[ Sky – Master Post ]
Characters: Severen, Betty, Arkady, Lir, Baron
Warnings: Expletives and potentially racist jokes.
Notes: There’s just something about Louisiana. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong, until you make your peace with it. And for a band on their first tour, peace is not an easy thing to come by. Bonus points to anyone who can tell me where the title came from — I’ll tell you it was something in the last decade.
They were somewhere in the vicinity of New Orleans, when the car broke down. Actually, ‘vicinity’ might’ve been something of a lie. They were at a truck stop about fifty miles from it — possibly closer to Baton Rouge — but New Orleans was where they needed to be.
"How the fuck are we getting the drums to the venue? We’re in the asshole of nowhere, surrounded by a hundred miles of swamp, in every direction, and they are not going to fit in a cab!" Arkady complained.
Lir cocked his head and studied the situation. "Yeah, they will. Just not with all of us. You’ll have to cab in with the drums, my guitar goes with me in the tow truck, and I think the rest of the gear will fit in another cab, with you three."
"Why can’t we just leave the gear in the car, while it’s towed?" Severen asked, sensibly.
"Then we still have to get it to the venue, and we’d be leaving it out, all night," Lir pointed out. "No can do."
"So, we get the gear to the motel, with us, and then…" Betty spread her hands, expectantly.
Baron grinned. "Let me handle that. We’re probably stuck here an extra day, while they fix Mike’s car, so I’ll hit up a rental place in the morning and jew the fuckers down to something reasonable. It’ll probably cost us pretty much everything we’re taking in for this show, but it’s better than the price of two cabs to the bar and back."
He paused, noticing the horrified stares and raised eyebrows. "What?"
Severen spoke up, first. "Did you just say ‘jew the fuckers down’?"
"My dad wears a yarmulke to temple on Saturdays. I can say shit like that. It’s what we do."
Lir poked him in the shoulder. "Blondest Jew-boy I ever saw."
"Shut up, Mike. Do y’all want me to fix this, or what?" Baron opened the second button on his collar.
"I’m confused why you think you should be handling this, instead of Liz," Arkady remarked, still slightly offended at the entire situation.
"So, yeah, here’s the thing — most of your rental car booking clerks are ladies, and Betty’s just a little too pretty to get anything from them. Sorry, Betty, but you know I’m right. Mike can’t do it, because he’s desperate — it’s his car in the shop, therefore he’s gonna get screwed. Mr. L’s got one of those faces — it’s not gonna do any of us any good. I love you, man, but you’re ugly." Baron shrugged at Severen, who just shrugged and nodded. "So, it’s me or Ebony, and he’s sixty pounds of pissed off in a twelve pound sack. That leaves me. And, hey, I’m charming."
"Naw, Baron, you’re obnoxious," Arkady insisted, still disgruntled.
"Yeah, I’m with Arkady on this one," Severen concurred. "On the other hand, you’re also probably right. It was those character insights that got you through my class, as I recall."
"Damn right it was. So, ah, we gonna call a cab, or what?" Baron pulled a quarter out of his pocket and held it up in two fingers.
"Gentlemen, we have another problem, first. Can we afford two cabs into the city? I mean, I have a credit card, but I don’t think we’re gonna find a car service that takes them. That means we’re paying cash." Betty stuck out her hand. "Cough up, boys. We can put whatever else we need to on the card, but we’re not getting out of here without cash."
"Forty. I was counting on making it to the city, so I could find a bank machine…" Severen opened his wallet and handed Betty four tens. "If we really need it, I’ve got a fistful of change, too."
"I got ninety." Arkady looked up from where he was counting. "Won a bet in the bar last night. I know we can get at least one cab out to this dump for that."
"Looking for at least two hundred, guys. We’re at least fifty miles out, and if it’s two dollars a mile, and we need to do it twice… at least two hundred. And the tow truck, too."
Lir shook his head. "Thank god for AAA. Don’t worry about the tow truck. In for thirty. I spent most of what we got from the last show on gas."
Baron held out a twenty. "I picked up the last motel. It’s all I got left."
Betty shook her head. "If we make it back from this trip, it’ll be an act of god. I’ve got sixty. We’ll make the city, but …"
"Plastic," Lir stated. "If we break even I’ll be shocked, but we’re getting home. Don’t worry about it. I’ll be paying it off longer than my student loans, but we’ll be fine. And we’re doing the whole tour."
"Fuck yeah, we are. Even if we end up poor and never get to do it again, at least we’ll be able to say we did it once. Got out and went places and saw things!" Baron slapped Lir on the back. "And rocked the fucking house down, of course."
"I’m in until the bloody end," Arkady offered. "Dad always says I never finish anything I start, so, hey, good a time as any, right?"
Severen looked around, shook his head, and finally opened his mouth. "You know I’m not an optimist. You know I hate travel, and I hate people, and I hate uncertainty, but here I am — here we are — and I dunno. Something something adventure. Something something famous. And I don’t think I’d mind too much." He rubbed his face. "I’m too tired to talk. Coffee before inspirational commentary."
"You’re a fucking hobbit, man. That’s what he is, am I right? He’s short and he cooks and he doesn’t like adventures!" Baron laughed.
"Oh, damn, dude. Oh, shit. I think you’re right." Arkady stared at Severen incredulously. "You know, except for the part where he weighs less than I do. Hey, Sev, are your feet hairy?"
Severen raised a slightly irritated eyebrow. "I know where both of you sleep."
"I take it back. Where’s the ring, Gollum?" Arkady smirked.
"Evan!" Betty protested, shocked.
Severen smirked back. "Nasty hobbitses stole my precious. Back to the subject at hand, car service? City? I haven’t slept in three days, and I think I’m about to go down."
Arkady looked at Baron. Baron looked at Arkady. They both looked at Severen.
"Nah, man, I’m not gonna say it. It’s too easy," Baron said, at last.
"Yeah it is," Arkady agreed.
"Payphone," Baron said, pulling the quarter out, again, as he walked toward the building.
"Oh, no you don’t. I’m going to get a better chance on this one," Betty warned, snatching the quarter out of Baron’s hand. "Taxi dispatchers are notoriously male, and crying girls get better service."
Baron watched her walk away. "She’s really something, ain’t she?"
"Yeah, and she’s not yours, so stop looking," Arkady snapped, smacking the back of Baron’s head.
"Hey, I don’t see your name tattooed on any of that skin!"
While Baron and Arkady bickered, Severen popped the hatchback and passed a bag out to Lir, before he started seriously fishing around amid the drums and the luggage. Lir leaned on the edge of the open car and watched the argument degenerate into a shoving match. Glancing at the bag he held, he nudged Severen with his elbow.
"Standin’ on a corner, suitcase in my hand," Lir sang, "Evan’s in his corset, Baron’s in his vest…"
Severen climbed backward out of the hatchback, with a bottle of aspirin in his hand. "And me? I’m in a rock ‘n roll band," he finished, slamming the trunk shut.
"It’s not a corset," Arkady complained.
"Yeah, it’s a girdle," Baron teased.
"Christ almighty. Betty’s right. Who needs kids with these two around?" Severen shook his head and swallowed two aspirin, dry.
"Aw, I dunno, Sev. They’re good practise for when I have my own." Lir grinned. "One of these years, I’ll be an old fart with a couple of teenagers, and I’ll be able to tell them, ‘Back in my day, I was in a band with these two jackoffs, and they acted just like you. Don’t you damn kids ever think of anything new?'"
Severen snorted. "Now you sound like me. I used to say shit like that to my class, but without the being in a band part."
Betty stalked back across the parking lot, carrying a paper bag and a paper cup. "Cab’s going to be about an hour. Tow truck’s probably going to be more — they always are." She shoved the bag at Arkady. "Fries, but you have to share. I’m starving and Severen needs to eat."
"Yeah, you can either not eat or not sleep, but you can’t do both for more than two days," Severen yawned.
"It’s seriously terrifying that you know that," Baron commented.
"Good. I should scare you. You don’t want to be me." Severen slumped, sitting down on the bumper.
Betty handed him the cup. "Drink up, Sev. We need you to be awake, until we get to the motel. Or, at the least, we need you not sleeping."
"Yeah. Thanks. Sorry about that thing in Austin — that just happens when I’m not sleeping in — ah, when I’m not home. This is why I hate to travel. I don’t do so well, when I don’t know where I am while I’m asleep." Severen sipped at the coffee.
"So, your mad doctor doesn’t get screamed awake in the middle of the night?" Baron asked.
"Ah, no — not often. Not any more. Sin’s always been patient about that, ever since we were in college. Well, since I was in college. He still doesn’t have a doctorate, yet, you know." Severen shrugged and watched the asphalt.
"Closer than any of us are likely to get, though," Arkady muttered.
"It’s his passion, and I leave him to it. I just hope he remembers to eat, while I’m gone. I should call and remind him. It’s been a few days." Severen smiled sadly at the ground and sipped his coffee.
Baron blinked and studied Severen’s face. "You’re doing him, aren’t you? He’s not just your roommate, he’s your boyfriend."
Severen looked up sharply. "Where are you getting this? I’m not gay."
"What the fuck, Baron, are you out of your mind?" Arkady demanded.
Baron squinted. "Nah, nah, I didn’t say you were gay, I said he was your boyfriend. I’ve never seen you hit on anyone, you don’t look at Betty’s ass, you haven’t checked out me or Ebony, you’re not interested in any of the fans… but, when you talk about Singularity, you get this look."
Betty cocked her head, examining Baron. "You know, he pays a lot more attention than I thought."
"I’m not stupid." Baron pointed at Severen. "I passed his class, didn’t I? Maybe that’s it. Maybe I can only see it, because I’ve been around you longer. But, that look… I thought it only existed in old Katharine Hepburn flicks."
Severen stuffed one hand into his pocket and rested his heel on the bumper under him, folding up just a bit smaller as he sipped the coffee some more. "Did you seriously just compare me to Katharine Hepburn? And not ten minutes after saying I’m ugly? You’re insane, Barry."
"I didn’t say you looked like Katharine Hepburn, I said you shared some of her facial expressions, and I recognise them for what they are. And you didn’t answer the question. Are you doing him, or are you just pining?" Baron reached toward the bag of fries and Arkady snarled at him. "I’m trying to adjust the settings on my reality, here. Make sure I’m seeing what I’m seeing."
"I’m not pining." Severen snapped. "Is this the part where I get left for dead in the swamp?"
"Shit no," Arkady said, surprised, "we still need you for a show, tomorrow night. And for the rest of the tour, too. I get it, you know? Not my thing, but I get it."
Betty patted Arkady on the back. "Not your thing after that one time with —"
"Shut up!" Arkady roared, batting Betty’s hand away.
"Don’t worry about Evan. I think he’s got PMS." Betty smiled at Severen. "And I’m just jealous. You have to tell me everything."
Lir stepped up and patted Severen on the shoulder. "I don’t want to hear any of it, ever, but good for you, man. I should be so lucky, someday. I mean if he’s working on his doctorate and you guys are about he same age, what’s that, six years? Seven?"
"Five, at least. Might be six. I’m too tired to do math."
"All right, so, it’s parking lot confessionals, tonight!" Baron declared. "I’m a Jew, he’s a fag, anyone else got something they want to say? Or don’t want to say?"
"I’m not a fag!" Severen insisted.
"I like punching people in the face," Betty chimed in.
Arkady swept her into his arms, mysteriously not letting go of the bag of fries. "And you love to do it in my name, don’t you?"
Severen looked at Baron, pointedly. "Are you not seeing this? What about them?"
"Oh, that’s not actually happening." Baron waved a hand, dismissively. "They’d like people to think it is, though. It’d totally be weird if it was; they’re practically related."
"That’s just fucking creepy. How do you do that?" Lir asked.
"It’s like Mr. L said: character insight. I’m good at people." Baron’s stomach growled, loudly. "Hey, Ebony? You’re going to hand me that bag of fries now."
"No, I’m not." Arkady grinned and nuzzled Betty’s nose.
Baron reached out and snatched it, tearing a chunk out of the top of the bag, where Arkady was holding both it and Betty. "Yeah, you are." He stuck a fry in his mouth and held the bag out to Severen. "Fries?"
"I accept your offering, but not your implicit apology," Severen remarked, grabbing a few fries.
"Well, that’s good, because there wasn’t an implicit apology. Mostly because I’m not sorry." Baron held the bag out to Lir.
"You’re incorrigible. I give up." Severen leaned back against the back windshield and drank more coffee. "When are we getting out of here?"
"When the cab gets here," Betty said, condescendingly.
"And that happens when?"
"About an hour from when I called."
"He knew what time it was on Arcturus, in the Pleiades and the milky way, but he couldn’t tell you when the cab would be here," Severen filked, disgruntledly. "Doesn’t anyone have a watch?"
"Time’s such an ephemeral thing, Mr. L. It comes and goes as it pleases," Baron soliloquised. "Why bother to keep track, if you know you’ll be where you need to be, when you need to be there? You’re in Louisiana, in the middle of nowhere, and everything smells wet and ancient, and the sky’s so black you can reach up and touch the stars. What do you care what time it is? It’s right now. Go with it."
And the talking and the shuffling and the crinkling of the paper bag all died away, as they all looked up, seeing the stars — really seeing them — for the first time, that night. Maybe Lir was right. Maybe everything was going to be fine.