Smurdnunoc: Part Five
Tomorrow had come. And with it, the four members of Smurdnunoc – a green Kyrii, a red Lenny, a yellow Krawk, and a certain green Pteri – found themselves sitting in the office of a certain R. Cory, record producer. It was a fine office, really – very spacious and roomy, with green wallpapered-walls and vanilla carpet. Opposite the door, there was a large window which opened up to show one of the busy, crowded streets of downtown Neopia Central. Just before the window was a large, cluttered wooden desk, with a big black leather swivel chair behind it for the boss and two smaller, plainer wooden chairs in front of the desk, both of which were occupied by a certain red Lenny and a certain green Kyrii. Taphemor and the certain green Pteri had both taken up seats on a black leather couch just off to the side against the wall. Besides that, the office was pretty much bare – a few framed golden and silver albums hung on the walls, a bookshelf next to the couch, a few potted plants sitting on tables spread around. All in all, a very serene, professional-looking office.
Hawkins, who had been sitting, arms crossed, staring out the first-story window, glanced over to see Lennert up messing with a set of kinetic motion balls sitting on the record producer’s desk. Lennert was kneeling down on the floor, eyes level with the toy, smiling childishly as he drew back one ball and let it go, watching as it hit the next ball and transferred its energy through the next three silver balls, causing the fourth to pop up in the air and swing back down, colliding and transferring its energy back through the three middle balls and causing the first ball to pop back up again.
Lennert leaned back and watched, his eyes trailing as one ball swung up in the air, fell down and knocked the other ball up in the air, which then fell down and repeated the process. “Look, Hawkins!” Lennert shouted excitedly, eyes transfixed on the balls. “They just keep going all on their own! Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth...”
Hawkins rolled his eyes at his partner’s immaturity. “Lennert, sit down,” he said. “He’ll be back in a minute and I don’t want the first thing he sees to be you playing with the things on his desk. Besides, you’ll end up breaking it sooner or later.”
Still leaning over, Lennert looked back at his roommate. “C’mon, Hawkins – gimme some credit here! It’s not like everything I touch breaks or anything! I’m not that clumsy!” With that, Lennert turned back to the desk – only to find the set of kinetic balls lying broken in two separate pieces.
“...Oh, come on now!” the Lenny cried. “Honestly – how was that my fault?! I wasn’t even looking at them that time!”
Just then, the office door behind them opened and in strode R. Cory, a green-and-white speckled Techo donned in the type of fine suit and tie one might expect a music executive to wear. Lennert quickly turned back and scooped the two halves of the kinetic balls off of the desk and took his seat, hiding the two halves down behind his back and trying to act casual.
“Sorry to keep you all waiting,” the Techo said as he hurried over back behind his desk and took his seat in the large swivel chair. “I just had a bit of an issue with one of our interns here. She brought back a single mocha latte when I expressly asked for a double-mocha freeze. So, ya know, I had to whip her back in line.”
Hawkins chuckled along in a conversationally-friendly sort of way. “Heh, yeah, I know how you feel!” he replied. “Sometimes, when this one gets in trouble—” he jabbed with his thumb-paw at Lennert “—I have to whip him back in line, too!”
“Oh really?” Cory looked back, his eyes widening a little as he shifted forward a bit in interest. “What kind of whip do you use? A one-lashing or a three?”
Hawkins’ face fell. “Ummm... what?”
“I use a three-lashing, myself,” Cory went on. “I feel it helps get the point across better.”
Hawkins blinked. “...Are you talking about a real whip?”
Cory paused. “...Aren’t you?”
Hawkins just stared back at the Techo, not sure what to say. An awkward silence fell between the two, holding the air for a good ten seconds.
“...Anyways...” Cory began again slowly, finally breaking the silence. “You guys are an island band, right? Well, it’s really a good thing that I found you all at that party, because you see—”
From over on the couch, Taphemor raised a yellow claw in the air. “Yeah, I have a question about that,” he interrupted. “I’m still rather unclear about what you were doing at a little girl’s birthday party. I mean, I don’t know about anyone else in this room, but I just find that a little creepy...”
Cory just stared back at the Krawk blankly, not catching on at all to his point. “I don’t quite see how,” the speckled Techo replied simply.
“...You don’t find anything creepy about a grown Techo going to the birthday parties of little girls he doesn’t even know?”
“I go for the music,” came, again, the simple, short response.
Taphemor looked around at his three silent bandmates, awkwardly waiting for someone to back him up. When no one did, he sat back with a sigh. “If you say so...” he muttered, and said nothing more.
“...So anyways,” Cory began again again, trying to move on past the second awkward question in two minutes, “like I was saying – we’ve been really interested in trying to sign an island band for a while. The public is really clamouring for some good, solid island jams right now!”
“Really?” Hawkins asked, his head pulling back a bit in surprise. “That’s kind of surprising – I didn’t think anyone even listened to island music!”
“Not according to this chart.” Cory reached down beneath his desk and pulled up a large line chart which he held for everyone to see. There were different-coloured lines traversing across the graph, some sloping up, some sloping down, and some zigzagging a little of both ways.
“See this line?” the speckled Techo explained, pointing a claw at a red line that seemed to slope up gradually across the graph until about the halfway point, where it made a sudden, sharp incline nearly straight up. “This line represents the public’s interest in island music. Every year, we poll Neopians all across Neopia to see what their interests in music are and what kinds of music they want to hear. And as you can see from this graph, interest in island music is at an all-time high!”
Looking around, Hawkins could see the rest of the band seemed quite pleased by this – the certain green Pteri was grinning in a wide-eyed, naïve sort of way at the chart, Taphemor was looking at the graph with his arms crossed and a rather impressed kind of look on his face, and Lennert was starring at Hawkins, eyes and mouth wide open, his face a little too close for comfort, as if he were in some kind of trance and trying to hypnotize the Kyrii.
“Hawkins,” Lennert said, staring as intently into the Kyrii’s eyes as possible and bringing his face so close, Hawkins could feel the Lenny’s hot, damp breath against his face. “Hawkins, we have to sign!” Lennert muttered quickly, eyes wide and near hysterics. “We have to sign now! This is our chance, Hawkins – this is our chance to make it big!”
Hawkins turned back to Cory – only to find the large chart replaced by a pre-made contract sitting before him, pen and all.
“Just sign right on the dotted line!” Cory urged, smiling broadly, creepily, almost devilishly. “Sign on the line and we have ourselves a sealed deal!”
Hawkins still wasn’t convinced – a look of reluctance and worry hung on his face. He took one glace at the bandmates around him – to Lennert at his right, then at the Pteri sitting over on the black couch, and at Taphemor, the yellow Krawk, sitting next to him – each of them wearing an expression more pleading than the last, urging him, begging him, forcing him. It was all up to him, Hawkins – he, for whatever reason, was the de facto decision-maker. And it was clear which option everyone in the room wanted him to pick.
Turning back to the contract on the desk before him, Hawkins picked up the pen, managing a weak smile and a shrug. “Well, what’s the worse that can happen, eh?”
Silly Hawkins – everyone knows what happens when you say that!
A week later...
A week had passed since the group had been signed, and they were now well underway into recording their first album. The band was back in the recording studio – in fact, the very same studio they had been attempting to record in the day they had been “discovered”. Thick red padding lined the walls and door of the studio room, and thick red carpet covered the floor. A single window let the technician in the booth (the very same yellow Zafara from before, in fact) see in, as well as let the band members see out.
Everyone was doing their best to try and make the magic happen – even Hawkins, who, despite being against the idea of forming a band from the beginning, was trying to make the best of an odd and, so far, surprisingly successful situation. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for Lennert.
“Guys, c’mon! You’re not even trying!” Lennert stood facing his three bandmates behind him, exasperated. He was annoyed with what he perceived as laziness on the part of his fellow Smurdnunoc members. “Come on, people! Focus! Think islands. Think water. Think calm serenity! Get your heads in the game! Don’t just play the music – be the music!”
Hawkins, from his spot behind his steel drum set, rolled his eyes. Taphemor, holding his simple ukulele, simply stared at Lennert with a rather bored look in his eye. The certain green Pteri, however, was staring intently at Lennert, nodding along with his speech, taking it all in like a teacher’s pet in the front row in class.
“Lennert!” the green Pteri called out, raising his wing in the air. “Lennert! What should I be thinking when I play my triangle? What kind of feeling am I going for with it? What am I trying to get it to say?”
“What kind of feeling are you going for?” Lennert strode over to the Pteri, grabbing him by the shoulders and pulling him close, so that their faces were only a foot or so apart. “You’re going for passion, son! Passion! You want deep, emotional, thoughtful passion! You’re trying to express fear, joy, sadness, happiness, anger, loss, and regret – all through this simple metal instrument!” Lennert continued to stare deeply into the Pteri’s eyes, holding him almost in a trance. “That’s your task – to turn simple chimes into cries of passion and romance! You are the brain, and this—” Lennert held up the Pteri’s triangle. “—This is your voice! The voice through which you soul speaks! Let it speak, little Pteri! Let it speak so that the whole world can hear you!”
The Pteri’s mouth was hanging open and his eyes were wide with amazement. “Wow...” he muttered. “I never knew the triangle was so important...”
Across the room, Hawkins sighed and shook his head slowly. “Lennert, be quiet!” he shouted. “Honestly, you’re so dramatic! You act like you’re some deep, thoughtful artist! Before two weeks ago, you’d never even been in a recording studio before!”
The Lenny turned to the Kyrii, glaring at him. “I am so an artist!” Lennert shot back, starting to walk towards his bandmate. “I’m the one here with the master vision! I write the songs, produce them, and sing them!”
“Lennert, what’re you talking about?!” Hawkins cried, walking out from behind the steel drum set to meet Lennert. “You don’t have any ‘master vision’ – all you do is give orders and say ‘wiki’, ‘waki’, and ‘loo’ over and over again!”
“It’s repetition, Hawkins!” Lennert shot back, his eyes wide with the fervor. “It’s a key element in my poetry!”
Hawkins’ eyes were bulging out his head from the ridiculousness of it all. “Your poetry?! Lennert, you don’t know anything about poetry! I bet you’ve never even read a poem before!”
“That’s not true!” By now, Lennert and Hawkins were, as they say, ‘totally up in each other’s grill’, though they were still shouting at each other as if they were still on opposite sides of the studio. “I write poetry all the time! I use it to express my inner-most thoughts and feelings!”
“You don’t have any inner-most thoughts and feelings! Your mind is a thoughtless, feelingless pit of empty nothingness! And you can’t write songs!”
Lennert threw his wings up in exasperation. “Gah! I can’t work with you!”
He turned his back to the Kyrii drummer and started to walk back towards his microphone. But no sooner had he done so when the door opened and in strode none other than R. Cory himself, as white-and-green speckled and Techo as ever.
“Hey boys!” he greeted, smiling a cheery, almost fake, smile. He sported the same sort of suit and tie he had been wearing a week earlier back in his office. “I just figured I’d drop by and see how it’s going!” He paused, looking around with a smile. “So... how’s it going?”
A few mumbled responses came from the group, everyone looking away and averting their eyes elsewhere.
“Oh...” Cory’s smile fell at the band’s unenthusiastic response. “Okay, well, anyways, I just wanted to talk with you all about a few things. First, have you all come up with a name for your album yet?”
“Yeah,” Hawkins shot at Cory, though he kept his eyes glaring straight ahead at Lennert. “It’s called ‘This Album Has No Lyrics’!”
Lennert turned back at Hawkins, scowling.
“Hmmm...” Cory thought aloud, failing to sense the sarcasm in Hawkins’ mock suggestion. “It’s alright, but it could use some work.”
Lennert glared straight at Hawkins. “How about instead, we call it ‘Hawkins Has No Respect for Others’ Artistic Vision’!”
Cory, again failing to sense the sarcasm here, shook his head disapprovingly. “No... no, I like that one even less...” He shrugged. “Ah well – we’ll worry about it later. Right now, we have more pressing matters to deal with.”
Hawkins and Lennert, who by now were locked in a glaring contest to the death, failed to notice their producer’s announcement. Taphemor, who hadn’t moved the entire time from his spot in the back, stood looking from one pet to the other, wondering to himself just where this all was leading to.
“I’ve got you all a gig!” Cory announced proudly, smiling broadly once more. “I figure there’s no harm in getting your name and music out there as early as possible, so I’ve gone ahead and booked you guys a gig at a club downtown!”
Hawkins, his staring match with Lennert suddenly forgotten, looked over at Cory, both surprised and startled. “Wait... what?!”
“Yeah!” the speckled Techo replied, still grinning so that his little pearly white teeth shone. “At a club! Downtown! Tonight!”
Hawkins blinked. “...You do remember what happened last time we played a gig, right? Ya know, with the riots and the fires and the little kids trying to kill us?”
Cory waved his paw, pooh-poohing the point. “Oh, that was, what, two years ago?”
“It was last week...”
“Whatever! The point is, it won’t happen this time!”
“Hey, Mister Cory,” Taphemor called from where he stood near the back of the room. “Just out of curiosity, what kind of crowd are we going to be playing to? I mean, it’s gonna be a crowd that actually likes island music, right?”
The Techo shrugged. “Well, there might be a bit of a ‘genre gap’, I guess. But don’t sweat it! You guys play like you always do and you’ll win them over for sure!”
“But besides that one time when all the little kids rioted and tried to lynch us, you’ve never actually heard of us play,” Hawkins pointed out matter-of-factly. “So how would you know?”
Cory shrugged. “Whatever.” He reached out and handed Hawkins a small, folded note. “You guys go on at 9 o’clock sharp, so be there before then.” Without another word, the Techo turned and walked out of the studio, not even bothering to close the door behind him.
Hawkins glanced down at the note, then turned to Lennert, who was still staring menacingly at Hawkins through squinted eyes, unaware that the Kyrii had long-since broken off their Staring Contest O’ Doom.
“Lennert, we’re done with the whole glaring thing.”
Lennert only squinted harder, glaring at Hawkins with all his might. “No we’re not! Not until you concede defeat and admit that you were wrong!”
Hawkins rolled his eyes and turned to Taphemor, leaving Lennert to glare evilly at the side of the Kyrii’s head. “Well, what do you think we should do?”
Taphemor shrugged. “Meh, why not? I mean, what’s the worse that could ha—”
“No!” Hawkins held up his paw to stop the Krawk. “Don’t say it! Every time someone says that in a story, the worst thing that could happen does happen. So... just, don’t say it, alright?”
Taphemor shrugged again. “Fair enough.”
To be continued...