One To Remember
A simple unyielding heat radiated around in the air, absorbing into his exposed arms and legs, though still, the rest of him that was covered sweated like a nervous pig. The curves of his muscles were small and his limbs were long and thin. He didn't work out like his beef cake brother. Sitting in his half lit room he remembered he didn't much care for these times. Time spent too long in one place made him nostalgic and uneasy. He needed to run wild and free. He needed to be the black stallion that roamed the endless plains and valleys and hills of the earth, never stopping but to rest, gaze a moment at the countryside, eat his fill and move on. Randy, his older brother jokingly called him a traveling musician, because he drove a beat up old ford van and carried his guitar in its case in the back with the rest of his luggage. He didn't play for money, though. Not since Charlie died. Same old song and dance, you could say. He wiped the beads of sweat from his forehead half covered with his stringy black bangs, wiping that onto the leg of his jean shorts. Almost 100° outside in the sunny city of Sarasota today. He had been staring past the muted television on its wooden stand against the far wall, ever since he came in to sit down. His eyes came into focus with the dizzying images on the screen. The carpeting wasn't easy on him but what was these days? Won't be too much longer now. He thought, reaching for the remote at his side and turning the images to black. He tried not to think of Charlie too often or the burden of it all would make things just that much harder to deal with and he needed a clear head for what was coming next.
His fingers and down over his hands were streaked with black grease from his earlier efforts at replacing several main components under his hood. He came back here, to his home, from being long on the road, traveling across the states, half expecting to be greeted by his folks but only his brother occupied the little red brick house on Maison Street, that he had called his permanent residence for so many grueling childhood years. Randy said they had left several days before on a trip to Vegas to try and reclaim their youth and to renew their marital vows. Well good for them. Randy had spouted sarcastically. They got along fine as brothers usually do, though they went different paths in life. He had always been a drifter throughout high school, while Randy remained the ever-popular weightlifter and resident wrestling champ. Thankfully they both never had to share a room together during their school years. Their parents were of the rather unconventional sort and so they had always been free to explore themselves and their world as they saw fit. I can't really say yet whether their method of raising us kids was all that great but it was probably better than being suffocated under tons of rules and regulations. He scratched the back of his head, standing up with a sigh and walking out of his room, down the stairs and right out the front door into the unforgiving sun to lean his hands against the heated metal edge that left his fingers to leak over into the dust and grease covered junk yard that passed for a working vehicle under his dented hood.
With the front of the van turned away from the quiet neighborhood road, and his head buried, peering and tweaking things he didn't even hear his brother's sporty red convertible pull up beside him until he got out and slammed the door, a small cloud of smoke blew next to his left side, as the burley man went inside, dark blue shorts, shaved head, black muscle shirt, cigarette and all, paying him no notice. This distracted his thoughts a moment and he stared at the door out of the corner of his eyes wondering what Randy could be up to. He looked back at his problem forgetting it. Probably a lot of things I don't want to know about. Besides, he's a big boy now. Any shit hole's he finds himself in are his fault. He reached his hand down and tightened a loose nut. Good thing I'll be gone before he has time to ask me to pull him out. He went around and jumped into the driver's seat, starting the engine. He was greeted with a rev and a steady roar that meant he had finally solved the problem that had plagued his leaving for days. He wanted to be out on the road again. His eye caught the tiny rectangular photo dangling on a string from his rearview. The memories of the good days gone past resurfaced. Charlie had been more than just a friend traveling with him on the road. He looked away and got out, going inside to wash his hands in the kitchen sink. The house was strangely quiet despite the rush of the water from the faucet, and the slippery smacking sound as he washed the orange dish soap from off his palms and from in between his fingers.
Randy was never known for doing things softly and unless he was in the shower, the calm in the air was an odd but welcome thing, since for the past week since he's been here, he was nothing but loud and restless, inviting his buddies and their girlfriends over for parties. I usually locked my bedroom door and went for walks when that happened. I wasn't really fond of that kind of scene. Well, not when Randy was host, anyway. He was a show off, simply put. He got by in school by bribing the smart kids, or threatening them, whichever worked, and now he's getting through college the same way. The only reason he got in was because he was good at Wrestling. Me? I got by well enough. I didn't like school that much though. All my teachers were uptight and cared only about the money they made and not about the kids they taught. It was kind of sad, really, but who was I to complain? Charlie shared most of my classes so we were always writing encrypted notes back and forth; joking about our teachers, talking about music, planning local shows that we thought we could get on the bill to go to. We didn't really have a name back then, we just usually made one up. After high school we both decided to skip college and go on the road to see if we could become big. Since we traveled a lot we decided to call ourselves 'Drift'. Charlie Moore on drums, and me, Brent Turner, on guitar and vocals.
"Oh little brother…" Came Randy's usual mocking tone from upstairs, as his heavy steps came down the stairs. I retreated out of my blank nostalgia, looking down to see my hands resting on the edge of the metal sink, the water still running down the drain like a miniature waterfall as the mass that was my brother came into view as I looked out over the bar counter just beyond the sink. He gave me a toothy grin, leaning his elbow on the bar, staring at me outright. I looked down turning off the faucet, asking as I dried my hands on a dish cloth, a little tiredly and irritatingly. "What is it?" He raised a thick eyebrow. "So, are you leaving soon?" I glanced back at him quickly, giving a fake, friendly smile. "Uh, yes." I turned to open the fridge, searching with my eyes, until finally grabbing a can of Heineken and turning, almost running head first into his chest. He had moved next to me, so I moved around him, eyes down, going upstairs to sit and drink alone, hoping he wouldn't follow. As soon as the door was shut and I was sitting on my small bed, looking out the window across the lawns of other people's homes, the clomp of footsteps could be heard coming up the stairs but thankfully it seemed to go on down the hall. I almost dropped the can, just opened, as my door flung open and like a father figure who had found out something bad I had done, I swiveled to see Randy stepping over the threshold into my space. I was never really afraid of him he just surprised me sometimes.
He stared me down like I was some weakling he was about to wrestle to the ground and put into a headlock in one of his matches. He had deep brown eyes that almost seemed like these two black holes when the light wasn't on them. He relaxed his muscles and walked up near me, yet still keeping his distance, as he folded his arms across his chest. He gave me what looked like the first real sincere smile since I'd arrived and said, "It's good to see you again, Brent." He paused. He seemed a tad uneasy at keeping this sort of sincerity up. "I thought there was someone you might want to meet before you left." His honest tone made me strangely curious as to his motives, but I kept on listening. "Met him yesterday outside the gym." Him. I ran the word over in my head. "So, who is he?" I asked casually, taking a sip from my beer. "Hell if I know." He furrowed his eyebrows down a moment, then reached into the front pocket of his gym shorts and handed a torn off, small white slip of paper in my direction. I took it quickly and opened the fold, reading. It was an address and a date and time, scrawled in his usual chicken scratch hand writing. "Thought the least I could do is hand it to you since it seems the party's going to be tonight." He grinned slightly, retreating out of honest-land and back into the wide world of Randy 'The Ravager' Turner. I wasn't sure about it really. Sounded like one of his old set ups. "So, what does he want to meet me for?" He rubbed his clean shaven chin between his thumb and index finger for a moment, thinking. "Well, most he told me was that he's a fan of the band you and your late buddy used to have and that he really wanted to meet you. I told him it was only you, but he still insisted on the meeting so I got that from him." He smiled and said as he turned to walk out, "Too bad it wasn't a cute young lady. I might have never given you that piece of paper." And then slammed my door shut as I heard his footsteps go back down the stairs again.
I stared at the words on the piece of paper, my beer sweating drops of water that soaked into my hand and dripped from the bottom edge, landing on my leg, until I reached down to wipe it away and sit the can on an old coaster on the night stand beside me. The address was the entrance to the local beach, and the time was probably soon; 7:30pm. The red digital display on the clock on my night stand read 6:45pm. I knew the air along the beach at night was cooler than the sun heated warmth of the daytime, so I decided to do it. I mean, what do I have to loose? Besides, he's probably some guy from high school me and Charlie used to know, who came to our, well, two shows back then. He pulled off his worn out red and gray tennis shoes to get his jean shorts down and opened his third drawer down pulling out the pair of pants that happen to be on the top of the stack, buttoning and zipping them up, and replacing his shoes, while sitting on the edge of his bed. He stuffed the address into his front pocket after tying his laces quickly. Still wearing the same brown t-shirt he had worn all through his work earlier, he left his beer where it sat, and went downstairs, noticing for a moment as he went past that Randy was on his cell phone speaking in some mockery of suaveness, probably to some poor young woman; now a prospect of his lofty come and go fancies. I walked out mostly unnoticed seeing as he had his back to me and shut the front door. I got in the van, pulling out and driving down through the neighborhood roads finally merging into the town streets. I sat inside the lanes of traffic, barely seeing the horizon of the ocean beyond the tops of the cars.
I usually left the windows rolled down allowing the breeze to serve as my air conditioning, as the sun began to set. The sky above as I parked near the entrance to the shore was a watercolor painting of light blues and vanilla crèmes against the sharp edged waves of the ocean. At first the beach seemed almost empty, the scant few people left getting in their cars to go home for the night. I decided to grab my guitar out of its case in the back and sit out in the open, striking some old chords and just wait for this guy to show. Couldn't hurt. The sand as I walked across it was like the surface of some foreign planet, full of odd shaped pit holes of varying sizes. Walking easily over, I spotted a small but long rock ledge like a tiny bridge from the land spilling out into the water. I climbed across it and sat down as comfortably as I could near the middle and as I looked around, a memory came to the surface. I knew this ledge looked familiar. This is where I found him sitting after he ran off. See, Charlie liked to hang with me so much the more because his home life sucked. My parents were always nice to him when he came over, though. My hands where in the position for striking notes but were still as I thought. I was more concerned at the time about him when he turned up missing from school for a few days than his parents were, I think. I even took a sick day off myself to go with my mom to look for him around town. When I found him that night, he wasn't all that scared or anything. We were freshmen in high school then, after all. We had to get over being a kid sometime, but he was glad to see me.
I remember Charlie as my twin. We both had long skinny legs, short black hair, blue eyes, pale skin and even similar ideas. The only difference between us, really, was that Charlie was always the quiet kind. I remember the night I found him he was very quiet and even throughout most of our supposed to be college days, when we were traveling from state to state, I had to coax the conversations out of him. He started out with a few familiar notes that belted out into a full song. It was the only slower paced song they ever performed together as a duo, but as he remembered, it was the one that went over the best with most of the crowds they played for, strange enough. He knew the beach was solitary and empty and his voice broke through and filled the salty sea air. Before he realized, as he neared toward the end of the song, a tall figure had come up to stand beside him. He trailed off and then stopped altogether, ready to go on the defensive, as he stared up at the man. He was wearing a pair of baggy jeans and a black sweatshirt, his hands resting inside his pockets. His face was barely visible from under his hood, but a smile was clearly visible on his thin lips. He had a small voice as he spoke, finally. "That was really good." He paused. "One to remember."
I was staring, unblinking at this figure that I wasn't sure was either friend or foe at this point. Maybe this was the guy I was supposed to meet? I stood up, guitar in hand and then reached into my pocket to pull out the slip of paper and asked of him reluctantly. "Are you the one my brother met at the gym?" He looked at me a moment, and I wasn't certain if he was looking at me or past me until another smile creep up and he shifted his weight slightly, looking down quickly, as if embarrassed. "Yea. That was me." He took the paper and looked at it quickly and said, turning it over, and holding it out to me. "See? Says, 'To Brent Turner. The best front man in all of Sarasota.'" I hadn't even realized there was anything on the back. I guess I was in a hurry before. I took it back from his slender hand and looked it over quickly before looking back at him. For some reason I always remembered Charlie's death the most out of all the other family or friends that have died around me throughout my life. The guy must have noticed my solemn face because he took his hands out of his pockets and let them hang at his sides. "Sorry to hear about your second half, and all." I looked at him. "Cut throat at a Minnesota after show party," I blinked my eyes a little wide. "Right?"
I wasn't sure what to say to him. He couldn't have known that unless by some strange coincidence he was at the show we did in Minnesota two years ago. Well, he did say he was a big fan... "Look, I'm sorry for intruding. Thanks for talking to me." He reached out a hand for me to shake, smiling sincerely. As I shook it back, he pulled me forward into a close hug, that was not at all friendly and when I pulled away from him with a mildly frightened look on my face, I got a better idea of the shape of his face with his quiet, bemused grin and pale features, but I didn't get long to stare in bewilderment, before he caught me, unguarded, gripping me tightly with his arms and leaned his face forward, to kiss me. I was taken by surprise. It was the same kiss given to me by Charlie the night before he was killed. I was surprised then too. I guess he was so excited by the massive crowd applause in the club, that words failed him, just as they fail me now. I reached up behind him and gripped his hood, pulling it over his head, and the person I saw underneath was for all intents and purposes, Michael Charlie Moore. He let go of me and smiled, not explaining himself but rather saying, "I think I've over stayed my welcome. I should be going now..." before turning and running back up the beach. I put my guitar down, running after but he was ahead of me and as he rounded the corner of the deserted club house, as did I, but he was gone. I searched the beach ten times over until it became too dark to see everything clearly without a flashlight, so I grabbed my guitar and walked slowly back to my van, intent on hitting the road again, tomorrow just as I had said and just as I'm sure 'The best drummer in all of Sarasota' would have wanted me to.
(c) 2002 Allison F. V.