Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kids of Transylvania Junior High Start a Band by Jesse Elias

It all began in the south hall when Principal Boogeyman put this one poster up by the lockers:

Come to Family Night on Wednesday the 15th!

Dessert Potluck and Talent Show will be held!

$500 goes to first prize in the Talent Show!

Events will begin at 3:00 Am in the cafeteria. Participation in the talent show is open to all students.

“Frank, check it out!” exclaimed Mummy, nudging me as he pointed to the poster.

“Five hundred bucks! Just think of what we could do with all that money!”

I looked up at the poster and felt my neck-bolts tingle with excitement. In the past, Mummy’s crazy schemes had gotten us into all kinds of wacky misadventures, but this time it seemed like he was finally thinking down to earth.

“So Frank, what do you think?” Mummy was still awaiting my reaction eagerly.

“Sounds good,” I said. “But what are we going to do?”

I watched my best friend’s wrinkled brow crease as he racked his brain for ideas. “Well, we could do a magic act.”

“No way!”

“Alright, alright! Got any better ideas?”

I shrugged.

Mummy scratched his dusty head. “I know!” he declared triumphantly, “We’ll start a band!”

“A band?” I felt my stomach jam in my throat. Neither of us knew how to play an instrument. I’d taken a few organ lessons in 5th grade, but that’s it.

“Come on, man!” He then added with a wink, “This could be your big chance to impress Morganna!”

Oh man. He just had to drop the M-bomb: Morganna, the girl of my dreams. Everything about her was perfect, from the top of her pointy witch-hat to the toes of her pointy witch-shoes. But there was no point in trying to get her to notice me; she was one of the popular girls, and popular girls only go for popular guys.

I was about to remind Mummy of this simple fact when our conversation was interrupted by a loud voice across the hall.

“That five hundred bucks is mine, and if any of you losers think you can win, you might as well stop thinking you can win, ‘cause that five hundred bucks is mine!”

“Oh great, here comes Bigmouth,” Mummy grumbled.

Bigfoot overheard. “Did one of you dorks say something?” He and his gang of hoodlums darted around to face us.

Everyone in the south hall froze in anticipation as the 8th grade ape lumbered toward us. “I asked you a question!” he roared.

Mummy cowered. “I didn’t say nothing man, honest!”

The entire hall flinched as Bigfoot slammed my best friend against the wooden, coffin-style lockers.

“I’ll let you off this time,” he growled, “but you better watch yourself, bandage boy, because I’m sure as heck watching you.”

“Yeah man,” one of Bigfoot’s lackeys chimed in, “You don’t want something like last Tuesday happening again.”

Last Tuesday, Mummy was in Coach Death’s class when Bigfoot and his gang had snuck into the locker room. They had broken into Mummy’s locker, taken his clothes, wrapped them around a few cardboard tubes, and put them in the bathrooms. Mummy was only able to get about half his stuff back by the time he found out what happened. Even though it was obvious that Bigfoot and the others were behind the crime, Principal Boogeyman couldn’t do anything about it without some kind of evidence. Instead, all he could do was make things worse by relating the events in a grave announcement over the PA the next morning. As a result, Mummy had been the butt of every joke at school for a week.

With memories of the incident fresh in my mind, I was angrier than a vampire bat during daylight savings. The rage swelled up inside of me, burning in my throat as I prepared to shout a million names at Bigfoot before jumping on top of him and knocking his lights out. I could feel it coming on; this was my big moment.

“L-l-leave him alone!” I managed to stutter.

“Or what?” Bigfoot put Mummy down, turning his attentions on me.

“Or I’ll…I’ll…” I could feel his ego sucking my willpower dry.

“Ha! That’s what I thought!” He pushed me just enough so that my stiff limbs caused me to tip over. “Timbeeeer!”

The south hall erupted into a fit of laughter.

“Maybe you can get one of your dads to lube up your joints next time, stitch-face.”

More laughter ensued.

“Oh, and one more thing…” Bigfoot knelt down to make sure I heard him. “Stay away from my girl, you got that? Me and Morganna an item now, so you can forget about making her part of your dorky, miserable existence.”

And with that, he stood up with an air of satisfaction and turned to his posse. “Alright guys, let’s roll.”

Once Bigfoot and the others left to finish their routine bully patrol, the south hall resumed conversation and movement was again -- business as usual in Junior High.

“That jerk!” Mummy muttered as he helped me to my feet. “Don’t listen to him Frank, Morganna wouldn’t go out with a scumbag like Bigfoot.” His scowl became a grin. “You can bet they’re gonna regret this once we rock out the entire school!”

“Did you guys say rock?”

We turned around to discover Wolfman and Dracula standing beside us.

“Well actually --”

Mummy cut me off: “We’re in a band!”

“Oh cool, for real? Can we join?”

“Hang on a sec --”

“Sure! You guys are in!” That was the second time Mummy had interrupted me now.

“Rock and Rollll!” Wolfman howled in approval. He then added, “My dad’s also in a band; there’s a ton of instruments and stuff like that at my house. You guys should come by after school.”

Mummy’s face lit up. “Sounds like a plan, eh guys?”

The more he said yes for all of us, the more I was beginning to feel Mummy’s confidence. Then again, that’s how our crazy episodes always started.

When we got to Wolfman’s house, I realized that I had never been there before. Although I didn’t know what to expect, I certainly couldn’t have imagined the weirdness that awaited us there.

As we walked inside, a mild but concentrated odor rushed to greet us. Wolfman’s dad was lying on the couch, looking pretty spaced out. The fur on his face was greasy and tangled. He probably hadn’t showered for days.

“Let me do the talking,” Wolfman whispered to us. “Hey dad, me and my friends want to start a band. Can we use your stuff?”

“Uh…sure, like, whatever. Just don’t mess anything up. And don’t touch my sock drawer!”

“Okay dad, cool.” Wolfman whispered to us again: “my dad’s pretty laidback, except for when it comes to his socks. He takes them real seriously for some reason. Anyway, just wait here for a second; I’ll be right back.” And with that, he ran upstairs into his dad’s room.

“So, you dudes are starting a band, huh?”

“That’s right,” Dracula answered proudly.

“Right on. Chicks dig guys in bands. That’s how I met little Wolfy’s mom -- Chicks dig guys in bands.”

“See, what did I tell you?” Mummy looked at me with a teasing grin.

I quickly changed the subject: “Mr. Wolfman, do you have any advice on how to get good really fast?”

“Uh…” He paused to think. “You just gotta, like, get in the music--”

“What the heck does that mean?” interrupted Mummy.

Wolfman’s dad chuckled. “I guess it’s something you can’t understand until you discover it for yourself…like love.” He nodded sagely. “Yeah, music is all about the love: you just have to let yourself get lost in the moment.”

The three of us were speechless.

“So,” he said, “what are you guys gonna call the band?”

“Transylvanian Boogie Rock-a-thon!” Mummy shouted wildly. We actually hadn’t discussed a name yet.

However, before I could protest, my attentions were turned to Wolfman as he came downstairs, amp and guitar in hand. “Okay guys, let’s go,” he said with a fanged grin. “The rest of the instruments are in the garage.”

When I got home that evening, Igor hobbled to the door in a fit.

“Frankie, where have you been? Victor and I were so worried!”

“I was practicing with the band at Wolfman’s house.”

“You could’ve called, you know!” He scratched his hump. “And since when were you in a band? You never tell us anything anymore!”

“Leave the boy alone, Igor!” my dad’s voice echoed from the laboratory, “He’s just in a phase right now!”

Igor looked at me pleadingly. “You should go down there and talk to him. Whether he shows it or not, he’s really concerned about you.”

I rolled my eyes. “Alright, fine.”

When I entered the lab, my dad was busy as usual with some experiment. This time he was boiling a flask of some green stuff while looking at something under his microscope. I’m not sure what he was doing exactly; every time I asked him about his work or anything else, he would give these complicated explanations that confused me even more.

“Francis, did I hear you say that you’re in a rock and roll band now?” He talked to me without looking up from his microscope (I hated it when he did that).

“Yeah: me, Mummy, Dracula, and Wolfman.”

“Really? Are you playing the organ again? I thought you gave up on music when you

quit your lessons.”

“Actually, I’m playing bass.” I answered sheepishly. “Mummy’s on drums, Dracula’s on keyboard, and Wolfman’s --”

“When did you learn how to play the bass?”

“I’m teaching myself.”

“That’s no good.” My dad let out his patented sigh of disapproval. “Intuition is nothing compared to the tried and true results of an established method.” He pointed to the flask of green stuff. “Nitro-fluoride, for example, boils at 74 degrees Celsius. I didn’t have to waste my time testing every single temperature to know that, because someone already performed such an experiment. All I had to do to was study. If we figured everything out for ourselves, there would be no progress at all!”

“But Wolfman’s dad says that music is something you have to discover on your own.”

“Well!” he puffed. “I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Wolfman at one of last year’s parent teacher conferences, and I can tell you that he’s nothing more than a common deadbeat.”

“Well at least he cares about his son!” I shouted, running off to my room.

The next day at school, I was feeling pretty lousy. I hadn’t talked to my dad since our argument. To make matters worse, Mummy had managed to tell the entire school about our band, promising everyone that we’d “rock the place till they begged us to stop.” The truth was that we were just beginning to learn how to play, and the chances of having even a barely decent song ready for the talent show were about the same as Dracula’s family becoming vegetarians.

As the hype spiraled out of control, I realized that I’d fallen prey to Mummy’s infectious pride and optimism once again -- a mistake that we’d pay for with the embarrassment of a lifetime, as usual.

Pacing around nervously between periods, I tried thinking of some way for us to get out of this whole band mess, but my mind was clouded with doubt and despair. The only thoughts that came into my head tormented me.

Dad was right. You should stick to what you can do, and that means no more music, no more standing up to Bigfoot, and no more trying to impress Morganna.”


I let my thoughts peacefully settle on her, finding some comfort as I imagined her face, moving toward me with those soft, candy-apple-colored lips. “Morganna…”

“You say something, Frank?”

Snapping back to reality, I opened my eyes and saw Morganna, the real Morganna, standing before me!

Did I really say her name out loud? Oh God, I did say it out loud! Why did she have to be right there at that exact moment? She must think I’m such a freak!”

“Oh! Uh, hi…” I stammered pathetically.

“How’s it going? I hear you’re in a band with Mummy and those other guys.” She looked at me with eyes that made my neck-bolts burn.

Are you in a band or not? Make up your mind, Frank!”

“Uh yeah, well, kind of, I guess. I mean, yes! We’re playing at the talent show!”

Now you’ve done it. When she sees you can’t play, she’ll think you’re a phony!”

“Oh,” she said. “Bigfoot has a band that’s playing in the talent show too. Sasquatch is getting some of his musician friends to help out.”

Sasquatch was Bigfoot’s older brother. A proud participant in one of Transylvania University’s many jerk-magnet fraternities, Sasquatch never failed to provide his younger brother with inspiration. I swear, it seemed like Bigfoot was bragging about his brother every five minutes. He’d always tell the same story about how Sasquatch raided this or that zombie sorority and stole these certain body parts from the girls there, or how Sasquatch drank this or that many cans of Pabst Blue Goblin or Supernatural Ice in one night. And now Sasquatch was going to help Bigfoot cheat in the talent show so he could steal our idea and make our humiliation all the more unbearable? I was so angry I couldn’t believe it. And as if that weren’t enough, there was the matter of Bigfoot and Morganna. The thought of him caressing her with those hairy, un-opposable thumbs made me feel less like an animated corpse and more like a corpse corpse. I couldn’t bear it anymore; I had to ask.

“Morganna, do you…” I gasped for air, as if the words were rancid: “do you like Bigfoot?

“Oh geez, I don’t know.” She looked around to make that sure no one was listening.

“The girls I hang out with tell me I should go out with him, but…”

“But what?”

The bell for next period rang.

“I’ve got to go, Frank. I’ll talk to you later.” And with that, she disappeared into the torrent of students rushing to their next class.

I didn’t know what to think. She said that she wasn’t going out with Bigfoot, but was she considering it?

Well Frank, one thing’s for sure: when the talent show comes around, you’ll lose whatever chance you have of her considering you.”

After school that day, me and the guys started heading back to Wolfman’s house for more practice. We all heard about Bigfoot’s band one way or another. Apparently they called themselves “Gore Fever”. Anyway, Mummy remained optimistic, but the rest of us were more nervous than ever with all the hype he built up that day.

“Did you have to tell so many people?” Dracula asked as we walked to Wolfman’s house.

Mummy grinned. “Why should we wait to cash in our ticket to fame?”

“Because maybe we don’t want to be famous for something we suck at,” I replied.

Mummy froze dead in his tracks. “How can you even say that?!” He took a moment to calm himself. “It’s like my mom says: ‘once you start thinking you can’t do something, then you’re always doomed to fail!’”

“Oh yeah?” I snapped back, “Well that philosophy certainly has gotten you far.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?!”

Wolfman and Dracula were starting to get pretty darn uncomfortable at this point.

“It means,” I continued, “that every idea you think of always fails, and you’ll keep on failing until you wake up and realize that you’re just as miserable as the rest of us!”

“Hey, I like my life just fine!” Wolfman butted in.

“Me too,” added Dracula.

“What happened to you Frank? You sound just like your dad.”

“Screw you guys!” I ran from them as fast as I could, making sure not to look back.

“Fine!” I heard Mummy’s voice shout behind me in the distance, “We don’t need you anyway!”

I spent that evening sulking in my room. Everything had fallen apart: things were going horrible with my dad, I lost my chances with Morganna, and now I lost my friends. Could it get any worse?

I heard a soft knock outside my door.

“Oh great,” I muttered to myself, “The doctor is in.”

“Francis, is everything alright?” a muffled voice asked.

“No dad, it’s not alright!”

“I’m sorry about what I said the other day.” He let himself in, even though I never said he could (I hated it when he did that).

He sat down slowly on the foot of my bed, easing his weight into the springs with an audible crunch. “You know, I looked around the study for something that might help you become a better bass player, but all I could find was this book on electro acoustics.” He set a big dusty volume on the floor.

“I’m not in the band anymore, dad.” I still hadn’t turned around to face him.

“Why not? You seemed so excited about it yesterday.” He sighed. “I only wish that I could have noticed that sooner.”

“Yeah? Well I got into an argument with the guys, so it’s all over anyway.”

“I’m sure they’ll forgive you.” I saw an encouraging smile reflect in the window.

“How do you know?” I snapped.

He took a deep breath. “You know Francis, when I first constructed your body from a composite of various cadaver parts and reanimated it, I never once asked myself if I was ready to be a father. Looking back, Igor seemed far emotionally prepared than I was.” He paused a moment, searching for the right words. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes, not being there for you when I should have, not supporting you enough. I keep on trying to do a better job, because deep down I think I can make up for old mistakes. That, I think, is what it means to be forgiven.”

“Alright,” I said, “but how do I apologize?”

“Well, what did you think of my apology?”

I turned around. “Yeah,” I said, unable to restrain my smile. “This’ll do fine.”

The next day at lunch, I found Mummy sitting by himself in the cafeteria, sulking over a carton of chocolate tarantula milk with a blank expression on his face.

“Can sit I here?”

“Do whatever you want.”

I began picking at my stitches, trying to relieve the nervousness. It didn’t work.

“So, how’s the band?”

“The band’s finished.” He balled up the milk carton in a linen-covered fist.

I jumped from my seat. “Listen Mummy, you’re my best friend and I’d never say anything to hurt you!”

“You already did,” he replied, still deadpan. “Look, I’ve got to go.” He reached for his backpack.

“No, wait!” I grabbed hold of one of the straps before he could put it on. “I’m sorry! You were right! I want to save the band!”

“Oh yeah? What for?” He jerked the backpack from my grasp and began heading for the door.

Whatever I wanted to say never made it past the lump that had formed in my throat. It was too late now. I could only watch as my best friend shrank in the distance, leaving me forever.

Or so I thought.

Something clicked; I don’t know exactly what. It was like this familiar electricity suddenly appeared inside of me, shaking me from a deep sleep.

I sprung into motion. “I’ll tell you what for!” I shouted, running after him. “I want to save the band so we can show ourselves and everyone else that we’re capable of more than they think we are!”

He brought his walking to an indecisive halt. I took the opportunity to catch up.

Mummy had his back to me, still on guard. “Do you promise to stick with us till the end?”

“I promise!” I blurted, pinching off a flood of passionate appeals as I waited for a response.

Finally, Mummy spoke: “good to have you back, man,” he said, audibly choked up.

“Are you alright?”

“Hmph, of course!” He spun around and flashed that arrogant Mummy smile of his, the tears in his eyes quickly replaced with flickering determination. “Now let’s go show Bigfoot and everyone what Transylvania Boogie Rock-a-thon is made of!”

“Uh, yeah, about that…I was actually thinking we could all come up with a name together.”

“Yeah!” Mummy cheered, “We’ll start over, and this time we’ll do everything together!”

That afternoon, the band reunited in Wolfman’s garage with fresh resolve. We tried a bunch of new approaches. For instance, my dad actually dissected an eardrum the night before, trying to gain some kind of knowledge that could help me come up with a better bass line. He may have not found anything, but every time I thought about my dad sitting there all night in his nerdy lab coat as he sliced through some smelly old ear, I felt like a better player for some reason.

Wolfman’s dad helped out too. Sometimes he came into the garage to give us a few cool ideas for a riff or offer to help with some of the songwriting, but only every now and then. I think he kept his distance because wanted us to discover the music that was inside of ourselves, or something like that. I’m also pretty sure it had something to do with him not wanting to get up from the couch very often.

We practiced countless hours every day. Mummy’s drumming got better real fast. He carried his sticks around with him wherever he went, practicing on anything and everything he could find. His parents even had to ground him after he broke one of his great grandfather’s canopic jars when he tried drumming on them. He didn’t mind being grounded though: he just found more things to drum on in his room.

Dracula, like me, had taken organ lessons when he was younger, so he was able to quickly get back in the groove once he started playing again. His dad, the count, had a lot of money, so it was no surprise to us when he showed up at practice one afternoon with an authentic Horror Clavinet D666.

At this time we also changed the band’s name to something that we all agreed upon, just like Mummy had promised. From then on, we would no longer be the rushed and uncertain Transylvanian Boogie Rock-a-thon; we were now The Gravediggers, a confident group of musicians ready to rock our school to its foundations. And not a moment soon either: the talent show was only a few days away!

On the morning of Wednesday the 15th, me and the guys arrived at school pumped-up and ready for action. The day couldn’t pass quickly enough; all we could think about was our big debut at the talent show later in that evening. We planned to have an early celebration together at lunch, but when the time came for us to meet in the cafeteria, Dracula was nowhere to be found.

Fifteen minutes later, he showed up, looking like someone had put garlic in his shorts.

“Guys, I’ve got some bad news.”

“What?” We all started from our seats in unison.

Dracula continued: “you know Mr. Chupacabra?”

“The Spanish teacher?”

He nodded. “So the other day in his class, one of Bigfoot’s lackeys copied the answers off my test.”

“That’s not so bad.” Wolfman let out a nervous laugh. “Right guys?”

“Let me finish!” interrupted Dracula. “So anyway, today, after Mr. Chupacabra saw that the answers matched, he sent us both to Boogeyman’s office.”

“So, what happened?”

Dracula’s face was pale -- even for him. “He suspended us both until further notice,” he answered in a shaky voice.

Mummy shrugged. “Well, I mean, that’s bummer man, but at least tonight we--”

“He said I can’t play in the talent show while I’m suspended!”

We all fell silent. I stared blankly at our celebratory lunch, now reduced to a cheerless mass of empty calories.

Wolfman lifted his head back and let out a series of long, drawn-out howls, each more tragic than the last.

He spoke for all of us.

Our families had planned to meet for dinner at Dracula’s house in honor of the band’s performance that night. However, with the last minute cancellation of our act, things took on a different tone. Instead of celebrating over dinner, our parents just ended up talking about what a real jerk principal Boogeyman had been. At one point my dad called him a “pedantic wretch”. Anyway, they eventually got tired of complaining and began talking about grown-up stuff, at which point me and the guys excused ourselves from the table.

After a joyless meal of blood pudding, sangria, and kidney beans, we hung out on the floor in Dracula’s room and talked for while.

“At least we went the distance,” Mummy said with a dull flash of pride. “Right guys?”

“Yeah,” I nodded. “All things considered...”

“Yeah, but it’d be even better if we could play tonight!” Wolfman whimpered.

We all groaned.

“Look,” I said, “There’s no use in tormenting ourselves. We’re just going to have to think of something else to do now.”

“Like what?”

The room fell silent.

“Well,” Dracula’s voice murmured from the back of the room, “We could still go to the talent show…if we wanted to, I mean”

Wolfman scoffed. “And watch Bigfoot’s band play our venue? Yeah right.”

“Hang on a second!” Mummy shouted, jumping on top of Dracula’s desk. “Don’t you guys remember why we started this band?”

“I dunno,” Wolfman answered, scratching his head with his foot. “To win the five hundred bucks?”

“No! We started the band so we could show the rest of Transylvania Junior High that we won’t just stand by and take their shit anymore!”

We looked up at Mummy in astonishment.

“You guys can sit around moping all night like Bigfoot expects us to, but I for one plan on going out fighting!” He jumped off the desk and held out the back of his hand. “Who’s with me?”

I laid mine over his. “I am.”

“Me too.” Dracula said, offering his hand.

The three of us looked over at Wolfman.

“What the heck,” he said, throwing in a paw. “The Gravediggers don’t run away, right?”

“Right!” We shouted in unison, leaping with our collective fist in the air.

We arrived at school with our families later that evening. We hadn’t missed the talent show, as the dessert potluck was still going on. And while most of our parents were too angry with the school to bring a dessert, Igor had insisted that my dad bring the spider-egg marshmallow squares he’d made the night before. Wolfman’s parents, true to their good nature, also contributed to the potluck with some of Mrs. Wolfman’s homemade brownies. In fact, Mr. Wolfman seemed a bit too good-natured for the situation, chatting with Principal Boogeyman over dessert and offering him a brownie.

Meanwhile, Bigfoot’s parents, the Yetis, made it no mystery where their son got his attitude from. They boasted in front of everyone, declaring with absolute certainty that their sons’ band was going to win first prize, whooping and pounding their chests where they felt it necessary. Bigfoot followed suit, telling all the kids how Sasquatch and his college buddies were going to show up any minute, at which point their band, Gore Fever, would cream the competition. That’s when he spotted me.

“Hey dweeb,” Bigfoot grunted as he approaching me, his gang trailing behind as usual. “Did you come here to watch Gore Fever sweep the talent show?”

“No.” I asserted plainly.

“Uh…well that’s what you’re gonna end up watching, because Gore Fever’s gonna sweep the talent show!”

“Yeah,” one of the goons in his posse added, “you’re lucky I copied your buddy’s test, ‘cause otherwise Bigfoot’s mad skillz would’ve put your little geek squad to shame!”

“Oh really?” I asked coyly, “Just what are you playing, Bigfoot?”

“The cowbell!” he said, puffing up his chest. “W,why, you got a problem with that?”

“The cowbell?” I chuckled. “Sounds to me like your brother and his friends are the ones playing all the music.”

“Oh Yeah?” he growled, “Well it’s more than you’ll be playing tonight, ‘cause your act’s cancelled. Get the picture, box-head?”

Suddenly, I glanced over Bigfoot’s shoulder and noticed Morganna standing on the other side of a window. She smiled and signaled for me to join her outside.

“Listen, Bigfoot,” I said, “have fun winning first prize; I gotta go.” I walking away grinning as he and his posse made chicken-noises behind me.

I made my way out the back, running as fast as I could to where I’d seen Morganna (I slowed down to a casual walk when I got close). Sure enough, there she was, sitting by herself and watching the night sky.

“Hi Frank.” I could see her smile in the light of the full moon.

I smiled back confidently, letting myself get lost in the moment. Wolfman’s dad was right: it was like playing music.

“What’s going on?” she asked, “You seem different tonight.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve been through a lot lately.”

“Oh.” She looked at her feet timidly. “Well, you seem okay with it.”

“You know, I actually feel pretty good.”

“Even though your band’s act has been canceled?”

“You know about that?” I looked at her puzzled.

“Of course! One of Bigfoot’s lackeys was blabbing all day about how he sabotaged your act by getting Dracula suspended.”

“Yeah, that was pretty low of him.”

“Bigfoot’s such a twit.” She sighed. “I can’t believe I almost let him talk me into going out with him. I feel so stupid.”

My heart had almost skipped a beat. “You’re not stupid!” I blurted. “There’s a lot of pressure around here to be someone you’re not.”

Morganna paused a moment as she thought about it. “Yeah!” she finally cried triumphantly, “I’m sick of having to deal with nothing but phonies all the time! Who needs them?” She turned to me and took off her pointy hat, letting her long, dark hair tumble down her back. “It doesn’t matter to me if you’re in a band or not, Frank.”

I shook my head. “That’s not it at all! Sure, at first I thought the band was just another long shot at becoming popular, but now I really think it’s taught me a lot.”

“I can see that,” she said softly, resting her head on my boxy shoulder. Nothing could spoil this moment.

“Hey Frank!”

We started around to find Mr. Wolfman sticking his head out the window next to us.

He smirked. “Did I come at a bad time?”

“No, it’s fine.”

“Good, because it’s time to get ready to go on stage! You and the other guys are on tonight!”

My stitches practically ripped. “What?!”

“I got Principal Boogeyman to de-suspend Dracula.”

“You did? How?”

“I got him to see things the my way.” He chuckled. “But explanations can come later! Let’s go!”

Following the Tap-dancing Skeleton Troupe’s act, Principal Boogeyman awkwardly stumbled on the auditorium stage.

“Wasn’t that awesome?!” he shouted far too loudly into the microphone. “Seriously, the way they did that thing with those clicky shoes and--”

Mr. Phantom, the vice principal, quickly whisked him off stage with a light, ethereal touch. “Excuse the principal, ladies and gentlemen,” he said apologetically. “Mr. Boogeyman’s not quite himself tonight.”

My dad shot a suspicious glance at Wolfman’s parents.

Mr. Phantom continued: “on another, more sobering note, I’ve received word from the local authorities that Sasquatch Yeti and the other members of the band “Gore Fever” have been arrested this evening for driving under the influence and committing indecent exposure from a moving vehicle.”

“My baby!” Bigfoot’s mom shrieked, rushing out of the auditorium to call the police station.

“Good-for-nothing son of a…” Mr. Yeti stood up indignantly. “Come on Bigfoot, let’s go!”

“But dad!”

“You can come with me or you can get a spanking!”

Bigfoot’s face went red as his dad yanked him out of the auditorium. Everyone in the audience was laughing hysterically.

“Ahem!” Vice Principal Phantom shouted over the audience in his drafty voice. “In light of recent events, Gore Fever’s act will be cut from the program and the evening will end early with our final act.” He motioned backstage. “Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for the GRAAAVE-DIGGEEERS!”

As the curtains drew back, Wolfman turned around to face us one more time. “You ready, guys?”

We nodded.

Mummy could no longer contain himself. “Let’s do this!” he shouted, raising his drumsticks above his head. “One-two-three-four!”

In that moment, when the raw energy pulsed through the equipment and the music sprang from our instruments, I could see my dad in the audience, beaming with pride as he mouthed the words, “it’s alive!” Seeing him (and Igor) there at that moment, I felt a strange yet familiar electricity flow through me. It was the same sensation that guided me along every step toward this moment. Suddenly, it all made sense: it was the power that my dad had given me life with. It had been giving me strength all along; I’d only forgotten, after guys like Bigfoot distracted me from it.

But now, having reclaimed my father’s gift, I channeled all of it into my bass. And just like that, I felt my fingertips spring forward like ten little soldiers, tearing their way through the most perilous barrage of notes ever committed to funk.

It was beautiful. I let my mind drift into the music, becoming a passive listener to what we were creating. I could hear the other guys: Mummy’s drumsticks cut the beat so close that he came within inches of drawing blood; Dracula’s chords, calculated with NASA-like precision, sent Wolfman’s guitar solo into space where the notes drifted weightlessly, until finally, our song re-entered the atmosphere in a blazing hot finale.

And as that final, scorching chord burned away into silence, from the ashes there arose a deafening roar. Barely able to comprehend the sounds we had just created, me and the guys quickly became lost in the sea of applause.

As I stood there adrift in that surreal moment, something suddenly exploded at my feet, wrenching my mind back to reality. As the puff of smoke cleared, I saw there materialize a delicate, black rose. I glanced back up at the audience and spotted Morganna, waving to me with one hand and holding a book of spells with the other. I picked up her gift and held it to my heart.

“Yeah,” I said, unable to restrain my smile. “This’ll do fine.”

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