Can't Beat 'Em, Join Em
Disclaimer: I do not own LWD, or any of the characters therein.
Part One: Sheldon
I was at Emily's house not studying. We planned to continue not studying for as long as possible but I heard her cell go off and knew that was it for today.
"Casey," Emily told me, then she picked up. "Sup. Okay, okay calm down...breathe...well...why don't you come over, then...okay..." She mouthed Sorry at me. "See you in a few."
"What'd Max do?" I said.
"I guess we're gonna find out," Em said. "in detail." Emily got up and opened the door for a red-faced Casey.
Emily said that I should stay, but I could tell that Casey didn't really want me to, so I tried to make myself invisible because Casey wanted girl talk. Not that I wasn't listening. Sorry, but there wasn't much else to do.
Casey and Max were fighting, of course. I've seen this show before.
"Like okay," Casey said "I get that he got mad because I needed to blow off that party to help my Mom that time, and when I left the football game and ended up trying to save Edwin and Lizzie's party. But, still, it's not like any relationship is perfect. There's gotta be a give and take, right?"Casey asked
"I mean, I go to all of his games even though I still don't know what the hell's going on, and I keep thinking 'fling-flong' every time someone gets a touchdown," Casey said. "And he goes to see my stuff...eventually. He gave up those tickets to whatever the hell band it was he wanted to see to come to my play. He fell asleep in the middle of my debate and snored, but that's just because he was sleep-deprived and his sinuses were acting up. But my point is, we try to compromise all over the place."
This was going to be a while, so I started to wonder if it was time to go home to my solitary Kraft Dinner, but then Emily waved me over.
"Sheldon," she said. "What do you think?"
I looked at Emily like "Are you crazy?" because I really don't like to tell the truth when Casey has easy access to blunt objects like the remote and that butt ugly paperweight Dimi made in school. But Emily's not letting me off the hook, so...
"Um," I said. "Sounds like you don't really like the guy," I ducked in anticipation of flying paperweight, but it never came.
"Of course I do!" Casey said. "What are you talking about?"
"It doesn't seem like you have much in common," I said. "I mean, what do you two talk about?"
"He tries to teach me about sports," she said. "And I try to get him into movies with dialogue that doesn't include 'I'm getting too old for this shit.' "
"And how's that working out?" I said. I was feeling bold. She hadn't hit me yet.
"I dunno," Casey said. "Oh gawd, why does this keep happening to me?" She put her head on Emily's shoulder. I hoped she wasn't going to wipe her nose on Em's sweater. I have dreams about that sweater in all its tight fuzzy glory.
I perched on the edge of an armchair. Over the top of Casey's head, Emily caught my eye and tried to look apologetic. I looked at my watch. It wasn't even four o' clock yet.
"Well," I said. "I guess I'll leave you ladies to it. I have some homework to do." Even though it was Friday.
Casey looked up and said, "I'm sorry, you guys, I just interrupted something, didn't I?"
Yes, I thought. "No," I said.
"No!" Emily said.
"Oh my God, I did didn't I?" Casey said. "You're shirt is half unbuttoned!" she said, pointing at me. I looked down and noticed that for the first time. It was also half untucked. The sweater I'd been wearing over it was probably under Emily. I pulled the tail of my shirt out the rest of the way and buttoned it back up.
"Oh my God," Casey said. "Oh my God. I did that to Mom and George yesterday, too!" There was an image that I really could have lived a long and happy life without having. "I've become the Interrupter. You guys, I'm so sorry!"
We were trying to assure her that it was no big deal after all what kind of friends would we be if we couldn't be there to listen to her babble, when my phone rang.
Default ringer. No idea who it was. I usually let calls like that go direct to voicemail, but any distraction at that point was a good distraction.
"Hey," I said.
"Schlep, where are you now?"
"The same," he said. "So, where are you?"
"Emily's," I said, "Why?"
"Because I called a D-Rock rehearsal, and I don't see you here," he said. "I texted you."
"I did," he said. "So get your silly ass over here." He hung up.
"What'd he want," Emily said.
I told her and Casey what he'd told me.
"Since when?" Casey said.
"Hell if I know," I said. "I thought that whole 'join the band' thing was to get him out of a detention, and it didn't even work."
"You're not going over there, are you?" Casey said.
Now there was a thinker. Did I want to leave all this estrogen or did I want to go find out what Derek's ulterior motive for wanting me to join his band was?
"Look at that," I said. "He did text me."
The two of them were expecting an answer.
"Not if you don't want me to," I said to Emily.
"Nah," Emily said. "See what Derek wants." I will love her forever. I walked over to the back of the couch to give her an upside-down kiss, knocking over a few chess pieces on the table next to me because I can never seem to pass that table without knocking something down. Casey leaned over to right the chess pieces and I made my getaway.
I hightailed it across Emily's lawn and knocked on Derek/Casey's door.
"Took ya long enough," Derek said. He turned and walked back toward the couch. I hadn't moved yet so he said, "You waiting for an engraved invitation or something? And close the door behind you. You're letting the heat out."
Sam stuck out a hand for me to shake and Ralph nodded a greeting.
Derek got up from his spot on the couch and began to pace. "So," Derek said. "I was telling Ralphie and Sam that we should learn some covers, you know, while we work on our original stuff."
Sam watched Derek walk back and forth the way a cat will still watch the beam of a flash light after its figured out where it's coming from. Not fooled, but still interested in playing.
Ralph, of course, was fascinated.
"So I've downloaded some tabs and stuff, but so far—"Derek said.
"So far, he can't play the stuff he picked," Sam said. "And nobody can sing it."
"What about Casey?" I said.
"Said no, dude," Ralph said, mournfully. "No more Casey. No tank tops. No more hair swish..." He demonstrated or tried to, with his own short hair.
"Ew, dude, stop," Derek said. I looked around to see if anyone believed that Derek was grossed out by the thought of Casey and her hair swish, and it didn't look like anyone did.
"So you're what," I said "desperate?"
"No!" Derek said.
"Yeah," Sam said.
"Li'l bit," Ralph said.
"An entire school full of people and you can't find a singer?" I said.
"I—we have high standards," Derek said. "Can't pick just anybody to be in D-Rock, now can we? And the audition process...well it can be kinda grueling,"
"Like you held auditions before?" I asked. Casey told Emily, and Emily told me, all about the last time D-Rock held auditions. He got his little brother to hold them for him.
"Edwin told him to go to Hell, too," Sam said. Ralph nodded.
Derek shot Sam a look, and ran a hand through his hair. "So listen, Schlepper," he said. "I'm gonna be honest with you."
"For a change?" I said. This was fun.
"I wanted to call you, because you're the best."
"You don't think you're the best singer for the job?" Derek asked. "You really should work on your self-esteem."
"I think very highly of myself actually. I just don't think that you do," I said. "So tell the truth, you alienated everyone else, didn't you?"
"Nope," he said. "Just Casey. And you're number two on the list."
"I'm honored," I said. "This wouldn't have anything to do with this year's Clash of the Bands, would it?
"Is that coming up?" Derek said. Even Ralph rolled his eyes.
"How bout this," Sam broke in. "We want someone who can sing and play keyboards, and thought you might want a full band behind you?" He looked at Derek, who nodded so hard I could hear his neck pop.
I didn't buy it, but I was bored, and didn't want to go home, and anyway, you can't put a microphone in front of me and not expect me to use it.
So next thing I knew, Sam, Ralph, and I were kicking song ideas back and forth and Derek was vetoing most of them. Hard to figure out why he couldn't keep a lead singer.
"'Home Sweet Home'" Ralph said.
"Meh," Derek said.
"'November Rain'" I said.
"Too big," Derek said. And Derek is no Slash.
" 'Patience'" I said.
"Nuh-uh," Derek said.
"'Smells Like Teen Spirit'" Sam said. Everyone looked up at Derek expecting a yes.
"Everyone does that," he said. "That and 'I Wanna Be Sedated.'" At that Ralph put his hand down.
I snorted. "Do you have any suggestions?"
"No," Derek said.
I sat down at the piano and lifted the lid over the keyboard. It was a little dusty.
"Does anyone play this thing?" I said. Derek shrugged.
"Edwin," he said. "A little. And my Dad."
I shook my head and started noodling with it. It was in tune, at least. I started playing the opening to Phantom Planet's "California," a very distinctive thing, and ducked the paperback that I saw flying at me from the corner of my eye.
"Can you sing that?" Ralph asked.
"I dunno," I said. "Probably."
I would've loved to be able to draw just so I could capture that look in Derek's eyes right then. It was the look of a vampire in a blood bank, a cat in a catnip processing plant, a teenage virgin at the Playboy Mansion. It was beyond predatory.
"Okay," he said. "Not that I want you to play that song, it'll remind me too much of that show Casey likes, but can you handle that chorus? Like belt it out?"
"Uh-huh," I said.
"Right now?" he said.
I looked at my watch. "You have neighbors coming home from work right about now, don't you?"
"So, noise complaints?"
"Like you're gonna be that damn loud?"
He wasn't the brightest bulb in the chandelier. I just stared at him, waiting for his brain to catch up.
"You're telling me that you are that loud?" Derek asked.
"If you want me to belt, then, yeah," I said. My mom likes to tell people that I'm going to study opera. I let her labor under that delusion. I have the lungs, but otherwise...not happening. But I do have some lungs.
"Do it," Derek said.
There was no way I was gonna do it. But I played the opening and launched into the song. Ralph started to join in on the drums right off the bat, then Sam joined in. I never heard Derek's guitar kick in. I assumed he'd let me get as far as the first chorus, and when we got there, I gave it half power. That was enough. He didn't say anything, so we kept going until he finally got it together enough to join in.