The next few nights were the best nights of sleep that Zwain had ever had. Especially now that all that weight was off his shoulders. Zwain couldn’t believe that everyone supported him. He still felt regret for not being able fulfill his rescue, but with friends like these he knew that he will at least be able to push forward, no longer holding back.
The last few days before the concert were relatively quiet; like a calm before the storm. They practiced, they slept and they drank some beers. Duece made shitty jokes and Zwain made fun of every one of them. They never practiced ‘The Boy’ again. For some reason Zwain felt that since its completion its magic would diminish with each time they played it. He knew that was stupid to believe, but that didn’t help him shake that superstition.
It was a hot on the evening of the concert. Zwain and the group showed up early out of excitement and wanted to feel the electricity of the moment course through their bodies. It was finally here, there will be thousands upon thousands of fans in the field, each one chanting their name.
“I know what you’re thinking, man,” said Tony as he came up beside Zwain and the edge of the stage. Zwain just turned and looked at him. “You’re thinking of how appropriate it would be if it rained tonight.”
Zwain smiled, “The irony of it would be fitting. I just… can’t believe you’re all still hanging around me.”
“Hey man, the way you described your wastelands and those Ravagers, I don’t blame you. We’d all probably do some crazy shit for survival. I’ve known you for over 7 years now, and I know that man is not you, dude. I judge you for who you are, not for who you were.”
“Thanks again, Tony. That means a lot.”
“Hey guys!” called Mandy from somewhere backstage, “Can you get over here please?”
They arrived backstage to find Duece white as a sheet, throwing up into a bucket. Zwain knelt down beside him and started rubbing his back.
“Hey Duece, what’s up? How are you feeling?”
Nervously, Mandy answered for him, “I think he’s having some performance anxiety.”
Zwain looked at her with a wink and a nod, “Would this be a common… occurrence?”
“Why would you joke at a time like this?!” she yelled at Zwain, then turned her head to Tony, “Why would he joke at a time like this?”
Tony smiled, shook his head and shrugged to feign ignorance.
The tinny echo of Duece’s quavery voice rose up from the bucket, “Good one, shithead.”
Mandy couldn’t take it anymore, she started pacing around the backstage. “Everyone keeps joking! Oh please let the stage collapse on us tonight. Hopefully that will smarten all of you assholes up. Then maybe you’ll change your attitudes.”
“Whoa there, dudette,” said Tony, “I see Duece isn’t the only one experiencing some performance anxiety. Just chill, have a beer and calm down. The show is going to be great. We are going to rock some series ass, man!”
Even with his head deep down in the bucket, Duece threw up the horns. “Rock on! I’ll totally be fine once the show fucking starts,” his stomach betrayed that statement by unleashing another volley into the bucket. Once he collected himself, he slowly raised his head and said, “Just give me a few minutes, I’ve made good friends with this here bucket.”
Zwain left Duece to his new friend and went over to the cooler. He grabbed three beers and brought them over to Tony and Mandy. Mandy’s breathing was already becoming more regulated, but she still slammed back the beer, hoping the liquid courage would help calm her down even faster.
“Thank you,” she said, “What about Duece?”
“Ah, he should be fine,” answered Zwain who looked over his shoulder at Duece, who had resumed throw-up position, and said, “Whenever you feel ready, help yourself to some beer.”
Not even bothering to lift up his head, Duece responded with a thumbs up.
The other three took a seat on some chairs and silently sipped their beers. Zwain wondered how the show was going to go. He pictured the roar of the fans. The booming of the speakers. The heat of the lights. Time seemed to slow down for Zwain. It was still two hours from the show, but it was going to feel like an entire day.
About 40 minutes later Duece joined them, beer in hand. He already had a little bit more colour back in his skin. He sat down and Mandy hugged him tightly. Duece faked some gagging noises causing her to pull back in revolt, but when she saw him smiling from ear to ear, she quickly punched him in his right arm.
“Ow! You know, one day this arm is going to just fall off. Then you’ll be sorry.”
Zwain laughed, “Knowing you, you probably won’t shut up about it if that were to happen.”
“Yeah, well, maybe I just won’t shut up anyhow!” said Duece, sticking out his tongue in defiance.
Tony leaned over to Zwain, bringing his free hand up to his the side of his mouth in a poor attempt to be secretive.”Truth be told, dude. If all he talked about was his lost arm, that would actually be a decent change of pace, man.”
“Now boys,” said Mandy.
“Boys?” asked Zwain cocking an eyebrow at Tony, “Aren’t you, like, twice her age?”
“At least, man. These youngins need to learn their place, and another beer will do just that.”
“Oh please,” said Mandy, “You know I can drink you under the table, Tony. Your whole family is a bunch of lightweights.”
“Hey, do not judge my drinking capabilities on that son of mine. He got that from his mother. About the only thing she ever did give him,” said Tony with a bitter tone on his voice. That divorce was not particularly pretty, but at least he won custody.
“And that’ll be the cue for more beer,” said Zwain rising up from the chair. He returned with another round for everyone, including Duece; who wasn’t done his first beer yet.
Another hour passed by. They could hear the audience filling up the field outside. The excited murmur of everyone there to see their show caused goosebumps all over their bodies and their little hairs to stand on end. There was some magic in the air.
They got ready to go on stage. Tony slung his bass over his shoulders. Mandy adjusted her top-hat just right. Duece tugged at the strings of his ‘Dangerous D’ hoodie. Zwain slipped on a pair of white visor shades.
“Really?” asked Tony, “You’re going to wear those tonight?”
“Your damn-fucking-rights I am! I’ve been waiting to wear these puppies for years!”
“Seriously, dude, they look really stupid. And lots of fashion is looking stupid these days.”
Duece piped in with his two cents, “Shit! Yeah, they make you look like some kind of fucking future spaceman.”
Zwain only looked at him and rose his eyebrows.
“Come on guys, we’re just mere minutes from going on stage. Get your shit together!” yelled Mandy.
The rest of them calmed down and focused. The murmur of the crowd steadily increasing.
The lights dimmed!
The crowd cheered!
The guitar roared!
When the lights blasted back on ‘A Flock of Cows’ tore into their opening set. The audience before them went absolutely insane. People right in front of the stage started throwing themselves at each other. The whole field was packed with people jumping up and down like waves on the ocean.
As Zwain leaned forward, fingers working their way up and down the neck of ‘The Axe’, he soaked in the view. He could barely see the tree through the brightness of the stage-lights, but he knew it was there. He also knew one other thing…
This was a much better vantage point.