The Guitarist: Part Two
"Will all registered participants of the Neopian Guitar
competition step up to the booth on the left of the stage please."
The loudspeaker was booming with announcements
and advertisements, but it was hardly to be heard over the tremendous noise
made by the massive crowd. Mupper, Johnson and I had taken part in the Neopian
Guitar competition, and were now trying to squeeze our way through the crowd
toward the booth.
"Break a leg, guys!" Henry shouted to us. Mupper
and I beamed at him confidently, but Johnson only gave our drummer a weak smile.
"I think we should just quit this whole thing,"
Johnson said, a worried look on his face. I don't blame him. We had only had
three practices before this big day, and he was probably afraid we wouldn't
perform well, making ourselves look like utter fools.
"Oh, come on, John. Stop whining." I brushed
his worries aside, and, grabbing his paw, made a beeline for the booth. "It's
so not like you to give up without even trying, you know."
Actually, Mupper was the one who came up with
the idea of joining this competition. He thought it would be great publicity
for Gruundo if we won - and we had a healthy possibility of winning. I jumped
at the idea immediately, and promised Mupper that the three of us guitarists
would join. Little did I know that Johnson would react so strongly to the idea
when I told him about it.
"Why did you apply for participation for me?
Did I ever said I wanted to take part in this dumb thing?" I've never seen John
so worked up before. I thought he wouldn't mind…he had never minded when we
made decisions for him.
"Don't you think you need to at least ask me
before deciding something for me? I do have an opinion of my own, you know.
But you think you know everything about me. Which is not true."
There was a pall of awfully awkward silence lingering
between us. Johnson was glaring at me, panting heavily from the outburst. I
simply could not look in his eyes.
"I'm sorry," I began slowly, "but in any case,
we only have five days left before the competition. Shouldn't we concentrate
on perfecting the song now?"
As much as he was reluctant, he relented to my
Now we were standing in a queue at the booth,
waiting for our turn to be marked as "present". Mupper and Johnson were standing
with me, and the three of us were each carrying our own electric guitars.
"Our group name is Gruundo and we're performing
'For The Twilight'," Mupper told the yellow Techo seated at the booth when it
was our turn.
"Please take a seat backstage. You will be called
to perform shortly," the Techo said, with an obviously forced smile plastered
onto his face.
We sat down at a bench marked "Group performance"
and waited with bated breath for our turn to come. From our years of experience
watching the competition, group performances usually came first, followed by
individual performances. Soon it would be our turn to perform.
"Ladies and gentlemen of Neopia," the emcee proclaimed.
"Welcome to the annual Neopian Guitar competition! This competition is held
to celebrate the many guitar talents out there in Neopia, whether they are professionals
or amateurs. We are here to rejoice the love for the greatest musical instrument
in Neopia - the guitar!"
The crowd cheered wildly. At the back of the
stage, some shuffling went about as a few more guitarists came in. From where
we were we heard the host continue on to introduce the five judges, the various
rules of the competition, and then proceed to start the real competition.
"And now, the competition has indeed begun. Let
us give a warm welcome to our very first group contestant of the day, a group
named Untitled! They will be playing for us the third movement of the Evening
Rhapsody by Wolfgang Pteri!"
Two Lennies and three Wockies, all immaculately
dressed in expensive tuxedos and gowns, rose up from their seats and walked
swiftly and orderly up to the stage as the audience cheered loudly once again.
The crisp and clear sound of their classical guitars travelled to the back of
the stage, and intimidated us tremendously. Their classical piece was faultless
and very professional. I looked at my colourful electric guitar. Our amateurish
rock piece was nothing compared to their performance. I stole a glance at Mupper.
Even he looked quite uncomfortable seeing such tough competition.
"Thank you, Untitled," the emcee said as the
five Neopets returned backstage. "The next performance will be by a rock band
called Gruundo. They will be playing for us a piece called 'For The Twilight'.
Let's give it up for Gruundo!"
I gulped. I didn't expect us to be called onstage
so soon. I didn't have time to indulge in such thoughts though. The three of
us shuffled out nervously and noisily as the audience applauded. My paws were
cold and sweaty, and my legs were weak. Johnson looked pale with worry.
"We can do it," Mupper whispered as we took our
places. I could tell he was only trying to sound confident.
On Mupper's count of four we began our heavy
metal rock piece. I could see a few Neopians in the audience clasping their
ears at the sudden burst of noisy rock music. But I tried hard not that let
that deter me, and turned my full attention to playing my part well.
Everything went according to plan, and "For
The Twilight" sounded just like when we practised. That is, until about
halfway through the song. I could not put my finger to it, but something just
sounded wrong. Something was missing. Then I realised what it was - the bass
part that Johnson played.
I turned to look at him, and as a result of this
distraction, stopped playing. Johnson was still strumming on his guitar, but
he had a helpless look on his face, as if he didn't know what was wrong. His
guitar was silent. Completely silent, although he strummed at it hard.
Just then even Mupper stopped plucking on his
guitar altogether. He had noticed that he was the only one still playing, and
turned to look at the both of us. Awkward and humiliating silence ensued, as
Mupper and I walked over to Johnson to investigate the situation.
My best friend had a strange look on his face,
as if he was on the verge of crying, but was holding back his tears. His orange
cheeks turned bright red, and he stared straight ahead at the audience, which
was starting to be abuzz with murmurs and whispers. A few catcalls and bursts
of laughter sounded among the crowd.
The three of us had no choice but to leave the
stage, ashamed. What we had expected to be a success and good publicity for
Gruundo had turned into a big mess. As a rule of the competition we had to stay
till the very end, and the three of us sat in silence and clapped sullenly when
Untitled was crowned champion in the Group category.
That day when we were back at the studio, everyone
was quiet. Mupper sat at a little corner in the studio, his head held in his
paws. Johnson sat behind the drum set, sulking. Henry and I tried to find out
what was wrong with Johnson's guitar.
The strange thing was, there was nothing wrong
with it. When we plugged it into the electrical supply and played a few notes
it sounded perfectly well. Henry and I were confused, so we looked at Johnson,
as if demanding an explanation for what happened during the competition.
"Hey, it's not my fault the guitar didn't work
just now." Johnson defended. A look of frustration came upon him. "Why are you
guys looking at me like that? It's really not my fau - wait a minute. Are you
guys trying to imply that I tried to sabotage the performance? That I
didn't play my part on purpose?"
"Well everyone knew how reluctant you were about
entering the competition." Mupper spoke up from his corner, lacing each word
"What do you mean by that, Scarver!" Johnson
At the sound of that name Mupper stood up, as
if ready for a fight.
"You know I hate people calling me that!" With
that he charged at John, and Henry and I jumped to our feet to hold him back.
"Looks like none of you want me in the band anymore,
eh?" Johnson yelled. At that he left the studio, slamming the door behind him.
I wanted to dash out after him, but Mupper pulled
me back. I cried, for the first time in a long time.
Now that I come to think of it, the Guitar competition
incident did somewhat remind me of John's departure now. Perhaps the two were
After that Guitar competition incident the three
of us came to terms with our feelings and acknowledged that we were too harsh
with Johnson. So we went and apologized to him, and he forgave us, although
for the following few weeks after that day our practices were somewhat held
in awkward silence, as if there was a wall of ice between him and us. Nonetheless
we still considered him as our best friend.
But how can that incident be linked to Johnson's
leaving? It was over a month that it had happened. His anger would have died
down - I think. I mean, all my life I knew him as the most magnanimous person…
Although, he might just be right when he said
that I really didn't know him too well.
To be continued...