The band arrived at around eight. Together, we lugged everything into the living room. They parked the van in front of the house on the sidewalk. It was a stereotypical Volkswagen; it reminded me of two things: surf-rock and Scooby Doo. I got off the stoop and walked down to help them. We brought in the guitars, the effects pedals, the stands, all their bags.
Kim watched us from the porch. All day, she hadn't been feeling well. She threw up in the morning right after breakfast and spent the rest of the day laying on the sofa with a book. She was reading Housekeeping. Stewie, the cat who loitered in our backyard and who we took in after a fight with another stray, was sitting on top of her chest, pawing at strands of hair.
While we were moving things, Kim woke up and looked over the porch fence at the people who were going to turn our living room inside out by ten. Watch the stairs, she said sarcastically when we started to bring in the amps. Marshalls. Two half-stacks. They were large and unwieldy. She waved at us and laid back down. Stewie ran down, turned the corner and disappeared underneath the stairs.
The stoop was narrow, but we managed not to scuff the fresh white paint we put on last week. Yes ma'am, all of us said. Because we had forgotten to use primer, already, the edges that curled around the steps like toes was starting to wrinkle.
We found the house for rent just a few months ago. The landlords were a retired couple. They left for Nova Scotia to live with their daughter and son-in-law. I didn't ask but guessed that they were close to 70. They left us their furniture in the living room, kitchen, the sofa on the porch and a piano. They paid particular attention to Kim. She marveled at it on our first walk through. I use to play, when I was little, but we could never afford a real one. I've always wanted an upright, Kim said to the woman. Do you mind? Sure, please. Kim sat down and played a bit of Maple Leaf Rag.
After we moved in, it stayed untouched. The piano leaned against the wall by where we were setting up a drum set, by the TV. The piano was out of tune and the panel that covered the strings and hammers had been lost. It looked like an old postal machine, used to organize letters or one of those old fashioned switch boxes for transferring calls.
The couple were nice people. They'd call us long-distance from time to time to see how we were. How's the piano? See how the rest of their home was. We didn't mind. The rent was low. With our combined salaries, we could easily afford it unlike the other homes in and along 20th street or all the other places in midtown.
The drummer of the band was a friend of Kim's. They had known each other since she was still growing up in Paradise. What's in Paradise, I asked Kim before.
Nothing, just yellow fields, Chico and Humboldt, and more yellow fields, she said.
The band came in from Monterrey, which is not too far from Santa Cruz and by the scale of the distance they had been traveling all week – they were touring California – not too far from Sacramento. Most of us were sitting around the kitchen table. Because there were seven of us and we only had a few chairs in the house, two of them leaned against the kitchen counter and held their plates in their hands. Fried eggs, ham, rice, spring greens from the garden in the backyard, beer and black tea. I offered to get up. No no, it's your house, sit down.
It was raining earlier in day and whenever it did, the house smelled its age. At least as old, if not not older, than the retired couple. It was June. The days were getting longer. I looked through the kitchen window, in between their shoulders. The sun was dipping underneath the window sill while everyone talked. It's good seeing everyone again, it's been so long, I could hear Kim say during my observations.
Almost four years, one of them said. He was wearing a white tank top and big black framed glasses. He had a high fade and a sagging pompadour. His name was Charles, but everyone called him Chuck. He was the drummer. Kim told me they had stayed in contact through email. Occasionally, she'd get a photo from some wayward part of the country, with names we'd never heard before, like French Lick, Indiana or Dorothy Pond, Massachusetts. She'd share them with me. We only talked about the pictures.
We've been out of the state, in the rest of the country for a while. It's nice to be sort of home again, Chuck said.
I passed a bowl of greens to him. Have some more?
Was there any where you found really interesting. That you liked the most. Rob and I are planning on a road trip to the east coast in August and are wondering which way to go, she said to him.
Wisconsin? I said. My images of the mid-west were heavily skewed from living in California my entire life. The mid-west. If Wisconsin could be called that.
I'm not kidding. You and Kim should definitely go through that route. What was it? Highway 90 or 94? Well one of those. It's beautiful country.
The showed ended at close to two in the morning. Some other local musicians and friends stopped by to enjoy the night and introduce themselves. There were also a lot of people who just showed up who we never saw before and doubt we'd ever see again. Everything was short sets. Three or four songs each. After that, it became just another jam session. At one point, another guitarist started to wild out, caught up in the moment. He had that anticipatory look on his face that said, I'm going to start smashing equipment for no reason besides making myself look like I'm a crazy bad ass.
Chuck stood up. Hey man. This ain't your shit alright?
Two was the time when the bars closed and the city began to slow everyone down. A patrol car pulled up next to the van. An officer came to the door while his partner stood around on the lawn. People were just sitting around, drinking, talking. They cleared a small circle for him and continued on. He looked into the house with concentration, from the front door to the back. Whose the owner of this place, he said.
Kim came over. I am.
What's your name?
Kim Cocoran. I was worried but Kim's uncle was an old retired sergeant who use to work in Sacramento County. She looked at me. Don't worry.
We just want to know if you guys are going to call it a night anytime soon. We had some complaints about noise and people wandering drunk up and down the street around here, the officer said.
I understand officer. We were just getting ready to tell everyone to go home, sorry about that.
I made my way back through the house. The band was huddled in the corner of the living room. Chuck started to turn the amps off. Alright, everyone, if we don't personally know you, you got to go home.
It was our first show in this house and a good night. I'll always remember it.
Kim and I laid down in bed after brushing our teeth and washing our faces. The house was empty. It didn't take as long as I imagined to kick everyone out. We put all the beer bottles into trash bags and set them in the backyard. The band slept in the spare bedroom and all over the living room. We had spent the rest of the night talking about movies and all the projects we had incubating in our minds but had yet to make happen. That's awesome man, you should do it, we said to each other over and over. Then it was four.
We should do things like this more often, Kim said while we were in bed. She shuffled closer to me underneath the blanket and let her hand rest on my hip bone.
I smell like pot and beer, you sure want to do that?
I don't care. I do too. She kissed my chest. I reciprocated by smelling her hair.
We should take them out for breakfast tomorrow before they leave, she said.
We can go to Pancake Circus. How long have you known them for?
I met the rest of them just today but have known about them since college I suppose. They always hung out with Charlie when we were going to community at Butte but I never talked to them. I've known Charlie for even longer. We use to be neighbors. He was one of the only drummers in town and I followed him around from band to band until we graduated. I was the only girl cool enough to be one of the boys. And I played keyboard. I guess he likes to be called Chuck now.
That's almost ten years ago.
Yeah. A long time.
I opened my eyes and looked out the window. Everything was gray but the paint on the balcony was starting to warm. I turned around to look at her face. She always had a cute face. Except for the tiny fractures in the corners of her eyes and mouth whenever she laughed, she could pass as 19 forever.
How long have you been awake? I said. She was looking through the window curtains too.
I don't know. A while.
Yeah. I have no idea what I'm doing.
Then go back to sleep. You'll miss out on Pancake Circus if you don't.