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Blissful Birdsong

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Fan Art' started by AlittleMayhem, Sep 13, 2012.

  1. AlittleMayhem Well-Known Member

    [pushing a brick wall with ‘WRITER’S BLOCK’ and ‘LIFE’ written on it, intending on bringing it down but without much success] Nnnrrggh! Nnnnrrgghh! Grrrr! ARGH!

    [Kicks it out of frustration. After a beat, a crack appears]



    YES! I’m nearly through!
  2. AlittleMayhem Well-Known Member

    Chapter 4

    After breakfast the next morning, the rain returned, more unmerciful and wild than the previous day. Janice, dressed in a Japanese morning robe, peeked through the florescent curtains and frowned.

    “Bummer,” she said, disappointed. “I was hoping to do some shopping today!”

    Zoot only hummed in response, polishing the neck of his saxophone with an old rag and watching a bit of TV. Or rather, he was listening to the audio as his eyes were more focused on the task at hand. From what he could hear, a strange character with an Eastern-European accent was counting to ten. Twice. The other end of the couch felt heavy as Janice sat down.

    “Oh, well. So, did you sleep okay last night?” she asked, crossing a slender leg over the other. “I know the couch isn’t, like, totally comfy.” Zoot shrugged a little, briefly checking the inside of the bell.

    “’S’okay,” he replied. “I can sleep anywhere.” He meant it. His experience as a down-on-his-luck musician taught him that anything could be a bed when the streets were the only ‘hotels’ to crash. Boxes, rocks, fish netting, dumpsters, you name it! He could sleep on it.

    Satisfied that his sax was clean, he detached the parts and put them away in the case. He then turned to face Janice. “Hey, thanks for letting me stay here,” he said. “I didn’t have any money so-”

    “Oh!” she said, surprised, but then waved her hand modestly. “Like, erm, think nothing of it!”

    “No really, I mean it. I was going to-umm, do something and-”

    “Really, it’s nothing! I, like, totally bring homeless folks in all the time-”

    “But, my hat-”

    “Oh yeah, that! Well, you’re totally welcome! I think…”

    They were quiet for a while, with Zoot shifting uncomfortably and Janice looking away, her lips pursed. He noticed that the TV was still on, now showing an odd-looking frog with a star-pointed collar sitting neatly on a brick wall and explaining to the audience about the letter ‘B’, while a hairy monster slowly devoured it. He smirked.

    “My niece is nuts about this show,” he said. “She forced me to watch it with her every morning when I was staying at my sister’s.”

    At this, Janice smiled. “Aww, how cute! Is she the little girl with the blonde hair? Isn’t she, like, the sweetest thing ever?”

    “Yeah. Weird little kid sometimes. The other day, she wanted to-” he stopped midsentence, realising what she just said. “Yeah, about that. What were you doing at the park that day?”

    Flustered, she replied, “I was just sitting by the tree, that’s all rully. I like to go to parks on nice days sometimes, just to get away from it all! I was at Summerfield for a friend’s wedding shower, but I wanted time on my own and then they found me listening to you and…Again, I’m like so, so sorry about my friends bothering you like that! Bethany can be a so annoying when she, like, wants to be!”

    “You apologise too much,” Zoot told her in a slightly amused tone.

    “Oh, I’m sorry. I- Oh!” She covered her mouth and giggled at herself. “Like, never mind. Anyway, I think I’ve said enough about me to last, like, forever! What about you?”

    Admittedly, he couldn’t remember half the stuff she told him during dinner last night (she was quite that fast talker) but he didn’t tell her that. Instead, he said, “Well, erm, okay. I’ve been playing the sax since I was about nine or ten. It’s kinda the only thing I know what to do without feeling like an idiot, which is why I flunked out of school early with the rest of the Pepper Crew.”

    She looked at him quizzingly. “The Pepper Crew?”

    “Yeah, that the name of the band I’m in.”

    “You’re in a band?! Oh, that’s so cool!” Janice exclaimed. “Tell me all about it!”

    He spent the next few minutes describing Floyd and Animal and explaining how he met them when they were kids.

    “Yeah, I think you’d like Floyd, though. He mostly plays bass but he’s cool on the guitar too.”

    “Oh, wow! You make them sound so groovy!” Janice said, dreamily. “And I’d love to meet Animal! He sounds like a rull character!”

    Zoot grimaced. “Um, yeah, no you don’t. Trust me.”

    “Why’s that?”

    “Er, let me put it this way. When he sees a woman, he…” he hesitated, trying to think of the right and appropriate words. “…responds to his natural instincts.”

    “Huh?”

    “He’ll go nuts and attack you,” he answered, more plainly.

    For a moment, Janice didn’t say anything. Zoot could see the wheels turning in her head, then click into place once she got it. “Oh, my…you mean…”

    He nodded. “Yes.”

    “Eww! Gross!” She scrunched up her face in disgust. “That’s, like, a total violation against Women’s Rights, y’know! I mean, I’m no Candace Bergman, but still!”

    Zoot wanted to point out that Animal was feral and never understood how society worked, but instead he said, “Mmm-hmm,” and nothing more on the subject.

    Janice then sighed and gazed across the room. “Still, I would totally love to be in a band. It gets kinda lonely when it’s just you.”

    “Hmm, true, but we’re struggling. Not a lot of people like us, not even the lowest places.” Zoot huffed, irritably. “It doesn’t help with Floyd’s song writing skills.”

    “Huh? What’s wrong with that?”

    “He doesn’t have any.”

    “Oh, I’m sure that’s not true!”

    “It is. Even he knows that.” He paused, and then his mind wandered.

    “Zoot?”

    He shook his head. “Sorry. I keep having these weird…um, things in my head.”

    “You mean like epiphanies?”

    “Gesundeheit!”

    “No, an epiphany! Y’know, like sudden realisation or something.”

    “Um, I don’t really kn-”

    However, just like that, a real epiphany stuck him.

    “Hey, er, now that you mention the band and stuff, I’ve never really heard you play. Is it okay if-?”

    Janice seemed to know where he was going with this. “You want us to jam together?”

    “Er, yeah.”

    She squealed with joy and threw his arms around him, embracing him rather tightly. “I would be, like, soo honoured, Zootie! Oh, I better put some clothes on and get my guitar.” She realised him and got up to switch the TV off. Zoot rubbed his neck where she nearly choked him. Zootie?!

    Janice walked over to her room. When she was halfway there, she undid the rope around her waist and slid the garment off her body, letting it drop to the ground while not breaking her stride. Shocked, Zoot covered his eyes just in time. She defiantly wasn’t kidding about being comfortable in her own skin.

    As soon as the door shut, he reached for his case. He was done reattaching his saxophone when Janice returned, fully dressed (or as fully dressed as she could be) and carrying a different guitar from the one he saw yesterday. It looked smaller, the body shaped more rounded and organic, coloured pink with a black and silver outline.

    “Cool,” Zoot remarked, nodding to the instrument as she sat down, adjusting the straps.

    “Thanks,” she replied, and began to play the first few bars of a slow, jazzy number. “You know this one, right?”

    He did, as a matter of fact. “Who doesn’t?”

    After the brief intro, Janice began to sing;

    No one to talk with
    All by myself
    No one to walk with
    But I'm happy on the shelf
    Ain't misbehavin'
    I'm savin' my love for you

    Zoot joined in, playing a soft riff between the verses.

    I know for certain
    The one I love
    I'm through with flirtin'
    It's just you I'm thinkin' of
    Ain't misbehavin'
    I'm savin' my love for you

    Throughout the morning, they played an assortment of jazz numbers and laidback R’n’B. Zoot was no longer surprised by how many of the songs she chose were his favourite. She really wasn’t bad at all.

    They didn’t really finish, rather stop casually a few hours later. They were silent for a few moments, letting the atmosphere hang for a bit longer.

    “Wow!” Janice said. “That was, like, totally, sooo fer sure.”

    Zoot, just as spaced out, smiled goofily. “Yeah.”

    “Y’know, maybe we can busk together tomorrow when the weather isn’t such a bummer. I kinda need to pay my rent.” She then leaned in and kissed his forehead. “Like, thanks so much, by the way! I’m sooo glad you asked.”

    Zoot was grateful that he didn’t blush easily. “Thank you.”
  3. charlietheowl Well-Known Member

    Another sweet update! I like how they were watching Sesame Street at the beginning, lol. Thanks for sharing.
    AlittleMayhem likes this.
  4. AlittleMayhem Well-Known Member

    Sorry about the irregular updates, bros. I have a basic outline of what I want to write next but inspiration isn't hitting me just yet. And when it does, it's usually for another drabble. :/

    Also, life and college and commissions and stuff are getting in the way. Just thought I'd let you know.

    Peace out. :cool:




  5. :)
  6. AlittleMayhem Well-Known Member

    Chapter 5

    Lunchtime in Main Street, Georgetown. It was crazy, no matter what day of the week. The food places wafted out enchanting smells of spices and cooked meat, calling to the smartly dressed and scruffy workers out for lunch. The sun blazed down with no mercy and the endless fumes of honking traffic just made it worse. Many families were out taking advantage of the weather, getting ice cream and generally making a din over the usual noises.

    It was a miracle that any kind of music could be heard over the busy street but that’s what Zoot trained himself to do. Play bold and loud with all your heart, so you may eat. Janice also seemed to know this principle too. They were out busking for the third time that week. She had told him that she had no job, so she used her talents and any crowded place to scrap everything she could. Which, considering his own lifestyle, was fair enough.

    He placed the saxophone down beside him as Janice looked down and smiled with satisfaction. Zoot’s hat was nearly half-full of coins, much more than yesterday.

    “Oh, wow! We must’ve been rully good today, Zoot! If I’m lucky, it might be enough to pay the rest of my electric bill, y’know?” she said, wiping the sweat from her forehead.

    He grunted, half in response and half in discomfort. His neck was acting up again, stiff and aching since this morning. He stretched and rubbed the sore spots like crazy, but nothing seemed to work.

    Noticing this, Janice said, “Is your neck rully brothering you? You’ve been doing that, like, all day now.”

    “It’s nothing,” he replied. “Musta slept in a weird position last n- AH!”

    Zoot cried out as two cold hands suddenly grabbed a hold of his head, stretching and turning it sharply both ways until unpleasant clicks were audible. In an instant, the pain was gone. Amazed, he turned to Janice, who was trying not to look smug.

    “Where…?”

    “Oh, an old trick an ex taught me,” she said. “He was doing a major in medicine and told me about pressure points and stuff. It was sooo useful when I found out he was seeing Stacey Conner behind my back. Boy, did they have it coming, fer sure!” Her hands were still on him, her fingers stroking through his hair and tracing his collarbone just showing under his shirt. It left a trail of electric sparks beneath his skin.

    “Um,” he gulped. “My neck doesn’t hurt anymore.” She met his eyes, a devious smile playing on her lips. Zoot realised just how close she was. He could feel her minty breath against his lips and possibly count every one of her thick eyelashes.

    “Does that mean you want me to stop?” Her voice dropped nearly to a soft purr as she leaned in, her arms sliding around his neck.

    “Uh…”

    A car honked loudly on the road, making them both jump. Nearby, a beaver stuck his head out of a window of a tacky convertible and shook his fist at a monster for jaywalking.

    “Hey, watch it you blind hairball!” he shouted. “You wanna get killed or something!”

    It was impressive stupidity from the beaver’s side. Not only was he holding up the traffic, but the monster he was lashing out at was ten feet tall, with shaggy brown fur and menacing yellow eyes.

    “Who are you callin’ a blind hairball?! I was lookin’ both ways ‘till you came screeching outta nowhere, you bucktooth dingbat!” the monster retorted.

    The beaver took the insult well. He jumped out of his car and marched straight up to the monster. “Dingbat?! DINGBAT?! Your face could turn Medusa to stone!”

    The monster glared down at the tiny rodent. “My face?! Your face is a waste of fur!”

    “Hey, that’s a lotta hair! It must be some effort to get it all outta your nostril!”

    The fight turned ugly quickly and an eager crowd gathered, most encouraging one or the other to win. Even some drivers stuck behind joined in and pitched their own insults.

    “Oh, totally not cool!” Janice commented. “Why would the world welcome such bogus violence? Can’t anyone in this stupid town settle thing peacefully? Rully! This is the third fight between a jaywalker and a driver this week! It’s like a local sport or something.”

    His heart still pounding, Zoot felt something warm and soft beneath his hand. He looked down, discovering that it was Janice’s knee and quickly removed it. Clearing his throat, he sifted out of her arms and picked up the saxophone. “So, uh, you know Honeysuckle Rose?”

    “Hmm? Oh right!” Catching his drift, she re-positioned her guitar properly. “No, but hum I few bars and I can fake it.”



    Zoot lay on the couch, staring at the ceiling while resting the back of his head on his hands. He was alone in Janice’s apartment. When they decided to call it quits a few hours ago, she had decided at the last minute to go shopping, but was kind enough to give him a spare key.

    “I just need to get a few small necessities for tonight,” she had said to him. “We can’t have you looking like that, rully!”

    Zoot had frowned at her. “What about tonight? Looking like what?” She chose not to answer either of those questions. She only walked away wearing that mischievous smile again. The same one before she almost…

    He sighed and closed his eyes. He supposed it was a little obvious that she liked him, maybe a little unnaturally so. But why was beyond him. He wasn’t exactly Humphrey Bogart or Burt Reynolds. In fact (as Floyd and Liza loved to remind him) he had the social skills of a skunk. Besides, he never really bothered. Relationships, according to Liza, needed understanding, devotion, compassion, all the stuff that a lot of his family weren’t exactly good at, otherwise they’d all get along.

    Then Janice, with her bubbly, dizzy and exhaustingly positive charisma, appeared out of nowhere and into his life. Everything she did radiated with warmth and essence. Unlike him, she was always cheerful, always vibrant. Not only that, but she loved the same kind of music he did. The right kind. Maybe she was even a little pretty. Maybe beautiful…gorgeous…

    Maybe it could work. Even though he wasn’t looking to begin with, maybe she was the one. They had at least a few things in common and maybe he could trust her with other things.

    But at the same time, was that enough? Was he ready to confide with her like no other woman? And was there something else he was forgetting?

    WHUMP!

    Zoot jerked awake, almost falling off the coach. He didn’t remember falling asleep, as usual.

    “Whuzzat?” he mumbled. A flat box lay on the coffee table, tied together with a fancy ribbon.

    Janice stood over him, flashing a toothy grin. She carried other similar boxes in her arms. “Like, y’know when I said that I needed to get stuff for tonight?”

    Zoot rubbed the eyes under his sunglasses. “Yeah?”

    “Well, let’s just say you’re gonna totally need this! I’ll be in my room!”

    As she disappeared, Zoot stared at the box, unsure of what to think. Hesitantly, he pulled at the ribbon slowly; acting like it was a time bomb. It unravelled itself effortlessly and he removed the lid. He took the contents out and held it up, his brows raised as he examined it.

    “What…”

    A few minutes later, Zoot stood in front of the cracked mirror that hung lopsided in the bathroom. He tightened his new yellow necktie with black dots, then shook his head and readjusted it to a more loose style. It still didn’t work.

    He heard a soft chuckle from the doorway. “Like, you don’t know how to tie a tie? And here’s me thinking every man could. Rully.”

    “I do.” Zoot mumbled, undoing the tie and turning to Janice. “It’s just that it’s been a while since I’ve worn anything like this.”

    Liar. Despite his self-given name, he had never worn anything like this. A zoot suit, blue with white checks on the jacket and pants with a pair of polished black shoes. The shoulders where broad and sharp and the yellow shirt stood out against the blue.

    Janice shook her head, took the tie from his hands, and re-tied it. “Here, I think you would look sooo much better with it a little loose, dontcha think?”

    Zoot wouldn't know that, but as soon as he saw Janice, he no longer cared. Out of her normal clothes, Janice now wore a loose tunic-like dress with long bishop sleeves and patterned with pink, red and black flowers. A yellow rope tied around her middle and the skirt hung freely by her mid-thighs, showing off small effortless curves. She smelled of an exotic fruity perfume.

    Done with the tie, Janice produced his hat and placed it on his head. “There!” she said, smiling at her handy work. “Now you look totally cool! Of course, not that you already don’t, rully.”

    He suddenly wished he felt cool, maybe come up with some witty or flirty crack like it was nothing. But whatever he wanted to say was evaporated and what came out was a pathetic, “Yeah.”

    She didn’t mind. Her fingers trailed the edge of the collar and travelled down his arm until they clasped around his hand. She beamed wickedly. “C’mon! Let’s not waste the night away!”

    Zoot was too confused to stop her from pulling him towards to door. “Ok. Where are we going again?”

    Janice giggled. “I didn’t say.”
  7. charlietheowl Well-Known Member

    Wonder where Zoot and Janice are going? Hopefully somewhere fun! Thanks for sharing this new chapter!
    AlittleMayhem likes this.
  8. MissMusical12 Well-Known Member

    Another terrific chapter! Loved it! :flirt:
    AlittleMayhem likes this.
  9. Wow this story is practically like a real flashback! Hopefully the next chapter will explain why zoot was so mad at the beginning. Please, continue on my friend.
  10. Zoot Fan 1981 Active Member

    I hope you'll write more. I'm anxious to read what happens next :)
    LeahXZoot4Evur likes this.
  11. KissesToKermie Well-Known Member

    Loving it so far dude! Keep writing please, I'm hooked.
    Zoot Fan 1981 and AlittleMayhem like this.
  12. Zoot Fan 1981 Active Member

    :halo:MORE!! MORE!! MORE!!:halo:
    More please.
  13. AlittleMayhem Well-Known Member

    Uhhh…wow, okay, this has been a while, hasn’t it? Heh


    Um…anyway, enjoy this very overdue update!
  14. AlittleMayhem Well-Known Member

    Chapter 6

    The night was still young, the sky painted in a glorious mixture of purples and oranges. The air was cool and breezy as they walked through the streets, the lights already beginning to glow lazily.

    The evening was beautifully calm as any summer evening, but Zoot felt a knot getting tighter in the pit of his stomach. Janice still refused to say where they were going, instead she grinned knowingly in a way that made his insides flip whenever he asked. She hadn’t spoken much either and was no longer holding his hand, much to his disappointment, but seemed to be content enough.

    Then, she grabbed his arm eagerly and pointed at a neon sigh. “Look! Like, we’re finally here!”

    She pulled him passed the bouncer and through the entrance, so quickly he didn’t have a chance to get a proper look at the building. When they were inside though, the mere sight knocked the breath out of him.

    The place was actually kinda cool, in both meanings of the word. The room was light with lilac and purple colours, most of the lights switched on but it still had a nice glow to it. Several rounded chairs and tables dotted the corners and around the bar, some looked more like giant eggs that had hollowed out and someone placed red cushions in them.

    There was no band on the small stage, much to Zoot’s slight disappointment. Instead, smooth jazz played from speakers, to which a few humans danced.

    The crowd that gather tonight varied. Apart from the humans, three of Zoot and Janice’s type sat in a corner, deep in conversation. There were also many animals, particularly in the staff. Several penguins waddled about with drinks while a large, purple Octopus worked at the bar, their many legs stretching back and forth, as they served drinks.

    The Octopus looked up in their direction then grinned and waved one of its’ eight legs. “Hey, Janice baby! How you been, girl! I haven’t seen you here in weeks!”

    Janice giggled as she took Zoot over to the bar. “Hey, Charlie! Oh, y’know. I had Kimmy’s wedding at Summerfield. You should’ve been there! It was totally beautiful, rully.”

    Charlie rested one leg on the bar, the others preoccupied with shaking martinis and serving a cocktail to a thin monster at the other end of the bar. “No kidding? ‘bout time too. That girl was engaged for far too long.”

    “To be fair, she was sixteen when Jared proposed, fer sure.”

    Janice nodded as she and Zoot took a stool each. As they chatted, Zoot drifted off a little as with most conversations that didn’t directly involve him. He jolted out of it when he realised where he was.

    This is a date! He had to pay attention! Girls hated it when you didn’t give them your utmost attention.

    Wait, did this even count as a date? He never asked her, never arranged it with her. She just literally dropped it on him and dragged him into it.

    He sat still, trying not to shake or anything that would let the growing panic in his chest show. Was this normal? What was he supposed to do? Why didn’t he have her attention? Say something! Anything!

    Janice’s hand slipped through his and he stilled, the act sending a jolt though his arm and straight to his stomach.

    “And who’s this fine gentleman?” Charlie asked, looking Zoot up and down and wiggling her eyebrows.

    Zoot looked around, feeling self-conscious. “What gentleman?”

    Janice chuckled. “Charlie, this is Zoot. He’s staying with me until he can get back on his feet. Zoot, this is Charlie, one of my oldest friends”

    “Nice ta meet ‘cha, babydoll!” Charlie exclaimed, taking Zoot’s other hand in one of her tentacles and shaking it vigorously. When he let go, one of the suckers stuck onto his hand briefly, before it came off with a wet pop. Charlie gave him a rather sheepish look. “Oops, sorry ‘bout that! They stick sometimes. So, can I get ‘cha anything? Since you’re new, how about a drink on the house, hmm?”

    “Erm, whiskey on the rocks,” he said, unsure about being called, babydoll as much as Zootie.

    As she made them drinks, Janice leaned in and whispered in his ear. “This club is where I play in the most. After I left home, I had nowhere to go. I was so lucky to have found Charlie. She took me in and let me stay and play here until I found a place. She’s been like another mother to me.”

    Zoot glanced over to the stage and grimaced a little. “Wish we had some live music tonight, though,” he muttered.

    “Boy, I hear ya,” Charlie interjected, handing them their drinks. “There ain’t been no musical folk coming in, nor can I find any. Except for this cutie here, course,” she added, patting Jaince on the cheek.

    Janice smiled, taking a sip from her martini. “Aww. But, y’know, Zoot here plays as well.”

    Charlie raised her eyebrows in a way that implied something especially wicked. “Is that so?”

    “Ooooh, you should soooo hear him!” Janice crooned. “He plays, like, so beautifully and soulfully on the sax. It’s almost like The Bird himself.”

    Zoot gripped on Janice’s hand involuntary. He knew that he was good, knew others thought so too, but there was something about the way she praised him that appealed to him, if leaving him a little flustered and embarrassed.

    “I-er- I wouldn’t go that far-”

    “So, the saxophone did you say?” Charlie cooed, eyes gleaming. “Well, we have a stage right here, baby. Why don’t you try it out?”

    Zoot looked at her blankly. “But I don’t have-”

    “You do now!” Charlie chirped and suddenly there was a sax in her tentacles.

    The sax itself was smaller than he owned, a little dented and old but otherwise didn’t seem too bad.
    But still…

    “Look, I don’t think I can, I’m just here for-”

    But when Zoot looked up, Charlie was gone, the music stopped and the octopus was suddenly on the stage with a microphone. The crowd groaned in protest.

    “Alright, calm down now! We’ll get things running soon enough.” Charlie told them, tapping the microphone. “Ahem! Hey, this thing on?”

    “Sorry, hun,” Janice whispered in his ear. “Once you get her going, there’s no stopping her. I should’ve, like, said something. But you don’t have to play if you don’t want to.”

    Zoot didn’t get a chance to reply. In a space of three seconds, Charlie stretched out one of her legs, grabbed his arm and yanked him on stage which she didn’t even have to leave. The world was spinning around him and he was only very vaguely aware of Charlie enthusiastically introducing him.

    “Knock ‘em dead, honeycakes,” she whispered in his ear before clapping him on the back and whisking off the stage.

    When his vision settled, he saw that everyone in the club had gathered closer, curious and expectant. He stared back, spotting Janice way back at the bar, chewing her lip nervously.

    Then Zoot blew out a sigh and shrugged. Eh, what’s the worst that could happen?

    He brought the instrument to his lips and began to play. It was an old thing and some of the notes were off, no matter what Zoot tried, but he chose an upbeat and energized tune which got better the more he got used to the sax. The crowd began to get into it too, smiling and bopping their heads in time to the music. Seeing this, Zoot relaxed and grew more confident, losing himself to the music, his fingers flying over the keys.

    When he was done, he was met with eager applause, cheering and whistling. At the bar, Janice was grinning widely, clapping and jumping up and down happily. Zoot felt his cheeks heat up at this.

    All of a sudden, the crowd rushed forward, surrounding him and shouting out song requests and offers to play with him in a loud buzz. After Charlie cut in (“Hey, break it up people! I don’t want Janice after my skin if you crush him!”) and got things organised, Zoot later found himself playing another energetic song, only this time with volunteers as back up. A tiny weasel in a beret and polar neck jumper excitedly played the drums with almost as much energy as Animal did, but without the ferocity. A human couple took the bass and electric guitars, both of them with amazing fluidity, and the thin monster that Zoot had seen at the bar was insanely good with the trumpet.

    Pretty much everyone else was on the dance floor, dancing more lively than before. At this, Zoot’s pride swelled. This is what he loved most about live performances. Just a couple of speakers didn’t bring people together like this.

    But that wasn’t the best part. More than once, Zoot found himself glancing at Janice. She was on stage too, cheerfully dancing away and shaking a tambourine expertly. Her dress and hair flared as she twirled, her face laughing and smiling. In those moments, Zoot felt his world had burned a little bright each time.

    After about a dozen or so songs, Zoot and Janice retired to the bar, exhausted. The makeshift band continued to play, now with one of the penguin staff singing in a surprisingly gruff and jazzy voice.

    “Charlie!” Janice gasped, catching her breath. “That was the most totally best spontaneous idea you’ve ever had!”

    “Baby, all of my ideas are the best and spontaneous!” Charlie laughed, handing them a drink each and heading off to tend to other customers. “It’s on the house! Enjoy yourself, kids! Boy, where were these people when I needed them?”

    At this point, Zoot was too happy to care what the octopus called him. Janice turned to him, her shoulder casually bumping against his, and then looked surprised.

    “Wow, that’s, like, the most I’ve seen you smile, Zoot!”

    Zoot raised his eyebrows, amused. “Really?”

    Her face turned pink, mortified. “Well, I mean, like, it’s not like you don’t smile, I mean, duh, you smile all the time, well not ‘all the time’ all the time, oh my gosh, rully? Why did I say that, gosh I’m soooo, like-”

    “You’re amazing.”

    The words came out of his mouth without thinking, yet it stopped Janice’s babbling in their tracks. She was stunned for a moment and Zoot briefly wondered if he said the wrong thing.

    Then she smiled sweetly, reached out to cup his face and kissed him.

    The warm feeling of her smooth, plump lips against his otherwise chapped and ragged ones was wonderful and he kissed back. Her hair brushed against his shoulder and he took the opportunity to stroke his fingers through it, blown away by how silky it was. When they parted, Zoot could just taste the mint of her breath.

    “Thanks!” she said, grinning. “I think you’re amazing too!”

    He smiled, feeling happier than he had in ages, and took a good gulp of his whiskey. Then he startled back when he realised there were actual rocks in his drink.

    The rest of the night was calmer, but not bad at all. During conversations, Janice did the talking and Zoot chimed in when directly spoken to or contribute to any stories.

    The whole time Janice stayed right beside him, pressing her side close to his, her fingers laced through his. Honestly, he couldn’t have asked for a better night.



    “Five days? You sure about that?”

    Zoot stuffed another pair of underpants in the bag the turned to Floyd. He stood on the threshold of his room, his arms folded as if he didn’t believe him.

    “Yeah, I guess. Ain’t I allowed to see my family?”

    “Hey, don’t get me wrong, man. I’d love to see your sister again, too” (Zoot glared at him at this) “But the last time you said, ‘Five days’ or whatever, it ended up nearly a year!” Floyd paused to run a palm over his face and long, orange nose, sighing in exasperation. “Sheesh, Animal was crawlin’ outta his skin by the time you came back. I don’t think he could take another private concert at the Old Folks Home.”

    Zoot zipped up the bag and flung it over his shoulder, holding it by the straps. With his other hand, he picked up his sax case. “Hey, it was Ben’s fourth divorce and the court case was tough. Mom wouldn’t let me go ‘til it was over.”

    He went into the kitchen suite where they had Animal chained up to a table leg he was currently gnawing on. Floyd followed him and snorted in disgust, untangling the chains. “That slimy little dweeb hasn’t changed a bit. I don’t know why ya still talk to him.”

    Zoot choose not to answer that, instead shrugging as Floyd encouraged Animal to go for a walk (“C’mon, Buddy! Who’s a good drummer!” “I AM! I AM!”) and followed them out of the apartment.

    “Speaking of which, tell ‘im he still owes me for that time he ‘fixed’ our bathroom,”

    “But we moved since then. And that was ten years ago.”

    “And we’re still twenty thousand dollars in debt!”

    Zoot sighed, walking out of the building into the baking heat. “I’ll try,” he said, despite knowing his brother would brush it aside as he did every time he brought up the subject. “Can we talk about something else?”

    “Okay. So is it a boy or a girl?”

    “Huh?”

    “Your sister’s baby!”

    “Oh, um, boy. Dunno his name yet.”

    Animal then straightened up a little and looked around with wide eyes. “BABY?! WHERE BABY?!”

    “Naw, Animal. We’re just talkin’ about a baby.”

    “WHA? NO BABY?”

    They spend the rest of the walk with random small talk and distracting Animal from every attractive woman they passed. It wasn’t until Zoot stuck his head out the bus window when Floyd yelled, “Remember, five days, not months! I should have somethin’ by then! Don’t forget!”



    Zoot sat up jerkily, his blood turning to ice and his head swimming with a thousand curses that would make his grandmother reel in her grave. He tried getting up as quickly as possible, but instead tangled himself in his blanket in his rush. Startled, he yelped and landed on the floor with a thump. After a brief struggle, he managed to free his arm, grabbed the green telephone on the coffee table and clumsily dialled a number. Oh, why did it have to be one of those stupid, spiny things!

    On his seventh attempt, the other end began to ring. Zoot pressed the receiver to his shoulder with his cheek as he kicked out of the blanket, still on the ground.

    Click!

    “Hello, you have reached the residence of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem! How may I help you on this fine, fabulously and positively groovy morning?”

    Zoot froze as the unfamiliar gravelly voice spoke. Is this the wrong number?

    “Uh, excuse me?” he said after a brief silence, pushing himself up. “Who is this-OUCH!”

    He had realised too late than he was under the coffee table and banged his head hard.

    “Sorry, buddy. We don’t have anyone by the name of ‘Ouch’ in this house. Perhaps you got the wrong number?”

    Zoot grumbled at the other man’s snarky nature, standing up and finally freeing himself from the blanket. He rubbed the bump now crowning his head as he replied.

    “Look, whoever you are, just pass me over to Floyd. Is he-”

    “Hey! Floyd, Mr. Bassman, The Good Sergeant, The Jazz Master!”

    Zoot paused. “Err, yeah, him. Tell him it’s Zoot. I got-”

    “Zoot! The Man with the Sax! The Sax is his Axe! Hey, I heard so much about you, man!”

    Zoot blinked. “You- you have?”

    “Heck, yeah! Why ol’ Floyd was jus’ showin’ me yesterday y’all old demo tapes and, by my keyboard, do you know how to blow-”

    The other line was cut short by the sound of a scuffle and another voice that was defiantly Floyd’s growling to hand the receiver over and Animal’s yelling in the background.

    “Animal, down! Get down! I said down! Doc, I said give me the phone! Zoot! What in Gillespie’s name do you call this! Five days, I said! Five days!”

    Zoot winced and held the phone slightly away from him.

    “Yeah, yeah, I’m sorry. I got distracted-”

    “You fell asleep on the bus and took off on the wrong town again, didn’t you?”

    “…no?”

    “I heard that infliction rise! I knew it! Next time you visit your sister, I am sending a taxi! You got that!”

    Zoot felt sharp pain rip through his head, his hangover catching up with him. “Please don’t shout so much.”

    There was a short pause before Zoot heard Floyd take a deep breath. “Okay, sorry. Just- where are you now?”

    “Someplace called Georgetown. I think it’s in the same state.”

    “Right, I think I know which place you’re talkin’ about. How about you get to the bus station and I’ll meet you there at three o’clock?”

    Zoot glanced at the clock on the wall, telling him that it had already gone past midday.

    “Right, bus station, three o’clock. Got it.”

    “And Zoot?”

    “Yeah?”

    “Don’t worry; I didn’t rat on your family this time.”

    Despite the unpleasant memory, Zoot couldn’t help but smile and huff a laugh. “Okay, thanks buddy.”

    He hung up at that, pausing when he remembered something. The Electric Mayhem?

    He shrugged, deciding not to think too much about it and made his to Janice’s kitchen to get some ice for his head.

    When he returned, Janice was standing on the threshold of her bedroom. He smiled, then realised she wasn’t smiling back.

    “What’s wrong?” Zoot asked.

    Janice was silent for a moment, and then said, almost too quietly, “You’re going away?”

    Ah. Bummer.

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