Chapter 5 MAD AS HELL
It was surprising for many that Cindy stood by Fox’s throughout his hospital confinement. She was there almost every day, looking through the glass window of the ICU, waiting for any sign of ‘life’. She struggled every moment as she looked on, berating herself for insisting that his band perform on her birthday. And she hated this feeling, if only because she wasn’t used to being the one with the conscience. She never cared for any crap before, for anyone but herself. And now…
Now she spends her free time sitting here, sometimes alone, other times with people she never even looked at before. Waiting for this guy to wake up, a guy he never knew the name until several weeks ago. Why does she care so much for him? He’s a misfit. A loser. He does not belong in her circle. Yet, she cared deeply.
Nothing was the same in school. Not for the unknown spectators, not for the teachers, not for D’ Kickers. The buzz about the tragedy wasn’t as loud now, but some who were genuinely concerned and some who were just curious still talk about it sometimes. Paul and his friends were still in shock. Fox’s situation did not make things easy at all. It was a true test of friendship for them. Every day they ponder on what was, and what could have been… and what if? And on days when their dampened spirits were at its lowest, they asked; what now?
They played cool, but they cannot deny that they miss Fox. They miss the band rehearsals, they miss playing together. It was the most miserable, terrible feeling.
On some days, they would hear a group of people jeering from a distance; “D’ Kickers are dead!” Some would yell; “Fox is D’ Kickers. Now what are you without him?” and a burst of laughter follows. Even the walls, restrooms, bleachers, and benches were not spared. They are now the subject of graffiti, too, insulting them to the bone: ‘Why Fox? Why not Paul? Why not Peter?’
‘D’ KICKERS are DEAD!’
Paul was the hardest to be hit by all these. Add to that the deep fear he has of losing Fox, just as he lost his favorite book. He tried to focus on his favorite class, and his favorite subject: poetry. He had read several poems and liked all of them. He particularly admired the works of Sara Teasdale, Elizabeth Barrette Browning, and even Laurence Dunbar. In class that day, he was painfully reminded of his treasured book, The Catcher in the Rye, as they discussed a poem he equally relates to the novel.
They were asked to write a poem about the relationship between a child and his parents. Miss Jean O’Brian’s instruction was to work on the assignment immediately, as it will be read in class the following day. Every student started working on their drafts right away, quite excited about the task.
“Class, I don’t want to see ‘They love me and I love them.’ Please, spare me.” She surveyed her students’ faces and said, “Surprise me, and I’ll give you an A+. Be cheesy and cliché, I stamp a C on your poem.” There was a loud buzz in the room as everyone either complained or began uttering crass comments. Others were still excited and started scribbling on their paper.
Paul struggled. He wrote down the title; James & Jackie, his parents’ names. Then he fidgeted, unsure about this choice. He buried his face in both his hands and was slumped in his seat.
“Is there something bothering you, Mr. Andrews?” Miss O’Brian asked, noticing he was sobbing. “You must have loved your parents that much, eh? That’s the right way to write poetry. Dig deep into your emotions...” Miss O’Brian, whose sense of humor is unfathomable to Paul, looked very serious as she gave Paul her advice. He wasn’t sure if she was mocking him or helping him. Attention shifted to Paul, and while others kept working, some started giving him unknowing looks. Some began snickering.
“Class, get back to work. This is not a laughing matter. That poem will tell a lot about you: the kind of person you are and how you perceive your parents. If you will not do it the way Mr. Andrews is doing it, you’ll fail in my class. Then you will see who will have the last laugh,” and Miss O’Brian laughed sarcastically.
Paul worked on his poem all night in his room. He was feeling really lost, not to mention truly worried about Fox and D’ Kickers. Then he remembered his book. He remembered how it had been with him through everything. Especially when he felt most alone, and now, it’s gone. He found himself weeping quietly, mourning for his loss. He sobbed one last sob and wiped off the tears. Miss O’Brian is expecting me to do well. Everyone else is waiting for me to fail. I will not give my haters that satisfaction.
He looked around his room and tried to find some sort of inspiration. He paused for a while, and started scribbling.
James & Jackie
They are the warmth
That unfreeze the cold
They are the stream
In my thirst for joy
So Who am I?
What do you pay
For a gift of you….
He rubbed his eyes, trying to fight off sleep. Dissatisfied, he kept on writing more, then erasing, and writing, until he dozed off.
He opened his eyes and saw the familiar woman, trying to pull her child from a man’s hold. But it was all in vain. The man tugged on the girl so hard the woman was thrown off. She screamed with all her might: Sarah... Sarah… Sarah!
He woke up gasping for air. He couldn’t breathe for a few second. He was so angry. No one help, no one… at all! He grabbed his pen again and began to write.
Mad as HELL
You cut and reap
From a garden not yours
Stealing them secretly
So no one…
He couldn’t stop. He scribbled words almost maniacally.
She wakes up one day
Alone in her bed
Bruised not just her heart
Tears run down…
A group of girls huddled along the center aisle of the classroom, sharing the poems they wrote, giggling and teasing each other. Most of them were excited about the assignment, while some couldn’t care less (but were actually trying to mask the fact that they know their work suck). As soon as some of the girls saw Paul enter the room, they jumped up and asked him if they can see his poem. Paul shook his head and told them that he didn’t do it.
They didn’t believe him. Some of the boys stood up and approached Paul reaching for his bag. Gary, a sneaky bully, grabbed a hold of it from behind and instantly dug in and pulled out his notebook. One of the taller boys took it and scanned the pages in and search for his poem.
“Found it!” he yelled, but realized it was actually unfinished. “Well, the dimwit is telling the truth. It’s not finished. He’s gonna get a good scolding just like us... or maybe he’ll get much more, Mr. Drama Queen!” They all laughed boisterously at him, throwing his bag to the ground and tossing his notebook up in the air.
Paul tried to grab it back, but he was too small to reach it. He was about to give up and just leave, but Susie, who caught it and started reading through, yelled out; “You’re so stupid, Gary. He’s got three poems in here.”
That was it. He was angry and worried at the same time. “Give it back!” he shouted so loud everyone fell quiet. Then everyone’s eyes shifted to Miss O’Brian, who was now standing by the door.
“So, you all have taken my advice and made Mr. Andrews’ work your benchmark? Very good class,” she smiled at them deviously. “Take your seat now, everyone. Give Mr. Andrews his notebook,” the teacher told Susie in a very firm tone.
“Now, since Miss Susie Evans wanted to know if her poem can measure up to Mr. Andrews’ poem, why don’t we start with her. Then we will let Mr. Andrews read his right after. Miss Evans, please step in front and read your poem for all of us.”
Susie gave Paul a sharp look, stood up and proceeded to read her poem. While she was in front, Paul sat on his chair, distraught. He’ll be next, and he had not finished his poem, James & Jackie. He definitely will not read the other two poems in front of everyone.
Miss O’Brian was impressed with Susie’s homework. “Very good, Miss Evans. Mountain & River, eh? Good choice for a title.”
“Class you have seen a perfect use of symbolism in Miss Evans’ poetry. You talk about love… and not use the word itself. Miss Evans, an ‘A plus’ for you.”
Her announcement unnerved everyone in class. They were all beginning to wonder how many Cs and Fs will be thrown their way after the readings.
Paul was anxious, too. He didn’t like how the teacher dissected Susie’s poem. He didn’t want to be under the same magnifying glass. Besides, his poem was unfinished.
“Mr. Andrews,” her voice was commanding. “I said it’s your turn to educate your classmates.”
“Miss O’Brian, I’m really sorry… but I wasn’t able to finish my poem,” Paul was apologetic. He looked down, avoiding his teacher’s eyes.
The teacher looked at him
“Mr. Andrews, excuse… Excuse for what? You and Miss Susie are the models in my class and you have never failed. Until this time,” said the teacher.
“Okay. I’ll consider… read your unfinished poem. Life itself is poetry in motion. Let’s see if we can learn from it. Mr. Andrews, proceed.”
Paul walked toward the front pew and faced his classmates. He turned the pages of his notebook slowly, as if in a trance. They all started snickering just as he read the title. All except for Susie. He tried to tune them out and focused on his reading. Soon enough, they all turned silent to listen to the unfinished poem.
“Mr. Andrews, not the best title that I heard of, but the content is very good. If only you have finished it. It could have been better than Miss Evans’ poem.”
Hearing this, Susie raised her hands to ask a question. She was upset that an unfinished material could even equal her work. She needed to shake the stakes a little bit and put Paul where he should be: in shame.
“Miss Evans, what’s your question?”
“Ma’am, first I would like to apologize to Paul about the commotion a while ago. I didn’t grab his notebook; it just fell on me when it was tossed around. And when it fell open on my lap, I saw that Paul have prepared three poems. He only read the first one. I think it is unfair for the class to hear the unfinished one. Don’t you think?” Susie cleverly put Paul on the spot.
The teacher threw a sharp glance at Paul. Confused, she inquired further, “Mr. Andrews, is this true? You have two other finished poems?”
Paul fidgeted and searched for an excuse. He instead clarified the instruction to wriggle his way out. “Ma’am, the instruction was to write about the relationship between a child and their parents. I made an alternative poem, but it isn’t about me and my parents. That’s what Miss Evans saw in my notebook.”
She was staring at Paul quite seriously. “Still, why is it not the one you read? One of the finished one?”
He searched again for an answer. “I listened to Miss Evans’ poem, and… the unfinished one was the only one about my parents, like hers. I didn’t think you’d accept my other two poems.”
“Okay, okay. Miss Evans’ question is valid. Mr. Andrews, you should have read your finished work rather than the unfinished one. Now, can you please read to us the two poems?” the teacher instructed Paul firmly.
Now he didn’t have a choice. Anxiously he proceeded to read, first…
She wakes up one day
Alone in her bed
Bruised not just her heart
Tears run down her eyes
Why do angels cry?
Why am I not enough?
to kiss your tears goodbye
Heaven must be crazy
to let her be with him
She gets back again
Clinging to a dainty den
Just to be with him
A prince of dirty scream
She tried to walk away
Escape his addictive pain
But her veins long for him
Who killed her dreams
I’m always here
To fix her wings
Instead she let him
Put shackles in them
She is confused
Asking herself, what did I do?
Had she not loved him enough?
That he wound her forever true
As he finished the first poem, everyone was silent. Sweat trickles on his forehead, everybody eyed him confusedly. And Susie’s eyes were wide with awe and disbelief. Even Miss O‘Brian could not say anything. She chose not to say a word, and waited for Paul’s other poem.
“What now?” looking at his audience, he thought nervously. He read the title, and everyone simultaneously leaned forward to listen.
Mad as HELL
You cut and reap
From a garden not yours
Stealing them secretly
So no one would know
You’re a thief
Preying on the simple & pure
You’re always in the dark
Crawling in your claws
So nobody knows you
Mad as hell
I wish I could kill
Kill the thief of innocence
In my dreams
You stood still
Baring beautiful gifts and smiles
Treacherously wait patiently
Grab them in surprise
Tell them, it’s just alright
One line stuck in every student’s mind: Mad as hell, I wish I could kill’. Even Miss O’Brian was taken aback. She was trying to figure out what she’s going to say. Paul’s work was brilliant, but she was afraid how real the feelings were. Who was he talking about? She was also worried that the students might interpret this the wrong way.
“Class, what do you think of the poems?” the teacher inquired. The students sat in silence. “Let’s see how good we are at interpreting the symbolisms in the poems. I will give an A+ to the most discerning ones.”
“Mr. Andrews had forfeited his A+, as he chose to read an unfinished work. Miss Susie, you are also excluded as you already have earned your A+.”
Still reeling from the surprise, Susie was quiet, in awe of Paul’s work. She would have wanted to be the one to explain the two poems to the class, but unfortunately, she was exempted to do so.
After class, at the bleachers of the football field, the remaining members of D’ Kickers converged. “How’s your day, kid?” Peter asked, feeling uncomfortable with his arm still in a cast.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be mad or thankful,” Paul told the group.
“Why?” Andy inquired.
Paul went on to explain the poem in his English class. He gave a full recount of the events that transpired that morning.
“Whoa. You must be really good in writing. Imagine, your two poems were the subject of your class’ discussion?” Joey commented.
“Yeah, and you, getting a ‘C’ for doing great,” Scott mocked him.
“Actually, Miss O’Brian didn’t say my work was great. But she instructed the class to study my poem,” Paul clarified.
“If your poem is not great, how come the one who can explain it is getting an A+, it takes a genius work for anyone to get that spot in class, kid,” Peter stressed, trying to scratch his arm to no avail.
“Will you stop talking like that? It’s frying Scott’s brains out,” Joey joked, teasing Scott, who has question marks written all over his face.
“All this talk about your poem and you haven’t even shown it to us. Cough it up… Where is it?” Peter asked Paul. “Maybe we can explain it and get an A, too.”
Paul showed the two poems to the group to shut them up. Peter was astounded. “Kid, this is… shocking. I mean, ‘good’ kind of shocking. Coming from a junior high like you…”
With his usual wit, Scott said, “Yeah. Impressive, kid. Can you tell me again what it means? Just to make sure you know what I know.”
Paul was tight-lipped, trying to measure how he will respond. He did not want to divulge everything. Carefully, he asked, “Why? How do you understand it?”
“I... think… it’s about a mother, a wife, being treated badly… By a man she loved. And her child was a witness to that and she wants to protect her,” Peter evaluated, seriously dissecting the piece.
Paul heaved a sigh and said, “Yes. It’s about a family struggling… the father was maltreating them,” Paul answered. He wanted to end the discussion right there, but his friends wouldn’t let it go.
Somehow, Peter took the hint. “I’m sorry, man. I—take it you don’t want to discuss this?” Peter said.
Scott was confused, as always. “Why? What’s wrong with Paul?”
“Nothing… there’s nothing wrong with me,” Paul snapped at him.
“What’s going on?” Andy inquired.
“They thought the poem was about my family.”
“Your family…? But you have the most loving parents, right?” Andy was very confused now and could not let the subject go.
“Yes, I do. My parents adore each other and they love me.”
Peter was still holding the notebook, still staring at the poem in awe, but with a hint of deep worry for his friend. “Then, how did you come up with this?”
“Miss O’Brian wanted to be surprised, and she said she doesn’t want the typical ‘love’ between parent and child, so I tried—I experimented with this. So that I could get an A+,” Paul tried to keep himself from saying the truth. Especially not anything about his recurring dream.
Peter could not let go that easy. He can feel he’s hiding something. “Still, man. How can you write a poem like that?” Joey prodded, as he took the notebook from Peter and then tossed it back.
“I read stories like that. So I take it from there. Like I told you, Miss O’ Brian wants a unique poem,” Paul insisted, beginning to lose his grip.
“But it’s—dark,” Joey commented, cautiously but not quite.
“That’s why it’s brilliant. ‘The kid’ knows how to tip off the readers’ imagination, right?” Andy commented.
Wanting to sound smart, Scott interjected, “But what about the other poem? ’Mad as Hell, I wish I could kill?’” He said the line in a very, dark, shadowy voice. Then he tried to grab Paul’s notebook, from Peter, “Yeah… I wish I could kill. It’s like a suspense movie,” Scott playfully teased Paul, clueless of the gravity and sensitivity of the topic.
“Stop being stupid, Scott. You don’t know anything,” this time Joey snapped at him. Still, he tried to wrestle Peter to get a hold of the poem. “Why? It’s exciting… intriguing!” Scott insisted.
Peter finally closed the notebook and handed it to Paul. “Let’s not talk about it. There’s just too many negative things happening lately. I don’t think it’s good to take things lightly, especially now that Fox is still in the hospital.”
“That’s true. We don’t know what’s going to happen to him… to us,” Andy added.
It was only then that Scott understood what they were trying to say. And they all sank back and fell silent.
Weeks had gone to pass. Fox was now out of the ICU and in one of the private rooms. But he was still in a coma.
His friends were always at his bedside, talking to him, including him in conversations, even holding him and touching him often. Peter even brings a portable radio so he can play music for him, in the hopes of “waking” him up from his deep sleep.
One night, Bohemian Rhapsody played on the radio. Cindy started crying, and ran to Fox’s side. She held his hand, and to her surprise, she felt a gentle twitch on his finger. She lifted the blanket, and saw his other thumb moving, too.
“Guys… guys! He’s moving!” she yelled out. Everybody turned to look, but the twitch had already stopped. No one believes her, but she insisted. “No, really. Here, here… look at his hand,” Cindy was hysterical now, pointing to Fox’s left hand.
Paul and Peter rushed to Fox’s left side and stood very still, looking at his hand. “Oh, man. He is twitching. He’s—it’s like he’s tapping a keyboard,” Paul observes. Cindy grabbed the nurse’s call button on the head board and pressed on it repeatedly. But by the time the medical staff reached Fox’s room, his movement stopped. Bohemian Rhapsody finished playing on the radio. The medical staff checked all his vitals, but they couldn’t see any signs of improvement. The doctor asked the group what they saw. Paul reiterated the finger movement he saw.
“He plays the keyboards, Doc… we have a band…” Paul was struggling to get the words out without stuttering.
“And it was when he heard Bohemian Rhapsody. That’s his song, Doc’” Scott said excitedly.
“And it didn’t move with other music?”
“We’re not sure, we didn’t notice.”
“Let’s test it, then,” the doctor said, turning the radio on. Fox remained still.
“We have to let him hear Bohemian Rhapsody again,” the doctor suggested.
Cindy rushed to the phone and called home. A few minutes later, her driver arrived with an audio-cassette player in hand. She pressed play, and Bohemian Rhapsody began to play.
“If this works, and he moves even just a bit, then that’s good news. It means he has a good chance of waking up soon.”
“Will he be the same? In—in everything?” Cindy tried to be clear, but she just was too upset to be so.
While they were talking to the doctor, nobody noticed Fox. The doctor was about to leave when Scott shouted, “Doc… Doc his hands are moving again.”
The doctor rushed back to look at Fox. He checked his vitals and started talking to Fox. He wasn’t responding. He was moving his hands, as if he was playing piano. As soon as the music stopped, his hands stopped moving, too.
Peter played the song again, and his hands moved again. Paul started to sing along, and then motioned Peter to do so, too. Paul leaned forward and sang close to Fox’s ear.
To everyone’s amazement, Fox slowly opened his mouth, as if he was trying to sing. Paul leaned closer and yelled, “Fox, Fox! Stop! You’re flat!”
Everyone stopped. Bohemian Rhapsody continued to play. What the hell are you saying? They all looked at Paul, dumbfounded. Then, a sound from the bed: “Nnn..nnno, nnnoh, no…” Fox began to speak.
Peter caught on. “Yeah, man… YOU’RE OFF KEY!”
“N-no, no, no, no…” and Fox slowly opened his eyes, still trying to say, “No, no, no…”
Peter held his friend’s face with both his hands. “Fox, it’s okay. It’s okay. I was just messing with you.”
“Yeaaah, yeah… I’m all right… I’m all right,” Fox responded with his weakest voice.
Everybody was overcome with joy. They were all crying and laughing at the same time. Fox was looking at them, confused at what’s going on. “What’s happening? Why are we here? Where are we?”
“We’re in a hospital, man. Don’t you remember the fire? The blast?” Peter asked. They spent the next few minutes recounting the details of that tragic night to him. Fox looked around and was surprised to see Cindy seated in the corner crying. When their eyes met, Cindy rushed to his side and hugged him, “I hate you… I hate you… you kept me waiting!”
Fox slowly pulled away from her embraced and looked into her eyes, he remembered the way she looked at him during the party. Her voice, her smile. And then he gazed into her eyes again and smiled.
The nights that followed were spent rehashing everything that happened while he was in a coma. Then he asked about the band.
“There—is no activity, actually. We—,” Scott began, but could not continue. “We have been visiting you every night. We were always here after class, man.”
“What? You were here every night? How many months have I been here?”
They were all quiet.
“Are you saying you wasted your time here?” Fox was both frustrated and angry. They had done nothing for the band for months? How stupid is that?
Peter spoke, “Fox our instruments were burned. And you are here. We didn’t know if you will wake up or—what. What are we supposed to do? We have to be here for you.”
Fox frustratingly replied “Supposed to be here? So what did you do here? Asides from staring at me in this hospital bed, did you even consider borrowing a guitar and practice here?”
The group was surprised at his reaction. They expected Fox would at least be thankful that they were there for him. “Don’t get me wrong. I mean, I appreciate it, man. But to be here every night? And waste everything that we have worked hard for? What if I didn’t come back? D’ Kickers will have died with me?”
It was only then that they realized what they had wasted all these weeks. For a while, they also felt that… That D’ Kickers are dead. It was only now, again, that they heard their band’s name. “D’ Kickers can still be a band without me, man.”
Peter was embarrassed. He didn’t know how what to say.
“On the bright side,” Peter began, then grabbed Paul’s bag and took out his notebook. “Here, look at this.” He showed him, Paul’s poems.
Fox read it several times and unexpectedly smiled at Peter. Peter had already considered showing it to Fox, but he wasn’t quite sure if it would be a big deal for Fox.
“Peter… We’ve been trying to do this since… forever.”
The group couldn’t understand what Fox meant, except for Peter.
“Keep that kid. We’ll need it by the time I get out of here,” he paused and grabbed Paul’s ear. “Kid, you are really something! You gave us our name—and now this.”
Then he looked around and said, “I’m sorry about my temper a while ago. I’m wrong. You’ve done well…and thanks.”
“But please, practice. Try to borrow instruments. We’ll do something about it once I’m outta here.”
On their way home Paul asked Peter what had just happened. What made Fox cool down?
“Kid, ever since I can remember, we have been avid Beatles fans. We love their music and we aspire to be like them, just like every wannabe rocker in the world. We know that the great part of their success was in writing music. We’ve been trying to do that—write music. We wanted to be the next Lennon and McCartney… but unfortunately we don’t have it. Not even a drop of talent in that area.”
“What’s that got to do with my poems?” Paul asked.
“Kid, don’t be naïve. Don’t you know how good you are? How good a writer, are you.”
Paul threw a sharp sideways glance at Peter, stopped to a hilt holding his friend by the arm. “Are you saying I’m going to write music for us?”
“Kid, you just did! Angel’s Cry and Mad as Hell will be our first original song. The first two songs of the D’ Kickers!” he excitedly informed Paul.
The news about Fox’s miraculous recovery quickly spread. Even broadcast stations announced it, updating everyone about the tragic Cummings party. Media people couldn’t wait to get an interview with Cindy Cummings and Fox of the D’ Kickers.
Mr. Cummings knew what the implications of his name’s prolonged exposure in the media would be, and he wanted to gain the media mileage to be had from the incident. Cindy refused to publicize this more than necessary, but her father insisted. She didn’t want to take advantage of Fox or D’ Kickers, for her dad’s political gains. But Mr. Cummings cannot take no for an answer. He asked for his publicists to arrange interviews with his daughter, every chance they get.
Mr. Cummings granted every interview there is.
“Mr. Cummings, a high school student known as Fox was hospitalized and was in a coma for weeks all because of a fire at your daughter’s birthday party. Why is a no-name high school band playing in your daughter’s Sweet Sixteen Party?” The talk of the town was that he scrimped on the budget, and this could not have happened had he hired a professional band.
Mr. Cumming replied, “Yes, yes… It might have been better if we hired a professional or even a famous band. But D’ Kickers, those boys are my daughter’s friends. In fact, they are family friends. I consider them part of my family. They are always here, practicing at my house.
In fact, their first performance—their comeback performance just as soon as Fox recovers, is scheduled as I formally announce my candidacy.”
“Mr. Cummings what position are you running for? What position…” There was a loud buzz among the reporters.
He gave a wide grin and said, “I’ll announce it later. So just wait.”
Mr. Cummings was very proud of his move. He knew he could easily take advantage of Fox’s situation. He did not waste time arranging for a new set of musical instrument to be bought for the group.
D’ Kickers have seen Mr. Cumming’s interview. They sat there, puzzled, and couldn’t help but feel a pang of disdain towards the man. On the way to the hospital, Cindy was quiet. She was embarrassed of her Dad’s actions. She wanted to quickly apologize to the group. She didn’t know how to face them.
When she entered the room, everyone was in a great mood. She looked at Fox, who smiled at her and said, “We know, Cindy. It’s not your fault. You don’t have to worry about it.” She took her hand and kissed it.
Still embarrassed, she said. “I’m sorry, Fox.”
“You have nothing to apologize for. It could be a good thing.”
Her eyes were wide and confused. She looked at Fox and waited for an explanation.
“You’re only seeing what good it will do for your Dad. Don’t you see what good it will do for us?” Fox commented.
“But he lied…” Cindy added in frustration and embarrassment.
Still smiling, Fox said, “Don’t worry about it. He needs it, we need it. So stop worrying.”
“I don’t know if I’m going to be happy that you understand Dad, or be sad that you are starting to connive with him.” Cindy didn’t know that the group had already talked about it and realized that they could also take advantage of it, especially the new set of instruments he gave the group.
“Peter I don’t think we have enough time before the election period. You have to start it with ‘the kid’. Kid, do you understand what I mean?”
Paul just stared blankly at Fox, baffled. “Okay, kid. You and Peter should start arranging music with the lyrics you have. You are handling keyboard, so it’s best that you and Peter arranges it,” Fox explained.
“I have some melody. Check if it’s okay with the things he wrote,” Fox added, handing over the copy to Peter.
When it was about time for them to leave the hospital, Fox asked Paul to stay for a few minutes. He waited for the others to leave the room and handed him a piece of paper. “Kid, I want you to make something about this. I think she deserves it.”
Paul slipped the paper into his pocket and said, “Okay Fox. Get well soon, man. So we can start early on this.”
“Kid, don’t wait for me. I’ll be disappointed if it’s not finished by the time I walk out of here.”
At home before retiring to bed, Paul browsed through his school homeworks and assignments.
He flipped his English notebook open and saw his two poems. He never intended for his poem to be a song. He never even intended to write it in the first place. It was borne out of a bad dream and his anger. Could he really write songs? He was even more curious. He had read some articles about Lennon and McCartney, but he never thought of becoming them.
He wrote when he was very angry. He was raging mad. How can he write otherwise? Then he remembered the piece of paper Fox handed to him. He searched for it and cannot find it. Then he remembered he slipped it into the pocket of his other pants. He ran out of the room and shouted, “Mom!”
Mrs. Andrew ran to him, startled. “What honey? What’s wrong?”
“Mom, where’s my pants?”
“It’s in the laundry.”
He was panting as he reached the laundry room. His pants were already soaked in water. He searched through his pockets and didn’t find the paper. He was about to yell in frustration when his mom tapped him on the shoulder and handed him a piece of paper.
“Are you looking for these? Do you have a thing for Fox’s girlfriend? I don’t think you are a les…” Mrs. Andrews asked, but instantly stopped, worried of the absurdity of the thing she’s asking.
“What?” He unfolded the paper and read it.
CINDY. I hate you, I hate you… you always kept me waiting.
And then he understood why his mom made that comment.
“Mom it was Fox who wrote it, not me.”
“So, are they having a fight? Why is the paper with you?”
“Fox gave it to me… to make it into a song… for Cindy. These are like, memorable lines that Cindy always tells Fox.”
“Oh, okay. Wait, what? Fox asked you to write a song?”
“So you are writing songs now? Why don’t I know about this?”
Without thinking, he answered, “Fox saw my poems. And he thinks my poems can be made into a song. He thinks I can write some more and so he asked me to write something for Cindy.”
“Well. That’s good honey. Can I see the poems?”
Suddenly, Paul stood frozen. He didn’t want to show the poem to his parents.
“Honey, please let me see the poems. It must be really good if Fox thinks it can be a song.”
Avoiding her eyes, he mumbled, “Mom, I don’t want to lie to you and have you worried. Believe me when I say I love you, okay? Can you let this thing pass for now?”
Somehow Mrs. Andrews understood and just nodded. She could sense her child’s anxiety.
Returning to his room, he looked at the paper from Fox.
Can I write a love song? He fell asleep in his study while trying to write Cindy’s song.
Mrs. Andrews peeked into her child’s room and saw him sleeping, slumped on his desk. She gently tapped him and asked him to go to bed. He did as he was told, still half asleep. Mrs. Andrews then tidied up Paul’s desk and saw the song he was trying to write.
She always cries
“I hate you, I hate you”
You kept me waiting
But when you look into my eyes
You are satisfied, ’cause you knew
I’m yours till the day I die
There are days, when all I do is stare
Looking at your beauty, I can’t compare
I listen to music, just to rest my stare
But still her beauty, beckons me there
Where her smile is floating on air
Oh my Cindy
Don’t you cry, don’t you cry
I’m on my way love
To where your beauty lies
I miss you, I could die
I’m yours to make, you smile
Hear the tune
Kiss me, Kiss me, Kiss me
I sing to you near
Cause I’m just here singing
I love you, sweet baby
Mrs. Andrews stared at the copy for a few minutes. She found the verses, cute and a little childish. She smiled. Puppy love, she thought. As she placed the notebook back on the desk, it accidentally opened to the pages where the two earlier poems were written. She quickly saw the title Mad as Hell. She didn’t want to pry, but she couldn’t resist it. She read both Mad as Hell and Angel’s Cry. And suddenly broke down crying. She sat on his chair, staring at her child quietly resting in slumber. She walked over to him and kissed him on the forehead. Paul felt the kiss and opened his eyes a little, still half asleep.
“Mom, are you crying?”
“No, honey. Go back to sleep. I’m just tidying your things.” She quickly went out of the room and looked for her husband. She told Mr. Andrews about the poem. He held her tight, and asked her to just rest her mind and go to sleep. He was worried sick, but he needed to be strong for her.
Peter and Paul went ahead to work on their songs. The new set of instruments has arrived and they were both excited to try it.
“Now, what do we do first?”
Paul waited for Peter’s prompt. He didn’t even know if he can do what was needed to be done.
“Okay, let’s do the melody first. That was Fox’s suggestion,” said Peter as he pulled out the copy.
“Maybe you should do it on guitar first, just like Stairway to Heaven.” Peter’s eyes widened. “Yes! Angel’s Cry should be arranged that way.
The two worked all afternoon tuning and fine-tuning the melody. They jammed together, as Peter tried to play the guitar and sing at the same time. He felt insecure, knowing he’s not putting the right emotion into it.
“I can never seem to feel the song. I’m, like, detached from it. Kid, maybe you should have a go for it.”
“No way! I can’t do it, Peter.”
“You have a good voice, kid. Anyway, it’s just practice singing and there’s only the two of us here.”
Trying to avoid eye contact, Paul said, “Maybe we should wait for Fox. Anyway, he is the one who’s going to sing it.”
“We don’t have time. We have to come up with several original songs before Cindy’s Dad’s campaign launch. Besides, it will be easy for Fox and the group if we’ve finished it way ahead, so little adjustment will be needed.”
Paul understood the urgency, but he was still hesitant. He couldn’t understand why he was defying it. He definitely loves singing. So he tried. But it was coming off terribly.
“Kid, what’s happening? You are just reading it… reciting it. You have to sink yourself in the melody… feel the words.”
And so Paul did exactly that. And unwillingly the girl from the dream emerges in his psyche.
“That’s it, kid. Let’s do that again.”
Peter waited, but no voice came out of Paul. He looked at his friend, ready to crack an insult, but he stopped.
Paul was in tears.
Peter knew it. The girl in the songs, the people in it, they were not from a book that he had read. He knew them. Paul was ready to walk out, but Peter stopped him. “It’s all right, I understand. No need for you to hide it. There’s no need for you to face it alone,” Peter told him in the kindest voice.
They sat down on the couch. Paul was crying so hard he couldn’t breathe. It was the first time that he let someone see him crying. He trusts Peter. He wasn’t embarrassed to show his weakest moment to him.
Peter looked on and waited for Paul’s cries to subside. As soon as he calmed down, he asked; “You okay now, kid? I know you can do this. I believe in you.”
Paul looked at Peter and knew that he didn’t have to worry. This will be just between them. No one else will know. “I’m ready now, man.”
“Okay, one more time then.”
Paul’s voice was heavy. He was still teary eyed, but he went on singing. Peter himself felt the pain. He was hurting deeply. The upside of it was that he sang with all the emotions the song required.
“Man, we don’t need Fox for that now. That was amazing.”
“No, Fox sings way better. We should let him sing it.”
“Paul, it’s not about who’s the better singer. It’s about who can sing with the perfect emotion… about who can best deliver the song.”
They practiced the song several more times and made the necessary adjustments. After which, they went on to arrange the next song.
Mad as Hell was even more emotional for Paul. But he was ready this time—braver. He let it all out and sang with all his might. There was anger in his voice, and tears in his eyes.
“Wow, kid. Wow.”
“Don’t tell me I’ll be the one to sing that song, too. Stop pounding on me, Peter.”
“No, on the contrary, this one is for Fox. You have given all your emotion to the song, but it’s still short. It’s not angry enough” Peter winked at him.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, how do I put it, your voice sounds angry, but… you sound angry, but you still sound like a nice person. Catch my drift? A kind person who cannot hurt anyone.”
Paul didn’t argue. He didn’t want to sing it anyway. It was too much for him. It was too much for one day.
That night on his bed, he was surprised to feel very light. Like a load was lifted off his back. It actually felt good to be able to express his true feelings. Somehow, he realized music can make him feel lighter. Better. It was a relief that his book used to give him.
The next day, Peter brought their guitars to Fox’s hospital room.
“Are you ready for this?” Peter asked.
“I’ve been dying to hear this, man,” Fox replied excitedly.
Paul was ready to belt out the song, but Peter stopped him. “I got this Paul. I’ll be the one to do the demo for this.”
Paul breathed in relief. Fox liked it.
“But… it’s like… something’s missing. Let me see the lyrics.”
Fox looked at it and scribbled something on it. Peter and Paul looked at the copy and saw now what’s missing in the earlier copy.
Mad as HELL
You cut and reap
From a garden not yours
Stealing them secretly
So no one would know
You’re a thief
Preying on the simple and pure
You’re always in the dark
Crawling with your claws
So nobody knows you
Mad as hell
I wish I could kill
Kill the thief of innocence
In my dreams
You stood still
Baring beautiful gifts and smiles
Treacherous, waiting patiently
Grab them in surprise
Tell them, it’s just all right
I stab and wound
Fox had added a chorus in the song. Now it’s not just about anger. It’s about violence and revenge. Fox instructed Peter and Andy to play the guitar and Fox belted out the song. Fox was angry and somewhat scary. It was amazing. While he was singing, nurses and doctors gathered outside his room, looking in.
“Now guys, let’s do it altogether.”
The group sang Mad as Hell. The crowd stood in awe. They had never heard such passion from a teenager.
Fox was intense and was overly excited. He couldn’t wait to sing the next song.
Peter went over to Paul. “I got your back, kid.”
Peter played the guitar intro, and Paul began to sing. He was able to hold himself together, but could not help but cry.
Everyone was taken aback. They loved his voice, but it felt really heavy. Cindy and Kim were even more impressed. They felt the innocence and sensitivity of his voice. It’s as if it belonged with them, like a kin.
After the song, Fox and Peter looked at each other. “Now we have our own ‘Lennon and McCartney.’” He clapped his hands to signal the end of the session.
“That will be it for tonight. We’ll polish it when I get out of this damn room.”
“I thought you are going to sing it after our demo,” Paul asked Fox.
“I don’t have to sing it.”
“Why not? You’re the lead vocals.”
“I don’t have to sing it. It’s yours. Don’t you remember? We agreed to look for a song for you. This one is You.”
Paul didn’t know how to react, but the rest of the group understood.
Just then, the hospital security knocked on the glass window and tried to break the crowd. “Please be reminded of the hospital policy on noise…”
“No need, we apologized for the noise, anyway the people here is about to leave” Fox told the security while the people started to move out of the room.
They were, again, the topic of gossip at school. Just as Fox has been out of the hospital, D’ Kickers are being dubbed as the best gig in town. News of the practice session in the hospital room and how they wowed the doctors and nurses and everyone else that went around there. Paul and Fox were known as geniuses and “future rock stars” having the voice of Freddie Mercury. Still, some say they suck and they will never be more than just loser wannabes.
Those who love the group now went out of their way to welcome Fox back with banners saying “Welcome back FOX!” and “Long live D’ Kickers!’
His comeback was a huge day in school. Everyone tried to shake his hands, hug him, high-five him…just like a superstar. And not only him. All five boys received the same superstar welcome. Even during lunch break, people followed them. All except Peter and Paul enjoyed the attention.
“Don’t be annoyed. This is what we wanted, remember? We need them, like it or not. They are part of our success.”
Success crept into the way they never imagined. People stalked them. The cheerleaders acted as if they have a license to be at every practice session. Students they don’t know from their school and those who came from other schools flocked outside Peter’s house, hoping to have a peek at the practice session. This had prompted some complaints from the neighbors. Picket fences and front yard gardens were being damaged and trampled on. Now the neighbors were demanding that D’ Kickers be banned from practicing in their neighborhood.
Mr. and Mrs. Woods, who used to be popular in their neighborhood found themselves hated by everyone who live nearby. But they just couldn’t kick them out. They couldn’t just ban the kids from playing.
Mr. Cummings eagerly took on. As soon as he heard about the ruckus going on in the Cooks neighborhood, he took it upon himself to immediately call people in the media about the build-up of complaints due to D’ Kickers’ rising popularity. Several media networks arrived at the scene and instantly saw the crowds of students with placards on their hand, yelling ‘Let D’ KICKERS be!’ The neighborhood riot was being played out in the media. Practically the whole state knows about it by now.
Unknown to many, the chaos was orchestrated by Mr. Cummings himself. He ‘funded’ the placards and hired the people to stand there and rowdy up the crowd. He even crept his way into the homeowners circle to advise them that these ‘youngsters’ will not leave nor keep quiet, and that the only way they can get peace back is to drive them out with village security—or the police.
And so the police came. “Get out of here! This is private property.”
The fanatic teenagers stood their ground and didn’t give up the fight. Just as rampage was about to erupt, a voice booming from the megaphone dominated the scene.
“We should talk about this! Please. We should not resort to violence,” Mr. Cummings called out, as he stood on top of a media van in the middle of the teens and the police.
“Let us iron out the problem, Tell, what do you want?” he asked, addressing the teenagers.
“Let D’ Kickers alone! Let them be!”
“And now what do the neighbors want?” He was effectively projecting a good angle as seen in the live camera monitors.
“We want our peace,” an old lady replied. “We have nothing against those boys and their music, but their followers are becoming unruly.”
“Students I think the neighbors have a good point. They need peace in their neighborhood.”
Students jeered at him: “Boo!”
“But I do understand that we should let D’ Kickers be. Let them be. We should leave them alone to practice in the Cooks basement all they want.” Students cheered on.
“I have a proposal,” Mr. Cummings announced, making sure that the camera was on him. “As you know I am close to these boys. They are friends with my daughter and I consider them part of my family. If you,” he faced the students, “would want to see them play, my house is open for D’ Kickers practice session anytime. My house, my front lawn is open to you, students—and even to you,” pointing to the homeowners. Cheering and applause ensued and just like that, peace was regained. Mr. Cummings was the hero of the day.
Inside the house of the Cooks, the boys, along with Cindy and Kim watched the commotion unfolding on TV. Cindy was embarrassed, knowing so well how her dad had exploited the situation to his advantage. Fox held her hand, and addressed the group.
“Guys, I’ve talked to Mr. Cummings and I agreed to practice at Cindy’s house, mainly to solve the crowd problem.”
The guys didn’t disagree. They know they had no choice but to move their practice session to another place as they have imposed on Peter’s parents for too long now.
When the crowd dispersed, a moving van arrived to pick up all the band’s instruments and have it transferred to the Cummings mansion. The boys were surprised at how fast the things happened.
“Fox, can I talk to you for a second?”
“Good morning, Ms. Keys. I’m sorry ma’am but I’m off to my next class.”
Fox could sense the urgency in her voice, and knew he could not turn her down that easy.
“I’ll ask permission from your teacher,” Ms. Keys replied.
She leads him to her office, and asked him straight away, “Tell me, do you have a manager?”
“What do you mean?” Fox was puzzled.
“I know you know what I mean. Your PR is now being handled by Mr. Cummings, but in the end, it will not be enough. You need a manager.”
She walked over behind her desk and sat down, still poised and business-like.
“What happened yesterday is just the beginning and there will be a lot more of that chaos coming. You should really think now. Where do you want to go? How do you handle this? You know you cannot manage it on your own.”
“Are you offering to manage us?”
“Yes. I can make things happen for you. I wanna help. Just try me.”
Fox looked at her, trying to figure out if she was serious or just plain crazy.
“Okay,” Fox agreed, setting aside his doubts.
Miss Keys opened her desk drawer, pulled out some papers and placed it in front of Fox. It’s a contract, readily drafted for Fox to sign.
He gave it a long, discerning look. The signee: Fox and D’ Kickers. He meant to correct it, but decided not to, shrugging his shoulders and leaving it as it is.
The following day, it was like a feast day at the Cummings residence. Students were already converging in the garden, where the tragedy of Cindy’s Sweet Sixteen party happened only a few months ago. A low-level platform was set up on the same spot where the stage during the party was. When D’ Kickers arrived, they could not believe the huge crowd that was gathered there to watch them practice.
“What is this? A concert?” Paul whispered to Peter.
Even the local news reporters were there to cover the first ever practice session of the band following the riot that ensued just a week before. Meanwhile, Fox had other things in his mind. He huddled the group and talked to them about his conversation with Miss Keys. He told them not to worry, and that he has everything under control.
They were on their way to the practice platform, when Mr. Cummings stepped in front of them and stood in front of the crowd.
“Good afternoon students. Thank you for visiting our humble home. Although we will see D’ Kickers playing today, I hope that you understand that some days will be private for our family and D’ Kickers only. But tonight, they’re all yours. Enjoy the night… and for those of you who can already vote, don’t forget to vote come Election time. Of course you know who to vote for.” He waved at them, all arrogant and pretentious, and headed indoors.
Almost everyone in their school was there. They were joined by students from the other high schools, too. Scott even spotted some college girls on one corner of the garden, standing beside Miss Keys.
Fox tapped on the microphone to check the sound.
“Good afternoon, everyone. Please remember that this is a practice session. So we expect you to be perfectly quiet… and please don’t expect us to play perfectly.” Fox wondered why the crowd applauded what he said.
“Okay guys, let’s start playing, one, two, three…”
It was a party. Everyone danced and cheered on and sang along, bobbing their heads up and down in unison. It was a blast.
Miss Keys approached the stage as they were getting ready for the next song. “Fox, try not to treat this as a practice. Rev it up. You need to engage the crowd more.”
He understood what Miss Keys was talking about. He pumped the volume up and started to reel in the crowd. The audience loved them.
After eight songs, Fox looked at Paul and said, “Kid, it’s your turn. I’ve done eight songs…give me a break.”
He turned to the others and said, “Our next song is Angel’s Cry. This is an original song by D’ Kickers, written by ‘the kid’ himself. I hope you enjoy it.” Peter played the guitar intro and Paul started to sing.
The raving crowd fell silent. They were trying to figure out whether they like the song or not. It was new, but it was catchy. The song was welcomed with a resounding applause by the audience.
Their acceptance was overwhelming for Paul.
“Isn’t the kid fantastic?” Fox screamed on stage, as the crowd cheered on and asked for more.
“Brace yourself. This is something different. One, two, three...” and the band began with the Mad as Hell chorus…
I stab and wound
The crowd raved over Fox’s song, without even having a clue what it was all about. It wasn’t soon enough when chaos broke out again. The boys didn’t really notice the riot until they finished playing the song. Some were trampled on by students jumping and running around like crazy; one gang bumped into another which triggered a scuffle, which turned into a full blown fight.
Mr. Cummings’ security rushed to the scene and broke the row. In the end, several teenagers suffered from injuries and had to be brought to the hospital for treatment. The local evening news featured D’ Kickers once again, but in a bad light, focusing on the violent aftermath of their song.
One good thing that came out of that night’s hoot, was when representatives from big record labels stayed on to talk to the boys. They were intrigued by the band and knew there was something in this group that will reap profits for them. That night, D’ Kickers received several invitations to visit recording studios in California and New York.
The days following that fated night were nothing the boys have ever expected. It was an unbelievable chain of events that led to an ending, far from what they have envisioned.
There was an ensuing debate about their music, with some saying their music was the devil’s, while some say it is the opposite and that their song was actually combating evil. Lyrics of Mad as Hell and Angel’s Cry were subjects of scrutiny from the conservatives and the rock fans. Rock music was under attack again, reminiscent of that time when John Lennon was misquoted as saying the Beatles was more popular than Jesus Christ.
The broadcast media featured the teenage boys, especially Fox and Paul. Many called D’ Kid the wonder boy, having written such compelling words to a now phenomenal song. Paul’s parents were still in shock with their son’s sudden fame, they refused to grant any interview with local news reporters.
Miss Jean O’ Brian and Susie Evans volunteered to speak on national TV on behalf of Paul, giving personal recounts of the poetry assignment that led to the song.
In one interview, an overzealous Miss O’ Brian seemed to have gone extremely emotional as she interpreted the song Mad as Hell on TV.
“Pain… it’s about tremendous pain. A pain you wouldn’t want to experience. This is the kind of pain you want to bury and hope to never find again. It can paralyze you for life.”
When Susie granted one talk show an interview, she delved on her own interpretation of the poem, which raised interest from a different group.
“It is about abuse. Don’t you understand why there is anger in the song?” she was quoted as saying, with tears streaming down her weary face. Groups that advocated against women and child abuse from all over the country began to surface, eventually making the song a battle cry for victims of abuse.
All this raised D’ Kickers’ popularity to a different height.