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Monday, February 18, 2008

Birthright: Chapter Twelve

By Francis Scudellari

The Pact

“Hey Jake I got your message. What’s up?”

The smell of deep-dish pizza greeted Edom as he stepped through the door. He hadn’t eaten all day, and his stomach grumbled uncontrollably at the herbal aroma. His mouth watered as he watched Jacob bite into a dripping red piece of pie. It was pepperoni and mushroom, Edom’s favorite.

The path to the couch had been magically cleared, and his conditioned feet suddenly recalled the missing small impacts of former impediments. Jacob had cleaned the apartment. The dust, the old food, the wads of paper, the cigarette butts and ash -- all had been swept away.

Edom didn’t see a single Gregor crawling about. A pine-scented air freshener sat on the windowsill. It purged the room of its recent foul odor. Sun beams reflected off the newly pristine floor boards.

Jacob smiled at Edom. His clean-shaven cheeks bulged with cheese, sauce, and bread. He used a paper napkin to wipe the greenish grease from his chin. “Come on in Ed. How was the show last night? Anything interesting happen?”

“Yeah, plenty. Hey, give me some of that pizza, Jake. I’m starving.” Edom tried to grab a slice from his friend's lap, but Jacob pulled the box away from him.

“How much is it worth to you, Ed?”

“Quit joking around, Jake. Give me some. I’m dying of hunger. I’m all out of food at home.”

“I’ll make a deal with you, Ed. You let me use your time at the Pit to write a story, and I’ll give you all the pizza you can eat. If you act now … for the same low, low price I’ll even throw in some frosty brews.”

“I’m really not in the mood Jake. Quit goofing ...” Edom tried to lunge for a slice, but Jacob was too quick.

“I’m serious, Ed. Is it a deal or not? I don’t want to unduly influence your decision, but this is a great pizza. Just the right amount of sauce. The dough is cooked perfectly. Each bite melts in your mouth. You better hurry up and decide, Ed. I might eat the whole thing myself.” Jacob took a large bite of another golden-edged square.

Edom was near tears. “Yeah, Yeah, it’s a deal. Now give me a slice.” Jacob handed him the olive-oil-stained cardboard box, and Edom inhaled the first piece in large gulps. He fell back into a chair and grabbed another, this time savoring each bite.

“Let me get you some beer, Ed. You’ve got a lot of talking to do, I don’t want your mouth to get dry.” Jacob raced into the kitchen and returned with two cold bottles. He handed one to Edom.

“Tell me about the concert last night, Ed. Don’t spare any details. I want to know everything that happened.” Jake grabbed a pen and a spiral notebook. He awaited Edom’s tales of the hunt.

Edom ignored Jacob. Self-absorbed, he munched his red prize contentedly, oblivious to all else around him.

“Come on Ed, fire away. A deal’s a deal. You owe me.”

“Leave me alone Jake, can’t you see I’m eating. Why don’t you play one of your jazz records? Go do the dishes.”

“I already did the dishes. I cleaned the whole freakin' place. Now spit it out. What happened last night?”

“All right. All right. I’ll help you out. But only 'cause you’re so pathetic. You can write one story. After that you’re on your own. What do you wanna know?”

“Everything. Tell me about last night’s show. Tell me about all of the shows. Describe what the club's like … what the people are like. Paint me a picture.”

“I don’t know what to say, Jake. I’m not a writer. The Pit is just a long dark room, like a dank basement with a full bar. The walls are painted black. It’s smoky. It’s loud. It’s packed with hundreds of kids. Some are there just because its trendy, but most come there because it’s the only place they fit in. There’s a sense of freedom … of tolerance there … a feeling that you can do anything you want … be anything you want.

"A lot of the kids try to create their own look … to express themselves through their hair style or clothing. Some cats are bald … some wear their hair long. Mohawks, dreads, and flat tops. Dyed all colors of the rainbow. Some wear T-shirts or flannel. Some come in leather. You see ear rings, nose rings, lip rings -- any part of the body is fair game for piercing. Tattoos are everywhere -- arms, legs, backs, chests, even heads.

“I usually stand up close to the stage, where the action is. Before the bands start to play, while they’re still setting up, you can hear a chorus of voices clashing in the room. Hundreds of people talking at once … anxiously waiting … anticipating the chaos about to erupt … about to swallow them up.

"The sound of breaking glass -- beer bottles tossed in trash cans -- cuts the constant hum. You’re brain's numb from the alcohol and pot, and time slows to a crawl. You still sense sights, sounds, and smells, but you don’t analyze them anymore.

“Suddenly, a drumbeat booms from the stage … guitar chords lash out ripping through the air like chain saws. You can feel the waves of sound passing over you … passing through you actually. Hundreds of bodies, packed tight, bounce up and down. Fists pump in the air. The band and the crowd ride the same wave.” Edom paused. He finished his beer.

Jacob wrote feverishly. “Great, Ed. Now tell me about some specific shows. Give me some info on each band. What about last night? What about your friend’s group -- Blowhole.”

“Bunghole.”

“Whatever.”
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