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Edgar Gets Going
The rise and fall and rise and fall of a fairly decent bass player
Waking up is hard to do
Edgar woke up. He should have been happy about this—after all, if you don’t wake up you’re probably dead or in a coma or something, although Edgar had been in a coma before and it wasn’t nearly as bad as you’d think. He looked around. His cat, Phillip the Third, was sitting on the shirt he planned to wear; well, not planned exactly, it’s not like he’d drawn up a chart for the week or anything, it’s just that it was a relatively clean shirt with very few coffee stains and Edgar thought he’d put it on. But now there was the cat problem. He’d barely started his day and already he was facing an insurmountable obstacle. Edgar considered engaging Phillip the Third in a staring contest but thought better of it: no human can beat a cat in a staring contest—that’s one of the laws of nature. You can’t outwrestle a polar bear, you can’t outswim a dolphin, and you certainly can’t outstare a cat. You will lose and the cat will make you feel stupid for trying. Defeated, Edgar sat up and scanned the floor. It was bleak. There was his rugby shirt that he could smell from across the room, a white T-shirt that was yellow (dark yellow) under the
3 armpits, and his crusty leather jacket. Then, a miracle! Philip the Third tore out of the room to hunt down invisible enemies elsewhere in the apartment. Edgar leaned over, picked up the relatively clean shirt, and put it on—an unexpected victory! Maybe this would be a good day after all. He could use a good day. Edgar got out of bed and peeked through the cheap blinds on his tiny basement window. Outside, the bright noon-day sun was shining. This bugged him. He wanted it to rain. He wanted it to rain every single day for the rest of his life just like in the music videos he’d grown up with —you know, the ones for rock ballads where good love turns bad and the sky rips open bleeding wind and rain and everyone gets wet in a moody way? That’s what he wanted… although he also liked the videos where hot girls hang out by the pool and get splashed and moist and pouty. Yah, those were good too. Now fully dressed (he slept in his underwear), Edgar walked into the living/kitchen/dining/den/recreation room where Phillip the Third was clinging to the woodpaneled wall. There was some pizza on the coffee table—and some other stuff as well: cigarette butts, Bass Player magazines, toenails—but it was the pizza he wanted. He picked up a slice, sat down on the grungy loveseat, and had breakfast. “You know,” he said to Phillip the Third, “this isn’t so bad.” But it was, and he knew it. He got back up, made his usual drink (root beer and rum), and sat back down again. He picked up the remote and flipped through the channels. “Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.” He finally settled on the Home Shopping Network. The fake fur coat for sale was oddly appealing and the model wearing it was one of his favourites. He liked the models on the Home Shopping Network; they always seemed so attainable, not like the skinny little tramps on Fashion TV, no, not at all. The models on the Home Shopping Network were good-looking, but
4 not too good-looking, and they were a little older (and in Edgar’s fantasies, more experienced)— although he felt sorry for them: after all, he was pretty sure they’d rather be on Fashion TV. It was shaping up to be another banner day. Then, suddenly, Ring!— the phone rang. So suddenly, in fact, that Phillip the Third fell off the wall and landed headfirst on the corner of the coffee table. “I should lower the volume,” thought Edgar. He thought this every time the phone rang. Ring! Ring! Edgar let it ring: it could ring up to five times before going to voice mail and he liked to push it. He would wait, wait, wait, and then halfway through the fifth ring he’d swoop down on the phone like an eagle catching a salmon. Sure, to an outside observer it looked rather more pathetic than that, but Edgar had a vivid imagination. Ring! Ri— Edgar swooped. “Hello,” said Edgar. “Hello,” said a polite voice. “Am I speaking to Mr. Martin?” “No,” said Edgar Martin, and he hung up the phone. He got these calls a lot (he owed some people money), and now his day, which had been going so well, was ruined. All he could think of was the money he owed, the money he wasn’t making, and the complete and utter shittiness of his life. He lay back in the loveseat, closed his eyes, and started to snore. Then suddenly, Ring! Phillip the Third jumped three feet straight up… or he would have, except he was under the coffee table. Thump. “I should lower the volume,” thought Edgar. Ring! Ring! Ring! Ring!
5 But this time Edgar did not swoop like an eagle—he just lay like a sloth and when the phone finished ringing and all was peaceful once more, he looked at the TV and was pleased by what he saw: a stunning close-up of the Home Shopping Network model’s boots. “Big plans today, Phil?” Edgar asked. Phillip the Third responded by licking his (Phillip the Third’s) furry balls. “Bigger plans than I’ve got.”
CHAPTER 2 Opportunity doesn’t knock, it leaves voice mail
It had been a big day. Edgar had eaten the last of the pizza, watched TV, played his bass, gone to the bathroom, petted Philip the Third… and, well, that was just about it. Now it was two in the morning and he was hungry again. He picked up the phone to order a pizza. Beep beep beep beep beep… Voice mail. Edgar hated voice mail; he kept meaning to cancel it. “Must be that collection agency,” he said to Phillip the Third. Edgar didn’t want to check the voice mail, but if he didn’t that beep beep beep would continue forever and he couldn’t stand that beep beep beep… so he punched in the code (it took him a couple of tries) and the message played: “Fuck, Edgar,where are you? It’s Carl. Look, I got a gig for you tomorrow with an act of mine… It’s all older guys like you, and Steve’s in the group as well. It’s a festival show and it pays three hundred bucks. The only thing’s that rehearsal’s tomorrow at 8a.m. and the show’s at six. You got that? Give me a call as soon as you get this.” Three hundred bucks! Edgar couldn’t remember the last time he’d made three hundred bucks. He started dialling Carl’s number but stopped when he realized he didn’t know it. He needed his address book. He looked on shelves, under cushions, even in the stove (where he kept most of his valuables), but no luck. Then he looked at Phillip the Third. “Always look under the cat first,” he mumbled. He pulled the book from under Phillip’s fluffy ass.
7 Edgar dialled. The phone rang. It rang again. And again. And again. Carl wasn’t picking up! Why? Was he just waiting to swoop in at the last second like Edgar? Was he out? Had he given the gig to someone else? Actually Carl was doing what most people do at two-thirty in the morning—he was sleeping. Click. “Hello,” said Carl. “Hello,” said Edgar. “Who is it?” “It’s Edgar. You told me to call you.” “I meant in the day… when I’m awake.” “Oh, did I wake you up?” asked Edgar. “Of course you woke me up,” said Carl. “Well, um, it’s just that I just got the message, and I—” “It’s two-thirty in the morning,” said Carl. “Oh,” said Edgar, “I was just—” “It’s late, is what I’m saying.” “Sorry.” “If I sound a little fucking annoyed, that’s why.” “Okay.” “You woke Doris up too. Anyway, you’re lucky, Edgar.” “Lucky?” “Yah, the gig’s still open. I guess noone else wanted to be in a kiddie act.” “Kiddie act? You mean like a boy band or something?” “No, a fucking kiddie act,” said Carl. “You know, for kids. I told you on the message.”
8 “That wasn’t on the message,” said Edgar. “This isn’t going to be an argument, is it?” asked Carl argumentatively. “No… I just didn’t know.” “Look, do you want this gig or not?” Edgar didn’t want it. What Edgar wanted was to be in a Famous Rock Band again; touring in a bus, playing stadiums, and signing autographs on breasts. He’d always made fun of those guys who gave up their rock’ n’ roll dreams to play children’s music or become high school band teachers or train rich kids how to play the blues. No, Edgar was in it for the music. He played what he wanted to play when he wanted to play it, with some minor—okay, major— exceptions. Truth be told, the only paying gig he had right now was in Neil Manilow, a tribute act that combined the sexiness of Neil Diamond with the soul of Barry Manilow… Perhaps he had already made some compromises—besides, he needed the money. “Sure,” said Edgar. “Good,” said Carl. “With you and Steve in the band we’re halfway to a Rock Viper reunion.” Carl said it like he thought it was funny. It wasn’t.
CHAPTER 3 Down the garden path
Edgar’s hands pressed firmly against the sides of his head in a desperate attempt to keep his brain from bursting—perhaps this had not been such a good idea. The logic was simple: figuring he would never wake up in time for rehearsal, instead of sleeping he had (quite reasonably, he thought) stayed up all night drinking rum and root beer and watching infomercials. The downside was only now becoming apparent: he was on a squeaky streetcar feeling like shit… and he had also bought a juicer. He stared out the window lost in thought. Then he stared out the window lost in nonthought. Then a little bit of thought returned and he had the funny feeling he had missed something… which he had: he had missed his stop. This took a moment to sink in (during which he briefly imagined he was actually returning home after a night of playing at a bar—after all, who rehearses at eight in the morning?), then he noticed he was way past where he should be and pulled the bell. The streetcar stopped with a hideous screech and Edgar, wincing in pain, stumbled down the stairs. He wiped a gooey substance off his chin (it felt like brains but was actually drool) and glared at the bright cheery people walking by him on all sides. Drying his hand on his shirt, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a ball of paper which he uncrumpled and squinted at in an attempt to read the address on it. It was the ninth time he had looked at it this morning. Edgar never could remember numbers… or names, for that matter; he always had phone numbers scribbled on his hands and he spent his whole life greeting people—even those
10 he knew well—with a “How are you?” or “How’s it going?” because he had absolutely no idea what they were called. He was worst with common names like Dave, Mike, and Mary. It was as if, in his head, each name could be assigned to only one person. So if he knew a Dave (which he had since preschool), then nobody else could possibly be called that. With an unusual name, however, like Anzibleep or Mr. Toaster Oven, there was a fair chance he’d get it right. He compared the number on the piece of paper to the number on the house facing him— they weren’t even close. He was going to be late, and he couldn’t afford to lose the gig. So he picked up his bass and ran down the street as fast as he could, stopping only to compare the address of the house in front of him to the number on the piece of paper, which he had uncrumpled yet again. Finally, gasping for air, his face covered in sweat and snot (but still no brains), he came to a little house with the familiar sounding number of 568 on it. He uncrumpled the piece of paper and squinted—the numbers matched exactly! Edgar took out a cigarette and rang the doorbell. A minute passed. Edgar looked back at the number on the house, then took out the crumpled piece of paper again. They still matched. He waited a little longer. He smoked another cigarette. He pressed the doorbell again. Finally, the door opened. “Hey, Edgar,” said Steve, poking his head out, “come in, we’re rehearsing in the basement.” “Okay,” said Edgar. Steve looked terrible: his skin was cracked like old naughahyde, and his scattered poofy hair and long stiff body made him look like a dirty blow-dried mop. Then again, Steve had always looked like hell. Edgar entered and started down the hallway. “Oh, Terence doesn’t like people wearing shoes in his house.” “Sorry,” said Edgar. He sat down to take off his shoes (it had been years since he’d been able to do this standing up) and heard singing:
11 Squirrel with a nut! Yum, yum, yum! Squirrel with a nut, fun, fun, fun! Up the tree, run, run, run!
“Welcome to my hell,” said Steve. “Thanks,” said Edgar. “Follow me.” Edgar followed Steve through a small living room, into a kitchen, and down some stairs. The singing got louder: The birdies they just love to sing The raccoon will eat everything The bumblebee will pollinate But there’s nothing quite as great As a squirrel with a nut, yum, yum, yum!
The stairs ended and Edgar found himself in the neatest basement he’d ever seen. There were framed posters on the wall, unscratched furniture, a small bar, clean new carpet, and not a single scrap of filth. In the middle of the room a short, rumpled, shaggy man played keyboards, while a tall guy beside him sang. The tall guy was almost unnaturally well-groomed—his skin shone, his hair bounced tastefully, and his clothes were spotless and matched. “Well, hello,” said the tall guy upon seeing Edgar. “You must be Edgar Martin.” “Hi,” said Edgar. “I am Terence Trip. I am so glad you could make it. This is Lawrence on keyboards.” “Hey, Edgar, good to see you again,” said Lawrence. “Yah, good to see you again,” said Edgar. “It’s been a while…”
12 “Yah, since last Tuesday at the jam at the Silver Dollar,” said Lawrence. “Oh. Yah…” said Edgar. He should have remembered that. After all, he jammed with Lawrence once or twice a month, although the bar was pretty dark. “And you, of course, already know Steve,” said Terence. “Yah,” said Edgar. “Yah,” said Steve. “Now, I would love to talk more but we are running a bit behind,” said Terence. “Sorry. I missed my stop.” “Well, we will just do what we can with the time we have left. Did Carl provide you with the details?” “He said you were a kiddie act.” “We are much more than that. The group is called the Garden Guys. We create musical journeys for little people…” “Like midgets?” asked Edgar. “No,” said Terence. “I shall start over. We create musical journeys for little people, like children, which portray the joy and delight of being in the garden. Now, before we embark, do you have any questions?” “I don’t think so.” “Good. Then here are your charts. Plug in your bass and we shall get started.” Edgar plugged in his bass and looked at the charts, but couldn’t read them. He realized this was because his hands were shaking. “Umm, is there any coffee?”
13 “If you wanted coffee you should have brought some,” said Terence. “This is rehearsal time. Now, I’m sorry for being so terse, but it is not every day that you get to play the Toronto Cheese Foundation Children’s Festival, is it?” “Oh, I guess not,” said Edgar, putting his charts on a music stand. “Now, let’s start with one that is new for everyone,” said Terence. “This one is called ‘Cheese Please.’” “Cheese grows in the garden?” asked Edgar. “No. Cheese is made from aged milk,” said Terence. “I thought so,” said Edgar. “This song is an exception to the garden theme. I wrote it specifically to impress the sponsors. Any other questions?” “No.” “Good. Are we all ready then?” Terence looked at Edgar. “Oh…yah.” “Then let’s start, shall we? And a one, and a two, and a one two three…” Steve and Lawrence played, Edgar joined in, and Terence sang: When I’m hungry what do I need? Cheese please Mom and Dad I’m on my knees Cheese Please
The song was simple (and boring), so Edgar closed his eyes and let his fingers take over —adding an extra note here, a run-up there: soon he was slapping the strings vigorously with his thumb, giving “Cheese Please” the driving percussive feel of a Red Hot Chili Peppers song. “Stop!” said Terence. Steve and Lawrence stopped. Edgar slapped on, lost in a groove.
14 “What are you doing?” Terence demanded. Edgar opened his eyes: Terence was standing in front of him, staring down. “Jamming?” said Edgar. “Are you playing what is on the chart?” asked Terence. “I guess not. But there’s no drums, so I thought I’d pick up a bit of the rhythm.” “Play what is on the chart, please. This is not a jam band. How can you know what the song is about if you’re not even listening to the words?” “It’s about cheese, right?” “Yes, it is about cheese,” said Terence, “but there is much more to it than that.” “There is?” said Edgar. “Yes. There is. There is an entire narrative being told! Now would you please play what is on the chart?” “Sure… sorry.” Terence let out a sigh and counted the song back in “And a one, and a two and a one two…” “Umm, ahh...” “Yes, Edgar?” said Terence. “Umm… so you just want me to play these same four notes over and over?” “Yes. That is exactly what I want you to do… Is that it?” Edgar nodded. “Good. Okay. It’s a one, and a two…” “Um?” “Yes.” “Are there any solos?” asked Edgar. “Bass solos?”
15 “Yah, bass solos.” “Absolutely not. I was mauled by one as a baby…” Edgar looked blankly. “That was a joke. Are you quite done now?” “Probably,” said Edgar. The rehearsal continued and Edgar felt worse and worse: he needed food, he needed coffee, and he needed a drink. He especially needed a drink. “Steve, you got any booze?” he asked during the fourteenth run-through of “I Dig Digging.” “No,” said Steve, “I’ve been clean for years... well, mostly.” “Darn,” said Edgar. “Focus! Focus!” yelled Terence, and Edgar, startled, played a note that was as wrong as a note could be. “Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! Edgar, please pay attention!” “Sorry,” said Edgar. “You know, maybe it’s time for a break,” said Terence. “Take five, everyone.” “I’ll be back in a minute,” said Edgar. He put down his bass, went up the stairs, and set off to find the coffee shop he’d run past on his way from the streetcar. He went the wrong way and ended up at an entirely different coffee shop, which didn’t bother him in the least because he didn’t notice. He went in and scanned the racks of deep fried goodness. “What d’ya want?” asked the lady at the counter. “Oh, ummm…” said Edgar. “Could I ah… have...umm…an extra large coffee, quadruple, quadruple, and… umm… two of those apple fritters.” “The small ones or the big ones?” asked the lady. “The big ones,” said Edgar. He definitely wanted the big ones.
16 The lady gave Edgar his coffee and put the two large apple fritters—which bore an uncanny resemblance to deep-fried cabbages—in a brown paper bag.
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