Zwain came rushing into the garage panting and heaving. Tony was still setting up for that evening’s practice. Mandy and Duece were chilling on the old couch along the far wall.
“Whoa, buddy,” said Duece, “You should really ease yourself into doing exercise. That belly of yours isn’t going to make it easy for ya. I don’t want you to have a heart attack before the show on Saturday.”
Out of breath and unable to say a word, Zwain did the only thing he could think of as a comeback: he smiled and flipped Duece the middle finger. His breathing calmed as he set his guitar case down. It was the acoustic. He had lost all track of time in the park and didn’t think he had time to run home and get The Axe, plus he could wait to share the news with the others.
“Dude, where’s your guitar? Just how are we going to practice, man? I don’t have any spares kicking around here, man,” said Tony, somewhat agitated. Mandy was usually the one worrying about this type of stuff, but with the show getting closer and closer, he was also beginning to feel the pressure.
Still not quite able to talk, Zwain waved his arms in front of him and shook his head attempting to say “hold up”, hoping to ease their concerns.
Duece and Mandy walked up, his arm around her waist. “Naw, man. I think this fucker’s got something he wants to say to us. I mean, he ran all the way here. Ran! He just doesn’t do things like that.”
Nodding with excitement, Zwain tapped his nose and pointed repeatedly at Duece.
“Well, what is it boy? Timmy fell into a well, again?”
Zwain’s middle finger found itself standing alone one more time as he twisted his hand to the sky, flipping off Duece once again. Even Mandy smacked Duece upside the back of his head.
“Duece! Lay off the man and let him catch his breath. Though,” she said turning her gaze over to Tony, “even through that smart-ass comment, Duece has a point. Let Zwain explain things before we berate him for forgetting his guitar.”
Finally, Zwain had gotten enough wind back into his lungs to finally explain his situation. He sucked in a deep breathe and said, “I-finally-figured-it-out-thanks-to-some-guy-in-the-park-who-showed-me-what-I-needed-to-do-to-make-my-solo-work!”
“Hey, guy! Slow down there,” said Tony waving his hands in front of him.
“Sorry,” said Zwain, taking another deep breath before saying, “I encountered a guy in the park, and he showed me what was wrong with my solo. After he tried it out for himself, I noticed what needed to be done and got caught up in the afternoon playing it over and over again. I lost track of time, so that’s why I ran over here.”
“Dude, you’re thirty minutes early. You couldn’t have swung by your place and got your guitar?”
“Thirty minutes? Holy shit! I ran that fast? I swear, I didn’t think I’d even make it on time. I’m just so fucking jazzed right now!”
“With the way the you’re positively glowing at the moment, I would’ve probably used a different ‘J’ word–” said Duece wincing as Mandy’s elbow struck him in the side like a hammer. He laughed and clenched his side.
Mandy turned away from her boyfriend and looked at Zwain with an excited expression. “That’s awesome! So it’ll be ready for the show this weekend?”
“Fucking rights, man!” cheered Tony, “this is going to be amazing!”
“Yeah, if Mandy hasn’t done any permanent damage to my ribcage!”
“Oh, suck it up, buttercup!” said Zwain as he picked the acoustic, “Now grab the sticks! I may not have The Axe, but at least I still have something I can play. Let’s do an unplugged practice.”
Duece started walking out the garage door, “Sounds like a plan, I’ll go get the practice dampers for the drum kit.”
Mandy was already over by her amplifier. “Hey Zwain, play a few bars so I can adjust the volume on the amp over here.”
Zwain busted straight into the solo that had now been perfected. Mandy watched; her jaw slowly making its way to her collarbone. Tony stared ahead at Zwain like a deer caught in the headlights. Even Duece slowed his pace to snail’s crawl so that he could hear the solo.
When Zwain wrapped it up, he looked around and saw the mesmerized, dumbfounded expressions on the people around him.
“Uh… How about you play something else, I… forgot to adjust the volume,” said Mandy.
Tony approached Zwain, and did not blink out of his surprised look until he was standing right beside the man. “Dude!”
“Dude, that was fucking amazing, man!”
Zwain smiled and nodded, “I know, right! It’s like fucking magic or something!”
They all let out a roar of laughter, but Christopher would totally understand.