"Stuart!" A tiny seven-year old boy waved his hand wildly. "Look at me!" With his other hand, he arched his fingers over the keyboard and then pounded out a loud, off-key rendition of 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." that shook the rafters and drove the only other customer out of Uncle Norm's Organ Emporium with his hands over his ears and crying something about 'tinnitus'.
His ears still ringing, Stuart quickly disconnected the keyboard from the speaker system before the boy could turn around. When he did, Stuart grinned just a little too broadly to be sincere, which the little second-grade boy failed to notice. "That was really good, Adam! You have been practicing!"
The blonde boy gave him an impish grin. "No, that's just what I told Teacher and my mum. I haven't touched my piano in months."
Stuart nodded, his messy hair dipping upwards for a second. His best feature, he had realized a long time ago, was his hair. Even though it was a nondescript shade of black, it was very slick and looked quite good in a variety of styles, even though he rarely, if ever, combed it into something different then his morning bed-head. Even then, it looked pretty snazzy.
"It doesn't show." Stuart replied, lying through his missing front teeth. "You've got real talent."
"Adam!" The boy's mother called from the front counter. "Quit harassing the clerk and get over here!"
The boy rolled his eyes. "Bye Stu!" he called, racing out of the store and knocking over an expensive keyboard in his hurry. The instrument toppled over with a crash that sent a chill down Stuart's spine.
The tiny electronic device that told Stuart if a customer entered or left the store beeped a cheery melody as the door swung shut. Stuart stared at the remains of the keyboard. He had already destroyed several pianos, electronic keyboards, synthesizers and organs by accident during his three years working in the Organ Emporium. Mostly he had wrecked them the same was as Adam had: not paying attention and just walking / jumping /tripping/ dancing into them and then, whoopee, down they'd go.
Obediently, he quickly bent over and pulled the keyboard back onto its stand. The black plastic case of the keyboard had cracked, and the electronic guts had spilled onto the ratty carpeting. There was no doubt in Stuart's mind that it was deader then dead.
"Uncle" Norm came out from his office in the back, smoking a fat cigar. He stopped in front of the wrecked keyboard, looked at Stuart, then back at the keyboard. He bit clean through the end of his cigar.
Stuart felt all the blood drain from his face. Not a good sign. While he had narrowly avoided being fired the last few times (as he was the only employee in Uncle Norm's Organ Emporium besides Uncle Norm), his paycheck had been reduced to what his girlfriend called 'sub-Chinese sweatshop wages' to cover the damages. He could only imagine what would happen to his already-meager salary.
The flood of shouted swears, spit and the tiny flecks of Norm's cigars that soon followed did nothing to reassure Stuart that he just might be able to weasel out of this mess with his pay more or less the same.
All in all, just another normal Saturday afternoon.
Satan's Scrotum had just played their last gig. Most of their equipment had been trashed in a drunken brawl with the audience with the bassist just lucid enough to save his dearly loved Flying V from total annihilation. Everything else was just plain gone, reduced to little more then woodchips and scrap metal.
Inside a deteriorating Winnebago, the rescued Flying V bass guitar, nicknamed 'El Diablo', was propped up against the table where the four members sat, smoking and drinking in sullen silence.
Murdoc Niccals drummed his fingers against the bass' peghead. "So that's it then? The band is done for?"
The other four men didn't reply.
He leaned back in his chair, taking a long drag from his cigarette. "Fuck you all then." Murdoc waited for the usual retorts from his band members, but none came. "For Satan's sake, someone say something. I feel like I'm at a fucking funeral."
"We can't afford to replace everything that got busted." Billy Boy, the lead guitarist, said slowly. "None of us has that kind of money now. If we did, then maybe we'd have a chance… " His voice drifted off as he realized too late what he'd just said aloud.
"Maybe? What in blazes do you mean by that?" Murdoc shouted. "This is an abso-fucking-lutely terrific band! We have potential! We've got gobs of talent!" We've got me, he mentally added.
"But Murdoc…" Billy Boy said, looking at the other three members for support. "None of us are sure that we want to be in this band anymore."
Murdoc's eyes nearly popped out of his skull. His mouth swung open, then slowly shut without saying anything.
"The late nights are killing me at work." Billy Boy continued, knowing that as soon as Murdoc regained control of his mouth he'd start yelling his head off. "I dozed off at the wheel morning after the Blurred House show and nearly drove the cab into a parked bus. Scared the passenger something awful."
"My girlfriend's been saying I'm never around after work." Tiny, the metal band's second guitarist explained. "…and I thinks she's sorta right. I needs to…think about what really matters to me, y'know?"
Rocky, the keyboardist, nodded in agreement from behind his sunglasses. "I've got some… stuff to work out." Murdoc wasn't surprised. Rocky's 'side job' was what had provided most of the funds to start the band in the first place. Unfortunately for him, he was under police scrutiny after a fellow dealer had fingered him in an attempt to get a lighter jail sentence. When the little punk was back on the streets again, Rocky would teach him a serious lesson in dealer ethics. Until then, Rocky would have to lie low, waiting for the heat to die down.
Murdoc gave a murderous glance towards the large black drummer, who had stayed silent during the discussion. "And I suppose you have some deep and meaningful reason for quitting too, Crunch?"
The drummer snorted. "Nah. I just think you're a rotten little prick."
Murdoc sprang from his chair and leapt across the table, his hands locked in a death-grip around Crunch's throat. "Say that again, you little fucker!" the bassist screamed, shaking the drummer's head back and forth.
Billy Boy, Rocky and Tiny quickly pried Murdoc's hands off of Crunch before he could seriously injure the bearded man. Tiny, ironically twice the size of Murdoc despite his name and six times as strong, restrained the wriggling bassist under the crook of his arm. "Chill out, man! It's not the end of the world."
Murdoc kept squirming, his legs kicking out violently at anything unfortunate enough to be in their path.
Crunch rubbed his throat, the red marks already darkening. He let out a low guttural growl and grabbed Murdoc's Flying V. Before the others could stop him, Crunch struck Murdoc across the head with the back of the bass. A large bump already forming, the bassist's eyes rolled backwards before he slumped over, out cold.
The rest of Satan's Scrotum stood in silence as Tiny dropped the unconscious Murdoc, who landed in a heap on the floor.
"Told you." Billy Boy said, smirking slightly. "Pay up."
Scowling, Rocky pulled out his wallet and pulled out a few notes, which Billy Boy snatched from his hands. Tiny looked at Murdoc's turntable. "That's my Sabbath album!" He cried, snatching the record off the player, and slipping it back into its cardboard sleeve. "Little bastard said he lost it!"
Billy Boy looked at the furnishings in Murdoc's Winnebago, his smirk growing wider. "What the hell, boys. He's gonna be out for a while. Take whatever you want. It's not like we'll be seeing him again anytime soon."
When Murdoc came to an hour later, the four men were gone, along with most of Murdoc's nicer belongings.
Murdoc's worn-out Vauxhall Astra sped along the nighttime streets, not stopping for elderly ladies trying to cross the streets, red lights, or feral cats that had wandered into the middle of the road. In fact, if he saw a cat in the road, he went faster. Not quite as good as lighting them on fire, but it was enough for right now.
Even if he had a full can of gasoline and a flamethrower, it wouldn't take his mind off the betrayal of his friends. Or what he had thought as, in an abstract way, the closest thing to genuine friendship he would ever have. He had scouted each and every one of them several years ago out to create the world's greatest band. Over the years, they'd refined their metal sound, and lately he had felt that his dreams of super-stardom were so very close to becoming an actual reality. And then what had the others done? Told him his band was shit, hit him over the head with his bass, and then robbed him blind.
Murdoc gritted his teeth. The pain in the back of his head snaked into his vision, and the road was blurred white for a brief second. Murdoc shook his head and his eyesight returned. So they'd given him a concussion. Wonderful.
Murdoc had done some soul-searching (idly questioning if you could do that even if you weren't the current owner of your soul) lying on the floor of his Winnebago just after he had come to. The memories of what had occurred before he had been knocked out were slightly fuzzy but there; the inside of the motor home had been spinning like a bad amusement park ride and his head had hurt too much for him to actually think about sitting up. It had been similar to a rotten hangover, except without any drinking beforehand, which was a lousy payoff.
Lying there, feeling like his head had been run over repeatedly by a large bus, Murdoc had realized something. Even if Satan's Scrotum wasn't going to be the chart-busting megagroup he had thought it would eventually become, that didn't necessarily mean that it was the end of the line for him. Sure, it fouled up the works a bit, but shit happens. He could either sit in his 'Bago and mope about it while drinking outrageous amounts of alcohol or get off his ass and do something about it.
For the next few moments, he stared blankly at the road. Something in that last thought hadn't quite rung true. Suddenly, it fell into place. 'Fuck, I passed up a night of drinking? That bump must've scrambled up my brain more then I thought.'
Uncle Norm had left late afternoon. That left Stuart in charge of the instrument shop on a Saturday night. Actually, he didn't really mind it. Very few, if any, customers came in, leaving him alone with the synths and keyboards surrounding him. (and, assuming he was careful, playing them until his fingers ached.)
His girlfriend was always on his back about the fact that he let Uncle Norm make him work 17-hour shifts. Paula worked in a vintage record store after her afternoon classes were done for the day. Occasionally, if she got off work early and didn't have a gig to go to, she'd come to Uncle Norm's Organ right before closing time at 10:30 PM. Then he'd flip the sign on the door to 'Closed', pull the bars over the storefront, and then they'd go into one of the soundproof rooms in the back, used during the day to teach bratty children how to play the piano, and lock the door.
Stuart flipped on the electronic keyboard closest to him and pulled up a bench. His long fingers danced over the keys with practiced grace and precision, a soft melody filling the store. Entranced by it, Stuart picked up a pen, pulled a curling notepad out from his pocket, and jotted a few musical notes onto a crudely drawn music staff.
He had barely set the pen down when he heard the phone ring in the back near Norm's office. Sighing, he scooted the bench back and rushed to the phone, prepared to answer the questions people usually called up the store for: how late they were open tonight or directions to the store. (Stu didn't mind answering the second question: it'd taken him several hours to find the store when he'd seen the 'Help Wanted' advert in the paper several years ago.)
"Uncle Norm's Organ Emporium. We're open tonight until ten-thirty."
There was a brief mumble on the other end, and then the line went dead. Stuart looked at the handset for a second, his brain not sure how to handle what had just happened.
Stuart had learned at a young age that he wasn't the most intelligent child in England. Several years of repeating second-year math had made that painfully clear. While several doctors had confirmed that, yes, Stuart did have a brain, no one was sure exactly how it worked, not even its owner.
Things that had come easily to the other children were a living nightmare for eight-year-old Stu. He would study his vocabulary for a spelling test as much as his disjointed grey-matter would allow, and then draw a complete blank during the actual test. He was quiet and shy, never wanting to draw attention to himself. He was different, and being different from other boys was bad. His first day at school he'd been teased and then beaten up by other children who had found his girlish voice and string-bean body funny. The only thing that had kept him going through all of grade school was the dream that one day he'd hit puberty and all that would change.
It hadn't. Puberty had come and gone, giving him three more feet in height and body hair, but his voice had remained womanly and his limbs thin and gangly. And the insults had kept on coming.
Now, at age nineteen, here he was: a high-school dropout working late on a Saturday night. An abusive tightwad boss, no friends, and a girlfriend he only saw when she had nothing else to do. She wasn't really much of a girlfriend anyway. The only thing they really did together was have sex. No real chit-chat, just hot and sweaty sex. Not to say he didn't enjoy it, but after a while, it had become almost meaningless to him. Just something to make her, the one non-relative who was willing to put up with him, happy.
Stuart realized, for the first time, that his life was empty.
Alone in the deserted store, he sang quietly to himself. "I live on my world; going out my head down to…we're going somewhere."
Besides his hair, Stuart was pretty fond of his singing voice. He wasn't bold enough to sing if there were other people around—hell, even Paula hadn't heard him sing—but when he was by himself, he just let melodic lines flow out of his mouth, through the air and then onto his little notepad.
Maybe that was why his lack of a social life didn't bother him. He could be himself without feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed only when he was alone.
The guttural sound of a car engine that hadn't been serviced in a while shot past the plate glass window of the store. Stuart looked up just as the noise of squealing brakes and the source of the noise, a Vauxhall Astra that had definitely seen better days, went by the window again just as fast.
Stuart blinked. In the time it took his eyelids to shut and then open, the car had swerved onto the sidewalk outside, and had become ever-so-slightly airborne.
The window smashed.
The last thing he noticed was that the car's undercarriage was incredibly dirty.
Murdoc suddenly realized, as his car idled inside Uncle Norm's Organ Emporium, that he probably should've thought the whole 'ram-raiding the nearest music store' thing through a teeny-tiny bit more. But what the fuck, he was here, the keyboards were here, and could easily fit in the Astra's backseat. Opening the door, he slid out of the driver's seat...
...and tripped on something, which sent him sprawling face-first into the floor. "FUCK!" He yelled, pulling himself back to his feet.
Then he realized what he had tripped over. Two skinny legs stuck out from underneath the front tires of his car.
A siren blared in the distance. Murdoc's neck craned towards the sound. Fuck. He supposed he hadn't been very discrete in trying to rob the store, but that was still damn fast.
Forgetting about the unfortunate person underneath the car for now, Murdoc grabbed as many keyboards as he could at once, and shoved them into the backseat. He was sweating now. There was a chance he could get out of here without being arrested. Oh, he knew the odds were slim and involved ramming the rest of the storefront with his car. But the chance was there, goddammit. It had to be. He'd come too far, done too much to let this ruin everything.
But as the police sirens grew louder and the brakes squealed outside the broken plate-glass window, Murdoc knew he was utterly screwed.
When the judge had ruled that Murdoc would have to do 30,000 hours of community service, Murdoc had protested loudly, most of it involving dirty words and death threats. When the judge added 10 hours every week of looking after the comatose Stuart Tusspot, the person he'd hit with his car, to the sentence, he'd screamed louder. But it was either that or go to jail.
In a fit of extreme boredom, he later calculated that, even if he worked all day every day doing community service, (which was impossible) he'd be done with it in...a little over three years. Allowing for sleep and other things pushed that figure up closer to ten years. And that wasn't even counting the time spent looking after Dent-Head. Fuck. Suddenly jail was starting to look like quite an attractive option.
To be honest, Murdoc didn't even recall his barrister plea-bargaining for a lighter sentence. In fact, he didn't remember a whole lot from of the weeks between his arrest and his trial. Blame it on the booze, blame it on the speed, both of which he'd begun using heavily again after that.
But right now he was fulfilling the second part of his sentence: looking after Stuart Tusspot. Driving his car directly into Stu's head had, in addition to putting him in a coma and breaking several bones, fractured one eye. The first time Murdoc had visited the hospital, one of the doctors had shown him the damage by holding Stuart's eyelids up: one normal blue eye stared blankly back at him, but the other was pure black.
Murdoc had also learned early on that, contrary to what most trashy soap operas would lead you to think, a comatose person does not always remain still and silent. The second week, he'd entered Stuart's room to find him leaning on the window in his room, his arms spread out over the glass. A doctor was in the room with Stuart, doing a quick examination.
Murdoc's face brightened. "He's awake?"
The doctor, whose name-tag identified him as Dr. John Benton, looked up at Murdoc and shook his head. "No. This happens sometimes with coma patients. He's still comatose, I'm afraid."
"God dammit!" Murdoc threw the newspaper he'd bought in the lobby against the wall. "Why the fuck doesn't he just wake up already?!"
"Temper, Mr. Niccals. Head injuries are tricky." The doctor said, listening to Stuart's pulse. Satisfied, he pried Stuart off the window and put him back into the bed. Stuart's arms were still outstretched, as if they were still in front of the window. The doctor gently pressed them down to his sides.
"I'll throw a fuckin' hissy if I want to, dammit! I have to dedicate every GODDAMN WAKING MOMENT to looking after that…that dullard!"
"I am familiar with your case, Mr. Niccals," The doctor said quietly, looking at a clipboard. "And this situation is entirely of your own making. You have no one to blame but yourself."
Murdoc sneered. " Old fart. You know nothing about me."
Dr. Benton's face pulled down into a disapproving frown. "I don't want to know anything about you, Mr. Niccals. From what I've seen of you, you're a filthy, disgusting person unfit to take care of yourself, much less another person. The most I do know is that you severly injured my grandson just to steal some keyboards."
"Oh, so the dullard's your grandson, eh? Well, I feel so much worse about driving over his empty little skull now." Murdoc said, sitting in a chair next to Stuart's bed.
Dr. Benton sat down in another chair facing Murdoc's. "Let me tell you a little about the person you ran over, Murdoc."
"I don't want to hear your fuckin' lecture, man." Murdoc snarled, and turned his chair away from the doctor.
Benton looked down at Stuart, and brushed a stray lock of black hair off his face. "He's a good-natured kid, you know."
Murdoc gave an annoyed grunt, but didn't say anything.
"But he's different from most people, always has been."
Murdoc rolled his eyes. "What, are you tryin' to tell me your grandson's gay?"
"No, Murdoc." Benton sighed, then got to his feet. "I see. I expected too much from you, I suppose." He walked out of the small room. "Good-bye, Mr. Niccals."
Confused, Murdoc looked at the empty doorway, then at the comatose man lying on the bed. "Your grandpappy's a weirdo, kid. Even for a doctor."
Another two weeks of community service and caring for Stuart lagged on. Then a month. Then seven months.
Eventually, a year had passed since the night Murdoc had driven his car through the window of Uncle Norm's Organ Emporium.
Over the past thirteen months, the only thing that had changed with Stu was his hair: while it had stayed black for several months following his accident, it gradually became lighter and lighter until it was a purplish-blue color. The doctors were baffled by this, but Murdoc couldn't care less about Stuart's hair. The only thing that mattered was if Stu was out of the coma or not. It seemed to Murdoc that Tusspot was staying in the coma just to spite him. He'd grown increasingly more agitated as time went on without Stu's condition improving and had come up with several games to entertain himself during his mandatory visits. One of his favorites was 'How Much Pain Can A Comatose Dullard Stand?', which involved pushing Stu's wheeled hopsital bed down several flights of stairs. Incredibly, no one at the hospital had seemed to particularly care or even notice that a) Stu had disappeared from his room and b) his hospital bed was careening down the stairwell.
On one particularly grey morning, Murdoc decided to take Dent-Head out for a drive, mostly because he was sick of staying in the hospital so much. He just plopped the comatose man into a wheelchair and wheeled him out one of the unsupervised exits. His Astra was waiting for him in the parking lot. It'd been trashed in the ram-raid of the organ shop, but miraculously still ran. The engine hood was crumpled and the passenger door was missing, although this made shoving Stuart into the small car easier. Settling down in the driver's seat, he peeled out of the hospital parking lot, missing an old woman and the nurse helping her to the hospital's main entrance by millimeters.
Pulling into the parking lot of the local Tesco, Murdoc spotted a group of attractive young woman standing outside the storefront chatting. Grinning widely, he pulled the junker up to the crowd. "How you doing today, ladies?"
One of the woman— a vapid bruntte—giggled. "Fine." Murdoc stared at her enormous chest and wondered how her back could support all that weight up front. "Who's your friend?" She said, pointing to the comatose man in a papery hospital gown riding shotgun
"Him? Oh, that's just Stu-pot. Real buddies, we are. He had a few too many drinks last night. Just doesn't know his limits, poor guy."
The girls tittered with laughter except for one tall redhead in full punk dress staring at the Astra with undisguised revulsion. "That thing you're driving; it actually works?"
Murdoc's grin grew wider, revealing his pointed teeth. "You bet your ass it works, girlie."
Smirking slightly, she crossed her arms and glared at Murdoc. "Okay, then. Show me."
Throwing a smirk right back at her, Murdoc put the car in gear. In the sideview mirror, he could see the brunette waving, then blowing him a kiss and the redhead punk girl grinning smugly.
Murdoc stomped on the gas petal and zoomed past the girls. Putting his other foot on the brake, he pulled on the wheel. The car spun in a tight circle, the sound of squealing tires and the smell of smoldering rubber filling the air. Smoke spewed from the wheels.
Murdoc didn't notice Stuart being flung out of the car through the windshield until one of the glass shards pierced his hand. Yanking on the emergency brake, he watched Stuart bounce off the hood and tumble over the ground limply, whacking his skull several times on the asphalt before coming to a halt.
The girls gasped, then rushed inside the Tesco supermarket.
Murdoc bounded out of the car and ran to Stuart's still body, seeing another ten years of community service being added to his sentence. "FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK."
To his amazement, Stu groaned and raised a hand to his head. A large bump was swelling over his right eye. "Head hurts." He moaned in a scratchy yet unusually high-pitched voice. Opening his eyes, he fixed them on Murdoc, blinking as his eyes adjusted to the sunlight.
Murdoc froze. Both of Stu's eyes were now jet black. "Stuart?"
"H-how do you know my name? Who are you anyway?" Stuart asked, his voice wobbling nervously.
Murdoc glowered. "My name is Murdoc Niccals, dullard. And I just saved your life."
"All right, when we get back to the hospital, what will you tell the doctors?!" Murdoc yelled, the wind rushing through the broken windshield and passenger side nearly drowning him out.
"Ah, I woke up in the bed?" Stu's eyes fell on the rearview mirror and he turned it towards him. "My hair. It's all blue now." He ran his fingers through it and then gave a lopsided grin. "Cool!"
"How about after that, Dent-Head?!"
"Oh right! I tell 'em I fell out of the bed and hit my head on the floor!" He rubbed the large bump and squealed in pain. "AHHH, IT HURTS!"
Murdoc nearly bit though the filter end of his cigarette. "THEN STOP TOUCHING IT, DULLARD!"
Stu winced at the loud outburst and sniffled. "I can't. Everything makes my head hurt."
"I'll bet thinking takes quite a toll on your grey matter too, eh?" Murdoc asked sarcastically.
The sarcasm flying right over his head at ultrasonic speeds, Stu nodded, earning him a smack on the head from Murdoc. "Owch!"
"Stop being such a moron, Two Dents." Murdoc growled. "Or I leave you in a bad part of Nottingham, understand?"
Stuart nodded meekly. "I understand." He looked down at the pale hosptal gown he was wearing, and panicked. "Oh no! My notepad! Where'd it go?!"
Grinding his teeth, Murdoc ignored Stu.
Undeterred, Stuart looked underneath the car seat. "Here, notepad notepad notepad…" He called. His hands pulled out a discarded issue of 'Playboy' from underneath the seat. "This'll work. 'ey, Murdoc, got a pen?"
"NO." Murdoc said, screeching into the hospital parking lot. Taking the key out of the ignition, he plucked his copy of 'Playboy' out of Stuart's hands and tossed it into the backseat. "C'mon, Two Dents. Let's get you back in your room."
Stu nodded and stepped out of the car. "Oof!" His gnagly legs crumpled underneath him before he'd walked three feet.
Murdoc sighed, and looked for the wheelchair he'd left in the parking lot. He wheeled it over to the man and tapped his foot impatiently. Stu crawled towards the chair on his hands and knees.
"I haven't got all day, dullard."
"I-I'm moving as fast as I can, Murdoc." Stu stuttered, his head pounding while he unsteadily climbed into the chair. He didn't know if it was his weak limbs or his rising fear of the man standing next to the wheelchair that was making him tremble so much.
As suspected, no one at the hospital had noticed Stu's disappearance. Murdoc was relieved, but also a little disturbed. He decided that if he ever needed emergency medical assistance, he would never come to this hospital. Not even if he wanted to die.
After dumping 2D back in his room, Murdoc quickly ran to the nearest nurse's station. "Tusspot's awake."
The nurse, a large burly woman, barely looked up. "Hello Mr. Niccals." She sighed.
"No no no. I mean it this time. He's really awake."
The nurse stared at him through a thick pair of glasses. "A nurse will be in there shortly to do range-of-motion exercises."
Enough of this bullcrap. Growling, Murdoc slammed his fists down on the counter. "SEND SOMEONE IN THERE NOW!" He yelled, his eyes blazing.
Dr. Benton appeared behind him almost instantaneously. "No yelling Murdoc. You're disturbing the other patients on this floor."
Murdoc wheeled around. "Your stupid grandkid's out of that fucking coma."
"I see." Benton didn't seem to be convinced. "And after only God knows how many times you've said that before to weasel out of your sentence, why should I believe you this time?"
"G-grandpa?" An uneven voice said behind Dr. Benton. "Izzat you?"
The doctor turned around.
Stuart was leaning against the doorframe to his room, clutching it for support. During the year he'd been in the coma, his arms and legs had lost most of the small amount of muscle they'd had to start, making him look like a skeleton with blue hair and also making walking, or even just standing upright, difficult.
"My God…" Dr. Benton said. "Stuart?"
A large smile broke across Stuart's face. "Grandpa!" He let go of the doorframe to walk over to his grandfather…
…only to crumple to the floor, whacking his head against the hard tile.
"Goddammit!" Murdoc shouted. "What is it with you and head injuries, dullard?"
After a teary reunion with his mother and father, Stuart sat smiling in his bed, humming an ethereal melody, 'The Rites Of Spring'. He'd never heard it before, but it had a nice sound to it. Happy, but peaceful at the same time.
Murdoc sat in one of the chairs in ths hospital room, which now had a distinct indentation of his rear end in the cushion, leafing through the latest issue of NME with glee.
"What you doin', Murdoc?" 2D asked.
"Lookin' fer people to be in my band." Murdoc said, his face buried between the pages. "Now that I don't have to look after yer sorry arse anymore, I can start a new band again."
Stuart smiled. At last, some common ground between them! Music was Stuart's element. "A band?" He repeated.
Murdoc sneered. "Yes. A band. Were you in the gifted class at school, genius? Do you want me to repeat it again so it has a chance to sink in this time?"
The blue-haired man stared out the window. "No."
"Then shut the fuck up."
Stuart looked down at his fingers sadly. "I'd always wanted to be in a band." He said finally.
Murdoc snorted, taking a drag from his lit cigarette. "And what would you play? The triangle?" He laughed.
"Keyboards." 2D said sullenly, his good mood rapidly eroding. He despised being laughed at.
Murdoc laughed again. The dullard actually thought he could play an instrument!
"I'm really pretty good." Stuart protested over Murdoc's chuckles. Which were rapidly turning into guffaws…
Stuart sighed and turned away from the bassist. So much for common ground…
A knock at the door, and Dr. Benton and an assistant nurse entered the small room. "Stuart?" Benton asked over Murdoc's laughter.
The blue-haired man perked up. "Yeah?"
Dr. Benton turned to Murdoc, who was still laughing, and hit him across the top of his head. "Mr. Niccals, shut up." Looking down at the clipboard, Dr. Benton let out a deep breath. "Stuart, all the tests came back fine. You're well enough to be discharged from the hospital."
Murdoc grinned and pumped his arm. "Yes!" Dent-Head would be out of his life forever!
Stuart clapped his hands together. "I can go home!"
Dr. Benton chewed his lip. "No. Not quite, I'm afraid."
"What?" Stuart and Murdoc said almost in unison.
"Mr. Niccals, you seem to be forgetting that you still have several thousand hours of community service left. After Stuart is released from hospital, he will immediately be put into your constant care and supervision. In other words," Dr. Benton sighed, "Murdoc, meet your new flatmate."
Oh sweet Satan, NO!
It was mostly a quiet drive from the hospital. Stuart sat in the passenger's seat of the battered Astra while Murdoc seethed, roughly yanking at the wheel.
"I-I wanted to go home." Stuart said sadly, watching the purple twilight sky outside.
"I wanted to never see yer ugly, gap-toothed face ever again!" Murdoc snapped back.
There was nothing to say to that, but he tried anyway. "Oh." Stuart said.
The car sped along silently for a few miles, until it suddenly veered wildly to the right for a moment before getting back into the correct lane.
"Damn." Murdoc said, looking in his rearview mirror. "Missed."
Stuart looked at Murdoc, an uneasy look on his face. He had a bad feeling…
The Astra pulled into a small trailer park. Murdoc got out of the car and strode around to a particularly filthily and ancient Winnebago, propped up on several cinderblocks.
Stuart sat stiffly in the passenger's seat, unsure of what to do. "Murdoc?" His voice sounded more nervous then he'd intended. "Why are we stopping here?"
"BECAUSE THIS IS WHERE I LIVE, NUMB-NUTS!" Murdoc shouted from the Winnebago. If he looked closely, Stuart could just make out the words 'MURDOC'S WAGON' spray-painted on the side.
Shoot. It figured he'd live in a place like that. The Winnebago looked like it should've been put out to pasture a long time ago.
Stuart scrambled from the Astra, carrying the small box of clothes and belongings his parents had left for him. Murdoc was fiddling with the electrical generator outside, and Stuart could smell the peculiar tang of gasoline in the air as Murdoc poured it into the fuel tank. He really hoped Murdoc wasn't smoking a cigarette right now…
With his free hand, Stuart opened the door to Murdoc's Winnebago and was immediately hit by four different and horrible smells. The floor of the Winnebago was covered in thick dark purple shag carpeting with several books, knives and what appeared to be human skulls littered throughout. A shotgun leaned against a small wooden counter with several bottles of alcohol on top. Across from the counter was a small black sofa with a small knife sticking out of of the arms. Eyeing the knife warily, Stuart sat down on the sofa and looked up. Hanging over the sofa was a gilded frame containing the portrait of a frowning olive-skinned man with black hair, a black overcoat, and a large top hat with a long cream-colored sash hanging down. At the bottom of the frame was a small plaque:
1941 – 1994
IN LOVING MEMORY
Stuart heard the door open and Murdoc entered, scowling and reeking of gasoline. He let the door slam behind him. "All right dullard. If yer gonna be living in my Winnie, there're gonna be a few ground rules, right?" Murdoc growled.
Stuart nodded timidly.
"So. Stay out of my fucking way. Do not touch anything or I cut off your hands. In fact, just don't talk to me, or do anything to bother me. And when I get lucky, you sleep outside, as far away from the Winnebago as possible. Got that?"
Stu nodded again.
"Good." Murdoc left Stuart in the living room area while he went to see what was still edible in his fridge.
Still on the sofa, Stuart's eyes wandered around the bizarre items scattered around the Winnebago before finally landing on the large box he'd brought in with him. Gently, he pulled out a small, battery-powered keyboard.
He flicked the switch to 'ON'.
Murdoc was in the small kitchen of his Winnebago, trying to open a can of tomato soup when he heard the sounds of a melody drift in from the living room.
Dammit. The dullard had gotten into his record collection already.
Scowling, Murdoc stomped back into the living room. "WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DO…ing?"
Stuart's eyes were closed, and his fingers were clumsily moving over the keys of the cheap keyboard sitting on his lap. But the music coming from it were incredible. Noises that should've sounded bizarre were being melded together in a masterful display of melody and harmony. It was creepy, and vacant, and lush and beautiful and gentle, all at once.
The notes coming from the keyboard gradually became quieter until they stopped altogether. Stuart opened his eyes. "Batteries're dead." He said to himself, then looked up, just then noticing Murdoc standing in front of him slack-jawed.
Wincing, Stuart braced himself for another verbal assault, but nothing came.
"Two-Dents…2D…" Murdoc suddenly gave him a wickedly cunning grin. "You're gonna make me rich."