TAKE FIVE • by Jeanne Holtzman

“Fuck you, Miller! I’m not speeding up. You’re dragging.” Jake jumps up and kicks the drum stand. The snare crashes to the floor. “Fucking loser,” he says, stomping out the door.

Not this shit again. I put down the mike and check my nails. At least it’s not my job to chill Jake out anymore.

Miller just stands there, holding his guitar like he’s got a broomstick up his ass. “Ever hear of a metronome?” he yells at Jake’s back.

“Elvis has left the building.” Stewy can’t wait to unplug his bass and run to the kitchen to call his girlfriend on his cell. They’re like a freak show, like Siamese twins or something.

I’m like, “Why’d ya hafta go and start up that shit again, Miller? Can’t we just get through one freakin song? I’m outta here by eleven.”

“Fucking prima donna.” Miller drops into the couch. Stinkbombs of wet dog and stale beer spew out. “He was speeding up.” Miller pulls his pipe and vial of weed out of his pocket.

Lights up, takes a big hit. Coughs.

“Maybe he was, Jake,” I say, “but now he’s probably out in his van doing lines. That’s gonna help.”

Stewy yells from the kitchen, “Maybe if you did some lines instead of sucking on that weed, Miller, you could keep up.”

“Shut up, asshole.”

I go, “Can’t we just run through the vocals, without the drums? I got better things to do than hang out in this dump all night staring at you goons.”

Miller runs his hand through his hair — what’s left of it. “Just because he looks like a rock star, he thinks he can play drums. We don’t need him. We can find a better drummer.”

“Maybe. But can we find one with a van and a PA system?”

That shuts Miller up. For a minute.

“You go talk to him, Rosie,” he says to me. “He’ll listen to you.”

“Just because we used to hook up, you think I have some kind of power over him? Why don’t you call that whore Diane?”

I haven’t been alone with Jake since I walked in on him and that fucking slut. I’ve been giving him the cold shoulder, and jiggling my hot ass in his face at gigs so he’ll see what he threw away.

“C’mon, Rose. Use your feminine wiles. This is a waste of time.”

What the hell, I might as well talk to him. It beats sitting here listening to Miller whine.

“Just like a man to send a woman to do the dirty work,” I say as I pick my way over the wires and through the amps.

When his uncle died and left him some cash, Miller bought this rat-hole outside of town for the band to practice in. The real estate agent called it a “fixer-upper”, but aside from cleaning up the cat shit that the hippies left behind, not much fixing up has gone down.

I crunch down the gravel driveway, and see the glow of Jake’s cigarette inside his van. I don’t know if I want to rip out his eyes, or rip off his clothes. Probably both. Maybe I should’ve stoked up on Miller’s weed before coming out here.

I climb in and let my eyes adjust to the moonlight. I can just make out bats swooping over the field. About a zillion crickets and katydids are chirping up a frenzy.

Sitting this close to Jake, I smell the machine oil from his day job. I know how hard he tries to scrub it off, but I think after breathing it in for eight hours, it just seeps out of his pores. Once I got used to it, it kinda turned me on. Must be like Pavlov’s dogs.

Smell oil — have hot sex. Smell oil — get wet to the knees.

Jake stubs out his cigarette, flicks it out the window, and grins at me.

“So, you finally figured out you can’t live without me, huh babe?” He leans toward me and puts his warm hand on my leg. I swat it off.

“Back off, dude. Miller sent me out here. This is band business.” I try to come off all ice-queen, but my inner dogs are drooling.

“That pompous prick. Just because he went to music school, he thinks he’s some kind of hot-shit musician. He fucking sucks. Can’t keep the beat worth shit.”

The skull tattoo on Jake’s forearm twitches. He never stops drumming his fingers. I remember how I used to take his hand and kiss each finger to try to calm him down. I sit on my hands.

“We all know he’s a jerk, Jake, but it’s his band and his house. Maybe you could find a different way to deal with him besides kicking over your drums and stomping off like a little kid.”

“Fucking asshole thinks he’s better than me. I should just quit this lame-ass band.”

“Yeah. That’s right. Do what you do best. Bail and look for something better.”

Jake reaches into his shirt pocket for his pack of Marlboros. Taps one out and lights it.

Blows the smoke out the window.

“Diane wasn’t better than you,” he finally says. His face and voice have gone all soft. I’m such a pathetic sucker for that tender-tough stuff.

“No shit, Sherlock.”

Before either of us gets to say anything else, Stewy shows up and sticks his head in my window, all pissy. “Are you two coming back in or what? I got plans.”

“Are we coming back? I don’t know.” I turn and look Jake in the eye. “I’m ready to go at it again. What about you, Jake? You wanna try again?”

“Yeah. Sure,” he says. “But I’m counting out the tunes, right, babe?” On the way back to the house, Jake gives my butt a little slap, and I giggle. I must be out of my fucking mind.

Jeanne Holtzman is an aging hippie, writer and women’s health care practitioner, not necessarily in that order. Born in the Bronx,   she prolonged her adolescence as long as possible in Vermont, and currently lives with her husband and daughter in Massachusetts. Her writing has appeared in such publications as The Providence Journal, Writer’s Digest, The First Line, Twilight Times, Flashquake, Salome, Hobart online, Hip Mama and The Iconoclast. You may reach Jeanne at J.holtzman@comcast.net.

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