Don urgently went over the song structure one last time – main part four times instrumental, four with vocals, bridge, main two times, bridge, chorus, main four times, chorus, new part in D, bridge, outro – but all Abe could think about was how he’d never noticed that Don sounded a lot like that crank from Law and Order. Jerry someone. How long had Law and Order had been on television, anyway? Had he watched it as a kid? Was it as old as 60 Minutes? And why didn’t people on that show stop doing what they’re doing when they’re being questioned by detectives? Is the boss going to get pissed that the boxes didn’t get stacked because the employee was assisting with a murder investigation? Jerry Lewis! No, that wasn’t it. Jerry Ford? No. Jerry…
“Abe, are we good?! You ready?”
Abe nodded yes, though he wasn’t sure what he’d agreed he was ready for. He shook his head the way a guy who’d just taken a hard hit in football might, though in Abe’s case, the blow had been delivered by four shots of Glenlivet over the course of 42 minutes at the bar between sets. He looked down at the set list and saw New One and couldn’t remember them having a song with that title. “Wait, what are we doing?”
“The new one! I just told you.”
He really sounded like that Law and Order guy when he was pissed. “I can see it’s the new one, Donny. I’m asking which one that is.” He wondered if there was a way to get Don to say something legal or orderly, but the whiskey was pushing him pretty hard by then and he couldn’t remember any of the Jerry’s taglines. Book ‘em Dano? No, that was the Hawaii guy, Magnum PI.
“There’s only one new one, Abe. Starts in B? Then it’s four times instrumental, four with vocals, the bridge, main two times, bridge, chorus, main four times, chorus, new part in D, then the outro – Just like rehearsal.”
“A-oh-K, Donny.” Abe knew Don didn’t like being called Donny, which was why he said it. He also didn’t like how lately, Don acted like The Piranhas was his band. That’s a lot of chutzpah for bass player, he thought, and laughed at the thought of it. You never saw Rick Danko acting like he was Mick Jagger — Mick fuckin Jagger, he said in his head a few times like he imagined Keith would say it. “Mick fuckin Jagger”, he said out loud to try to get the accent right. He felt like he nailed it.
“Was that supposed to be a British accent?”
“It was no accident, man.” Abe tried to remember if Rick Danko was still alive. Why hadn’t there been another band like The Band? Was it because they were Canadian? He’d known a lot of musicians who didn’t like Canadian bands. It’s like racism, but doesn’t have to do with skin. Anyway, not liking Canadian bands was stupid since The Band was Canadian. Maybe the best band ever, even though he’d heard Robbie Robertson was a dick. Neil Young was Canadian. Hell, Canada could stop it’s resume right there and it would still be considered for the job, whatever the job was. Rock Central?
“Earth to Abe. Are you fuckin’ ready?”
Abe nodded, and as he waited for Ben’s count, he remembered. “Jerry Orville!” he yelled, satisfied, but when he heard it come back through the monitor, it didn’t sound right. Jerry Redenbacher? No, that was the popcorn pinhead. Who thought having that guy pitch popcorn was a good idea? He was like the bastard child of Mr. Rogers and Colonel Sanders. The Popcorn Colonel! Abe laughed out loud. “I just made up a joke. The Popcorn Colonel. Get it? Colonel? Kernel?” Abe tossed his head back in laughter and stumbled backwards into his amp. He reached for a cymbal stand to steady himself but missed.
“What the hell are you talking about, Abe?”
“Wait, just…wait.” Abe regained his balance. “Who was the old dude from Law and Order? The guy who never smiled. Tell me and I’ll be ready.”
Abe slowly made a fist. “Dammit, the popcorn colonel was so close. Who names their kid Orbach?”
“Maybe Mr. and Mrs. Orbach?”
Abe checked to make sure his guitar volume was up. “I can’t believe you guys didn’t get that popcorn colonel joke.” He shook his head again, then seemed to regret it. “Fuck it, let’s ready.”
Ben winked at Don and started the four-count with his sticks. As the rhythm section came in on the one, Abe came down hard and late with a mangled B-flat chord, the crowd wincing at the discord. Abe heard it too and decided he’d save the day but stomping on his fuzz pedal and playing lead through the whole song, but he misjudged the distance. As he stepped forward, his foot slid across the top of the pedal, simultaneously turning it on and spinning the gain knob to ten as his foot skipped past. The sudden shift in his center of gravity caused him to careen forward, his guitar suddenly screeching with feedback as the mic stand crashed to the stage and Abe toppled into the monitor. As Ben jumped up from behind his kit to switch off Abe’s amp, the shocked audience was treated to an inexplicable bellow from the collapsed guitarist. “Popcorn fuckin’ colonel!”
One guy in the crowd leaned toward his friend and said, “Was that supposed to be a British accent?”
© 2016 WPReagan. This is one story in the 2016 series, Everyday Stories: 30 Tales in 30 Days Inspired by 30 Stranger’s Photographs.