Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear,
Big Bill Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis, 1593
Cedar wasn't really into dancing. He was more of a head-trip kinda guy, but Annie could get behind a beat if someone showed her where it was, so when Juanita took her hand and helped her to her feet she shucked her shawl and shoes and went up front.
The new band was as limited as the last, but much friendlier: It's hard to fuck up Buddy Holly songs unless you think about them way too hard, and Annie was soon lost in a web of childhood melodies and simple rhythms, timeless chants of community wavering around the four on the floor. For half a song, she found herself flirting with a little peacock who wooed and won and gracefully renounced her back to Juanita, who had vanished into some elusive dimension of her own and returned to share the story. And then she rose above the moment, lost the lyric and found the pulse and for a brief and gorgeous illuminated minute she danced in her own glory, dum-diddle-um-dumdum-dum, the Bo Diddley beat, the barber-shop beat, love is real, yeah, and she began to sweat and pant and laugh as she came back down. They clapped and laughed and when the band went into a slow one Juanita offered but Annie was shy so they headed back to the ranch and collapsed on the rug.
Toddling around was a very small boy who had mislaid his parents somewhere along the line. He didn't seem exceptionally concerned (presumably this had happened before) but he wanted a lap to lay his head in and Cedar was elected by some mysterious means. He seemed surprised by this, but hey, why not, it was only his lap and he wasn't using it just at the moment so he let the cherub be. Annie, who wasn't all that enthusiastic about rug-rats in general, let alone in this kind of imposed particular, nevertheless felt a pang of responsibility and wondered if they should, well, do something about the child.
"Like what?" asked Cedar, not unreasonably.
"I don't know," she muttered, "Find his mom I suppose."
"Hell, she can't be far away. Kid's fine, just sleepy. Hang loose."
Right, follow that dogma, hold that dream. Annie was reduced to reminding herself that it, or he, Wasn't Her Problem. Anyway, it Wasn't Her Lap. Later on she could Mount a Search for Mom. These headlines and blips of shorthand were at the front of her brain, where logic was trying to impose a framework on what it perceived. Name That Tune said the frontal lobes and Who Cares said something in back and mm-mm-mm-mmm-mm-mmm hummed something vital and warm from deep down below. Somewhere in the periphery of her awareness a song wound down with many a clashing cymbal and a smattering of applause all round.
"We have a couple of announcements," said a voice, mangled somewhat by the P.A. but more intelligible than at the average airport.
Cedar was explaining something while casually stroking the baby's curls but Annie listened up for the lost-and-found.
"There's a wallet someone's turned in, a little bag actually, with a passport and no I'm not going to say " [chuckles, rippling, passim] "Anyway if you've lost it and you know what's in it, come backstage and ask for Anthony."
No lost babies?
"There's a couple of other things back here people have turned in, so if you've lost something, you might check it out. Be cool, though, right? I mean, don't come up unless you know there's something."
Evidently not. Maybe Mom hadn't missed him yet.
"Anyway, if you find something, you can turn it in, we'll do another of these a bit later."
OK, next up, they could announce a found baby.
"And one more thing. If anyone wants any acid, you could come over to that side of the stage, that's your left, my right, that side anyway, if you want any acid."
Double-take city, big-time. Half a thousand heads turned to ask, Did you hear what I heard? A dozen languages, all unneeded for a single thought that needed no translation. No shit, they all replied, and half a thousand legs rose as one and headed to their left (stage right). Some stayed, certainly, but the colony leaned as one. The band began to play but no one seemed to notice.
"Wanna come?" said Annie to Cedar.
But the kid, he gestured.
Lay him down, she signed, but just then the boy whimpered and stretched and adjusted himself around and Cedar couldn't bring himself to move.
"I don't know that I need any right now," he said casually. This was probably the acme of his entire career of cool. Free acid for the asking and turning it down because it was mildly inconvenient and he was mostly down from a trip already.
"I don't need it," countered Annie with resolute practicality. "In fact it probably won't do me much good, after this afternoon," [repeated doses seem to lose efficacy until the body has had time to replace the serotonin the acid inhibited, or some such] "But this I gotta see." Sometimes cool is way less important than sheer enthusiasm. "I'll try and get you some anyway."
The crush by the stage was good-humored but the philanthropist at its epicenter was looking freaked out. "One each," he burbled plaintively, staring in evident surprise at the diminishing stash. He gave off a strong impression that he had expected to give out the odd few, a couple of dozen perhaps, and here he was besieged by hundreds, and, worse, he had enough for all and had just trapped himself into a level of generosity he had not anticipated. And now, if he backed away from the offer, he might get lynched. "One each," he mantra'd, picking the little blotter squares carefully out his pouch. If the stuff was any good, he must have gotten ripped from the distribution process alone. "One each" began to slide into meaninglessness as he couldn't tell who was up for a second go-round anyway. Shit, this was what he'd wanted, wasn't it, that stoned evening in San Francisco only a week before, when he had met the Trip Farmer and promised to turn on the scene respect from the guys as a big-time dude and chicks all over him, right? for a price break big as all indoors. "One each," but he was over the shock now, easy come, easy go, and hey he'd always wanted to be a legend, hadn't he.
"My boyfriend's got a baby asleep on his lap, can I have one for him?"
Jesus, who were these people?
"C'mon, please. He can't wake up the kid."
The crowd was diminishing some anyway, and one of the Italians backed her up, in an impressively foreign accent.
"Si, si, is true, I see it."
And it didn't sound like a put-on and it was too hard to argue and OK take it, and she slithered back and away and out, and he was back to the "One each" and finally left almost alone and almost out and almost sad and wondering if it was worth it, till the band called him up on stage.
"This is my man," shouted the new singer, a tall guy from Austin with straight hair to his nipples, a twelve-string, and a ten-gallon hat that impressed the hell out of the European women. He covered the microphone a moment, and added, "What's your name, man?"
"Billy," said the benefactor, aw-shucking gracefully.
"Doctor Bill the Night Tripper, let's give the guy a big hand," he cried in best Colonel Ed Barnum fashion. "Yeah, good for Bill. And now we've got a little song of own we put together, hope y'all like it. This is for Thomas, if he's still here. It's A Little Ditty For The Acid Around."
And the band rolled into a riff stolen from an Animals single, from Dylan's first album, from the semi-legendary Ric von Schmidt in the coffee-houses of New England, from a thousand different juke joints and speakeasies and whorehouses and dancehalls in the deep south, and who knows how far back and beyond; and the Armadillo ambassador leaned laughing into the mike.
Timmy got leery of Allen and his pal
You flow as you go
Coleridge Khan when Wordsworth won't
You flow as you go
Dylan's no villain, Mick's not really sick
All together now
You flow as you go
And the crowd played Waltzing Matilda.
Cedar really didn't want the hit, and Annie wouldn't keep it, so she took both with barely a twinge of guilt and headed back up to the band, laughing at what she heard of the song, and holding the paper under her tongue but that got awkward when she wanted to dance so she swallowed it anyway and moved with the music and it went on forever, and the riff rolled around, and people cheered and made the man sing the verses all over again till his voice went hoarse and he broke a string and the guy on bass came up and tried a Beatles number and he couldn't really hack it but everyone wanted him to so they pretended he could and they moved so fast and so strong and so well that you could feel the bass drum through the floorboards (but wasn't it sand?) and the stars were flashing like mirrored balls and like Joshua the crowd blew down the walls (but they weren't there) and laughed and jumped and (damn, it's coming on already) and there was energy, yes, unstoppable and the vibe, yes, it's true, there was no other word, there were no words and what was was certain and certainly was, be it so or no, and there were they and light and full of wonder and, yes, aspiring, and, yes, a-blazing, and, yes, no footing seen.
Fairyland, a home.