Smurdnunoc: Part Seven
Rochstar Records, R. Cory’s Office
A few days had passed since the successful performance at Da In Club, and now the band Smurdnunoc found themselves back in the office of their record producer, R. Cory. The successful performance had boosted confidence levels all around, and everyone was finally starting to feel as though this whole “band thing” might actually work out!
All four members were sitting in pretty much the same spots as last time, with Hawkins, the certain green (and formerly pessimistic) Kyrii, and his roommate Lennert (the red and always optimistic Lenny) sitting in the same, bland, uncomfortable wooden, straight-backed chairs in front of Cory’s desk as last time. Hawkins had his arms patiently folded across his chest while Lennert, holding a CD case in his lap, bounced lightly in his chair, humming (both literally and figuratively) with pent-up excitement. The other two band members – the yellow Krawk Taphemor and the certain green Pteri – sat together on the slightly more comfortable black couch just off to the side against the wall.
The office was almost exactly the way it had been the previous week – forest green wallpapering and milk-white carpeting, with Cory’s finely-carved wooden desk and large leather chair set up just before a window looking out onto one of the busy streets of Neopia Central. Framed silver and gold albums were hung up on the walls, and there was a bookshelf next to the couch and a few potted plants spread around the office to help give it an air of professionalism.
The office door opened and in strode R. Cory, music producer and green-and-white speckled Techo. He walked briskly past everyone, light of step and smiling, over towards his desk.
“Hey there!” he greeted cheerily as always, grinning as he took his seat in his large, leather chair, so big that it almost looked like a revolving wheelie throne. “How’s it going?”
Before anyone could answer, Lennert immediately started babbling away like a little hyper child, the floodgates that had been holding back his energy suddenly wide open. “Cory, did you hear about last night? Did’ja, did’ja?! It was great! They loved us! I was nervous but they really loved us! They thought we were great and reallyreallyreally loved us!” Lennert was bouncing wildly in his seat, spitting out words like a bubble gun spits out bubbles and smiling ecstatically.
“I heard!” Cory replied, smiling at Lennert’s enthusiasm and holding out his paws to get the Lenny to settle down. “I heard! I mean... I didn’t hear it personally or anything. But I heard about it! And from what I heard, it sounded great!”
“IknowIknowIknow!” Lennert blathered, bouncing up and down in his seat like a crazy person trying to escape from a straightjacket. “I can’t WAIT to get back into the studio! This album is gonna be a hit, I just know it! And then, I might finally win an award! I’ll finally be somebody! Oh, speaking of which...” Lennert held up the CD case and placed it on the Techo’s desk, sliding it across to him. “That’s what we’ve got so far!” Lennert explained enthusiastically. “It’s not much, but I wanted you to listen to it and let us know what you think so far! Maybe tell us what you think we should add or take out or keep the same for the final version!”
“...Yeah...” Cory said awkwardly, picking up the CD and glancing it over before placing it just off to his side. “Actually, that’s what I was going to talk to you all about...” The producer appeared apprehensive of what he was about to say next. “You see, I’m afraid we’re not going to release your album. And we’re going to have to drop you all from the label.”
Everything came to a sudden, screeching halt. A thick air of silence fell about the room. Lennert’s face, which just seconds before had been lit up with excitement and joy, now melted into an image of utter shock.
“Yeah, well, as it turns out,” Cory explained, “the public isn’t as interested in island music as I originally thought.”
Hawkins, just as dumbfounded by this sudden revelation, looked back at the Techo, confused. “But wait,” he said. “What about that chart you showed us last time? You know, that big one that showed that interest in island music was at an all-time high?”
“Ah yes...” the speckled Techo began slowly, speaking as though searching for the right way to explain it. “Well, you see...” Cory reached a paw down underneath his desk and pulled up a poster-board with a rather familiar-looking line graph on it, with various lines of various colours sloping up and down in various ways at various angles. The graph, it had been explained last time, represented polled public interest in various types of music. “The thing is,” Cory explained, “I’m colourblind!”
Taphemor, from his spot over on the couch, blinked, looking back at the Techo blankly. “...You’re not serious.”
“Oh, very much so!” Cory replied. “I can only see in shades of gray! So, as I’m sure you can imagine, it would be nigh-impossible for me to match the colours of the lines to the legend and know which line represents which type of music!” He pointed a claw down to the small key in the bottom left-hand corner of the chart, which none of the band members had noticed before. “Anyways,” the Techo went on, “it turns out that the line I thought was for island music” – He pointed to the red line from last time, which was steadily rising up the height of the graph – “actually represents rock music instead.”
No one moved; no one even breathed. Even the clock on the wall seemed to stop ticking in the silence that followed. Hawkins looked from the chart to Cory, hesitant about what he was about to ask and not even sure that he wanted to know the answer. “...Well, which line does represent interest in island music?”
“See that line right down there at the bottom?” Cory pointed a claw now at the bottom of the chart.
Hawkins leaned forward a little, squinting at where the Techo’s claw was pointing. “...You mean the X-axis?”
“No, that line that runs right above it.”
Hawkins squinted even harder and noticed now a blue line running right above the X-axis, almost right on top of it, all the way across the graph.
“So, as you can see,” Cory continued on, taking away the chart and placing it back underneath his desk, “there isn’t really much of a market right now for island music. At all.”
“...If you’re colourblind,” Hawkins asked, “why didn’t you just get someone else to read the chart to you?”
“Oh, I did!” Cory quickly replied. “I got one of the interns to do just that! Except... as it turns out, he was colourblind, too. Which, I have to admit, I really wasn’t expecting.”
Again, silence took hold over the room. Lennert's face was a mixture of horror and confusion, his eyes wide with terror as though he’d just seen a ghost and his mouth hanging open as though trying to scream but unable to find his voice. Taphemor, the yellow Krawk, was simply staring off at the far wall blankly, saying nothing. The certain green Pteri beside him had buried his head in the arm of the couch; it was hard to tell if he was crying or had just simply fainted. Hawkins was shaking his head slowly, starring at Cory as if he was some kind of puzzle to be deciphered.
“Well,” the Kyrii began finally, speaking slowly, “can we at least talk about money, then?”
“Yeah...” Again, Cory looked away awkwardly, not quite ready to deliver the next piece of bad news. “See, the contract you all signed doesn’t really specify payment. In fact, it says that we don’t have to pay you anything at all if we choose not to release your album. And since we’re not going to release your album... Yeah. You don’t get any money.”
“So...” Hawkins asked, trying to fully understand the situation, “we don’t get anything?”
“Well, you do get a free CD!” Cory replied brightly.
“Oh sweet!” Lennert straightened up a little in his chair at this sudden silver lining. “Which one?”
“This one!” Cory threw the CD Lennert had given him earlier back at him.
“Are you even gonna listen to our CD?” Tachemor asked, speaking up for only the second time in the entire scene.
Cory stared back at the yellow Krawk for a few seconds, giving him a look as if the answer should be obvious. “...I’m a record producer,” he replied simply. “I don’t care about music – only money.” Turning back to the band as a whole, Cory gave a slight nod. “Well, I’m sure this is all a lot for you all to take in so suddenly. So I’m gonna give you all a few minutes to let it all soak in before throwing you back out on the streets.” Having finally given all the bad news there was to give, R. Cory, speckled Techo and record producer extraordinaire, got up and walked out of his office, giving the band a few moments to sit in silence and contemplate where they would all go from there.
And for about 15 seconds, silence reigned. However, it was soon broken by Taphemor.
“So... how much do you think that CD is worth?”
A week later...
A week had passed. As one might’ve guessed, Smurdnunoc had broken up almost immediately after the incident in Cory’s office. And now, Hawkins and Lennert found themselves sitting in their apartment living room, wasting away the day much as they had been doing at the beginning of this story.
The two of them were sitting on the only piece of furniture the two owned (save their respective beds), the blue plush couch that adorned the middle of the blue-carpeted living room. Hawkins was flipping through another of his magazines aimlessly, bored. Lennert was up on the edge of his seat, leaning over and playing idly with a set of kinetic balls (which had a strange resemblance to the balls that had been in Cory’s office) set up on the coffee table, shoulders slumped, a downcast, demoralized look upon his face. He pulled back one ball morosely, then let it go and watched with disheartened eyes as it swung down and began the all-too familiar cycle kinetic balls take. It was sorta like the circle of life, only it was a little less philosophical and it could fit on a table.
Hawkins looked up from his magazine at his roommate, shaking his head sympathetically. “Oh, come on, Lennert. Don’t be like that!” he said, trying to console his downtrodden partner. “I mean, so you didn’t win an award – big deal! You’ve been moping about this for the past week! There’ll be more chances to win an award, I promise!”
Lennert, not even looking up at Hawkins, just heaved a wordless sigh before getting up and walking out to the kitchenette behind them, kinetic balls forgotten.
“Lennert, cheer up!” Hawkins called to his friend as the Lenny walked away. He twisted around on the couch to keep looking at him as he spoke. “You can’t just sit around here brooding forever! Sooner or later, you’re going to have to just—”
A knock at the apartment door interrupted Hawkins mid-sentence. With an annoyed grunt, Hawkins got up and walked over to open the door, only to find an all-too familiar mailchia standing out in the hallway.
“Here,” the Chia said tersely, shoving a handful of letters into Hawkins' paw. Hawkins looked down at the envelopes, confused. But before he could ask what it was all about, the Chia turned to a large, brown, cardboard box sitting on the floor next to him, picked that up and shoved it into Hawkins’ arms, causing the Kyrii to stagger back a pace from the force.
Hawkins, his arms weighted down by the heavy box, looked back at the mailchia, puzzled. “I didn’t think you delivered mail to individual apartments,” he remarked.
“We didn’t use to,” the yellow Chia replied simply, an annoyed look on his face as he explained. “But they changed the policy after the office started getting thousands of complaint letters... all from the same person, all from this building...” He glared at Hawkins menacingly – a glare obviously meant for Lennert – before turning and walking off briskly down the hallway.
“Hey, wait!” Hawkins called out down the hall after as the mailchia walked off. “Aren’t I supposed to sign for this or something?”
“Maybe!” the mailchia shouted back nonchalantly as he walked away, not even bothering to look back. “I don’t care...”
Hawkins carried the large box back into the apartment, kicking the door shut behind him, and set it down in the middle of the floor just in front of the doorway before turning and tossing the letters onto the couch.
“What’s that?” Lennert asked, expressing a minor interest as he walked around the counter from the kitchenette to get a closer look at the package.
“I dunno,” Hawkins replied, stepping back a bit to get a clearer look of the box. “The mailchia just delivered it. I dunno who’d send us a huge, brown box, though...” With a shrug, Hawkins bent down and started opening the box. He ripped away a large strip of tape from the top, opening up the two flaps of the top of the box. Whatever was inside the package was buried under a pit of white packing foam.
Digging through the pool of foam, Hawkins managed to pull out a tall golden object – a trophy! It was shaped much like one might expect a trophy to be shaped, with a small pedestal base, a tall, thick golden shaft – longer than Hawkins’ arm and about as thick – and adorned with the sculpture of a golden Lenny standing proudly, majestically on top. The small Lenny statuette on top was indeed regal – it stood one-legged with its head held high, its beak pointed straight, and its wings folded nobly at its side. The entire trophy glistened and shone brightly, newly polished.
Hawkins, eyes wide with surprise, looked up at Lennert, whose own eyes were just as wide, showing just the same amount of shock. “Ummmm...” Hawkins wasn’t sure quite what to say.
“Wha... what... who’s that for?” Lennert asked carefully, eyeing the gold Lenny on top with suspicious and coveting eyes. He was obviously trying not to jump to conclusions, and doing a poor job, at that.
“I... don’t know...” Hawkins answered. “Hold on...” He reached down and started fishing through the box again, searching for anything that might reveal what this thing was or where it came from. And sure enough, he found it almost immediately. With one paw still gripped the trophy, Hawkins pulled out of the packing foam with his other the small piece of paper; a letter. He looked down at it and started to read:
We, the Neopian Lenny Society, present this award to you in recognition for your achievement in advancing the name, species, and reputation of Lennies everywhere. Thank you for all the hard work you’ve done, and we hope you continue to promote the namesake of our kind and make Lennies everywhere prouder to be who they are. Congratulations again!
The Neopian Lenny Society”
Hawkins took a deep breath and looked up at his roommate, who by now was quivering in anticipation and excitement where he stood. He was breathing fast, his chest rising faster and faster, and his eyes looked like they were going to get so wide that his eyeballs might fall out of his head and bounce across the floor. His eyes darted quickly back and forth between the trophy in Hawkins’ one hand and the letter in his other.
“Well...” Hawkins took a few paces across the floor to stand next to Lennert, holding out the trophy towards his friend. A small smile cracked across the Kyrii’s face. “I suppose this is yours, isn’t it?”
Lennert started to hyperventilate a bit, his breathing speeding and forming into quick in-and-out gasps. His beak tried desperately to form words he couldn’t put a voice to, and his wing shook a bit as he reached out and slowly took hold of the trophy – his trophy. Lennert’s own trophy. “I... I...” His eyes flipped quickly from trophy to Hawkins, trophy to Hawkins, trophy to Hawkins. “I... I won... I won! I WON! IWONIWONIWONIWONIWON!!!! WHOOO!” Lennert held the trophy proudly above his head, pumping his wings in the air triumphantly. “AHHHHHH! I WON!!!”
Hawkins cringed a bit at Lennert shouting right into his ear. “Heh, good work, Lennert!” Hawkins said simply, not really sure what to say; Lennert was excited enough for the both of them.
But Lennert didn’t even notice. “WHOOOOOO!!!” He turned and, in one grand leap, jumped over the back of the couch, bounced off the cushion, and landed on the coffee table top, where he proceeded to do a weird, happy dance-jig on top of the table.
Hawkins couldn’t help but smile and laugh just a little at Lennert’s childhood exuberance. Like a young kid who’d just gotten the Christmas gift he’d always wanted, Lennert was dancing around, whooping and hollering like a nutter. Hawkins could do little more than look on like a proud father, happy for Lennert’s success.
Jumping down, Lennert rushed over to Hawkins and pulled him into a big, ecstatic hug. “Hawkins, I don’t really know what to say...” he said, a childish smile lighting up his face. “I... just... THANKYOUIGUESS!” Lennert pulled away and looked down lovingly at the trophy in his wing; by this point, it would’ve taken a crowbar and the hands of death itself to pull it from Lennert’s grip. He cooed at the statue, “I’m gonna go find a place for you in my room! You need the perfect spot, yes you do!”
And with that, Lennert turned and trotted off to his room, trophy cradled lovingly in his wings like an infant. Hawkins watched proudly as Lennert disappeared into his bedroom and closed the door behind him. A proud smile on his face, Hawkins shook his head at his roommate; such a child on the inside.
Reaching down at the box, Hawkins caught notice of something he hadn’t seen before – the mailing address stamped on the side of the box. Kneeling down, he read it over more closely:
1122 Soup Alley
Apt. # 412
“...Wait a second!” Hawkins read the address over again, just to make sure. His eyes widened a little as he let out a low gasp in realization of what had happened; indeed, there was no mistaking the mistake. “Apartment Four-Twelve... But, we live in apartment Four-Eleven...” Hawkins looked up at the door to Lennert’s bedroom. It was still closed, and there inside was a happy, dancing Lenny who believed he’d just won an award for his “achievement in advancing the name, species, and reputation of Lennies everywhere”. And if he knew that award was really meant for the guy next door...
Hawkins let out a small smirk. “Ah well,” he muttered, shrugging as he picked up the box, packing foam and mailing address and all, and carried it over towards a window on the far side of the apartment living room. “What he doesn’t know...” Hawkins opened the window and tossed the evidence out of it onto the streets below. Nodding triumphantly, he turned around and walked away...
...Only to reappear at the window a few seconds later and tossing out, one by one, three large steel drums. He watched with a proud, triumphant smirk as they fell from the window and crashed onto the streets below.
“There!” he announced to himself proudly, dusting his paws with a content smile on his face. “Now, no more music. Ever. Ever. Again.” And with that, Hawkins closed the apartment window and locked it shut. And never played music again.
Ever. Ever. Again.