Wednesday, June 07, 2006

We're the Cupcakes

Chapter Three.
The Mysterious Case of the Bogus Band of the Future

The girls weren’t too familiar with Mr. Ingstarr. He’d been a very minor celebrity during McCabe’s own era. But here he was now, on his way back to the top apparently, hosting a new version of an old talent show—an ultimate battle of the bands. McCabe was even more excited than usual.

She retreated into her room and added a little rouge to her cheeks before they all headed out to the Surf Shack. Rouge is what older people call blush.

When the girls got to the Surf Shack three other neighborhood bands had already signed in: The Martians. The Sunshine Party. And Evil Teddy. The girls weren’t fond of those Evil Teddy boys. Even Lola found little to lust. But man could they rock.

Bud Ingstarr spotted McCabe and gave her a smooth sideways smile. McCabe returned the favor with a bat of the eyelashes and a dip of the chin. And then she waltzed on over—literally a waltz—one step forward, one step to the side, a half turn, a step back—it was all quel dramatique!

Despite the fact that the four Martians, the entire Sunshine Party and all of Evil Teddy signed in prior to the Cupcakes, Mr. Ingstarr requested to hear the Cupcakes first. He wore a very chi chi beret, black of course, and a slim dark grey suit, the type that cartoon gentlemen wore, the kind that tapered to the ankle and ended with a crisp cuff just shy of the ankle revealing a sliver of black sock and flowing into a shapely men’s wingtip. He was handsome in that silver fox sort of way, in a ‘my grandpa is sexier than your grandpa’ sort of way. In other words, not in a way that you or I could relate, but certainly his charms were not immune to someone of McCabe’s advanced age.

And that is what the girls felt was the explanation for McCabe’s waltz. Turns out, the waltz was an old routine that her and Ingstarr had years ago. They knew each other from days gone by! Why hadn’t McCabe mentioned this before? But we jump ahead. The girls don’t know all this yet.

“Let’s rock it!” yelled Lola when she heard they were first. But Vivi felt awkward, “But, but, we weren’t first. That’s cutting. I don’t cut.”

“Maybe our reputation precedes us,” offered up Ten. “I mean, we are the best band in Sunnydale, without a doubt, quid pro none.”

“Except maybe Evil Teddy,” suggested May, far too loudly.

Evil Teddy’s own singer Teddy Bear echoed her sentiment but with more, um, gusto. “That’s right we are better, the best and we were first, this is so total bul—“

You know what he said. It is not meant for delicate ears such as yours. I will leave it to your imaginations, dear girl.

After Teddy Bear ranted and raved and cursed and stomped and finally pouted (that was Ten’s favorite move) he was shut down by Mr. Ingstarr’s assistant, a lovely and curvaceous sweater-clad woman by the name of Ms. Rue Lett. She sort of swayed up beside Teddy Bear and in this thick as full-cream voice said, “Oh Mr. Bear, Mr. Ingstarr knows you boys are talented, he’s saving the best for last. Now take a seat over there and we’ll call you in a just a little bit, OK big boy?” And she winked at him. Winked! Then she added, “Besides Bear, ladies’ first.”

“What!? Seriously? NO!” yelled Ten. She didn’t want any slack cut for her just because they were a girl band.

“Oh no girls, come on, Mr. Ingstarr is just doing me a favor,” said McCabe. “It’s quite nice of him. Now Ten put that energy into your guitar and we’ll win this whole thing for sure.”

Ten looked peeved but went to set up. “Wait, why is he doing you a favor?”

“Bud and I go way back,” said McCabe in a whisper to the girls. “We’re old friends. He wouldn’t be so unethical as to put you into the contest if you weren’t deserving, but he can certainly pull a few strings and get you to play first. For me.” McCabe was still smiling a cotton candy smile that made Ten’s teeth hurt.

While the girls set up, Bud Ingstarr took the little stage of the surf shack. He grabbed the mike and with all the swagger and sway of an old lounge act, he announced the rules and regulations of this stage of the contest:

“Greetings Ladies, Gentleman and Evil Teddy, I’m Mr. Bud Ingstarr, the handsome host with the most of the all-new, once-old ‘Band of the Future’ [this last part he said in a futuristic robot voice that implied he may break out into a moonwalk at any given moment, and yet he never did] and this is how this whole kit and caboodle is gonna fly. You’re each gonna give me one song, your best song, your most dynamic song, your grooviest swinginest song. I will then choose the two bands that truly knock my sox to move on to the semi finals of the try-outs, which will take place right here, same bat time, same bat channel, only 24 hours from now, dig? The winner of that round will then go on to be one of four bands competing on national broadcast television next to me, handsome host with the most, Bud Ingstarr. Who will be the next ‘Band of the Future’ [that robot voice again!]? Why it could be YOU!”

By now, the Cupcakes were set up and the Surf Shack had filled up with locals chugging mugs of milky coffee.

“Our first big, big band of the day is made up of a gaggle of gorgeous girls (this is where Ten rolled her eyes in pain), let’s give it up for the talented, the tasty (double roll), the Cupcakes!”

May, our sweet little, drummer with fists of steel, counted them out “One, two, three and—“

You never did hear her yell four, the band was off and running with speed and sound. They sang their future number one hit, “Boy Brunch.”

May’s slamming backbeat belied her simple and pie-eyed outlook on life—she could wake up Sleeping Beauty and the whole kingdom with just one note. Her smile may have been all bubbles and puppies but her forearms were fierce. Plus, her wild blonde curls bounced like she was in one of those cheese-ball wind-machine hair-color commercials and it was actually… refreshing. As she pounded every bit of life out of her kit, sparks were flying from Vivi’s bass—she may have been careful about everything in her life, from her choices in boys to her choices in desserts, but when it came to the bass, she was carefree and careless in the most rock and roll way, and thoroughly lost in the syncopated patterns of the music. For her part, Ten was in control, as she always was, but she still managed to put a heaping helping of harrowing humanism into the voice of her guitar. The loud, unending notes danced circles around the bass and drum lines all the while keeping up with Lola’s instrument, the vox. Lola was like their super secret weapon. Lola’s voice was otherworldly and added intrigue and mystery to their sass and sonic swagger. Ten had more than once wondered if there was a chance that Lola’s voice had come out of some late-night deal with the devil, it was just that good.

Halfway through the second run of the chorus,

“The menu looks good, the menu looks yums, it’s a boy brunch and I don’t need no Tums” —

Lola’s concentration was broken and she gulped, loud.

Four boys had slowly, effortlessly, dangerously, walked into the Surf Shack in the middle of the Cupcakes song. Each more beautiful than the last, each carrying some awkwardly shaped case filled with a musical instrument. They walked right to the front with two cruising to the left of the stage, two to the right so that Lola’s eyes almost crossed—she didn’t know which way to look. Each gorgeous boy was showing off some pearly whites, and, if truth be told, each was checking out a different Cupcake.

McCabe saw all of this and began to sweat off some of that rouge. While McCabe noticed the pace had slowed a bit, no one else seemed to mind. The girls finished their song relatively in check, all except Lola who was now clinging to her mike stand in a positively dreamy state. She was staring at the floppy haired, dirty blonde boy closest to her. And he was staring at her. If this were in fact a cartoon, there would have been shooting stars or pulsating hearts connecting their dilated pupils. But it’s not a cartoon. It’s a book.

This particular boy rushed the stage and took Lola’s arm gently to escort her down. “Hi, I’m Weston and you have the coolest voice I think I’ve ever heard. Lola right?”

“Uh-huh, who, where, why?” was all she could get out.

“Weston, Weston Banks and I’m the singer of The Nutty Butters, we’re from the next town over. We’ve heard a lot about you girls.”

“Uh-huh.” Lola was still pie eyed.

“We’re here for the tryouts, you know the contest with Mr. Ingstarr.”

Now as Weston tried to have a two-way conversation with Lola, the other three members of the Nutty Butters bee-lined it to their corresponding Cupcake.

Where was McCabe? At first, when she saw this all happening she appropriately freaked. She was ready to bust up the tempestuous tea parties—Lola’s was at the top of her list—when she was sidelined by the talented Bud Ingstarr. He grabbed McCabe by the waist and whipped out a fancy move from years ago wherein he spun her dramatically into his arms. She was shaken at first. Stirred. Especially when he put his pointer finger to her lips and whispered “Shhhh.” But as he leaned in to press his soft, well cared for lips on hers, she became transfixed by his fluttering lashes, as if they were hypnotizing her with some sort of rhythmic trance-inducing suggestive pattern. And really, we must ask ourselves here, was he in fact using the ol’ Black Magic on her? Well, was he?!

During this unusual break in McCabe’s intense focus, May met Bobby, Vivi met Stu and Ten argued with Theo.

Stu: Wow, you’re bass lines are outta site, where’d you learn to play like that?
Vivi: Oh, gosh, lots of practice.
Stu: No, you have a natural gift, I’m not fooling.
Vivi: Thank you.
Stu: Oh, gosh, sorry, I didn’t introduce myself, I’m Stu.
Vivi: And I’m Vivi (she was blushing profusely)
Stu: I know.

Stu had the good looks of a boy well bred. You know the type—squared jaw, eyes the perfect distance from one another and colored a deep oceanic blue. His hair was naturally streaked with ultra blonde highlights like the sun had taken extra care when directing its heat his way. He was soft spoken with his immense praise for our little Vivi.

Across the room—

Bobby: Jeepers and jam, that’s some pounce you got there.
May: Why thank you kind sir. (Giggle.) So, who are you?
Bobby: Bobby Lee is the name and drumming is my game. But my game ain’t up to snuff compared to yours fair lady.
May: Kook. Who talks like that, I mean, besides me? (Giggle.) (Giggle.)
Bobby: Maybe we were made for each other, like heaven opened up and sent sprays of pixie dust our way. I say that’s how this here meet-cute happenstanced.
May: Huh? (Giggle.)
Bobby: So fairest one of all, tell me your name.
May: (Giggle.) May. (Giggle.)

Bobby was as goofy looking as his speech. But that’s exactly how May liked them. May’s gorgeous blonde curls could have attracted Johnny Depp in a darkly lit room, but she liked them a little askew. Bobby’s angular nose and oversized bug eyes had May’s heart a flutter. And she found his over the top banter (if you could call it that) mighty fine.

Just a few feet away—

Ten: I’m not buying what you’re selling.
Theo: Whoa, why the frozen shoulder?
Ten: Are you trying to distract us on purpose or something?
Theo: Um, no. Why would we do that?
Ten: This is a contest. I’m not a fool. Four of you, four of us, TV, stardom.
Theo: I’m not following.
Ten: Sure you aren’t.
Theo: Seriously, I’m not here to pick you up or distract you or whatever you think. I wanted to tell you, I just thought you’re playing reminded me of Graham Coxon while your back-up vocals were so sly and cool like Kim Deal, circa ’89.

Now if there was one way to Ten’s heart it would be an all-encompassing encyclopedic knowledge of rock. And roll. Plus, he seemed so earnest. And skinny. Ten loved them skinny, with that whole retro mod look complete with 60s era Keith Richards hair and pegged pants. She tried not to be flattered or impressed or smitten, but frankly it took every bit of inner strength she had.

Right around this time McCabe broke free of Ingstarr’s hypnotic gaze, snapped back to reality and headed straight for Lola, who was already sucking face with Weston right there at the coffee bar. The other girls had been too intertwined to notice. Lola’s finger was twirling the long bits of hair over his ears while they kissed, a sure sign of complete and total abandonment. McCabe firmly poked Lola in the back, which caused her to jump back with surprise and unfortunately, she took a chunk of Weston’s hair with her. He let out an annoyed wail. Lola, guilt-ridden, tried to hide her joy over scoring some cute boy hair. “But I’m crushy!” was all she could say.

Vivi was next closest so McCabe dragged Lola by the ear to where they were talking. “C’mon break it up and move it out.” Vivi smiled politely at Stu, told him it was nice to meet him, shrugged her shoulders and grabbed her bass.

The three crossed the room to May and Bobby who were staring at each other intently, without saying a word. He was writing letters with his finger on the inside of her wrist. She was giggling. “Enough!” said McCabe a bit loudly. Bobby looked genuinely sorry, genuinely afraid and said, “Oh M’am, I didn’t mean no harm. May is just, well she’s just, wow.” May giggled some more. McCabe just rolled her eyes and with the three girls in tow, hightailed it on over to where Ten was trying her damndest to not fall prey to Theo’s obvious charms. “I’m coming,” she said to McCabe before McCabe had a chance to yell at her. Ten was happy to have a solid excuse to walk away. The whole thing made her a little queasy: cute rock boy fawning over her and her rockin’ ways. She had hoped this would happen, you know, a side perk of being in the greatest band ever, but still, here it was sooner than later and while it was fuzzy, she wasn’t ready for it. Not yet.

McCabe rounded up all the girls and equipment and was heading out the door with all in tow just as Evil Teddy took the stage singing their tune, “Bucket of blueberries, bucket of blood…”