Authors: Mark Huntley Parsons
THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2014 by Mark Huntley Parsons
Jacket art copyright © 2014 by Leonora Saunders (drummer) and Vitaly Krivosheev/Shutterstock Images (background)
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.
Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.
Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following for permission to reprint previously published material:
EPC Enterprises: Excerpt from “Layla,” by Eric Clapton, copyright © 1970 by Eric Clapton. All rights administered by EPC Enterprises. Reprinted by permission of EPC Enterprises.
Alfred Publishing: Excerpt from “Brighter than Sunshine,” words and music by Matthew Nicholas Hales, Kim Oliver and Benjamin Keeston Hales, copyright © 2003 by Warner/Chappell Music Publishing LTD (PRS) and Benjamin Keeston Hales Publishing Designee (PRS). Administered by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. and WB Music Corp. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Alfred Publishing.
Alfred Publishing: Excerpt from “So Far,” lyrics by Josh Todd, music by Keith Nelson, copyright © 2005 by WB Music Corp., Cash and Carry Music, Dago Red Music, Lick the Star Music, Chiva Music and Numbsie Music. All rights administered by WB Music Corp. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Alfred Publishing.
Sony ATV Music Publishing: Excerpt from “Something’s Wrong,” music and lyrics by Gert Bettens and Sarah Bettens, copyright © 1996 by Double T Music. Rights administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Parsons, Mark (Mark Huntley)
Road rash / by Mark Parsons.
Summary: “When teen drummer Zach signed up to spend the summer on tour with a rock band, he didn’t realize the stairway to heaven was such a bumpy ride.” —Provided by publisher
ISBN 978-0-385-75342-5 (trade) — ISBN 978-0-385-75343-2 (lib. bdg.) —
ISBN 978-0-385-75344-9 (ebook) — ISBN 978-0-385-75345-6 (pbk.)
[1. Drummers (Musicians)—Fiction. 2. Rock groups—Fiction.] I. Title.
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For Wendelin, of course.
For all the right reasons.
Okay, so I was running late. Again.
I hauled the last of my cases to the ancient freight elevator, slapped the button, and collapsed against the wall. And … nothing. No light, no hum of machinery, no opening doors, and no hope of not having to hump all my gear up three flights of stairs. That would be my kick drum, my snare, two rack toms and a floor tom, my cymbals, and all that heavy hardware.
Why does this crap only happen when you’re late?
As I stood there, soaking in the wonderfulness of it all, the stairwell door next to the elevator flew open. Out swaggered Toby with two girls, and even though the place had a strict policy of not serving minors, it was clear they’d been drinking. Toby was so intent on laughing at what the girls were saying that I swear he was going to walk right by me. Just as I was about to say
Hey, how about a little help here?
he finally saw me and slowed. It wasn’t a full stop, mind you, but it was better than nothing. For a lead singer.
“Hey, Zach. Elevator’s out, mate.” And he kept on walking, an arm around each girl. He turned to the hot little blonde on his right and said something into her ear as his hand slipped inside the back of her jeans. She giggled.
“Thanks a lot,
…,” I said to his back.
At least Kyle didn’t just stand there when I finally arrived upstairs, soaked in sweat. He grabbed my cases and started hauling them to the stage as he went off on me. “Dude! Where’ve you been? We’re supposed to go on any minute.”
“Elevator’s dead,” I said over my shoulder as I headed back for the next load.
“Whoa. Whatcha need?”
“I can get the rest of it. Can you unpack what’s here?”
a friend. By the time I returned with the rest of my drums, I’d made a quick mental list of the gear I really needed for the first set, because I’d rather play with the bare-ass minimum than be the reason we were late getting started. Again.
Kyle had my stuff onstage and roughly positioned where it should go, near his bass amp. “Thanks, man,” I said.
“No problem.” He checked the time on his phone, then looked at the pile of equipment that, in theory, was a drumset. “Five minutes. Should I tell the manager we’ll be late?”
“No way. I’m good. Maybe go round up the other guys?”
He nodded and headed off while I started bolting stuff together like a mad elf at 11:55 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
By the time the other guys were onstage, I had my kick, snare, hi-hat, and throne set up, and my sticks in my hands. The
other half of my drumset could wait, and I hadn’t even bothered hooking up my headset microphone—we could live without my backing vocals for the first set. Kyle and Justin had their axes strapped on and plugged in, and Toby said,
“Check, test, one, two …”
into his mic for like the hundredth time already. He looked over his shoulder at me and gave his best rock-star sneer. Which looks pretty dorky on anyone but a real rock star. “You
I glanced at the set list. “Holiday” was up first. Great. That was gonna suck without my toms. I almost changed it by calling an audible, but that’d be admitting that I really
have my shit together. “Let’s do it,” I said.
Justin started playing the opening riff on his guitar, loud and fuzzy. I kicked the snot out of it with what I had, trying to make up in attitude what I was missing in equipment.
Once I started playing, everything got a whole lot better. Nothing beats drumming for getting your aggressions out.…
We got through the song okay. And by the end of the first set—a dozen songs later—I was actually getting into the whole minimalism thing of playing with just the bare bones. Then Toby was his usual buzz-kill self as we came offstage for the break. “Hey, drummer boy,” he said. “You gonna put the rest of your stuff together? ’Cause I feel pretty stupid standing up there in front of a baby drumset.”
“Can’t have that, can we?” Man, it was
all about him.…
“Hi, Zach.” I turned around. It was Kimberly, Kyle’s brainy little sister, with her friend Ginger.
“Hey, Kimber. What’s up?”
“We thought we’d come down to check you guys out.” She smiled at me. “You sound really good tonight.”
“What’s wrong with your drumset? Did you lose some drums?”
“Uh, no.” I explained it in Kimber terms. “It’s a scientific experiment. You know—form follows function? Less is more?”
“I see.…” She held up her hands like she was about to take notes on a clipboard and assumed a scientific voice. “So, Professor Ryan, was your hypothesis correct?”
“Strangely, it kinda was. Helped me focus.” I shook my head. “But on the downside, it sure pissed off the lead singer.”
She nodded knowingly, still in professor mode. “Ah. Unintended consequences.”
Ginger spoke up. “You guys are weird.”
Kimber laughed. “Okay, we’ll go.” She grinned at me. “Bye, Zach.”
As I was finishing getting the rest of my drumset together, Kyle came up to me. “Hey, a couple of the guys from Bad Habit are here. Including GT. I think Justin’s a little nervous.”
“I’ll bet.” Glenn Taylor had a rep as the best guitar player in town, and his band was definitely a couple of notches above us.
And when the second set started, I could definitely see it messing with
guitar player’s head. Justin was trying too hard—instead of just keeping it solid, he’d go for something way over his head, and half the time he’d crash and burn.
It finally got out of control during that old Social Distortion tune “Born to Lose.” When it came time for the solo, he
started out okay, but he kept going. And going. And
. At one point he threw his guitar behind his neck and noodled away for like a minute straight. Now, that can look pretty cool if you can actually pull it off. With Justin it was a freakin’ train wreck.
After the song was over, I called him back to my kit.
“Whassup …?” he asked. “You like that solo?”
“Uh, yeah. That was incredible.” In the literal sense. “I just wanted to tell you, GT and his buddies left during the last song.”
“Oh. Um … thanks.” He tried to look disappointed, but I could tell he was relieved.