Road Trip!

~ by Hath, March 20, 2008

At 25, he felt he had the world by the short and curlies. At 30, he was invincible. Now at 40, he just felt old. He knew he didn’t look it. He wasn’t a vain man, but he knew he looked damned good. He stopped himself before he added “for his age” to the end of that thought. He looked good period. He still sounded good, had the energy and stamina of a man half his age, had good friends, a loving wife – why then this sudden melancholy?

Richie had seen his friend moping around for days. He thought it was because of the record they were working on now. They hadn’t decided what they were going to call it, but it was turning out to be a moody album. The first songs they did, “Undivided” and “Everyday”, were about the terrorist attacks just six months earlier. The country was still in mourning, and the men in the band were too, and it poured out into these songs. The lyrics were hopeful and strong, but the music and the subject matter were hard and dark. It got to all of them.

There were other songs, ballads and such, but overall, the record seemed to have a tragic feel to it, and Jon felt things so intensely, especially when he was writing, Richie had just chalked it up to all of that. Then from the corner of his eye, he spotted a calendar. “Shit,” Richie said, suddenly understanding what was really going on with his best friend. He called the others and asked them to meet Richie at his house later. They all agreed, though were puzzled as to why.

Over beer and Chinese, Richie talked to the others. “Guys, Jon’s been a surly bear for days, and I think I figured out what his problem is.”

“He’s an asshole?” David asked, raising an eyebrow.

Richie laughed. “Aside from that,” he said. “His birthday is next week.”

“So?” Tico asked. None of them ever made a big deal about the others’ birthdays, unless they were touring. Then they could usually persuade the audience to sing THAT song to whosever birthday it was.

Hugh got it, though. “So, bossman hits 40, right? He’s feeling old,” he said, nodding. He had turned 40 some time ago himself, and vaguely remembered feeling similarly. Turning 50 wasn’t as traumatic.

Tico’s eyebrows shot up. “HE feels old? Jesus, he’s still a f#cking baby.”

“I know, Teek,” Hugh agreed, “but these kids, they are SO dramatic these days.”

“Do you grandpas feel old?” David asked them.

“Not so old that I can’t still kick the shit out of you, amigo,” Tico retorted without heat.

“Focus, people,” Richie said, smiling. “So, how do we make him feel better? He’s starting to piss me off, being all mopey and quiet. Well,” he corrected with a chuckle. “The quiet doesn’t so much bother me, but the brooding tragic character thing is getting old.”

They were all quiet for a few minutes, then Hugh spoke up. “I didn’t know him when he was younger. What did he like to do?”

The guys all looked at each other and laughed. “What do you think a twenty-something rock star in the 80’s liked to do?”

Hugh nodded and smiled. “Gotcha. Emmie would never go for that,” he said, referring to Jon’s wife. “Well, say ten years ago. What would he do then for fun? He wasn’t still drinking and doing the groupie thing in the early 90’s, was he?”

“Naw,” David said. “By then, Emmie had taken his balls for her own; he was done with that. All he talked about, besides that woman, that is, was,” David cleared his throat and made air quotes as he said, “The Bike Trip.”

“Aaah, ‘The Bike Trip’,” Richie and Tico echoed, miming David’s quotes. Seeing Hugh’s confusion, Richie elaborated. “Jon always had this big idea that the band should just take off on motorcycles for a month and tour the countryside. Not playing or anything, just actually touring the country. He always bitches about how we always hit the big cities, but the small towns are where the real stories are.”

“Didn’t he do that once already?” Hugh asked.

“Yeah, but that was him on his own,” Richie said. “He wanted to do this together, as a ‘growing and bonding’ thing for us.” There was an awkward silence as the men all realized that at the time when Jon was talking about this, it was Alec, not Hugh, who would have been included.

“Well, why don’t we do it?” Hugh said. “Look, you’re just about wrapped with the writing of this album; if we take a month off, that still leaves plenty of time to get it polished for a fall release.”

The guys just stared at Hugh. He wasn’t usually this forthcoming with his opinions and advice. He was the quiet one who went along with whatever the majority of them wanted to do.

David nodded. “Hughie’s right. We just have to convince our wives that it’s a good idea.” The women were looking forward to having some uninterrupted time with their men. They had toured through most of 2001, then locked themselves in the studios for months, now were going to leave on a trip? They weren’t sure if the girls would go for that.

Richie smiled. “Aw, Jen will be OK with that,” he said, referring to his own wife. “She has a soft spot for brooding men, and if she knows we’re doing it for Jon, she’ll even pack for me. We should check with Emmie, though. I don’t think she’ll have an issue, but you never know.” He took out his phone, hit a button, and had a quiet conversation with Jon’s wife. The others hit their own buttons on their own phones, and soon smiles spread across the room.

Road Trip!

The guys all went their separate ways, satisfied they had a way to get Jon smiling again. They’d leave on Jon’s birthday and be home for Easter. This was going to be fun.

Days later, Jon was stomping around the bedroom, slamming open closet doors only to slam them shut again when he couldn’t find what he wanted. “Mare!” he shouted. “Where are my black boots?”

“What the hell do you need those for?” Mary Elizabeth (‘M.E.’ to the guys, and ‘Mare’ to Jon) yelled from the bathroom, though she had a good idea.

“Rich is coming over, wants to tool around on the bikes for a while, and I need my shit-kicker boots.” He strode to the bathroom door, and watched as his wife finished showering. “Although,” he said saucily, “you might be a much better ride.”

“Might?” she said, turning off the water and sliding open the glass shower door. “Just might?” She sniffed haughtily and turned her back on him. “No birthday boink for you tonight then.”

Jon laughed and swatted his wife on the ass. “I already got that this morning, baby,” he said.

Mary Elizabeth just laughed. “If THAT was enough for you,” she said, shrugging, “who am I to argue?”

Jon caught her around the waist and kissed her neck. “It’s never enough, you know that,” he said, smiling against her skin. He had just closed his hands around his wife’s breasts when a huge roaring noise from outside grabbed his attention.

“What the hell?” he asked, and with a final squeeze for his wife, went to the bedroom window to look. Mary Elizabeth quickly slipped her jeans and sweatshirt on, and snuck out of the bathroom.

From the bedroom, Jon could see a group of guys on bikes, tearing up and down the street. “Idiots,” he groused, and went back to the bathroom, only to find it empty.

“Mare?” he called.

“Down here!” she answered.

Puzzled, Jon went downstairs, and found his wife by the front door. “What are you doing?” he asked her.

“Just wait,” she said.

The roaring got louder, and Jon’s eyes went wide. A slow smile started to spread across his face. He opened the door, and watched his band-mates, all of them, roar up the driveway on motorcycles. Jon stepped out onto the porch, leaned against the post, crossed his arms over his chest, and waited. When they had all backed their bikes up against the hedgerow and shut off the motors, Jon went down the steps.

“What the hell are you guys doing here?” he asked, then burst out laughing when they took off their helmets. To a man, David, Richie, Tico, and Hugh were clad in blue jeans, white tees, black leather, and they all had ridiculous bandanas tied around their heads. David’s had birthday cakes on it, Richie’s had presents, Tico’s had confetti and streamers, and Hugh’s had candles. They looked stupid, and Jon loved them for it.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” they all shouted in unison.

“Don’t remind me,” Jon grumbled, but he couldn’t stop the smile.

“C’mon, old man,” David said. “Get your gear.”

Jon looked at his friend, then to his wife, then back again. “What are you talking about?”

Mary Elizabeth disappeared into the house, and came back with Jon’s leather jacket and gloves, his bike’s “saddle bags”, the boots Jon couldn’t find earlier, and a bandana that said “Birthday Boy”.

“Here, baby,” she said, holding the jacket so he could slip it on. “Happy Birthday.”

Jon looked at Richie, who said, “You know how you always wanted to go on that road trip, just us guys?”

Jon nodded, and teared up.

“Well gear up, old man, and let’s go.”

** Author's Note: This was an entry in a writing challenge over on T's Place.


Opester said...

That was pretty cool, hath. I liked it and I could picture it happening. Nice job!

Anonymous said...

Great story, gave me a good laugh!
I'm new to your blog, but I'm enjoying it a lot, I'm really glad I came across it.