tagHumor & SatireSend The Fools Further

Send The Fools Further

byNathanRavenwood©

The rest of the tour crew knew my one rule: never mess with the speaker when my playlist was on Motorhead. Especially if it was "We Are The Road Crew." So when I was under a riser platform tightening a few screws and all of a sudden the music stopped right before the solo, a soft, collective gasp rippled through the crew. I slowly scooted out from under the riser on my back, then sat up and looked to see who had the balls to silence Holy Lemmy.

Sam Forth of the duo of Sam and Sheila stood by the equipment case my phone was on. He hadn't shut the song itself off, but had dialed down the volume of the portable speaker to nothing. He was dressed in a turtleneck and sweats, and through the dense fog of irritation I though sweet Jesus that's an ugly fucking color.

"What do you want, Sam?" I asked. Being my boss technically, he was the only one who could turn off my music and not get cussed out.

"I need to talk to you, Lars," he said, tapping a manicured nail on the metal part of the box.

I sat there for a moment. Everyone around us went back to their business of putting Sam and Sheila's elaborate stage together. "What about?"

Sam rolled his eyes. "In private, please."

I grunted and got up, clapping grit off my hands. I whistled to my assistant, a gangly ginger guy named Lucas, and passed him my socket wrench. "Tighten the rest of the bolts while I'm gone," I said to him as I left.

I followed Sam through the back hallways of the arena he and Sheila were going to play in that evening. Though I use the term "play" rather loosely. I have respects for the pop artists of yore - MJ, Prince, Madonna, you get the idea. But Sam and Sheila played that more modern pop, the kind where the production is slick, the vocals are either mumbled or autotuned, the beats are assembled in a computer and each song has about five writing credits, and only one of them is the singer.

Call me old fashioned if you want.

Sam's dressing room actually had a star on it, and he didn't hold the door open for me as we both entered. The prick had his own craft services in here, complete with caviar. Fucking caviar!

There were two women in the room. The first was Sheila, leggy, blond and botoxed just enough that the tabloids didn't drag her for it. The other was one of her backup dancers, a girl who I dimly remembered was named Mei. She was college age, early twenties or so, with a round, friendly face, a cute nose, and striking blue eyes framed by thick black glasses. Both women wore sweats and tour t-shirts.

"What's with the pow wow, Sam?" I asked, forcing myself to look at him and not the delicious catering cornucopia off to my right.

Sam turned on his heel and sat down in a chair next to his paramour. "Seeing as, Lars, this is the last show of the tour before we go on sabbatical and head overseas in two weeks, She and I decided that we wanted to... spice up tonight's show."

I jabbed a finger at him. "I'm not doing that thing with the risers. It's dangerous and you could hurt yourself."

Sam scoffed. "Lars, Lars, relax. You made your point about that the first dozen times I've asked, and I totally respect your wishes. No, this is something completely different."

"We want it to be a surprise for everyone, including you two," Sheila said, running a finger along Sam's chin. "But someone has to go get it, so we're sending the two of you on a mission."

Mei pushed her glasses up her nose with a finger in a motion that was strangely adorable. "Where are we going?" she asked, her voice carrying the faintest hint of a Chinese accent. "What do we have to do?"

Sheila reached behind her on her dressing stand and grabbed a sealed envelope. There was an address scrawled on the front in pen. "Just take this letter, dearie, and head to this address. The people there will know what to do."

I folded my arms. "Sam, the stage isn't fully setup yet. I can't go traipsing around on some stupid errand - we're six hours until go time and we still need to do sound checks and-"

"Lars, relax," Sam said, making a palms down motion with his hands. "Take a chill pill. You've got a whole crew of roadies here that know how to do the setup, they can handle things." He brought his hands together. "Please, buddy, it's for the show! I know how much you care about the show. Don't you want it to be as good as it can be?"

I dipped my head, thinking for a bit. It had been a long few months dealing with Sam and his crap. He was a needy little primadonna, always bitching about something or another. A few hours away from him sounded like heaven. But could the rest of the guys really get it done?

Sam held up a finger. "Tell you what. I will write you a check for a thousand dollars, right now, if you do this for me."

I sighed. He knew my weakness. "Alright, fine."

"Excellent!" Sheila cooed as Sam quickly made good in his promise. She passed Mei the sealed envelope. "And remember, no peeking at what's inside. It's a surprise!"

Sam pressed the check into my hand. "I knew I could trust you, Lars. Now hurry hurry. Like you said, six hours to showtime!"

The two pop starlets pushed me and Mei out of the dressing room and shut the door behind us. It was almost cartoonish. Both of us turned to look at the door, then at each other for a long moment. "So..." Mei said. She held out her hand. "Mei Parker. Nice to, um, meet you!"

I shook it gently, my meaty mitt engulfing her hand completely. "Lars Zetro."

Mei drew her hand back, her arms rigid at her sides. "Well, good, okay! Should we, erm... get going?"

"Just let me make a pitstop backstage real quick."

The two of us walked back through the concrete back halls of the arena until we came to where the roadies were. Lucas was busy doing as I'd told him with the bolts under the riser, and I explained things to him quickly.

"I'm going to be gone for an hour or two, tops," I said. "You know how everything works, just run things until I get back okay?"

"No problem, boss." Lucas gave me a fist-bump as I left with Mei in tow.

We walked out of one of the arena backdoors, and I fished my rental car keys out of my pocket. I'd made sure to get the rental written into my contract. Slumming it on the buses of a rock tour was one thing, but I had no patience for the army of tailors, hairdressers, and PR people that Sam and Sheila commanded. It was me, Lucas, and a few others in the car, trading off driving duties between towns and catching sleep where we could. Rough on our sleep schedules yes, but far easier to deal with than the alternative.

Mei actually had to pull herself up into the compact SUV. "So this is the dude mobile?" she asked. Her nose wrinkled and she blanched. "Eugh, smells like it."

"That is the delicate bouquet of man stink and Old Spice," I said, twisting the keys so the car purred to life. "New from Giorgio Armani, available for eighty-nine ninety-nine at your local high end outlet mall."

Mei snorted, the sound cute. "Please. If it was Armani it'd be more expensive."

"You'd know that better than me," I said, firing up the GPS. "Where are we headed again?"

Mei read me the address. "Place is called Rigby's. I think it's on the north part of town," she said.

I grabbed the free end of the AUX cord and plugged my phone in. Mindful of my company, I skimmed over the death metal in my playlist and settled on some more classic stuff. Mei made a face as we left the parking garage with a German drinking song playing. "What exactly are we listening to?" she asked.

"Give it a moment."

As soon as I finished the sentence the vocals ripped free of the speakers, the guitars and drums following close behind. "Motherfucking Accept," I said as I began to follow the GPS trail out of the parking lot and onto the roads.

Mei stared at the stereo for a few moments as the classic metal soared, then tactfully reached up and turned the volume down a few notches. "I'd like to be able to hear during the show tonight, thanks," she said.

I raised a finger as I took the turn onto the highway. "I'll allow it. If you were one of the guys you'd owe me a beer."

Her brow furrowed. "Why's that?"

"Driver commands the stereo and all related apperati. Rules are rules."

She snorted. "Since when does the driver do that? Where I come from it's the shotgun that takes care of that."

"Uh uh." I shook my head. "Driver controls the tunes."

"No way! Driver drives, shotgun controls the music and navigates, backseat is on snack duty." Her blue eyes glittered. "It's the optimal setup."

"Optimal my left foot," I grumbled.

We lapsed into silence for a while as the song ended, and the shuffle ticked over to some Judas Priest as we crossed town on the band of Interstate that wound its way through the city. It was relatively low-key as far as cities go, with most of the skyscrapers occupying a few square miles of land near the bay with the buildings getting shorter and flatter the further out you went. But it had an amphitheater that played host to a hockey team and could be easily converted into a concert space, so here we were making a stop. I'd been here once or twice before, and I dimly recognized the neighborhoods I'd visited before, the one and two-story buildings of an older, more run-down section. Tucked down there were death metal bars and hole in the wall venues that took all comers, from rap to metal to whatever the heck retrowave was.

After an uncomfortably long time of not saying anything, Mei piped up as she bobbed her head in time with the riff to a Sabbath B-side. "I know this one. My dad used to listen to it in the garage while he worked on his car."

"What kind of car?"

She shook her head. "Never paid attention, really. Something low and boxy."

I took a turn off the highway, checking the GPS to make sure were on the right track. "Valiant? Firebird?"

"Dunno." Mei leaned back in the seat, her eyes looking me up and down. "You seem like... I don't know, the exact opposite of what a roadie for Sam and Sheila would be like. You're way more old school, classic rock. What brought you out of the bars and onto the pop stage?"

I stopped at a light and turned in the seat to look at her. "Who wants to know?"

Mei blushed and looked away. "W-well, I mean..."

I chuckled and patted her shoulder. "No worries." The light turned green and I accelerated slowly, keeping one eye on the GPS and another on the road as we went. "Money. I'm a month behind on my house payment. While touring with metal and rock bands is nice, it's not exactly the best way to pay the bills." I shrugged. "Heard S and S needed a roadie and for what they offered it was too good to pass up."

Mei put her head in her hand and stared out the window, the afternoon sun playing off her glasses. "Well, you've lasted longer than the last head stage tech. He only put up with Sam for a month before bailing."

We were getting close, the GPS indicating we would be at our destination in five minutes. "No question why," I said, turning into a neighborhood. "If the money weren't as good as it was I'd have left back in Kansas when he tried to hit me with the beer bottle." I looked at her for a moment. "What about you? What brought you on this tour de force?"

She fidgeted. "Well, um... hmm." She didn't say anything else beyond that. I knew a touchy subject when I heard one, so I buttoned up my lip and focused on getting us the rest of the way to where we were going.

We pulled into a single story plaza. You know the kind - the ones that have a grocery store or Walmart as their centerpiece with other assorted shops taking up the spaces around it. Usually one or two of them are vacant with For Sale signs in the smudged windows. This one had a whopping four, all of them at the very end. The GPS was pointing us to the shop right before the vacant ones, which I hoped wasn't some kind of omen. A sign on the side of the building proclaimed it as Rigby's Records.

Mei and I got out of the car and walked up to the storefront. The windows were blacked out, though upon closer inspection I saw that it was actually large pieces of black paper taped in the corners and at regular intervals along the inside of the windows. "This looks like your kind of place," Mei said, her hands on her hips. Her posture made her tank top lift slightly, exposing a line of skin around her waist that my eyes lingered on for a moment longer than was probably proper.

"It honestly does," I agreed, grabbing hold of the door. "Be ready for anything. The fact that Sam sent us here makes me feel like something's up."

Despite my paranoia, the inside of the record store was pretty normal. Rows and rows of vinyls were set up in boxes lining the tables, ripe for flitting through. Each table had a few placeholders indicating what types of records were on a given table. The walls were lined with vintage rock posters from the 70s and 80s, as if they'd been yanked from my childhood room and plastered up. A few ceiling fans turned lazily overhead.

Behind the counter was a guy who looked about my age with his feet propped up, watching something on a laptop with some Chinese takeout in his hands. He perked up as we walked in. "Hey, guys," he said in a scratchy voice. "What can I do for ya?"

I walked up to the counter and fished the letter out of my pocket. "We just came from the arena across town," I said. "We're with Sam and Sheila, the pop act. They sent us here with this letter for you, said it was a big secret or something."

Counter Guy made a face and took the letter from me. He slit the envelope with a letter opener that looked like a guitar. As he took the letter out and read it, I turned and watched Mei. She was poking around the shop, her slender fingers flipping through a box of vinyls. Her lips silently mouthed the titles of the artists, and every so often I'd see the tip of her tongue flit across her bottom lip. The motion was quick, but when you've spent your whole life working around guitarists who play wicked fast, you learn to catch motions like it. I watched it happen a few times, consciously reigning in my brain before it wandered down imagining that tongue and those lips engaged in other activities.

"Hey, buddy."

I started and turned back to the clerk. "Uh, yeah?"

The guy was sealing a new envelope with his tongue. "You gotta take this thing to a different place. Your boss got the wrong Rigby's."

My brow furrowed. "Uh, what?"

He passed the envelope back to me. "You got the wrong Rigby's. There's another place across town, I put the address on the envelope. Don't worry, people get my place and theirs mixed up all the times." He offered me a sympathetic smile. "Google Maps, right?"

I sighed and took the envelope back. "Yeah. Google Maps. Thanks, buddy."

Mei joined me as I walked back through the store. "So where do we have to go?"

I punched the new address into my phone as we got back in the car. After the app computed for a moment, I sighed and leaned back into the seat. "Back across fucking town." I checked my watch. Three hours to showtime. We could still make it.

"Well," Mei said, patting my arm on the center console. "No use sitting around here grousing about it. Let's get going."

"Yeah." I put the car in gear and got us out of the plaza and back onto the highway. We got stuck at a red light for a few minutes, leading me to drumming my fingers on the steering wheel.

"Money."

I looked at her. "Hm?"

"Money. That's my reason too." Mei sighed and leaned back in her seat. Her eyes were closed against the setting sun shining through the passenger window. "College tuition isn't going to pay for itself, you know."

I kept tapping my fingers against the steering wheel. "I wouldn't know. Didn't go." The light turned green and I hit the gas.

"You never went to college?"

"Nope," I said, popping my lips on the P. "Finished high school, immediately went on the road with a friend's band doing stage stuff. Got paid fifty bucks a night." I smiled. "Good times."

Mei smiled. "Sometimes I wonder if maybe that was the better decision. I went to college because I felt like I had to. Did my time, in and out with a degree in four years."

"What was your major?"

"Music theory. I play the violin."

I was taken aback as I changed lanes on the highway. "Wait - if you play the violin, then what the actual hell are you doing here on this tour?"

"Money, you doof!" Mei laughed. "I just said that!"

I coughed. "Well, what I meant was-!"

"I know, I know," Mei waved me off. "I haven't been able to do anything with my degree since I finished school, and like you said, bills don't pay themselves." She blushed a little. "I used to do some... dancing back when. It's how I was able to get through college."

I had been around the block enough times and in enough dingy bars and clubs to know exactly what kind of "dancing" she was probably referring to. She obviously didn't like talking about it, so I wasn't about to force the conversation. So I steered it in a different direction. "Do you like being a part of Sheila's group?"

"Ugh." Mei took off her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Gives me a damn headache working for that bitch."

"Harsh."

She gave me a sidelong look, her eyes just as striking without the glasses in front of them. "Please, like you truly enjoy working for Sam."

I snorted. "Oh, for sure! Who wouldn't love working for an egomaniacal pop star who's constantly pestering you about how high you can make the stage rise and 'can't you just get it up another ten feet so the spotlight hits him just right,' and you constantly tell him no, because it's a freaking safety hazard and my job is to keep everyone onstage safe." The car noise was getting obnoxious, so I used one hand to cue up some more tunes while I drove.

"And I just love working for a starlet with her head up her own ass who always sticks me at the back of the dancers because, and I quote, 'my nose is too big.'"

I turned to look at her. "It is not!"

"Right?" Mei poked and prodded at her face. "I have a cute nose."

"You totally do!" It slipped out before I could stop myself, and I immediately tried to recover. "Well, I, erm, what I meant was-" She's a decade your junior, Lars, way to be a creep.

Mei giggled and brushed a lock of her hair behind her ear. "Well, thank you, you handsome roadie you."

I coughed politely, and we lapsed into silence for the rest of the trip to our next destination, carried on by more Priest.

The second Rigby's turned out to be a clothing boutique, which begged a question as I got out of the car. "Why would a ladies' clothing store be named after a dude?" I wondered aloud as we got out, the sun beginning to set.

"Beats me," Mei said.

I held the door to the place open for her, and we both walked inside. The air smelled much cleaner than in the record store, piped through vents in the ceiling. There were round racks of clothes from wall to wall, starting with plain shirts, blouses and pants in the front and moving towards more... racier garments in the back. We weren't the only ones there, a few other women searching for their next outfit in the store. The counter took up the entire back wall, manned by two ladies who were reading a fashion magazine. Next to the counter was a curtained off area with red neon lights proclaiming it to be The Fun Zone. I pointed it out to Mei, saying nothing. She let out a noise that was somewhere between a giggle and a snort, and I felt my soul brighten a little bit.

The two ladies at the front perked up as we walked in. "Hello!" one of them chirped. "What can we do for you?"

Mei tapped my side. "Let me have the letter, I'll handle this one."

"By all means."

Mei beamed at me. "Thank you much." She walked up to the counter, and I hung back a little, trying to keep my eyes from wandering around or looking at her. I checked my phone while cocking one ear towards the conversation Mei was having with the clerks. It was six forty-three. Sam and Sheila went on at eight. We would have to boogie to get back to the arena in time for the show.

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