Rusty and Rooster

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Rusty McCoy is a lost and lonely singer/ songwriter battling mental illness. He finds a friend in another mentally ill man. This is the story of their friendship.

 "I guess I wrote my last song when I took my last drink.  I put this guitar away when I put the bottle away.  I don't know if they were two demons who fed off of each other or if they were two victims living inside a monster...and, of course that monster was me."  The old ex-troubadour and alcoholic put the old guitar case in the back of his top shelf in the closet.  He was not quite sure why he kept it all of these years.  The guitar had not been out of the case in over a decade.

It was moving day...again.  The first time the old guitar had been touched since the last moving day.  A few stereo albums were placed next to the old musical instrument.  The covers were faded but they still looked vaguely like the man putting them on the shelf.  His hair back then was jet black and his name was Rusty McCoy.  The man shoving the records to the back of the shelf had silver hair.  The hair was every bit as long as the early nineteen- seventy album cover, but he had it in a ponytail these days.  Fifty years ago, the long black hair draped over his shoulders and halfway down his back.  They called him a hippie back then.  These days, they just called him an old man.

His driver's license identified him as Steve Lambert.  Rusty McCoy pretty much passed away in the eighties.  He played the California-styled singer/songwriter music in dives until he got tired of beer bottles bouncing off of his head and tired of being called an old folkie.  Rusty McCoy's last hit the charts not long after Jim Croce perished in a plane crash.  Jackson Browne made the transition from folk singer to rocker.  Rusty McCoy did not.  Ol' Rusty went the way of Lobo and Harry Chapin (although Chapin died).One minute, he was flirting with Linda Ronstadt and smoking doobies with Joe Walsh and Glen Frey.  The next minute, he was hitchhiking through Arizona trying to find a paying gig.

No one looked twice at Steve Lambert.  Steve Lambert was a skinny seventy-three-year-old man who walked with a limp.  In his last stop living in Pittsburgh, he was recognized as Rusty McCoy every now and then.  Huntington, West Virginia was now home and being recognized was not likely.  His home was now an apartment on Fourth Avenue.  The one room apartment was just yards from Marshall University.  Rusty looked like a ghost drifting down Fourth Avenue amongst the throngs of young college students.

If his old manager Joe Simmons were still alive today, he would look the old hippie in the eyes and ask, "How did a man who partied with The Eagles and chased Hollywood starlets end up in a West Virginia college town?"

If Joe were still alive and standing there in the small apartment, Steve would brush his hair to the side, change his accent for a moment and break into the wide grin that would transform him into Rusty McCoy and say, "Well, Joe, I didn't let the bottle kill me like you let it kill you.  I finally put childish things away and went looking for the things I lost."

The things that the man spoke of losing were not fame, fortune, women, or even music.  Like many aging celebrities, Rusty lost his daughter and Steve was trying to get her back.  Amy was now fifty-one.  Like most stereotypical ex-stars, Rusty was busy living seventies’ era of free love.  Amy was born in California but moved East until she ended up in Ceredo, West Virginia.

Amy did not hate Rusty or Steve.  She had children and grandchildren of her own.  They talked some but never sat at the same Thanksgiving dinner table.  Steve was going to change that this November.  The former star was not rich, but he got by.  Since he gave up cocaine in the late eighties, he did not spend much money.  Someone somewhere still listened to his music because he still got royalty checks.  He had a little money saved up from working as a roofer until his back gave out about ten years ago.  He then started getting a small social security check each month.  He lived modestly in rundown apartments and drove a sixteen-year-old truck.

Steve looked around the apartment.  Chewy, his black scruffy Shih Tsu made eye contact with him.  Knowing she had his full attention, the dog woofed to let her master know she needed to go outside.  Chewy, named so because she resembled the Star Wars character Chewbacca, had been virtually Steve's only friend since she was given to him as a small pup five years ago.  On somedays, talking to Chewy was the only interaction he would have all day.  "I know, Little girl," Steve babied her, "Daddy got busy and forgot all about you.  He snapped her red lease onto her red collar and walked the happy pooch out the door.

Their new home was a three-story set of apartments encased in brick.  When they stepped out the door, they were on a front porch that also served as the hall.  Chewy walked toward the black railing.  Their apartment was on the second floor and Chewy began yapping at a college girl walking her Great Dane through the parking lot.

Suddenly, the apartment door opened and out stepped a man that looked like he was in his fifties.  The man was quite animated and immediately caught Steve's attention although Chewy kept barking at the other dog.

The man was impossible to not notice, and Steve found himself gawking too close at him.  He wore a black Harley Davidson skullcap, a green Duck Dynasty t-shirt, and a camouflaged cargo pants.  He looked like he could be bald under the skullcap, but what really caught his attention was his beard.  It was not that it was black that seemed strange to Steve, it was the fact that it appeared to be colored in with a black sharpie.

 

"What is that racket?  Make that rat dog shut the hell up before I dropkick it into the parking lot, " the man thundered.  He was slightly less than six feet tall but was very stocky.  At first, he appeared to be powerfully built but has Steve tore his eyes away from the Sharpie beard, he could see that the man was pretty chubby, and his big arms were likely softly built.

Steve countered, "Whoa no need to get excited.  She doesn't bark a lot.  In fact, she only barks when she sees other animals."

The man pointed his index finger at Steve and growled, "You better hope so, Buddy.  If it wakes me up, I will dropkick you into the parking lot."

Steve shook his head and laughed, "Man, there is no need to make threats or get violent."

The Sharpie-bearded man stepped forward and raised his voice even higher, "Man... what kind of talk is man.  You got that long ass hair.  Are you a hippie?" He shook his head and shrug his shoulders.  "What am I going to do? They are letting hippies move in here.  It's bad enough it is full of college kids here, now they are letting hippies move in.  Next, they will be turning this place into a commune.  Hippies everywhere...running around in tie dyed t-shirts listening to The Grateful Dead and eating Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream."

 Steve wondered aloud, "What is wrong with The Grateful Dead?  I happen to like them."

The man looked like he was about to have a stroke.  In fact, he grabbed his chest with one hand was waving the other around.  He yelled, "I knew it! I knew it! You're a hippie! I bet you got tie-dyed shirts!"

Steve played along, "Yes.  I think I do have some somewhere."

Suddenly, the man lowered his voice and said, "You do?  You have more than one? Can you give me one? I like tie dyed shirts.  The last hippies that lived here stole mine."

The sudden change of moods, startled Steve somewhat.  He stared at the man stammered, "Yeah.  I guess so.  When I come across them."

The man got a mad look on his face again and started yelling again, "why are you staring at me? Haven't you ever seen a man with a beard before?  You better be care, Mister; I am a dangerous man.  I'll hurt you.  I am very, very dangerous.  I wrestled in the WWE."

Steve did not know whether to be scared by the man's violent outburst or to laugh at his outlandish behavior.  He asked, "You wrestled for the WWE?"

The man lowered his voice and said, "Yes, I sure did.  They called me Rooster."

"Rooster? Why Rooster?"  Again, Steve fought the urge to laugh.

The man stepped forward and asked softly, "What's wrong with Rooster.  Rooster is a good wrestling name."  He paused for a moment and added, "Isn't it a good wresting name?"

Steve thought for a moment and added, "I guess it is an okay name.  Wrestlers usually have a more intimidating name."

"Well, they also used to call me The Boston Badman."

Steve decided to humor the man and asked, "The Boston Badman...yes, that sounds more like a wrestler.  Are you from Boston?"

The man called Rooster looked at Steve like he was crazy.  "Now, why would I be called The Boston Badman.  If I wasn't from Boston.  Think about it, Buddy."  Rooster turned straight around and walked back in the apartment and slammed the door.  He opened back up and added, "And keep that damn dog quiet."

Steve and Chewy walked through the campus of Marshall University.  Steve felt comfortable in Huntington.  He heard Huntington was a dangerous town, but he felt much safer here than in Pittsburgh.  About a year ago, he was walking in Downtown Pittsburgh when he was jumped and robbed by a couple of young thugs.  They beat him so savagely that he was in the hospital for a week.  He did not feel safe in Pittsburgh after that incident.

Depression had engulfed Steve since the beating.  Loneliness had been his companion until Chewy joined him.  He had not had relationship with a woman in almost a decade.  To say Steve was a loner was a drastic understatement over the last year.  He always had a few people he talked to but after he got mugged, he became almost completely isolated.  He did begin talking to Amy and he finally decided to leave Pittsburgh for good.  He was hoping to build a relationship with his daughter and to meet the grandchildren and great grandchildren that he had never met.

 

Chewy jerked the lease in an effort to chase a squirrel.  Chewy did not like other animals at all.  From insects to horses, Chewy did not make any exceptions, she hated them all.  Steve reached down and petted her and calmed the small dog down until she quit trying to chase the squirrel.  Once Chewy quit yapping, he pulled out his cellphone and called his daughter.

"Hello," the voice sounded flat on the other end of the phone.

"Amy, this is your father," Steve said.  He hoped by always referring to himself ad 'dad' or 'father' that she would start doing that as well.  So far, the ploy has not worked.  "I just wanted to let you know I made it safely and have everything moved.  Chewy and I have been walking around town and I think we are going to like it here."

Amy quietly answered, "I am glad.  I am glad you are out of Pittsburgh.  I know the city is safer than it used to be but after last year, I just wanted you out of their.  Huntington is not bad.  I know it is smaller than what you are used to but it is not as bad as everyone says.  As long as you mind your own business, it is safe."

"Chewy likes all of the squirrels.  She loves to hate them." He paused for a moment and then asked, "What are you doing?"

Amy answered, " I have got Tate and Allie.  Amber is working so they are hanging out with Grandma today."

Steve blurted out hopefully, "That's great.  What if I picked up a pizza and came over and met them?"

"Maybe not tonight.  I have a few errands and they are tired and cranky.  I will have Amber run them over sometime this week.  Joe is working late tonight, too.  Maybe Sunday, I will cook a big dinner and you can meet everyone."

Steve hid the disappointment from his voice, "Okay.  Just let me know.  I can't wait to meet everyone."

There was a pause and Amy said, "Steve, it is all going to be okay.  I know you are anxious about the move and meeting us, but take it slow.  It is all going to work out."

Steve swallowed and then said, "I know, Dear.  I am just excited.  Just call me and let me know." He could understand that she still had hard feelings, but he was very lonely and yearned to be part of a family.  At seventy-three, he realized he did not have a lot of time left and he had a lot of time to make up for and make things up to his family.

 

Chewy attempted to chase a couple of squirrels on the way back home.  As they walked up the stairs to their apartment, they saw Rooster sitting on a wooden bar stool in front of Steve's door.

Something seemed different about Rooster, as he walked closer, Steve could tell that the Sharpie beard had been scrubbed off.  Steve smiled and quipped, "You shaved?"

Rooster jumped up with a smile on his face and extended his hand forward offering Steve a couple of Atomic Fireballs.  Steve accepted them to be polite.

With a smile on his face Rooster apologized, "I'm sorry about all that before, Buddy.  I'm crazy.  I took my meds and now I'm okay.  It won't even bother me if your dog barks.  I won't even cuss the damn thing."  He laughed so hard his stomach shook.

Steve smiled, "That's okay, Man... we are all a little crazy.  Let's start over.  I am Steve Lambert."

"I am Roger Mayes.  My friends call me Rooster.  Let me show you around the neighborhood."

Steve was tired from the walk he just went on, but he knew Chewy would gladly walk some more so the three headed back down Fourth Avenue.  They soon passed a cd store named Now Here This.

Rooster asked, “Can you buy me a shirt?  I'm a little short.  They got some cool shirts in there.  I got a Joan Jett one time and a Billy Idol the next time."

Steve was surprised by the request, but he realized that nothing should surprise him coming from his new acquaintance.  "Yeah, why not?  So, do you like the eighties music?"

Roger cackled, "Who don't like eighties music?  You'd have to be crazy not to like the eighties!"

It had been several years since the singer had been in a cd shop.  They walked in and Roger immediately headed to the t-shirt rack.  Steve walked casually toward the CDs and searched through the Ms.

As he looked out of the corner of his eye, Steve could see the stocky man with salt and pepper hair behind the counter was staring at him.  "Great," Steve thought to himself. " He probably knows Rooster and thinks we are a couple of bums shoplifting."

The man came toward Steve.  Steve turned and was face to face with the man.  The man looked at Steve and said, "I don't have anything by you if that is what you are looking for."  The man then stuck his right index finger in the air and said.  "Hold on just a minute."

The man walked over to the vinyl section and walked back with a stereo record album.  At the same time, Roger walked up with an AC/DC t-shirt.

Steve laughed, "The Very Best of Rusty McCoy?  I have never seen this one before.  This is one of those what they called truck stop bootlegs.  At the end of a musician’s career everyone makes money except the musician."

The man laughed, "The label says Bullseye records, 1984.  I never heard of that record company."

Rooster blurted out, "That's you!  Rusty McCoy.  I've heard of you.  You are a rock star."

"Not a rock star.  A singer songwriter.  Way back in another lifetime." Steve sighed.

The record store owner smiled, "I thought that was you.  My older sister and my mom loved your music.  Me, not so much.  I was into Sabbath, Zeppelin, and Skynyrd.  In fact, I made fun of you and Gordon Lightfoot.  But, hey, you had about ten top forty hits?"

"Seven actually.  Nine in Canada.  I toured with Gordon in Canada", Steve smiled.

"Do you know Joan Jett?  What about Pat Benetar.  You ain't Steve.  You are Rusty.  Why did you change your name to Steve?" Rooster asked.

"Well, I was born Steve Lambert.  My manager and Capital Records decided I should be Rusty McCoy.  In fact, my manager came up with that.  I never liked it."

Rooster taunted, "Rusty, Rusty, Rusty.  You are Rusty to me.  Mr. Sunset Over The Bay.  You didn't think I knew that song, did you?"

 

Steve accepted the fact he was going to be Rusty again and said, "Well, you are Rooster to me.  But that ain't fair, because you like Rooster.  It reminds you of good things.  You were a WWE wrestler."

Rooster looked serious, "No, I wasn't.  I made that up, Buddy.  I was called Rooster because we lived on a farm and some boys said I screwed a rooster.  I didn't but that didn't stop me.  They called me that anyway.  They teased me and taunted me.  I hated what the name stood for, but I accepted it.  I am Rooster.  I still didn't screw a rooster...but I am who I am.  You learn to embrace what you can't rise above. You are Rusty.  You sang some songs people liked.  Accept it...you are Rusty.  You are who you are to some people.  Accept it."

The record store owner clapped his hands and said, "Bravo! Bravo!  Great speech.  You are Rusty to me, too!"

"And you are buying me that album...and the t-shirt, too," Rooster announced.

"I bet you don't even own a record player," Rusty said.

"I don't," Rooster admitted, "But I have a buddy that's a rock star and now I have an album to prove it."

Rusty and The Rooster walked and laughed through Downtown Huntington.  They took Chewy back to the apartment.  Rusty bought them supper at The Calamity.  Rooster checked the jukebox, but to no avail.  There were not any Rusty McCoy songs on the jukebox.  Rusty was having a good time being Rusty again.  He told Rooster stories of fast cars and beautiful women.  Rooster loved the story of how Rusty met Bob Seger right after Seger released "Night Moves" and Seger told Rusty he was inspired by his music.

As the night wore on, he began turning back into Steve.  Steve was not used to spending this much time with anyone but Chewy.  His head started to ache, and he felt shaky.  Rooster was having the time of his life.  He was still carrying the album and showing everyone that his new friend was once a great star.  A lady at The Calamity even had her picture taken with them and sent the picture to her mom.  Her mom was a big fan of Rusty McCoy.

The pair finally made it home.  Steve (Rusty) had a good time.  Rooster had a wonderful evening.  Rooster did not have any behavioral problems, but shades of Steve's own mental illness were flaring up.  He started feeling uncomfortable in public and toward the end of the evening, his own depression was kicking in and he felt miserable.

When he finally made it into his apartment, he sat in his old broken maroon recliner, put his greatest hits on Spotify on his cellphone and turned off all of the lights.  Chewy jumped up on his lap.  He listened to his own music for the first time in several years.

He put his chin up and dug the back of his head into the recliner.  He closed his eyes and scratched Chewy's back.  "There's a Girl" came on first.  It was a haunting song written about Amy's mom, Debbie.  It was his first hit from 1969.  His voice was like a young Michael McDonald.  Powerful and soulful, it took Steve back to when he was Rusty.  Amy was one year old.  He remembers telling her that Daddy went top ten.  The song crested at number 7.  The debut album, Introducing Rusty McCoy went gold.  The next song that came on was the other single from the debut.  It was a romantic tune called "Sweet Destiny" and it charted at twenty-three.

He was Rusty again as the songs played onward.  In flashbacks, he recalled kissing Debbie and playing with Amy.  The memories rolled on, but they got darker with each song.  They started with Amy's first steps.  It rolled on to his first sold out concert at Madison Square Garden in New York.  He recalled his first platinum album.  Then, the memory of the first groupie that he cheated on Debbie.  Then, the first time he slapped Debbie played in his mind.  He immediately sat up and turned the music off and the lights on.  He went into his bedroom and went to sleep.  The memories followed him in his dreams.  He did not sleep well.

When he woke up in the morning, the first thing he thought of was he was happy that he listened to his music and did not have the urge to drink.  He faced some of his past without reaching for a bottle.  It was progress he thought.

Although he did not sleep well, he felt good.  Despite his bad dreams, he listened to his music for the first time in years and he did not have the urge to drink or do drugs.  He always thought the music and alcohol was tied together somehow.  It was as though; he could not have one without the other.  The drugs and alcohol created a mental illness in him or perhaps he used them unknowingly to self-medicate to fight the depression brought on by the music industry and his own demons.

 

He was not sure of the reasons he drank.  He just knew he did not want it anymore.  He wanted his music back in his life.  It was part of him and who he was and still is.  He just had to be sure if he brought the music back that his demons did not come with it.  Steve realized now that he should have had years of therapy to work out his issues, but the stigma of mental illness kept him from seeking help.  Things were changing in society and seeing a psychiatrist was now socially acceptable.  In the eighties when he first realized there was something psychologically wrong with him, the National Enquirer would be trumpeting that the singer/songwriter was having a nervous breakdown.  Now, he was an old man and knew he did not have much longer to live so he did not see the point of long-term treatment.  His chest ached occasionally, and he felt eventually his heart would give out on him due to the way he mistreated his body for years with drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.  True, he had not done any of those in years, but he knew that the damage was already done.  He was just surprised that he made it to seventy-three.  He was happy though to still be here.  Debbie was gone and he could not make up all of the bad things he did to her, but Amy was around.  He was trying to get things right with her.  She seemed to try to keep him at a distance, but he was not going to give up on her.

 

 

Today, he was going to go a step further...or attempt to take a step further.  He was going to try to take his old guitar off of the shelf and attempt to play it.  First, he was going to the store and get some groceries.  He was going to make his new fan Rooster a nice lunch and try to put a private concert on for him.

 

 Steve grabbed a shopping cart and started into Kroger.  He loaded up some basics - a five-pound bag of potatoes, a twelve back of Coke cans, and a couple of loaves of bread.  Of course, he had to buy several packs of Cesar's dog food for Chewy.  She loved Cesar's and would woof it down and beg for more.

 

He was halfway down the cereal aisle when he noticed that a lady with gray hair and wire rim glasses wearing a green Marshall sweat shirt was staring at him from farther down the aisle.  He grabbed a box of Corn Pops and put in his cart.  As he moved to the left to pass by him, she smiled at him and stared deep into his face.

 

The lady asked, "Did you use to be Rusty McCoy?

 

Rusty turned red for a few seconds and then with a puzzled look on his face, he answered, "You know, Ma'am, I had to think a minute, but I guess I did."  His puzzled look turned into a smile.  He was starting to begin to be proud of Rusty again.

 

The lady giggled like a small schoolgirl, "I thought that was you.  Every time I hear Sweet Destiny, I always wondered whatever happened to Rusty?  You were gone a long time."

 

" You are right, Ma'am, Rusty has been gone a while.  He is just now starting to come back.  I quit being him for years but nice ladies like you are bringing him out more every day."

 

"We really need Rusty back.  No one could sing a love song like Rusty.  I would listen to your forty-fives over and over as a little girl.  Can I have my picture taken with you?  My sister will never believe I saw Rusty McCoy in a Kroger in Huntington, West Virginia." The lady reached for her phone out of her big black purse.

 

" I'd be honored.  I guess Rusty has to eat, too " He quipped.  It felt good to be recognized.  For years, he would not go out in public in fear that he would be recognized.  Now, that dark mood was starting to change.  He was truly becoming Rusty again.  "May I ask you your name?"

 

The lady blushed as she fumbled to turn the camera on.  "Donna," she answered.  " Donna Franklin."

 

"Well, Donna, It certainly is a pleasure meeting you." He put his arm around her and smiled as she took their picture.

 

"Are you living in Huntington now or just passing through?" She asked as she felt like a young girl again.

 

" I moved here yesterday to be close to my daughter and her kids and grandkids." Rusty was feeling younger himself.

 

"Are you ever going to sing again?" she brushed the hair away from her eyes and actually batter he eyebrows.

 

Rusty thought for a moment and answered, "It really has been a long time Donna.  I retired decades ago."

 

" Could you sing part of Sweet Destiny for me? Please.  It would be such a honor."

 

Rusty was suddenly nervous and said, "You know, Donna?  As much as I would love to, I truly don't know if I could.  It's been such a long time since I have sung."

 

Donna's eyes dropped and she said, "That is really a shame.  A voice like yours is a gift from God and it needs to be heard.  Now, I don't know what happened to make you quit singing, but I really pray things get better for you." Donna touched him on his arm.

 

Rusty grinned, "Donna, I am started to believe I will sing again.  That is as long as good people like you want to hear me."

 

Donna smiled and remarked, "Rusty, there are lots of little old ladies like me that grew up listening to your golden voice and we all want to hear you again.  It makes me sad to think that Rusty has quit singing."  She paused and then reached over and kissed him on his cheek and has she moved past him, she wiped a tear from her eyes and pleaded, "Please sing again, Rusty.  The world needs more love songs more now than ever."

 

When Rusty quit singing years ago, it really was because he thought everyone had quit listening.  He was addicted to drugs and an alcoholic and was very sick.  Even as his vices lessen their grips, the years of drugs and drinking had done their damage and left Rusty mentally ill.  Years later, he was just now coming to terms with his depressed.  There were many nights over the last fifteen years that he did not think he would make it through the night.  The bottle did its' damage long after it was empty.

 

Steve picked up his pace through the rest grocery store.  He was suddenly getting anxious.  A little voice in his head teased him ”Could he even still sing even if he wanted to?"  His voice was a gift, but he had not used it in over ten years.  What if he tried to sing and could not?  He was seventy-three years old.  No one sang at seventy-three like they did in their forties.  He could feel his pulse race for the first time in years.  He had not had anxiety issues in many years.

 

He was sure he was forgetting some of the items he wanted to purchase as he scrambled toward the checkout register.

 

Steve stopped ten feet in front of the register, he stood straight up and told himself, "I have got to get a grasp.  I know things are happening fast.  Yesterday, U told myself I'd never play my guitar again.  Now, I am acting like I am about to go on tour.  It's just a few songs.  I am playing Rooster a few songs.  Just a few songs for one man."  The man was calm again.  He headed to the cash register and started unloading his cart.

 

The young cashier with purple streaks in her dirty blond hair asked him as she noticed his hands shaking as he put his groceries on her register, "Sir, are you okay? You do not look well.  You are shaking."

 

Steve stopped for a moment and stood up and looked at the cashier.  He stood for a moment and then slowly shook his head and said, "Yes.  I think I am okay.  I think I was having a panic attack."

 

The girl walked around the register to him and asked, "Are you sure you are okay?  I was afraid you might have a seizure.  Can I help you sit down?"

 

Steve shook his head no and said, "I am okay.  I have never had a seizure.  I have had something on my mind, and it had me nervous."

 

Steve paid for the groceries and headed for home.  He got home and got things ready for his comeback concert.  There could only be one guest but it was the biggest concert that he had played in thirty years.

 

Steve walked over and knocked on Rooster's door.  No one answered.  He knocked again and there was not an answer.  He started to go back in his apartment when the door slowly opened.

 

Rooster opened the door and he looked very rough.  He had a dirty white t-shirt with two giant mustard stains and a pair of old gray gym shorts.  He looked like a bear awaken out of hibernation.

 

Rooster just looked at Steve and just said, "Yeah?"  The word literally fell out of his mouth.

 

Steve smiled and said, Whoa!  Sleepy Head, it is almost one.  Are you gonna sleep the day away?"

 

Rooster did not look amused, "It's my medicine.  That's why I don't always take it.  I feel like total dog shit."

 

Steve grimaced and said, "Well, I'm sorry I bothered you.  I rustled up some lunch and I was going to dust off my old guitar and play my first show in many a moon."

 

A sense of urgency suddenly came over the Rooster.  His eyes opened wide and he said, "I wouldn't miss it for the world.  I'll be right over, Buddy."

 

Steve went to his closet and got the guitar case down.  He brought it in and sat it down in front of his broken recliner.  He opened up the case and grasped onto his once constant companion.  Back in the late sixties and early seventies, him and his 1967 Gibson Blue Ridge Dreadnought were inseparable.

 

Steve had kept it locked away in the back of his mind.  It was almost as if Steve thought Rusty committed an unspeakable crime and everything Rusty loved had to be banished.  Now, Rusty was back and just like King Artur freed the Excalibur, Rusty was setting his guitar free.

 

Rusty McCoy held the spruce top guitar in his arms like he did on so many lonely nights in another lifetime.  Everything was alright in the world with Rusty right now.  He tuned his once best friend like he always did and strummed some old tunes.  It felt good like, like Thor being reunited with his hammer.

 

 

There was a knock on his front door.  Steve opened to find Rooster in the AC/DC shirt that Steve had bought him at the record store.  This was a completely different man than was at Rooster's apartment just a half-hour ago.  This man was happy and smiling.  He reached up and gave Rusty/ Steve a big hug.

 

"Thanks so much for doing this for me Rusty.  My last concert was Molly Hatchet in the early eighties."

 

Rusty led him to the broken recliner and said, "Here you go, my friend, the best seat in the house.  Front row seats..."

 

 

Rooster looked up at Rusty with wide eyes and asked, "Rusty, I hate to ask this, but do you have something I could drink?  The medicine dries me out."

 

"Of course, of course.  What is a concert without something to drink?  I got some fried chicken from Kroger’s' deli, too.

 

Rusty popped open two cans of Coke and poured it into a big cup.  Rusty's eyes bulged outward as he watched Rusty crush the pop in two drinks, one right after the other."

 

Rooster saw that Rusty was staring and he smiled, "I told you I was thirsty.  This medicine dries me out so I drink a lot and then the doctor says I drink so much that my sodium is low.  They say that low sodium is going to cause me to have seizures."

 

Rusty pulled up a hobbled kitchen table chair and sat down in it with a guitar and yelled, "Chewy the Wonder Dog Records proudly presents for the first time in decades...Rusty McCoy."

 

Rooster clapped enthusiastically and was laughing.  Rusty lowered his voice and said, "I want to thank everyone for coming out." He strummed his guitar and said, "I haven't played this old spruce in years, but they say playing a guitar is like riding a bike...you never forget how to do it.  I want to start this concert off with a little tune a couple of my buddies wrote.  Don Henley and Glen Frey wrote this.  They played it for me not long after.  Glen is not with us anymore.  I think about him a lot and wanted to send this out to him.  It is called Tequila Sunrise.

 

Rusty was right on.  He had trouble singing a few notes, but he nailed the Eagles classic.  Rooster was enjoying it.  He loved Rusty's raspy vocals.  Rooster knew he was watching and hearing something special.  He wiped tears from his eyes.

 

Rusty was feeling good.  It was not perfect, but it was better than he thought it would be.  It felt good to him and Rooster loved it.  Even Chewy was watching.  He spoke before the next one.  "I am going to try something a little different tonight.  I am going to step out of my comfort zone for a few minutes." Rusty paused for a few seconds. He continued, "I hear there is a Def Leppard fan here tonight."

 

Rooster raised his hand and waved it wildly.  He yelled, "Me, me...I love Def Leppard."

 

""Well, I'd like to send this one out to my good friend called Rooster.  I am sure glad I got to meet him.  This is a little song called Pour Some Sugar on Me."

 

Rooster went wild.  It sure did not sound like Def Leppard but Rooster did not care.  Rusty slowed it down and sang it with his haunting, raspy vocals turning it into a seventies love song that Jim Croce would have been proud to sing.

 

Rusty went straight into a couple of his songs - Sunset Over the Bay and There's a Girl.  He sped things up with Jim Croce's Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.  Both Rooster and Rusty were having a blast.  He knew was Rooster was probably hungry so he stopped so they could eat.

 

Rusty made them a plate of chicken, potato salad, and Cole slaw, that he got from the Kroger deli and a couple of rolls and a couple of cokes.

 

Rooster started eating and talking.  "I'd love to hear your stories from the road.  I lied the other day.  I was never in Boston.  I was never called The Boston Badman.  I've never been out of West Virginia.  I've been in and out of mental hospitals my whole life."

 

Rusty smiled, "I bet you still have some interesting stories.  I'd like to hear some of them sometime."

 

Rooster started laughing and said, "Oh yeah, I have been out of West Virginia.  I've been across the river to Proctorville, Ohio and to Ashland, Kentucky." Rusty loved to laugh at his own jokes.

 

Rusty thought for a moment and said, "You know Rooster, maybe we will take a road trip and I will do a concert somewhere?"

 

Rooster lit up like a child at Christmas.  He pleaded, " Can we, Rusty? Really? Will you take me on the road with you? Maybe we can go to the Beach? How about Nashville?  I'd love to go to Nashville?"

 

 Rusty smiled, "If I ever play another show, you can be my roadie."

 

Rooster became excited, "A roadie?  Me?  Really? Can I really be a roadie?  Do I get a shirt?"

 

"Sure.  Of course, you will get a shirt

  You will be part of my road team."  Rusty confirmed.

 

"Me, a roadie!  This is the best thing that ever happened to me.  I love you, Rusty.  What will I do?"

 

"Well, any shows I do will be all acoustic, Rooster.  Which means there won't be any heavy speakers to carry.  All you will have to do is carry my guitar around and keep me company."

 

Rooster was very excited, he asked eagerly, "Are you really going on tour, Rusty?"

 

Rusty thought and then answered, " You know, music was my first love.  I thought it was gone from my life forever.  But, Rusty, you are one of the people that have shown me that it doesn't have to be that way.  I know I am an old man.  I don't sound or look like I use.  Young kids don't want to hear me.  It is the older people.  They are older, too.  They don't care that I can't sing like I used to.  The old songs take them back.  The old songs mean something to them because it reminds them of good moments long ago.  They hear the songs and it takes them back to times, places, and people that are no longer there."

 

 

Rooster agreed, "That is the way I feel when I hear you sing.  You take me back.  I feel young again!"

 

Rusty said, "When I was recording, I never dreamed that my songs would have an impact on people fifty years later.  For a while, the songs were dead.  In the eighties and nineties, they were just old songs that no one wanted to hear.  But now, they have become like old friends to people."

 

Rooster was still dreaming of being a roadie.  He asked, " Are you going to tour again, Rusty.  Am I going to get to be your roadie?"

 

 

 

Rusty thought and said, "I don't know about a tour because I sound old and weak, but I am going to call around and set up a few local shows.  Nothing big.  Maybe just a few people and I'll play for free.  I just want to see how it feels to play in front of people again.  I want to see how people respond to me these days."

 

"Really?  I'd love that, Rusty.  That would be so much fun.  You will be great, Rusty!"

 

The guys, ate, chatted, and played music for a few more hours and then took Chewie for a walk.  Rusty really felt like he was ready to play a few shows.  Later that night, he sat in his old recliner with Chewie on his lap, and called Amy.

 

Amy answered saying, "Steve, it is almost eleven."

 

Steve responded, "I know.  I am sorry but I have had a great day today and just started thinking about you."

 

Amy yawned, "Well, I am glad that you have had a good day.  Maybe Huntington is going to be the cure for your depression?"

 

Steve blurted, "In a way, I think it is.  I have thought a lot about everything tonight.  I think I have been so depressed for years because of two things missing from my life.  One of them is family.  You and your family is the only family I have.  Being close to you has helped."

 

Amy answered softly, "I thought it might.  It does make me feel better to know you are close and safe.  I am glad things are looking up for you."

 

"Amy, it makes a world of difference to be able to talk to you.  Having you back in my life means so much to me.  I have also started playing music again.  And not just playing, but really listening to other music and feeling it."

 

"Steve, I am not a doctor, but I think that you letting up on yourself is a breakthrough.  Things in your life have made you feel guilty.  I always said you were too hard on yourself.  I am sorry I have been slow at letting you back into my life.  I realize I have made it harder on you."

 

"I deserved it, Amy.  It has been hard.  I love you and I know how I was for many years was wrong."

 

Amy said, "I know music caused a lot of problems or that you think it was the music that caused your addiction, but I think you punished yourself for your guilt over abandoning your family by depriving yourself of the other thing you love - and that's music."

 

Steve felt glad to hear what he thought she meant, he asked his daughter, "So you think it is okay that I am playing again?"

 

"Steve, creating and writing music is what you do and who you are.  Your music makes other people happy.  You have had some deep issues and it twisted the music in you.  You punished yourself by hating music.  By hating the music, you hated yourself.  I understand you had to give up things to get away from the drugs and alcohol.  But, Steve, you have been for years.  You have to quit hating yourself. You are music.  Quit hating your music!"

 

"Well, I met a new friend.  I have been playing my music for him.  I played my old guitar today for the first time in years."

 

"You need to talk to people.  You need to play music.  You need your life back.  Steve, music did not cause your addiction and alcoholism.  Your guilt caused you to hate yourself.  That hatred caused the depression and mental illness that fueled your addiction and alcoholism."

 

Steve's eyes opened wide and he remarked, "wow, I am impressed, you are a very smart girl...but I always knew you were. But you sound like a doctor right now."

 

Well, Steve...I have been reading up on a few things.  See, I do care about you."

 

Steve was belated, "I always knew that you cared about me, but it just feels so good to hear you say it.  Playing my music and hearing you say you care about me has relieved so much stress.  I feel like I have been released from prison."

 

"You have, Steve.  You have finally released yourself from your own self-imposed prison."

 

 

Steve sighed as if relieved, "I honestly feel that way.  I honestly feel like steel bars just opened and I walked out a free man after decades."

 

With half a chuckle, Amy said, "Well, it is late, Steve.  You go enjoy your freedom.  I am going to go to bed."

 

Steve fired back, "Don't forget to call me for supper and to meet everyone.  I am a free man now!  I am free.  Anytime, you want me to come down, I'm free.  Free as a bird."

 

"Good night, Steve", Amy said pleasantly.

 

"Good night, Amy.  I love you.  Thanks, you have really helped."

 

Steve hung up and went to bed.  He slept very well.  It was one of his best night sleeps.  He did not have any great dreams.  It was just a peaceful night sleep.

 

Steve slept so well that he even slept in late by his standards.  He woke to pounding on his door.  He looked at his phone, it was 9:36 am.

 

As he approached the door, he heard Rooster yelling, "Open up Rusty.  I need you Rusty.  They are sending me to the hospital!  I need you Rusty!"

 

Rusty opened the door to see a very frantic Rooster with tears rolling down his face.

 

Rusty wiped the sleep from his eyes and said, "Geez,,why the racket?  What is going on Rusty?"

 

"They are getting a mental hygiene on me, Rusty.  They say I am crazy.  They are coming to take me away, Rusty.  Tell them they can't take me because I am your roadie.  Tell them that, Rusty!"

 

"Who are you talking about?" Rusty looked out and did not see anyone.

 

"My social worker.  He is in my apartment."

 

Rusty walked toward Rooster's apartment.  He patted Rusty on the shoulder and said, "Calm down.  I will handle this."

 

Rusty walked in and saw a balding, pudgy man in his late forties and wearing a yellow polo shirt and khakis talking on his cellphone.

 

Rusty walked up and said, " Hello.  I am Rooster's friend...Steve.  Steve Lambert."

 

"Hello." The man said without cracking a smile, "I'm Melvin North.  What can I do for you?"

 

Steve said with a smile as he pointed toward his apartment, "Rooster came over and woke me up.  He is all tore up.  He is under the impression he is going to the hospital."

 

Melvin looked at Steve and said, "Sorry, Mr. Lambert.  I cannot talk with you about it.  It would be a HIPPIA violation."

 

Steve yelled for Rooster, "Come here.  Tell him he has your permission to discuss this with me."  Rooster was running in circles.  " Rooster, calm down.  You look crazy.  You aren't helping."

 

Melvin looked aggravated, "This man is off of his medication.  He to be hospitalized until his medicine is adjusted."

 

Rooster cried, "He wants to lock me up in the nuthouse.  Tell him I'm not crazy.  Tell him!"

 

"I am not too sure myself the way you are running around," Steve said.  He looked at Melvin and said, "Listen, I just met him but he has been taking them.  I assure you I will make sure he takes them."

 

Melvin nodded, "I have been receiving reports of bizarre behavior like magic marker beards.  This type of behavior occurs when he does not take his medicine."

 

Steve pleaded, "Listen, I will watch him.  What if I hire a nurse to make sure he takes his meds?  I am even going to give him a job."

 

Melvin made a sour face as he examined Steve in a fade green 7UP t-shirt and gray shorts.  He asked, "Not to be rude, Mr. Lambert, but where would you get the money?  Nurses aren't cheap."

 

Steve was kind of insulted and it showed as he said, "I've got money."

 

"Sure you do, Mr. Lambert.  I am sure you do.  And just what kind of job are you hiring him for?"

 

Rooster ran by and said, "A roadie! He is going on the road and I am going to be his roadie."

 

Melvin and Steve both looked at each other and chuckled at the same time.

 

Rusty grimaced and said meekly, " He is right though.  He is going to be my roadie."

 

Melvin stared at Steve and said mockingly, "You are going on the road and he is your roadie?  And how old are you, Mr. Lambert."

 

"I'm 73," Steve said with a smile.

 

"Well, I'm sorry, Mr. Lambert.  I am a pretty big music fan.  I have never heard of Steve Lambert."

 

Steve paused and then said, "Well, we aren't really getting anywhere with this, are we?  If I can prove to you that I have money and that my job offer is legit then can I buy him a nurse and we forget this mental hygiene nonsense?  I like him.  I promise I will get him whatever he needs."

 

"Steve, I am sure you are quite the rock star, but you live next to him, I just don't see you having money.  I am sorry but I am starting to wonder if you aren't just as crazy as he is."

 

Steve frowned, "That can be construed as an offensive statement."  Steve paused and then as an afterthought asked, " You are a big music fan, huh?  Have you ever heard of Rusty McCoy?"

 

Melvin stare closely at Rusty and Melvin's eyes got wide.  He gasped, "My God, you are Rusty McCoy, aren't you?"

 

"Rooster has helped me get my mojo back.  I need him.  I will watch out for him."

 

"My big sis had all of your old forty-fives.  She loved The Bottle.  She played it over and over.  I am still sick of that song," laughed Melvin.

 

"Well, let me tell you how serious I am about helping him.  Let's go down to your office right now and work a few things out.  I am going to write a check to cover whatever he needs for a while.  If help around here will help him stay out, I got it.  I'll write a check for all of the home health care he needs to ensure he takes his meds.  He is a good man.  He is my friend.  I need him."

 

"Okay Mr.  McCoy...errr Mr. Lambert.  We can go talk to my bosses and see what we can work out."

 

Rooster was excited, "Are you going to save me, Rusty? Am I still going to be your roadie? I love you, Rusty!"

 

Rusty got in his truck and followed Melvin to his office.  They talked for a while.  It was agreed that with nursing help Rusty would provide that Rooster could stay out of the hospital and live on his own.  If there were any more reports of bizarre behavior then Rooster would be signed into the hospital.

 

Rusty was busy the rest of the day.  He made some calls to his lawyer and talked to an owner of a local record company that Melvin knew.

 

It was a good day.  Rooster was waiting by Rusty's apartment on a chair when Rusty got home.  Rooster jumped up when he saw Rusty.  Rooster asked loudly, "Am I a free man, Rusty? Are they gonna leave me be?"

 

Rusty smiled and said, "Rooster, you are a free man.  As long as your nice to the nurse I got you stay on your meds, you are free.  No silly behaviors and that means no Sharpie Beards...and definitely no yelling and screaming."

 

Rooster opened up his arms and hugged Rusty.  He laughed while saying, "No more Sharpie Beards.  Thank you, Rusty."  He started to cry and said, "I love you, Rusty."

 

"I got some other news, too.  I talked to a local label.  I am going to record a live acoustic cd.  The guy is going to set things up a club owned by someone he knows.  I am going to have to play a few warmup shows and maybe write a new song or two.  It is not going to sound as good as I used to but hopefully, he can touch a few things up.  It is kind of a farewell to my fans."

 

Rooster had a surprised look on his face and asked.  "Farewell?  Where are you going? I just met you, you can't leave me already."

 

Rusty smiled a little and said, "I am not leaving you, Rooster.  I was away from the music industry for a long time and never got to say goodbye.  I am seventy-three.  I'm not in great shape.  I have not taken very good care of myself in my life.  One of my biggest regrets in my career was I did not have any closure with my fans.  Most of them think I died a long time ago.  This is my chance to say goodbye.  I want to thank them for the good times long ago and for not ever forgetting me."

 

"As long as you don't leave me, it's all good.  I'd be in the hospital locked up right now if it wasn't for you."

 

"This cd is for the fans.  I think I 'm going to call it Coming Back to Say Goodbye."

 

"That has a nice ring to it.  Will you put your version of that Def Leppard song it?"

 

"I don't know, Rooster.  I did that song for you.  Just for you.  I really wasn't planning on sharing it with anyone else."

 

"When are you going to record it?"  Rooster asked.

 

In a few weeks.  I am going to try to find somewhere around to play some free warmup shows.  Nothing fancy.  I will probably walk in and just play.  I won't even announce it."

 

"You will tell me, won'cha Rusty?  I wanna go.  I want to see you every time you play."

 

"Of course, I'll tell you.  You are my roadie.  You have to carry my guitar."

 

"When you gonna practice some more?  Can you get your guitar out and play some more?"

 

Rusty shook his head up and down and said, "You know, i probably haven't written a song in twenty-five years.  Do you want to write a song with me?  I could use a few new ones?"

 

Rooster was giggling like an excited toddler and asked, "Can we really write a song?  Will you show me how?"

 

Rusty's mouth flew open wide like he was in shock.  He asked, "What? You mean to tell me a creative guy like you that loves music like you do, has never written a song?  I figured you had notebooks and notebooks of old songs lying around."

 

Rooster started to laugh but then looked sad, "No one would listen to anything I'd write."

 

Rusty walked into the room and grabbed his guitar.  The guitar was not kept on the shelf in the closet anymore but propped up proudly against the wall by his bed.

 

He started strumming the guitar.  He dropped and looked straight into Rooster's eyes and said, "Rooster, you have the soul of a songwriter.  A songwriter observes the world and just states the obvious to music.  You've been around.  You've seen things.  You've got a tune in your heart.  But I just bet that your whole life people have told you that you couldn't do things, so you have been afraid to try.  You can do it, Rooster.  You are going to write a song."

 

Rooster thought for a minute and said, "As long as you help me, I feel like I can do anything.  What are we going to write about?"

 

Rusty responded, "Well, you have to learn what works for you.  The best songs are taken from your life but are something that everyone can relate.  For me, it was love songs.  Everybody has been in love.  I'm sure you've been in love."

 

Rooster laughed and answered, "Oh yeah, I have been in love many times but they didn't love me back.  I love women."

 

"See, we are on the same page.  I have been in love many times but lost far more times than I won.  Most people have.  I write bittersweet songs about love.  They aren't always happy."

 

"Let's write a love song, Rusty.  What are gonna call it?"

 

"Well, Rooster...give me a name of a girl you loved."

 

Rooster thought for a minute or two and responded, "Becky.  I loved Becky.  She never really loved me back.  She was a great friend.  It was years ago but I really miss her."

 

"Tell me about her.  How did you feel.  I am your audience.  Talk to me.  Stating how you feel is the big part of writing."

 

Rooster looked a little sad as he recalled, "She was really a beautiful girl.  I was just a friend and I wanted more.  We were really close, and we drifted apart.  I called her one day and her line was disconnected.  She moved away; I never saw her again.  I think I tried to be her hero.  I was young and dumb.  But really I was scared and wanted her to save me."

 

Rusty thought for a moment then strummed a bittersweet melody.  He sang softly, "I tried to call you the other day/ but I guessed you moved away/ this number has been disconnected is all the operator had to say".

 

Rooster's eyes popped open wide and he clapped.  He said, "Hey, I said that.  Well...kind of!"

 

Rusty cocked his head, "These are your words, my friend.  I am just getting them in line."

 

Rusty continued to play, "You said I was trying to save you / but really I needed you to save me/ I am sending this song to the wind/ I'm hoping it finds my best friend.

I miss you Becky"

 

Rooster wiped a tear from his eyes and cried, "That's just how I feel."

 

Rusty smacks his lips and said, " It is your feelings and your words.  I am just helping you set them to music.  It's your song."

 

Rooster reached over and hugged him.  "It's our song.  Thank you, Rusty."

 

"How do you feel about it all now? I know it has been years but how do you feel about Becky now?"

 

Rooster said, "I thought we were soulmates, but I guess we weren't.  I just hope she found her destiny.  I hope she is happy wherever she is."

 

 

He started to play again.  He was into the chorus. "Seems like we were friends forever/ just like that we drifted apart/ even though i feel incomplete/ I know you are happy wherever you are/ I was hoping we were soulmates/ but I guess you found your true destiny/ i'm just singing this song into the wind/ I hope it finds my best friend/ I miss you Becky."

 

Rooster was clapping, "Wow, Rusty.  That's exactly what I wanted to say."

 

Rusty winked at him and said, "Here comes the good part.  This is called the hook."


 

Rusty changed the melody and moved into the chorus

  He sang, "Maybe somewhere out there/ wherever you maybe/ you'll hear these words in the Autumn breeze/ if I did anything wrong I'm sorry/ I'm just sending this song into the wind/ I hope it finds my best friend/ I miss you Becky".


 

Rooster did not know if he should laugh or cry” Oh My God, Rusty, that is a hit.  I love it!"


 

Rusty repeated the chorus.  He put the whole song together and played it.  By the end of the song, Rooster was crying.  He hugged Rusty.  He said in between tears, "Thank you, Rusty.  I love you."


 

Rusty looked at him and said, "I love you too, Rooster.  I just want you to understand that that the song is the beauty inside of you.  If you would not have told me about Becky, then that song never would have been born.  That is your baby, Rooster.  You gave that beautiful song life."


 

" It was you, Rusty.  You were the singer."


 

"Rooster do not ever doubt your worth.  You are funny, creative and most important - you are caring.  You can do whatever you want.  You just don't know your own worth.  You sell yourself short."


 

Rusty fixed hamburgers for both of them.  He loved spending time with Rooster but after a couple of hours, he missed being my himself.  He may have a best friend now, but he was still a loner at heart.

 

He took Chewy for a walk and then sat back in his broken recliner and read about how social media can help spread an artist's music.  He fell asleep and work up a couple of hours later. 

 

It was a little after eight in the evening.  He called his daughter Amy.  He said, "Hello Amy.  I just wanted to tell ya that I had a great day.  I wrote a song today with my friend Rooster."

 

"That's great, Steve.  I am very happy to see you back into music," Amy said.

 

" I talked to a record company man and we are going to record a live cd.  I think I may go to the studio this week and rerecord some of my old songs.  I am going to play a couple of warmup shows and then do the live cd."

 

"See, the move is working out for you.  You even have a best friend.  Amber and the kids will be over tomorrow.  You are welcome to come down around seven in the even if you can."

 

"I'd love to.  Can I bring my guitar and play a few songs for the kids?" He asked as he was excited to meet his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

 

"Yes, that sounds fun.  You can bring Chewy, too. Just call me before you come, and I will give you directions."

 

Steve was excited.  He had not even been in Huntington a week and he had his first friend in years, was back in the music business, and was now finally getting to be part of his family again.  He went to bed and enjoyed another good night sleep.

 

 Steve settled onto a stool at G Rock Records in Ashland, Kentucky about a half hour out of Huntington.  He looked around the studio and with an amazed look on his face he told G Rock owner Bill Grayson, "I haven't been in a studio in about thirty years.  The changes are incredible.  This is amazing."

 

Grayson twirled his long silver hair.  He was not quite as old as Steve, but at fifty-eight, he had been recording for decades.  His hair was almost as long as Steve's.  He wore John Lennon-styled glasses.  He grinned as he said, "The sound is amazing as well.  There's new upgrades all the time."  He walked to the control board as adjusted a few things.  "That guitar you have is a real beauty."

 

Rusty was proud, he strummed the guitar a few times and said, "I've had a few of them over the years, but this one is my favorite.  It was one of my first.  It has been all over the country and Canada with me." 

 

"You've had a great career.  I am really proud to add you to my label.  I am really looking forward to this live album.  Now, exactly what is it that you want to do today?"

 

Rusty thought a second, " Well, I want buy some studio time and record a few things for myself.  I probably won't ever release these but just wanted a few things for myself."

 

Bill played with a few more buttons and said, "Cool.  Is it new material.  If so we could add a few to the live record."

 

"Well, there's only one new one.  My friend Rooster wrote it and I thought he'd get a real kick out of hearing it recorded.  I am so out of touch with today's new music, I am not sure that anyone would be interested in hearing anything new from me."

 

Bill responded, "Hey, as long as it is you, your fans will love it.  You haven't had anything to say in thirty years.  They'd love to hear what you have to say."

 

Rusty laughed and quipped, "Hell, I'm not sure what I have to say.  I really haven't thought about it in decades.  I really haven't even thought about it now.  I'd like to record his song as a gift to him and then I would like to rerecord a few of my old ones.  Just me singing and on acoustic.  No other instruments.  They are kind of just for me."

 

Bill shook his head and said, "I get it.  We will lay the tracks and I will mix them up and get them to you in a few days."

 

Rusty started playing the song him and Rooster wrote.  " It is called Becky.  I met this guy Rooster.  He is my first real friend in years.  He has such a big heart.  Everyone has given him a hard time his whole life.  I want to show him he has so much more to offer than he gives himself credit for."

 

Rusty played the whole song without it being recorded.  Bill was quite impressed.  "Damn, Rusty.  That could be a hit on adult-oriented radio.  You still have it, Rusty.  You sound great!"

 

They tinkered around with the song and made a few slight changes.  They then recorded the song.  Bill shook his head when they were done and said, "Rusty, that is an amazing song.  Listen, I want to do this live CD in a couple of weeks and mix it and get it out there to let people know Rusty McCoy is back.  I want you and your friend to write more songs.  We will get the live CD out and then we will get the new material out."

 

Rusty was excited and he asked, "So you really like Rooster's song?"  He could not wait to tell his friend the great news."

 

The record company owner was as excited as the singer and blurted out, "I promise you; it is good.  When we do the album, I'd like to make it a full version with drums, bass, and keyboards.  The people our age will love it.  They can relate to it.  Everybody has someone who isn't ever coming back and this will remind them of that person.  It is a real winner, Rusty.  You guys did a great job.  I know you have more to do with it than you let on.  It has your signature all over it."

 

Rusty lowered his head a little and said, "Well, I did the music and maybe organized it some, but the thoughts, words, and emotions were all Rooster's.  Without Rooster, there would not have been a song."

 

"Then, you two are a great team.  Because that is a hell of a song.  That will be the first single.  I am really excited about this."

 

Rusty was smiling from ear to ear and remarked, "Well, I am really happy to hear you say that.  Rooster is going to be so excited.  I wish I would have brought him, but I wanted to surprise him with it recorded."

 

"Well, let's record a few more.  Since it is just guitar and vocal, I can mix it up real fast and you can play a rough version of Becky.  But, when we get other instruments in there, it will be a real killer."

 

Rusty performed his old hits The Bottle, Sweet Destiny, Sunset Over the Bay, and There's A Girl.  He felt alive.  He was excited.  He was Rusty McCoy again.  He chatted more while Bill mixed Becky.

 

"Just last week, I was depressed.  I didn't have a friend.  No hope.  Now, I have you and Rooster.  I am seeing my daughter and my great grandkids tonight.  My music is alive again.  One little move from Pittsburgh to Huntington.  One little week."

 

Bill smiled, "Funny how things work out, huh? I am very grateful for the honor to work with you.  I can't wait to meet Rooster."

 

Rusty and Bill walked outside as they were done recording.  Rusty had a CD of Becky in his hands.  He smiled and looked out at the woods across the street.  "I can't wait until Rooster hears this.  He will be so happy."

 

Bill looked out at the woods, as well.  He said, "I am glad I could help.  I will mix the rest of these songs and have a CD ready.  I will work out the details of the live show.  You and Rooster write some more hits."

 

Rusty smiled and said, "I am going to play a few songs somewhere tomorrow and again in a few days.  I want to get the nerves and rust worked out.  It's been a long time."

 

Bill said assuring, "You are a pro.  It will all come right back to you just like playing the guitar and writing did."

 

Rusty climbed into his truck and was on his way home.  He was excited.  First, he would play Rooster's song for him.  Next, he would head to his daughter's house.  Tomorrow, he would play live for the first time in decades.  Rusty McCoy was alive again.  The depression that enslaved him for years was finally gone.  Rusty was a free man.

 

It is hard to say who was the happiest to see Rusty when he got home.  Chewy was jumping up and down and yapping.  Rooster was waiting outside and asked where Rusty had been and three times told him he looked everywhere for him.  The singer decided to feed and walk them both.  He gave Chewy a couple packs of Cesar's and ordered the two humans a couple of sandwiches from Calamity and they all walked to pick them up at the restaurant.

 

While they were walking back with the sandwiches, Rusty said, Rooster, I have got some news for you."  He put his arm around Rooster.  "You aren't my roadie anymore."

 

Rooster lowered his head and said in a voice that was full of disappointment.  "Did I do something wrong?  Did you just find someone better?"

 

Rusty hugged him, "i just don't think a hit songwriter like you should have to lug a guitar around.  The head of G Rock Records thinks Becky is a hit."

 

His friend could not believe his ears.  He exclaimed, "What?  Did you play him our song?  Did he like it, Rusty?  Did he like it?"

 

Rusty handed the CD to Rooster, "He sure did.  In fact, he insists you and I team up for a whole album.  That's a lot of songs we have to write.  You don't worry about being a roadie, we are going to write some hits."

 

Rooster was beaming with pride.  He started laughing and then started crying.  "I can't believe it.  I finally did something good."

 

Rusty patted him on the back, "You are a good songwriter, Rooster.  You've been around.  You know things that a lot of people don't know.  Wait until you hear it.  It is really good."

 

They walked into the apartment and Rusty immediately stuck the CD in and played the tune.  Rooster was frozen with his mouth open during the whole song.  He did not even move during the song.  Rusty was not even sure that his friend was breathing.

 

"Earth to Rooster.  Are you there," Rusty laughed as he observed his cationic friend.

 

"Play it again", Rooster pleaded.  He was crying.  " It is so beautiful.  How did I ever help write something so beautiful?"

 

Rusty looked at him and said softly, "You wrote something beautiful because you are filled with beauty inside of you.  No one ever has given you a chance.  You never even gave yourself much of a chance."

 

The pair listened to the song six more times.  They sat there quiet and motionless listening to their song.  Rusty said, "The single version on the new album will be even better.  There will be a drummer, guitar players, and more.  It will be even more beautiful.  It will be on the radio.  Everyone will hear and love your song."

 

Rusty was feeling great.  He got the directions to his daughter Amy's house and was on the way down to meet the family he never met.  He knew his daughter, of course, but it had been a long time since he had seen her.  He was glad that he did not come down earlier in the week when he wanted to see her.  So much had happened this week and it raised his confidence.  He was not just Steve Lambert, but now he was also Rusty McCoy.

 

He was happy that Amy would see him at his best.  He was on top of his game.  He was writing and singing again.  He had a best friend.  He pulled in front of Amy's house.  It was a nice brick one-store house with a chain-link fence going around the yard.  A red Ford Ranger and a small white Ford Focus were out front in the driveway.  Amber's car, an older blue Neon was parked on the street.

 

Chewy jumped out of the truck and Rusty followed.  As he approached the porch, the white door opened up and two small children came running onto the porch.  The smallest was Allie.  Allie was just over four.  It was a warm Indian Summer September night, but she had a yellow windbreaker.  Allie had cute red hair tied in pigtails.  Tate was six and wore a Sprung Valley t-shirt.  "Grampy", they yelled and hugged him.  Tate started to hug him and decided to hug Chewy instead.

 

Rusty was radiant.  He laughed, "Grampy, that has a nice ring to it.  That is Chewy, my faithful sidekick."

 

Amber walked out behind them.  She was a very pretty redhead.  She was twenty-six and never met her grandfather.  She smiled and hugged Rusty, "Hello Grampy.  I am Amber."

 

"Of course, you are.  You are pretty as your pictures." The children were playing Chewy.  Chewy was having a ball, she was running in circles and yapping.  Rusty hugged Amber.  He looked up and standing in the doorway was Amy.

 

Amy was wearing a bright green blouse.  Her black hair was showing shades of gray.  She had a wry smile on her face.  "Well, you are Grampy and Rusty to the rest of the world, but you are plain ol' Steve to me."

 

They hugged.  Rusty wiped a tear from his eyes.  "Amy, I am sorry, but I am just so happy right now.  I've wanted this for so long."

 

Amy looked at him but paused.  She started to say something.  She wanted to say something, but nothing came out of her mouth.  She stuttered for a second and then said, "Supper is getting cold."

 

Amy's boyfriend Joe was finishing up dinner.  He came toward Rusty with his hand out.  They shook hands and Joe asked, "Do I call you Steve or Rusty?"

 

Rusty laughed, "Suddenly, I have so many names that I don't know who I am."

 

Joe was fifty-five with salt and pepper hair.  He was stocky built and about five foot ten.  "I play a little guitar," he said.  "I am a fan of your music, so I'll call you Rusty."

 

Rusty laughed and mocked writing on an invisible paper, "Okay, that's three Grampy's, a Steve and a Rusty.  Anyone else?"

 

They sat down and ate a homecooked dinner of beer toast mashed potatoes, carrots, broccoli casserole, rolls, and apple pie.  The conversation was strained at times, but the room was filled with genuine warmth.  They all wanted to be a big family but just did not know exactly what to say.  Chewy, Tate, and Allie did not have a problem communicating, they played the whole time.

 

After supper Rusty went to his truck and brought his guitar in and started to play.  Joe grabbed his guitar and joined in at his side.  Amber grabbed a shoe box and began playing drums with her hands.

 

Rusty faked a southern accent and started bantering, "I used to know this old man who lived way back in the hills.  He lived on a farm.  His name was MacDonald.  They called him Old Man Mac Donald. “ Joe was strumming along beside him and the kids and Chewy were jumping around.  Rusty continued, "Now Old Man Mac Donald had a farm.  EIEIO...on the farm he had a Shih Tsu...EIEIO...with a yap yap here...."  Everyone joined in.

 

"That's Old Mac Donald," Amber yelled.

 

Rusty hollered back, "In my story, it's Old Man MacDonald 

 

For the first time in his life, Rusty felt like part of a family.  They sang, told corny jokes, and listened to Rusty tell stories about Amy when she was a kid.  About ten o'clock, Rusty packed up his guitar and Chewy to leave.

 

Amber was staying the night and her and the kids hugged Grampy and said goodbye.  The kids were worn out and the three went back to go bed.  Joe was finishing cleaning up in the kitchen.  Amy followed Rusty out onto the porch.

 

Amy was the quietest of the family this evening.  Joe and Rusty got along great.  Amy looked at Rusty and asked, " How do you like my little family?  They all seemed to like you."

 

Rusty shrugged his shoulders and answered, "You know, Amy, I wish we could have had this when you were growing up.  It' s all my fault--."

 

Amy interrupted him, "That's not what I meant.  I don't care about all of that. I know you feel guilty.  Just take it slow.  I know you love them.  It was a good night.  We will do it again soon."

 

Rusty walked up and hugged her, "I love you.  I love your family.  I hope it is okay for me to call it our family."

 

She shook her head yes and said, "Good night, Steve.  Drive safe."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Rusty had another night of good sleep.  In fact, song ideas were running through his dreams.  When he woke up around seven-thirty, he was in a songwriting mood.  He made himself some coffee, play with Chewy, and then grabbed his guitar.

 

He was hearing a dark melody and started strumming it on his guitar.  The hook Midnight in Paradise escaped from one of his dreams and lodged in his brain.  It was going to be an autobiographical song about his decades-long battle with depression.  He was going to attempt to explain to his fans why he disappeared for so long.

 

He started to sing, "Heroes aren't supposed to die/ No one expects angels to fall/ There is darkness settling in Eden/ it's midnight in Paradise."

 

He strummed for a moment and then dove into the chorus.  He sang, "Everything I ever wished for came true for me/ Somehow paradise ain't what I wanted it to be/ It's midnight in paradise/ midnight in paradise."  There was knocks on the door and he set his guitar down and walked to the door.  It was only around eight AM.

 

When he opened the door, Rooster popped inside.  "Tonight's the big night.  Are you ready Rusty?  I make my big debut as a roadie!"

 

Rusty smiled, "Remember you got a promotion.  You are now lead songwriter."

 

Rooster was so energetic so early that Rusty was wondering if he had his meds.  He decided not to ask.  Rooster petted Chewy and said, "I'll still carry your guitar.  Where are we playing?"

 

Rusty took a drink of coffee and answered, "There's a place in the West End called Dallas's that is having an open mic night.  I figured that we would go down and play a few.  I've been practicing here; I just want to get used to being in front of a crowd.  I want the live CD to be perfect."

 

"You don't get stage fright, do ya, Rusty?" Rooster asked.

 

"Not really, but I haven't played live in decades.  It can be tricky.  You get excited and your mind starts racing and it can make you forget the words to your own songs."

 

"You will do just fine.  I hope there are some girls there.  I haven't talked to any girls in a long time.  Do you think any girls will be there, Rusty?"

 

"Well, it will be Saturday night and there's music and beer, so I don't see any reason why there wouldn't be."

 

Rusty walked into his bedroom and came out with a t=shirt and handed it to his friend.  It was black.  Rooster took it and looked at it.  In gold letters it said Rusty McCoy "The Back to Say Goodbye Tour."  On the back in gold letters it sId Road Crew.

 

Rooster put it on and was grinning from. Ear to ear.  "Thank you, Boss!  I love it!  I'm on the road crew.  I am a roadie!  It's official.  I even got a shirt that proves it!"

 

"More than just a roadie.  You are a songwriter.  I am going to try Becky out tonight.  I'm not sure if it will go on the live album because we are saving it for the next album, but hopefully people will love it."

 

The pair played around on the guitar and singing.  Rooster was excited to hit the open mic at Dallas'.  Rusty got tired as the day wore on and curled up with Chewy for a nap.

 

Around nine PM, the pickup truck carrying the aging singer and his roadie pulled into the parking lot of Dallas' West End.  It was a huge brick building without any windows.  A big neon sign simply said Dallas'.The bar had been there for almost thirty years.  It was always known as a haven for local bands.  It had started out as a country bar but had been changing into a rock bar the last years.  Many musicians stopped by and jammed on open mic night.A sign on the building said The Beginning of the End was playing.

 

The pair heard a loud version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" as they walked through the parking lot full of trucks and motorcycles.  Rusty shook his head, "This may not be the best venue for me but if I can win this crowd over then I am ready for anything."  Rusty felt confident.  Rusty McCoy was back!"

 

"It's been years since I had been in a bar," Rooster remarked.  "I want a motorcycle."

 

They walked in and Rusty gave the man at the door ten dollars to cover the cover charge.  The doorman was huge.  He was about six foot five and around three hundred and fifty pounds.  Steve thought he looked like a Hell's Angel he met in California in the early seventies.  He had curly long black hair and a scruffy black beard and wore a faded black cut-off Harley Davidson shirt.

 

The band quit playing as they walked in.  Rusty looked at the doorman and asked him who to talk to about playing.  The man signaled for the singer to come over as he walked off stage.  The singer was in his late forties and had long brown hair.  He wore holey jeans and a black t-shirt and a reg bandanna tied around his hand.  He stuck out his hand toward Rusty.

 

Rusty shook his hand and said, "I am Rusty McCoy.  I was a performer in the seventies and am planning a small comeback.  I am recording a live record soon and wanted to sing in front of an audience to get used to it."

 

The man said, "Cool.  I am Aaron.  Did you want to sing with the band.  That's usually how we do open mic.  You just climb on stage and join in."

 

Rusty kind of stuttered as he said,"N-n-no, I wanted to just try a couple of my old songs.  Just me and my old acoustic guitar."

 

The man said, "Cool.  Why not?  Did you play around here back in the day?  What was your name again?"

 

Rooster spoke up, "He's Rusty McCoy.  He's not from here.  He's from California and has a ton of top forty hits."

 

The man looked surprised and said, "Rusty McCoy?  I never heard of you but that's cool.  I'll introduce you.  Are you ready?"

 

Rusty suddenly got a little nervous as he was surprised that the singer had never heard of him.  Rooster was enjoying himself and that made Rusty feel better.  Rooster was walking tall and staring at some of the ladies in the bar.  Rusty followed the singer to the stage and took the guitar case from Rooster.  He borrowed a stool and took it with him on stage.

 

There was about forty people in the bar.  They stopped what they were doing as Rusty and the other singer stood on stage.  Rusty looked out at the audience.  They were all ages, but most were in their thirties or forties.  No one appeared to know who Rusty was.

 

The singer spoke, "Hey, guys.  It is open mic night at Dallas' and since the band is taking a break, we are going to let this guy play a couple of songs.  What did you say your name was?"

 

Rusty looked at the man and said, "Rusty.  Rusty McCoy."

 

The singer asked the crowd, "All right.  Rusty said he had some hits back in the seventies.  Anyone hear of him?"

 

A couple of people yelled out that they had.  Rusty had sat down on his stool and held his guitar.  The singer said, "All right, Rusty.  Seems a couple of people have heard of you.  It's all yours."  The man jumped off stage and Rusty strummed the guitar.

 

Rooster was standing by a table halfway between the door and the stage.  Rusty spoke, "Hey, guys.  It has been a while since I've performed live.  My buddy Rooster and I wanted to get out and have a good time, so I thought I'd share a couple of old songs with you."

 

The crowd was quiet as he started into Sunset Over the Bay.  The song was way slower than the songs the band had been playing.  A couple of bikers were a little drunk and started saying the music was 'gay.'

 

Rooster heard them.  He immediately started screaming,  "My friend is a big star."

Rooster went wild and started screaming.  He was so proud of Rusty and offended by the men that he did not even notice how big the men were.  Both men were over six foot three and close to three hundred pounds.

 

Rusty heard the argument and stopped playing.  He stood up.  He looked out and saw Rooster throw a punch and miss badly.  One of the men wearing a Harley Davidson skullcap threw a couple of punches and fell back and hit his head on a table.  Blood was spurting everywhere.  The doorman and another bouncer ran over.  Rusty fell off stage as he tried to get off.  He started to panic.  His knee hit the ground hard and it immediately hurt.  His hands were shaking and then his left arm went numb.  He tried to stand and fell back down.

 

A woman in her thirties saw Rusty struggling and rushed to him.  He instantly thought how pretty she was as her long blond hair dangled in his face.  "I am a nurse," she said calmly.  "Try to relax."

 

He would not let himself relax.  All he could think about doing was getting over to Rooster.  He weakly said, "Thank you.  I know you want to help but I have to check on my friend.  Please help me up."

 

A man standing close by reached over and grabbed Rusty under his left shoulder and pulled him up.  The world was spinning around Rusty.  He started to fall but the man grabbed him again and held him until he was steady on his feet.

 

The man was helping Rusty walk.  An EMS squad came through the door and was working on Rooster.  The EMS team noticed Rusty struggling but Rusty refused help and insisted that everyone concentrated on his friend.

 

Rusty had never felt so helpless in his life.  The crew lifted Rooster on a stretcher and took him to the ambulance.  Rusty pleaded for information.  A EMS turned around and assured him that while Rooster had a concussion, lost a lot of bleed, and needed staples in his head, he would recover.  Rusty was relieved but still felt guilty.  He knew Rooster would not have been hurt if not for him.  He grabbed his guitar and went to his truck to follow the ambulance to the hospital.

 

His chest hurt as he put his foot down on the gas pedal to keep pace with the ambulance.  He had not prayed in years, but he was praying to God to save his friend as he sped into the darkness.  He knew he failed in his duties to protect his friend.  It was not Rooster's fault, but he knew now that he should not have taken him to the bar.  He was so happy and knew Rooster would enjoy himself that he never thought that something like this could happen.

 

He followed the ambulance to Cabell Huntington Hospital.  He frantically hobbled to the nurse's station in the emergency room.  It was obvious, he was in physical and mental anguish.  He was shaking.  A tall, skinny nurse with short amber hair and freckles came out from behind the station to comfort him.  She put her arm around him.  "Let's sit down over here."  She led to a chair and sat down next to him.  "My name is Andrea.  What is your name, Sir?"

 

"I am Steve Lambert."  He no longer felt like Rusty McCoy.  He continued, " My friend Roger Mayes was beaten up in a barfight.  Is he okay?"

 

"Steve, is going to be okay.  They are taking him back to put staples in his head.  He is alert.  We are worried about you.  You were holding your chest and seem to be short of breath.  Are you in pain?"

 

"A little bit but that isn't important.  I just want Roger to be okay."  Steve was crying.  He was no longer Rusty.  The confidence was gone.  "I don't care about this Rusty McCoy stuff anymore.  Rusty is dead to me.  I just want Rooster to be okay."

 

The nurse spoke softly, "Steve, you are confusing me.  I think you are very disoriented.  Who are Rusty and Rooster?"

 

Rusty shook his head sideways.  "It isn't important.  Please let me see Roger."

 

Andrea was very patient and said, "You can when they are done.  I assure you he will be okay.  I am sure Roger is concerned about you.  We need to check you out and make sure you are okay."

 

Rusty agreed to be checked out.  His chest hurt but he would trade everything for his friend to be okay.  He asked for a pen and paper.  He was wheeled into a room.

 

A small chunky but attractive young blond nurse with a friendly face came into the room.  "My name is Heather.  I'll be your nurse.  I'll be watching over you as we check you out and make sure that your heart is okay.  I heard you and your friend had a little adventure tonight?"

 

"Yes," Steve said frantically.  "Is Roger okay?"

 

" Yes, he is recovering fine.  When we are sure that you are okay, we will let you see him.  We are very concerned about your heart.  We have several tests to take."

 

They hooked Steve up to a heart monitor and took his blood.  When he quit shaking, he began to write.  "Amy, I love you.  I feel like I am dying.  If I never see you again, please understand that you are everything to me.  I have felt terribly my whole life about how I abandoned you and your mom.  Please forgive me.  All I want is your forgiveness...and maybe to called 'Dad' once."

 

He wrote her phone number down so the nurse could tell her what had happened.  Steve's chest hurt more than he let on.  He knew he had a heart attack.  He felt like he was going to die.

 

He wrote on another paper:  "To my lawyer.  I want to leave 2.5 million dollars and all of my future royalties to my daughter Amy to divide amongst her and her daughter, Amber, and her grandchildren Tate and Allie.  I want Tate and Allie to take care of my dog Chewy. I want to leave one million dollars to ensure that Roger Mayes is taken care of the rest of his life."

 

On another piece of paper, he wrote.  "Rooster, I love you.  I am sorry what had happened.  My heart is giving out on me.  I never told you, but I have saved a lot of money from my records.  I have lived very cheaply.  You will never need anything again.  I am dying.  I am leaving you a million dollars.  Take care of yourself, my only friend.  Until we meet again, Rusty."

 

Rusty closed his eyes and entered the darkness.

 

Rooster had to be sedated to place the staples.  He was restless and screaming for Rusty.  When he woke up, he began yelling again for Rusty.  "Rusty!  Where is Rusty!  I want Rusty!"

 

The doctors were afraid, Roger/ Rooster might become violent, so they tried to talk to him.  Dr, Mason came in and tried to calm him down.  He said, "Mr., Mayes, I have some bad news about your friend Mr. Lambert."

 

 

Amy received an early morning phone call from the hospital.  They informed her that her father had suffered a massive heart attack.  She immediately headed to Cabell Huntington Hospital.

 

When Steve/ Rusty finally opened his eyes, he was in a lot of pain.  He knew he had been out for some time.  As he looked around, Amy jumped from a chair and was by his side.  “Don’t try to talk, Dad.  You had a big heart attack.  They did a heart catherization and then damage was so bad, that hey had to go on and do an emergency surgery.  You are going to be okay.  Just no more touring…and that’s not my orders, that is not doctor’s orders, that is my orders.”

 

Rooster was waving from another chair.  “Hello Rusty!  You are going to be okay.  I am going to take care of you.  Amy is making you move to a nice big place and if you let me, Melvin said I can move in with you.”

 

Amy smiled, “Yes, you are getting a nice place with everything you need.  You aren’t going to save your money for me, you are going to spend it on yourself.  I can’t believe you had all that money and you lived the way you do.”

 

Steve wanted to talk but it hurt.  His throat was sore, but he had something he just had to say.  It could not wait.  He motioned for Amy to come closer.  She bent over and he whispered.  “You called me Dad.”

 

She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek and said, “Just get better, Dad.  Everything is going to be alright.”


Submitted: December 01, 2019

© Copyright 2020 alligator jackson. All rights reserved.

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