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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Drummer, Blue Glass, Straitjacket

 

byJeffrey Kingman

 

 

i

 

Emily held her violin by the fingerboard, clutched it in her fist.

 

“It’s not a coincidence. Something’s wrong.”

 

Tim stopped tuning his cello, wondered what now? Emily glared, her eyes like tiny cannons, shooting off their alarmist message. Her shoulders were scrunched.

 

She’s scared.

 

They’d been invited on this tour at the last minute. They were excited, flattered. But now things were going wrong. Emily was going wrong. Tim wished he could reassure her.

 

The cramped dressing room smelled like mildew and ashes. In the corner, the drummer sat on a sagging green couch, fingering a small hole in one of the cushions. “Where the hell is

everybody? We’re on soon.”

 

“Here she comes.”

 

Kristin was the leader of the band. She marched over to the drummer, stroked his hair, and Frenched him.

 

ii

 

Emily’s argument with Tim:

 

“That drummer knows Danielle. I’m serious, Tim.”

 

“No way. He’s from back east, how can he possibly know your sister?”

 

“I heard him talking on the phone. He spoke her name—”

 

“There are lots of Danielles out there.”

 

“—and he asked about Pierre. How many Danielles have a dog named Pierre, huh?”

 

He tried to out-stare her but lost.       

 

“No,” said Emily. “These people have secrets you don’t understand.”

 

Another episode. But it made him love her more. When Emily looked at him, crazy and scared, hair messed up from nervous twirling, he wanted to swallow her up, keep her safe, protect her from herself.

 

Would she make it to the stage? Her chin quivered; he thought she might cry. But she snapped her mouth shut and stuck her violin under her chin. She played an ascending sequence with a tone that was so pungent it made his mouth pucker.

 

iii

 

The musicians all knocked their beers together with a nice hard clink, but Emily had a plastic water bottle so hers was muffled.

 

She whispered in Tim’s ear, “This is how it’s gonna go down. That drummer and Kristin are planning to hack into my bank account.”

 

“For God’s sake, Emily!”

 

She pushed Tim away and began furiously rosining her bow, turning her back on everyone.

 

On stage, though, everything brightened. The stage was flimsy and springy, and when Kristin got carried away, stomping her feet, they could feel the floorboards bounce. Emily took a long solo, and afterward she grinned at Tim like a kid who just discovered she can whistle.

 

iv

 

He found a scrap of paper in the bathroom:

 

A cartoon drawing of the dog, Pierre. But with x’s for the eyes.

 

Emily, what’s the matter with you?

 

v

 

The drummer had a masculine build. Strong biceps bulging out of T-shirt sleeves. Broad shoulders. All this, yet with feminine gestures, girlish. He was on his way to the bar, taking drink orders.

 

“And for you, Miss Emily?” he said, his pinky on his cheek. “A Shirley Temple, perhaps?”

        

Emily shrank away, shook her head with tiny quick motions.

 

vi

 

The pieces of glass were smooth and frosted from being tossed in the ocean. The blue ones were coveted and rare, and it was these Emily searched for. When they finally left the foggy beach, she had four blue pieces. Her hair was twisted in a fine French braid. Tim had to kiss her just then.

 

They drove south to the next gig, a renovated music hall, ancient. Only one dressing room, pieces of lavender paint falling on the carpet. They sat around and waited.

 

The tip of something white stuck out of the drummer’s pants pocket. Tampax tampon in its paper wrapper.

 

A voice in Tim’s head said, Coincidence.

 

“Nothing is a coincidence,” said Emily. “Like this: When I was five years old, there was a bright yellow, smiling face—on the wall of my bedroom. My mother put it there. So now I should be thinking of my five-year-old self. See? There’s a reason.”

Tim opened his mouth. Couldn’t think. He raised his arms and shrugged.

 

“What about the drummer?” he said.

 

Emily’s face turned grim. She dropped her disc of rosin on the floor.

 

Tim envisioned her in a white room wearing a straitjacket, pathetic, looking at him with teary, questioning eyes.

 

vii

 

The audience yelled and whistled when the rhythm section appeared onstage. (The drummer’s goatee was now red. He must have dyed it.)

 

Kristin, the star of the show, made her entrance, long strides, her pleated orange skirt swaying, the crowd cheering. She grabbed her guitar and counted out the first song. Flurry of notes from Tim’s cello. Next to him, his Emily stood up, her welcoming face to the audience.

 

She held her violin and bow in her left hand, a dramatic flourish with her right. Unlike offstage where she was withdrawn, wrapped up in her paranoia.

 

viii

 

Tim scraped the bow back and forth on his cello, not listening. He had his eye on her: Emily with chin up. Emily wearing the gardenia in her hair. Emily telling the audience a little story about Kristin. (But the words sounded garbled; Tim couldn’t understand.) Kristin said something back to Emily, and the crowd laughed. Clever repartee?

 

Directly above them, hanging in the center of the music hall, a large, sparkling Victorian chandelier. Swaying, earthquake. He looked to see if the walls were cracking. They weren’t.

 

All evening the drummer’s face was flushed. He told them he’d eaten something rotten. Now they were performing and he seemed too sick to play. Tim noticed an abrupt change in the music’s energy. He turned to look at the drummer at the rear of the stage—but he was gone! In his place was a woman. Very young. Couldn’t have been more than 18. Red hair, gelled back flat against her skull. Wore a sparkling green T-shirt that said, DRUMMER. Her style was more frenetic than the other. The cymbals flopped wildly.

 

Tim dropped his bow. Emily looked at him, “Are you OK?” She bent over and picked it up and handed it to him.

 

“What happened to the drummer?” he said into her ear.

 

“Sandra?”

 

“Not the girl. The other drummer.”

 

“What other drummer?”

 

Tim couldn’t remember the guy’s name. But the drummer never did have a name, never would have a name.

 

ix

 

A crowd of fans pressed in around Emily, holding up their CDs for her to sign. Her mouth was working away. She was talking to them all, talking nonstop. Did she want to talk to each individually? Or to all of them at once? No. She was talking to herself.

 

x

 

Emily in a straitjacket? Grotesque and absurd. Tim erased the thought from his mind.

 

Now her face was glistening with sweat, the tips of her bangs damp. She was lovelier than ever. Beaming at the people. Luminous.