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The Toadstoolz

by M.R. Cameo about a year ago in Short Story · updated 3 months ago
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The Music World Wasn't Ready For This

The backstage area was stifling, possessing an aroma of musty pizza and perpetual body odor. We sat on the splitting leather chairs, anxiety and excitement trickling from our hearts. I never thought someone like me would end up in band, especially with my two best friends. My life usually banal and my talents few and far in-between. All that changed after unearthing a peculiar package in my backyard one midsummer night.

The box had been enfolded delicately in brown paper and tied off with a leather ribbon. I carefully unwrapped the packaging to find a strange musical instrument inside. A shaker made from coated steel, equipped with a screw mounted disc that adjusted and amplified the characteristics of the pitch. Psyclone gave me an earnest look upon seeing me shake the instrument, conveying that he desired to wear it as a hat. I affixed the leather strap to the contraption and fastened it to his head whereas he immediately began to dance around frantically, creating an enchanting jingle. Salazar began to sing a stunning serenade, his voice haunting and distinctive. Upon hearing this I ran to retrieve the dusty acoustic guitar that I hadn’t touched since back in my high school’s beginners’ guitar class. We immediately fell into a melodic sync that defied any tunage that had ever existed in our realm. Instantly knowing that our talents were too remarkable to keep from the world, we knighted our band.

We began practicing most nights, crafting together our vibe and constructing groovy tracks. I purchased an elaborate set of chairs, custom made to look like psychedelic toadstools. Psyclone ended up with a choker bearing long spikes that he used to simultaneously play the triangle. While he flung around mixing beats, Salazar crooned in front of the microphone. I sheepishly strung my guitar, aware that I was the weak link within the band. One night we were interrupted by a knock on the door. My ex-boyfriend stood in the doorway, his jaw dropping at the wicked sight, clearly jealous of the goldmine and triumph that was inevitable.

“Jolie what the hell-”

“Don’t have time Chaz.” I slammed the door in his face and beamed at my bandmates. We were clearly going places.

*

Hullabaoo is on their last song. You ready?” The scrawny manager bearing spiked hair whose styling had probably taken up most of his day, eyed us apprehensively.

“Hell yeah.” I had never been more ready. When the curtain descended, I dashed around whole-heartedly setting the stage for us. This was finally our big debut. We took our seats on our toadstools and held our breath as the curtain began to rise.

The Toadstoolz.” The manager proclaimed to the audience.

We started with, “After a Wet Rain.” Psyclone began tilting his head from side to side, building the intensity of the shaker. Salazar launched his sultry serenade with fervor. I lightly strung on the guitar, not distracting from their flairs. We gave our all executing our first song. In spite of that halfway through we were assailed with boos, articles of trash thrown upon the stage, and looks of earnest disgust. Psyclone continued to rock out oblivious to the disrespect and condemnation we were receiving, Salazar blinked hastily not comprehending why people weren’t hailing praise.

A barrage of shouting ensued that mostly comprised of, “GET OFF THE STAGE. WHAT THE HELL IS THIS SHIT? YOU AND YOUR BUFOS SUCK.” I scooped up Salazar and Psyclone, shielding them from the assault of rubbish being flung our way. The curtain was quickly dropped, the manager thereafter making an announcement apologizing for the horrible entertainment and offering free drinks to offset the nuisance. I packed our stuff into the jalopy minivan I had picked up from a junkyard to get us started. I left the back open and sat down feeling bamboozled and resentful. People just didn’t know good music anymore. The band before us had sounded like a bunch of moaning hipsters attempting to impersonate their chihuahuas and shiatzus. A fully nausea inducing accomplishment. Yet somehow the crowd had found it in them to give them a rambunctious round of applause.

Salazar looked as if he might cry, while Psyclone sat motionlessly. “Don’t take it hard guys. Those people in there were just idiots. The world is upside-down these days. The mindless crap gets all the praise and the soulful hard hitters are swept under the rug. At least we have our integrity.” Psyclone gave a nod while Salazar swiped at one of his eyes.

“Hey there.” A middle-aged man with an Australian accent approached the van. “Loved your performance tonight.”

“Oh yeah.” I rolled my eyes at his jest.

“No seriously. You guys were fabulous.” He focused on Salazar and Psyclone as he said this. “I think you may have just chosen the wrong venue. May I?” He gestured. Salazar hurriedly hopped to the back of the van, leaving only Psyclone within his grasp. He picked him up before I had a chance to answer. “Oh my, he is a heavy fellow.” He shook him up and down, Psyclone’s face gnarling in annoyance. “Crickey he must weigh at least four pounds.” Psyclone began to kick and squirm finally twisting from the man’s clutches and hoping into my arms. He ceased his thrashing and nuzzled against my shirt. “Wiley one!” Salazar eyed him contemptuously from the safety of the van.

“I better get going.”

“I know a place that would go wild for your band.” He pulled a business card from his front shirt pocket, Gyle Leevard - Music Manager & Entrepreneur, paraded in a large supercilious font.

“It’s in Denver and I believe it is where you can make your big break. I’d love to manage you guys.”

“I appreciate you trying to help, but even if I thought this were a good idea, this thing would never make it to Denver.” I gestured at the derelict van.

“I can assist with that.” He winked. “I am confident that The Toadstoolz will prove to be a worthwhile investment.

*

Two weeks later we were in Denver. As annoying as Gyle was, he certainly was excellent at his job. He’d already gotten us to do a photoshoot, in which the superior photos were transformed into large posters that advertised our upcoming appearance at the venue. My favorite was the one where I sat Indian style on the middle toadstool, Psyclone to my left wearing his gnarly spiked necklace and a pair of custom-made shades that Gyle had gifted him, Salazar to my right giving a mischievous wink and grin that further added to his suave image.

Kaleidoscopic lighting and neon glow sticks accompanied us on stage for our first show in Denver. Gyle having talked us up to the manager of the venue, we were provided with an impressive introduction.

“The next act is something unlike anything you’ve never seen before. Two massive cane toads. These bufos know how to freaking rock. Feast your eyes and ears to The Toadstoolz”. Cheers and roars overcame the audience, people throwing their hands into the air right off the bat. We opened with “Damn I Thought I had That Cricket,” a more upbeat banger. I had adjusted Psyclone’s shaker to the most wicked clatter, his head rocking frantically to get the most from the instrument, while he expertly balanced his triangle with bravura. Salzazar croaked like a madman, his voice causing hundreds to swoon and sway, memorized by his reverberating croons and bellows.

Gyle had been right, this had been the ideal venue, and from there our popularity soared. There were photographs of Salazar and Psyclone flooding the internet and magazines. I was often left out, but understood. As in many bands, the guitarist rarely got their fair share of the fame. We ended up getting our own tour bus and were doing a couple concerts a week, Gyle always seeking just the right locations that received us with enthusiasm. Our amass of fans had coined themselves ‘bufomaniacs’. The Toadstoolz had become an unstoppable force in the music world.

*

“Hey Jolie.” Gyle appeared at the door of our bus one night. He observed the scene of crickets, red wrigglers, and flies that the guys were feasting on. I sat with some gourmet chocolates and a sparkling water. “We need to talk.”

“Okay. What’s going on?”

“Well, jeez, this is always the hardest part of my job…”

“What is it Gyle?”

“Things just aren’t working out.”

I laughed. “You can’t be serious? We’ve exploded, these guys are celebrities”.

“Yeah, they are. That is exactly the point I am trying to make. They are the stars and you are just holding them back”.

“Excuse me? Are you trying to kick me out of my own band?”

“When you signed the paperwork making me your manager, you gave me the authority to make these decisions.”

“Bullshit.”

“I am sorry Jolie, but we are going to have to continue on without you.” Gyle took a seat next to Salazar and Psyclone. Their mouths were formed into frowns, but they didn’t so much as budge or make a peep.

“Seriously you guys are okay with this?” I grabbed my bag and sprang from the bus, tears whirling in my eyes.

*

By the next day I had regained some composure. Maybe I did suck and had just been ruining the band. Although teeming with hurt, I decided I had to go and support the boys at their first big show in Baton Rouge. The curtain went up and a prerecorded track of the guitar for “Hop it Out,” commenced. Salazar stared blanky at the microphone, Psyclone turning his back to the audience. The crowd began to jeer and hiss. Gyle ran onto the stage and began to squeeze Salazar violently, as if in an attempt to squeeze the vocals out of him.

“STOP IT. I ran towards them as Salazar squirted a massive flume of bufotoxin straight towards Gyle’s eyes.

“OWE, WHAT THE-” He put his hand to his eye and began to curse. “I AM BLIND.” The crowd gasped.

“THOSE TOADS ARE DANGEROUS.” The audience began to screech. “KILL THOSE INVASIVE SLOBS.” It never ceased to amaze me how the masses of so-called fans could so quickly go from admiration and reverence to sudden abhorrence and vitriol.

I bundled them each in one arm, dashing through the back, barely hopping into my van as a group ran out pounding on the windows. I propelled into the horde, hopefully hitting a few of the buffoons, before high-tailing to the highway.

“Are you guys okay?” I turned to the passenger seat. The two nuzzled together. Psyclone with his hand on Salazar’s back. They blinked hastily and jolted their heads.

Three hours later we had stopped at a ramshackle motel where we sat together in the rudimentary bathroom. I had emptied a bag of crickets covered in calcium into the tub, where they were trapped with the never-ending appetite of the viscous two. I bent down and pet their backs as they swallowed their delicacies.

“I knew you guys wouldn’t just move on without me.” I smiled at their joyful faces looking back at me. We were just like many other bands. We’d had our few minutes of fame, our wild nights, and an austere ending. That is just how things usually went in world of rockin’ out. In the end, we would always have the memories.

Short Story

About the author

M.R. Cameo

M.R. Cameo generally writes horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and nonfiction, yet enjoys dabbling in different genres. She is currently doing freelance work as a writer, ghostwriter, copywriter, editor, and proofreader for various publications.

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