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When Keith left for work Saturday afternoon, I immediately took a shower and changed clothes. Then I called my aunt, as I had promised. Unfortunately she wasn't home but I spoke with my cousin Rob for a few minutes. I had called him Bobby, out of habit, but he said he was getting too old for that nick name. He's such a cool kid. For about ten minutes he rambled on about the Harry Potter book he had read. A second novel in the series was out and he was looking forward to getting a copy that weekend. He was so enthused and what he told me sounded interesting enough that I considered getting a copy. Then I left a message for my aunt, telling my cousin that I would be working the next three days but would call on again Tuesday evening.
We said goodbye and I turned the phone off for a second then turned it back on again, dialing Mike's number. Lindsay answered. In the background, I could hear Mike and Derrick jamming in the garage. Moments later, there was silence but then Derrick picked up.
"Your dude-ness," he said, and then asked, "How was your tennis match?"
"Oh dude," I shook my head, "the game was pretty cool at first, but after about an hour, Corey was wiped out; too wiped to even stand."
"Don't say it!"
"He hit the deck. Ten minutes later we were at the Kaiser Hospital."
"Aw shit!" he groaned.
"The sad thing was - we learned that Corey is anorexic and that lately he's become bulimic too."
Derrick softly said, "No fucking way!"
I nodded as if my friend could see me and added, "Now that we know, I intend to do anything I can to help... after I cuff him one for scaring the piss out of me!" Derrick snickered and I changed the subject. "You were jamming?"
"Yeah!" Derrick cheerfully said, "And you are?"
I chuckled, "On my way!" Rush saw me wandering the kitchen and hurried across the lawn to the patio.
Derrick quickly added, "Bring trunks, dude. Since ten this morning we've been jamming, getting all sweaty and then diving in the pool." He paused and snickered, "Even with two fans, the garage is already starting to smell like a locker room."
"Wonderful!" I laughed, and opened the door to let Rush inside. I said. "See ya in ten."
Hanging up, I hurried to our room and Rush raced me, growling playfully. I took a minute to praise my hound then, while I gathered work clothes, explained where I was going and that I also had to work. Taking off my shorts and undies, I then slipped into a pair of trunks.
Closing the bedroom door and starting for my car, I hoped that Keith added another pair of swim trunks to his anniversary gift. I only had one pair of trunks and the Speedos. Effortlessly, I drove across town to Mike's place. Most of the trip, I wondered what musical something Keith was getting me. If it wasn't a CD or from GC, what could it be? After all, if it wasn't something to listen to then it must be an instrument of some sort. What else could it be? I drew a complete blank and snickered, believing he was trying to through me off-track.
Pulling in front of Mike's house and getting out, I expected loud music but heard none. I reckoned that they were taking a pool break and walked around the garage to the backyard. Paddling around nearer to the shallow end of the pool, Mike and Derrick heard the gate open and turned my way. Saying howdy simply because they cracked up every time, I kicked off my sandals and dove diagonally into the pool. I popped up and they slowly started swimming for me.
Mike asked, "Rough morning?"
I nodded, "It started out pretty good. I sure don't want to be home alone after another trip to the hospital."
Derrick shook his head and softly commented, "No more bad trips today."
"So far, so good. I half expected one too, when I had to go into the bedroom. It sucks; the place I love to be alone with Keith is probably the most frequent flash point."
Mike assured, "It's most familiar; and totally understandable."
Derrick nodded and reminded, "Ten more days dude. We'll be at Doug and Brian's. You two can have the spare bedroom and we'll take the master bedroom."
Mike nodded enthusiastically then grinned, "Unless we get totally carried away then who knows."
Smirking, I splashed him. That was a bad move. They both began splashing me. Grabbing a lungful of air, I escaped and grabbed the ladder as hands took hold of my feet! They pulled and stretched me out but I didn't let go of the ladder. "Let's jam!" I loudly laughed.
"Oh yeah," Mike happily said, as if he had managed to forget he was a capable guitarist. I felt them let go of me. A minute later, we were sufficiently dried off to prevent electrocution. Slipping back into our sandals, we went in the house, through the kitchen and into the garage.
Two fans were on and the PA was already powered up but on standby. "What are we working on?" I wondered.
Picking up his new axe, Mike shrugged, "Let's just jam. You call it."
I turned to Derrick after I picked up my bass and asked, "Got a preference?"
Derrick put his head set on then picked up his sticks and answered, "Like this." Then he began laying down a Latin beat. Turning to Mike, I loudly said, "G minor with a measure lead in with C minor and D minor." Mike nodded and we waited for the start of the next bar from Derrick. Together we easily slid into a Latin flavored twelve bar blues piece. Mike was playing a wicked rhythm with his wah-wah pedal. When he began improvising during the second twelve bars, it was obvious that he had been listening to the Santana CD's I leant him. Beginning the main twelve bars a third time, I stepped up to my microphone and suggested, "For the bridge, switch to E flat major for eight bars. Use C minor and D minor for one measure, like the way we started." As I switched from G minor to C minor to D minor and finally to E flat major, Mike played some ultra-fast arpeggios. I said, "Next, B flat major to G minor and back to E flat." After the second repetition, I said, "Now B flat major to F major to C minor then back to the G minor progression." Nodding, Mike took another solo during the twelve bars in G minor. Before we went around another time, I said, "Now end with C minor and D minor in one bar then B flat major to G minor and hold six beats." We held the final chord. With a beat of the bass drum and a crash of the cymbal, we ended crisply.
Mike smiled and wondered, "Why did you switch to E flat major for the bridge?"
I shrugged, "Just so we didn't fall back on the relative major. So I took a step up on the circle of fifths."
Twirling his sticks, Derrick nodded, "That was pretty good; worthy of lyrics, in my opinion."
Mike nodded, "We need a portable studio on the list of things to get. I saw this place online last night. For another eight hundred, we could add an eight track digital studio. It's a Boss system, completely self contained. We could record these jams, mix it down and embellish on it another time."
"Really?" I excitedly asked. "Where? Show me now!" I chuckled and took my bass off. Mike and Derrick chortled but quickly followed me into the house. I went to Mike's room and immediately noticed his new bed. Parking my ass on one corner, I grinned, "Awesome bed dudes."
Walking to his PC, Mike cheered, "It's so great! If I had known all the possible repercussions, I would've asked Doug and Brian to have us move over sooner!"
Derrick and I chuckled while Mike powered on the PC. For almost another hour, we browsed the Musician's Friend web site. They had everything! Drum mics or electronic drum sets for Derrick, more guitars, basses and amplifiers than I had ever seen at Guitar Center and of course, all sorts of mixers, power amps and assorted electronic gadgetry. Mike showed me the Boss recording system but I also noticed a Roland sixteen track system for twelve hundred bucks. I told Mike and Derrick about my difficulties practicing fretless bass and Mike did a search on drum machines. We found another Boss unit that could provide an entire rhythm section, including guitar or keyboard chords, for less than four hundred bucks! I was stoked.
I told Mike that I was interested in an acoustic guitar and he showed me several excellent models between five hundred and a thousand dollars. Finally we looked at keyboards. I found a full size, eighty-eight key model by Yamaha. Built in voices included grand piano, electric piano, pipe organ and strings. It was slightly over a thousand dollars. Without telling them exactly what was different, I suggested that we look at sound systems. The prepackaged systems available weren't any better than the eight channel stereo system we already had. We looked at Mackie mixers and Yamaha power amps equivalent to systems in the Carvin catalog.
Once we had a list, including all the necessary cables and power conditioners, Mike called the toll free phone number for a quote. He was exceptionally nice to the person on the phone. Derrick forced a frown but didn't interrupt and I started giggling hysterically.
Mike hung up and sighed, "Three grand, about six hundred more than Carvin."
Leading us out back, Derrick said, "Over all, I'd feel more comfortable with Carvin any way." One after another, we jumped into the pool.
Paddling in the middle of the pool, we discussed all the different stuff we needed once again. Derrick said, "Once we get the new system, we'll need to learn how to use it then teach Drew. That's going to take a few sessions, at least."
They both looked so desperate. Before I could stop myself, I promised, "Tuesday, we'll go shopping. I need to pick up the DVD player for Keith. Then we can hit Guitar Center. I want a drum machine as soon as possible." I was also considering an acoustic guitar but didn't tell them.
"We'll have the start of a lighting system by the end of the week," Mike happily chimed.
"Then we save like fucking crazy until school starts," Derrick chuckled.
Mike said, "While we're at GC, let's chat with someone about lighting systems. Maybe we could use my PC for some kind of visual effects."
Derrick said, "You don't want to be lugging that box and the monitor around," and then started for the ladder. As he climbed out, he said, "A cheaper laptop would be a better bet. All it needs to do is simple graphics, some color changes and maybe slideshows without crashing."
"Fucking schwin-doze," Mike grumbled as he climbed out of the pool.
I chuckled, "Let's see what the GC specialists have to say." We started to dry off and I asked, "Are you upgrading to Windows 98, Mike?"
"I don't know if I can," Mike said. "Mine's a Pentium 100 but the hard disk is only a gig."
"If you can free some disk space, I think it qualifies," I said. "We're probably going to need new PC's after we graduate anyway so let's delay that investment as long as we can."
Derrick said, "Good idea," and we started for the garage. We ran through the same basic progression but varied the tempo and style. By the time Derrick's watch went off, we were most satisfied with the original Latin blues version. We quickly dove into the pool one last time before heading into Mike's room to get dressed for work.
Glancing at Mike and Derrick, I grinned, "Did I mention the big party last Monday night?" They shook their heads and I told them all about the gay dude, my fantastic tips and how I didn't get home until midnight that night.
Heading for the 442, Mike huffed, "We need some more big nights like that."
Pulling away from the curb, Derrick wondered, "Is any one else interested in a little weed this summer? I was thinking for the Forth of July?"
I shrugged, "How much?"
"A hundred for a quarter, two for half, three for a full ounce," he answered.
"Damn!" Mike and I groaned.
Mike turned to Derrick and wondered, "Are we going to get more before the end of the summer?"
"I hate to spend big bucks on it dude," Derrick said. Coming to a brief stop at the corner, he looked at me in the mirror and offered, "We'll be getting the room and board money from our parents."
Derrick drove on and Mike said, "If we eat lots of hot dogs, burgers and chicken, we can stretch that out pretty far. With luck, we won't have to spend any of our own money on food."
"That's the goal," Derrick nodded. "But can we afford a little bit or a little bit more?"
Mike said, "Let's work a reasonable budget out during the night." Looking over his shoulder at me, he asked, "Are you in, Prez?"
"I'll be short Tuesday for the lights if I do," I sighed.
"Forth of July is only two weeks away," Derrick reminded. "If we don't set up something soon, we won't find it anywhere."
I suggested, "Set it up for next Saturday or Sunday. I'll be able to chip in fifty bucks Saturday or a hundred Sunday, if we're going for the ounce and the rest of the summer."
Mike said, "We'll let you know by the end of the night."
Beginning to work out a food budget in his head, Derrick said, "Bread, two bucks a loaf and at least a loaf a week."
"That's ten," Mike said. "Soda, a buck fifty a bottle and a bottle a day."
We pulled into the Black Angus parking lot and I smiled, "You're up to fifty five."
Derrick offered, "Tuna fish and deli meats, figure another fifteen per week."
"And another ten per week for burgers and buns," Mike added.
"One fifty five," I said as the car came to a stop in a parking space.
Getting out of the car, Derrick said, "Breakfast cereals, two boxes a week."
Mike nodded and swung the seat around to let me out saying, "Five bucks per week and another five per week for milk."
"How much, Prez?" Derrick asked.
I replied, "One ninety five. Now think about dinners."
Mike grinned, "You and Keith will be coming over."
I chuckled, "I promise to cook at least one dinner in July!" and they body slammed me! "How about some pasta," I suggested. "Figure six bucks for a pound of pasta and a jar of sauce. Add a loaf of French bread for three bucks and that's enough for four people."
We clocked in and Mike said, "That's another forty. We're up to two thirty five."
Before we went to work, Derrick said, "Another forty for chicken. Another twenty for French fries."
What I learned from that discussion was that it would cost us about four hundred a month for food alone. During the course of the night, I got Mike and Derrick thinking about the four of us moving in together. They had picked up one of the free apartment guides at a supermarket, I learned. Most two bedroom apartments cost about twelve hundred a month, Mike said while we cleared a table.
I warned, "I don't think an apartment will work with a dog, Mike." The look on his face told me that he completely forgot about Rush. I softly chuckled, "I'm bringing my hound dog, dude."
"Shit!" Mike whispered. "You know about pet deposits?" I shook my head and he said, "Figure another full month for a pet deposit. Your dog, your deposit."
I nodded and lifted the bucket. In the kitchen, I filled in Derrick.
"I'll check the Sunday newspaper for rental houses," he said. "It might just work to our advantage. Maybe we'll have an extra room or garage to jam in." Then we hurried back to the dining rooms.
We then began estimating utility costs. We could count on fifty a month for phone bills, possibly more if we use a lot of long distance. Cable television was another necessity and we figured another hundred per month. Internet access would be only twenty a month if we remained on dial up. But I reminded them about the new cable Internet services that would allow us simultaneous high speed connections. Of course that meant any new PC's we bought absolutely had to have network ports built in. None of us had a clue what electricity cost but we would soon find out from our parents.
Around ten thirty, we started wiping down tables for the night and gathering our tips. Mike drove us home and we wrapped up our evening's conversations. Derrick said, "For the sake of argument, let's assume fifteen hundred for rent, another five hundred for food and another five hundred for utilities."
Mike hollered, "That's twenty five hundred a month! Split four ways, we'd each need to contribute about... six hundred and fifty!"
I said, "So, in round numbers, we each have to bring home a grand a month. I made sixty bucks tonight. Sixty times five nights a week is three hundred; times four weeks a month is twelve hundred a month. With the job we have now, we could do it. And let's also hope that we'll be playing occasional gigs and making a few bucks over the weekends. By the time we turn twenty-one, we'll be done with MI. We can also wait tables or tend bar and make better tips."
Mike groaned, "I'm so ready right now." He then yelled, "One more year of fucking high school, blocking my path!" I cracked up.
Reaching for Mike's hand, Derrick chuckled, "Soon dude." He then turned to me and asked, "What about reefer? We'll just get a quarter?"
I nodded, "That will have to do. Next Saturday night." Mike stopped the 442 behind my 4Runner. We got out of the car and I explained, "It's Father's day tomorrow; we probably won't make the beach." Stepping up to Mike for a hug, I smiled, "I can't wait to tell Keith about our chat."
Derrick came to me for a hug and said, "We'll see ya tomorrow afternoon around one."
Taking a step back, I smiled, "Sure thang," and then went to my vehicle. After I had pulled away and settled in third gear, I slid the tape into the player. It's Only Natural by Crowded House was playing and I loudly sang along. Once again, I timed the lights pretty well and only had to come to a complete stop once before turning left into our neighborhood.
I parked and walked to the front door. It seemed most of the living room lights were turned off. Unlocking the door, I stepped inside and greeted my crazed hound. Keith's parents were sitting with Drew at the dining room table.
Heading for them, I said, "Hi," and then quickly asked, "How's Corey?"
Drew shrugged, "Okay. He'll probably be in the hospital until Monday though."
Mrs. Hundser explained, "He was dangerously dehydrated in addition to his other problems."
I shook my head and smirked, "Tell him to expect a hug to get better soon and a slug for scaring me."
Drew grinned, "Save the hug until he is better. Slug him any time you want. I did."
I chuckled and wondered, "Where's Keith?"
Mr. Hundser shrugged, "He wandered off about ten minutes ago."
"Oh," I muttered and forced myself to not smile. Turning away I said, "Let me say hello," and then started for our room. The door was closed and I didn't hear music until opening it. All the lights were off and the candles were lit. I smiled and turned to our bed, where my lover lay naked. I closed the door and softly chuckled, "Yee-haw!"
An hour and a half later, I told Keith about my conversations with Mike and Derrick, outlining costs as I went. Keith smiled and reminded, "In addition to all those living expenses, there are the expenses we already have; car insurance, maintenance and gasoline."
Wide-eyed, I excitedly but softly said, "You're right! Figure twenty bucks a week for gasoline. About one fifty for insurance and another fifty for maintenance; that brings the monthly total to two thousand eight hundred."
"And so we can have some semblance of a social life, round up to three thousand."
"That's still seven fifty per man, under the thousand a month we previously guess-timated. Working four nights a week would be tight but possible."
Keith nodded, "It's a good start on a budget. Tomorrow morning we'll ask about utility bills and glance at the classifieds for rental houses." He then kissed me goodnight and spooned up behind me.
The next morning, Rush woke me, obviously needing to go out. Thankfully, when I opened my eyes, the room looked current, not like it had the prior year. As I slipped into a pair of sport shorts, I was relieved there were no flashbacks. It was about eight-thirty, I noticed on the VCR before turning and opening our bedroom door. Rush tore from the room and I sleepily followed, accidentally bouncing off the door frame. Someone was already in the bathroom, probably Drew, I reckoned. Around the corner, in the kitchen, I heard Keith's dad chuckle and greet the dog. Turning the corner and saying, "Good morning," I went to the sliding back door and opened it. Rush trotted outside then I closed the door.
Turning to Keith's dad, I asked, "How's Drew?"
Mr. Hundser shrugged, "As good as can be expected, given the circumstances. I'll take him over to the hospital as soon as he showers and dresses."
"You'll be back though?"
He smiled, "Of course. I'm not missing out on my Father's Day breakfast."
I chuckled, "Let me wake Keith then," and then started down the hall. I had to pee and knocked on the closed door.
Drew said, "Come on in, Prez."
Opening the door and stepping inside the bathroom, I grinned, "How'd you know it was me?"
Still drying off from his shower, Drew answered, "You're the only one that knocks and waits for a reply." As I walked around him to the toilet, Drew impatiently huffed, "Keith and John turn the knob while knocking."
As I started to leak, I softly asked, "How're you doin' Drew?"
Wrapping the towel around his waist, Drew shrugged, "Angry, disappointed and sad top the list. Since Tuesday, I haven't let him out of my sight. Still he must've found a way past me." He paused as he applied deodorant then brushed his hair and added, "I'm going to try and repair his ego, some way or another. I haven't exactly figured out how yet but I won't abandon him unless he gives me no other choice."
Finished at the bowl, I stuffed my dick back in my shorts and flushed. I turned to Drew and asked, "How would he give you no other choice?" then joined him at the sinks.
While I washed my hands he answered, "By insisting on starving himself and saying he's still too fat. That is just bull. Now his parents are considering separating us. Unless he proves to them that I'm not part of the problem, and does it quick, we might be doomed."
Reaching for the towel, I forced a smile and assured, "He loves you Drew."
Nodding, Drew said, "Yesterday afternoon, I heard about the chat you two had. The only good news, I guess, is that Corey's really scared too now. He didn't believe his parents, doctors or me. As long as his levels consistently go up, we can spend time together. If they go down, we'll be separated until they go up again." Opening the door, Drew went to his room while I went to wake Keith.
Keith lay on his back, one arm over his head and the other across his stomach. His morning wood was tenting the sheet. My mouth watered endlessly as I considered how I would wake him. Finally I decided, pushed down my sport shorts then carefully straddled my partner. He inhaled deeply and held it, pushing his hips up against mine. His eyelids fluttered and he smiled. Moments later, we were grinding away, with the sheet trapped between us. Keith's strong knees held me in place and we humped until we had both reached the inevitable conclusion. I collapsed onto him. Repeatedly kissing anything he could reach, Keith whispered, "Time... to wash... the sheets... again."
I giggled, "They reeked last night. Today's only five days."
"Let's not do it on the bed tonight," he suggested.
Pulling up and smiling down at him, I wondered, "Where then? I won't chance getting caught in any other room with your family home."
"We can improvise like we did camping; lean on the desk, dresser or wall."
Humming provocatively, I stole a kiss then swung off of him and onto the floor. Keith got up and came to me. He cupped my left bicep and grinned, "Your arms are getting big."
"You're gonna start me up again," I helplessly giggled.
Keith reached for a kiss and playfully scraped his teeth over my bottom lip. "I'm serious," he smiled as he took a step back.
Pulling up my shorts again, I shrugged, "It can only be from paddling surfboards or from carrying bus buckets." Beginning to strip the bed, I added, "A full bucket must weight about seventy-five pounds. God only knows how many I lift any given night."
Helping shake the pillows from cases, Keith pleaded, "Please lift carefully, baby. I need your back healthy as much as you do." We then went to the bathroom, undressed and started our morning routine.
Twenty or so minutes later, we were in the dining room, giving dad his gifts. He opened my gift first, then Keith's. Both were appreciated and dad then asked me to play the CD. I went to the living room and popped the disk in the player. When I returned to the dining room and sat down, he wondered, "What made you consider that disk?"
I grinned, "Keith recalled a concert you taped once but couldn't remember the band name; so I called Doug."
"Good choices from both of you," he smiled.
Keith pointed at his mom, shaking her buns around in the kitchen to the music. We chuckled, "You're welcome," and watched as Keith's dad stood with his empty coffee cup.
Stealthily, he crept towards his wife. Somehow she knew when to turn and caught him sneaking up. Backing away and waving her spatula, she playfully warned, "Be good!" Keith and I softly chuckled.
Pouring himself another cup of coffee, dad said, "I'm still wondering what your present will be."
Returning to the stove, mom smiled, "When we're all gathered for breakfast."
Sitting down at the table again, dad mischievously smirked then glanced at Keith saying, "Wake your brother, please."
Standing up, Keith nodded and softly chuckled, "Suddenly he's my brother."
Enjoying the music intensely, I turned to Keith's dad and smiled, "I really was trying to get something so I wouldn't ask, but I have to... can I borrow this CD for about an hour?"
Mr. Hundser nodded and said, "When your band can harmonize like that, you'll be going places."
"We're working on it," I assured.
Shaking his head sadly but smiling, Keith returned and asked, "Have you ever had to wake John?" I shook my head and Keith instructed, "Call his name as you approach because he might hear it. If you absolutely must touch him, be prepared to jump out of his way! He'll bounce up so fast that you'll think he's attacking!"
I snickered and mom called for Keith and me to help in the kitchen. A minute or two later, pancakes and sausages were served with warmed maple and boysenberry syrups. Keith dug in and so did I.
With a smartly wrapped medium-sized shirt box in his hand, John rounded the corner and sat down at the table. "Happy Father's Day," he smiled, and handed the box to his dad. A few moments later, dad held up a T shirt that read: "Ask your mother." John had gotten the "Ask your father," T-shirt for his mom a month earlier, Keith softly told me. John giggled, "Now you match."
Dad chuckled, "Thank you," and then began to serve himself. He grinned at mom and she coolly smiled back at him.
"Patience is a virtue," mom giggled.
Glancing around the table, dad explained, "Your mother has been teasing me and testing my virtue since ten o'clock last night." John, Keith and I softly snickered, knowing better than to say a word. A tense silence enveloped the room.
Her plate filled, mom turned around slightly in her chair. She opened the china hutch and pulled out an envelope. Walking around the table, she smiled, "Happy Father's Day, for all of us," and kissed her husband. Dad opened the envelope and pulled out six Bally's Health club membership cards. Returning to her chair, she said, "I've seen you all watching those Solo-flex and other fitness commercials." Keith and I smiled at each other. It wasn't the exercise equipment we were salivating over. "We are not filling this house with assorted equipment," mom said as she sat. "This way is infinitely better because we can do it together."
Unsuccessfully hiding his trepidation, John softly asked, "Me too?"
His mom nodded but stipulated, "Always with some one. Either me, your dad, Keith or Preston must accompany you and Drew; club rules, under sixteen must be accompanied. And each of us can sign in guests so Tommy, Mike and Derrick are welcome. Corey will need to learn about the intricacies of nutrition before he can participate."
"It's perfect!" dad chuckled. Glancing around the table and stopping at John, he smiled, "It's something we can do together in the early evenings."
Giddy, John giggled, "Let's go today," and nervously watched his parents' reaction. Keith nudged me and smiled.
"They're platinum memberships," Mr. Hundser said as he browsed the leaflet, "we have access to all club activities and facilities."
"Very cool," Keith nodded.
"They have aerobics, jazzercise and self defense classes," mom added.
I hummed and swallowed. Picking up a napkin and wiping my mouth, I glanced at Keith and smiled, "Self defense classes are a great idea." Still chewing, Keith nodded enthusiastically and tried to smile. I asked, "Do you think Mike would be interested? I know Derrick would be."
Keith swallowed and answered, "I think he would be but he's real cautious about his hands and fingers, ya know?"
"I'm doing my bit to keep everyone as safe as possible. I'd just like you prepared," mom softly said. Turning to John, she emphasized, "Defensively, not offensively." John sighed and nodded.
Finished eating, Keith asked, "Do you still want to take Rush for a w-a-l-k?" I had mentioned it while we were in the bathroom.
Giggling at the way he spelled the word so the hound wouldn't spaz out, I nodded and stuffed the last of my pancakes into my mouth. Still, Rush must've sensed our intentions. He excitedly followed us from the dining room and through the house as we gathered our keys and wallets. At the entryway closet, I reached for the leash in slow motion. Spellbound, Rush watched. I placed a finger on his collar and the hound spun in four blazingly fast circles. I held his collar open and Rush happily stuffed his head through the loop. We stepped outside and started for the park.
Keith confessed, "I was really happy that you talked about moving, and even got Mike and Derrick to work on a budget."
Shaking my head sadly, I said, "I still can't believe the grand total. When we finish MI and start college, the bottom line would still be about the same, three grand a month. We might save a little on food and utilities but not very much. That means we'd have to bring home thirty-six thousand a year."
"One of us is going to have to work full time," Keith nodded and smiled. I turned to him and he added, "You know I have no problem with that."
I grinned, "I kinda wish you did. Aren't you looking forward to enjoying our independence?"
"Sure I am," Keith chuckled. "We can't party 'round the clock; there is the small matter of responsibilities. Now if we happen to win the Super Lotto, then it's a full year of uninterrupted party time!" He reached for my hand and said, "My dad's always taught us about goals. My long term goal was to find a boyfriend; someone I wanted to be with all the time. And he, of course, would want to me with me. I knew that if I had that kind of life partner then everything else would be gravy, no matter how weird things might get over the years. If you have no one to come home to, then why go home? I thought that was going to be my life, once upon a time; that I'd spend my days searching but come up empty."
"So I'm your long term goal," I smiled.
Nodding enthusiastically, Keith said, "You've got plenty of short term and intermediate goals. But where do you want to be when you turn fifty? What's your long term goal, Prez?"
Dreamily, I answered, "Obviously married to you. I'd like to settle down some place and become a contributing member of a larger community." Turning to him, I asked, "Do you want to know what scares me most?" He slowly nodded and I sighed, "Living an anonymous life, totally unknown by my neighbors and community; just another lonely and sad obituary in the newspaper."
Keith nodded, "That would suck. People like that aren't missed."
"I'd like to be a respected songwriter, like John Williams. But I'd be happy doing anything that kept me around music and musicians. I want to live near the ocean too. Not like on the hills in Malibu or right on the beach but stay within a twenty or thirty minute drive." I smiled, "Beyond those things, it gets really fuzzy."
"Okay, so we're married and living in West Hollywood. You're a songwriter. I'm the recording engineer and part time vocalist."
"And part time percussionist," I added.
Keith's head snapped towards me, slightly startling me. He asked, "Did you know that Derrick suggested I play drums?"
I shook my head, "He never mentioned that." Then I wondered, "What did you say?"
Keith shrugged, "I never considered it. He said it was another way that we could spend time together and that of course, interests me." He turned to me and smiled, "Would you like me to play the drums?"
Helplessly, I loudly chuckled, "Oh God, Keith!" Smiling widely, I said, "Thank you for asking but honestly, what I'd like has very little to do with it. You have to be interested enough to want to practice. Derrick was practicing for two years before he actually got a drum kit."
"It beats standing there with cowbells or maracas," Keith smiled.
I suggested, "A good set of bongos would only cost about thirty bucks."
"Oh, that's all?" Keith softly said.
"Yesterday Mike showed me a new web site. There's a place online that has a huge catalog of instruments. I saw congas on sale for like two hundred and fifty. Derrick saw an electronic drum set and drum mics. I also saw a cool little drum machine. I could plug my bass into it and listen through headphones, practicing silently late at night. There are left and right outputs too so it could be plugged into a PA."
"It's definitely on my list of things to get." Watching him, I admitted, "It got me thinking about the PA we have now."
"What about it?"
"That PA's perfect for practicing and more than enough for small parties."
Keith droned, "Yeah?"
I giggled, "With that drum machine, acoustic guitar and keyboards on the way, I would need some sort of amplification." Keith slowly nodded and I snickered, "Rather than buy something new, what if I just bought out Mike and Derrick's share and kept that PA for us? After we all chip in for a new system, of course."
Smiling widely, Keith's eyes rolled in their sockets and he cracked up. I waited patiently for him to finally laugh, "Well since you put it that way! I guess you might as well!"
I grinned, "Or I could just buy the PA system for the band and then the other PA from Mike and Derrick?"
"OH NO!" Keith roared. "Not two PA's Prez," he breathlessly giggled, "you don't need to own two PA's." Catching his breath, he smiled, "Really, one or the other but not both.
I giggled, "I was just joshin'!"
As if he didn't believe me, Keith softly snickered, "Yeah."
There was a large children's party going on at the park. We walked around the perimeter and some kids came over to pet Rush. I had Rush sit and shake hands with two of the more daring kids. They ran off and Rush barked at their sudden burst.
We started walking again. Keith smiled, "You're great with kids."
I shrugged and chuckled, "I was a little kid once."
"Would you want to raise one?" he softly asked.
We had never dared discuss it before. I had thought about it though. "Some day, when we're legally married, I'd consider adopting."
"Boy or a girl?"
"One of each."
I grinned, "Toddler, out of diapers."
He snickered, "Wimp."
I loudly laughed, "Have you ever changed a diaper? I have; a year old baby boy that hosed me down right after I removed his already soiled diaper!" Keith howled and I hollered, "Never again! Not even with a raincoat and rubber gloves!"
Keith heaved, "When did all this happen?"
"I baby sat for a neighbor in Texas."
"I never have," he chuckled.
"You watched your brothers."
He smirked, "No dirty diapers, thank goodness."
"Then you haven't experienced it. Dirty diaper - cry. Hungry - cry. Tired - cry. And we've all seen or heard of the endless sleepless nights. To do that, I guess someone would have to adopt the baby's schedule. That means no career, at least for the first five years; unless you want the added expense of day care?"
"I don't want anyone else raising my kid. But I can actually see myself, ten or so years from now, choosing to stay home and raise a family."
"Really? You're in such a rush to get into a career too."
Keith softly smiled, "I know, it's weird."
"But absolutely fantastic. It makes me want to adopt both kids at the same time so I can stay home too."
Keith chuckled, "Then we'd definitely need to win the SuperLotto."
After a few moments pause, I asked, "Did you know that Mike and Derrick are expecting us to live with them in July?"
"I kinda figured."
"They want to find out if we can live together. What do you think?"
Keith shrugged, "It doesn't matter one way or another to me. I sleep with you, at home or at Doug and Brian's."
Squeezing his hand in mine, I assured, "That's where I'll want to sleep too."
"We could spend a lot of time there but not all the time," Keith offered. "There are other things we want to do in July."
"The forth of July at Jessy's, my dad's birthday, a camping trip or two..."
"One at Yosemite?" I interrupted.
Keith nodded, "How does that sound?"
I nodded, "Excellent. Can we manage a trip to Disneyland?"
"Magic Mountain is closer."
"I know but I'd really like to go to Disneyland again."
"We'll try to make a day out of it then. What else would you like to do this summer?"
I shrugged and thought for a few moments then said, "I'd like to do something for Lindsay for her birthday." Surprised, Keith turned to me. "Remember, it was Lindsay that added her two cents that night. If she hadn't said anything, they'd still be sneaking around. Now Mike has his new bed and they're sleeping together."
"She deserves some recognition for that."
"We need to take some bike rides too."
Keith enthusiastically nodded, "There are great trails near Doug and Brian's place. We'll take our bikes over there the first time we spend the night."
We crossed the street and started for home. "What else would you like to do?" Keith grinned mischievously for too long and my dick lengthened. I gleefully wondered, "What are you planning?"
"Nothing!" he giggled.
"Then wipe that smirk off your face!" I loudly laughed.
"We said we would make new memories this summer," Keith hinted.
"We already have," I reminded. "I was barely here a year before finding myself sitting in a courthouse. I can finally stand on a surfboard. Our band can play more than simple twelve bar blues. But all that is beside the point!" Keith giggled and I chuckled, "Now you've got me wondering what you'll do and when!"
"Ya never can tell!" Keith teased and started walking faster.
I sped up and Keith began jogging! I told Rush, "He's being very bad," and then ran after Keith. He laughed hysterically then sprinted away. Rush barked and we hauled ass after him all the way home and into the backyard. Only Mrs. Hundser's car was in the driveway, I noticed and assumed that only she was home. After I ravenously attacked my lover against the fence in the backyard, I led him inside.
Rush went right for his water dish. Taking hold of me, Keith spun us around the dining room, through the living room and down the hall to our bedroom. He turned the stereo on. Taking him in my arms, I grinned, "Your mom's home, good idea."
Shaking his head, Keith said, "I don't think any one is home," and then ground himself against me. He was raging! And it was only quarter to twelve! We hadn't expected to even have the opportunity again until later that night but had plenty of time and took advantage of the situation. Showered, fed and very happy, I sent Keith off to work.
I called Mike's house then gathered my work clothes and locked Rush in our room. For the next few hours, we played old Ozzy and Van Halen tunes with the occasional ten minute pool breaks. At four that afternoon, we were back at work. Mike wanted to hang out by the pool. About quarter after ten, I called home from the kitchen phone. Mr. Hundser answered and I asked to speak to Keith.
"Hey sexy," he answered.
Suddenly the kitchen felt way hotter. "Hi babe. Did you have any plans for tonight?"
Keith giggled, "Nothing special tonight."
"Ya wanna chill by Mike's pool for an hour or two?"
"We shouldn't be too much longer; about eleven."
Breaking out in a sweat, I smiled and nodded, "Yeah."
"I love you."
"I love you too. See ya soon."
Derrick walked into the kitchen with a bucket balanced on his shoulder as I said goodbye and hung up the phone. He grinned and nodded for me to follow him. I floated along side Derrick and we stopped at the sink. Beginning to empty the bucket, he leaned close and softly giggled, "What the hell happened to you? Did you just shoot in yer pants or what?" I giggled and he softly chuckled, "Turn down the glow a few notches."
Composing myself slightly, I leaned on my friend's shoulder and simply whispered, "Speedos." Derrick's head twisted and his eyes slowly rolled then he nodded and began chuckling.
Monday was a virtual carbon copy of Sunday except we went to the beach that morning and jammed at Brian and Doug's instead of Mike's house that afternoon. Before Mr. Hundser went to bed, I asked him to co-endorse a check. Without any argument, he took the pen from me and scribbled his signature. I cashed it Tuesday morning then stuffed the bills in the dresser and woke my lover. Once again, we didn't make it to the beach until ten.
We were recording at Doug and Brian's Tuesday afternoon. About twenty minutes after two, I kissed Keith goodbye at his car and watched as he drove off to work. Then I hurried back inside.
"Let's go shopping!" I cheerfully told my friends.
"Guitar Center?" Mike reverently asked.
I nodded and added, "And Circuit City."
"If we have time, let's hit the Army surplus store too," Derrick said as he stepped out from behind the drums. We rambled on about the things we were about to buy while slipping into T-shirts and sandals. Derrick stopped at the Hundser's so I could get the money from the dresser.
Back in the 442 and on the way, we had the radio cranked to Deep Purple's Perfect Strangers. By the second verse, Mike was calling out chord changes and I was visualizing the bass part. "We can cover that tune," Derrick hollered over the DJ.
"Definitely," Mike anxiously nodded, "I'll remember enough to get it started again later tonight." Turning in the swivel seat, Mike smiled and asked, "Circuit City first?"
I nodded, "Please. Let me get our anniversary present first before I'm tempted at GC."
Derrick chuckled, "Very wise."
The Tears For Fears tune Shout began playing and Mike reached for the tuner. I yelled, "No! Leave it please?" Mike glanced over his shoulder at me and rolled his eyes but he sat back and let the song play. "I loved this tune as a little kid," I admitted. Betchya By Golly Wow by the Temptations played next. Our arrangement of the tune was just slightly slower with a more pronounced drum beat and lacked all the strings. Keith could sing it as high as the original recording but felt more comfortable about an octave lower. As we pulled into the Circuit City parking lot, KLOS played ELP's From The Beginning; a tune we had attempted during the winter but not returned to.
Derrick parked and we all jumped out of the convertible then started across the asphalt. Mike suggested, "Maybe we could try that tune again with Shaun?"
"Yeah," Derrick nodded, "we need two guitars and keys for that one."
"It's a cool tune," I agreed. Opening the door, I held it for my friends then followed them in. We went directly to the DVD players. They had a few Sony models and I immediately focused on those. A salesperson came over to help. With a 'Return of the Pink Panther' DVD, she showed us the various features. Mike and Derrick disappeared after the first of four decks. They showed up again many minutes later with a small sack.
"What did you get?" I wondered.
Hiding the bag behind his back, Derrick smirked, "These are for both of you - tomorrow!"
I chuckled and turned to the display. Pointing at the more expensive deck, I said, "This one will support zooms if the disk supports it but it's almost two hundred bucks more."
Mike inspected the unit and softly said, "Only two types of DVD's would have zoom features; educational documentaries with maps and diagrams and shit."
"And what else?" I wondered.
They grinned widely at each other then at me. Bouncing his blond eyebrows, Derrick grinned, "And the extremely educational."
Uncertainly, I tilted my head and Mike leaned closer. I leaned down and he softly giggled, "Is that a mole on that dude's cock?"
Bouncing upright, I cracked up. "But is it worth the extra bucks?" I loudly laughed.
Derrick shrugged and smiled, "Maybe not this year or next but someday."
The salesperson came over again. Still chuckling, I asked, "Are there a lot of disks that use the zoom feature?"
"Not now," she honestly answered, "but the industry is still in its infancy."
I sighed and frowned, "Two hundred bucks for something we'll barely ever use?" Pointing at the other deck, I said, "I'll take that one."
"Cash or charge?" she asked, and started for the nearest computer terminal.
The three of us followed and I answered, "Cash." She asked for my name, address and e-mail then said, "The deck has a manufacturer's two year warranty. For... seventy two dollars, I can extend that another two years."
I turned to Derrick. He grimaced and shook his head. Mike said, "It's a Sony, dude. Don't sweat it."
"No thanks," I told the girl.
A few moments later, she said, "Four hundred eleven and thirty cents."
I paid her and she thanked me, handed over the receipt then pointed at the merchandise pickup area. The three of us wandered through the DVD section. I found a copy of the same Pink Panther movie and took it to the register. "Good comedy is required in any DVD library," I commented while we waited in line.
Mike snickered, "That's real entertainment!" and Derrick nudged him.
I giggled, "You got us comedies?"
Derrick smiled, "We got Keith a comedy. We got you something better."
"Woo-hoo!" I excitedly chuckled. Stepping forward, I handed another young lady the DVD. A few minutes later, I had paid for the disk and picked up the player.
Walking outside, Derrick smiled, "Keith's gonna love it, bro."
Mike chuckled, "Stunned silent, which is always good for Keith."
"Sweet!" I chanted. Starting across the parking lot again, I asked "Can I ask a favor though?" They smiled and nodded and I whined, "I really suck at wrapping stuff. Packages look like they've traveled coast to coast by pony express when I'm done with them." Derrick tried to contain himself but a snicker broke loose.
Mike chuckled, "We're not very good at it either."
Patting my back, Derrick assured, "Between the three of us, we'll manage." We stopped at the car and put all the stuff in the trunk.
Starting for the passenger seat, Mike cackled, "Three queers that can't wrap to save their lives; call Guinness!" Derrick and I snickered. Soon we were on our way to Guitar Center. With the radio blaring, Mike and Derrick accounted for the ways that they were not gay, somewhat gay and extremely gay while I laughed heartily in the backseat. By the time we parked, my sides ached from almost fifteen minutes of constant laughter.
We stepped inside and Mike asked, "What's on the agenda besides lights?"
I smiled, "A drum machine, like the one we saw online."
Derrick offered, "Mike and I will check out lighting systems."
I went to the keyboards section of the store where they kept all the MIDI toys. While I waited for a salesman, I browsed around. One drum machine was almost two thousand dollars. On the other end of the spectrum were belt clip models. While most were around two or three hundred dollars, one was almost a thousand bucks. A salesman came over and I tried the Boss DR-5; the same one I had found on the Internet. After a few minutes, I said, "The bass sounds so thin through these headphones."
He nodded, "Most of these are designed for the guitar. But you'll have stereo outputs to the PA or, you can hook up a pair of portable monitors to the headphone jack."
I grimaced, "Like PC speakers?"
Shaking his head, he answered, "No, pro grade monitors." Turning and taking a few steps away, he picked up a box and showed it to me. Inside the box was a pair of Roland speakers.
"Let's hear 'em," I smiled. A few minutes later, the salesman had the speakers plugged into the power strip and connected to the DR-5. He turned it up to half volume and restarted the demo sequence. Considering their very compact size, the speakers kicked ass. "How much?"
"For the DR-5 and speakers?" he asked, and I nodded. The salesman picked up a calculator and said, "Three sixty nine plus two twenty nine, fifteen percent discount, sales tax... five-fifty." Mike and Derrick returned while I waited.
"Excellent," I smiled. "Just a sec." Turning to my friends, I asked, "What's the deal?"
Derrick explained, "Two dual truss racks, sixty bucks a pop; they would line the front and rear." I nodded and Derrick said, "Add two spotlights, fifty each; and finally six multi-colored cans."
Mike frowned, "The controller is another two hundred."
The salesman asked, "Who were you talking to?"
Mike said, "Larry," and the salesman picked up one of the phones.
We waited anxiously for him to finally proclaim, "One thousand sixteen for everything."
Reaching in his pocket, Derrick smiled, "Excellent discount."
"The grand total was over a thousand - twenty percent for cash customers," the salesman explained.
I counted out seven hundred, Mike added one sixty and Derrick, another hundred and sixty. Salesmen started scurrying around, gathering all the equipment.
Mike smiled, "The controller handles sixteen lamps and is programmable. We could add another eight without needing another one."
Bouncing against his partner, Derrick grinned, "You've got your eye on the special effects lights, admit it."
Taking the four bucks change from the salesman, Mike loudly giggled, "Of course! And the fog machines are only one fifty."
"But the fog juice is twenty-five for a five gallon tank," Derrick reminded. "A strobe light and a few black lights would be more affordable."
"I can honestly tell Keith that we split the cost of the lights," I grinned. Then I suggested, "Let's go over your house, Mike."
He nodded, "Definitely! We've gotta set up the lights and give 'em a trial run."
"And I'd like to plug the DR-5 into the PA," I admitted.
Minutes later we were carrying our investments out to the car. On the radio, we caught the end of Desperado then they stripped our gears by playing Alice Cooper's Poison. Mike cranked it and we rocked Ventura Boulevard on the way to Mike's.
By four-thirty, we were in Mike's garage. While Mike and Derrick began setting up the light stands, I worked on plugging the drum machine into the PA. Soon the demo tracks were blasting the room. I turned down the channels so we could at least hear each other then went to help Mike and Derrick. The rear rack was set up first and four colored lights attached. Then we moved it into position, along the wall where the drums and amps were lined up. I turned off the drum machine. We plugged the lights in and powered them on. While Mike got a ladder and worked on adjusting the lamp angles, Derrick and I started setting up the front rack. We had only attached the two white spotlights when I heard a car pull into the driveway.
I asked, "What time is it, D?"
He glanced at his watch and his eyes widened. "Almost six."
"Oh shit!" I softly groaned. "I gotta get home."
With the ladder wobbling beneath, Mike said, "Stay and have dinner here. We're not stopping now!"
Derrick looked up and hollered, "Be careful up there!" then hurried across the room to hold the ladder. "Shit head," Derrick grumbled.
"But the lights look awesome!" Mike giggled.
I laughed then said, "Let me call home real quick."
Mike said, "You know the way," and the ladder shook.
"Fucker!" Derrick softly grumbled, "Pay attention!"
Starting for the house, I warned, "No more hospital trips. If there are, you'd best pray the fall kills you." Calling home, I told dad that I was staying at Mike's for dinner but would be home before Keith. Although I wasn't sure if they would want to stop in, I said, "Derrick's driving me home. I wouldn't be surprised if they visited for a while."
Mr. Hundser said, "That's fine," and then we said goodbye and hung up.
Mrs. Gibbons asked if I was staying and I told her that Mike had invited me. I also mentioned that we had gotten a lighting system. She followed me to the garage door and briefly peeked inside.
Stepping into the garage, I saw Derrick holding the ladder with one hand and the waistband of Mike's trunks with the other. Mike said; "I can't help it! This would be so much easier outside, so I could be behind the lights instead of contorting myself like a pretzel."
"I'll get the last two lights attached to the other truss rods," I offered.
Derrick nodded and I went to work. A minute or so passed quietly then Mike started giggling hysterically. Looking over at them, I grinned, "Ladder sex?"
"It's been done before," Derrick softly chuckled.
I loudly laughed, "Really?"
"While we painted the bedrooms," Mike giggled. Then he looked around and asked, "How does that look?"
I went and turned off the fluorescent overhead lights. "Just those four are pretty good," I commented, "better than at John's party."
"How are the angles?" Mike innocently asked.
I grinned, "A little to the left, just like always," and turned the fluorescent lights on again. Shaking his head sadly, Mike huffed and smirked.
Derrick chuckled, "Tryin' to poke straight out!"
"Never straight," I playfully reminded.
Climbing down the ladder, Mike cackled, "I can't understand why! Your face has been in my ass the last ten minutes!" He hopped down only inches from Derrick. Forcefully, Derrick grabbed the front center of Mike's waistband and pulled Mike against him. They kissed passionately.
I went over to my drum machine and reset the tempo to ninety beats per minute then selected a preprogrammed ballad beat. They were still kissing. I pressed start and adjusted the PA tone controls. Finally separating, they went to the remaining light stands and raised them to the ceiling. Once we connected the remaining lamps to the controller, I turned off the overhead lights and Mike turned the controller on.
"Wicked!" Derrick softly chanted.
"Very, very cool," I enthusiastically chuckled. The two white spotlights in the front center positions contrasted nicely with two violet lights on the extreme left and right sides. Above the amps and drums, green and blue lights shone in the center with yellow lights on both sides.
Mike nodded and pointed out the excess cables now lying around. "We need more strap-ties and duct tape," he said.
Derrick checked his watch and said, "We can't take two hours to set up the lights."
I nodded and reminded, "We weren't in any sort of a rush. With Keith around, we can work twice as fast."
Derrick agreed, "Add Shaun and Gil and it's down to forty minutes."
Mike added, "With Drew and Corey's help, we could get it down to thirty minutes, including setting up the instruments and raising the tarp."
"It's a lot of work. When we get paid, we'll need to split it eight ways," Derrick commented.
"How much should we charge?" I wondered.
Mike answered, "We join the musician's union. That's what Brian and Doug suggested."
The door to the kitchen opened and Lindsay stepped into the garage. She smiled, "That's really pretty. Dinner's ready," and then went back into the house. The door opened again and Mike's mom peeked inside.
"How much?" she suspiciously asked.
Mike turned to Derrick and I. Derrick answered, "Four hundred and seventy split three ways."
Mike said, "Next week, we'll see about a tarp," and we started inside. Mike and Derrick went to the kitchen sink to wash their hands. Mike told his mom, "You saw the flyers we've designed. Next, we need a band photo and then we can start advertising. I'll add a phone to the computer line in my room."
Mike's mom wondered, "Can you afford that?"
"I can get a phone for twenty bucks," Mike answered.
Mrs. Gibbons sighed and turned to me. "You could wash in the bathroom sink," she suggested, and I thanked her.
Grabbing a towel and stepping aside, Derrick said, "We're done." Mike grabbed the other half of the same towel and patted his hands dry.
I went to the sink. Mrs. Gibbon's said, "Next time, help your guest before doing for yourself." To keep from snickering, I bit my tongue.
Gathered around the dining room table, I was pleasantly surprised with chicken Teriyaki, white rice, broccoli and snow peas. I smiled, "You cooked all this in only thirty minutes?"
Mrs. Gibbon's nodded, "I set the water and started the veggies in the microwave then went up stairs and changed. When I got back downstairs, I stirred the veggies and added rice to the water then heated the wok for the chicken. It's nothing magical, just ordered."
Lindsay said, "The trick is fast cooking in the wok."
"That's part of it," Mrs. Gibbon's proudly smiled.
While we ate, Mike and Derrick told Mrs. Gibbons our plans for the band. She already knew about the school dances we were scheduled to perform at but the goal was to have more gigs lined up for the next summer. We would start MI as professional musicians, if all went well. And during July, we would spend a lot of time together at Doug and Brian's, mostly to learn if we could live together. Mike's mom listened patiently then said, "You've done as much planning as you can. Now execute the plan and we'll all hope for the best."
Mike sighed, "Why are you so worried, ma?"
She answered, "It's a funny business; it's who you know more than what you know. You've progressed dramatically this last year, all of you have. It's just the nature of the music business that scares me, not your abilities."
Derrick softly offered, "It is what we want to do. We could eventually wind up doing session work, making more money at that then with our band."
"And that's totally acceptable to me." Mike said, "As long as I'm playing guitar and not sitting at a desk or something boring like that. I'd play on street corners for change before I considered an office job."
"It's my job to worry," Mrs. Gibbons smiled. "You'll be forty-something and I'll be sixty something but still worrying. Get over it."
Mike grinned, "I will if you will." Glancing across the table at each other, Derrick and I softly snickered.
Immediately after cleaning up dinner, Mike called Shaun's house. After inviting Shaun and Gil over, he led me back to the garage.
Derrick looked at my drum machine and asked, "What can this thing do?"
I smiled, "Everything! There are one hundred and twenty eight pre-programmed patches in every style. And I can program another sixty patches." Pressing a few buttons, I then showed Derrick all the built-in beats and explained, "It also supports chords and plays piano or guitar parts. It'll play bass too but I'll be turning that track off most of the time."
With his guitar already hanging off his shoulder, Mike said, "Set it up to play a slow blues groove."
Dialing in one of the pre-programmed R&B patches, I then set the tempo to eighty beats per minute and pressed the start button. Mike began playing tasty off-beat rhythm guitar. I went over to my bass, picked it up and then turned on the amp. Soon, I was playing counterpoint rhythm with Mike. But then Mike began playing a slow lead with lots of hand vibrato while I carried the rhythm.
Heading for his drums, Derrick loudly complained, "I'm not being replaced by a machine!"
After a few minutes jamming, we created an ending and I pressed stop on the drum machine. I grinned, "It's fully MIDI compatible too. Once I get the necessary cables, we can hook this up to Jessy's synthesizer."
Mike had taken off his guitar and joined me beside the drum machine. He asked, "It does dance house beats?" I nodded and spun the dial. Mike said, "Take a solo dude," and pressed start. On the end of the next measure, I slid down from a high A then began playing some slap bass with the machine. Derrick got up and read the operating instructions for the lighting console. Mike joined Derrick. Moments later, Derrick unplugged a microphone from the PA and plugged it into the lighting console. Soon lights were changing color and flashing on and off. Minutes later, I ended the jam and Mike pressed stop on the drum machine. Heading for his guitar, he smiled, "That'll make some people happy."
Derrick set the two white spotlights to always on but left the colored lights on automatic. Then he sat on his drum throne and put on his headset. Picking up his E-bow, Mike suggested, "With or Without You." I nodded and Derrick started counting then Mike and I began playing. Obviously, Mike had been practicing with the E-bow and played the eerie guitar part perfectly. With lights flashing behind and in front, Derrick did a good job on the lead vocals. Then I sang lead vocals for Draggin' The Line. About halfway through the song, Lindsay and her friend came in the garage. Mike then started playing Van Halen's So This Is Love. Again, Derrick sang a totally enthusiastic and passable lead vocal. Then Mike started us off playing Honky Tonk Woman and soon sang the lead vocals. Even without a saxophone player, the tune sounded really good.
There were knocks on the garage door at the end of Honkey Tonk Woman. Lindsay hit the button for the garage door and it began rising. I watched to be sure it cleared the lighting system. Thankfully, it had with at least six inches to spare.
Carrying his guitar, Shaun chuckled, "Whoa! Check out the lights!" and Gil giggled hysterically. They stepped inside the garage and a cool breeze blew in with them.
I smiled, "Pretty fantastic huh?"
Standing up, Derrick happily said, "Hey dudes! Let's get you plugged in, Shaun."
Turning the fans on, Mike turned to his sister and said, "Leave the door open for a while."
In a few moments, we had Shaun's acoustic guitar connected to the PA. Shaun suggested, "Can we start with Hold My Hand? We all agreed and were soon starting the song with Shaun acoustic rhythm guitar. I had just begun singing the first verse when Shaun hollered, "Hold it!" The song fell apart and Shaun grinned, "I'm sorry, the blinking lights are distracting. Can we set all the front lights on and let the back lights flash?"
Derrick nodded, "I hadn't said anything but they are way distracting." Mike hurried over to the console and set all four front lights on, leaving the four rear lights on automatic. Then we started Hold My Hand again. It was much easier to concentrate without lights flashing in my face. I hadn't said anything because I figured it was something I needed to get used to. I thought I would miss Keith's harmony vocals at places but Derrick filled in nicely. Then we moved on to Sister Golden Hair, with Shaun singing lead vocals, and followed that with The Joker. While singing, I noticed it was getting dark out. Immediately after finishing the song, I asked, "What time is it?"
Derrick checked his watch, and replied, "A little before nine."
"I need to gather my toys and go home," I reluctantly said.
"Aw, come on dude," Mike whined.
But Derrick reminded, "It's their anniversary tomorrow." Gil, Shaun, Lindsay and her friend congratulated me.
Taking my bass off, I added, "And I still need to wrap Keith's present before he gets home at ten."
Gil said, "If that's all you're worried about, give me the box and some paper."
"Sweet!" Mike giggled, and then turned to his sister saying, "Get some wrapping paper, scissors and tape please?"
Lindsay smirked, "Because you said, please." She stood up, called Gil to follow into the house and I sincerely thanked them.
Derrick said, "We can only jam a little while longer. Stay for another half hour."
Mike excitedly pleaded, "We'll get you home and with a wrapped present."
I really did want to stay and picked my bass up grinning, "Since you put it that way!" So I stayed for another half an hour, during which I learned that Shaun was shopping for an electric guitar and amp. Mike and Derrick had seemingly talked Shaun into buying both from Carvin. We played Clapton's Runnin' On Faith, then Wild Horses and Tears Go By, by the Stones. Another small audience had gathered in the driveway, we noticed between tunes. Gil and Lindsay emerged from the house with Keith's DVD player, neatly wrapped and trimmed with a bow. Again, I thanked them and explained that I was horribly feeble with wrapping paper and tape.
Finished for the night, we stowed our gear. I also invited Gil and Shaun to follow us over our house so they could meet the rest of the family. They thought it was too late but, with a little prodding from Mike, Derrick and me, they caved. Of course, Mike and Shaun both brought their acoustic guitars. Derrick quickly grabbed his bongos and tambourine from his room. It was already ten when we pulled away from the curb.
On the way home, while Mike and Derrick rambled on about the new lighting system, I suddenly became concerned that maybe Keith was planning something more private. If he was naked in bed waiting for me again... and he promised other un-named surprises... oh my God!
Turning and grinning, Mike wondered, "Has the cat or anything else got your tongue?"
I smiled and sighed, "I think I should've called home first to let Keith know I was bringing guests."
In the rearview mirror, Derrick smiled widely and asked, "Why would Keith care?"
Nudging his seat, I loudly laughed, "You both know why!" and they chuckled evilly, denying they knew anything. I hollered, "You two need to create a diversion if Keith isn't in the living room or kitchen!"
Violently shaking his head, Mike laughed, "No! We're following you into the bedroom!" and Derrick howled as he turned into our neighborhood.
We parked in front of the house and Shaun parked across the street. Getting out of the car, Mike flashed the lickity-split signal and I nudged him.
Shaun loudly exclaimed, "What? Here and now?" Gil turned to his boyfriend, thoroughly confused. Starting for the house, I couldn't help but snicker while Shaun explained our signal. I opened the door and Rush hurried out to greet me. Then he went to Derrick and Mike. Gil started loudly laughing as I stepped inside to survey the situation.
Keith sat on the loveseat and smiled up at me. I grinned, "Boy; am I glad to see you!" Mr. Hundser briefly chortled and Mrs. Hundser looked up at me, appearing stunned but helplessly giggled. Keith stood, stole a kiss and smiled at the wrapped box under my arm.
Derrick came in behind me, with Mike leading Rush by the collar. "Hi," Derrick smiled. Keith parents said hello to Mike and Derrick.
Noticing Shaun practically climbing Gil, I asked, "Are you afraid of dogs?" and took my wired hound from Mike.
Stepping into the house attached to his boyfriend, Shaun giggled, "Not normally!"
Mike smirked, "You've got a gay dog, dude. There's something about Shaun that Rush is fascinated with!"
I moved aside with Rush and tried to calm the dog down. Keith led Gil and Shaun into the house and introduced them to his parents. Keith's parents stood and started for the entryway. Shaun and Gil met them halfway and the all shook hands. While everyone else was busy, I crept into our room with the dog and Keith's present. After sliding it up on the closet shelf, I took a moment to warn Rush to be nice and then opened the door.
Sitting on the sofa, Keith's folks were chatting with Shaun and Gil. I smiled at them as I passed and went into the kitchen with Keith, Mike and Derrick. But Rush stayed with Shaun and I heard him softly laugh, "Help!"
"Rush!" I hollered and he hurried to me. I opened the door and let him outside.
Keith came to me, planted a kiss and smiled, "Did you have a good day?"
I nodded and answered, "Excellent; I got a drum machine and speakers."
"And a lighting system too, I heard."
"The three of us; it's really cool," I chuckled.
Wrapping an arm around my waist, he smiled, "I can't wait to see it." Then he leaned close and whispered, "Let's save Gil and Shaun from the 'rents."
I turned and said, "Grab your axe, Mike. We'll hang out in the garage for a little while."
Leading Keith into the living room, we heard Gil sigh, "Chances are slim I'll ever be able to come out to my folks."
Mr. Hundser said, "You know them best but I'm sorry that you feel that way."
Mrs. Hundser nodded and added, "I'd be devastated if any of my boys felt that they couldn't come to me."
Taking a step closer to the loveseat where Shaun and Gil sat, Keith asked, "Would you like a soda or something dudes?"
Shaking his head, Gil smiled, "But if I could use the restroom?"
I said, "Sure man, this way," and started down the hall with Gil in tow.
Shaun said, "A glass of water would be great," and Keith went to the kitchen.
After showing Gil the bathroom, I went to our room and pulled my acoustic bass out then hurried to the living room. With a glass of water in one hand and a guitar case in the other, Shaun was now standing beside Keith. "It was nice meeting you," Shaun said.
Coming from the hallway, I stepped up from behind and goosed Keith with the bass case. Keith jumped and Shaun spun around chuckling heartily. Mrs. Hundser replied, "It was very nice meeting you too, Shaun."
Mr. Hundser locked eyes with me and softly reminded, "Work tomorrow."
I nodded, "There's no PA and we'll stop at eleven."
Keith, Shaun and I said goodnight then went to the garage. Derrick and Mike already had six folding chairs arranged in a circle in the middle of the garage. Keith joked, "Just make yourselves at home, why don't ya?"
Lightly tapping his bongos, Derrick asked, "Where's Gil?"
"In the toidy," I smiled, and got my bass out of its case.
Shaun put his case down and got his Ovation. We quickly tuned up and concentrated on the vocal harmonies of Sister Golden Hair. Shaun sang lead vocals with the four of us backing him up during the chorus'. About halfway through, Gil stepped into the garage and joined the circle. With Keith's amazing ear and voice to coach us along, we each knew what range to sing in. The result of the second full run-through was amazingly good. So good in fact, that Shaun suggested, "Why don't we try Seven Bridges Road? For a totally acoustic and vocal number, it can't be beat."
Obviously uncertain, Keith turned to me and I deeply sang, "There are stars in the southern sky. Southward as you go."
"Oh yeah," Keith smiled, "that's a cool tune."
Mike nodded, "We don't know it that well, and you'll need to get us started."
Shaun asked, "Ready Prez?" and I nodded. Shaun played a G chord and softly counted. Then we both began singing.
"There are stars in the southern sky. Southward as you go. There is moonlight and moss in the trees, down the seven bridges road." Shaun began strumming then we sang the rest of the song. When we finished, Shaun said, "That tune has a five part harmony, two between Prez and me with another on top. The third verse would just be two part harmony then the fourth verse is all five again."
I then repeated the first verse. Then all five of us tried only the first verse. Keith, Shaun and I did fine but Mike and Derrick were straying all over the middle. Giggling hysterically for a few moments, Keith then demonstrated where they should be singing. Once again we tried the first verse but then Keith's dad came to the door. We finished the verse and he smiled, "It sounds like a good start but we have to work in the morning."
Keith and I simultaneously said, "Okay dad." We all said good night and started putting our axes away.
Mike promised, "I'll find that tune and we'll practice it. At least we'll know the lyrics."
Folding his chair, Derrick said, "I'll bet your mom has it, if not then Doug definitely has it."
"I have a live version in my mom's record collection," I said, and then offered, "I'll put that tune and some other Eagles and America on a tape for you dudes."
Keith had folded a few chairs and returned to me saying, "Maybe you'll have it Thursday or Friday. We probably won't be around much tomorrow."
Wrapping my arms around his waist, I grinned, "Most likely not at all."
Mike sighed, "You're so married."
Keith said, "From that first night on the beach, we've wanted that."
"Now we just have to wait for the rest of society to catch up with us," I commented.
"Yeah," Gil softly groaned as if enlightened. "They really need to learn a thing or two."
"At least about tolerance and maybe concentrate more on compassion than competition," Keith said. With the garage cleared and everyone ready, Keith and I led our friends through the house. Rush followed us outside and was still fascinated with Shaun. My hound wanted to follow Shaun into his car! I grabbed hold of his collar and held him back and waved as our friends drove off.
Keith took my other hand and said, "Show me your new drum machine thingy."
Letting go of the dog and starting for the house, I explained, "It does everything, babe. I already plugged it into the PA at Mike's and it sounded fantastic. While it came with headphones, I got small monitors that plug into the headphone jack so we can both hear it." We stepped inside and Rush hurried past us to our bedroom. While we turned off lights and locked up, I said, "With a MIDI cable, I can attach it to Jessy's synthesizer."
"What's MIDI?" Keith asked as we started for our room.
"Musical instrument digital interface," I answered. "With a properly equipped computer, I could plug in a chain of keyboards and synthesizers and let the PC control them all."
Closing the bedroom door, Keith grinned, "Are you adding a PC to the list?"
Shaking my head, I said, "Not until next summer, before we start MI or college." I picked up the sack with the DR-5 and speakers then sat down to set it all up.
Joining me on the floor in front of the desk, Keith inspected the DR-5 and said, "Not to sound like a size queen or anything, but it's smaller than I expected. And there are no pads to tap with sticks."
Turning the speakers down so I wouldn't blast everyone awake, I said, "Each of these little buttons controls a different kind of drum or percussion sound," and turned everything on. Once the machine initialized, I pressed one of the small buttons to demonstrate and we heard a cymbal crash. Then I ran through some of the simple things I had learned about the machine. I played the demo song and then showed Keith the various pre-programmed patches. While we listened, I explained how versatile the unit was and that I already intended to use it at the dances.
My partner smiled, "You're really happy with this."
I excitedly said, "Oh definitely! For practicing, it's going to be great. And for live performances, it'll do a really good job. I can program entire songs with guitar or keyboards, just like the demo sequence."
"Some of that sounded like orchestras or big bands."
I nodded and smiled knowingly. "Picture our first dance in the main gym. Everybody leaves the stage but me and my drum machine. I'll play some dance tunes and slap bass, like I did at Mike's tonight. With the lights flashing in Mike's garage, it was almost mesmerizing. We eventually turned the front lights full on and left the back lights flashing. Of course, Mike and Derrick are ready to add all kinds of special effects, like fog machines, lasers, black lights and strobe lights."
Shaking his head, Keith snickered, "They will too; it's only a matter of time."
Noticing the clock in my peripheral vision, I waited a few seconds for midnight then smiled, "Happy Anniversary."
Keith swung around to look then leaned forward and kissed me. Feeling light headed and woozy, I gently held his face close to mine. Breaking away, my lover softly said, "Happy Anniversary, Preston. Around six-thirty tonight, we're going to get on our bikes and return to the corner where we met."
"That would be great!" I enthusiastically said. He was being so romantic and sincere that I couldn't help myself and asked, "Would you like your present?"
Keith smiled, "You even had it gift wrapped." I nodded and stood up then slid the box out from the closet. "The best part is, I don't have a clue what this is," Keith said as he took the box. "I tried to get Mike and Derrick to spill it." I chuckled and he began carefully removing the ribbon. He tore into the wrapping paper and saw only Sony then looked up, totally thrilled. A second later, he saw the Pink Panther DVD taped onto the top of the player box. "This is awesome!" he loudly said. "Omigod! Blockbuster's getting dozens of new DVD's every week." He chuckled, "I'll be veggin' the rest of the summer. Can't go out tonight baby, got a DVD to watch!" Covering my mouth, I laughed heartily. Keith pulled my hand down and kissed me again. Then he grinned, "Let's set it up now." I nodded and we both stood.
Soon, we had decided where to place the new deck and began moving the entertainment center. Keith took the DVD player out of the box and we attached the cables then set it in place. A few minutes later, the DVD player was connected to the TV and the receiver. Before moving the entertainment center again, we tested it out. Everything worked and Keith opened the Pink Panther DVD. He dropped it in the drawer and we sat on the edge of the bed. The Dolby advertisement played and the bed shook. Damn it was loud! I got up to turn the volume down but Keith got up too. He pulled a large box from behind the desk and smiled, "There's a present on me you get to try and find."
"Ooo!" I softly chuckled and then kissed him before opening my present. At first, as I shredded the wrapping paper, I only saw a blue box. When I tore past the center of the box, I was shocked to find the big script letters, 'A&F'. I smiled at him and enthusiastically opened the box. "When did you sneak away to get to A&F?" I happily wondered.
"I have my ways," Keith grinned.
Inside the box, on the very top was a pair of green board-shorts and I giggled, "I was so hoping for more beach clothes," and put the trunks aside. I lifted a layer of tissue paper and found an assortment of four T-shirts. One was a white muscle shirt with blue trim and I grinned knowingly at him. A lot of what Keith got me was various shades of green. He's always liked the way green brought out the color of my eyes. Under the T-shirts was a button-down sport shirt and below that a pair of shorts, the only blue item in the box. I got up, pulled my shirt off and said, "I wanna try everything on." Keith smiled and watched as I pushed my trunks off. He handed me the board-shorts and I put them on then slowly spun around.
Keith nodded his approval and smiled, "They show off your bubble butt."
I snickered and he handed me the white muscle shirt.
"That looks awesome on you, better than I imagined." Bending my knees, I assumed a surfing position and he snickered, "Did you forget I still have another present on me?"
As if I might've actually forgotten, I melodically sang, "That's right," and then climbed on the bed behind him. Starting at the top of his head, I softly ran my hands down his hair, inspected his ears and then around the collar of his Blockbuster polo shirt.
Cringing, Keith giggled, "That's tickles!" I smiled and continued my search, making it obvious that the present he had on him was beside the point when I toyed with his nipples. Finally, I got off the bed, lifted his arms and took his shirt off.
I hummed and wondered, "Something musical on you?" Smiling widely, he nodded and I pushed him back onto the bed. Kneeling down, I took his sneakers and socks off. Still finding nothing, I tickled his foot. Uncontrollably, he laughed loudly and curled his toes. I took my time feeling up his legs and under the legs of his shorts. He had a stiffie. Standing and hovering over him, I checked his pockets where I found his keys and money-clip. After I put his things on the dresser, I returned to the bed and reached under his ass. I softly said, "Roll over babe."
Keith giggled, "Nope!"
I huffed and pushed him over then grabbed his cheeks hard. Feeling something in his right side back pocket, I smiled, "What's this?" Keith offered no reply and I unbuttoned the pocket. Reaching my hand inside, I felt an envelope and pulled it out. Keith rolled over and watched as I opened the envelope. In my hand were two tickets for a concert at UCLA's Greek Theater on August seventh. Without even reading more than the main attraction, a band I had never heard of, I laughed, "Concert tickets! That's something musical - of course!"
Keith grinned, "I know we've never heard of Guster but Derrick said they're a popular college band. And two other bands are playing that night."
"It's gonna be great!" I excitedly said.
"Mike and Derrick are going too," Keith offered.
I was so happy and he seemed concerned that I didn't like them. Kneeling before him and taking his hands I assured, "The whole night will be the absolute best." Bubbling, I overflowed, "You got us concert tickets! That was very original. I couldn't figure it out!" Keith giggled and I said, "I will remember this night, and the night of our first concert, for the rest of my life."
He exhaled and softly smiled, "I'm relieved. It was a last minute thing Derrick told me about. He and Mike also mentioned that Clapton would be around but cheap seats in the nosebleed section were a hundred bucks a pop."
He nodded and said, "Two hundred for floor seats."
I grinned, "It is Clapton after all. The man's a living legend."
"This is outdoors and general admission. Derrick said the headliner was pretty good. I figured, since it would be at UCLA, we could make a day of it? Check out the campus, have dinner and go to the show."
"It sounds fabulous," I grinned and began kissing his hands.
"I'm glad you like it," he smiled, and pressed pause on the DVD remote.
"I love the tickets and the clothes and you most of all."
Pulling me up and on top of him on the bed, Keith said, "You got us a DVD player." I nodded and he admitted, "I was thinking two or three years from now the prices would go down."
Realizing his once hard cock had gone limp, I offered, "Now we don't have to wait."
"The picture is so much more defined. And the sound seemed louder than CD's."
I carefully nodded and whispered; "Now I'm stuck for a birthday present."
"I wonder if Mike and Derrick got us anything. We totally missed their anniversary."
Knowing that they had gotten us DVD's but wanting Keith surprised, I smiled, "They didn't even mention it until a few days before hand." Keith started softly caressing my back. After a minute, I groaned, "You're putting me to sleep."
He kissed me and whispered, "I've got you, baby; relax." He softly kissed my ear and continued rubbing.
"Wanna make love," I yawned.
"Tomorrow," he whispered.
Content and not finding the energy to move away from him for even a moment, I drifted off to sleep draped over him. About two hours later, I woke and pried myself off of my lover. We undressed, turned everything off and snuggled under the covers.