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 #8 in the series.


Chapter 4 – Econoline (part 1)

The Ford Econoline was gray on the outside with a red vinyl inte­rior. As we rumbled along Dixie Highway, I imagined a whale had swallowed me and was carrying me into the unknown. Rain thrummed on the roof and the windshield wipers beat in 4:4 time. The AM dash radio played The Doors for two or three glorious minutes before reverting to an unsteady stream of static.

Arthur drove while Deuce rode shotgun. Their smog of smoke filled the van because they wouldn’t crack the windows in the down­pour. I pulled the neckline of my T-shirt over my nose to filter the air and continued jotting ideas for songs in a spiral notebook.

We’d removed the rear bench seat to make room for our most fragile gear, duffle bags, and the cooler. On the remaining backseat, Waverly snoozed, leaning on my right shoulder, his bare feet tucked beneath him. Studio Perry was propped against the window reading Dune Messiah under the dome light. He’d agreed to the name Smoky Topaz and joined us on what we jokingly called a tour, scouting for odd available openings in the Midwestern bar circuit. Arthur wouldn’t tell me what had changed Perry’s mind.

They’d bought the van used, trading in Deuce’s Chevy Nova and Arthur’s old truck. The equipment trailer, dating back to the Eisenhower Administration, carried more gear and our P.A. system.

We fishtailed. I braced my feet against the engine housing. Deuce cackled and Arthur muttered son-of-a-bitch-fuck. Perry stiffened his back, clutching his novel to his chest, eyes squeezed shut.

Waverly kept sleeping. During his stint in Vietnam, his platoon buddies had nicknamed him Van Winkle. It wasn’t that he slept a lot, but that he could fall asleep anywhere. I envied him that.

Deuce ran through the radio dial like Lisa on an Easter egg hunt. Violin. Static. Coke jingle. Ballgame. Static. Organ. Static. Weather. Crimson and Clover.


The rain let up and the trailer quit fighting the van. They opened the quarter glass windows and I breathed in the damp fresh air. I shut my eyes but couldn’t sleep. Pretty soon, the guys started talking like I wasn’t there.

Perry brought me up first. “He should be in high school. Ever heard of contributing to the delinquency of a minor?”

“He was a delinquent before we came along, you can ask my step­dad,” Arthur said.

“We need a real lead singer,” Perry said. “I mean, his range is impressive, but he has no idea what to do onstage.”

“He’ll get there. Sure, he’s self-conscious, but once he gets the hang of it, you’ll see.”

“I’ve got a killer set of pipes and I have him smoked on stage presence,” Deuce said.

Perry snorted.

Arthur handled it like a politician. “Lots of dudes can sing, but a good manager is hard to find, Deuce. You’re in the right spot. Robin is, too.”



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