This morning we have the second part of five from Eric Storch’s Can’t Fool The Blues series. In case you missed it, part one took place in 1996 and can be found here. While you are at it, why not over to his blog after you finish this and read some more excellent fiction at Sinistral Scribblings. He has many great series, including Hannah Anne and Easy Money. He also runs the Master Class Prompt meme each week which has thrived during its first two months.
Without further ado, I am thrilled to present Can’t Fool The Blues – Part 2: 1974.
Can’t Fool the Blues
Part 2 – 1974
No we all can’t be Superfly
G.Q. Phd F.B.I.
You can pretend and you can try
Lay down dead
Or slip on by
“Hey guys, have you heard that new band, Kiss?” Jim Morse asked as he sat at the lunch table, plopping his tray down with a metallic clunk across from his friends Matt Hannigan and Chuck Pagliano. His tray was piled with double helpings of everything, including the chicken and rice.
“Looks like tits for lunch, huh, Jim?” Chuck pointed to the two perfectly shaped mounds of ice cream scooped rice.
Matt snickered and Jim’s cheeks blossomed red. “Hey, Chuck, c’mon…”
“Tits for lunch is better than what I got,” Matt waved his bologna sandwich.
“You keep eating that much, Jim, you’re gonna blimp out like Mr Harrison,” Chuck bit into an apple as he nodded toward a rotund man roaming the lunchroom looking for troublemakers. Mr Harrison taught math and was always held up as an example of what not to be upon reaching adulthood.
Jim had already begun shoveling in the food. “I gotta eat this much. Coach says I need to bulk up if I wanna play defensive back next year.”
“You’re gonna get fat,” Chuck insisted with a smirk.
“Won’t,” Jim mumbled around a hunk of dinner roll. “Anyways, you guys hear the new band?”
“Yeah, what’d you say they were called? ‘Kissy-Poo?’” Chuck elbowed Matt in the ribs, sharing the joke.
“Kiss. K-I-S-S,” Jim spelled it out. “They rock pretty hard. All the songs are about sex and drinking. You guys would like it.”
“Wait a minute,” Matt said. “Are these the guys with the make up?”
“Yeah,” Jim nodded.
“Make up!” Chuck hooted. “They are ‘Kissy-Poo!’”
Jim opened his mouth to reply, but Matt interjected. “No, not like that. It’s kind of a Japanese Kabuki thing and they dress all glam like Bowie and T-Rex.” Jim nodded.
“Well, I don’t know about that Nip stuff,” Chuck said, “But they still sound like fags.”
“They rock!” Jim was forceful enough to spit a bit of rice onto the table. “Shit!” He grabbed his napkin and wiped it up.
“Nah,” Matt shook his head. “Musically, they’re pretty basic. Not much going on. I just picked up the Genesis and King Crimson albums and they are a trip! Plus, Harv, over at The Shack, was playing this new band from Canada, Rush, and they rock.” Matt stuffed the last of his sandwich in his mouth. “I’m getting their album this weekend.”
“Lookit Mister Job, over here,” Chuck elbowed Matt again.
Matt shrugged. “Hey man, my old man says if I want the music, I gotta pay for it. Besides, ‘Mister Job’ is buying your weed.” They all laughed.
Mr Harrison had wandered closer to their table. “Settle down,” his bored voice droned.
When the laughter abated, Matt asked, “You guys wanna come to The Shack on Saturday?”
“Nah,” Jim pushed the last of the chicken and rice in his mouth. “I got practice.”
“Can’t buddy,” Chucked grinned. “I’m taking Debbie to see Blazing Saddles at the matinee, and then, you know,” Chuck made an “O” with thumb and forefinger on his left hand and thrust his right forefinger into it. “I’ll swing by sometime after though and we can do something. Maybe listen to your new album?”
“Do something” always meant “get stoned” at Matt’s expense to Chuck.
“Sure,” Matt nodded. “How about you, Jim?”
“Nah, I gotta stay clean for the season. Remember last year?” Jim had been suspended from the team after getting caught smoking in the locker room.
The bell rang.
“Gotta go,” Matt grabbed his books and left the cafeteria, headed for English with Miss Disch. “Ah, Miss Disch, if only I was five years older,” he thought.
* * *
“Can you believe Jim?” Chuck asked as he passed the joint to Matt. They were in Matt’s room, one dim light on in the darkly paneled room. Posters and pictures culled from various rock magazines and comic books were plastered to the walls. Matt sat on the edge of the bed while Chuck had taken a seat at Matt’s desk which was covered with school books and loose sheets of paper. On one wall were shelves holding a few novels and knick knacks. The new Rush album was playing “Finding My Way” on the stereo.
“What about him?” Matt asked. He took a hit on the joint, held his breath for a few seconds then let it out with a whoosh.
“Mr. Football,” Chuck took the joint, attempted to draw on it and scoffed when he saw it had gone out. “Toss me the lighter.” Matt fumbled for the red Bic and underhanded it to Chuck. When Chuck had taken another hit, he closed his eyes, tilted his back. “Mr. Football thinks he’s gonna get laid by Chrissy Ponds.”
Matt laughed. “Chrissy? Shit, she’s only interested in quarterbacks.”
“I know,” Chuck laughed too while he held the joint out to Matt who waved it off. Chuck shrugged, dug a clip from his pocket and finished the roach himself. “I tried to tell him, but he’s determined.”
“Speaking of, how was Debbie?”
Chuck grinned, “A gentleman never tells.”
“I never accused you of being a gentleman,” Matt chuckled.
Chuck’s grin got wider. “True. She was sweet, as always.” He looked at Matt then. “We gotta get you laid, man. Seventeen is too old to be a virgin. You need to ask Claire out, man.”
“Nah, I’m good. I can wait.”
“Shit, you sound like my mom.” Chuck raised his voice and octave in imitation. “You wait until marriage, Charles. No son of mine is going to lay in sin.” He coughed. “Fuck, what she don’t know, huh?”
“Yeah, you’re a badass,” Matt laughed.
Chuck looked at Matt with an unreadable face. “What?”
Matt stopped laughing. “Huh? I said you’re a badass.” Matt scratched his elbow. “Y’know, smoking, Debbie…” He trailed off.
“Oh,” Chuck grew quiet.
After a short time, Matt asked, “What’s up, man?”
Chuck searched Matt’s face. “I thought you had heard.”
Chuck waved his hand. “Nothing.”
“C’mon, dude. What is it? You taking up larceny now?”
“Shit, no!” Chuck barked.
Chuck paused, stared into his lap. “I thought,” he spread his hands, “with the way your mom and mine talk…”
“No,” Matt said, “I haven’t heard anything.” He smiled. “But you gotta tell me, now.”
Chuck sighed. “I suppose.”
He was quiet for a few minutes, clearly searching for the words and Matt didn’t press him. They had been friends before grade school and knew each other like brothers. Matt leaned over, turned off the stereo, judging the seriousness of the conversation. Chuck looked up, shook his head and Matt turned it back on, dropped the needle onto the edge of the record. “Finding My Way” started again.
“Okay,” Chuck scrubbed his face and drew a deep breath. “Here’s the thing. Us three, you, me and Jim, we’ve been friends a long time. Jim’s the jock, you’re the brain,” Matt looked at his books, “and I’m the wise-ass. But it’s all gonna change, man, and soon.”
“What are you talking about? Were you drinking before you came over here?”
“No! Shut up and listen!”
Matt threw up his hands, “All right! Sorry.”
Chuck glared at Matt, “I’ve gotta grow up and I’ve got to do it fast.” He stood and began pacing the room. “A few days ago, Mom and I got a visitor. I guess she called someone, and this guy showed up to test me.”
“Test you? How?”
Chuck stopped pacing, stared at a picture of Jimmy Page wielding his guitar on a stage in stark black and white. “I can do things, Matt.” He faced Matt. “I’m… a mutant.”
Time seemed to stop in that room then. Matt and Chuck stared at one another, one daring the other to say something stupid, the other waiting for more.
Matt knew he had to be careful in what he said next. Chuck looked like a scared rabbit ready to bolt.
“What…,” Matt cleared his throat. “What can you do?”
Chuck sighed in relief at the inherent acceptance in the question. “The Professor said I have the ability to manipulate anything with a silicate in it, like rocks and sand.”
Matt’s eyes grew wide and he smiled. “No shit? You can?” Then he jumped up. “Holy shit! Professor X was at your house?”
“Jesus, calm yourself, geekface. Lemme finish.” Chuck looked around the room, pointed to the shelves. “Can see that rock?”
Matt nodded excitedly. “The geode? Yeah, okay.”
As Chuck took the pink and blue crystal half sphere from the shelf, he said, “The Professor said I need to be touching the rock to do stuff with it. Makes things super easy if I’m barefoot, otherwise I gotta use my hands.” He held the geode in front of him. “Watch.”
A soft glow surrounded the geode, bright in the dim light of the room. The crystals began to flow, like molten metal, reshaping themselves. The half ball flattened and spread out into both of Chuck’s hands while a relief took shape in the middle. After half a minute, Chuck was holding a medallion with Led Zeppelin’s ZOSO symbol in it. Chuck held it out to Matt. “Here, for your collection.”
Gingerly, Matt took it. Once it was in his hands, he chuckled. “I expected it to be hot.” He dropped back on to the bed.
“How long have you been able to do this, Chuck?”
“Since last summer. Remember that bonfire at the lake? When we tried Acid? It was after I left the party. I thought it was just part of the trip, but when I woke up in the morning, I had this rock in my hand that I’d somehow… reshaped. It looked liked it had been carved or something. A perfect sculpture of Debbie’s face, and I knew it was for real. I didn’t say anything before now, because, well…” He trailed off.
“Yeah, Jim’s got a big mouth,” smiled Matt. “And it figures, you drop acid and get super powers. I drop acid, and then while I’m making out with Pamela Davis, and I mean, full-on French, hands on her tits, definitely heading for home base, her face starts to melt and I puke on her lap.” His laugh was tinged with a hint of rue.
“And you’re a geekface,” Chuck grinned, but it faded fast. “And my Mom. You know how she is.”
“When she found out, I thought she was gonna call an exorcist.”
“Damn, you’re lucky!” Matt shook with excitement. “You’re gonna be an X-Man!”
Chuck sat in the desk chair, leaned forward onto his knees. “Look, Matt, you gotta keep this quiet. I don’t want people to know. I’ll be gone, but they might come for my Mom.” Matt opened his mouth, but Chuck cut him off. “She’s a religious nut, yeah, but only after Dad died. I don’t want them coming for her because of me.”
Matt looked at the transformed geode and nodded. “Okay, you got it.”
Matt looked at Chuck. “I’ve wished this for myself so many times. To be a superhero, fighting the bad guys, saving the world. I envy you.”
“I know you do, Matt.” Chuck sighed. “But it’s me, not you, and I have to deal with it. I’m just glad you’re not jealous.”
Matt laughed. “You kidding? Of course I am!” He reached over and grasped Chuck’s arm, forced eye contact. “But I’m more happy for you.”
Chuck pushed Matt’s hand away. “I know.” He smirked at Matt’s hand. “Fag.”
They both laughed then.
Later, after another joint, more music and a heated discussion about what Chuck’s superhero name should be, (Chuck wanted to be The Silicator, but Matt insisted that was horrible and instead strongly suggested Granite) Chuck went home. Matt stayed up for a few more hours, studying the geode before finally falling asleep.
He did not know that was the last time he was going to see Chuck for many years.
The next day after breakfast, Matt was alone in his room, staring at the geode again. His head began to feel fuzzy, as if something was inside trying to tickle the inside of his skull. Without warning, a voice sounded, seemingly coming from everywhere, but no one else would have heard it.
Matthew, listen carefully. This is Professor Charles Xavier. I have a message from your friend Charles Pagliano.
The voice was kindly and deep. Matt felt at ease.
Charles…excuse me, Chuck, he’s quite adamant about that, wants you to know a few things. He thinks very highly of you and apologizes that he can’t give you a proper goodbye. Something about a night with Debbie and Claire?
Matt laughed. Even now, Chuck was thinking about girls.
Yes, he’s quite fond of them. The voice sounded amused. Matthew, Chuck is in good hands. The right hands. We will continue his education, help him to learn and control his ability. He wants you to know that you will be okay if you follow your heart. He tells me to tell you to keep listening to good music and that you will find you way. He is proud of you and hopes that you are proud of him.
“I am. I am very proud of you, Chuck,” tears rolled down Matt’s cheeks.
I will tell him. The voice paused. Matthew, normally, I don’t do this for new students, but Chuck wouldn’t come if he wasn’t allowed to get his words to you. I need to break the connection now before I inadvertently do damage to your mind. You have a good friend in Chuck. Never forget him.
“I won’t. Not ever.”
The tickling left his head. The voice was gone.
* * *
A year later, Matt ran out to the mailbox as he had done everyday for the past two weeks, hoping beyond hope that the news he sought would arrive. When he opened the box, it was there; a business sized envelope emblazoned with the coat of arms of the Police Academy. He tore open the envelope, ripped out the papers and scanned the pages. His face lit up and he let out a yelp of joy.
He ran back into the house. “Mom! Mom! I’m in! The academy accepted me!”
His mother hurried from living room, beaming. “That’s wonderful! I knew they would. You’re so smart!” She wrapped him in a hug.
“Ugh, Mom, get off,” Matt laughed. They walked into the living room, where Mrs. Hannigan had been watching the noon news. On the television was a fluff piece about a cookie recipe featuring a local baker.
“You understand I don’t like that you’re going to be a police officer, Matt. It’s such a dangerous job,” Mrs. Hannigan said as she dropped her bulk onto the couch.
“More than likely I’ll have a desk job,” Matt said, trying to calm her doubts. Secretly, he wished for a beat job, or detective. If he couldn’t be a superhero, he’d be the next best thing.
“Earlier this morning, the superhero team known as the X-Men arrived at the scene of a disturbance at the West Point Military Academy,” the anchor on the news announced. Behind him the news station was showing footage of the X-Men in action fighting a group of other supers, the leader of which was flying around and wore a red cape and helmet. “Reports are that the group of mutants known as The Brotherhood attacked the academy. The X-Men arrived within minutes…”
Matt stopped listening and was staring at the footage from the fight. There, in the background, hidden behind a mask, was a man ripping rocks from the ground and hurling them at The Brotherhood, seemingly with his mind. Matt had no doubt who that was.
The footage was gone and Matt once again listened to the anchorman. “The X-Men known as Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Phoenix and Granite drove The Brotherhood away after capturing two of there members and turning them over to authorities…”
“Go get ‘em, Granite,” he whispered.
*Lyric credits are “Ask DNA” by The Seatbelts