TONIGHT WAS THE night. Their first gig. Alistar had spent weeks planning it,
going over every tiny detail.
"... and remember," he had said, pointing to
the map he made, "if anything at all should happen, the fire exits are here,
here, and here, and the main entrances are..."
"Alistar, it's just the Java Joint. The worst
that could happen is someone might spill some lukewarm coffee into their lap
and sue the place for every cent it's worth. I worked there for two whole months
and nothing of the sort ever happened."
"Yeah, but what about you-know-who and the you-know-whats?"
"What, you mean Umbriel and her Drums?"
"Ixnay on the Umsdray!"
"Calm down. Look, none of the songs we're doing
tonight call for any Drum solos whatsoever. She promised us she'd never do That
So went the arguing and the worrying all the
way up until The Big Night. Alistar, May, and Flick were getting ready backstage,
but Umbriel was nowhere to be found. Alistar began pacing.
"Where is she? I told her to be here at seven
to help get everything ready and it's now," he looked at his wristwatch, "7:05.
This is not good, this is not good!"
Flick shook his head. "Alstar, you're too much.
Just the other day you were worried that she'd mess everything up by being here,
and now you're worried because she isn't."
"Anyway," May interjected, "she's only five minutes
"No, now it's six minutes!" said Alistar impatiently.
"Anyway, it doesn't matter how late she is, it's the fact that she is late.
I've got a good mind to dock her pay!"
"Two reasons why that isn't going to happen.
One: we have no pay to dock yet, and Two: I'm the accountant, and I'm in charge
of any and all monetary distribution."
"Fine, then you dock her pay!"
Before the argument could continue any further,
Umbriel swooped in. "Sorry I'm a little late." She put down the big plastic
bag she was carrying over her shoulder. "I come bearing gifts."
"Well, it's about time!" Alistar practically
shouted. "Here I am waiting a whole six minutes for you to show up for our first
gig, and you... gifts?"
"I stopped to pick up a few things for the band
on the way, hope you don't mind."
"No, no, not at all, of course not!" Alistar
said. "You should have told me. I would have helped."
"I'll bet you'd have helped all right," Flick
laughed, "seeing how you're so scrupulous with other people's money."
May stifled a giggle.
"I'll pretend I didn't hear that," said Alistar.
"So what did you get?"
"Here," she said, reaching into the bag. She
pulled out a small rectangular black box and handed it to Flick. "This is for
"Thanks," he said, looking at the small note
taped to the box. SORRY ABOUT THE GLASSES it read. He lifted the lid and gasped.
A pair of sunglasses, with lenses like two pools
of mercury, lay delicately on the red velvet lining. Flick held it up to the
light, admiring the way the light played over its surfaces. He turned around,
removed his old pair, and placed the new sunglasses over his eyes. "Fantastic,"
"They're one of a kind. I had them custom made.
Actually, I practically made them myself. I had to provide step by step instructions
and the raw materials. The idiots said they had no idea you could make them
out of silver."
Behind his new shades, Flick's eyes bulged.
Walking over to May, Umbriel removed another
item from the bag. "Hope you like it," she said.
"An official Lost Desert Calculator?" she asked
in wonder, staring at the technological miracle just thrust into her hands.
"I've always wanted one of these. A Zafara in my Economics class had one, and
practically everyone asked her to do their homework for them. I was so jealous!"
Alistar and Flick just looked at one another
"I can't believe this! Now I can do my maths
homework, pay the bills, or just push random buttons! This is so great!"
Alistar tried to remember what his maths class
had been like, but the only memory he had was the time he had gotten hungry
and ate his cheese ruler during Neometry.
Lastly, Umbriel turned to Alistar. "I haven't
forgotten you, either," she said. "Part of my gift you've already received.
I've contacted the Neopia Central NeoHome Board of Directors. They're sending
their best decorators over as we speak to fix up the apartment. But the second
part I have right here."
She pulled something big and black out of the
bag and tossed it to Alistar. It flew past his outstretched arms and draped
itself over his face. He pulled it off.
It was a leather jacket. Umbriel made a 'put
it on' motion with her hands. He did so slowly.
"Do you like it?" asked Umbriel impatiently.
Alistar's hands were clenched at his chest. His
lower lip quivered. He seemed close to tears.
"It's beautiful," he whimpered happily.
"Good. Look in the left pocket."
Alistar stuck his hand in the pocket. He felt
something. It was thin, oblong, and cold. He took it out.
It was a golden guitar pick, slender and shining
in the light. A fiery letter 'A' was embossed on its surface. Alistar gaped.
"Holy Kau," he managed to say.
"It's not pure gold," Umbriel explained. "But
you'll appreciate the other alloyed metals just as much. I can confidently say
this: you'll never need another guitar pick for as long as you play. Never."
May shook her head in disbelief. "Where did you
get the money for all this?"
Umbriel smiled. "Let's just say I decided to
go for one last splurge before beginning my career." This answer puzzled May,
but before she could say more, she heard the pop pop pop of someone tapping
on a microphone from on-stage. It was the manager, a tall blue Eyrie.
"Testing... testing.... ah, good. Ahem, I have
an important announcement to make."
"This is it, gang," Alistar whispered. "Get ready."
"First off," the manager continued, "I would
like to thank you all for coming here tonight. Now, as you all know, about a
week ago, our beloved Flick Carson, who has graced this small downtown café
with his sweet music for so long, left us, along with May, who, I must say,
was one of the Java Joint's most accomplished waitresses to date, not only being
Employee of the Month for both of the months she was with us, but also winning
the coveted Golden Mug for Outstanding Achievement. Well, it just so happens
that I received a call two nights ago from a young Kyrii named Alistar, who
wanted to perform here tonight with his band, and what do you know? Two of his
band members just happen to be Flick and May! What could I say? I couldn't turn
them down, even if I wanted to. So, without any further delay, I give you May,
Flick, Alistar, and Umbriel! Let's give them a round of applause, Ladies and
The room burst into cheers.
"That's our cue," said Alistar tensely. "We're
Without another word, the band walked on-stage.
Though it was impossible to tell, every step for Alistar was a labour. There
had to be at least a hundred pets in the audience. Despite his nerves, Alistar
marveled at the turnout. I didn't think Umbriel could do it, he thought,
recalling his hesitancy at making her the Director of Public Relations.
The claps and whistles died down, though, as
Umbriel walked out on-stage and took her place at the drums. A few hushed whispers
circulated around the room, and while the actual words could not be made out,
it was obvious what was being said. Some of the audience members were drawn
as if by a magnet towards the stage, while those who were closer backed away
Alistar took the mic out of its stand, and it
greeted the audience with a shriek of feedback. He grimaced. This was not how
he had wanted it to start.
"Good evening, everybody. My name is Alistar,
and that's Flick, May, and Umbriel," he said motioning to each in turn. "We're
all very happy you could attend our concert tonight. As you all know, this is
our very first performance, so when we're famous you will all have the honour
of saying 'I was there'." Alistar had meant that last comment as a joke, but
as far as he could tell, nobody was laughing.
"So then... we... ah... hope... that you all
enjoy the show. Thank you."
There were a few sparse claps, but they were
few and far between.
As Alistar was about to signal the band, he thought
he saw something in the audience. A flash of luminous green, like green eyes,
and a dark shape, and it was gone. He caught it for only a second, but it unnerved
him. Strangely, he found himself turning to see if Umbriel was still at the
drums, thought he had no idea why she would be anywhere else.
Alistar began to count off. "One... Two... One,
two, three, four..."
The bass guitar boomed a chord, whiled Alistar's
own let out a whining riff. The cymbals crashed. May wailed a beautiful C into
The concert had begun.
The initial shock had passed from the audience.
They let out a cheer.
The performance proceeded through the rest of
the night without a hitch.
To be continued...