doing it. He came back with a grin on his round face. “We’ll make enough to go on to the next gig,” he reported. They’d been doing that for a few years now. As far as Rob was concerned, it beat the hell out of a day job.
A local band played a short set before they went on. The locals got the kind of hand an opening act could expect. Rob remembered getting that kind of hand himself, and remembered being pumped about it. Now . . . A guy with a booming baritone shouted, “Here they are—the band you’ve been waiting for! Let’s give a big Spokane hello to . . . Squirt Frog and the Evolving Tadpoles!”
And damned if they didn’t. Applause was a drug, too. Anybody who didn’t think so had never tasted that particular high. It was one of the reasons Rob came out here and waved to the people beyond the house lights. The other two were oldies but goodies: to piss off his old man (he’d sure done that) and to get laid till he couldn’t even stand up (not so easy when you were on the withdrawn side, but Rob had no complaints).
They started out with “Pleasures,” not least to bring along people who were hearing them for the first time. Always a few newbies in the crowd. Why not let ’em think they were listening to regular rock ’n’ roll, at least for a little while?
“I would bed you,
I would head you,
I’d do anything that’s right
For your body’s sweet delight.”
Justin sang. Rob strummed and found chords without conscious thought. A good thing, too, right this minute. Yes, he seemed to have all the time in the world. He knew he didn’t, but he seemed to, and that was all that counted.
After the song ended, they got another hand. Somebody in the front row squirted Justin with one of their namesakes: a piece of made-in-China plastic madness from Archie McPhee. Somebody else called out, “I don’t believe in evolution!”
“Well, if you find a band called Squirt Frog and the Created Tadpoles, maybe you should latch on to them,” Justin answered easily. He was fast on his verbal feet. He got a laugh. It was still fading when he went on, “If you didn’t like that last song, you really won’t be able to stand this next one.”
They swung into “Punctuated Equilibrium.” Not everybody could make a song out of Stephen Jay Gould’s attack on classical Darwinism, but Justin Nachman wasn’t everybody. He was wasting a master’s in biology even more thoroughly than Rob was squandering his engineering degree. Well, they were having fun . . . weren’t they?
They were tonight. They got called back for two encores. Afterwards, they sold CDs and signed them for the people who thought autographs proved reality. They plugged the new single on their Web site. They did all the other necessary things that separated music-as-business from music-as-fun.
Then they went back to the motel, not completely alone. A little sleep, or something, would be good. They’d play in Missoula, Montana, tomorrow night. Another long haul, another university campus. With luck, another crowd. Another paycheck. Sometimes this gig looked an awful lot like work. But only sometimes.
Colin Ferguson took notes on the things he read. He found that helped him remember them better. He often kept the scribbles to himself. When they held nothing earthshaking, he didn’t bother.
Cops are no less nosy than other people. Cops, in fact, are nosier than most other people; if they weren’t, they’d make lousy cops. And so Colin wasn’t particularly surprised when Sergeant Gabriel Sanchez pointed to a sheet of paper on his desk and asked, “Who the hell is Huckleberry Tuff?”
“Not who, Gabe. What,” Colin said.
“Oh, yeah?” Sanchez said. He had a bushy black mustache just beginning to get gray flecks and sideburns a good half an inch longer than the San Atanasio Police Department’s dress code allowed anyone not on undercover drug duty. He reached for the pack of Camels in his breast pocket.