Author’s note

I’m serializing the first 10% of Smokin’ & Cryin’ here on my blog. It’s the story of a young American rock band set in the early 1970s. Please feel free to share this with your friends.

Overture is the first installment. This post is #3 in the series.


Chapter 1 – Purple Heart continued (part 2)

At sunset, I pedaled my bike across the Third Street Bridge to Deuce Fitch’s pad, Lisa balanced on the handlebars. Fearsome drums and searing guitar poured from the windows above the phar­macy, echoing off the brick buildings along Midland Street. Arthur’s band in high school had been tight, but this was something else. While I propped my Schwinn against a parking sign, Lisa danced barefoot on the sidewalk to Susie Q in her flowered baby doll pajamas.

I gave her a piggyback ride up the long staircase, her sticky arms around my throat.

Deuce’s apartment had more P.A. equipment than furniture. The tall windows were flung open with their moth-eaten blanket curtains shoved aside. Lisa wasted no time knocking the empty beer cans off the windowsill to make a stage and reenact an episode of I Dream of Jeannie with her Kiddle dolls.

I’d never jammed with a group before. Arthur had borrowed a cheap electric guitar after scouring the local pawn shops for his old Les Paul sunburst, which my dad had pawned, and coming up empty-handed. The drummer, a small, cheerful guy called Waverly, brought along only a few pieces of his drum kit. The bass player never showed up. I didn’t have the J200 with me, so I just sang. Singing was my bag, what the kids at Central High knew me for: belting out songs in the hallways between classes, embarrassing my locker partner, ticking off the teachers, making the girls roll their eyes.

Arthur set his guitar aside. “We sound half-baked.” He sat on the floor and Lisa plunked herself onto his lap. They shared the same serious eyes and square jawlines. Lisa had Bev’s dark hair, while Arthur’s was dishwater blond, grazing his broad shoulders.

“There’s what we ought to call our group,” Deuce said. Built like a bulldog, he’d moved amps here and there and fiddled with the knobs on a soundboard. Like any of it mattered with no one except Lisa and random passersby on the street below to hear us.

“I dig it,” Waverly said. “Half Baked. The Half-Baked Band.”

“Holtzapple and the Half Baked. Holtzapple Upside Down Cake,” Deuce said.

“No way. Forget putting my name on it. That’s not my trip.” Arthur cracked open a can of beer. “Anyway, I’m sick of food names. Vanilla Fudge, Hot Tuna, Cream. I’m not fussing over a name when we haven’t even landed our bass player.”

“Perry will come through, you’ll see,” Waverly said.

“You don’t know Perry,” Arthur said.

“Sweet Studio Perry.” Deuce rubbed the back of his own neck. “I’ll land him. Trust me.”

I didn’t butt in about a band name or Perry, whoever he was. Eleventh grade started in a few weeks, and Arthur was good enough to get anyone to sing for him. He was being nice by inviting me to do it. I stuffed my hands into the pockets of my cutoffs. An earring poked my fingertip. “Hey, anyone know where I could get my ear pierced?” I pulled out the earrings to show them.

“Weren’t those Caroline’s?” Arthur asked.


“So, the funeral director gave them to you?”

I decided not to complicate things by letting Arthur in on the fact I’d stolen them from my dad. “Sort of. I want to do both of them in one ear.”

“Groovy,” Arthur said.

“Do you have a potato lying around here somewhere?” Waverly asked Deuce. “And ice cubes? Sewing needle?”

Deuce scoffed. “What do I look like? Suzy Homemaker?” Still, he managed to find a safety pin, an apple, and a freezer-burned car­ton of spinach.

Waverly used the spinach box to numb my earlobe, sterilized the safety pin with vodka, held the apple behind my ear and shoved the pin through my flesh with an audible pop. I yelped. Chills swooshed over the left side of my body. The second piercing hurt worse because I knew what was coming. My eyes watered. Lisa jumped on Waverly’s back to pull him away from me. Arthur scooped her up and carried her off so Waverly could finish.

I sang my heart out to distract from my throbbing earlobe. Some­time after midnight, I biked home shirtless with my ear bleeding. Lisa, riding the handlebars, wore my T-shirt over her pajamas to keep warm. I stopped on the bridge and shredded the enlistment docu­ments and altered birth certificate, letting the pieces drift away on the Saginaw River current.

I made Lisa swear not to tell anyone where we’d been.

“Shit man. Ear poke,” she said. “I not tell.”


Get Studio Perry to join

Offer bigger share of group earnings

Bow down to his superior musicianship

Buy him a B3 (soon as we can)

Convince him of our potential & discretion

Need a miracle

Undated personal note, courtesy of the Holtzapple Family



Read the fourth installment of Smokin’ & Cryin’.

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Spotify playlist for Smokin’ & Cryin’


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