Category Archives: Eric

ShapeShifter Fiction: Irony?

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Three Word Wednesday and the awesome dudes at Metal Sucks teamed up for this flash featuring ShapeShifter. But… where’s Trevor?

“We’re working with who on this one?” Mitchell asked. He scratched the top of his head, his elbow sticking out at an odd angle. Kerri had to duck under it.

“Jason McNair,” Daniel said, looking over the fax he’d just picked up at the hotel lobby. “He’ll meet us here in the lobby in …” He glanced at his wrist, but Kerri wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t like he ever wore a watch.

Kerri smiled as Daniel looked around the ornate lobby for a clock. A red digital display — terribly out of place with the gold filigree and plush upholstery everywhere else — hung over the front desk. Daniel blinked at it, then checked the fax again. “Ten minutes,” the drummer said.

“Why?” Mitchell asked, sounding pained. “What’s wrong with Adam?”

Daniel shrugged. “JR wanted some new blood. Apparently, this Jason dude has a concept he wants to sell us.” He consulted the fax again as Eric arrived. “We have to behave, JR says,” Daniel continued, acknowledging Eric’s arrival with a shallow nod.

Mitchell began coughing, sounding for all the world like he was choking on something. Kerri understood; telling ShapeShifter to behave was sort of like telling the sun to stop shining. It was also an invitation to create a mob scene.

In short: that sort of instruction never went over well.

Daniel held up the second page of the fax, turning it so Mitchell, Kerri, and Eric could see it. “He’s the one who did this,” he said.
Mitchell’s face turned purple. Kerri, laughing herself, pounded him on the shoulder. Eric frowned and took the picture from Daniel. “We can’t jettison the guy? Get out of here, like, now?”

“Doubt it,” Daniel said. With two fingers, he plucked the page out of Eric’s hands and spent a long minute studying it. Kerri leaned over his shoulder, alternately appalled and amused by it.

The band, who she’d never heard of, was made up of five guys. They stood in a Flying V, the four outside of the vortex looking as typical metal as possible: aloof, disillusioned, angry, ready to kick some ass. All at once.

There was serious irony in the shot, Kerri thought. The straw hat on the dude on the left. The only baldie and the only long-hair standing together.

But that final dude… the one at the back of the V. The one with his back to the camera and his hands held out wide, like they were ready to grab the gun out of the holster on his hip and start shooting, only to reach for the one under his knee when all six shots were gone…

Kerri hoped it was irony the picture was supposed to be conveying.

And God help this Jason guy if he tried to make anyone in ShapeShifter pose like that.

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Trevor Fiction: Sucky Night

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Author’s Note: This Three Word Wednesday post is part of the Trevolution. It has no spoilers for Trevor’s Song, and fits right into any of the Demo Tapes anthologies. If you’re new to the Trevolution, what are you waiting for?

Trevor yawned. It was big enough that the entire floor could see his tonsils, but who fucking cared? This show was lame. Lamest they’d ever done.

Figured there were fifty thousand people in the joint — or there would be by the time Sammy Spencer hit the stage with the latest version of his backup band. No one could take the place of Scarred Heart. And no one cared about who he picked as the first opener for his shows, either.

“Man, we’re fucking up tonight,” Mitchell said between songs. Trevor wasn’t even sure which songs they were between. Everything they played sounded bad. Mitchell, their awesome frontman all the girls dug, was coming off as some dull-assed jerk.

“Man, we sure are!” Trevor shot back with the brightest, fakest voice. Like he was some fucking cheerleader or something. Wouldn’t that be a hoot. As if there were people out there who thought Trevor Wolff wouldn’t put the skirt on. It would be way more fun to get it off the cheerleader he’d steal it from but…

“What?” he asked when Mitchell flicked his ear.

“Quit being an asshole. We’re all in this together. We gotta get out of it together.”

Trevor jerked his chin at Eric. “Been talking to Soul Boy, there, again?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got three songs left and we can let these people think we suck or we can show ’em we’re here for the long haul.”

“I think we ought to race through ’em as fast as we can and go hide out backstage until everyone’s gone,” Trevor said. He nodded and crossed his arms over his chest. His bass bobbed without a hand to steady it.

It was Mitchell who put a hand on it. Mitchell who told him to suck it up. And it was Eric and Daniel who agreed. They’d salvage this show, or they’d die trying.

Dying sounded like the better option to Trevor, but he was smart enough to own up to when he was outvoted. He’d play harder, run around faster, something so Mitchell wouldn’t beat him up later and accuse him of a lack of effort.

As if on cue, Mitchell, Eric, and Trevor turned back to the audience. Trevor watched Mitchell take a deep breath, as if getting ready to turn on the jets and wow these bored people.

Trevor figured he’d let Mitchell do that. In the meantime, Trevor himself would scope out the audience. Maybe a cheerleader had shown up, ready to be charmed out of her skirt.

He could hope.

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Trevor Ficton: Twirling

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If this is your first time visiting with Trevor and the band, welcome! This short fiction ties in to my novel, Trevor’s Song, and will appear in a future Demo Tapes anthology. You who’ve read the book may be quick enough to catch a reference to it, but don’t feel bad if you don’t. This story contains no obvious spoilers — but is the perfect reason why you’ll want to pick up one of my three books and become a proper Trevor Wolff (or Mitchell Voss) groupie.

Mitchell was, Trevor quickly noticed, too dumb or too naïve or too sheltered or too stupid, or too something to realize what had just landed at his feet. Probably all of the above; the idiot was certainly a work in progress.

Trevor, however, was none of the above. When the song ended, he gave Mitchell the old familiar nod, the one to tell the frontman to stand down for a second.

Mitchell stepped back from his microphone and crossed his arms over his chest. Waiting.

Trevor sniffed. The asshole wasn’t giving him the right sort of invitation. Really. This one deserved an introduction. It was going to be good.

But, of course, the guy was too stupid or too something to realize what those round, red pyramids were. They weren’t fucking streamers, like he was probably thinking, what with the strings hanging down from the middles of them, at the top of the peaks. They were way better.

Trevor hoped there’d still be adhesive on the backs. Usable adhesive.

He shoved his bass onto his back and knelt to pick them up. Sure enough, both were right there, waiting for him. This was too good, too perfect.

And then it got better. They hadn’t been used.

He heard a few giggles when he stood up. “These from you?” he asked, leaning out into the barrier space between the stage and the fans. It wasn’t terribly big; hell, the whole place was on the small side. Two hundred people, tops. And only about half that who’d turned out to see the band. And three girls standing there, giggling, their faces flushing with something other than the energy the band was giving off.

One of them had given him a new toy. Even if no one was stepping up to claim responsibility. Yet.

Fucking figured. Even something as simple as this, and no one had the balls — or, in this case, the tits — to own up to having done the deed. Maybe she’d reveal herself later, come up to him after the show, pull the front of her shirt aside so he could see them in action, properly attached and waiting for the sort of attention only Trevor Wolff could give them…

He straightened, feeling Mitchell watching. Eric was curious, of course, and Daniel had stood so he could see over his drums. Not that there had been anything to watch yet, but it was time…

He peeled the paper backing off the adhesive. With his best snigger, he did the same to the other paper, trying to keep both cradled in the same hand. It wasn’t easy; the tassel kept trying to drip between his fingers. Finally, he let it.

Mitchell started tapping a foot. Never a good sign. If the idiot’s face had started to turn red, Trevor didn’t know. He wasn’t looking.

Trevor turned his back on the crowd. Daniel watched as Trev put his new toys in place.

Mitchell took a step back. His eyes got huge as he realized what Trevor had found. With a shake of his head and an arm wiping across his mouth so no one would see him smile, he turned back to the crowd. “And which of you pussies helped Trevor get all dressed up tonight?”

That introduction was better, Trevor decided and turned around, his bass still slung behind him. He grinned and thrust his chest out as far as he could, then did everything he could to make the tassels spin in circles.

Fuck, Stacia made it look easy. But that’s why she was Riverview’s top stripper. And why Trevor was only a bass player.

The crowd didn’t quite roar, but they didn’t fall quiet, either. Trevor could hear some laughter, and a lot of whoops. He tried to shimmy his shoulders. He took three steps forward and four back. He looked over at where Eric should have been, except the guitarist was in the wings, his face buried in a towel and his shoulders shaking harder than Trevor’s.

Trevor tried a few more of Stacia’s moves, and then the audience let loose, howling, cat-calling, and cheering like mad. Still behind his drums, Daniel encouraged them.

It wasn’t until one of his new toys fell off his t-shirt and he fumbled at it, finally managing to catch it and stick it on his bass like a new knob that he’d had enough. Maybe it had something to do with Mitchell, who’d come over to Trevor and was motioning that he was going to pinch the pastie — and Trevor’s tit under it, too. As if Trevor had tits, being a man and all, but that was another story. If you were gonna play the part, you couldn’t bitch when someone else wanted to join in. It was always better with company.

Whatever. Trevor didn’t fucking care — so long as Mitchell didn’t squeeze too hard. He was getting a moment, thanks to stupid-head beside him here.

Or… maybe not. If the guy’d had a clue, Trevor never would have gotten this chance.

He twirled the tassel on the fallen pastie as ge stuck it to his bass and grinned. Too bad there weren’t more people here; it would take awhile for the word of this to spread.

Trevor looked back at those three girls in the front. He’d bet just about anything on one of them approaching and offering to show him the moves he’d botched so badly. Fuck, he wasn’t a stripper. He was a bass player in a rock band, for fuck’s sake. He shouldn’t have to know how to twirl a tassel.

Just so long as she did, Trevor figured they’d be set.

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ShapeShifter fiction: Signs of the Apocalypse

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Daniel had been with Mitchell when the call had come in. It hadn’t taken a lot of discussion for the veto, but Daniel thought Eric and Trevor ought to know what had been suggested.

And then he’d run off to an interview, leaving Mitchell to do the dirty work. Or, as the case — of course — was, hear about it.

“It’s just not plausible,” Eric said, like he had to apologize for his opinion.

Trevor stared at him. “What the fuck? Plausible? Who cares about shit like plausible? It’s a stupid idea and you and Dans were right to say no.”

Mitchell wondered if Trevor even knew what the word meant. He’d be surprised if he didn’t; Trev was smarter than he liked to let on. But over the years, Mitchell had learned that Trev threw tantrums like this, he usually had no fucking clue what he was actually talking about. Especially because in this case, if he could understand Eric, he’d realize he agreed.

“We should absolutely care,” Eric said. “If our fans can’t trust us to be authentic–”

“Wait right there,” Trevor said, holding up a hand. He hadn’t had time to stick his cigarette into the corner of his mouth; he still held it between his thumb and index finger, like a roach. “What the fuck does authentic have to do with plausible?”

Bingo, Mitchell thought, trying to keep his face blank.

“Because,” Eric said, then stopped himself.

“That’s a fucktard of a reason,” Trevor said. He finally perched the cigarette in its place and shoved some hair out of his way. “Why not say something like it’ll taint the pool of samples, or Trev, are you going to do this willingly, or do we have to outvote you again?

“Want us to?” Mitchell asked. It was getting harder to hold back a smile, but if he wasn’t able to, Trevor would go absolutely ballistic. Trevor’s life, after all, was all about the guy’s pride.

“No!” Trevor got up and started pacing. “I want… I want…” He froze, jerked his head up, and narrowed his eyes. “Do you fucks even care what I want?”

“Always have,” Mitchell said as Eric murmured something along the same lines.

“I want you to fucking use words I get! Is that too much to fucking ask for?”

Mitchell pretended to scrub at his face, the way he did when he got frustrated. He figured that this way, Trevor couldn’t see his surprise. Trevor had just owned up to something on his own.

That could very well mean the world was ending.

“Plausible means it’s believable. So if we’re doing something not plausible, we’re also not being authentic, which means real,” Eric said.

“Damn straight that shit’s not believable. Us, doing one of those New Year’s Eve TV shows?”

Mitchell pulled his hands away. “Unless we’re onstage that night and they cut to a live shot of us for a full song. I can see us getting away with that.”

“But not standing on some stage in the middle of fucking Times Square,” Trevor said before Mitchell could.

“I know people who’ve spent their lives dreaming of being there,” Eric said. “We’ve toured with some of them.”

“Which is why we’re on top of the world and they’re down there, still staring up at us,” Trevor said.

“You’d be surprised,” Eric said. “A lot of us grew up watching Dick Clark. It makes sense to dream about. Dick’s launched an awful lot of careers.”

“Launched? We fucking launched years ago,” Trevor sneered.

“Well,” Eric said, “try this. He can launch us into more homes faster than we may get there on our own.”

“Tell me this, Soul Boy,” Trevor said, bending down into Eric’s face. The guitarist leaned back.

Mitchell watched carefully. Trevor being this aggressive must be another sign of the Apocalypse. As if being invited to be on Dick Clark hadn’t been the first. They were adding up, fast.

“Why do we want to be in more homes, faster?” Trevor was asking.

Mitchell breathed again. So that was all Trevor wanted to know.

“So we can rule the Earth?” Eric asked, his gentle voice weak, as if Trevor being in his face was scaring him. “Remember? Doing that was your idea.”

“Yeah, but I never said we should get there this way.”

Eric shrugged. Trevor stood up and looked over at Mitchell. “What do you have to say for yourself?”

“I already did. If we’re doing a show and they cut in, fine. Otherwise, forget it.”

Trevor stopped cold, as if he hadn’t heard Mitchell say that the first time. He nodded as he thought that over. “So you’re telling me you’re willing to compromise?”

Mitchell sighed. “It’s not such a dirty word, Trev. Try it every now and then.”

“No.”

“I’ve seen them do cut-ins over the years,” Eric said. “It’s not selling out, Trev. It’s letting people join us. Think how many people have turned into ShapeShifter fans because they’ve seen us live.”

Trevor looked from Mitchell to Eric and back again. “Maybe.”

Mitchell gave Eric a quick wink. “That means okay but it kills my pride to admit it.”

Trevor snorted.

Mitchell stared in fascination. Part of him wondered if he looked like that when he snorted, nostrils flared and drops of snot flying, face totally constipated. The other part couldn’t believe Trevor Fucking Wolff had just fucking snorted. That was about as beneath him as compromise.

Of course, he’d just done that, too.

Maybe, Mitchell figured, it was the final sign of the Apocalypse. If so, there was no way in Hell he was doing Dick Clark. Fuck that. He was going to be at home, in bed with Kerri.

Just in case.

Have you missed the fiction around here? I have. I’ve got some other goodies coming up, as well, so stay tuned. This is my #FridayFlash, #SundaySnippet, and Three Word Wednesday post. I may stop writing to the prompts; I don’t know yet. I feel like they’re not as good as when I just let my brain fly on its own.

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Springer Fiction: Roadie

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Our last Musical Hanukkah Celebration piece is slipping in under the wire here. I’m including it as a Sunday Snippet, since it’s set in my fictional city of Riverview, but if you’re here as part of that, only Eric appears in any of my books. Eric’s worth knowing, however.

Springer didn’t have much hope, but he jammed his fists into the pockets in his jean jacket and tried not to hunch his shoulders. He’d never get noticed if he was staring down at the ground. Confidence, baby. Jason at work said it was all about making people think you were confident, even when you were about to piss yourself with fear and nerves. Given how many people were around, Springer decided he’d try anything to stand out from the crowd. After all, even the girls looked like him. Every single person hanging around had long hair and wore a jean jacket.

One more thing about keeping your head up, Springer noticed. You saw things. That didn’t mean he recognized the van that pulled into the small lot at the back of The Rocket Theater. After all, it looked like twenty others he’d seen since he’d been standing across the street. There was no reason to pay any special attention to it. But for some reason, he did.

“Hey, Springer!”

He looked around at the other people hovering on the corner with him. No one looked familiar.

Then he caught the movement from across the street. From someone standing in a shadow near the door to the backstage area.

He raised his head a bit higher. The person responded by changing the way he waved. It went from a wide arc for attracting attention and turned into an invitation.

Springer swallowed hard and jogged across the street, darting between cars, curious who had recognized him — and why. It wasn’t like he had a ticket this year. He could hear a few jealous comments from the pack behind him, but he didn’t care. He’d been picked — for something.

It was Eric Wallace who was waving madly at him. “I thought that was you. Ready for another great year?” the guitarist asked. The guitarist of ShapeShifter had noticed his pretend confidence.

Springer jammed his hands back in the pockets of his jean jacket and gave in to the need to bow his shoulders. “No ticket,” he mumbled.

Eric leaned closer and asked Springer to repeat himself. Springer couldn’t bring himself to be any louder.

“Oh, no problem. I need a PA tonight,” Eric said. “It’s not paid and I’ll run you all over the place, but you’ll get to see the show with the rest of our staff.”

Springer knew he looked like an idiot, the way his head jerked up. His mouth was probably hanging open, and his eyes were probably huge. Like he cared. The important thing was that he’d been deemed cool enough to help out.

Eric gave him a minute to get it together. “Ready?” he asked.

Springer nodded, wishing his tongue would do something other than pulse like a panting dog. At least it was inside his mouth, and at least he’d managed to seal his lips shut. There was hope.

Eric handed him a laminate. “Don’t lose this. Now, go find the production office. Inside somewhere, there’s supposed to be a box full of pictures of the band. Please bring them to the dressing room, along with a box of Sharpies.”

As he hung the laminate around his neck, Springer started walking toward the stage door.

“Hey, Springer!” Eric called.

Springer turned, but kept walking backwards until he splatted against the wall.

“Thanks. We need cool fans like you.”

The impact points from the wall immediately stopped hurting. Springer wasn’t even sure his feet were touching the ground as he fumbled for the door and disappeared inside, intent on finding the production office and earning a spot working for Eric. Suddenly, it wasn’t so hard to hold his head up and have confidence.

Remember, if you haven’t picked up my books, they are now 50% off at Smashwords — but only until January 1. And yep, at least 50% of the royalties from the sales will head off to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation. If you’d like to make a direct donation to the Foundation, I’ll be entering you in a raffle to win some really cool books. C’mon. Help out tomorrow’s rockers. Or orchestra members. Or music fans…

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ShapeShifter Fiction: Benefit Song

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Yep, I’m tying this Three Word Wednesday post into the Musical Hanukkah Celebration. Sales are picking up, so be sure to be part of this extravaganza. The more books you buy, the bigger our own donation. No benefit song needed.

If the guys in ShapeShifter had learned anything about their motor-mouth manager, it was that as soon as he stopped with the verbal diarrhea, the band was in serious danger.

“A proposal has been made,” JR said.

Mitchell pushed back into the couch. Like backing away would help.

Trevor noticed Eric and Daniel were doing it, too. He figured a smart person would brace himself, but no one had ever told Trevor he was smart. Besides, whatever it was couldn’t be worse than Mitchell bringing Rusty into their lives.

Trevor Wolff hated to be wrong.

“As part of the Musical Hanukkah Celebration,” the manager said, still so slowly, a person could actually, honest-to-God make out where each word began and ended, “it’s been suggested.”

“Out with it already!” Mitchell roared.

JR scratched the back of his hand. His momentary silence was both a delight and a cause for serious concern. This was going to be bad, Trevor realized.

The manager drew in a breath, but when he spoke, he wasn’t off to the races like usual. “All the bands participating in the event get together beforehand, say before Thanksgiving, and collaborate on a song. Think We are the World, or Live Aid.”

Trevor expected Mitchell to lose it so utterly, he’d blow a few gaskets and they’d have to rush him to Amy’s office for some doctoring. Instead, the guy had face-planted in his own lap, hands dangling on the floor, oh-so-happy to have had this shit land on his head. Clearly, the guy wasn’t going to be able to come through in the clutch. Not this time.

“M?” Eric asked. “You okay?”

Mitchell shook his head. Trevor figured that couldn’t feel good, with his nose scraping his legs. Then again, maybe it wasn’t so bad; the guy didn’t have the sort of schnozz Trevor did.

“Need a barf bag?” Daniel asked.

Mitchell kept shaking his head.

Trevor leaned forward and peered more closely at the big idiot. The guy’s face was bright red; how he wasn’t shaking with rage, Trevor didn’t know.

“Quit showing us Rusty’s favorite fuck position and fucking talk to us already,” he said, turning his back on the guy. He began to count.

Sure enough, he’d only gotten to three when the dragon let the fire-breath out. “A fucking benefit song? On top of everything else we’re doing here?”

“It’s great publicity,” JR said. Something must have loosened his tongue because he started blathering about the exposure and the money they could earn. “It’s about kids, Mitchell. Daniel, Eric, talk some sense into the guy will you please We can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars just by pricing this as a ninety-nine cent download Hundreds of thousands!”

“NO!” Mitchell howled. He jumped to his feet and got in JR’s face, shutting the manager up. “There will be no benefit song, do you fucking hear me, JR? Bringing other bands in other cities into this thing was bad enough. The whole idea here was to have fun, remember? Where the fuck did that go? Why the fuck is this all about the money to you?”

JR’s face turned red.

“Oh, motherfucker,” Mitchell said. It came out in a breath, airy and defeated.

Trevor couldn’t agree more.

This piece will be continued! In the meantime, pick up my books or make a direct donation — the latter option will get you an entry into a raffle for some great books that I did not write!

Be sure to stop in at the Weekend Writer’s Retreat, as well — see what’s been posted and add your own fiction!

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ShapeShifter Fiction: Glass

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Glass.

If he closed his eyes, that’s what Mitchell visualized. Shards of glass, poking their pointy, broken ends into his throat. His sore, tender throat. The one that needed to be able to sing for two and a half hours.

Last time he’d felt like this, Amy had sent him medicine. It had worked just fine on his throat but fucked with the rest of him. Not in a good way for a guy on the road. Eric hadn’t minded the extended guitar solos the first two nights, but when it dragged on for eight, not to mention how it’d slowed down their travel with Mitchell’s constant need to stop, even the guitarist, the most tolerant of all of them, had had enough.

As if Mitchell hadn’t. After all, it was his body the medicine had fucked up.

He wasn’t calling Amy so fast. Not if she was going to do that to him again.

Still, he had two interviews to give before the show later that night. Sucking on lollipops helped a bit, but not for very long, and it was hard to talk with a sucker in your mouth. That wouldn’t work with the press, even if most of them were dicks. It wouldn’t wash later, during the show, although it might be fun to flick a sucker from your mouth into the crowd, just to see what would happen.

Probably fall in that safety zone between the fans and the stage.

“Dans? Where’s the honey?”

The drummer crossed the room; he’d been primping for an interview of his own and the dressing room felt empty with just the two of them in it. Eric would show in another hour, to give some face time himself, and Trevor would appear… whenever King Trevor felt like it.

“Right there, by your right hand,” Daniel said, surveying the catering table set up in their dressing room.

Mitchell figured that was how it went. He was busy looking at the set-up for the tea, the bags and the sugar and the powdered flavored creamers for coffee, the real milk in the ice tubs with the beer and Gatorade. The honey was… there with the ketchup and shit. Made perfect sense.

It was one of those honey bears. They were fun to fuck around with; Daniel was constantly coming up with new things to do with the stupid things. Mitchell picked this one up, turned it ass-up, and poured a dollop of honey directly onto his tongue.

“Slick,” Daniel said.

Mitchell swallowed and shrugged. And then he closed his eyes and swallowed again. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better.

He set the bear down — near the tea and coffee shit this time — and eyed the back of its head. That same spot he liked to whack Trevor in. He swallowed again, and gave the bear an affectionate pat.

It may have been an old wives’ tale that honey soothed a sore throat, but those old wives sure knew a thing or two.

Whoever the fuck the old wives were.

“Mitchell, ready?” Charlie asked, sticking his head in the dressing room. “I’ve got one reporter on the hook for you, and a quiet spot for you to inflict the torture.”

Mitchell turned to go, then stopped. He twisted and picked up the bear. It could come with him. Maybe he’d have some fun with it and the reporter.

Maybe the reporter would know who the old wives really were.

Honey on glass. He’d take it.

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ShapeShifter Fiction: Field on Fire (Post Trevor’s Song era)

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“Shame it had to end like this,” Kerri said, looking out at the quiet beyond the stage. Usually, this sort of quiet was reserved for late, after the band had showered and was getting ready to move on to the next town.

Mitchell grunted agreement and squeezed her hand.

“Dumbfucks,” Trevor said, an unlit cigarette dangling off his lip. A breeze blew the scent of scorched sod their way.

“Who?” Kerri asked. “The fans, or Hammerhead?”

Mitchell snorted. “Fucking Howard,” he said. “Get a break like this one and fuck it up. What an idiot.”

“Rub it in,” a voice said behind them. The three turned to look, finding Howard the Hammer standing off to one side. “I didn’t think they’d really do it.”

Mitchell glared at him, a rumble deep in his throat.

“Okay,” Howard said, blowing out a breath. He shook his head quickly, a familiar gesture that utterly failed — as usual — at getting his dark wooly hair out of his eyes. “I sorta wondered what they’d do. But I didn’t think… didn’t believe…”

Mitchell let go of Kerri’s hand and crossed the distance to Howard. He stopped in front of him, chest to chest. “Do you fucking know how much shit you’ve caused here? Who do you think is gonna get charged for resodding this entire fucking lawn?”

“I’ll pay you back,” Howard said, shifting from foot to foot.

“Not good enough,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t even get to fucking play tonight, thanks to you.” He gestured widely, meaning Howard to see, Kerri guessed, the fact that Mitchell should have been wearing skin-tight black jeans and a guitar instead of knee-length baggy camo shorts and a black tank top. “Our manager’s going to have to fucking bend over and grab his ankles for months before we’ll be allowed here again. As for you? You might be done, man. This will follow you around. I bet right now, as soon as you get near that production office, you’re going to be handed a list of shows that’ve been cancelled. Assuming JR hasn’t just decided to pitch you off the tour in the hopes that people will get that this wasn’t my band behind this shit. Because every single news source out there is saying this happened at a ShapeShifter show. That’s what this was. A ShapeShifter show. With special guest, Hammerhead. See how that works?”

Howard winced: face, shoulders, arms. Even his legs bowed with his chagrin.

Kerri itched for a pencil and sketchpad.

Trevor strolled across the empty stage, slowly. He turned to Howard. “I had plans tonight. You fucked me up.”

“I… I’m sorry.”

“This is only the start of being sorry, man,” Mitchell said. “You might have just effed up your career for life. Even if you fold Hammerhead and start another band, you’ll always be the asshole who told a worked-up crowd to set the field on fire.”

“Not to mention the only other person who’s managed to get a ShapeShifter show cancelled,” Trevor called from center stage. “This band doesn’t cancel.”

“I’m in good company?” Howard offered weakly, then bowed his head when he noticed Mitchell’s face. Kerri knew she’d have to get him away from Howard, and fast. Not that she blamed him in the least. It wasn’t supposed to have gone this way. It should have been a routine show, spiced up by whatever Trevor had planned.

Trevor, who suddenly seemed a lot more middle-of-the-road than he could probably stand being. Whose hijinks always had something behind them, some point he was trying to make, a statement he wanted others to get. Trevor pulled his shit deliberately. He’d never encourage twenty-three thousand people to rip up a lawn and set it on fire — if only because they’d be looking at the flames and not him.

Mitchell took her hand again and they crossed the stage to join Trevor. Kerri bent her knees slightly and kissed Trevor on the cheek.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said to her, putting his fingertips over the spot her lips had just touched. There was no wiping off, no screaming about cooties. Kerri made note of that.

Mitchell took a swipe at the back of Trevor’s head. None of his anger at Howard came through. “Come help me fix this mess, will ya?”

Trevor flicked his unlit cigarette off the edge of the stage, into the security area between where the fans should have been and where the band should have been. “I fucking hate cleaning up after dumbfucks,” he muttered.

As they matched Trevor’s speed off the stage, Kerri looked back for one last glance at Howard the Hammer. Head bowed, shoulders sagging, he looked like someone who knew his dreams had gone up in the same flames as the lawn.

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ShapeShifter fiction: The Bra and the Shirt

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If you’ve never been over to Alice’s Restaurant, you want to fix that. You see, Alice and I have decided to team up for some blog fiction fun and send two of her characters to see everyone’s favorite band.

As soon as the red satin bra landed at Mitchell’s feet, a pang of jealousy shot through Trevor. What was that chick thinking? Throwing it at the big idiot, instead of him?

Trevor looked out into the crowd. She wasn’t hard to find there in the crush of people at the stagefront barriers, given the way she was squealing and grabbing the arm of the guy she was with. One of those easy-going types who’re everyone’s friend. Until you piss him off. He wore all black, too, so you knew not to fuck with him too much. Or he was afraid he’d look like a fool and was playing it safe.

Trev watched the two of them for a second. They were both laughing, the woman covering her face with her hands like she couldn’t believe she’d wiggled out of her bra right there, then launched it with all the skill of the girls at Moon Shadows.

Trevor wanted to sidle up to her, to push aside the stupid-assed beads and feathers she’d filled her hair with, and tell her he was glad she had. It had been fun to watch her squirm out of it. She should have fucking thrown it at his feet after that show, but he understood. Blondie was the frontman. Everyone watched the frontman. Even, sad to say, him.

But that was his job, he reasoned, jumping as Mitchell turned and glared at him. Trevor knew that glare; it was the one that said he’d just fucked up beyond usual. Time to think about music, not the chick who’d thrown her bra.

The song was over, anyway. Mitchell picked up the bra by one strap and let it dangle off his index finger. He held it out. “Look!” he told the crowd.

The roar that went up made Trevor stagger back a few steps. Holy fuck, they almost liked the stupid-assed bra better than the band.

Mitchell turned to Eric with the bra, then Daniel. The drummer stood up and reached out with a drumstick, like he was trying to hook it.

Mitchell, who was standing sideways so most of the crowd could see what was going on — as if the vid screens above them weren’t focused on him anyway — pulled it back and cradled it against his chest. His bra.

Trevor snickered, wondering if he’d model it after the show. They’d used to do dumb shit like that, back before they were headliners. Back when they didn’t have to worry so much about unauthorized cameras.

Mitchell cocked his right eyebrow at Trevor, the one hidden from the stage. It was the only invite Trevor was going to get.

He grabbed the bra from Mitchell. Held it up. Sniffed a cup. Deeply.

A quick glance into the crowd told him the woman who’d thrown it was blushing. Good; Trevor liked older women. Let her dude wait his turn.

“A good one,” Mitchell said into his mic, giving Trevor an approving nod. He turned and faced the crowd head-on. “Now, if any of you other girls out there want to share some goodies with us, you feel free.” He paused and let his face crack into one of his biggest, most doggish grins. “We’ve got a Wall of Fame at home, you know.”

Trevor wasn’t sure why the guy was so desirable. He looked like a total dork, grinning like that.

Mitchell motioned to Eric to come over. He lifted his guitar strap over his head and had the other guitarist hold the works while he stripped off his shirt. It wasn’t just sweat soaked, it was all but dripping.

“Who threw this?” Mitchell asked, pointing to the bra Trevor still held.

Trev stepped up and pointed out the girl, all crazy colors in her hair, all Blending Boyfriend holding her at the waist so she didn’t get trampled as the crowd surged toward Mitchell. Each one of them needed Mitchell’s shirt. Not one of them had a doubt it was going to the girl, but they’d go down hoping.

That was what made ShapeShifter fans so fucking cool.

Sure enough, Mitchell motioned to security. Trevor pointed out the girl again.

The Blending Boyfriend accepted the shirt and gave it to his girl.

The four members of ShapeShifter grinned at each other. Yeah, it was about the music. It always was. But damn if this sort of thing didn’t rock every bit as hard.

Got an idea to have some fun with me and the band? Drop me an e-mail; I’m all ears.

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Fiction Outtake: Gumball Machines (Pre-Trevor’s Song Era)

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Trevor stood in front of the machines, a cigarette dangling off his lip. If he’d ever needed to look cool, right now was it. Adults weren’t supposed to chew gum, let alone buy it out of gumball machines. And that was assuming there were gumballs in all these machines. There wasn’t.

If anyone had been handed adult status and tried harder than Trevor Wolff to give it back, Trevor would like to meet that person and shake their hand.

He rubbed the quarter in his hand. Only one, and four things to choose from. Gum, one of those sticky hands that they loved to smack each other with, a rubber ball, and some unknown, unidentified other sort of toy.

There was no sense taking the chance on the unknown thing. Not with only one quarter. Maybe he’d be able to plant it in Daniel or Eric’s bunk, but sooner or later they’d remember they hadn’t bought it.

Mitchell had torn the fingers off the last sticky hand. He’d plastered them to the front of the microwave, trying to make the thing give them the bird, although he was the only one who’d been able to see it. Four of the fingers were still there, looking like … sticky little lines.

It was kinda cool and definitely something that got people talking, but it made the rest of the hand hard to drag across a guy’s beard when he fell asleep in the front lounge. What made it fun — and why Mitchell had done it — was the way the fingers would suddenly pull off a whisker or three. Not even the big idiot could sleep through that.

Trevor drew on the cigarette. Gumballs were fun, but it was hard to chew and smoke at the same time. Now that the band got a per diem that could stretch to cover cigarettes, chewing gum instead of smoking wasn’t as necessary as it used to be.

As for the rubber balls, the bus driver had banned them, at least on the bus. Which was where they were headed as soon as everyone finished whizzing and Trevor decided what to do with his quarter. Saving the ball for later was stupid, too. Mitchell and Daniel would grab it and play some form of tackle handball until either the ball got lost or Charlie pulled them off each other and sent them to opposite corners — and took the ball for himself.

There was no way Trevor was wasting this quarter on those two. Or the stupid-assed tour manager.

Eric came out of the rest stop and stood beside Trevor, looking at the choices. “Slim pickings,” the guitarist said, his hands jammed in the back pockets of his jeans so his elbows stuck out.

“Tell me about it.” Trevor moved slightly so he wouldn’t get touched by one of the elbows.

Eric bobbed his head and for a second there, Trevor was afraid the guy would tell him all about it. He’d done that sort of shit before.

“Maybe we should wait for the another one,” Eric said. “There’s bound to be something better out there.”

“What’s better than Mitchell’s face when he sticks his foot in a shoe and finds a sticky hand waiting for him?”

“Mitchell’s face when he’s gone a week without finding a sticky hand,” Eric said. “We’ve done that one so much, we’re all checking our shoes before we put them on.”

Trevor couldn’t argue with that. He exhaled hard, watching the smoke float past Eric’s face. It was sort of fun to see how relieved everyone looked when they didn’t see anything waiting for them. “I’m bored,” Trevor said.

“Me, too,” Eric said. He pulled his hands out of his pockets. “We need to come up with something different.”

Trevor nodded his agreement, the end of his cigarette flapping along.

“When the time is right, we’ll know what to do,” Eric said.

Trevor closed his eyes, willing Eric’s spirituality lecture to stop right there. He wanted to have fun, not listen to a bunch of bullshit.

“No,” Mitchell said.

Trevor didn’t open his eyes yet. Clearly, the big idiot thought he was raiding the sticky hands.

Eric coughed. A fake, hollow cough. The kind that said someone had detected the sort of fun that was needed.

Trevor opened his eyes and used his tongue to flick his cigarette off his lip and onto the ground. “Too late,” he told Mitchell in a sing-song.

“Trevor–” Mitchell growled.

Daniel came out and looked at Mitchell, then at Trevor. And finally at the gumball machines. He groaned. “You didn’t.”

Trevor slid the quarter into his back pocket, trying to be casual about it. “I did,” he said and shrugged.

“Me, too,” Eric said. He was smiling, like this was great fun. For him, who never did this sort of shit, it probably was.

Mitchell opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out. Not even hot air. He turned and walked off to the bus. Daniel did the same thing: opened his mouth. No sound, no hot air.

The drummer turned away and jogged to catch up to Mitchell.

Eric and Trevor looked at each other. “This could be fun,” Soul-boy said.

“Could be,” Trevor agreed. “At least until they dump all the shit out of our bunks, looking for whatever they think we just bought.”

“It’ll break up the boredom,” Eric said.

Again, Trevor couldn’t argue. He felt the quarter in his back pocket. The guy was right. Sometimes, it was best to wait, even a little bit. There would be better gumball machines up ahead. Better pranks.

Although, this one was off to a good start.

This bit of fun was inspired by another Easystreet Prompt. You can read a bit of the thoughts that went into this outtake at my RedRoom.com blog. If I can get it to post correctly.

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Mitchell Fiction: Camping

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Mitchell rested his hands behind his head, cradling it over the flat pillow Eric had given him. The cool night air felt good on his arms and the exposed part of his chest that stuck out of the sleeping bag. Maybe there was hope for this camping idea yet.

He hadn’t wanted to come. Hell, he’d laughed when Eric had suggested it; he liked to be outside, sure, but to find a spot in the middle of the woods and spend the night? Doing what?

The lead guitarist hadn’t backed down, no matter how grumpy Mitchell got. Camping, it seemed, was going to happen. Just the two of them, a couple of sleeping bags, a tent that Eric damn well better know how to pitch, some food in a bear-proof container, and two acoustic guitars.

It had been obvious that Eric knew what he was doing. “It’s how Dad escapes from the congregation,” Eric had said as he’d slid the poles in place. “Everywhere else he goes — even if he’s in another city — he runs into people who know him. So he comes up here instead. Jared used to come with him until he got a life, then it was my turn.” Eric had shrugged. “I may have a life, but it includes this now.”

Mitchell thought he was nuts. Once the tent was up, he got bored. Picking up firewood wasn’t exactly stimulating, although actually getting the thing started had some fun points. Like when Eric had pulled a stick out of the fire, its end glowing orange, and challenged him to a swordfight.

That hadn’t lasted long, so they’d roasted their weenies, toasted the buns, and threw a few ears of corn on the edges. Somehow, it all tasted better out there. Mitchell didn’t want to admit it, but he sort of was digging this. Being able to take a piss wherever he felt like it wasn’t a bad thing, either.

Going to bed before sunrise had sucked, but he’d actually been too tired to care. And now here he was, awake at the crack of dawn, listening to the birds start singing.

Part of why Eric had dragged him out here was because lately, the songs weren’t there. The band had a new album due, but whenever they sat down to write songs, they all sounded like shit. Flat. Or fake. Forced. Definitely not the Fuck You, World that ShapeShifter was known for. Worst of all, the music that was always playing in Mitchell’s head had stopped.

This solution of Eric’s had seemed stupid at first — songs about birds chirping weren’t exactly Fuck You, World. But now, as the world woke up and dragged Eric along with it, the birds weren’t the only music Mitchell was hearing.

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Fiction Outtake: Bored on the Bus (Trevor’s Song Era)

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They’d been on the bus for what felt like weeks. So long that they were way overdue for a day off inside of an actual hotel room — and every single member of ShapeShifter was grossed out by the thought of how excited they were about something as sterile and isolated as a hotel room. But at this point, with only the bus or the inside of the venue to look at, a hotel seemed like the ultimate luxury.

During these stretches, it wasn’t unusual for no one to talk. No one had anything to say, really. Not when you were spending exactly every waking minute with each other. Not when you’d done this dance for years.

Mitchell didn’t even have much to say to Kerri, which was pretty pathetic considering they were still newlyweds. She didn’t seem to care, except that she was as bored as the rest of them. So bored that she had squished herself on the couch beside him, her chin on his upraised knee. Instead of drawing, she was playing idly with the hair on his leg. He knew she wouldn’t be doing it if he’d put his jeans back on, but when all you were doing was sitting on a bus, why bother with pants?

He could only take so much of Kerri’s petting and stroking. It wasn’t hot, it wasn’t comforting. It was just damn annoying.

He lifted his leg and straightened it, moving gently so he didn’t startle her onto the floor or hurt her. “Woman,” he growled, “my leg is not a guitar. If you want to strum something, go find one.”

With a shrug, Kerri stood up.

“What are you doing?” He knew he flailed as he sat up, but he didn’t care. She’d been supposed to stop petting him, not do … whatever.

“Getting a guitar,” she said carelessly, and disappeared into the bunks.

Eric and Daniel chuckled as Mitchell groaned, but Trevor nodded. “That’ll teach your dumb ass,” the bass player said and lit a cigarette. “You know she can’t resist a challenge. Even an easy one like that.”

“At least it’ll give us something to do,” Daniel said as Kerri came back carrying Mabel.

She sat down at the other end of Trevor’s couch, facing Mitchell, and put the guitar properly on her right leg. Then she shook out her hair and straightened her back, looking to the table at Eric. Mitchell noticed how pointedly she ignored him. He tried to keep his latest groan inaudible; it would only egg her on.

“So. What do I do now?” she asked Eric, a too-bright smile plastered to her face.

Mitchell wanted to cover his own face with his hands. Anything to keep from watching this. But he couldn’t look away.

“You need a pick,” Eric said.

Kerri handed the guitar to Trevor, who took it with a sneer. She stood up, watching Mitchell as if she expected him to do something.

“What?” he asked as she stared down at him. Fuck, but he hated it when she smiled like that. All smug and full of herself — and about to make him the butt of some joke, he was sure. Anyone with a shred of common sense would get up and leave before it happened, but he was stuck there, both by his own inertia and some sick need to be present.

Kerri bent down so she could reach across him, making sure she brushed her breast against his face. She dug in the change pocket of his jeans.

He refused to so much as breathe until she came up with one of the eight million or so picks they’d had made for this tour. He told himself not to panic; he still had two others in there. And maybe she’d give it back. Or, even better, make him come looking for it.

She smirked at him as she reseated herself and took Mabel back from Trevor.

“Okay,” she said to Eric, “now what?”

Trevor leaned forward as Eric motioned Mitchell out of the way so he could sit across from Kerri and give her instructions. She made a show of not knowing how to hold the pick or how to use it.

Her performance set Mitchell’s teeth on edge. And that was before she struck a note.

“What about my face?” she asked when Eric told her she was ready to move on to the next step.

“What about it?” Eric asked.

“Not even Asshole there can play guitar with his face,” Trevor said, jerking his chin at Mitchell, who growled. Kerri didn’t need to know about the time he’d tried. Hell, Mitchell wasn’t sure Trevor knew about it.

Kerri took a deep, exaggerated breath. “I know that,” she said. “But to watch the three of you, in order to play guitar, you also have to make faces. Like this,” she said, puckering up like she’d eaten a lemon. “Or this,” she said, opening her mouth and widening her eyes.

Daniel laughed.

“Oh, you’re not much better, you know,” Kerri said, pointing the pick at him. She stuck her tongue into her cheek and, again, let her jaw drop open.

Mitchell bit back a smile, but Eric didn’t bother hiding it. Her faces were poor imitations of theirs, but they got the point across. Daniel pretended he didn’t care, and Trevor was pretending he wasn’t paying attention, even though his eyes flicked back and forth. He was, like always, too full of himself to give in and have a good time, especially because it was Kerri at the root of it all. Trevor couldn’t stand it when she pulled shit like this — because he wanted to be the one at the center of it.

“You know what’s going to happen now?” Daniel asked, picking up Eric’s cigarettes and fiddling with the pack. “We’re going to get on stage tonight and obsess about our faces.”

That was entirely too true.

Mitchell told himself he shouldn’t care. Guitar players were supposed to make faces; the girls in the crowd ate it up. The guys thought it was the path to coolness — and a lot of them practiced their faces more than they did their guitars even though the more you played, the more natural the faces turned. It was all part of rock and roll.

Besides, he told himself as Kerri tried to stand up, only to discover the hard way that guitars had straps for a specific reason, if this got inside his head too bad, he’d divorce the wench.

But in the meantime, at least he wasn’t bored.

Has it been too long since we’ve had an outtake just for the fun or it, or WHAT?

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ShapeShifter Fiction: Key Lime Pie (Trevor’s Song era)

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No Thirteen this week, as I’m off to Cub Scout Camp again this summer. As a treat, I thought I’d show you what you guys inspired, based on your responses to this Thirteen I wrote back in May. Hope you like it; there may be more to follow if you do.

Eric didn’t notice it until he was on his way back to sound check. He’d just taken a bathroom break that had been long enough to make his tech feel like part of the band instead of the stand-in for the real guitarist. Stupid touring; it got to him like this every few weeks, it seemed. It got to all of them, but he swore, he got it the worst.

He stopped by the deli tray to grab a slice of turkey. That’s when he noticed it, sitting on the end of the table like it didn’t need to be kept cold or anything.

Mitchell was not going to be happy about it.

Eric wasn’t quite out of the dressing room when the rest of the guys pushed through the door.

“Nice of you to come back,” Trevor told him with one of his usual sneers. “I thought you were a member of ShapeShifter.”

“I didn’t really want the guy puking on stage,” Mitchell told the bass player. Eric tried to get a feel for the guy’s mood. Sometimes, sound check went well and mellowed Mitchell out. Sometimes, it totally sucked and the guy was a dragon. Right now, he was talkative.

“Remember what happened when that one roadie puked?” Mitchell asked. “How fucking bad it smelled? And it lasted until the end of the tour, too. No, Eric, you did the right thing, ducking out on us. We wrote a new song,” the band leader said.

Eric smiled wanly and flopped down on the couch. Mitchell was in a good enough mood. Maybe he wouldn’t hurt someone when he noticed it.

… or then again, maybe he would, Eric thought when Mitchell growled, “What the fuck is that?”

Eric sat up to look.

Mitchell stood in front of it, breathing so hard, his nostrils flared. “Get someone in here who can explain this,” he said.

Since the four of them were alone at the moment, Daniel jumped to do it.

“Just use it for an ashtray,” Trevor said, taking his cigarette out of his mouth and reaching to lead by example.

Mitchell strong-armed him out of the way.

“Well, fuck you, too,” Trevor said.

“Not until we get some fucking answers,” Mitchell growled. He hadn’t taken his eyes off it. Eric wasn’t sure he would, even though it was pretty obvious the thing wasn’t going to move by itself.

Daniel came back. “They’re going to find someone,” he said and stood on his toes to peek over Mitchell’s shoulder, as if he needed to be shielded from it. “At least this one’s not green.”

Mitchell growled more loudly. Daniel backed off. Even Trevor took a step back.

A few minutes passed with no one really knowing what to do. All four of them kept throwing glances at it, like they expected it to get up and come after them or something. Maybe melt, Eric decided, picking up a can of Coke from a bus tray full of melting ice. If that ice was melting, there was no way the non-green thing was in good shape.

Not like any of them would be dumb enough to eat it.

“There’s a problem?” The mousy man who led Charlie, the band’s tour manager, into the dressing room had seven strands of hair left at the front of his head. They’d been pulled back into a ponytail and they made the guy instantly memorable.

Charlie peeked over Mitchell’s shoulder. “Whoa. That’s some bad vibes.” He turned to the mousy guy. “That a key lime pie?”

Mousy guy nodded. “My wife made it. She said she read in a magazine that you guys like key lime pies.”

From across the room, Eric could hear Mitchell breathing. Hard. He closed his eyes and hoped the guy wasn’t about to explode.

“Take it out of here,” Mitchell said. It wasn’t a request.

“But my wife…”

“Take it!”

“What’ll I tell her?” The guy’s eyes were darting everywhere, like he was about to panic.

Mitchell picked up the pie and pressed it firmly into the guy’s chest. “Tell her you hope it doesn’t stain. And tell her she needs to be more careful about what she reads because we fucking hate key lime pie.”

He let go. Half the pie fell to the floor. The other half stuck to the guy’s shirt.

“Oh,” the guy said in such a small voice, it was almost a squeak.

Eric stood up. “Look,” he said, “thank your wife for the pie, but explain to her that she read an article written by a reporter who has a problem with us ever since Trevor puked on him after eating a key lime pie that some fan had made.”

“But my wife…”

Daniel put a hand on the guy’s shoulder, looking with distaste at the custard smeared on his shirt, “Was wrong, and you got off light. We’re the band. This pie was a violation of our concert rider and we could pull even more of a prima donna routine and make you very unhappy. You got off light. Hell, Charlie, give the guy a free t-shirt to wear and then call JR. We don’t do shows with this joker anymore.”

The mousy guy paled. “But…”

Mitchell started to laugh. “You’re the promoter and you fucked up this royally? Dude, you’re done. Go fucking sell real estate or something.” He jerked his head toward the door and Charlie sprang into action, escorting the mousy promoter dude out of the dressing room.

Trevor and Daniel laughed. Even Mitchell relaxed enough to smile.

“The best laid plans…” Eric said and decided that pie or no, he needed to return to the bathroom.

Ahh, yes. Sometimes, it sucks to be in a band. If you’re new to ShapeShifter, or if you want to read more, click on the cast of characters tab at the top of the page. You’ll find links with each character sketch. I know. There are a lot of them.

Not sure where to start?

Here are a few of my favorite ShapeShifter adventures on the road:

Backstage Party
Bean Dip #1
Bean Dip #2
Green Hair Week — The Concert (You may need to read the whole series to really get it, but it’s fun.)

If you need me for anything, I’ll be back in a few days. The Tour Manager will hold the fort down while I’m gone.

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Springer Fiction: Encountering Eric

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It was nothing more than wishful thinking. Springer knew that. He knew that affording anything more than a new D string was out of the question. But he couldn’t help himself. He had to stop in at Guitars by Gus and see what was new. Even a guy like him was allowed to dream.

Good thing dreaming was free. Since scrambling to put all that money together for the ShapeShifter Musical Hanukkah Celebration last December, Springer had been broke. His car insurance had come due, and since he had a job, Dad had made him cough up the cash for it.

“Son, you don’t pay rent,” Dad had pointed out.

Springer kept his mouth shut and handed over fifty bucks from his pay each week. That left him with just enough to fill his gas tank, although lately that hadn’t been so easy, either. Springer had made his girl do some of the driving, but she hadn’t been happy about it, and she let him know it.

Doing shit with her hadn’t been happening much lately. Springer didn’t want to think too much about that. He didn’t want to think about much — he just wanted to drop into Guitars by Gus and dream a little.

The shop was buzzing when he walked in. No one noticed him come through the door, which wasn’t normal. Usually, you walked in and Gus himself or one of his kids was there to say hi. Today, no one.

That’s because people were packed in. It was like someone was giving a clinic, one everyone else in town had known about, probably because they stopped in more often than once every few months.

Springer craned his neck, trying to see who was the cause of all the excitement.

No go.

He turned around and read the flyers taped to the front door, trying to read signs that weren’t facing him. If there was anything there about a clinic today, he couldn’t see it. Maybe it had been taken down.

Three people came in behind him, pushing Springer into the line to meet whoever it was. He tried eavesdropping on the conversations around him to find out who it was, but all he could hear was, “I brung this so he can sign it!”

As Springer got closer to the front of the line, one of Gus’ sons shoved an oversize cardboard cover of the latest ShapeShifter album in his hands. “Here. You’ll need this.”

Springer stared at it in shock. No way. No fucking way. There was just no fucking way on this planet that he’d chanced into an in-store signing with someone from ShapeShifter. If only it was Eric… if only he could tell him what getting on stage with him at the Musical Hanukkah Celebration had meant. If only…

If only Springer’s luck didn’t suck. Seriously about that no fucking way bit. By the time he’d get up there, it’d turn out to be the other two. Or the drummer. Or Eric would get up and leave right before Springer could make eye contact with him or…

And then it was his turn, and it was Eric and …

Springer’s mouth went dry. He tried swirling his tongue around in his mouth. Nothing.

Eric was looking at him. Hard. “I’ve seen you around somewhere…” the guitar god said.

Springer nodded and tried for words as he set the cover flat down on the table between them. “Musical…”

“Musical? Like South Pacific?”

Springer shook his head and held his hands up in Air Guitar position.

Eric nodded. “You won a jam with us at the Musical Hanukkah Celebration.”

Springer nodded and just like that, the saliva returned to his mouth. So did the words. “That was so fucking cool to do. Man, if I could win it again next year, my life would be set, know that?”

Part of him stared in terror as his mouth kept flapping, spilling the worst case of the runs Springer’d had since the time he ate that bad bean burrito.

Eric was good about it, nodding and signing the cover flat Springer had set down, then flipping it over and writing something else.

Until he handed it back and made a motion with his head that Springer should step aside, the words kept coming. For all Springer knew, he was telling the guy about the time he lost his virginity. Or the stories his mom liked to torture him with, all about his potty training. Or …

Before he knew what had happened, Springer was out on the street, still babbling. That part of his brain that hadn’t turned to mush was screaming at him, as angry as a brain could be.

He’d blown it. He’d been right there with Eric and hadn’t said a single one of those things he’d needed to tell the man.

When he got back to his car and tossed the cover flat on the passenger side, too disgusted with himself to care about it, the words on back caught his eye. “See ya at the next Celebration.”

Springer sat in the car and hugged himself. Maybe he wasn’t such a fuck-up after all.

Haven’t met Springer yet? I created him last winter, for the Second Annual <a href="http://westofmars.com/2006/12/17/byline-chelle-lafleur-musical-hanukkah-celebration/. (This link will take you to the genesis of the idea) Be sure to stop in for this year’s fun. In the meantime, use the cast tab to learn more about Springer and the fictional band who rules his world.

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ShapeShifter Fiction: Bean Dip Concludes

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You guys are really into this bean dip… Hope what follows doesn’t disappoint, as the bean dip is mostly absent. Mostly.

If you’re a bit lost, this is the earlier post, setting up this lovely scene.

Erica knew how to stock a backstage dressing room, that was for sure. Daniel asked Mitchell to remember to include some of the things she thought of — ice cream sandwiches for after the show, and gummy candies beforehand — whenever ShapeShifter got big enough to have a catering rider.

“Shit, I’ll ask for the ice cream from now on,” Mitchell laughed. It had been a stroke of genius on Erica’s part; nice and cool after the hot set. They’d all gotten headaches and nasty head rushes, but fuck if it hadn’t been worth it.

Back at Erica’s flat, Mitchell got friendly with a six-pack and crashed. The other three stayed up with their hostess, met her boyfriend — a hulking biker type, apparently — and talked the night away. Mitchell had trouble believing they’d stayed up and talked without getting drunk or stoned; it took awhile in the morning before anyone would admit to both.

They were in pretty good moods as Mitchell pulled the Bronco out of the narrow city street that Erica lived on and followed her directions to the Northbound freeway. After its brief cleaning, the truck smelled better, the weather was good for driving — not raining, not too bright; just perfect — and so Daniel and Mitchell fell into a discussion of how many t-shirts they had left and how many more copies of their small-label release they’d need to have shipped out when it started.

Eric farted.

Not to be outdone, Trevor burped. Then farted.

“Oh, shit, here we go,” Daniel muttered.

Mitchell tried not to smile. “She did feed us Mexican food last night.”

“Knowing fully well we’d be stuck together in a small space when it kicked in,” Daniel pointed out.

Eric groaned with pleasure as he farted again.

Mitchell could practically feel Trevor’s brain working, trying to find another way to top him.

“Trev,” he said in his most serious voice, “give me your lighter.”

“Ooh!” Mitchell envisioned Trevor’s eyes lighting up as he understood what Mitchell was trying to prevent. “Nope, I think I need a smoke.”

“Four guys who smoke, stuck in a truck the morning after a midnight Mexican feast,” Daniel said, then farted noisily. “This is not going to be pretty.”

“Let’s get the windows open,” Eric said, waving a hand in front of his face. “It’s already nasty back here.”

“So open the fucking windows,” Mitchell snarled, reaching for the map.

“Don’t do it, man,” Daniel said softly. “Going back without a plan’s never a good idea.”

Mitchell glared at him. The tooting in the back continued, accompanied by a burping contest.

“We’ll get our revenge on her,” Daniel said with a definitive nod.

“How?”

“Beats the shit out of me, but I’m sure we can find something. We’re ShapeShifter. No one fucks with us like this.”

Mitchell had to sigh as he opened his window and let go of the tight hold he’d had on himself. “I think, Dans, that she did.”

And because the voting’s not closed yet…
And if you’ve missed it somehow, Just a reminder… go vote for me!
My site was nominated for The Blogitzer! My site was nominated for Best Blog Design!

My site was nominated for Best Blog of All Time! My site was nominated for Hottest Mommy Blogger!

Yes, I’m totally going to torture you with this until the voting closes on May 22. So go vote, will ya? If you’ve already voted, why not register under another e-mail address? You’ll get to vote again that way!

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Fiction Outtake: For Erica (The Early Days)

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Some fiction again this week for Rhian‘s Poetry Train. I don’t think you need any run-up to this; it’s the early days, the fledgling band‘s put together a small tour on a shoestring budget. On these tours, you rely on the goodness of locals — or you sleep in your truck.

By the way, you can blame this — and its conclusion, which I’ll run tomorrow — on Erica at Writing Aspirations. It’s all her fault.

“Hey, M,” Trevor said, coming up behind Mitchell, who was half-in, half-out of the Bronco, trying to clean it out a bit. He wasn’t sure, but he thought it was starting to smell. Four guys on the road would do that, he knew. But damn, it had happened fast.

“Whatcha-doin’?” Trev sing-songed.

Mitchell bombed an empty can of Mountain Dew at him.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

“Why the fuck not? It’s fun.” Mitchell tossed another one, again without looking. Who cared where it landed, so long as it was out of the truck.

Trevor smacked his lips. A bag rustled; Mitchell guessed he had talked someone into coughing up some chips. Until they got paid for this show, they had about five cents between the four of them. Unless, of course, Trevor was hoarding cash again and had used that to buy the stupid chips.

“Because I’m not alone,” Trevor sing-songed.

Mitchell groaned and buried his head in the seat of the Bronco. He should have known.

“You want to come meet Erica.”

Before he raised his head, Mitchell let himself growl. Getting it out would be the only way he could smile at this girl. He didn’t want to be social; he wanted to clean the damn truck out before he had to think about the show. He had about ten minutes, tops.

What he saw when he turned around surprised him. First of all, this girl was holding a can of bean dip, and she and Trevor had almost abandoned the chips for it. Mitchell half-expected Trevor to pick the can out of her hand and lick it clean.

The last time he’d done that, he’d turned it into foreplay.

“Who’re you?” Mitchell asked. She was tall for a girl, almost taller than Trevor, and she wore ratty denim shorts over fishnet hose and fourteen-eye black Doc Martens. A push-up bra and a ripped black Soulbender t-shirt; she looked more goth than metal except her hair wasn’t dyed black and she didn’t have makeup on. In the absence of those, Mitchell decided she was … normal.

“Erica,” she said and stuck her finger in the can of bean dip. She licked it off before saying, “The Sleeve wanted me to connect with you guys. I’ll be doing your dressing room tonight, so if you want anything special in there, holler. Also, if you need a place to crash tonight, I’ve got room.”

Trevor moved a step closer to her and started examining her mouth. “I want something special,” he said.

“Forget it,” she told him coolly. “I’m taken.”

“M here can fix that for you,” Trevor said, giving Mitchell a wide smile like he was asking for a punch.

“Not gonna happen,” Mitchell said before Erica could react. She was cool enough, she worked for Steve the Sleeve, and if she was offering them a place to crash, he was all over it. Anything to keep from driving most of the night. He’d pull over for an hour or two when he had to, but sleeping in the truck was old. If he never had to do it again, he’d be happy.

Trevor turned and started rummaging through the back seat of the Bronco.

“Think you want that place to crash?” Erica asked, peering past Trevor into the truck.

“If it’s no big deal,” Mitchell said, wondering how many other times she’d made this same offer. She didn’t have that over-eager bunny attitude; this was old hat for her.

Trevor emerged with a crumpled pack of cigarettes. “One left,” he said, pulling it out. It wasn’t very straight.

It didn’t seem to matter how banged up the cigarette was because suddenly, Mitchell wanted it for himself.

“I’ll make dinner for you after we get back to my place after the show,” Erica offered. “I make a mean Mexican spread.”

Mitchell narrowed his eyes and looked her over. This was bordering on ritual. “You’re Steve the Sleeve’s girl?” he asked, his opinion of the local promoter plummeting. Everyone knew you didn’t use your girl for dressing room detail.

Erica snorted. “I wouldn’t do that sleazeball if you gave me a million bucks and underwrote my own promotions biz. But he pays me good,” she shrugged. “So what if I have to kick him in the balls every now and then to keep his hands off me? It’s nothing compared to how hard he’ll get it when I spin out and start doing my own shows.”

“You’re on for that place to crash tonight,” Mitchell told her. There was something honest about her, something he could relate to. He wasn’t so sure about the Mexican food, but he’d deal with that when he had to. The last time they’d had Mexican food, they’d all gotten sicker than dogs and had to stop at every single rest stop along the drive.

Maybe the homemade effect would make the difference.

And because the voting’s not closed yet…
And if you’ve missed it somehow, Just a reminder… go vote for me!
My site was nominated for The Blogitzer! My site was nominated for Best Blog Design!

My site was nominated for Best Blog of All Time! My site was nominated for Hottest Mommy Blogger!

Yes, I’m totally going to torture you with this until the voting closes on May 22. So go vote, will ya? If you’ve already voted, why not register under another e-mail address? You’ll get to vote again that way!

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ShapeShifter Fiction: Backstage Party (Pre-Trevor’s Song)

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Despite his weed-induced mellow and years of personal experience, Trevor was still proud of the destruction they’d just wreaked on the dressing room. Beer bottles on every surface. Foil wrappers wherever they’d been tossed. Towels draped over the beer bottles, under the bottles, in one case even wrapped around the base of a bottle, anchoring it upright. Potato chip crumbs — among other things — ground into the carpet. Food everywhere. The couch washed down with shaken-up soda and beer, and people still dumb enough to try to sit on it. Garbage cans overturned; at one point, Mitchell had been wearing it instead of a lampshade, the wanker.

One rather enthused and satisfied girl had taken the squeeze mustard and written ShapeShifter on the wall behind the disaster that the catering table had become. All the food had either been knocked over, pushed aside, rescued by a frantic local roadie or two — Trevor hadn’t bothered to watch — or relocated; it didn’t matter. It wasn’t the lovely little display of tempting usualness it’d been when they’d arrived.

Two girls had decided to see if sliced salami would stick to the wall if they threw it just right. Intriguingly, a couple actually had. A bunch had made contact but then slid down the wall, leaving a lovely grease trail in their wake. The rest made a path — like stepping stones, Trev thought with a snicker — across the room. One or two had been trampled on; a brunette had slipped and fallen on her ass, then limped out. She’d looked more in pain than upset that her party with ShapeShifter had ended so soon.

Trevor didn’t doubt that he’d been the only one who’d noticed her leaving. He also didn’t doubt that he’d laughed the hardest at her fall. Her arms had flailed, her eyes had gone huge, but she’d let out this kittenish, barely audible scream. It hadn’t fit the picture. Pretty fucking cool.

“Come on,” Charlie, their tour manager said, tugging on Trevor’s arm as if he was the one who’d be able to get everyone to leave. “Party’s over. We need to get out of here.”

Trevor pulled his arm free. The guy wasn’t entirely sober, himself. Settlement must not have taken long — although who the hell knew what would happen once the disaster of the dressing room was noticed.

Charlie burped a beery-reeking gasball, giving Trev the feeling that he was the only sober one in the room. For a change. If it weren’t for weed this good, he’d have hated the fact that he was afraid to drink.

“The party’s not over,” he told Charlie.

“The party’s not over?”

Trevor gave him a blessedly stoned, placid look. He stopped himself from folding his hands over his belly. “The party can’t be over until the fat lady sings and if you look around, all the fatties showed sense and left already. No fat girl sings, no party ends.” He nodded. It really was pretty simple.

“We’ve got to clear out,” the tour manager whined.

Trevor curled his lip at the guy. “So clear the fuck out. But in the meantime, we have a party to finish up.” He nodded at the rest of the band. “They’re still standing. There’s still a few girls here. Party’s not over.”

“Move it back to the hotel,” Charlie called, raising his voice to be heard over the drunken slurring that passed for chatter. Even if most of it was directions about what felt good and the slurping of deep kisses.

When no one gave any sign of hearing, he turned the radio off. “Move it back to the hotel,” Charlie repeated.

The guys looked around their girls at each other and shrugged. One spot was as good as another. So long as there was beer, they’d be happy. Besides, there were beds in hotels. That meant less complaints about sore knees and backs and other body parts.

Maybe.

Trevor wondered if there’d be any fat chicks at the hotel they could pick up. And if there were, what would it take to get them to sing?

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Fiction Outtake: Eric’s Flu (pre-Trevor’s Song days)

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This is for Erica, who’s home sick with the flu. But while I have you here, let me point out that author Conor Corderoy stopped by to leave a comment here. If you haven’t picked a book to read yet for the Debut a Debut contest, why not his Dark Rain? A dystopia AND murder mystery; how can you refuse?I can’t!

And now… the outtake, just for Erica!

Daniel and Mitchell had gathered around Eric, who stared up at them from Trevor’s couch on the tour bus, his eyes glassy.

“Freaky,” Mitchell said with a nod. He pulled a potato chip out of the bag he’d bought at the rest stop half an hour ago.

“I think it’s a hangover,” Daniel insisted, holding out his hand for a chip.

Mitchell ignored him. “We weren’t drinking that much last night. And you don’t blow your nose as much as he’s been doing when you’re hungover. It makes your brain pound too hard.”

“Good point,” Daniel said. He tried to take the bag of chips, but Mitchell pulled it out of danger and tossed it toward the bus’ kitchen area.

Daniel took a wary step back, but Mitchell was fast and pinned the drummer to the couch opposite Eric. “You can fucking share,” the drummer snarled.

“No I can’t,” Mitchell growled back. “And let’s hope Eric doesn’t. He’s got the flu, you dumb fuck. All of us can get it.”

“We have a show tomorrow,” Eric moaned. “We can’t cancel.”

“True. ShapeShifter doesn’t cancel.”

“What do we do?” Eric’s moan turned sniveling. “I can’t fucking move. Do you know I spent the entire stop trying to get out of my bunk and up here?”

“Well, I wish you’d gotten here sooner,” Mitchell told him, diving for the potato chips before Daniel could grab them again. “’cause if we’d known, we could have picked up supplies.”

“Supplies?” Daniel asked, sucking on the thumb that Mitchell had bent backwards in his rush for the chips.

“Yeah,” Mitchell said, popping another chip into his mouth. “Soup, Jell-o.” He grinned. “We could have some real fun with the Jell-o that sick boy there doesn’t eat.”

“What girl’s gonna want to get on a bus that’s got a guy with the flu on it?” Daniel asked.

Mitchell winked. “Who said we’d tell them before we’re rolling?”

“Show tomorrow,” Eric said and pulled another tissue out of the box he’d propped on his chest. “Me. Gotta play,” he said and blew his nose. Hard.

Mitchell shuddered. Charlie, the band’s tour manager, jumped for the used tissue and put it into a plastic bag.

“What do we do since we don’t have any soup?” Daniel asked.

Mitchell shook his head uselessly and eyed his potato chips. There was something unappetizing about eating after listening to the goop that had come pouring out of Eric’s nose. He crumpled the top of the bag closed and offered it to Daniel, who winkled his nose and shook his head.

“You fuck heads,” Trevor said, getting up from his usual spot on the couch, at Eric’s feet. “There’s only one cure for the flu.” He pushed past Mitchell, who gave him a quick slap to the back of the head, and opened the fridge. He pulled out a beer and grabbed the opener. “You get him so drunk, he forgets he’s sick.”

“We might pickle him before that happens,” Mitchell said with a frown. He opened the potato chips and, without looking, fished one out of the bag and ate it.

“Pickle me!” Eric begged. “Just … make me better.”

Trevor handed over the beer. Daniel helped himself to a potato chip and shrugged at Mitchell.

It was worth a try.

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Fiction Outtake: Inspiration (The Later Days)

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When Kerri woke, Mitchell was still busy with his Midnight Blue ESP. She wasn’t sure what time he’d brought it up to their bedroom; she only remembered that it had been after three when she’d last looked at the clock, and the room had only held one guitar: the acoustic that was always there for middle-of-the-night inspirations.

In fact when Kerri had made that last time check, Mitchell had been as exhausted as she was, not bothering to pull the sheets back into place and barely noticing when she’d accidentally kneed him as she’d tried to get comfortable.

It was ten now, she saw when she lifted her head out of the pillows she’d had to use when he’d taken his shoulder back. Late for her, and she had a million things yet to do. Even though Michelle had started coming daily to clean, Kerri believed there was no reason to ask her to deal with the empty beer bottles in the TV room. Likewise, Kerri herself would strip the bed — once Mitchell got his ass off it.

“Have you slept at all?” she asked him, sitting up and kissing his right shoulder.

He shook his head no, his mouth counting beats or mouthing chord changes or lyrics; Kerri wasn’t sure which. Experience had taught her it was one of the three and until the notebook on his nightstand was full with a million scratch-outs and then a final, impossible-to-read song, he wasn’t moving, saying, or possibly even thinking.

Such was life with a musician.

Kerri planted another kiss on his shoulder and brushed at the ends of his hair, laying so temptingly right above her lips, and got up to face the day.

Hope you’re inspired by the Debut a Debut contest and are getting ready; we’ll open for entries next week, February 12!

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Fiction Outtake: New Year’s Eve in Dallas (Trevor’s Song Era)

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Mitchell tossed his head, trying to get the sweat to change course. Of course, it didn’t work. At the end of the show like this, the sweat had a mind of its own.

“So,” he said in a conversational way, putting his left foot forward more, almost straddling the mic stand. His guitar got in the way, so he used his right hand to move it away. “Those lousy fuckers in this half-ass town wouldn’t let us stay up here tonight until midnight so we could do this all proper, like.”

The crowd booed. Mitchell nodded approvingly, looking around at them and then at the band. Trevor and Eric looked suitably impressed and they nodded along with Mitchell.

“But,” he said, holding up one finger and cocking his head. More sweat dripped into his eyes; he blinked it out. “They wouldn’t budge even when we offered them lots of money. And I mean lots,” he said, wondering if the fans could possibly comprehend the negotiations they’d tried. Beside him, Eric nodded agreement. Trevor just laughed.

“So. Here we are, and you fucks are probably gonna bolt outta here and head off to another party. When you get there, be sure you show off your special New Year’s T-shirts and then laugh your asses off ’cause none of us got ’em.”

The crowd roared again, like that was the funniest joke they’d ever heard. As if it was true, Mitchell thought. Shit, he had the original drawing that Kerri had made somewhere in all his papers. As if ShapeShifter would make something as exclusive as a commemorative New Year’s tee and not hold out a few for themselves.

“Before we go, let’s have ourselves a little celebration. Ready? Dans’ll help you count down from ten, and we’ll have some fireworks and shit.”

He paused as Eric signalled to Daniel before approaching. “Invite the crew out,” the guitarist reminded him. Good thing; he’d forgotten. As if he’d wanted to do this without Kerri.

“Whoa,” Mitchell said, holding both hands up to quiet the fans. “We gotta do this right. Bring the crew on out. Ker, techs, everyone back there. C’mon out.”

Once Kerri had nestled under his left arm, his guitar touching her hip and his sweat drenching her, he waited for the rest of the crew to stumble out. Even though he’d warned them he’d be doing this, they were still wary, as if they were expecting some sort of joke.

On any other day, they’d have gotten one, that was for sure. Ordinarily, crew belonged in the background. But this was New Year’s Eve, and while they hadn’t gotten permission to bust through the arena’s curfew, they had gotten permission for some indoor fireworks and an early celebration.

Then, band and crew would party backstage until they were all too soused to stand.

Bobby, Mitchell’s tech, offered to take his guitar. But Mitchell shook his head. “You’re off duty for a few,” he said, leaning away from the mic so it wouldn’t pick up his voice. The guitar wasn’t heavy; he could carry it a few more minutes.

Daniel provided the bass drum beat that the crowd used to count down, and then the pyro guys back at the sound board set off the fireworks.

As he and Kerri watched, smiling, Trevor came up behind them. “So, tonight the night you’re gonna wise up and dump Rusty’s ass? That girl in the third row sure looks like she’d be willing to ease the parting.”

Mitchell cuffed the back of Trevor’s head and grinned. “You don’t stop, do you, asshole?”

Trevor grinned happily. “Who, me?”

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