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    Ted sighed, "See," he said, "this is what I'm talking about. These jokers were only supposed to d...ini set, and they haven't even started yet."

    "Who are they?" Owen asked him.

    "I don't even know," Ted said, clearly disgusted. "The original openers came down with some kind of intestinal flu, so they booked these guys to fill in."

    "Should have just had you go on early," Owen said. "It is an all-ages show. Plus everyone's here to see you guys."

    "My point exactly," Ted replied. "Plus, if we had longer sets, we could try out some of the new stuff I've been writing. It's, like...otal change for us."


    Ted nodded, suddenly looking much more animated. "I mean, it's not so far from our regular stuff. Jus...ittle slower, with some more technical touches. Reverb, and all that."

    "Technical?" Owen said. "Or techno?"

    "It's hard to say," Ted replied. "It's kind of its own thing. Maybe we'll be able to ge...ouple in the second set. Tell me what you think, okay? It's, like, supposed to be out there but still accessible."

    Owen glanced at me. "You know, if that's what you're after, you should ask Annabel what she thinks," he said. "She hates techno."

    They were both looking at me now. "Well,"...aid. "Actually-"

    "So if she likes it," Owen said, "it's not too far out there. If she hates it, though, it won't float with the masses."

    "And she'd say if she hated it," Ted said.

    "Yup." Owen nodded. "She's dead honest. Doesn't hold back."

    As he said this...elt some part of me just sink. Becaus...o wanted this to be true, enough that, once, I'd actually believed it was. But now...ust sat there, feeling them both looking at me, and felt like the biggest liar of all.

    There wa...urst of guitar music from the stage, followed b...ew drumbeats. Finally, the opening band was starting. Ted mad...ace, then pushed himself out of the booth. "I can't tolerate listening to this crap; I'm going back. You want to come with?"

    "Sure," Owen said...eard someone yowl, and more feedback. To me he said, "Come on."

    I followed him and Ted along the back of the crowd, passing Clarke's table on the way. Rolly was still there, talking excitedly, waving his hands as he did so. Clarke was listening to him, however, so that had to count for something.

    Ted led us t...oor by the bar, then dow...allway so dar...ould barely make out the restrooms as we passed them. When he pushed ope...oor wit...and-lettered sign that said privat...he sudden bright light spilling out made me squint.

    The first inside with curly black hair crouching on the floor, reaching unde...earby couch. When he saw us, he got to his feet, breaking int...ide smile. "Owen! What's up, man?"

    "Not much," Owen said as they shook hands. "What about you?"

    "Same old, same old." The guy held u...ell phone and battery. "Just busted my phone. Again."

    "This is Annabel," Owen said.

    "Dexter," he said, offering his hand. To Ted he said, "What's the word?"

    "The opener just went on," Ted replied as he walked over t...mall fridge, pulling ou...eer. "Are you guys pretty much ready?"


    There were two guys a...earby table, playing cards. One of them...edhead, said, "Do we look ready?"


    "Well, looks can be deceiving. Because we are."

    The other guy at the table laughed, throwing dow...ard as Ted shot hi...ook, then plopped on the couch, propping his feet on the table in front of him.

    "So," Dexter said, sitting down on the opposite end of the couch. He put the phone on his knee, then picked up the battery, examining it. "What's new on the local music scene?"

    "Nothing worth talking about," Owen told him.

    "No kidding," Ted said. "You should see the frat-rock cover band that's playing now. Total Spinnerbait wannabes."


    "They'r...and," Owen told me.

    "Hate Spinnerbait!" the redhead said, throwing dow...ard wit...mack.

    "Now, now," Dexter said, placing the battery carefully back on his phone. When he removed his hand, though, it fell off again, hitting the floor wit...lack. He bent down, picking it up. "That's the thing that's great about this town," he said, putting it on again. "There are so many bands to choose from."

    "Doesn't mean any of them can play," Ted said.

    "True. But variety is alway...ood thing," Dexter said as the battery fell off again. He turned the phone over, trying to fit it on that way: no go. "In some places," he said, "you really only hav...ew choices and that"-the battery fell off again- "sucks."

    "Dexter."...urned around to se...londe girl sitting in the corner of the room. She was holdin...ellow highlighter, an...extbook was open in her lap...adn't even seen her. "Do you need help?" she asked him.

    "Nope. I'm good. Thanks, though."

    She got up, sticking the pen in the book and the book under her arm, then walked over to him. "Give it to me."

    "No, I've got it," Dexter said, turning the phone over again. "I think it's busted for good this time, actually. Maybe something broke out of it."

    She held out her hand. "Let me try."

    He handed it over. Then, as we all watched, she looked at it fo...econd, stuck the battery in, and pushed down. There wa...lick, and the...rilling sound as the phone came on. She handed it back to him, then sat down on the couch.

    "Oh," he said, turning the phone over and staring at it. "Thanks, honey."

    "No problem." She opened her book-Statistics for

    Business Applications, the spine said-then smiled at us. "I'm Remy," she said.

    "Oh! Sorry!" Dexter said. He reached down, smoothin...and over her hair. "This is Owen and Annabel. This is Remy."

    "Hi,"...aid, and she nodded, pulling out the highlighter again.

    "Remy's slumming, touring with us over her fall break," Dexter explained. "She goes to Stanford. She's very smart."

    "Then why's she with you?" the redhead called out from the table.

    "I have no idea," Dexter replied as Remy rolled her eyes, "bu...hink it's my mad make-out skills." He leaned over, plantin...eries of loud, sloppy kisses on her cheek. She winced, trying to push him away, but then he fell into her lap, his long legs splaying out across the couch.

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