“For you, babes,” Roger says. “We’ve been drawing sizable crowds, but still.”
“There isn’t gonna be another tour, man,” I say. “This is it.”
“That’s what you think, baby,” Roger says casually.
“Oh man” is all I say.
Roger looks up. “Oh shit—here the little bastards come. Just be cool.”
“Jesus f**king Christ.” I sigh. “I am cool.”
“Just keep telling yourself that and roll your sleeves down.”
“I am becoming aware of just how lost inside my life you really are,” I say, rolling my sleeves down.
Four members of the English Prices walk into the coffee shop and each of them has a young Oriental girl by his side. The Oriental girls are very young and pretty and wearing striped miniskirts and T-shirts and pink leather boots. The lead singer of the English Prices is very young also, younger than the Oriental girls in fact, and he has a short platinumblond burr of hair on his head and smooth tan skin and he’s wearing mascara and red eyeliner and is dressed in black leather and has a spiked bracelet wrapped around the wrist he holds out. We shake hands.
“Hey, man, I’ve been a fan of yours like forever,” I hear him say. “Forever, man.”
The other members nod their heads sullenly in agreement. It’s impossible for me to smile or nod. We’re all sitting at a large glass table and the Oriental girls keep staring at me, giggling.
“Where’s Gus?” Roger asks.
“Gus has mono.” The lead singer turns to Roger, eyes still on me.
“I’ll have to send him some flowers,” Roger says.
The singer turns back to me, explains, “Gus is our drummer.”
“Oh,” I say. “That’s … nice.”
“Sushi?” Roger asks them.
“No, I’m a vegetarian,” the singer says. “Plus we already had a big breakfast of SpaghettiOs.”
“A big important record executive.”
“Hip,” Roger says.
“Anyway, man,” the lead singer says, turning his full attention back to me. “Like, I was listening to your records—well, the band’s records—since I can remember. In, like, well, a long time ago, and I’m not guessing when I tell you that you”—he stops and has trouble pronouncing the next word—”… influenced us.”
The rest of the English Prices nod, mumbling in unison.
I try to look the singer in the eyes. I try to say “Great.” No one says anything.
“Hey,” the lead singer says to Roger. “He’s pretty, uh, subdued.”
“Yes,” Roger says. “We call him, in fact, Sub Dude.”
“That’s … cool,” the lead singer says apprehensively.
“Who were you listening to, man?” one of them asks me.
“When?” I ask, confused.
“In, like, when you were a little kid, in, like, high school and stuff. Influences, man.”
“Oh … lots of things. Um, I don’t really remember… .” I look at Roger for help. “I’d prefer not to say.”
“Do you want me to, like, repeat the question, man?” the lead singer asks.
I just stare at him, frozen, unable to move.
“That’s life,” the lead singer finally says, sighing.
“Captain Beefheart, the Ronettes, antiestablishment rage, you know,” Roger says blithely, then, “Who are your friends?” He laughs slyly and the lead singer laughs, barking, and that’s the cue for the rest of the band to follow.
“These girls are great.”
“Yes sir,” one of them says in a deep monotone with a lisp. “Can’t understand one bit of American but they f**k like rabbits.”
“Can’t you?” the lead singer asks the girl sitting next to him. “You a good f**k, bitch?” he asks, a sincere expression on his face, nodding. The girl looks at the expression, takes in the nod, the smile, and she smiles back a worried, innocent smile and nods and everyone laughs.
The lead singer, nodding and smiling, asks another girl, “You give real good head, right? You like it when I slap your face with my fat leathery cock, you gook bitch?”
The girl nods, smiling, looks at the other girls, and the band laughs, Roger laughs, the Oriental girls laugh. I laugh, finally taking off my sunglasses, loosening up a little. Silence takes over and everyone at the table is left, momentarily, to his own uneasy devices. Roger tells the band to order some drinks. The Oriental girls giggle, adjust tiny pink boots, the lead singer keeps glancing at my bandaged hand and I see myself in the same naive curled grin, in the blur of a photo session, in a hotel room in San Francisco, in a zillion dollars, in another ten months.