Hissi, Come Blow Your Horn!: Part Five
Satch quietly practiced his fingerings as the last strands of Two Minute Warning's song played. The Jazz Tones were able to get in one more practice before heading to the arena for the contest, so they were as ready as they'd ever be. No one was as nervous as Melvin. He sat by his bass, rapidly rubbing his lucky foot. For an extra boost of confidence, he also brought his lucky Uni shoe, a necklace made of plastic four-leaf clovers, and a bottle of invisible sand which Melvin claimed held kismet inducing powers.
"You're not seriously going to bring all that junk on stage with you, right?" asked Bebop.
"Of course not!" snapped Melvin. "You never use good luck charms during a performance. It's before the performance you got to worry about. But I am bringing the foot, just in case." Melvin held the Snowbunny foot under Melvin's nose. "Here, give it a kiss!"
"What?" cried Bebop. "I'm not kissing that stupid thing!"
"What have I told you about doubting the power of the foot? NEVER DOUBT THE POWER OF THE FOOT! Now pucker up!"
"I'll make you kiss my foot if you don't get that thing away from me! I'll never know why Aunt Myrtle didn't put you up for adoption."
"Leave my mother out of this!"
"Will you two be quiet?" hushed Goldie, once again becoming the peacemaker. "We're not at the Battledome so quit acting like gladiators and make up."
While that was being settled, Billie went and sat next to Satch. He looked up at her and smiled. Even though she was now completely gray, she was still the prettiest Cybunny he had ever met.
"Nervous?" she asked.
"Oh yeah," said Satch. "I just hope my dad was able to make it. I really miss him."
Billie patted Satch's shoulder. "Don't worry, I'm sure he's here."
Duke then popped his head in the dressing room. "Ok guys. Two Minute Warning just finished playing. They're setting up for us now. Get your stuff and lets go!"
The Jazz Tones collected their instruments and headed for the stage. Just then Satch saw someone waving at him from backstage. It was Histopher with Maestro right behind him.
"Satch!" said the green Hissi.
"Dad!" Satch slithered over to his father, giving him a huge hug. "You made it! How'd you get backstage?"
Histopher chuckled. "You can thank Maestro here for that."
The Kyrii smiled proudly. "I happen to know the gentleman who owns the arena. He allows me full backstage access to all musical events. Your father had kept me up to date on your letters. When I heard my prized student would be in the Battle of the Bands, I just had to come and see it for myself."
Histopher's face suddenly fell. "You know Miss Malba will be judging the competition, Satch."
Satch nodded. "Yeah, Dad. I know, but I won't let that stop me. We've come too far to give up now."
Histopher grinned from ear to ear as he straightened his son's hat and tie. "That's my boy! Don't forget: if you get nervous..."
"Just go back to the swamp," Satch said with a wink. "Don't worry. I'm already there."
"We're all ready to go, Satch," said Duke as he and Billie came upon the reunion. "You'll have to talk to your fan club later."
"Oh, hey Duke! This is my dad, Histopher, and Maestro, my music teacher. Guys, this is Duke and Billie, the ones I told you about."
Duke warmly shook Histopher's wing. "Nice to meet you, Histopher! You got quite a boy there."
"Don't have to tell me twice," said Histopher. He glanced over at Billie and smiled. "So this is Billie, huh? You weren't lying in your letters, Son."
"Dad!" hissed Satch.
Histopher laughed as he patted Satch on the back. "I'm just kidding! Maestro and I better get back to our seats. Good luck up there, Satch."
"We'll be cheering you on," added Maestro.
"Thanks guys. I'll see you after the show. Oh, and Dad?"
"I just want you to know... I'm proud to be a Hissi."
Histopher smiled as he gave his son one last hug. "Me too, Satch. Me too."
Once all the Jazz Tones had regrouped on stage, Satch kept thinking about all he had been through: his first Jazzmosis concert, when he got his trumpet, when he auditioned for Miss Malba, meeting and joining the Jazz Tones. It all seemed so surreal, as if any moment he'd wake up and be back at his swamp home, realizing it had all been a dream. But he was really there among his fellow musicians, being accepted for who he was and learning to accept others as well. He felt himself getting back on the roller coaster, climbing up the first big hill.
Be in the swamp, he thought. Be in the swamp....
"And now for our final act in tonight's competition!" boomed the MC's voice on the other side of the curtain. "Coming straight from the hustle and bustle of the Bazaar, please put your hands, paws, wings, and flippers together for the Jazz Tones!"
A warm applause rose from the audience as the red curtain rose, revealing the last act of the contest. Satch took a quick scan of the audience and saw his dad and Maestro sitting in the front row, waving and giving him the thumbs up. He also saw Miss Malba sitting between two other judges. Her expression remained stone faced.
"Time to take you to the swamp, Miss Malba," he hissed softly.
Bebop started the song by giving a steady, upbeat tempo on his drums. Melvin soon followed in suit on his bass, while Billie and Duke joined in next. Then Satch played his small part before Goldie broke into the vocals:
Hey, little Hissi, come blow your horn!
The rhythm's sitting here, waiting to be born.
Don't be shy; don't be afraid
Play that horn; come play the game!
Even when you're flat, you still sound sharp!
I got your music flowing straight to my heart.
No need to be scared or even proud,
Just keep on playing, good and loud!
Satch broke into his first solo, riding the roller coaster for all it was worth. Every roll and blast he gave his horn was greeted with cheers from the audience. Satch danced around the stage, doing bounces on his tail that would make a Blumaroo jealous. Then Duke stepped in and played his bit on the sax. It was just like when they first met at the fountain at the Bazaar, having yet another "duet duel," as they liked to call it.
Hey, little Hissi, don't stop now!
You're not ready to take your bow.
From the setting moon till the rising sun
Just play your horn, you son of gun!
You don't need to be a handsome prince
Or even a millionaire.
If you got your heart and got your soul
You got it all, just lose control!
Hey, little Hissi, come blow your horn!
Keep on playing till the early morn!
You've all the skill and all the class
You're the master of the brass!
Hey, little Hissi (hey little Hissi)
Play little Hissi (play, little Hissi)
Hey, little Hissi (hey little Hissi)
Hey, little Hissi, come blow your horn!
Satch slid to the edge of the stage, blaring the final note of the song. As Satch was catching his breath, a tremendous applause flooded his ears. Everyone in the audience stood and cheered the small jazz band, Maestro and Histopher being the most excited members. The other Jazz Tones took turns bowing and congratulating Satch on a job well done. Billie threw her arms around Satch's neck, hugging him tightly while Bebop gave him a playful noogie and Duke patted him on the back.
"Thank you, Jazz Tones! That was out of sight," said the MC, a disco colored Nimmo. "Ok, ladies and gentlemen. We're going to take a short break while our judges tally up their scores and when we come back, one of these lucky bands will be Neopia's next music sensation!"
After several nerve wracking minutes, all the contestants went back on stage for the announcement of the winner. Satch glanced at the other bands, all looking just as nervous as he felt, even Two Minute Warning. Melvin was a nervous wreck as he squeezed his lucky foot so hard, Satch was afraid it'd snap in his hand. His wing twitched nervously, but Billie squeezed it gently in her paw.
"No matter what happens, Satch, you were terrific!" she whispered to him.
Satch smiled. "You too..."
The MC returned to the stage with the envelope in his hand. "All right everyone, now's the moment you've all been waiting for! This year's winning band and Neopia's newest music sensation is...Two Minute Warning!"
Although Satch tried to be a good sport and accept defeat, deep down inside he felt like a failure. Not that he wasn't surprised, of course. He had a feeling from the beginning that the moment Miss Malba laid eyes on him, she'd immediately favor any other band over the Jazz Tones.
After they congratulated the winners and headed back to their dressing room, Melvin threw up his hands in shock. "We lost? How could we LOSE? We're the heroes! The underdogs! We were supposed to win!" He pulled out his foot and looked at it accusingly. "I never doubted your power! Why have you forsaken me?"
"Calm down, Mel," said Bebop. "This isn't some Neopian Times story, this is real life. We just didn't make the cut, that's all."
"And it wasn't anyone's fault," added Duke, patting Satch on the back. "You saw how the crowd loved us out there. We may not have won tonight, but there's always tomorrow."
"You know what we need right now?" said Goldie. "An extra gooey pizza with the works! What do you say, guys?"
The other Jazz Tones heartily agreed, accept for Satch. The events of the contest still lingered in his mind. "Sounds great, guys," he managed to say. "I'll be right there. I just need to be alone for a second."
"You take as much time as you need, Scales," said Bebop. "We'll be outside when you're ready."
When the others left, Satch sat in front of one of the vanity mirrors. He removed his had and loosened his tie. He delicately ran his wing over the curves of his beloved trumpet, recalling all the notes he played on this wonderful instrument. It truly was like a best friend; it had been with him through thick and thin and never let him down.
"I guess Miss Malba didn't like the swamp, huh buddy?" he said quietly to the horn, as if expecting an answer. He then looked at his reflection in the mirror. "She may not be ready for Hissi musicians, but I think Neopia is."
"Knock, knock! Anybody home?"
Satch turned to see Miss Malba standing in the doorway, looking just as prim and proper as ever. Not really the person Satch wanted to see at the moment.
"Miss Malba?" said Satch. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be taking publicity photos with Two Minute Warning or something like that?"
"In a moment, kid. I just wanted to stop by and tell you what I thought of your performance tonight."
Satch rolled his eyes. He knew what was coming. "Surprise me," he muttered.
"You were phenomenal! I mean, you seriously raised the roof!"
Satch's eyes widened in shock. "You... surprised me."
"I'm not kidding, sweetie!" she continued. "You really know how to work a crowd. And those dance moves! One word: genius!"
Satch blinked a few times, hoping he was hearing this correctly. "Hold on a minute... you really liked me? But what about Two Minute Warning?"
Miss Malba chuckled. "You don't realize how close you came. You tied with them, so we had to flip a coin to decide the winner. I swear, it was no reflection upon you."
"But the audition..."
"Is in the past! Look, I may have been a bit hasty in my decision, but I'm willing to admit when I'm wrong. Seeing how that crowd warmed up to you, I suppose the world is ready for Hissi music stars!" Miss Malba then reached into her suit pocket and pulled out a pen and a sheet of paper. "I don't mean to rush at you all at once here, but what's say we start over?"
Upon closer inspection, Satch saw that it was a recording contract! He took the paper and skimmed over the words carefully, making sure it was legit. "You really mean it?"
"I really mean it, kiddo. You're ready for the big time! Just sign here on the dotted line."
Satch was trembling with excitement. So there was still a chance to fulfill his dreams. There in black and white was his door to success! "I don't believe it! Wait right here, I need to go get the others. Man, they're going to flip when they find out that we're still going to be famous."
Just as Satch was about to leave, Miss Malba lightly stepped on his tail, stopping him in his tracks. "Uh, hold on a sec there, kiddo. I never said anything about those amateurs you were playing with."
Satch looked at Miss Malba curiously. "What are you talking about?"
"I mean the contract's just for you. You're more of a solo act. You don't need those Jazz Phones or whatever they're called."
"But I'm part of a band now! They helped me get here. I can't abandon them."
"Yes, you can. From what I saw in the performance, I think you'd be better off without them. That Pteri sang way too loud and the Yurble desperately needs to go on a diet. That Techo doesn't seem to have all the lights on upstairs, you know? And what was he holding in his hand, a dead Miamouse? And the Mynci drummer, HA! It's like he was raised in Tyrannia the way he played those drums. But most of all, that Cybunny! I mean, come on! Gray? I'm surprised a rain cloud didn't form over her head. Pathetic."
Satch would've strangled Miss Malba if he were not still in shock over what he had just heard. "How could you say such horrible things? They're my friends! Besides, I can't take all the credit! Goldie founded the band and Duke writes the songs. We're a team."
Miss Malba's eyes returned to that icy stare he remembered too well from their first encounter. "Look, Satch. You've got to realize that in order to get far in this business, you have to make some sacrifices. If you're worried about accompaniment, we can easily hire new musicians to play on the albums and such. You don't need nobodies like them holding you back. You got to look out for number one! This'll be your last chance to really make a name for yourself. I'm talking fame, fortune, sold out concerts, the whole shebang. And you can have it all; just sign!"
She handed Satch the pen and the contract, urging him to sign. He felt torn. He was standing before the one thing he had strived for all his life and it could all be his; all he had to do was sign his name and it'd be done. He'd gain fame and fortune and the ability to share his gift with all Neopia; the only thing he'd loose were the Jazz Tones.
He sighed heavily. He made his decision. Taking the pen and contract, he slithered over to the vanity desk to finish the deal.
Miss Malba smiled proudly as she took the contract back. "I knew you'd make the right choice."
"I sure did," said Satch. "Just don't forget to read the fine print."
Curious, Miss Malba looked more closely at the contract...to find a huge X over the entire sheet! "What...what is this?"
"Didn't make my point clear? Maybe this'll help." Satch took the contract back and ripped it right down the middle. "There. I think that pretty much says it all."
Miss Malba clenched her fists tightly as she tried to control her temper. "Do you have any idea what you just did? I offered you the chance of a lifetime and you throw it away for a bunch of losers?"
"No, not losers," Satch corrected. "My friends! They stuck by me even after I told them about you and that stupid audition. They reminded me what music is all about: bringing people together and just having a good time! So I'll be stuck in the limelight for the rest of my life, I don't care any more. As long as I got good friends and my family close by, you can keep all that other stuff."
Miss Malba crumpled up the already destroyed contracted and threw it on the ground. "You just made the biggest mistake of your life, you... you... HISSI! Have fun being a nobody!" With that, she stormed out of the room.
Satch let out a deep breath, finally glad to be rid of that horrid Aisha. As he was collecting his things, he looked up to see a gray Cybunny peaking into the room.
"Billie!" he gasped as she entered the room. "How long have you been standing there?"
"Long enough. I heard everything. I... I can't believe you did that! You could've been famous."
Satch nodded. "Yeah, I could've. But would it have been worth it if it meant loosing the band? I wouldn't have even been in the contest if it wasn't for you and the Jazz Tones. Still, I guess it is pretty weird for someone to turn down a 10,000 neopoint record deal, huh?"
Billie took Satch's wing gently. "Not really. That was the sweetest thing I've ever seen anyone do, Satch. Thank you." She leaned over and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. Satch was glad of his natural red color that hid his blushing so well.
Billie and Satch finally left the arena to find the Jazz Tones, plus Histopher and Maestro waiting for them just outside the Catacombs.
"It's about time, you love birds!" joked Bebop. "You ready to go?"
Satch and Billie looked at each other and smiled. "Yeah, we're ready."
As they were heading for the nearest pizza parlor, Melvin said "I still think we got gypped. I mean, we could've at least gotten a constellation prize or something."
"Starting to doubt the 'powers of the foot', Mel?" asked Bebop.
"Of course not! It just feels like there's a gap or something..."
"Excuse me? Are you guys the Jazz Tones?"
Everyone turned to see the person who addressed them: a yellow Chia wearing a black turtleneck sweater and sunglasses standing next to a small Elephante in a suit and fedora. Satch's jaw dropped, trying his best not to faint from excitement.
"Oh... my... GOSH!" he cried, bouncing happily. "You guys are... y-you're with...."
"The name's Scatman and this here's Horris Hornblower," said the Chia. "We're with Jazzmosis, but I assume you already know that."
"I don't believe it!" squealed Billie. "We're like your biggest fans!"
"Thank you, miss," said Scatman. "Nothing like a compliment from a lovely lady."
Satch was able to get up the nerve to slither up to Horris, extending his wing. "Mr. Hornblower? I just want you to know I've been a fan of your work since I was little. I've always wanted to play just like you!"
Horris shook Satch's wing. "They way you played tonight, I think you could teach me a thing or two."
"Look, we don't want to take up too much of your time," said Scatman, "but we just wanted to tell you guys that you've got some mad skills. I mean, seriously! You one bunch of crazy cool Kadoaties."
"We're sorry you guys lost the contest," said Horris. "If you ask me, that punk band won't last three months. But we thought we could make it up to you. We're going to be starting our tour next month and we really need an opening act. Scatman and I talked to the rest of the band and we all agreed you guys would be perfect."
Everyone looked to Goldie for the answer. She was the leader, after all. The Pteri was quiet for a moment, then stepped forward. "Mr. Scatman? Mr. Hornblower? You got yourselves an opening act!"
Cheers erupted from the group as Scatman and Goldie shook hands. "Solid!" said Scatman. "We'll be leaving for Tyrannia next month. Who knows? You play your cards right, you just might find yourselves landing a record deal."
Satch felt a sudden wave of panic as the meeting with Miss Malba flashed in his mind. Had he jeopardized the band's chances at stardom again? "Uh... a deal with Neotunes studios?" he asked meekly.
Horris shook his head. "Nah, of course not! We haven't worked with them for over a year. We switched over to Big 'n Loud records. Those guys are much more open to new ideas."
"Yeah," said Scatman. "Neotunes studios had a bunch of brown nosers working for them. Especially that one chick, what was her name? You know, the ice queen?"
"That's her! I couldn't stand that Neopet! She didn't know good music if it bit her on the tail."
Goldie nudged Satch. "Told ya," she whispered, making Satch stifle a giggle.
"Anyway, we'll let you guys get back to your day," said Scatman. "We'll be performing at the Chokato Cafe tomorrow night. You guys should stop by; we could have a jam session. See ya."
Before he joined his fellow band mate, Horris addressed Melvin. "Hey! Nice Snowbunny foot! I got one just like it." He reached inside his jacket pocket and, sure enough, he had a pink Snowbunny foot on a keychain. "I've never played once without it. Catch you guys later."
After the two Jazzmosis members left, Bebop finally got over his initial shock. "What just happened?"
Melvin threw his arm around Bebop's shoulder. "That, cousin, is what happens when you believe in the powers of the foot!"
And for once, Bebop didn't argue.