There Was No Yoko
Sometimes breaking up isn’t so hard to do
When I was a freshman in college, I was in a band with the Thibault twins, Eric and Danny. We called ourselves “Five Piece Chicken Dinner” even though there were only three of us. This was the kind of thing we found hilarious. ¶ Eric was the drummer, and I played guitar. Danny was the singer because, out of the three of us, he was the only one who’d actually made out with a girl. ¶ The Thibault twins were identical, but you couldn’t tell then. Eric had gone on a soup diet over the summer. He ate soup for every meal, even breakfast. He was rail-thin—about a hundred pounds lighter than Danny. Danny had a large gut, and he hated soup.
“You have no idea how good this gazpacho is,” Eric would tell Danny.
“I know exactly how good it is,” Danny would say as he tore into a bag of mini Butterfingers.
Our band practiced in the Thibaults’ garage next to a decommissioned ambulance that Danny’s father had purchased at a city auction. The lights on top had been removed, but Danny rewired a set of cherries from a junked cop car. Occasionally, he’d give me a ride home and, when he did, he’d flash on the lights and the siren and I’d watch everyone on the road pull over.
“I’ve got to quit doing that,” he’d say. “But it’s so addictive. I’m never late anywhere anymore.”
Danny told us he had a surprise after a couple weeks of practice.
“We’re playing a Halloween party next week,” he announced.
“What?” I said. “Why?”
In no way were we ready for this. We had only written three songs, and the lyrics to two of them were soup-related. I only knew three chords. Eric’s crash cymbal had a large crack in it.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Eric asked.
“It’s a gig,” Danny said. “Which makes it a good idea.”
We practiced every night for the next week. We weren’t improving. Eric’s drumming was still all over the place. I kept flubbing notes. Danny kept forgetting the lyrics he’d written.
One night, the pressure got to Danny. We’d taken a break, and Eric was eating some soup from his thermos when Danny slapped it from his hands.
“That soup is going to be our Yoko!” Danny yelled as he stormed off.
Eric began to mop up the garage floor with a rag.
“I have to do this because I’m his twin brother,” Eric told me. “But you, you could just walk away.”
“There’s going to be beer and girls at this party,” I explained, “which means I’m willing to take a few risks.”
The night of the gig, Eric and Danny picked me up. When I got inside the cab of the ambulance, I saw they were wearing red wigs. They’d also painted their faces silver.
“It’s Halloween,” Danny said, handing me a wig and face paint. “So we thought we needed costumes.”
Danny flipped on the siren and lights, and we sped away. After a bit, we pulled up in front of this large white house. We carried our gear down into the basement and set up near the washer and dryer.
As I tuned my guitar, I watched a man dressed as Indiana Jones walk down the stairs. A few more people trickled down behind him: A nurse. A vampire. A woman who was either a pirate or a prostitute.
We launched into our first song. When we got going, I closed my eyes like I’d seen good guitar players do when the music and the moment overcame them. When I opened them, I realized we were the only ones left in the basement.
“What happened?” I asked.
On the way home, we stopped at Perkins. We were still wearing our wigs, and our faces were still painted silver.
“They didn’t even care enough to throw something at us,” Danny said. “They didn’t even care enough to boo.”
A waitress came to take our order.
“What are you supposed to be?” she asked us. “Are you red-haired robots?”
A couple of days later, Danny would get arrested for driving the ambulance with the lights and siren on. Eric would go on an all-oatmeal diet. The band would break up, never to play a gig again.
We didn’t know any of that now, though. There was still the possibility that what we had together might hold and that, with enough practice, we might become something great.
I turned to the waitress.
“We’re a band,” I said.
John Jodzio is the author of the short-story collection If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home (Replacement Press). He lives in Minneapolis.