At the last possible moment, all three members of Liner Notes came together for a rehearsal. Mitch and Basil already committed to the gig, and Darius managed to sort the date out with his wife, so they were good to go. They agreed to meet at Darius’ house in Lowell, because transporting a few guitars was easier than hauling around a drumset; furthermore, neither Mitch nor Basil had families that they’d be missing dinner with by going to band practice.
Since Basil lived in Somerville and couldn’t drive, Mitch offered to pick him up from the train station. While waiting in the parking lot, he reviewed Jodie’s playlist and tried to envision the songs’ arrangements per her request. The train’s horn blared, yanking him from out of his thoughts, and he watched as the passengers exited. Basil already knew what car he was in, since he drove the same Volvo for the last decade.
His eyes narrowed when someone unfamiliar approached, a redhead with a stylish quiff haircut and a small goatee. Then the immaculate cheekbones tipped him off, and Mitch lit up in recognition. “Dude!” he exclaimed when the passenger’s backseat door opened and the ginger unceremoniously tossed a guitar case onto the seat.
“Dude,” Basil parroted back.
“Is the hair color natural? You’ve been bleach blonde as long as I’ve known you,” Mitch asked, practically tripping over his own words. “Oh, and holy shit, you’re handsome as fuck.”
“Thank you, I know. Spent a lot of money to look this good.” Basil’s smooth voice was surreal at first, but also so naturally fitting. Not a single hint of cynicism from days of yore, just a self-assured calm that Mitch always envied. He dropped into the passenger seat, and as he buckled up proceeded to explain, “Yes, I’m a natural redhead. I shaved my head before starting T, like a symbolic gesture of breaking up with my old self.”
“That’s so cool,” uttered Mitch.
“Right? I thought so. Anyway, I kind of dug it when it started to grow back in. Leaned into a more natural me for the first time in my adult life.”
“I’m so goddamn happy for you,” Mitch grinned.
“Thanks, man. I’m happy for me too.”
They stopped for some fast food before heading over to Darius’ house, and 15 minutes later pulled up to a small classic New England cottage in a quiet neighborhood. From inside of the house a dog furiously barked, which was much bigger than its bite. Mitch and Basil grabbed their instruments from the back, pushed past the chainlink fence’s gate, and ascended the front steps. Basil pressed on the doorbell and the dog bark louder, then a small voice joined the cacophony and shouted “Door! Door!”
The door swung open, and Darius’s tall frame blocked the light that poured out of the entryway. Attached to his leg was a toddler, who scurried away as soon as she was face-to-face with adults that she was unfamiliar with. A miniature schnauzer mix whined from behind Darius, then squeezed through, its little body wiggling as it demanded attention. “Twizzler,” Darius attempted to settle down the 10lb perpetual motion machine, but to no avail. “Sorry about him,” Darius said while he pulled Mitch into a side hug. “He acts as if he’s never had any human contact before.”
Basil had to decline any sort of hug due to his chest, so he and Darius exchanged fist bumps. When asked if he’d be able to play, Basil assured them that he’d gotten clearance. Even if he started to ache, he could just keep the bass strap down low. “If all else fails, get me a stool to sit on and I’ll be fine.”
They pushed past various colorful toys that were spread out across the floor like an obstacle course. Before reaching the basement door, Darius’ wife Evelyn apprehended them and asked if they had dinner. “Just ate,” Mitch informed her, and she proceeded to chew Darius out for not inviting them over sooner.
“I’ll pack you both some for the road,” she asserted, and neither Mitch nor Basil protested; it’d be insane to decline, since Evelyn was a professional chef-turned-caterer in Boston’s North End. She then shot a stern look at Darius, and warned, “Invite them next time.”
“I’ll invite them next time baby, sorry,” he relented, throwing his hands up in surrender.