Contrary to what the title says, there is no drug use in this chapter. I still own nothing.
I Want a New Drug
(one that won't spill)
Saturday afternoon – two days to talent show debut
Chemical Toilet and their entourage had returned to the Tennellis' garage for practice, but nothing was the same after their break-up. Ralphie glared at Carlos whenever Dr. Tennelli was around. Arnold was slightly nervous at the elevated stress levels. Tim, for some reason, had an irrational fear that his little finger (which he claimed had more talent than the rest of the boys combined) would get crushed in a door. Carlos hated the thickness of the tension in the garage. He cleared his throat in a feeble attempt to ease the mood.
"I think that's it for today." He suggested, looking more at Keesha in an effort to get her to turn off the camera. DA and Phoebe had left after the band broke up, but Wanda was convinced that the band could benefit from her creative influence. That is, until Tim found a way to make his voice deep and booming and told Wanda, "Run. Run away, Wanda. And never return." That part of The Lion King had always triggered a visceral flight reaction in Wanda and no one could keep her still long enough to figure out why. The boys were willing to inflict some psychological damage on Wanda, however, when brute force, pleading, bargaining, and threatening to play in the nude didn't work.
"I don't know, you guys." Arnold sighed. "I don't see this working out."
"Don't dump us again." Carlos pleaded. "We need you, Arn."
"Maybe we need to try a different song." Tim suggested. "We've been playing the same song all week."
"If I have to hear that chorus one more time, I'll puke." Ralphie said sincerely. "Face it, guys, we're stuck in a rut."
"What are we gonna do?" Tim asked. "We can't switch songs, we don't have enough time to rehearse a new song."
"We just have to work on polishing what we've got." Carlos was resigned. "We could try some new things with it, though."
"Like what?" Ralphie asked.
"Maybe Wanda does have something to contribute." Carlos thought aloud.
"Oh no!" Arnold protested. "I'd rather –"
"You'd rather what?" Tim pressed. "Maybe what you'd rather do is a better idea than having Wanda come back."
"No." Arnold stated. "It's a terrible idea."
fifteen minutes later
"That was an awesome idea!" Ralphie felt like his pupils kept dilating.
"The inside of my nose is burned!" Arnold sounded a bit congested.
"I wonder if my snot is going to be blue…" Carlos asked giddily. "So when did Janet make you snort Pixie Stix?"
Tim burst into uncontrollable giggles. "You guys, this is the best ever."
"No," Mikey's eyes widened.
"Wait, you're still here?" Carlos asked. "Why are you here? What are you still doing here?"
"Why did you ask me the same question three times?" Mikey wondered.
"I must be high!" Carlos decided.
"This is just what we needed, Arnold!" Tim cried, throwing his arms around him. "You're a genius! A freaking genius!"
"I think I'm going to die of thirst." Ralphie said suddenly. "I need a drink."
"I'll go to the Sev and pick you guys up something, okay?" Mikey asked mischievously.
"You're the best, man!" Ralphie steadied himself on a stool. He suddenly felt very dizzy. "I think I need another Pixie Stix."
"What color?" Carlos asked, showing Ralphie his choices.
"Surprise me." Ralphie shrugged lethargically. "Hurry, I think I feel like I'm gonna die."
"We should play our instruments upside-down." Tim suggested.
"Oh man, that would rock!" Carlos concurred.
"I'm already playing upside down." Arnold pointed out. "So would I play right side up or how I'm supposed to play?"
"Free your mind, man." Carlos reached out a trembling hand. "You think you're playing upside down because that's the norm, but it's just what they want you to think. You just have to free your mind and listen to what your soul wants to do."
"Man." Tim added.
"I feel woozy." Arnold could feel himself getting seasick.
"I'm going to be sick." Ralphie whimpered.
"I brought you guys drinks!" Mikey reappeared in the nick of time. He hadn't seemed to be gone long, but the boys were in no state to accurately tell time. "One for each of us."
"Thank you!" Ralphie downed the bottle of cola like his life depended on it. The others followed suit, letting out loud burps afterward. After a moment, Arnold looked at the label.
"You got us Jolt?" Arnold's eyes bugged out. "I'm not allowed to have this stuff!"
"I'm shaking!" Ralphie pointed out.
"I'm sweating and shaking at the same time!" Carlos whined. "This is bad. This is very, very bad."
"I don't know what your problem is; I feel fine." Tim grinned. "Like running around in circles for a year, but fine."
"What if Ralphie's mom finds us? She'll think we're addicts and she'll turn us in!" Carlos began. "I can't do this anymore, you guys."
"I feel like I can walk!" Mikey tried standing up, but fell onto a shaking Arnold.
"You're crushing me!" Arnold wailed. "You're crushing me with your manly weight!"
Just outside the garage, Keesha was unwilling to leave her post, but she knew that DA would want to see this, not to mention Phoebe. Wanda, she was sure, would die of laughter, but that would blow her cover. Fortunately, she was filming.
"MAKE IT STOP!" Carlos screamed. He was sitting in a corner, rocking back and forth.
"Dude, Carlos, chill." Tim crooned. "It's not like acid or anything."
"I'm having a bad trip. I feel like I've been doused in icy cold hot lava mixed with lizards." Carlos shuddered.
"We should, like, practice." Ralphie suggested. "Upside down."
"I should play guitar backward!" Arnold picked up his guitar and held it so the strings were near his body.
"I can't play drums in my delicate condition." Carlos steadied himself on the wall with one hand, the other on his stomach. "I so feel like I'm going to give birth to snails. And razor blades."
"Shake it off and play the bongos." Mikey ordered. "That will give the song a whole new feeling."
"Come on, count us off." Tim insisted, holding up a triangle.
"What are you playing that for?" Mikey asked.
"The bass is overdone and useless. The triangle, on the other hand, is a seldom-used instrument of genius!" Tim rang the triangle. "It sounds like JOY."
"I'm totally playing the key-tar." Ralphie said excitedly. "It's the future of rock."
"It wasn't the future in the 80s," Arnold argued. "And it isn't the future now. It's just a fugly keyboard strapped to your chest."
"I don't believe you. Your guitar is on backward." Ralphie retorted.
"One two three GO!" Carlos yelled and began tapping his bongos. He wasn't nearly as aggressive with them as he was with the drums. For the first time, the band listened to each other play, but they were so involved in their sugar highs and caffeine headaches that none of them processed it. After the song, the boys came down from their sugar and caffeine highs in a devastating, simultaneous crash.
"That was awesome." Mikey rolled his eyes back in his head, trying to ease the pain.
"Totally." Tim agreed.
"That totally blew my mind." Ralphie nodded drowsily.
"Me too," Carlos whined. "I feel my brain bits in my head."
"We are going to rock the show." Arnold said emphatically.
"It's going to beg for mercy." Ralphie added.
"And the girls will be all over us, like flies –" Tim began.
"Don't finish that." Dr. Tennelli said from the doorway to the garage. "What happened here?"
"I think I need medical attention." Carlos whimpered. "I hurt."
"We should play 'Rock Me, Amadeus,'" Ralphie suggested. "I love that song."
"I love your mom." Carlos replied. Dr. Tennelli raised her eyebrows sternly. "You're pretty when you're angry."
"Carlos," Dr. Tennelli took a deep breath. "I think you need to go home. Now."
"Aww, Connie," Carlos began.
"Dr. Tennelli." She corrected. "Please leave now."
"But I love you." Carlos whispered.
"Let's get out of here," Mikey grabbed Carlos by the hand and dragged him toward the door. "Quick, before you dig a deeper hole."
Keesha dove behind a bush, hoping no one would see the bright orange extension cord showing where she had hidden. She'd grabbed the camera and was watching Mikey drag a forlorn and still slightly "high" Carlos from the Tennellis' garage.
"Mom, did you have to break up band practice?" Ralphie whined.
"You weren't practicing." Dr. Tennelli said matter-of-factly. "You were inhaling sugar and drinking caffeine. You'll never fall asleep tonight. Tim, Arnold, do you need a ride?"
"I could use some fresh air." Tim said softly.
"I can walk myself home, sir." Arnold walked toward the door.
Dr. Tennelli rolled her eyes. "I'm neither Peppermint Patty nor a man, Arnold."
"Yes… doctor." Arnold walked out the door. "See you in school, Ralphie."
"Yeah." Ralphie shrugged.
Ralphie looked disgustedly at Carlos' elaborate spandex outfit. He was wearing a silver glimmery unitard with a large red codpiece. He was the only band member to have anywhere near success in growing a "wicked beard," with a tiny wisp of hair on his upper lip that he'd enhanced with mascara. "You look like a drag queen."
Carlos shook his head. "I look like a rock god. Why do you have Legos on your head?"
"I was trying to make a Devo hat." Ralphie explained. "I ran out of red Legos, so I had to use yellow ones. Then I ran out of yellow ones, so…"
"Lame." Tim sighed.
"Is that eyeliner?" Arnold asked.
"I look metal. Like Kiss, without the white paint." Tim explained. He crossed his arms on his chest, his hands forming two "rock fists" with his pointer and pinky fingers extended, and stuck his tongue out.
"You look like a loser." Carlos dabbed glitter on his cheeks.
"You look like a fairy exploded on you." Tim replied.
"Why am I the only one who wore flannel?" Arnold whined. His hair looked greasy and hung limply. He wore torn jeans and Converse high-tops.
"You're on lead guitar," Ralphie admired his oversized dirty denim shirt, which was the closest thing he could find to flannel. "People will be looking at you."
"Not as much as the girls will ogle me." Carlos bragged.
"Are you decent?" Keesha asked. "I want to get some tape of this."
"Fine." Carlos sighed. "Do I look like a fairy exploded?"
"How many craft stores did you raid?" Keesha laughed heartily.
"He looks like he's been back in kindergarten." Arnold gibed. "For pretty pretty princesses."
"The show's about to begin!" The assistant principal called to the people in the hallway.
"We are so going to win." Carlos assured.
"Look at who we're up against," Ralphie agreed. There were some kids with violins, the obligatory juggler, and a few groups of dancers.
"It's so in the bag." Tim nodded.
At last, the moment came. Keesha got some shots of the boys backstage before quickly moving back into the auditorium. As she was about to sit down, the auditorium filled with whispers, gasps, and giggles. She felt the blood rise in her cheeks as her four best guy friends walked out on stage, looking like estranged children of eccentrics or a fashion show gone horribly wrong.
"Count us down!" Tim hissed, but Carlos didn't, as usual. The band was used to it, and played along. Because they hadn't agreed on a lead singer, they all sang roughly the same words in rough unison. Keesha couldn't help but feel impressed that they'd come so far. They even had managed to make the song closer to its original four minute length, though the lyrics were a myriad of three versions. Keesha turned to her friends as the last chord rang out.
"What did you think?" She asked, catching her breath in waiting to hear the answer.
"It really sucked." Wanda whispered. D.A. giggled and nodded emphatically.
"It kind of did." Phoebe admitted.
"Ladies and gentlemen," the assistant principal applauded awkwardly as he walked across the stage. "That was, uh, Chemical Toilet."
And just like that, it was all over.
- As stated in the text, "Run away and never return" is from The Lion King.
- Pixie Stix are basically sugar in a tube. Kids snort them all the time. It's not drugs. It's not a substitute for drugs. It's kids being dumb.
- Jolt is a highly caffeinated cola. It was popular among kids my age (the same age as the guys in this fic) during the time the fic takes place – namely, 1997.
- Peppermint Patty is a Peanuts character that is often called "Sir."
- Devo, a 1980s band, was known for their strange hats, among other things. Look up "Devo hat" if you don't know what I mean.