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Chapter 1

Storyteller

The Continuing Adventures of Meet The Blacks

The first rays of the morning sunlight hit Jett’s naked chest as if to say his heart may need a kick start. Nothing to worry about there. Jett was already wide awake and covered in sweat. The dream again. Well no, that’s not entirely true. More like the same dream on redo for the last twenty-five years or so. Same face, same driveway, same everything. So .. the redo dream. And hence, the redo girl. And it was always the trying to piece the dream together that motivated the world of Jett Black. Who was she? Jett himself grew older along with his face but the woman in the dreams did not. He suspected she was in her early thirties, the majesty in which she carried herself told him all her mistakes were behind her. The air of confidence in the dream when she opens the door for him. Jett shivered. He scolded himself and took mental note of the day’s duties. Afternoon rehearsal for a new song he had recently penned, along with ten others, and then a live taping of the songs at a local television station. And a studio audience. This was the shot the band had been working so hard for. It had come quite by accident, all thanks to Beaverdell. The rest of the band called him Beav but he and Jett went way back as friends and Jett loved the way the name Beaverdell sounded rolling off his tongue as he said it. So Beaverdell it was. Lately the gigs had started to come in bunches and it really began to show. The harmonies between the five band members now meshed. The boys all loosened up onstage and even the banter improved. All of a sudden it seemed like a Meet The Blacks gig was the place to be. Although he and Beaverdell were more than a little shy around women, the rest of the band were not. And thus the snowball effect. Where the women went, the men followed. Elementary, my dear Watson.

Hot exotic dancers, hot nurses, hot secretaries .. night after night they never got tired of watching Rhett pounding away on his drum kit or Dusty laying solid bottom on the bass while gyrating madly to the beat. And then there’s Rusty; a bit taller than his twin brother Dusty, coaxing amazing twang and lightning fast country riffs on his beat up old ’63 Esquire. Yes, erotic Country was being born. Or hatched. Infant stages. Beaverdell off to the side on piano or lap steel with a thin white spot belying his overweight frame. And Jett, with his 5’11” lean frame, clad from head to toe in black with a jumbo white Gretsch 12-string slung across his shoulder didn’t hurt for the effect, either. However, Jett was oblivious to all but the music. Onstage he was the unintentional extrovert, a slave to the music that drove him night after night.

Jett had just finished showering and was dressing when the phone rang. Call display told him it was his younger brother Rhett on the line. He picked up. “Yo, bro, what’s shaking?” “Not much” was Rhett’s weary reply. The giggling of women’s voices in the background told Jett everything he needed to know. “Please tell me you didn’t drink your face off at Cowboy’s last night .. it’s not cool to fall apart at a club we just played at.” A little more spunk in Rhett’s voice now. “Relax bro, after we packed up I went over to Twisty’s and picked up a couple of peelers .. they have this amazing duo act. They call themselves the Chicklicks .. you know, a take-off of the gum.” He lowered his voice a bit. “Karen and Sandy are even hotter in the sack.” Then one of the voices in the background yelled out “I’m Mandy, not Sandy.”

Jett chuckled. “Still having problems getting their names straight, I see.” Then Rhett spoke, growing impatience in his tired voice. “Gotta go, see you later at the band shack … the girl’s are starting without me.” “Hold on Sandy — I mean Mandy —” And then click. Jett laughed to himself. If there was a book to be written about his sexual exploits, Rhett would be the one to do it. Women would buy the book just to see if they received an honourable mention. That was Rhett. Even after he was finished with them they would wait patiently in the wings and strike when he was having an off-night and was tempted to go home alone.

Rehearsal was at three. With plenty of time on his side, Jett changed the strings on the Gretsch. This would be perfect. Rehearsal would stretch the strings and take just a bit of the brightness off the sound. The jumbo 12-string always rang loud and true and Jett didn’t take kindly to the bright overtones. Yes, tonight’s studio taping would be wonderful. He’d stop at Joe’s around the corner for a coffee to go and then head to rehearsal. He was pretty sure once he got there the fridge would be bare except perhaps for the one lonely soldier that nobody drank the night before. Coffee at the band house was not high on the list, if there was a list at all.

Rusty woke up in the exact same place he had awoken the previous morning. On the floor next to his bed. The last two evenings found him drinking heavily. He was in a sour mood while the band was tearing down last night and Rhett’s offer to drag him along to Twisty’s was flatly and unceremoniously turned down. Instead he found a lounge downtown and proceeded to get legless. The staff poured him into a cab shortly after closing and it had taken them a while to roust him from his drunken slumber. One of the waitresses who knew him well remarked that she had never seen him so drunk. Something was bothering him. Rusty had always been a sensible drinker and preferred a joint of good skunk over a drink any day. Lately, being around his brother made him uneasy.

He had discovered something he wasn’t quite sure how to deal with. And there was no one to talk to about it. At least no one in the band. He had discovered his brother was gay. He tried to write it off as just a case of the friendlies between Dusty and Little Joe, a bartender at Diego’s. They had played there the night before last. After the second set Rusty had gone outside to the car to choke and cough on a bowlful before the last set. No one in the band had seen him leave the club. A few minutes later he had settled in and was just about to fire up the bowl when he saw Dusty and Little Joe across the street and in the shadows of the side alley. They were hugging. A case of the friendlies, or so Rusty thought, until Dusty leaned down and kissed Little Joe on the lips. There was no surprise, no flinching, only a scene of recognition. This was no accident and certainly not spontaneous. This was familiarity. They were lovers.

He would find a way to deal with this. He now had an extra job. Just like a spy on assignment. But he had to stick to the most urgent task. The one at hand. Tonight’s live studio taping at Channel 9. And right now he was fucked. He had not learned his parts. But he had the basics down and he had two hours. Renewed confidence. He would have to shower though, last night’s alcohol was seeping through his body like wine. He quietly peeked into Dusty’s room and spotted the still made bed .. cue Tom Petty. Something about pillows and a still made bed. I could sing it for you. Bottom line? Dusty hadn’t bothered to come home last night.

Beaverdell awoke to the sounds of swearing and a barrage of loud guitar riffs that had absolutely nothing to do with the song that was blasting through the stereo. Ah, the joys of living in a band house. And one thing was certain. He couldn’t hear one single riff that sounded promising. All day yesterday Rusty had been quiet and withdrawn. All Beaverdell’s jokes and antics had done nothing to snap Rusty out of his funk. Beav decided he would confront Rusty after the live taping. Beav rolled over and checked the time. Eleven-thirty. Cool. He got up and made his bed. A habit he couldn’t break. Orphanage days. Beav had spent all of his youth bouncing around foster homes and orphanages. He never knew his father and his mother left him when he was five. Apparently there was better heroin in heaven. Knowing this, Beav had vowed never to stick a needle in his arm.

The early years were dark and friendless. He was fat. And constantly bullied and teased by the other children because of it. His life changed in grade ten when he met Jett. He was sitting in an alley, his face bloody and nose broken from his latest encounter with Johnny Halverson, a local thug who was on his way up to bigger and better gangs. Jett cleaned him up, set his broken nose with one quick snap and brought him home to meet his family. Jett’s mother, Gisele, took a real shine to Beaverman, as she liked to call him, and invited him to stay for supper. After supper Mr. Black took Jett, Rhett and Beaverdell downstairs to the rumpus room. It was Beaverdell’s first introduction to live music. Beav saw an old electric piano in the corner that nobody was playing. He marvelled at the keys. The black and white keys laid out in harmony. A uniformity that he couldn’t quite grasp. This keyboard, unlike his twisted and unpredictable life, made perfect sense. Just then, Bert; Jett and Rhett’s dad, spoke to him in that lazy, matter of fact voice that he would always remember. “You can have this piano, but it stays here until you’ve learned how to play it properly. And you’ll have to play music with my boys.”

No coaxing was needed after that. For the next two weeks the local hooligans suffered. Beaverdell was nowhere to be found. But the school librarian knew where he was. That boy’s hungry for something, she thought. Books about the piano were stacked high next to him, with a few more spread out in front of him. As soon as his classes ended he would make his way to the library and then to be shuffled out the door by Mrs. Reimer each night when the library closed. Then he’d run off to the Blacks’ house to jam with the two boys. The rest, as they say, is history.

Dusty rolled over in the king-sized bed and reached for Joe, only to find a warm spot there. He hadn’t heard Joe awake and leave the bed. Their lovemaking had carried on into the early hours and Dusty was exhausted. He thought about breakfast. He was about to get out of bed when Joe came through the door with a serving tray. On it was buttered toast, poached eggs, a mess of bacon, and more importantly, a steaming cup of coffee.

“Rise and shine, lover boy …” Joe smiled as he saw Dustin looking up at him. It was always lover boy or Dustin. Joe secretly hated that the other members of the band called him Dusty. After a nice breakfast they showered together, hugged and kissed and then went their separate ways to wage war on their busy days.

Dusty arrived home just in time to hear Beav ranting and raving about Rusty’s new guitar parts for Her Memory. Beav was animated and very excited. “Holy fuck, Rusty, these parts work like a charm … sounds like something Keef would add if he wasn’t in the Stones … fuck man, brilliant. Just brill.” Then Rusty. “What made you think of the answer back, Beav?” Back and forth and on it went. Dusty escaped to his bedroom without being seen by either Beav or Rusty. He wasn’t sure how Rusty would react if he told him about Joe. When he told him about Joe. He had to tell him at some point. But no point in stirring up the hornet’s nest until after the dust had settled on the show tonight.

Rehearsal went well with everybody showing up on time. One thing about the band, no matter what issues they had with each other, the family squabbles and bickering never interfered with rehearsals or live shows. Two sets of first cousins in a band could be an explosive mixture, a lethal cocktail, but the cousins rarely fought. The minor road bumps were always smoothed out by Beav or Jett. Both were very well respected by the group and by the musical community that had embraced them. And they were going places. Jett was not the tyrant most people expected a band leader to be. And no one in the band took an extra cut. Even the songwriting credits and royalties were shared equally.

The taping of the Channel 9 show would prove to be legendary. Flawless. No matter how you sliced it. A packed audience, mostly there for Rhett, consisted of the usual attractions … beautiful women dressed provocatively. A couple of times Jett turned to see Rhett waving at two busty blonde girls in the front row, almost dead centre. Karen and Sandy? No. Sorry. Karen and Mandy. Had to be. Jett prayed that Rhett would never get married. Shit, the band would lose half their audience. The good-looking half. After the band finished they were escorted back to their dressing room. The studio stage wouldn’t be struck until the next afternoon so the boys had a night of pure freedom. Jett was last in line and caught a quick flash of a blonde woman opening a sound stage door. Studio C. A quick glimpse of her side profile. Damn, she resembled his redo girl a bit. And his friend Cora. But she was in Ireland. Had been for awhile.

Tomorrow would be another day and Jett had no way of knowing what was in store for him. He could probably count on a visit from the redo girl. After tomorrow he would never be the same again.

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