He took his position behind the stage and waited for the blackout. He worked his way to his throne, waited for the light show and the howling sirens to blare ear deafening loud out over the crowd. He could see and hear the darken shadows of the crowd pressing forward into the stage in restive anticipation rippling over the vast undulating sea rising high into the rafters. Jason and Chad had taken their spots in the wings, Jason's head hung low in thoughtful purpose; Chad was bobbing up and down on his toes. Harris said into his headphones, "Cue Tom when you're ready." He crossed his sticks at Tom. "One moment, Marc," Harris said. "And...we are set. Cue on three, and ready, starting my count. One. Two. Three!" All hell broke loose; simultaneously strobing lights crisscrossed the stage as he thundered the Atomic Rocker drum intro in an overpowering eruption of sound and light. Jason and Chad hastened to center stage. Singularly, with no words ever spoken between them, Dust rocked that arena so hard, rocked that house longer into the night just to leave no doubt that Dust was the best band in the world.
And when they finished their last encore, and the stage went black and silent, and the house lights rose, and the lingering reverb faded, and those fifteen thousand rockers were left exhausted and awestruck, unable to call for another encore, only then were the three of them satisfied.
|Product dimensions:||0.57(w) x 6.00(h) x 9.00(d)|
Rock Hard, Rock Long
By Tony Nicholas
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Tony Nicholas
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Prodigy Son
Marc sat at the console looking out into the sound studio he had built eight years ago. All the yammering Harris had been doing of late had been a distraction. The computer synced twenty-four track machine would expand their range and depth of sound. And, alright, the two- inch reel had seen better days and the sixteen track machine was a bit out of date; but the equipment worked just fine. What was all the fuss about, anyway? No one was complaining, if anything, their sound was the standard everyone mimicked.
And, he wasn't like Rachel who needed television and cable service in her office. It was her business to know what was going on in the industry and with the fans; especially after hearing of Bobby's car crash from a distant business associate four days after it happened. She needed the fastest, most powerful, computer to track and schedule, maintain the finances and accounting, and all that legal stuff she dealt with-it made her life easier. He understood the need for the multiline phone she installed in her office, and accepted the possibilities when she ran extensions throughout the house, and the private line out into the studio. The intercom system was somewhat unnecessary; why not just walk into the next room? It was definitely excessive when she had a phone installed in their bedroom, at least he thought so. Even when they installed the security system, she had the monitors channeled into that thirty-two inch monster of a television in her office. Whatever happened to just playing music? And as he looked around the little studio, he begrudgingly conceded, okay, okay, maybe, Harris was right, after eight years of abuse, she could use a facelift and a tummy-tuck.
He looked up to the studio phone flashing silently its loud red light through the reflection in the glass. Rachel just came out to the studio if she needed to talk to him, and only a select few knew the number to the private line.
More surprising, Rachel said, "Marc, it's Barbara Epps on the line. She wants to talk you, and only to you, Marc."
He hadn't spoken to Mrs. Epps since Jason's funeral, and that Rachel transferred the call into the studio made his stomach wrench nervously. "Mrs. Epps, this is Marc. How are you? It's been a long time." He said cheerfully. "What's Chad up to these days?"
"Chad asked me to call you." She said tersely. "He's in the hospital."
"Is he okay?"
Her voice cracked. "Chad was admitted to Tampa General." She said fighting back her tears. "Marc, he wants to see you."
"I'll be there on the first flight out."
There was an uncomfortable pause as she fought back her tears. "Marc, I appreciate you doing this. You've always been an inspiration to the boys." And then he heard the soft clicking of the phone.
Rachel was coming across the yard as he locked up the studio. They met half way on the plush green lawn. "What did Barbara want?" She asked.
"Chad's in the hospital. Would you book us a flight into Tampa?"
"Is he okay?" "Barbara didn't sound good. Chad's in the hospital. It can't be good."
Neither had he heard a word from Chad since Jason's funeral. Throughout the eastbound flight Marc was left to fathom how hard the days of Dust weighed so heavily on him over the years. Rachel and Tom and Harris had been there, but to an extent.
The three of them were more than musicians who just happened to play in the same band. There had been a time when they were soul mates of a higher sort, created music that lived on to this day. They were closer than family, at times; closer than he was to Rachel. He could sooner forget his years with Dust than dismiss his love for Rachel, or what Joey, Steve, Tom, and Harris meant to him now; regardless how the end came.
There was something depressingly wrong when he entered that hospital. It didn't seem to matter what end you were on, someone was, either, sticking, probing, or cutting into you; or, you were waiting for the results of the person they were performing their invasion upon.
The gray haired attending doctor recognized him. "You're Marc Giacomo, right?" He said inappropriately thrilled to have a rock star in his presence.
He nodded stone-faced. "How's Chad doing?" He asked the doctor who told him that Chad had been admitted a week ago and the prognosis was not favorable.
Barbara approached slowly towards them from behind as they spoke with the doctor. "Marc," she said, "I'm glad you came."
Marc and Rachel turned to her. "Mrs. Epps." He said and gave her a warm hug. "It's been so long."
Her hair and skin had turned white. She had been a beautiful woman into her sixties, lean and muscular, washed out the slight hints of grey with dye. But the ravages of age and on the verge of losing her son had caught up to her. The strain of being left alone etched dark circles under her drawn sagging eyes stained blood red with her tears.
"Barbara." Rachel said as she embraced her. "We came as soon as we could."
"Thank you both for coming."
"May we have some time alone with Chad?" He politely asked for her permission.
"He wants to see you Marc. Please spend as much time as he needs to tell you what he wants." She plead.
Marc held Rachel's hand as he pushed the door open. "Chad, how are you doing?" He said.
"I'm dying man." He chuckled. "Marc! How the hell are you?"
He was bone thin, his cheeks pale and sunken, barely recognizable from his vibrant days of Dust when he'd bobbed up and down before going on, and then danced and spun about the stage for the entire show. It hurt Marc to see his old friend -a man who had once been a brother to him-disintegrate into a shell of what he once was. "I'm doing good Brother." He said forcing a smile.
"Is that our little Gold Dust?" He laughed.
"Yes, Chad, it's me." She said with her brightest smile.
"What are you doing here Rachel?"
"Marc and I are married."
"No shit!" He coughed. "You know, we always knew there was something going on between you two." He coughed through his laughter.
Marc sat on the edge of the bed. "Why did you lose yourself for all these years?"
"I just couldn't face it anymore. Every time I tried to pick up a guitar the memories of Robert and Jason were just too much to stand." He said. "Hey! Hearing about Storm! Wow! Brother, you made me damn proud."
For the last hours of his life, Chad laughed himself into coughing spell after another. They joked as they recalled those exhausting tours and the antics and pranks along the way. Their laughter echoed down the hallway as they reminisced about Salt Lake City where Rachel earned her nickname Lady Gold Dust. He laughed himself into a harsh choke remembering how Tom and Harris were all the time arguing about nothing, brawling over something neither would remember what started it in the first place. He laughed himself into a suffocating gag on his own phlegm when Rachel told him nothing had changed between those two. And, then, he just smiled and faded serenely as he passed contentedly to the other side.
Rachel stood by Marc's side as Chad's heart faded and the monitors started beeping. The crash cart team rushed into the room and a nurse pushed them into the hall to wait with Barbara for the doctor to confirm what they already knew.
He gave Barbara a hug, asked her if there was anything they could do. She told them that Chad's end was expected and she had taken care of everything. She thanked him for giving Chad a chance to laugh before he ... she just started tearing up. Marc and Rachel stayed with her until she was joined in her sorrow by a woman he thought could have been her sister. He wasn't thinking well; he felt himself slipping, the music in his head stopped. For the first time since Jason's end, Marc heard a deafening silence roaring in his thoughts. He excused himself, said to his Rachel, "Come on."
Marc held Rachel's hand tight. Joey and Emily, Steve and Sarah, Tom, and Harris with his wife and three of his boys sat stiff through the services in the front pew of the church, listened to the sermon and the eulogy. Those familiar organ pipes echoed out onto the street as his walnut and chrome casket was carried to a glimmering black hearse. So slow, the procession inched its way through those streets of Brooklyn to the cemetery where he would join his brothers in their final resting place, side by side; three headstones for three brothers who'd live on in rock history. Why was it so somber? They should've been celebrating the indelible mark the Epps brothers had left on all of the lives they had affected with their music that would live on. As the priest spoke the words, dust to dust, Marc flashed back to a moment when he first met Chad.
He pulled Rachel along, leading the hasty escape from that perverse ritual that mourned when celebration was in order. It was a silent quick step march, and he didn't see him until he felt Rachel tugging at his arm, slowing him to a stop, and she said, "Stu."
His driver and his attendant stood obediently close. He had grown old and desolate. His black curly hair had receded to a thin pure white patch around the sides of his scalp, wore black rimmed glasses with double thick lenses, he leaned on an aluminum tripod cane bent at the waist, his knees wobbling. He stood a wretched image before the youthful glamour of his former prodigy and his ex-wife. "You two are looking good." His voice crackled. "Tom, I see you're still taking care of the children."
"It's more like wet nursing this bunch." Tom said.
Stu said staring into Marc's eyes. "I hear Storm is still ripping out the music."
"I learned well from you." Rachel said.
"I see you two got married." Stu said to Marc.
"Eight years." Rachel replied.
"No kids?" He asked Marc.
Rachel began to say. "No, no kids..."
Marc placed his hand gently on her shoulder to stop her. "You don't look well, Stu. Is there anything we can do for you?"
"You always were the concerned peacemaker." He smirked. "I'm glad to see this business hasn't changed you."
"Everything changes, Stu."
He gazed into his thick lenses. "Say what's on your mind Stu. You were once like family."
"Family doesn't steal from each other." He sniped unforgivingly.
Marc took a small step forward. "Stu, I regret the tremendous hurt I caused you, but don't wish for what can't be undone."
"Was losing your families worth it?" He asked.
"I lost my family when you took control of my life."
"You bastard, you stole my wife." His voice cracked with anger.
Rachel stepped in front of Marc and said with the full dissidence of her anger, her index finger stiff in his face, "Marc didn't steal me from you. I ran to him."
Stu shuffled frightfully back as his attendant and driver moved closer.
Rachel huffed, "I think everything has been said. We have a plane to catch."
He stood feebly silent, shaking from the disease that was devastating his body; he could only watch their stretch limo disappear from his failing sight.
Steve said, "Stu has gotten really old."
"We all get old." Tom admonished.
Steve saw the strain of burying Chad and meeting up with Stu streaked across their brows. He could only partially understand the depth of their loss-burying Chad, running into Stu-he had been there only a brief second, knew the difficulty Marc had moving on after Dust. He also knew they'd get through this, eventually; right now, however, there weren't any words that could ease their pain. He slumped down, propped his chin on his fist and watched the people on the sidewalks pass by through the dark tinted window.
Marc said aloud in a trite attempt to break the grim vise that stifled the air. "Harris wants to update the studio. What do you guys think?"
Joey agreed dejectedly, "It could stand to be updated."
Steve tilted his head towards Marc. "It's been a long while coming. It'd be a good thing."
Marc said, "Harris, you know what you need, let's get together when we get back and make it happen?"
"Sounds like a plan, Boss." Harris said softly.
Rachel squeezed his hand. "Consider it done." She knew her guys better than anyone. She loved them all. And, though, they were all hurting, she had been there in the beginning, had helped them overcome the many obstacles along the way, they'd get over this one, as well.
And, Marc wasn't quite sure why they had left him to carry on alone. Was it truly the end of an era, or was it finally coming face to face with Stu? There was so much baggage he had carried around all these years and being in that old neighborhood only brought back memories he thought he had forgotten. He fell far back, back to that clear, sunny summer day that brought out the neighborhood kids to frolic and play. That day it was stickball in the cul-de-sac. Twelve boys choosing up sides, tossed the bat for first ups. The girls ran and played along the grassy lawns and cheered the boys as they ran the bases or took their turn at bat. The younger boys were exiled to the curb, fervently ran down an errant foul ball or throw, and were made to wait until they were good enough to play with the big kids.
Only he was allowed to play with the older boys. Just eight, he could hit the ball as deep as any of the older kids. On grounders, he'd scrap his way to first base. He never struck out, always seemed to get that clutch hit when his side needed a run or two. He didn't care how big the other kid was, he was right there in his face with those large black saucer eyes, screaming and hollering how he beat the throw or eluded the tag or that the ball was fair or foul, whichever would rule in his favor.
That day, however, was something terribly different. He hit into a double-play, laced a soft roller back to the pitcher who easily threw him out at first, and, incredibly, he struck out. His feet dragged over the pavement as his mind constantly wondered towards the sounds of Frankie's piano dancing through the air from the far corner house.
In the bottom of the ninth, he waited impatiently to swing the bat to redeem himself for his miserable play; they were three runs down because of him. Mikey smacked a solid single. Tony connected with a solid line drive that Stevie nabbed on the run. Rusty doubled but Mikey wasn't able to score. Jackie slammed the ball hard scoring Mikey and Rusty, Johnny struggled to hit the ball but only managed to send it rolling back to the pitcher who flipped it to Billy covering first. They were down a run when he grabbed the stick off the asphalt to take his turn at bat.
Several kids cheered him on. "Come On, Mar-Key! We need a hit."
He stepped up to the sewer cover swinging the stick hard, positioned himself just to the outside of the iron plate, those dark eyes stretched wide, stared, piercingly into the pitcher. In the background, Frankie Thomas could be heard playing his mother's favorite Mozart. He must have heard him play it a thousand times before, but it sounded extraordinary that day. He could see the notes and the chords floating on air, off the pitcher's cap as he hurled the hard rubber ball fast into the strike zone. All he saw of that first pitch was a big bass clef lining straight at his head; his swing was squashy as the ball whizzed past, the stick slipped from his hands and went flying into his teammates. He could almost taste the notes choking down his throat, taunting all about him. He stared into the Thomas' house, through the walls he could see Frankie at the piano, his long effeminate fingers frolicking across the white and black ivory keys. There was something deep and guttural, a driving rhythm that rose up from the pit of his stomach transforming Mozart into a powerful grey and blue dragon gliding across the sky, its laser white eyes hissing red and orange flames.
He shook his head. Someone yelled, "Come on, Marc! We need a hit!" Mikey picked up the stick and tossed it back to him saying, "Get a hit Marc."
He caught the stick midair and with a mighty determined stare carved into his face, he swung the bat several times before stepping back into the batter's box. Danny yelled, "He ain't nothing!" The girls on the lawn shrieked, "Come on Marc." His eyes bore into the pitcher as the music ripped through him. He never saw the second pitch coming.
"Strike Two!" Smithy yelled.
He stepped back desperately trying to shake the music that was now thundering through every synapse of his brain. He stepped up, set his eyes on the oncoming pitch, swung, and sent it rocketing down the third base line, foul. He felt a little better, he had made contact and thought to think the music had stopped for good. Only for a moment, ever louder, the music blasted into his head, and he swung and missed. He spun angrily towards the source of the music, threw the stick into the ground, and stormed into his house, straight up to his room.
Losing ate at his gut like acid. Through dinner and during the time when the family sat together watching television, he could only relive his humiliation at home plate, time and time, again. It was Frankie's music that had been playing throughout the game that was to blame for him striking out in the bottom of the ninth instead of smashing the game winning homer.
Excerpted from Rock Hard, Rock Long by Tony Nicholas Copyright © 2010 by Tony Nicholas. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Contents1. The Prodigy Son....................1
2. Good Behavior....................13
5. Svart Masse Summer....................42
7. Road of Dust....................71
8. Rock Star....................91
10. To Call My Own....................138
11. Stu's Gift....................152
12. Bad Behavior....................174
14. The Epiphany....................188
15. The Human Condition....................193
16. Gut Feeling....................205
18. A Storm Rising....................221
19. Castle in the Sky....................239
20. Rock Hard, Rock Long....................252