"This is the craziest thing you've ever come up with," Audrey said to Lizzie as they stood inside the entrance to Music Superstore, watching customers milling around the instruments. "We'd be better off finding someone at one of the clubs."
"Please. I've come up with much crazier ideas than this. We need a guitarist that will make us look good. Anyone we find here will know how to play."
"Yes, but why would they want to play with us?"
"You let me worry about that, ok? Hey, what about her?" Lizzie asked, pointing at a blonde in ankle strap stilettos. "I love her shoes."
"She's buying maracas, Lizzie. I don't think she's a guitarist."
A goateed clerk approached. "Can I help you find something?"
"As a matter of fact, yes." Lizzie took him by the arm and walked off, pointing at percussion instruments and smiling flirtatiously.
"Great." Audrey muttered to herself. "Some help you are." She walked over to the guitar section and stood restlessly beside the Stratocasters. A short, awkward looking girl with glasses knocked into her. "Oh… sorry. I didn't see you standing there."
"It's ok. I'm in the way," Audrey replied.
"Um… hey, you don't know where I can find a capo, do you? The sales guy is, well, busy.”
Audrey looked up to see Lizzie leaning on the counter, flashing her cleavage at the clerk and fondling a microphone.
"That's my friend. I can get her to lay off for a minute if you want."
"Oh no… it's ok. I'll just, um, I can find it myself, I guess."
"I'd help you, but I don't even know what a capo is.”
"Oh. It's... um... it's to raise the pitch on my guitar. I have to play at my sister’s wedding and the song is too low for me to sing and… I really just don’t want to do it. I hate sappy music. But my family is… um… kind of pushy. Hence, the capo. Sorry, I don't usually… I didn't mean to start into my life story."
Lizzie appeared out of nowhere and nudged Audrey. She smiled at the short girl. "You should ditch the wedding and play with our band instead."
"Oh, no… I... wow, my mother would flip out."
"All the more reason," Lizzie responded casually. "Or, I guess you could let her control your life until you're thirty. Sounds like you're well on your way."
"On the other hand, you could join a rock 'n' roll band and start living your own damn life. That’s what you really want to do."
"Oh… I couldn't. I don't play that well, and I don't like to perform for people. I just play for myself. But… um, the clerk is…"
"I know. The clerk is hot… but he's not going to register your existence with that retro haircut going on. And the eye shadow..." she shook her head. "That's got to go too." But I think you'll make a fine guitarist with a little work. Come on. You’re coming home with us.
"I have to get a capo…"
"You won't be needing that now." Lizzie flashed Audrey an I-told-you-so look. "Let's go."
Audrey fiddled with her bass while Lizzie prepared their new guitarist, Erika, for her Maddy's debut. There were occasional protests, but mostly the quiet sounds of brushes and cosmetic cases clinking against countertop. She wasn’t at all sure Erika wouldn't disappear permanently as soon as she could get free of Lizzie, despite Lizzie's whispered, "Trust me, I know what I'm doing." The poor girl was like a kitten overly coddled by an exuberant child. But Audrey couldn't help hoping she would tolerate Lizzie's forcefulness and stick around.
Lizzie's head poked around the corner. "Ok, Audrey. The transformation is complete. Erika, step onto the hallway catwalk!"
Erika came tentatively out of the bathroom, looking dazed and uncomfortable in her body. Her naturally unruly hair had been straightened and clipped into hipster style. Her round face looked slimmer, her eyes bigger and more green than Audrey had noticed before. She was actually pretty cute, especially in the green mini dress Lizzie had picked up at Glam Exchange on the way home.
"Wow," Audrey said and laughed. "You look like a different person."
"I feel like an ox in heels," Erika complained. "I'm going to fall on my face as soon as I'm not on carpet."
"You'll be fine!" Lizzie ignored Erika's wobbly steps. "Come on. I want to introduce my new band to Dudley Doom before he plays his set. We're late! Move it, girls!"
"Yes sir!" Audrey saluted Lizzie with her middle finger and headed for the door.
"I don't like beer," Erika said as Lizzie pushed the glass towards her.
"I suppose you don't like ice cream or sex either."
"Well… I'm allergic to milk, but…"
"Good fucking grief. Two shots of bourbon down here! There you go. Drink this and beer will taste good."
"For fuck's sake, girl, you can't be in a rock 'n' roll band if you can't take a shot. Trust me that I know what's necessary for your education. Drink this."
Erika took a sip of the bourbon and coughed, wrinkling her nose distastefully.
"No, no, you can't make that face. Make this face... Go on, make the face. Firm up your chin more. That's right. Now, drink the rest of your shot and make the face.”
Erika took another sip and tried to imitate Lizzie. She looked like a nauseous pirate.
"You better learn to like beer."
Audrey watched, amused. She felt sorry for Erika, but the whole thing was entertaining as hell, and she was enjoying herself. This was probably the closest she'd ever get to Lizzie's maternal side.
Dudley Doom walked up to the bar and put his arms around Audrey and Lizzie. He was tall and unnaturally thin for his height, with a mop of brown hair under a black bowler hat. "Hey girls. You ready to spread the doom?"
"Always, Dud." Lizzie said. "You met my band yet?"
"Don't believe I have."
"This is Erika, our new guitarist. You know Lizzie."
Dudley swayed on his heels for a moment. "Rock on," he said, then nodded at Lizzie and left.
"That was utterly satisfying," Lizzie announced.
The girls watched Dudley's one man band tear up the stage for forty-five minutes, while Lizzie continued to teach Erika the finer points of bar etiquette. "No, tell the bartender you want a coke back, then it's free. If someone offers to buy you a beer, take it. Always." Erika became a much more relaxed and willing pupil as the set wore on. By the time Dudley threw down his guitar and stomped on the floor cymbals, Erika was quietly and happily drunk.
"I've never been drunk before," she confided to Audrey. "It's kind of fun!" She giggled, took a sip from her beer, and burped. "But the beer still tastes bad. Don't tell Lizzie."
A sweaty Dudley Doom approached the bar. "Hey girls. Who's gonna buy a shot for the band?"
"I'll buy you a shot," Erika giggled. She nodded to the bartender. "Two shots of bourbon, please, with two coke backs." She grinned proudly.
"What's your name again, hon?" Dudley asked.
"Yeah. Thanks Erika." Dudley took the shot, slammed it, and wandered off into the crowd.
"He's really cool!" she gushed.
Two sets later, Erika was face first on the bar. "I wanna go home!" she moaned.
"Look what you've done, Lizzie. Why didn't you slow her down?" Audrey forgot the earlier fun of watching Erika learn the ropes and felt irritated that Lizzie had taken advantage of the girl and saddled them with a sick companion.
"How was I to know she'd be such a light weight? She only had a beer and three shots!"
"We're gonna have to take her home."
"No! This is the first time Princes of the Petty have played in six months! I'm not going to miss it. She'll be fine. She just needs to let it wear off."
"Ohhhh. I don't feel good." Erika wriggled in her seat uncomfortably, then sat motionless with her head still on the bar.
"Lizzie," Audrey admonished "they will kick us out of the bar if they see her like this. We need to take her home."
"No. If you want to take her, take her. I hardly know her."
"You did this to her!"
"I did not. It's not as if I forced the booze down her throat."
"Yes, it is! It's exactly like that!"
"Well, she needs to learn to buck up. This is no way for a guitar goddess to behave. Erika, sit up. Dudley's staring."
"I don't care! Erika whined. "I want to go home!"
"Look at her, Lizzie. Fuck. At least help me get her to the car."
Erika threw up three times on the way back to Audrey's apartment. She didn't even try to open the car door, just let loose on her new dress and cried. Audrey gave her a blanket from the backseat to wipe up the mess, but Erika only feebly mopped at herself before throwing up on the blanket. Audrey was glad for having an old car with vinyl seats.
By the time they reached home, Erika was able to stumble up the steps with only a little help, but she was still moaning and crying. "I can't do anything right. I can't even drink a beer right. Lizzie will never talk to me again."
"Shush," Audrey said. "It's ok. Lizzie's a bitch. Lie down on the couch and go to sleep."
Erika curled up in the fetal position and was immediately asleep, a bit of brown puke still on her chin. Audrey felt sad looking at her. She covered her with an old afghan and watched as Grizelda hopped up on the pillow and settled into a ball. "That's a good kitty. She needs a friend." She turned out the lights and sighed.