their singer, however, who was rocking back and forth on his heels and banging his head to the music, looked slightly disoriented and his singing was almost purposefully off-pitch. "Ronnie Welch isn't looking so good though. Wonder if we're going to get one of the wagers out of the way."
Talon turned and gave Blackhorse a devious smirk as he rolled his eyes in response. Ronnie Welch was a young man in his twenties with shoulder-length red hair and long threads hanging off of his clothes, swinging with every movement. He was known for drinking excessively before each of his shows to drown out his almost chronic stage fright and this was definitely evident from the performance he was currently putting on. As the song came to a close, Ronnie made his way to the microphone, swaying with little control of his body. He spoke with a very noticeably slur.
"Thank you," he said stagnantly, as the crowd went wild and eventually died down to a dull roar. As he waited for them to get quiet, the guys could see that he was swallowing excessively. It wasn't a good sign.
"Dude, he looks drunk," Blackhorse said, squinting his eyes as he surveyed him.
"I know," Talon replied, crossing his arms. "Only a matter of time."
"I hope you're enjoying this. Its not like you have anything better to do." Ronnie smiled a crooked smile while he leaned over the microphone stand. "This next song....I originally wanted to call it 'Fuck Your Mother.' I also wanted to make it an A-Side single." Ronnie chuckled at his own joke and hiccuped into the mic. "But you know, our manager wouldn't let us do that because he's a huge chode, so we changed the name. This song is called 'Energy.' But just know that in spirit, its still called 'Fuck Your Mother'. 2, 3, 4"-
The band began to play a slower tempoed tune behind Ronnie, who pulled the mic from its stand and turned to them, bobbing his head to the music. Before long, he turned back to the crowd and walked closer to them as they stretched out their hands in his direction. He started to sing the opening lyrics to the song but they came out as a jumble of noise that grew in force until his words were replaced with the gurgling sounds of projectile vomit, which spewed onto the mic and out on the audience in front of him. He dropped the mic and it hit the stage with a loud thud, then he put his hands on his thighs and blew chunks all over the front row.
"Haha!" Talon exclaimed, clapping triumphantly. "Hand it over!"
Blackhorse swore under his breath and turned to Talon, reaching into his pocket and handing him a $10 dollar bill, which Talon took excitedly.
Ronnie was still going strong over the edge; the guitarist sprung forward and pulled him away from the crowd, the front of which was visibly disturbed by the puke fountain sprayed over them, while the rest of them laughed and cheered. Ronnie continued to empty his guts on the stage like a waterhose as the backstage workers emerged from the back, rushing to pull him off and into a secure area. Ronnie stopped throwing up for a second and waved the workers away before picking up the soaked mic and trying to address the audience again. Though the music had stopped, he tried to continue singing to the crowd but was once again stopped by another wave of vomit that shot from his throat out onto the mic, the stream of which was so powerful it knocked the microphone fout of his hand. Meanwhile, Sixeye, Talon, and Paul were laughing their asses off on top the scaffolding.
"Chalkface is going to be pissed when he finds out he missed this," Sixeye said jovially, holding his sides in laughter. "This is the greatest thing ever."
When the workers finally got Ronnie Welch off the stage, the rest of the band followed and were replaced by a tall blonde-haired man with large brownish sideburns and a charismatic demeanor. He held a fresh new mic and manuevered his way around the vomit on stage to address the crowd as the workers got busy with the clean-up process.
"Everybody, give it up for the Renaissance Gentlemen!" he exclaimed as the crowd around them went wild, despite the incident. "Sorry it got a little messy up here for that last bit. I'm afraid Ronnie had a little too much to drink this morning. At any rate, if you don't already know, my name is Chas Jeffery and I am your Master of Ceremonies for the duration of this amazing 3-day festival. You guys ready to rock?!"
It seemed like this question initiated a reaction from the entirety of the population attending the festival as a massive roar of noise and cheers erupted from nearly every area of the grounds, so loud that it could be felt rumbling throughout the entire Junction. Chas cringed with a soft smile and had to consciously prevent himself from closing his own ears at the deafening sound.
"All right, all right, settle down," Chas said smiling, motioning for the crowd to quiet themselves. "You're good now. You've got your rocks off, I hope. That's it. You know I think I might come down there and join you because that's obviously the place to be at the moment. I mean, look at that, do you all see that?" He pointed out past the scaffoldings and everyone turned to see that someone had actually set up a hot air balloon, which was being held down by ropes and raised up just high enough for it to make the stage viewable from the distance. A guy was standing by the rise where it had been set up, making a profit by offering people a chance to get inside and check it out for a few minutes at a time. "Now that's one incredible way to see this show. Simply amazing. So yeah guys, we've only just begun. In a few minutes another band will be gracing the stage by the name of Jeff Wire and the Circuits, so punk fans, get ready for a cornucopia of excitement!"
Only half of the crowd could be heard cheering at this announcement and it was obvious that once Chas left the stage and the crowd began to mold below, a bunch of the hippies that had come to see the blues rock stylings of the Renaissance Gentlemen were now going to be headed back to their tents and replaced by the horde of punk fans that were making their way from the other side of the valley. The transition could be seen from the group's current position and the sight of it alone let the guys know that this was going to be far from the most diverse set-up in terms of taste.
"That must be Desolation Row," Sixeye said, pointing up towards the large hill on the side that went past the metal fence border. Beyond it, there were tents and small gatherings set up along the top of the hill. "This was the reason why they didn't want to have the Festival at Villanova Junction in the first place. People don't even have to gatecrash, they can just watch the show from up the hill."
"Yeah, but they have to pay to get access like this," Paul mentioned. "Frankly, from this view alone, I think its completely worth it."
"That's what the people running this Festival get," one of the bystanders on the top level of the scaffolding interjected, listening in on their conversation. His curly hair was wrapped tightly with a Native American headband and he wore a thick light brown leather jacket with its collars turned up. "Its such bullshit how they're treating those people. This is all a fascist corporate set up for the sake of preserving capitalism. The fact that they're making money off of us like some damned sheep being led into the slaughter burns me. When I got here and saw those fences, I nearly didn't want to go inside. They need to tear them down and start holding this concert for free."
"Hey!" another bystander called from the other end of the scaffolding rooftop. This one was clad in a sleeveless jean jacket, with a t-shirt underneath and large silver spikey hair that went down to his shoulders. "Shut the hell up with all that free love bullshit."
"Who do you think you're talking to?" the hippie said in offense, turning to him.
"A damned hippie, looks like. That's how the fucking world works, you dumbass. People pay to see live music; we get our entertainment, they get their money, the world goes round. Stop complaining. People have to feed their families."
"No, they have to feed their egos is what they have to feed. But you wouldn't know anything about that because you're obviously too busy banging your aerosol-drowned head to that cluster of talentless sound you probably listen to on a daily basis."
"At least I'm not stuck up on that old-timey negro music I just heard down there. Get with the future, dimwit."
"Hey!" Sixeye called in offense. "Watch your mouth, man. We're all here to listen to good music, let's not let this stupid shit get personal."
"Oh, he just made this personal," the hippie responded angrily. "My brother's fiancee` is black, you prick. And you wouldn't know a damn thing about good music because good music involves actual talent for lyrics and musicality, not gimmicks like ugly hair, make-up, and overly glamorized overated bullshit with horse-whiney vocals. That shit makes my ears hurt; they make the guitar sound like a fucking train wreck."
"Listen here you hypocritical, tree-hugging, shroom-chomping mistake of a human being. You obviously don't understand a damned thing about Metal, so you should shut your mouth before you hurt yourself. Go back to your rusted up repetitive excuse for Rock N' Roll. I'm sure there's some Bob Dylan wannabe somewhere out there waiting for you to suck his dick."
"Hey, fuck you," the hippie exclaimed, pushing the metal-head forcefully.
He chuckled humorlessly. "What happened to non-violence, hippie? You finally showing initiative and handling your shit like a real man, instead of expecting everybody to wipe your ass for you like the rest of your lazy kind?"
"Shut up!" the hippie pushed the metal-head again, but this time, he retaliated and struck him in the face. As the two began to get violent, the others on the scaffolding began to protest.
"Guys!" Paul called out to them as they continued to fight. "This is dangerous, you're going to mess with the scaffolding!"
His words fell on deaf ears as the hippie and the metal head wrestled to the wood of the scaffolding roof and rolled to the corner of the structure. After a heavy push, the metal head forced the hippie into one of the metal poles that were lined up on the side of the structure. There was a loud metallic clank and suddenly the scaffolding shifted violently, knocking everyone on the top floor off-balance. All of a sudden, the top end of the wood shifted downward and nearly collapsed on top of the viewers on the second floor of it. The boys and the two fighters began to roll from the roof of the scaffolding and fell two stories landing on the people that surrounded the structure below. Sixeye had managed to hold on to one end of the roof railing when the scaffold collapsed but his weight caused the upright end of the roof to break farther, which made him to loosen his grip and sent him rolling down to the ground below just as the entirety of the scaffolding collapsed on itself. Dust and debris kicked up from the wreckage and people began to scream at the sight of the action, which caught the attention of the entire crowd in front of the stage.
Bewildered and disoriented, Sixeye got to his feet, surrounded by people who had been used as cushions for the group that fell from the roof. People were starting to get up and they were visibly angry.
"What the hell was that?!" One of them yelled right into Sixeye's face, as if it were his fault. He could tell he was about to be used as a scapegoat.
"Sorry, man. These two guys were fighting and"-
"No, I'm talking about you!" the guy screamed, pointing directly at him. He was a black teenager, short with dark skin who might have been in his late teens or early 20's. His face was loose and animated, making his angered expression highly evident. He was beyond pissed. Sixeye would have been happy to see that he and Blackhorse weren't the only minorities attending the festival if he hadn't been too busy trying to protect his hide. This guy obviously wasn't paying attention to anything he was trying to say. "What the fuck is wrong with you?!"
"What? I didn't do anything"-
"Let it go, Chuck," said another black guy, this one tall with light caramel-colored skin. He looked like the older one, although the shorter guy was the one taking charge.
"No, Jimmy. Fuck that! That was completely uncalled for!"
"Dude, I didn't mean to"-
The black man, who's name was Chuck, pushed Sixeye to the ground. Sixeye started to fight back, but he could see a deep-seated unreconcilable anger in his eyes that made him feel as if his chances of winning a fight, or even surviving a fight, with a guy like this were dim. Sixeye scrambled to his feet, holding his hands up cautiously. Chuck's nostrils began to flare up and he eyed Sixeye like a bull ready to charge. As soon as he jerked forward, Sixeye jumped in the opposite direction and bolted through the crowd that stood around the pile of metal and wood that used to be the scaffolding and tried to disappear in the sea of people.
He emerged from the back of the crowd and continued through into the sea of tents, hoping to lose this guy in the thick of the chase. Sixeye turned back briefly to see that Chuck was still going strong after him. This guy is a fucking track runner, Sixeye thought to himself. He turned back around and focused on his path, hopping over temporarily set-up campfires, small tents, and narrowly dodging people that were casually walking by.
After a few minutes of running, Sixeye looked back once again and saw that Chuck was out of sight. Taking advantage of his brief moment of freedom, Sixeye dove into the first tent he saw, not caring who was inside.
"Hey, is it all right if I crash here for a second?" he said quickly, eventually noticing that he had stepped into a tent full of girls. Very attractive girls. There were four of them sitting on the floor of the tent. "I'm sorry about this, I'm kind of on the run from someone."
The girls were slightly surprised but didn't seem to mind much. They shrugged as one, a curly haired blonde with heavy blue eye-shadow over her eyelids, spoke for them. "Sure, I guess."
Sixeye looked behind him with caution and sat down with the group of females. His eyes darted around the tent until they fell on a hoodie lying by one of the girls. He grabbed it quickly.
"Is it all right if I borrow this for a brief moment? Better safe than sorry." When the girl beside him nodded, he pulled the hoodie over him and covered his head.
"Who exactly are you running from?" the blonde asked curiously, sizing him up from afar.
"I don't know. Some dude who got pissed for no reason and started chasing me. I was on one of those scaffolding structures with some friends and two guys started fighting and made it to collapse. I ended up falling on him. The guy blew his top, I guess he's the type with a short fuse."
One of the girls, a Latina with a massive amount of jewelry on her hands and face including a nose piercing and lip ring, peered out of the tent opening, surveying the outside. "Is he a short dark-skinned black guy with a face like a cartoon and a Mercury Bleu T-shirt on?"
"Yeah, that's him," Sixeye said with a tad bit of worry.
The Latina suddenly squealed and scrambled back inside. "He saw me! He's headed this way."
"Oh shit," Sixeye replied, gritting his teeth as he sat with his back turned to the opening.
"I have an idea," the blonde said, standing up onto her knees. "What's your name, kid?"
"Sixeye," he replied, but was slightly offended that this girl was calling him a kid when he could see by their appearance that he was older than all of them.
"Close your six eyes, Sixeye," she said quickly, grabbing the lip of her blouse with both of her hands.
"Or don't. I don't really care." As Chuck's shadow eclipsed the side of the tent, the blonde suddenly lifted her blouse up to her collar bone, exposing an impressive set of breasts that left Sixeye's jaw on the tent floor indefinitely. Just then, Chuck stuck his head inside the tent, his eyes filled with rage before they quickly switched to shock. The blonde screamed at the top of her lungs and forced her blouse down. "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!"
"I'm sorry, I-"
"GET OUT OF HERE!" The blonde shouted, throwing various items inside the tent at Chuck until he backed away from the opening. "GET OUT!"
Chuck's shadow disappeared as he sprinted from the spot and Sixeye breathed a sigh of relief when he peaked outside and saw him heading in another direction. He wouldn't be back.
"There you go," the blonde said to Sixeye, smirking deviously.
"Thanks," he replied gratefully, returning the half-smile.
"You can leave now."
"Hold on, Monica," another girl interrupted, this one with curly brown hair and bangs down to her eyebrows, her dark eyeliner slightly obscurring her appearance. "He owes us."
"Hmm." Monica thought for a moment. "Didn't think about that. I guess he does owe us."
"Oh okay," Sixeye said awkwardly. He began to reach into his back pocket. "How much do you guys want?"
"We don't need your money," Monica said, holding up her hand. "You can start off by telling us who you really are."
"Oh well....My name is Billy but my friends call me Sixeye. I'm from Ladyland."
"Aw, 'Billy'," the red head that sat closest to him with her hair in a pony tail responded, smiling. "That's a cute name."
"Yeah, never met a black guy named Billy before," Monica joked, crossing her arms. "I'm Monica. The Latina is Lucille. The brunette and the red head are both named Wanda, so we nicknamed them Wanda California and Wanda Texas, respectively."
"Nice to meet you all," Sixeye greeted, nodding toward them.
"Aw, he's so cute and shy," the Wanda Texas replied.
"And fuckable," Lucille added, eying him with lust. Sixeye started to blush but refused to clam up.
"Calm down, girls," Monica called. "We didn't come all the way from North Star City to gang-rape one boy. Gotta conserve our energy."
"You came here all the way from North Star City?" Sixeye asked curiously. "Who'd you come to see?"
"No one in particular," Monica said. "Not really into music like that. Just came to see what kind of trouble we could get into. What about you?"
"Uh, well I have broad taste. Most of these bands I came here to see."
"Well you like a ladykiller to me," Wanda California said with slight hostility. "Who's heart have you broken?"
Sixeye was trying his best not to let his guard down but at the mention of "broken heart" he couldn't help but feel old thoughts he had nearly forgotten in the excitement of the moment creeping up once again. Monica shook her head.
"Looks like its the other way around," she muttered, studying him. "He's the one that's had his heart broken."
In unison, the girls showed their sympathy with a simultaneous "Aww" that made Sixeye blush once again.
"You could tell that just by looking at me?"
"That among other things," Monica nodded. She started to stand up. "Come on. You said you came here with some friends, right? Let's see if they're worth hanging with."
"Hopefully they're as cute as this one," Wanda California said with a smile, which Sixeye reluctantly returned. He couldn't tell if they were genuinely trying to hit on him or if they were seeing him as more of a lost puppy that had made his way into their care. Part of him didn't give a damn, although he couldn't help but notice by their set-up that they reminded him of a female version of his own group of friends.
"Wait, what about that guy?" Sixeye mentioned, pointing over his shoulder outside where Chuck was undoubtedly still looking for him.
"Don't worry, we'll protect your sorry ass," Monica said slyly as the other girls laughed and they began to make their way out of the tent as a group.
Villanova Junction (Blues) by Jimi Hendrix