Doing things backwards because I'm locked out of my website. So I'm
posting chapter 5 to groups *before* I've put it up on my site. I'll
post it there (with images) when I can get in. I'm ticked, too, as I
have some cool images!
AN ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION
OF FATE: Living Upstairs
Note: These 'Berkeley chapters' owe a great deal to Judy Hsu. All
errors are my own. Tarch kindly helped me clarify things about
Jean's research and made some very useful suggestions. Any errors
there are my own, too. Thanks to Jenn for a brilliant suggestion of
Jada Pinkett to be Clarice. The pro-wrestling reference is on
"So you still haven't told him."
"What am I supposed to tell him? Oh, by the way, did you know I
could rip a hole through the wall if I stumble and my glasses slip?
Come on. I like him, and I'd like to keep him as a roommate."
Jean swiveled her chair all the way around and bent to clasp her
hands on her knees, staring Scott down. She'd been working in the
lab on the UNIX Sun station, assembling data to elucidate specific
nucleotide sequences and their distribution in mutant genome samples.
It might, she'd told Scott, give some clue as to the evolution of
mutant characteristics. But Scott wasn't even sure what a nucleotide
was, much less what it had to do with mutant evolution. He
considered asking her to explain it to him, but doubted the diversion
tactic would work.
"Scott," she said now, "everything you've told me about your roommate
makes him sound like an exceptional person. More to the point, if
you do indeed *like* him and want to remain his friend, then you need
to tell him the whole truth. There's a point past which being
careful slips over into simply being dishonest."
She was right, he thought, but it wasn't her neck on the line, and he
almost muttered, 'Easy for you to say,' but bit his tongue. As if
reading his mind �- although he knew she couldn't do that anymore -�
she added, "I know it's a risk. But real friendship often is. It
means opening yourself up to get hurt, and that takes courage. Don't
be reckless, of course, but don't be so cautious that you close
yourself in. Think about it, okay?"
"Okay. I'll think about it."
That had been Scott Summers' last private conversation with Jean Grey
before returning to Berkeley. Despite the fact that Scott had a
round-trip ticket, Warren insisted on flying him to the West Coast
personally, putting him in the co-pilot's seat of the little Lear jet
and using that opportunity to teach him about cockpit controls. Of
course Summers already knew most of them, but he thought that Warren
enjoyed the telling, so he kept his mouth shut and listened.
He and EJ arrived back on the same day �- EJ with a car -� and they
promptly returned to their routine of sleeping late, noodling at
music, staging bottle rocket wars on the quad, and harassing Phoebe
and Elizabeth in the double next door -� all between classes, of
course. Thanks largely to EJ's natural affability, Scott had been
integrated at last into dorm life. It helped that he was good at
math and willing to tutor his dorm mates, yet his primary reputation
wasn't as the Norton Hall math geek, or even as the guy who always
wore shades. He was the biting white half of the infamous Salt and
Pepper, Pranksters Extraordinaire.
If most of their practical jokes had been on the small scale, at the
tail end of the previous semester, when everyone had been panicking
over final exams, Scott and EJ had snuck out in the middle of the
night (wearing gloves) to put industrial-strength cellophane over all
the building exits, and then had set off the fire alarms. Rushing
out of rooms and down halls, Students had thrown open the stairwell
exits only to smack into cellophane with "Gotcha!" and "Relax! Go to
it!" penned in magic marker around the edges of the clear plastic . .
. along with smiley faces.
It had done much to lighten the mood around the place, though the
university police hadn't been so amused. Without fingerprints, they
hadn't been able to positively identify the culprits, even if most of
the students had a good hunch who the culprits were. As no permanent
harm had been done, it was let go, but one of the cops had gathered
all the students together out on the lawn to say, "Part of a good
practical joke is knowing how far to take it, and knowing what isn't
so funny. With the circus going on, somebody probably didn't get to
study for a test tonight."
And so, more ashamed than triumphant, Scott and EJ had gone back to
their room and been very good boys for the last few days of that
semester. They hadn't intended to create quite the stir that had
resulted; they simply hadn't thought that far, which was, of course,
the difference between maturity and immaturity, Scott thought later
-- the wisdom to factor in the possible consequences. But the Great
Cellophane Escapade had guaranteed their reputation, and Christmas
break had eased their contrition, so they returned for spring in rare
high form, like a pair of over-excited puppies. Prudence made them
trim back their trouble-making to smaller venues: putting green
Kool-Aid mix in the showerheads in the bathrooms, or painting
Phoebe's soap with clear nail polish, or gluing coins to the dining
room floor. The latter wasn't particularly original, but they still
laughed themselves silly, at least until they saw Phoebe approaching
from the checkout line, pretty face dark and mouth tight with
irritation. Then they beat a hasty retreat. As it had turned out,
the bar of soap that Scott had painted hadn't been Zest, or even
Dove, but some seven-fifty-a-shot special cosmetic cleanser.
"Didn't you notice the name on the damn bar was some ritzy make-up
company?" EJ had asked Scott later.
"I'm not the one who has sisters! How was I supposed to know
'Clinique' meant anything?"
Throwing up his hands, EJ had said, "Ain't you ever walked through
the cosmetics section of Robinsons-May? It's usually at the damn
store entrance, man!"
"Well, yeah. But fuck it, I wasn't looking at names on the bottles!"
"You are so freakin' clueless, Slim."
Thus, just four weeks into the semester, Salt and Pepper had managed
to land on Phoebe's bad side, at least until Scott had gone out to
purchase a new bar of soap for her. That had been Lee's suggestion.
"So what do I do to make it up to her?" he'd asked Lee after practice
"Did you try replacing the soap you ruined?"
"Ah -� no."
"Well, why don't you start with the obvious then?" Lee had replied,
adding in disgust, "*Men.*"
Scott had refrained from pointing out the fact that she'd claimed to
think like a man back in November. People didn't always appreciate
having their inconsistencies highlighted. Instead, he'd taken her
advice and replaced Phoebe's soap, and all was forgiven. He even got
a peck on the cheek for his trouble.
The same night that Scott gave Phoebe her soap, he called Jean for
their weekly chat. They exchanged email daily, and once a week, he
called to listen to her bemoan the tedium of finding expressed genes
and protein binding motifs in her nucleotide fragments. And she
listened to him bemoan his English literature class. "I don't get
it," he told her. "I mean, we're reading THE POWER AND THE GLORY by
Graham Greene, and I don't get it! There's this priest down in
Mexico, where they're doing a purge of Christians, but instead of
standing up for what he believes, he runs away! And he's supposed to
be the novel's hero? What kind of hero is that? And he's a drunk,
EJ, who'd been sitting at his desk by the door, working on a
presentation for his communications class, half-turned to call out �-
loudly enough to be heard by Jean -� "I been telling Slim here that
the guy's not *supposed* to be some Superman. That's the damn point!
He's just a guy, like the rest of us. He don't wanna die, but he
winds up getting caught 'cause he keeps stopping to help people.
He's not making some grand stand based on a bloodless ideal, man.
He's doing what he ought to be doing as a priest. He cares about
people. Holiness ain't the *trappings*. It's in your heart. It's
about compassion. That's what Jesus taught. *Be* right �- inside.
Don't just act right."
"You see what I have to put up with in a roommate?" Scott said, only
half-serious. "He reads this stuff and he gets it. I'd be so dead
in this class . . . "
Jean was laughing on the other end of the line. "Then be glad you're
both in the class together."
"And have you told him yet?"
"Scott -� have you told him?"
Scott didn't reply to that for a full five breaths. Instead, he
glanced guiltily towards EJ's back; his roommate had returned to work
on his presentation. "Not yet. I will."
"Soon, boy-o." And she hung up.
"Bye," he whispered to the dead line, and set the ear-piece back in
the cradle, sighing.
When he spun his chair around, he found EJ watching him over a
shoulder. "She may as well put a dog collar on you with a tag that
says, 'Call Jean Grey if lost.'" He was grinning. Scott shot him a
friendly bird, which only made him grin wider. "You are so wrapped
around her finger, Slim. She's your goddess."
Blushing bright red, Scott looked away, out the window over his desk.
The sun had nearly set. "Yeah, well, I can't help it. She's just
so . . . *amazing*, Eeej. She's just amazing."
"Hey -� I'm not making fun of you, man. Not seriously. And it don't
seem to me that she minds you panting after her any too much."
Summers glanced back at his friend. "You don't think so?"
"Oh, come on! How long you guys usually talk on the phone? At least
half an hour. *Every damn week.* If she wanted to ditch you, she
wouldn't be chatting you up that way."
"I'm just her friend."
"Yeah, so? There something wrong with that? I mean, I know you'd
like it to be more, but she is, what, twenty-seven? Be real, dude.
Friendship's nothing to sneeze at. And there are some mighty pretty
girls a little closer to your age around here. In case you ain't
noticed, Phoebe's been over a lot since the semester started �- well,
except when she was pissed over the soap."
Scott's eyebrows hiked. In fact, he hadn't noticed, though once he
would have. And he probably should have. Lee's fleeting interest in
him had demonstrated that women might still find him attractive,
glasses or no. "I figured she was over here to see *you*."
But EJ just shook his head. "Don't think so. Open your eyes,
"We got a gig."
"Whoa! Say *What?*"
"We got a gig, man. Two weeks. We're playing for the Nupes frat
party on Saturday. Fifty bucks a person."
Two beats went by, then three, before Scott found the wit to reply.
"Whoo-hoo!" And he threw his Econ note-cards into the air, laughing
and leaping off the bed to slap EJ's hands. "All right, so it's a
fucking stupid frat party, but it's a gig. Did you call Lee?"
EJ was grinning, too. "Not yet; I only just got it confirmed. Came
back to tell you, man." He hesitated and studied Scott. "Kappa
Alpha Psi is a black frat. That bug you?"
Scott blinked. "No. Should it? As long as they don't expect me to
sing hip-hop, I'm cool."
"Nobody's gonna wanna hear you rap, man; trust me. You sound like
somebody stuck a damn pig poker up your white ass �- stiff as a
sixteen-year-old with a girlie magazine in the bathroom."
"Oh, gee thanks! I love you, too!"
"Hey, you sing great. You rap badly. We're sticking to Living
Color, the Fishbones, and Hootie."
"And your stuff?"
"Yeah, and my stuff, but they're mostly gonna want to hear covers."
In fact, and despite Summers' protests, EJ had harbored doubts as to
whether his white band mates would be comfortable at a black frat
party, but as it turned out, Summers was in his element when
performing, whatever the racial makeup of the audience. The boy who,
six months ago, had been ducking every social opportunity in the
dorm, now hammed it up on stage. EJ had assumed he'd only sing,
leaving EJ to act as front man. But Mr. Shades could put on a show
with expansive gestures and friendly, teasing banter to the audience.
"You like this shit," EJ said to him after the first set. They'd
left the little corner of the frat house porch set aside for their
instruments, but hadn't moved far into the crush of people milling
about on the lawn in the dim light of a California evening. Even EJ
kept apart. Black or not, he was as much a stranger here as Scott or
Now, Summers shrugged and, in one swallow, polished off half the beer
he'd been brought in a plastic cup. "I guess. But it's like . . .
it's not me up there -� just some guy with a guitar."
"The magic mic," Lee said, slipping the cup out of Summers' hand to
Lee ignored his protest. "Some people freeze up when you put a mic
in their hands, some dig it. You're good with a crowd, Scott. And
you're also underage."
"Like *that* matters? You're not my mother, Aleytis. Go get your
Lee grinned. "We don't need a drunk bassist and singer. One cup an
hour is all I'm letting you have."
"Man!" Summers implored the sky. "What is this? And we don't need
a drunk drummer, either. Ever heard of *timing*?"
"Oh, I won't get drunk."
So the night wound down; people came and went, some weaving on their
feet. Free beer induced much laughter, squealing, flirting, and a
rather adolescent humor. One of the brothers walked around with a
bra wrapped about his head like a diadem, and another wore a suit
jacket, tie, white fedora, and no shirt. After ten, Soapbox moved
their instruments inside to the frat house living room, but it did
little to lessen the volume. Sound carried in the clear night air.
Fortunately, the (non-frat) neighbors were either inured, indifferent
or too pessimistic to call the police, so overall, their first gig
was a success. They played covers for the first set, a mix of covers
and originals for the second, and mostly originals for the third. No
one complained -� or not about the nature of their musical choices.
After the final set, while they were packing up, a guy edged his way
around the amplifiers to say, "You need a guitar player."
EJ and Scott paused in their equipment break down to exchange a
glance. They had debated whether or not to seek a guitar player, but
after the trials of finding a drummer, had ditched the idea. "Why
you think we need a guitar player, brother?" EJ asked, unable to
completely erase an edge of hostility from his voice.
"Hey -� you're good on the boards, man; I'm not dissing you. But you
need an edge. I really liked the originals you threw out, but you
need an edge."
"And you think you're that edge?"
The interloper just grinned. "Try me."
EJ and Scott exchanged another glance. Their wannabe guitar player
looked all of sixteen, and what he was doing at a frat party, neither
could figure. Someone's little brother perhaps. He had an earnest
face, slight build, neat clothing, and heavy plastic glasses.
"Let him try," Lee said from behind them. "Why not?" Then to him,
she called, "We practice on Sunday afternoons. Think you can wake up
in time tomorrow?"
And EJ added, "It's at the Unit Three dorms down on �- "
"I know where they are. Music room under the dining hall?"
"I'll be there."
And he was. At two the next afternoon, he was sitting on an amp
outside the front door, waiting for Scott and EJ, and Lee, to arrive,
a Fender case and an effects box beside his left foot.
As it turned out, Richard Chabon had been born in Cincinnati, was
twenty, a junior in the college of business, and the treasurer of
Kappa Alpha Psi. And with his Lake Placid Blue Strat in his hands,
he talked as easily as he used English. "Why ain't you already in a
band, man?" EJ asked -� dumbfounded -� after they'd heard him play.
Chabon shrugged. "I'm not interested in doing covers, or singing. I
want to work on original stuff. I liked what I heard of yours, and
you already have a singer."
And so Soapbox acquired their fourth and final member.
Continued directly in Chapter 5b....
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LAUNCH - Your Yahoo! Music Experience