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The band lands a fantastic opportunity to travel to Russia, but the 'international tour' as they dub it, brings out Trinity's take-charge personality. Almost too confidently, she tries to control fundraising efforts and the tour to avoid another mess by Harmony. But cultural challenges, band member clashes, the intense touring schedule, and some messes of her own convince Trinity she's not really in charge after all. God is. And his plan includes changed lives, deepened faith, and improved relationships with her ...
The band lands a fantastic opportunity to travel to Russia, but the 'international tour' as they dub it, brings out Trinity's take-charge personality. Almost too confidently, she tries to control fundraising efforts and the tour to avoid another mess by Harmony. But cultural challenges, band member clashes, the intense touring schedule, and some messes of her own convince Trinity she's not really in charge after all. God is. And his plan includes changed lives, deepened faith, and improved relationships with her mom and friends.
Moving to California scared me 'cause in Dallas I knew where I fit. I survived some hard lessons in Dallas.
Like when I invited those girls from ballet to my birthday bash. Two of the coolest girls in school - my friends. Then when Ashlyn didn't show and Jade dissed everything we did at the party, I understood. They were only friends if nobody else was around.
I didn't want to start over in California. But when I got here, I met the best friends ever - Harmony and Mello. I stopped worrying about past mistakes. Soon I even quit pretending I had my act together.
Ohwow! We started our own rock band! Music videos and rock concerts. We're actually in them, instead of just watching. Sure, we had challenges, but I just knew I didn't have to worry about being embarrassed anymore.
But I was wrong.
* * *
"Give me one more run straight through, and then take five," said the sound engineer over the intercom.
I nodded at him through the huge glass window. The soundman, John, sat in the control room, while Mello, Harmony, and I jammed in studio four. Acoustic tiles, wood, and carpeting covered the floors, walls, and even the ceiling of the room. Our friend Lamont made faces at us behind John's back.
"Sweet! I still can't believe we're in areal recording studio," I said, ignoring Lamont as I quickly fine-tuned my electric guitar.
Mello grinned at me from behind her drum set. "I feel like we live here, after yesterday."
"But how cool is this?" Harmony asked, waving her arms at the microphones, headsets, and glass sound-isolation booths surrounding us. She jerked her head at the control room. "And Lamont looks like he's died and gone to heaven. That control room has enough equipment to launch a space shuttle."
John's voice interrupted us. "Anytime you're ready, Chosen Girls."
Mello tapped three beats and we played the intro. I smiled at Harmony, who played a solid bass line, and then nodded at Mello. We came in on the pickup note:
Oh, Chik'n Quik
Chicken on a stick
It's so yummy for your tummy
Everybody loves Chik'n Quik
Mello's alto blended perfectly with my soprano, and Harmony's bass guitar sounded awesome with my electric. Mello ended the jingle with a cymbal crash. Perfect!
"Thanks," John said. "Take a short break. Be ready to go again in five."
Harmony and I stood our guitars on their stands, and Mello grabbed a bottle of water.
"I can't wait to hear us on the radio!" Harmony said.
Mello laughed. "But ... it's a chicken jingle."
Harmony rounded on her. "Most bands would be psyched to have a manager get them a gig like this. You have to start somewhere."
"But we have started," Mello answered. "We're on TV. We do concerts. Why do we need a chicken jingle?"
I giggled as I opened a bottle of juice. I agreed with Mello - it did seem a little lame.
"We need to break into radio," Harmony said in her I'm-trying- to-be-patient-with-you voice. "This is how we're going to do it. Plus, this job got us the hookup for our next concert," she added, digging her hand into a bag of chocolate pretzels and peanuts. "You'll see. Even Makayla and the Snob Mob will forget about our botched show in Lewisville." She flounced to the floor and popped a pretzel in her mouth.
"Makayla and the Snob Mob will always be posers, Harmony," I reminded her. "I thought you figured that out."
Lamont bounded in. "You women sound amazing." He reached for some pretzels. "You sold me. I could eat some chicken on a stick right now!"
The door burst open, and a huge man walked in. "I'm Mr. Walling," he announced in a loud bass voice. "Great studio, huh?"
Harmony put her pretzels behind her and jumped up. "The owner of Chik'n Quik?" She stepped toward him, reaching out her right hand. "I'm Harmony Gomez, manager of the Chosen Girls. I'm the one you spoke to on the phone."
"Glad to meet you, Harmony and Chosen Girls," he boomed, pumping Harmony's arm up and down. "I'm thrilled about our agreement." He seemed to fill the room with his large belly and even larger personality.
"We're ready, sir," John said, sticking his head in the door. He looked at us. "I'm going to play that last recording for Mr. Walling, so you've got a few more minutes of break." He left, and Mr. Walling followed him to the control room.
We could see them talking, but we couldn't hear them through the soundproof glass. They got still, listening. Then Mr. Walling said something. John answered him, and Mr. Walling shook his head. He frowned.
"He didn't like it," Mello whispered.
I watched the discussion, wishing I could read lips but thinking it might be good I couldn't.
"That's normal," I said. "People usually have to record like twenty times to get it right."
Mello tapped nervously on her snare. "I don't think we'll get it any better than that. We aced it."
John leaned over and pushed something, and Mr. Walling's voice filled the room. "Beautiful, just beautiful! I loved it!"
John's voice came next. "I told Mr. Walling he's got the studio for the next four hours, if he wants a few more takes. But he says there's no point."
"Do you have any songs you'd like to record?" Mr. Walling asked. "I've paid for the session, so you might as well use it. And I'd like to listen, if I may."
"Sweet!" I answered. "What first?" I looked at Mello and Harmony, not wanting to waste a second.
"'You've Chosen Me,'" Harmony said. "Our signature song." I nodded, and Mello got us started. Something about the studio brought out the best in us. We rocked. We sang "Love Lessons" next. John had us each play individually too.
When our time ran out, Mr. Walling came in and shook our hands. "We'll see you tomorrow at the grand opening," he said.
"Yes, sir," Harmony agreed. "I put your posters all over town."
Mello asked, "What time do you want us there, Mr. Walling?"
Harmony looked sideways at her and answered, "Grand Opening at five, Chosen Girls in place by four. Right?"
"That's right," Mr. Walling agreed.
"And where is your restaurant?" I asked. Harmony frowned at me. "I just want to be sure," I explained. "After your mistake in Lewisville ..."
She glared at me, then turned to Mr. Walling and asked, "The fifteen hundred block of Hibiscus, next to the Wash-and-Run, right?"
Mr. Walling beamed at Harmony. "Just beautiful! I'll see you there." He smiled at all of us. "After what I heard today, I'm even more excited about your concert." He started for the door and added, "Don't forget to listen to the radio. The ad starts running tomorrow." His voice trailed away down the hall. "Beautiful."
John came in as we packed up. "I'll mix and balance these recordings, and you can pick up your CD next week," he told us. "I must say, for a start-up band, you record really well. It takes some groups four days to get a single."
I thanked him, and he said, "That session would usually run you $225 an hour. But don't thank me. Thank Mr. Walling."
As the door closed behind him, Harmony added, "You can also thank your awesome manager. I told you this was a good gig." * * *
We got to Chik'n Quik at three-thirty on Friday.
"I told you we didn't need to leave straight from school," Harmony griped as she hauled an amp out of Mom's Suburban.
I grabbed another amp. "Hey, better safe than sorry," I responded. "If we want to be a real band, we can't afford to be late. Or go to the wrong location."
"I know the location, Trin," Harmony huffed.
Mello stepped between us. "So Mr. Walling wants us to wear our superhero stuff?" she interrupted. "For the whole concert? Why don't we switch during 'You've Chosen Me,' like we usually do?"
"Yeah," Lamont agreed. "The superhero thing doesn't make sense without the video. It explains where your power comes from."
"I guess I can ask," Harmony answered, heading for the flatbed trailer that would be our stage. "But he wanted to know if we'd be willing to do the whole concert in costume, and I said okay. It seemed like a small thing for what he's paying us. I guess he thinks our super suits are cool."
"Way cool," I said, following her. I put the amp on the edge of the stage and waved an imaginary sword around. "Don't you wish just putting the suit on gave you superpowers?"
"I'd wear mine every day," Harmony agreed with a smile.
Lamont put the soundboard down. "Sorry, women. No power in the suits." He looked around. The stage backed up to a small lawn covered in brilliant green grass, tropical flowers, and palms. To the right, cars cruised by on Hibiscus Drive. "This is a great place for the stage. Right by the main drag. Everyone who passes will know something's going on."
Mello said, "I can't believe I'm doing this."
"It's good for you," I answered. "Little by little, you're overcoming your shyness - breaking out of your shell."
"Little by little?" she asked. "More like you went after my shell with a sledgehammer!"
We got our equipment hooked up and ran through sound checks. Then we grabbed the bags with our costumes in them. "Now, aren't you glad we're early?" I asked. "We have time to get dressed and do our hair."
Mello sighed and said, "Trin, your hair already looks great."
"Same to you, Miss Elegance," I answered with a smile.
Mr. Walling met us on the other side of the parking lot, at the door of Chik'n Quik. His bass voice rang out as he said, "Hello, Chosen Girls. Hello, Lamont! I see you found the stage. Beautiful. Come on in and look around." He held the door for us. "What do you think?"
I looked around. It looked like any other fast-food restaurant.
"I ... uh ... like the color of your seat covers," I offered.
"Yes, thank you," he answered. "Beautiful."
We headed for the restroom.
Mr. Walling called, "Wait. I have your costumes in the back."
I held up my bag. "No, we've got them here," I corrected. But he was gone.
He came back with a huge box. "Wait till you see these," he said, putting the box on a table. "I ordered three of them from headquarters, and I'm so pleased. You'll stop traffic-no questions asked." He opened the box and reached in.
And pulled out a chicken suit.
* * *
Standing onstage, I looked through the hole cut in the beak of my suit. A few cars had already parked, and people laughed and pointed as they came toward us. More and more cars pulled in.
The chicken head I wore was thick enough to be hot, but not thick enough to block the sounds of horns honking on Hibiscus Drive. More than one guy yelled, "Hey, Chicks! Lookin' good!"
Embarrassed, I looked down at my feet. That didn't help. Red chicken claws were there where my ultracool high-heeled boots belonged.
Harmony wisely avoided eye contact. Her bright yellow beak faced straight ahead as we ran through final checks, so I could only see her white feathers and skinny yellow chicken legs.
"At least no one can recognize us." Mello's weak voice came from the direction of her drums, behind me.
I turned to look at her. "Mello, thanks to our overeager manager, signs all over town say 'Chosen Girls to perform at Grand Opening.' Everyone knows it's us."
"So what do you want me to do?" Harmony hissed. "He's paying us. He gave us a free recording session."
Mr. Walling strode across the parking lot toward us, flashing a huge smile and a double thumbs-up. He came onstage and grabbed my microphone.
"Thanks for coming out to our grand opening," he told the gathering crowd. "Please enjoy free samples of our delicious Chik'n Quik chicken on a stick while you listen to the music of the best new group in Southern California: the Chosen Girls!" He turned to us. "Open with the jingle!"
He walked offstage and we started in. I was singing, "It's so yummy for your tummy," when I first saw them in the crowd.
Makayla and the Snob Mob.
* * *
After the concert, Mom dropped us at the shed in Mello's backyard. I don't know why we call it the shed. It's more like an apartment or a studio. It's got everything - a couch, TV, plenty of room to jam. It's even decorated with real art and throw pillows that match the curtains.
We unloaded our equipment. But that wasn't all we unloaded.
"Unbelievable!" I shouted at Harmony. "You are the only person who could mess this up so royally." I put my electric down and flopped onto the couch.
"Do you think I enjoyed it?" she yelled back. She threw an armload of extension cords down. "Humiliating myself in front of Makayla and company? Again!"
"Forget about the Snob Mob. Half of Hopetown was there," I wailed.
"Look on the bright side," Lamont said, carrying in a drum.
Mello put a snare in the corner and glared at him. "There is no bright side, Lamont."
"But there is," he insisted. "Remember what Trin said before the concert? Based on your costumes today, I'd say Mello isn't the only one who broke out of her shell." He slapped his thigh. "Get it? Chickens? Eggs?"
I rolled my eyes. "So not funny, Lamont," I told him. "Harmony, how many times do you expect us to put up with this? I'm not used to being humiliated."
"Stick around," Mello said. "You might get used to it."
Harmony looked at me, then at Lamont, and then at Mello. No one said anything.
Harmony blinked and took a deep breath like she didn't want to cry. Then she turned and stomped out.
Lamont followed her.
"I'm with you, Trin," Mello said. "I mean, Harmony's like a sister to me. Has been since second grade. But I can't handle any more of her messes." She sat next to me and put her head in her hands. "What we need is a manager who can actually manage." She looked at me. "I bet you'd be a good manager."
I let out a big breath and shook my head.
* * *
We needed to regroup, so we met at Java Joint later.
I apologized to Harmony for my attitude. Mello clued in and said she was sorry too. Lamont didn't make any more smart remarks, and it looked like we would be okay.
Then the Snob Mob came in. Makayla pointed to us and yelled, "Look! My favorite rock band: the Chicken Girls."
Thankfully, they got their drinks to go.
Harmony started bawling. "I'm such a loser. Why do you guys even let me hang with you? I wish ..." She stopped to wipe her nose on her sleeve. "I wish I could just leave the country!"
I looked into her red, swollen eyes and yelled, "That's it!"
They all looked at me.
I flashed them my biggest smile and said, "It's perfect. Exactly what we need. Let's go to Russia!"
Excerpted from Unplugged by Cheryl Crouch Copyright © 2007 by G Studios, LLC. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted February 24, 2013
Posted September 2, 2011
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