The empty seat next to Howard seemed to extend into infinity, an enormous black hole with the potential to absorb and destroy all the happiness in Howard's world.
"Hey, what's taking Vince so long?" Lester asked, cheerfully, "Is he still backstage with Sebastian?"
Howard barely noticed the beer bottle shattering in his hand, 'Yeah, he's, ah, helping Sebastian get his 'look' together. Nothin' to be worried about there."
"I wasn't worried, I was just wonderin' where..."
"Well don't be wonderin'! Everything is fine!" Howard snapped.
"Yeah," added Saboo, "Sebastian said he was going to spend some time with Vince, working on his 'fingering'. I'm sure he was talking about the guitar."
Howard was lunging at Saboo when he was suddenly pulled back. Trapped under a heavy weight, staring into a ceiling light - Howard could see the operating room. He was looking at his blood on the wall, unable to make a sound as the doctor growled, "Harold," over and over.
That wasn't right. He didn't remember any fur covered restraints in the operating room, either.
Howard shook his head to clear it and started pulling at the giant furry arm around his neck.
"Harold, calm down. Vince love Harold. No one understand why. Maybe Vince have tumor. Stop being such a ballbag."
Howard patted Bollo's arm, belatedly noticing his hand was bleeding from crushing the beer bottle, "Thanks, Bollo, you're a good friend."
Howard and Vince had gone round Sebastian's earlier in the week to help him prepare. The American was so filled with anxiety about performing solo, his face was as white as his teeth and he had bags under his eyes. He had a pleasant tenor and he played guitar well enough, he just needed a bit of polish. Howard helped him work out some simpler chords and after an hour, the color had come back to Sebastian's face.
Once Sebastian was back to his tanned and pink cheeked self, Vince tried helping Sebastian with his hair and Howard snapped, "He doesn't want to look like a lesbian from the seventies, now does he?"
Vince suggested Sebastian try Howard's look, "Pre-swastika Charlie Manson."
Sebastian made them each say something nice about each other.
"Howard, your quiches always come out nice and fluffy, even in the middle."
"I like the way you cut my hair."
"I like your hair, it's nice and fluffy like your quiche."
"If it weren't for you, I'd be in an asylum eating my own hair. Like it was quiche."
Sebastian nodded sagely, pushing his glasses up his nose, "A bit heavy on the quiche but I think..."
Howard and Vince had immediately jumped in with, "Light and fluffy egg treat, add some veggies or meat, it don't even need a shell, serve it straight on your plate. Bangers, bangers side. Bangers hang on the side. Mmmmm, open a can of peaches."
"Yeah," Sebastian pontificated, "You guys have a strong foundation..."
Vince took the opening to introduce Sebastian to a new foundation made with unicorn tears.
Howard dug his finger nails into his hands not quite hard enough to draw blood as Vince gently smoothed the cream into Sebastian's smooth skin.
Howard was going to be happy, even if it killed him.
Howard still had stars in his eyes from his near strangling from Bollo when Vince came jogging back to their table, shaking his head in concern.
"If he vomits one more time, them jeans is falling off. He's a right mess."
Saboo gave an unpleasant chuckle and stared intently at the stage.
"I hope he took my advice," said Tony Harrison, studiously avoiding Lester's eyes.
"If he does one song off of Tusk, I'm walking and you're rolling home on your own," Saboo snapped.
"I'll give you a ride," Lester said all to eagerly. Tony mumbled something about, "one time thing," and, "outrage."
Howard tried to be casual as he slid his arm around Vince's waist. Vince shamelessly snuggled into Howard's side like a cat as Bob Fossil took the stage.
"Give it up for the Flighty Zeus! Holy shitballs do they suck! What was that shit? I wouldn't rub that on my bathroom wall. Anyway, this next act used to live inside my brother's balls. I love him dearly but we're not lovers but if he screws up tonight, I will put him over my knee and spank him till he calls me daddy..."
Sebastian took the stage with a misleading strut, his acoustic slung over his back, and pulled the microphone out of Bob's hand.
"I'm an American and I don't really know what the saying 'Bob's your uncle' means but trust me, it's a fucking nightmare."
Bob grabbed the mic back as Sebastian pulled his guitar into place.
"That's right, ladies and gentlemen, Sebastian Fossil is going to sing some songs and play the stringy box thing shaped like a lady.