Episode 25: American Pie

I

With his eyes shut, Leroy saw nothing but a wall of platinum light. In his imagination, the choir of cheers and the cool wind in his fur could've come from anywhere. They might've been from the entire galaxy or from a single creature that was just as immense.

But the first line of their first number, as well as the soaring chord that rang alongside it, could only have come from Angel and her trusty electric guitar.

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life!"

She played a quick, rolling series of notes that she never played in rehearsal. Leroy wondered how she was only coming up with them now; they were magnificent.

"Electric word, life! It means forever, and that's a mighty long time! But I'm here to tell you there's something else! The Afterworld!"

She fired another long chord, passing the baton over to the smooth, suave voice of Plasmoid.

"A world of neverending happiness! You can always see the sun, day or night! So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills-You know the one; Dr. Everything-Will-Be-Alright..."

Angel's guitar heralded the arrival of Thresher's thrashing drums, Hammerface's hypnotic piano, and, to Leroy's greatest delight, Flute's phenomenal flute. Following close behind was Reuben's boisterous yet surprisingly rhythmic voice.

"Instead of asking him how much of your time is left,

"Ask him how much of your mind, baby!"

Even with so much going on in his ears, Leroy paid attention to his nose. Finder's permission had freed him of any shame at copying his powers. His nostrils searched the sea of music and cheers for the scent of thick shampoo, the velcro on the straps of baseball caps, the light dustiness of rain, or anything else from the Finder's detailed smell profile of Checkers.

It was his cue.

"'Cause in this life, things are much harder than in the Afterworld! "In this life, you're on your own!"

His eyes sprung open. The roofless auditorium was a modest size, seating somewhere between 1000 and 1500 people, not that any of them were seated. Their cheers made their numbers feel ten times greater.

With the roof down, Leroy liked to imagine that the stars were a part of the audience.

He rushed to the front of the stage, harmonizing with Reuben, Plasmoid, and Angel as they joined him. They reached towards the audience. Leroy could feel their touch.

"And if the de-elevator tries to bring you down, go crazy!"

Leroy smelled a myriad of things, from the smokiness of camera film to the lemon flavor of a soft drink, but nothing from Checkers. That only meant that he wasn't here. Leroy hoped it didn't mean that he didn't want to come.

There would be time to search the rest of the city tomorrow. For now, the best he could do was put on a fantastic show.

He slid to one side with Angel while Reuben and Plasmoid slid to the other. They created an opening for Belle to slide in and take the audience to the chorus and beyond.

"PUNCH A HIGHER FLOOR!"

II

"And finally..." Jason said, pointing at the final slide of his presentation. His silhouette on the projector screen resembled a butler carrying a tray.

"We'll be back in Hawaii for a final stretch of concerts before we get back home."

"And that'll be the grand finale of our three-month worldwide extravaganza," Slick declared with a tip of his hat and a twirl of his cane. His silhouette looked like a giant black orb someone had arrogantly adorned with a boater hat.

"Any questions?" Jason asked the attendees around their backstage meeting table.

He was used to making pitches to executives in suits twice as expensive and half as colorful as his ocean blue one. They were also usually in rooms decorated with little more than a pot of coffee and a dim ceiling light. Here, Jason and Slick's backdrop included a rainbow of spotlights spilling from the stage and an assortment of massive candelabras from tomorrow night's showing of The Phantom of The Opera. Instead of black and grey suits and ties, there were flowery Hawaiian button-ups and a rainbow of leis.

Jason was also used to reading the faces of the executives he pitched to. They always had furrowed brows and fingers on lips, looking as if they were scrutinizing every inch of his pitch for a reason to reject it. Here, Jason's clients, cousins, whatever they preferred to call themselves, didn't seem to be scrutinizing anything at all. Jason thought that Pleakley, having worked in government, would've had something to say on the tour's organization. He'd expected Jumba, a former mad scientist, would've had some input on the tour's scope. He'd even hoped that David and Nani would've had more questions about his trade now that they could watch him work. He might not be balancing on a surfboard or twirling burning batons, but he still felt as if he'd put on a show.

Then, just before Jason felt that he'd been quiet for far too long, Lilo raised her hand.

"Will we have time to look for Checkers?" She asked.

Jason looked back at the projector screen, which displayed an extensive list of the countries, cities, and venues where the band would perform over the coming months. He felt that there should be a thirty-seventh slide detailing which days would be allotted 'search for Checkers' time and scorned the Jason of two days ago for not making one.

"'A course we will, my dear cuz," Slick piped up, twirling his cane in front of him like a biplane's propellor.

"I'd wager we can get in a good, thorough search each afternoon before the band plays."

Jason wiped his palm across his brow. He may be better on the prep, but Slick was definitely better on the spot.

Even so, there was little change in their clients' faces.

"Will that be enough time?" Nani asked. "What if we get a lead on Checkers right before a show? Our cousin should come first."

"Yeah, even with the Federation's best equipment, it took Jumba and I ages to find Hamsterviel," Pleakley said. "The little dictator-maker is gonna be just as tricky to find. Maybe twice as tricky."

"It would be very much helpful to have days being only for searching for 029," Jumba said, followed by, with a hung head, "I am meaning Checkers."

"Poxy's in town, too," Lilo added. "We should visit him while we have the chance."

"And, braddah, it's not every day we get to explore a whole other country," David said. "We should make the most of it. No big deal if the little guys go a day or two without playing anywhere."

"We've scheduled some days off," Jason said.

"But we don't know what day we'll find Checkers on," Lilo said.

"Exactly. So Slick and I are focusing on what we do know. And we know that, on tours, bands play shows. The more shows we do, the more successful this tour will be."

"Come on," Slick said. "You guys trust us, don't ya?"

At that, Jason caught David's eyes. Their Tutu had always said they looked like each other's reflections. However, Jason couldn't see it unless he took a moment to properly look at his brother. They came from the same country, the same beaches, the same ohana, yet they were far from perfect reflections. Jason thought it should bother him.

"You know we do," David said, turning to the rest of the table. "Yeah?"

The table piped up with smiles, nods, you bets, and of courses.

It didn't bother Jason. He'd learned by now that, whatever it took, at the end of the day, a successful pitch was a successful pitch.

But this day wasn't over yet. Before the night was up, Jason and Slick's final order of business was to give the band their next pay stubs. They lined up at the pass between the dim backstage area and the sea of colorful lights and deafening cheers beyond the curtain, each clutching a stack of cheques in one hand. They waited.

And waited.

And waited.

"Shouldn't they be bowing out now?" Jason asked, whispering in case his voice polluted Hammerface's piano solo. He knew that people paid to hear music, not some random suit shouting.

"I think they're doin' an extra encore," Slick whispered back, using his hat to direct his voice.

"But they only rehearsed the two, didn't they? We Are The Champions and Burning Love. What's this?"

"From my limited musical knowledge, it seems like they're doing a medley of Sergeant Pepper's and Bad Moon Rising that also works in the instrumental section of Scenes From An Italian Restaurant with a dance based on 1920s swing."

Jason looked at him.

"What?" Slick shrugged. "I told ya my knowledge was limited. My gift's of the gab, not the ear."

Jason stroked his clean-shaven chin as he watched the performers swing each other around while singing, "we'd love to take you home with us!"

As he understood it, an encore was the performing musician's equivalent of overtime. However, he couldn't understand the business side of it. With overtime, any employee who took the offer would be rewarded with additional pay. But an encore didn't drive up a concert's ticket price. People weren't ejected from the venue if they couldn't pay an additional fee. Never mind the mathematical nightmare of calculating how much each encore should be worth. All the audience had to do was applaud loud and long enough to entice the performers back to, for all they knew, make something up on the spot. It was extra work for its own sake.

Jason supposed that he couldn't understand, having never given an encore to one of his pitches. It was one of those things that simply made sense in certain people's minds, the same way the fingers of the likes of Angel, Flute, and Hammerface knew just how to move to make those sounds that made the audience scream.

He wondered what an encore to a pitch would even look like.

Finally, the band made their final bows. They pointed up to Mike and his fellow spotlight-wielders up in the control room. The audience spun around, suddenly aware and in awe of what may as well have been a smaller stage behind them. Through the glass, Jason could see Mike taking a timid little bow.

The band members came Jason and Slick's way as the curtain shut. They were led by Stitch and Angel, who walked with an arm each around the other's shoulders, seemingly competing for who could kiss the other's nose the most.

Jason and Slick had to find ways to insert the pay stubs into each band member's rambunctious celebration. Sample reached up for his as he was dipped by Belle. Thresher and Plasmoid delayed their high-five so they could take theirs. Heat and Leroy nearly missed theirs while they were out of sight on Kixx and Flute's shoulders.

Jason watched them as, slowly but surely, their lingering energies were drawn to their pay stubs. He hoped they'd smile as they met their four-digit figures, but all Jason saw were raised eyebrows, tilted heads, and, somehow, frowns.

"C'mon, fellas," Slick said, quick on the draw as always. "They're cheques, not bills."

Stitch was the first to look at him. "Isa lots, cousin." His tone seemed to add; it's too much.

Slick only tipped his hat. "You've been workin' lots. Don't spend it all in one place."

Stitch turned to Angel. They both looked as though they'd suddenly realized just how tired they were.

"Naga know how meega could," he whispered.

Jason wiped his brow. He was beginning to realize how tired he felt as well.

At least there was still the hotel to look forward to.

III

"Ah, good ol' London town," Slick chirped as he and Jason stepped off the double-decker bus.

"Smell that British air!"

"I don't have much experience in British tourism," Jason said, "but I'm pretty sure people don't come here for the air."

Glancing about the street, Jason got a strange but familiar feeling from every storefront. From the fanciest restaurant to the humblest newspaper stand, each of them looked tall, jagged, and pointed. Jason recalled a few guests from his hotel back in Kokaua Town. They came in with noses turned up, one hand clutching a black brick of a suitcase and the other pressing a mobile phone against their ear. He could tell they were scrutinizing every inch of his hotel, searching for flaws just like the suits he made pitches to. The buildings here looked the same, their doorways and roofs turned up like the noses of traveling businessmen. They seemed just as critical of how Jason walked down the street as they might've been of his managerial prowess.

"Gosh," Slick said as they entered the theatre lobby. "These guys can't not be fancy, huh?"

"No kidding," Jason said, gazing at the crimson carpet below and the swirling patterns embedded in the glistening wood above.

"Wonder how much of this was here when they first built it."

"Betcha the tecchies'll know."

"Speaking of which, I hope they've got everything ready for tonight. Might help for the band to get another rehearsal in."

"You're all about the rehearsals, ain't ya?"

"If you were paying for a show, you'd want something polished, wouldn't you?"

"You're not wrong there."

They entered the auditorium. Any auditorium looked peculiar with the lights on and the seats empty. It gave Jason the same suffocating shock as entering a bathroom and accidentally seeing someone in the shower. However, on this occasion, Jason felt as though he'd found someone in his shower. He didn't know who the blond-haired, black-suited man on the stage, singing something about a girl with mousey hair, was, but he knew that he wasn't supposed to be there.

"Excuse me," Jason said, marching towards the stage with Slick following close behind.

"Now, now," Slick said. "Let's all play nice. I'm sure it's just an honest mistake."

"'Ello, finely dressed gents," the man said. "What can I do for you?" He grinned a grin that seemed ready to climb off of his face.

"I think you've made a mistake," Jason said. "Our act is supposed to have this venue tonight."

The man's grin vanished. His voice had been deep and piercing, but his face was surprisingly youthful.

"Sorry, mate," he said. "ButI think you've got it the wrong way around."

"What! How?" Jason said. "The X-Periments are playing here tonight. We arranged it weeks ago."

"Oh." The man's eyes lit up with recognition. "I've heard of you. All wonderful things, of course. In fact, I was planning on coming to see your next show. You see..."

He reached into his shirt's breast pocket and took out a folded piece of paper. Jason had seen no shortage of businessmen perform exactly the same motion, but this man did so with just a little more swing.

He took the paper and unfolded it. There was the ad which he and Slick and specially commissioned for the UK leg of the tour. Angel, Stitch, Sample, and Belle crossed the street in a single-file line. Just beneath their heels were the concert dates.

July 15th, 16th, and 18th.

It was the 17th. Jason was at least sure of that.

"Slick," he turned to his partner, who was leaning far too innocently on his cane.

"You told me you booked four straight days!"

"Hey, don't throw me under the double-decker bus!" Slick picked up his cane with a swooping swing of his arm.

"You said you were gonna take care of the UK leg!"

"No, I said I had the US leg!"

"Well, either you pronounce your 'S's like 'K's, or you're tryin' to pin your mistake on poor ol' me!"

"I planned everything out perfectly! If you didn't insist on improvising everything..!"

Slick looked ready to make another swing with his cane when the man interjected.

" Hate to be a bother," he said, "but would you boys mind taking this outside?"

"Yeah, sure," Jason and Slick said in indignant unison.

"I'm eager to see your band tomorrow!" The man called after them as they stormed out.

The managers' arguments poured from their mouths as hurriedly as they rushed onto the street.

"It's about time you learned that this business is about more than trying to charm or trick people," Jason seethed. "It's about planning, organization, and commitment!"

"Hey, I can do it all," Slick said, straightening his hat. "But it looks like you can't do any of it!"

They stepped onto a corner. Car horns competed to be heard over the two arguing managers. Across the street, a man and a woman played away on an acoustic guitar and an electronic piano. Their notes were lost among the noise.

"This is stupid," Jason sighed.

"You're tellin' me," Slick folded his arms.

"No, I mean, this isn't going to fix anything. What we can do is find a smaller venue that'll take the band on short notice."

"You're right." Slick pressed the crook of his cane thoughtfully under his chin.

"Awfully lotta fancy-pants establishments 'round here. Betcha some of 'em'll jump at some entertaining commodities dropping on their doorstep."

"We won't know unless we ask," Jason said. "We won't make as much as we would've from a theatre,

"Huh?"

"Never mind. Let's get started."

They crossed the street. While the cars were stopped at a light, there was a window of relative silence. Jason could almost hear the street performers' music; they were singing something about delivering newspapers. Jason couldn't quite make it out. He thought they'd do better to make like him and Slick and find a proper venue. Nobody sensible would pay to see a show with car engines grumbling behind them.

"Hey," Slick said, "is it me, or did that guy back there have a funny-looking eye?"

IV

"All booked. Sorry, mates."

"I could get ya in tomorrow."

"Already got someone."

"Wish I could help ya, lad."

Jason and Slick's morning consisted entirely of variations of those phrases. Six blocks' worth of restaurants, clubs, pubs, and hotels had seemed like decent odds but had turned up absolutely nothing. By the time they were done, they were sure they'd been called 'mate' and 'lad' as often as any British citizen had been called in their lifetime.

In a particularly fancy-looking hotel dining room, one where the tables seemed to be wearing tuxedos as expensive as the diners, they almost had a shot. However, the maitre d', upon seeing the X-Periments' poster, simply turned his nose and said, "no shoes, no service."

By the time they started their seventh block, Jason and Slick were all but resigned to failure. They thought of what David had said about making the most of exploring another country.

"I hope this isn't what he meant," Jason said.

They found themselves across a bar table from a woman in a black short-sleeve dress shirt with a ponytail that was just as black and as short. She listened to Jason and Slick's pitch while studying the X-Periments' poster. They were sure she was only being polite. In fairness, they felt they were just as polite even giving their full pitch at this point.

"I've already got an act for tonight," she said.

Jason and Slick heard the preemptive echo of sorry, mates or sorry, lads or, if this owner wanted to stand out from the rest of the city, sorry, love.

"Why should I let you blokes on?"

Jason felt like a refreshing splash of water had snapped him awake. Was this just her being more polite than she needed to? Or had they actually finally made it to round two?

Before he could even realize it, Slick had jumped on her question.

"Because the X-Periments are like no other performers you can find on this side of the pond!" He spoke with such speed and joy that Jason couldn't believe they'd just been on the same tedious journey together.

"True, that's somethin' that's been said 'bout nearly everyone who's come and gone through this fine city. But it's the best sayin' that's yet been invented for a group like the X-Periments! Imagine what music would look like if you gave it a body! What if you could watch it unravel and bedazzle you the way it has in your imagination all these years? My cousins could do anything they wanted with their remarkable gifts, and they could do it anywhere in the world tonight. Instead, they'd like to be here entertaining you. And who knows when they'll come this way again? All you've gotta do is say yes, and you and your lovely patrons can sit back and relax while my cousins set your imaginations alight!"

Jason couldn't believe that Slick had rehearsed that. He must've spent evenings and evenings working solidly at it to get just the perfect arrangement of words.

The owner raised an eyebrow. Would that be enough to get them to round three?

"You can definitely talk the talk, love," she said. "And ya know what? I wanna see if your 'cousins' can walk the walk. See if they can earn a spot in my place tonight. Ya get 'em down here at four, we'll meet out back and have a battle of the bands."

"Against your originally planned entertainment," Slick said with an amiable yet challenging point of his cane. "I take it with tonight's gig being the prize?"

"You're right on the money there."

"Wonderful. Thank ya kindly for the opportunity, and we'll see ya back here at four." Slick tipped his hat and bowed. Jason swore he'd seen exactly the same motion in some British film.

"Yes, thank you," Jason said. "You won't be disappointed."

Outside, Slick offered a thick, furry hand to Jason.

"Congrats, partner," he chirped. "Crisis averted!"

Jason shook the hand by sheer reflex. When he saw a hand, he couldn't help but shake it. He was sure that if anybody ever threw a punch at him, he'd probably catch their fist and thank them for having him.

"Not quite," he said. "We have our venue, but we still have to get the band down here. And we have no idea what they're up against. If the other act wins, then it'll just be more work for nothing."

"My cousins'll win." Slick planted his cane on the concrete. He raised his chin in a grin that brought him dangerously close to resembling Jason's hotel's more arrogant guests.

"Have faith, Jas-erino. This ain't no middle school choir we're dealin' with."

"Fair enough. In any event, it won't matter unless we can get them down here in time."

"Relax, pal." Slick patted Jason on the back with surprising gentleness. "All our worries are just a phone call away."

V

"Aloha. You've reached the cell number of Nani Pelekai. I'm afraid I can't answer straight away, but if you leave a message, I'll call you back as soon as I can."

"You've reached Clip! If you just wanted to talk to me, then I'll get back to you ASAP. If you wanted to book a salon appointment, then you can do just that through..."

"Hey. Uh, it's Mike. I gotta call you back...Sorry...Now, which button turns it-"

"Hello?"

"Jumba, thank goodness," Jason gasped as he paced the street corner.

"What can I be doing for you?"

"Listen, we have a gig for the band, but we need you to get down here as soon as-"

"Hah! Is only answering machine!"

Jason waited for Jumba's pre-recorded laughter to end. It took every ounce of his willpower to not crush his cell phone in his hand.

"Please be leaving message."

"Is it me," Slick said as he leaned on his cane, "or are you getting deja vu?"

"Alright," Jason said with a deep breath. "If nothing else, I can always count on my brother, right?"

He selected the next speed dial and waited through the ringtone. By now, it was beginning to sound like a naughty child blowing a raspberry at him.

"Hey, bro."

"Dave! Hoh! Finally, I've actually gotten through to one of you!"

"What's up?"

"Okay, so, here's the deal..." Jason recited every detail of the day's events, from the theatre mix-up to the battle of the bands. He felt as though he were pitching a film.

"So it'll all work out," he said, catching his breath. "But we need-" He stopped for a breath. He felt certain that Olympic athletes never got so winded.
"We need the band down here as soon as possible."

David didn't answer. Jason could hear some static-laden chatter.

"So..?"

"I don't know, bro," David said. "See, the little guys thought they had a free day, so they met up with Poxy."

"Uh-huh..."

"And he got us some tickets to a play."

"Is the play done?"

"It's in intermission. I don't think it's fair to ask the little guys to ditch it just for the chance to have an extra gig. They've played loads as it is."

"But if we don't take this, we'll be one show short."

"Short of what?"

Jason stopped pacing and reeled his head back. It was a cloudy day.

"If we don't take it today, then we'll need to make one up later," he said.

"Then we'll make one up later," David said. "Why not let the little guys enjoy a day with their friend who they barely see these days?"

"Because this isn't just a holiday, Dave! We have a job to do!"

"And everyone's doing a great job at it! I'm not as into all the business and profits stuff as you are, but I don't think the ship's gonna sink if we take a day here and there to do other things."

"This wasn't supposed to be a break day!" Jason ran a hand through his hair. He thought he felt a few strands come away on his fingers.
"But you'll take one anytime, won't you?"

He didn't know why he'd said that. Some wires got crossed in his brain, generating a painful discharge between Jason Kawena, manager and salesman, and Jason Kawena, the big brother.

Even so, all David had to say was, "bro..."

His tone sounded too familiar. It wasn't David speaking; it was someone else. Someone Jason hadn't expected to hear again, least of all during that phone call.

He ended the call. He doubted if even Slick could've found the right words.

"Oh..." Slick said. "So...No joy, huh?"

"No, Slick," Jason said, staring at his cell phone as if it were about to give some input on the situation. He sulked towards a streetlight and struck it with pitiful force. Somehow, it still made his fist throb.

"No joy."

"So...What now?"

Slick didn't look like himself with such an uncertain frown. He looked more like someone dressed in an unconvincing Slick costume.

Jason gazed down the street. In the distance, he could see the street performers from that morning.

He picked up something to do with a jester and a king. The honking, revving cars between him and them saw that he didn't hear much more.

"Only thing we can do," Jason said. "Take a break."

VI

Jason and Slick watched the cars come and go from their table outside a coffee shop. They'd found the closest middle-ground they could find between 'dripping with posh' and 'never heard of posh in its life.' From there, the street looked almost perfectly symmetrical. There was always the same amount of cars on the road. No matter how many street goers vanished around corners or inside shops, their numbers never dwindled. The one total constant was a cart adorned with an umbrella and a content-looking man with a thick red beard. A sign listing a colorful assortment of ice cream flavors was the only form of advertisement Jason could find on him.

"See that guy over there?" Jason said, pointing him out to Slick.

"I do," Slick replied, looking up lazily from beneath the lopsided rim of his hat.

"He's been there since before we sat down, but I haven't seen him sell a single ice cream."

"Really?" The response sounded as automatic as the myriad of voicemails that Jason had already heard that day.

"He's standing there and not selling anything. We've run around more than him and have just as much to show for it. But he looks...Happy. Why? What's got that smile on his face?"

"Ya want some ice cream?" Slick asked. He looked like he was smiling, but it may have only been the way his palm pressed up against his cheek.

Jason pressed a finger to his lips. "We have ice cream at home. What's the point in spending money to do something here that I could do at home."

"Dunno," Slick said. "But you own a big building that people come to sleep in when they can probably just do that at home."

"Mm-hmm...But even the band; they're mainly playing songs that people could listen to at home. They can sit wherever they want, move wherever they want, fast-forward, rewind, anything. So why go somewhere else to do the same things? What value is gained when you lose all those other things?"

"It's your business, dude," Slick said.

Jason took one last look at the ice cream vendor, still smiling away. He leaned back in his chair and became entranced by the edge of the shop's pale red awning.

"I kno

w," he said. "I don't know why I said all that...I think...I think it's just that I...We...Only had one job; to give the band chances to perform. And we couldn't do it."

"If it makes ya feel any better," Slick said with a weak giggle, "I think ya really did tell me to take care 'a the UK leg."

"So I pronounced my 'K's right after all."

They shared a feeble chuckle.

Jason shut his eyes. He could take a nap at home or in the hotel, and it would have been much more comfortable. Right now, however, there was a certain appeal to napping in this coffee shop, on this street, in this country, near that particular ice cream vendor, that he couldn't quite name.

He had a few minutes of relative silence, save for the car engines ahead. Then he heard an electric snarl. He'd been backstage at enough concerts to recognize the sound of Angel plugging in her electric guitar.

"Well, I'll be..." Slick whispered.

Jason opened his eyes. He scanned the street but found nothing new. Then he looked up.

"Slow down, you crazy child,

"You're so ambitious for a juvenile,

"Well then, if you're so smart, tell me, why are you still so afraid?"

The pointed architecture had been decorated with the colorful sight of the X-Periments. As far as their budget went, they hadn't brought much. All they had were whatever instruments they owned, which meant Hammerface was without a piano, and Thresher was without drums. They hadn't prepared any choreography beyond sitting at the rooftops' edges and waving their legs in time to the music.

"Where's the fire? What's the hurry about?

"You better cool it off before you burn it out,

"You've got so much to do and only so many hours in a day..."

Lilo sat between Angel and Stitch, their arms joined as they watched Poxy's tiny green light fly around them. Nani and David were behind them, enjoying a slow, swaying dance. Jumba and Pleakley sat on either side of Flute, who played her namesake instrument gracefully despite Leroy's perch on her left shoulder. Heat had one arm on Kixx's shoulder and another on Mike's, or at least as far as he could reach.

Jason wasn't sure if anyone would've paid to see yet, as his eyes returned to the street, he found the passersby stopped, singing and swaying with the band. Whatever business they had was suddenly able to wait a few minutes.

"But you know that when the truth is told,

"That you can get what you want, or you can just get old..."

Jason lifted his hand in a timid wave. He didn't expect any of them to see him. Yet, as if commanded by a conductor's wand, every band member waved back to him.

Nobody was paying a dime, but as Jason looked around, he suspected that this was one of their biggest audiences yet. Even if it wasn't, it was undoubtedly one of their best.

"You're gonna kick off before you even get halfway through..."

"You know what, Mr. Slick?" Jason said.

"What's that, Mr. Jason?" Slick said, his typical energy suddenly restored.

"I think I'll get an ice cream after all."

"My treat?"

"If you insist."

"When will you realize,

"Vienna waits for you."

VII

Jason took in a deep breath as he left the restaurant. The British air was definitely better at dusk.

"Any luck?" David asked, waiting patiently with his hands in his pockets even after five minutes.

"It'll be one twenty-minute wait," Jason said.

"Shoots. That's twenty minutes we have to explore."

"Yeah." Jason looked his brother up and down, realizing he was wearing the same white t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops that he always wore back home.

"How are you not freezing?" He asked.

"Who said I wasn't?" David replied, throwing an arm around his brother.

Jason let out a small chuckle. Considering what he'd been through that day, he was surprised he could muster that much.

"What do the others think of my charity idea?" He asked.

"They love it," David said. "They just wondering how much ticket sales they should give up."

"I'll tell them it depends how much they want to give to the homeless shelters."

"Whatever you say. Oh, and Lilo was wondering if it could be called 'The Ohana Foundation.'"

"I'm for it...Speaking of which, where's everyone else?".

"Not far. They just went to check something out. Here, I'll show you."

As they walked, Jason couldn't help but remember their phone conversation. It echoed in his skull. He wondered if David could hear it.

"Hey," he said. "About earlier..."

"Don't worry about it," David said. "Just relax."

"That's the problem. I can make places for people to relax, but I just can't relax myself. That's never been a problem before..."

"You're one of the hardest workers I know," David said, ruffling his brother's hair. "That's a good thing."

"Not when the work runs out."

"Well, you put that mind of yours to it, and I know you can figure 'um out. And you don't have to do 'um on your own."

They turned a corner, finding the sidewalk colored by the lively dancing of the band members. Belle and Sample shared a fast-paced tango. Stitch and Angel took turns twirling Lilo about. Flute swayed with Leroy, who seemed perfectly happy despite his feet being so far from the ground. Even Mike was there, performing a timid version of the twist alongside Heat and Kixx. Poxy's light flitted among the dancing ohana.

They all surrounded the street performers Jason had passed before. Having a closer look, he saw how alike they looked, with the same crimson hair and blue eyes. Best of all, he could finally hear them properly.

"Bye-bye, Miss American Pie,

"Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry,

"Them good ol' boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye,

"Singin' this'll be the day that I die,

"This'll be the day that I die..."

Jason looked past David and found Nani taking his other arm. He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked to find Slick grinning at him.

He realized he'd been snapping his fingers.

The music softened. The dancing slowed down as if everyone had expected the change in tempo. It couldn't have possibly been rehearsed, and yet it felt so natural.

"I met a girl who sang the blues,

"And I asked her for some happy news,

"But she just smiled and turned away..."

The twin musicians looked around at their attentive audience. Their eyes looked heavy. As Jason gazed at the swaying band members, he found the same sullen look reflected in their eyes.

"I went down to the sacred store,

"Where I'd heard the music years before,

"But the man there said the music wouldn't play..."

Why were they staying if the music was making them sad? Who on Earth went to a show just to feel sad? If anyone wanted to feel sad, they could do it at home for free.

"And in the streets, the children screamed,

"The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed,

"But not a word was spoken,

"The church bells all were broken..."

What did it even mean? Jason blinked to keep his tears from blinding him. How could there be tears if he didn't even know what the words meant?

"And the three men I admire most,

"The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,

"They caught the last train for the coast,

"The day the music died..."

He thought of Tutu. He didn't know what had made him think of her. Then again, he wasn't sure if he'd ever stopped thinking of her.

"You alright, bro?" He heard David ask.

"Yeah...Just thinking of Tutu..."

He felt David's arm tighten around him. He started singing along. Or he started realizing that he was singing. For all he knew, he'd been singing the whole time.

"Bye-bye, Miss American Pie,

"Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry,

"Them good ol' boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye,

"Singin' this'll be the day that I die..."

He could've sung this back home. Everything he did today, from the ice cream he ate to the tears he shed, he could've done back home. Even his brother would've still been there with him.

But they wouldn't have been the same.

"This'll be the day that I die..."