The Serpent: Part 1

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Chapter 17

June 27, 2012

11:42 A.M.

“Did you ever read Rolling Stone’s review of Kingdom Of Roses?” Clayton asked.

“You know I don’t read reviews anymore,” Sam replied.

“Well, apparently Ribbons sounds similar to Darkness All Around. Or, in their words, ‘somewhat of a rehash.’ And they think Life In Mystery is a ‘major drop in quality.’ You know, I’m really starting to lose respect for Rolling Stone. Giving hacks like Bieber and Lil Wayne positive reviews and having the gall to talk trash about Sam Kruger. Makes no freaking sense.”

Sam shrugged. “Well, you have to admit, Kingdom Of Roses was somewhat of a drop in quality. At least compared to the last album.”

“Well, drop in quality or not, it’s still a great album. I guess Heaven’s Gate was so spectacular that anything not as good is automatically seen as terrible. You know what that means, don’t you Sam?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Your next album needs to be even better than Heaven’s Gate. That way, the critics have nothing to nitpick about. Looks like you gotta’ step it up a bit for this next album. You know what I mean?”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Clayton, you know I only make music because it’s what I like to do,” he said. “I don’t go out of my way to please critics or fans. I never went out of my way to become famous. I just played music and happened to become famous. But I’ve always just simply done what I like to do. If the music turns out great, then Hallelujah. If it turns out terrible, then it turns out terrible. I never hold criticism against me.”

“Wait, so you don’t listen to any advice from others?”

“No, that’s not what I said. I’ve gotten lots of advice in the past about how to make my music better. And I’m glad that I did. There’s a big difference between criticism and advice. Criticism is just pointing out someone’s faults just for the heck of doing so. Advice is actually going out of your way to help someone improve. Here’s the thing. When I have a failure, I know it’s a failure. I’m not stupid. I don’t need a bunch of critics telling me ‘that song sucks’ in order for me to realize it. But I don’t let mistakes weigh me down. If an album tanks, I just start over and move on to the next one. I don’t let failures get in the way of what I like to do.”

“I wouldn’t say Kingdom Of Roses ‘tanked.’ Most people actually loved it. Rolling Stone just happens to have monkeys doing reviews now.”

“Well, if people loved it, then why are you telling me I need to ‘step it up a bit’ for the next album?”

“Well…that way everybody loves it and you don’t have anybody whining about it. Hey, if you actually make an album better than Heaven’s Gate, then there shouldn’t be any reason for anybody to complain.”

“People will always find something to complain about, Clayton. It’s just how society works.”

“It’s still worth a shot though, right?”

Sam rolled his eyes again. “What did you call me in for? Can we make this quick? I never got to eat breakfast and I’m getting really hungry.”

“Okay,” Clayton began. “So I don’t know if you’ve heard the news, but VH1 wants to make a documentary about Serpents.”

“Okay.”

“More specifically, it wants to make a documentary about the life and career of Robbie Larson.”

Sam felt a sudden chill.

“Okay,” he said.

“It’s gonna’ go over how he grew up, how he got into music, how he formed the band, his career with the band, his life after the band. All that good stuff. It’s just a way to honor him now that’s he’s…you know…”

“Yes, yes. I know.”

“Anyway, yesterday I was on the phone with Marc Weller, one of the documentary producers. They want you to make an appearance.”

“Absolutely not.”

“What?”

“I said ‘absolutely not.’”

“You don’t wanna’ do it?”

“No. Hell no.”

“But…this is for Robbie.”

“Yes, I got that. And I’m telling you no.”

“But don’t you wanna’ honor your friend?”

Sam took a deep breath.

“Do they want Jason and Alex to appear as well?”

“I…I don’t think Marc ever mentioned them.”

“Just what I what I thought. What makes me so special? Is it because Jason and Alex aren’t as famous as me? Because they didn’t have a successful solo career and I did? Is that what I’m hearing?”

“I…I…don’t know.”

“Why bother to bring me on when they can’t even get the rest of the band? I barely stayed friends with Robbie after the break-up. I hadn’t even talked to him for over ten years before he died. What makes me a better friend to him than the rest of the guys?”

“Well…maybe it’s because Jason and Alex are hard to find nowadays. I mean, you barely hear about them in the news anymore.”

“I’m seriously starting to think that they just want me to appear because ‘Hey guys, it’s Sam Kruger! Sam Kruger’s in the documentary!’ Like they’re looking for some sort of ratings boost.”

“This isn’t about ratings. It’s about honoring-”

“Do they even expect me to have anything good to say? I didn’t even have anything to say at Robbie’s funeral. I barely even knew what to say to his family members. Why the hell would I suddenly have something to say for this random documentary?”

“Sam, I’m not one of the producers. I don’t know why-”

“Clayton, I’m not gonna’ honor Robbie by appearing in some stupid VH1 special. I’ve been working on a song for four months. And it’s probably the hardest song I’ve ever written. Hell, it’s probably the hardest task I’ve ever done in my life. I’m trying to come up with the perfect words to describe how I feel about my best friend dying…”

Sam paused for a second. He couldn’t help but suddenly feel a sick feeling in his stomach as he used the words “best friend.”

“I…I…,” Sam tried to continue. “…it…it’s just hard, Clayton. It’s just hard. I’m not gonna’ do it. If those people wanna’ make a documentary about Robbie’s life, then more power to them. But leave me out of it. And if those people wanna’ hear me talk about Robbie so badly, they can wait for my song to come out.”

Clayton raised his eyebrows.

“You okay, Sam?” he asked.

Sam took a deep breath and closed his eyes.

“Yes Clayton, I’m fine,” he said. “Was that all you wanted to talk to me about?”

“Well…there was one other thing,” Clayton said, sighing. The large grin that normally took up his face was now gone. “There was another offer for you to appear in a commercial for Chanel N-”

Sam stood up. “I’ll see you later, Clayton. Have a good day.”

With that, Sam left Clayton’s office.

Just moments earlier, Sam was looking forward to grabbing a bite to eat from either Panda Express or Chipotle (it had been quite a while since he had either). At that moment, Sam was not feeling the least bit hungry. The sick feeling would not leave his stomach.

I should have been there, Sam thought as he left the building. I should have been there.

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