Safe and Avocado would come to have many arguments in their days both of playing together in Know's Whistle and of having arguments. Years later they would come to realize that their arguments actually brought them closer as friends and were in the end so very pointless. Avocado's ideal band at the time wasn't reliant on skill but rather on things like chainsaws and calf heads. Safe on the other horizon didn't have a taste for theatrics. He was happy to show up, play, and ride home in the van saying things but thinking nothing. The Snock and Abraham Lincoln had no real preferences then for band philosophy, other than that Safe and Avocado should periodically have a good argument about it.
Avocado put his rusty red van into park and stared at the side of the building. "Yes," he said. "You sure this is the place?" asked Safe.
"Yes! Yes! Yes! This is The Gag Roach. Like I wouldn't know where we're booked. And would you put down your knitting? This looks like the type of place we'd play doesn't it?"
"I suppose but--"
"Blob your blob. Trust me."
"My foot's all swollen, and this place looks all run down and weird," Safe noted.
"Like I said, the type of place we'd play."
"Whatever." Safe stuffed the long, crooked necktie that he'd been knitting into the glove compartment. Jacksonville was once again heavy with both traffic and the smell and overcast dullness of Illinois harvest time. The bar jutted out of a hill like a nipple and a boarded-over well halfway down the slope crumbled its bricks, its rope tied into an ominous noose. Safe and Avocado climbed out of the van and the two moseyed over to the wall of the bar.
The spirit of Jacksonville was always subtle and mysterious. Its people moved to and fro and wobbled their pot bellies impartially for any band. There was little else to do in the town. For Know's Whistle, it served as a setting for band disagreements and for guaranteed fights between locals. They often considered moving to the town permanently.
A sign on the door told them that they couldn't bring their equipment in through it. Avocado thought for a while with his hand on top of his head. He was lank and directional in his movements that day, with a certainty of motion that was actually not there. The tattoos of fruit garnishing his sallow skin somehow supplemented his leather jacket.
Avocado pulled his hand from the top of his head decisively. "I think we can use this door," he declared.
"I think it says--" started Safe.
"Yeah, I know but that's exactly the way bars operate. Haven't you ever noticed that? They set their clocks fifteen minutes ahead to deceive the public into leaving earlier so everybody can go home and wonder about what to do for fifteen minutes." He paused in the wind and carefully adjusted his leather jacket like a musical life preserver. "Some people at that bar in Bullpit were setting their watches to the bar time and the bar had to set their clocks ahead again. The whole town ended up in this cycle thing--"
"What are you talking about?"
"--the town ended up in this cycle thing where noon was sometime in the middle of the night and they all ended up going to the bars and getting drunk in the morning and the whole economy fell to pieces and, man, do I itch."
Safe stood and looked mysteriously blank for a second. "So the bar was all screwy?"
"I think that's my point, yes."
"Is that why those shootings happened in Bullpit?"
"Yup, and that's why we got paid so much there that one time. Mayhem tickles music's happy spot."
Safe was thinking. "Why does there have to be mayhem at gigs? Sometimes I just feel mellow. I wish I'd stuck with playing the spoons. They weren't violent, unless my dad got mad at the clanging."
"Christ, drop it, Safe. People want all that wild shit. They don't come out for the music. It's the beer and fights and slamming and the crowd of meat."
"I don't know. Gigs like that are all frightening," Safe sounded.
"No. They're cool. It's like when you wake up in the middle of the night and your arm is asleep and it’s totally numb. You can't feel it at all and you think it's somebody else's arm or a severed one that somebody put in your bed as a joke." Avocado sniffed his arm pit.
"Did you eat a plant or something, Avocado?"
"Why, you got one?"
"There's gear in the back of our van. I think I hear The Snock and Abe pullin' up."
Safe was trying to shrug off the conversation. Avocado turned the knob on the door and opened it, launching his usual I'm-Right-So-There-Ha grin at Safe before going inside. The bar hung about the four of them like a cave and appeared to have the electrical system of one. The dance floor's wood creaked under their feet like an old boat and the stale smell of draft beer and cigarettes still held the air. Around the stage were rows of annoying Christmas lights that fizzed and popped with shorts. A single bat hung from a dark rafter in the ceiling. The place was like a neglected, stillborn barn. "Yeah, this is the bar," was Safe's lament as The Snock scanned around with interest. Abraham Lincoln sat on his bass amp and stuck out his tongue. He grimaced at The Snock, who decided to help out and stay out of the way by going out the front door.
Abraham Lincoln hugged his amp from behind and lifted it up to the stage. "How's the knitting coming, Safe?"
"Shitty. The duck looks like a rock and the bacon didn't turn out either."
"You could make me a car or some friends."
"I'd need a lot of yarn."
"This place should be interesting. You don't like places like this do you, Safe?"
"Why? Is the bar haunted or something?"
"No, shipdit, the shakiness and outlets and things."
"Oh, yeah, but I'll live with it."
"You won't die?"
"We could play armsie if that'll make you feel better."
"Get busy, assholes!" Avocado yelled, stomping his foot down and breaking a hole in the floor.
"You know," began Safe, "I hope one day to never have to play places like this."
Avocado was trying to pull his foot out of the floor. "This is our type of--"
"I think I agree with Safe," agreed Abe, "I think we're stuck playing shitholes. Let's try to break into some new places, bigger ones."
"You guys do the booking then," finished Avocado, his foot free.
During the second set of the gig something happened that Avocado and The Snock would swallow loudly over afterwards. First, the lights dimmed and quit. Several "Wheee!"s were yelled out until everyone noticed then that the ceiling was burning. There was a slight pause in the music and crowd. "Great pyros man, shit!" someone yelled. The electrical hookups for the stage continued their output and the band unleashed several abrasive songs while the roof flamed away. "Goddamn these guys are great!" another voice shouted. Safe was feeling less safe. His drumming sped up uneasily while he feared the spectacle. The Snock had left the stage and was lost somewhere in the crowd, his guitar cord a lifeline feeding into the tornado of flesh. Avocado screamed and screamed into his microphone and turned to Abraham Lincoln, who glowed red in the light of the turmoil. Abe thrashed his head and spit a magnificent glob into the air above the thriving dance floor. The crowd built up momentum. Even the grim reaper appeared to be hovering and moshing in the middle of the frenzy. Avocado was ecstatic to see the mass of frantic people in the smoky bar when the lights came back on. Four Jacksonville firemen had entered and were busy putting the fire out and looking for someone to give CPR to. A lake of ashes covered the dance floor and was kicked into airy waves by the crowd as they wandered out now that the excitement was over. "Hey, it's not over!" yelled Avocado. "We're only taking a break! Wait! We'll set the place on fire again! Wait!" The Snock picked up one of his guitar pedals in discouragement and shot it across the room in a quick arc. The pedal clubbed a drunk farmer in the back of the neck and he turned to punch the nearest person.
The clouds had removed their cover from the sky and the fall stars were breaking through the light pollution by the time the band finished forcing the equipment to stay in the van. Safe and Avocado were sitting in the van behind the building while The Snock and Abraham Lincoln drove down the breast of the hill and past the well.
"Well, what did you think?" asked Avocado.
"About the gig!"
"Oh, I had a good time I suppose," Safe spoke without conviction.
"Gonads! Don't sound so certain."
"OK, I won't."
"Man, that night was Jesus. Somebody must've sacrificed something."
"The place caught fire!"
"Yeah, it was great wasn't it?"
"Not really. Did your arm go to sleep?"
"Man, you've got to jab at people's primary instincts," Avocado lurched. “Then things take off. Give em' basal reinforcers for coming out to see us and we'll be rich!"
"That might work for pigeons."
"I dig all this though. If only we could have that going on at every gig," Avocado fantasized.
"Someone's going to die one of these days. I don't know Avocado. Sometimes I think about quitting."
"It's just too nuts for me sometimes."
"What kind of band do you want to be in, a choir?"
"No. I just wish that things would be mellow for a change, like I was saying earlier."
"Before the obviously ironic situation?"
"We like you being our drummer, not that that's any reason for you to stick around, but, man, don't you enjoy doing it?"
"Most of the time. But I don't get into goin' all wacko and thrashing and stuff." Safe spit out each word for emphasis. "I love the music we write, but I don't like to fear for my life doing something I enjoy. I'd like to think that we're a serious band sometimes."
"It won't be fun if it's serious."
"Watch TV. You don't think that playing in front of thousands of people would be fun?"
"I hadn't thought about making this a job. Jeez, Safe's got aspirations all of a sudden."
"Just think about it."
"Alright, you think we should mellow out some and be more serious?"
"Yeah, and no more cuts on the leg and people trapped under amps and 'specially bars on fire. But I guess that wasn't our fault, was it?"
"Don't expect it to happen right away. Try telling all this to The Snock, Safe."
"No, you can talk to him about it," Safe suggested.
"No, you can."
"You're not going to quit are you?"
"No, besides, we made that pact with the semen and sparrow eggs, remember? I can't quit."
"I guess I can't see us doing anything else, especially together. Can you? Writing books? Teaching psychology? Screw it. Less discussion," Avocado ended, starting the van.