Crandall belted out the last few words and ended on a long note that left him breathless. As he closed his lips he threw his head and arms back, basking in the adrenaline of the performance. There was no audience, but he didn’t need their applause. He only needed to sing with every ounce of his existence. He’d done exactly that. As always. As he needed each performance to be. Perfect. Beautiful. Like his soul flew above everything else, soaring on the high notes and drifting around the lows.
“Alright,” Jon said, interrupting Crandall’s peaceful conclusion. “I have shit to do. We good?”
Crandall snorted and rolled his eyes, but did so with his back still to the group. Jon had almost cancelled, so he should be – according to Mike – grateful that they got any time at all to practice tonight. He’d needed this. The songs buoyed him in a way he couldn’t understand and never tried to explain. It would do. He’d prefer to keep going, but he’d had plenty to hold him over. For now.
“Yeah, okay.” Crandall paced to a cheap glass ashtray sitting on Jon’s amp. He picked up a roach and took a long toke.
“When’s the next show?” Jon ducked as he lifted the strap of his guitar over his head. He bent over to settle the guitar in its protective case.
“Undetermined.” Crandall exhaled a long stream of smoke and handed the roach to Jon.
“Friday,” Mike said. “We’re invited to Blood Moon, if you’re all in.”
“No,” Crandall said.
“Sure,” Jon said at the same time.
“Why not?” Beryl rounded on Crandall, trapping him against Jon’s amp.
“Fuck off.” Crandall side-stepped his bassist and strode across the room.
“You’re outvoted.” Beryl could be a stubborn bitch sometimes.
Crandall turned around and pointed a finger at her. “I’m not going there, so plan an instrumental set.”
“Stop,” Jon said stepping between them. “Crandall, what’s wrong with Blood Moon.”
Crandall opened his mouth, but his promises prevented the words he wanted to voice. Fuck. Stupid secrets. He closed his mouth, glared at Beryl, and then shifted his angry gaze to Mike. “They owner is a fucking asshole.”
Mike shrugged as Jon glanced toward him. “He can be, but he pays well.”
“It’s a set,” Jon said, “and one of the better ones we’ve been to over the past couple of years.”
“It’s a damn good place.” Beryl shrugged out of the strap and set her bass against a speaker. “Don’t do this because you’re pissed at me.”
“It has nothing to do with you. Don’t be so fucking stuck up.”
Mike stepped out from behind his set, and Crandall tensed. Mike liked to play referee, and Mike wanted to play the gig. Crandall glared at him, locking in with his hardest stare. “Crank,” Mike said softly. He looked away, and then looked back. “It’ll be fine. It’ll be fun.”
Crandall continued to stare through Mike, but Mike wasn’t deterred. “I’m in,” Mike said softly.
“Fuck.” Crandall could feel the tiny muscles in his jaw twitching as he ground his molars together.
“So, we’re good?”
“No, we’re not good.” Crandall looked away. He hadn’t told Mike about Nica’s visit. “I’m not going back there.”
Mike sighed, had the nerve to look sad and frustrated.
“Nica stopped by while we were at the Crane. She insisted we play Friday night.”
“And?” Beryl didn’t get it. She wouldn’t. Even if he tried to explain it to her, which he had no interest in doing.
“C’mon, man, you don’t have to talk to the owners. We’ll show up, play our set, and then take off. You can avoid everyone else before and after.”
“Sure, it’ll happen that way.” Crandall snatched the joint from Jon and plopped down on a metal folding chair to take a drag.
“So, confirm?” Beryl pushed.
“We’ll figure it out,” Mike said. “Okay?” He met Crandall’s glare and nodded.
Crandall stared over his right shoulder. He shrugged, and then nodded once, curt and shallow. For Mike, yes. If it wasn’t so important to Mike, he’d avoid the place with every last ounce of willpower left his in body.