A Band of Black
by Thadd Presley
I stepped out of the cab in front of a huge, two story estate complete with four high-rising pillars and a circle drive big enough for ten cars. It was a brick house with six tall windows on the second story and eight on the ground floor. Eleven wide, concrete steps lead up to the front door where Ozzy was standing.
He had just opened the door when the cab came to a stop.
I imagined him looking down from one of the second floor windows at the immaculate yard when the yellow cab turned into the driveway.
Now we stood face to face and his smile was beautiful.
I already knew his name was Gerald Osbourne, but everyone called him Ozzy. I shook his hand and thanked him for meeting me.
“You have luggage?” He pointed to the car. “If not, he’ll still want a tip.”
“Not much. I have a little in the boot.”
“Money to boot or a trunk full of money?”
I looked at him confused.
He smiled. “My, you Australians really know how to…”
“No, not money, just a bit of luggage.” I walked to the boot, which was opening, and removed my bag. I then quickly walked to the driver’s window and handed the driver the fare and turned away. He drove away, knowing to keep the extra for himself.
“And not Australian, although I do appreciate you meeting me. Seems Nick has forgotten his manners.” I took a step back, now that the cab had gone, and looked up at the second floor windows. “This is truly a beautiful place.”
“It belongs to the University. Nick totally knows how to talk to these authoritarian types. He’s got the run of this place for the summer.” Then he looked at me again. He was certainly a beautiful man. He had perfect white teeth, blonde hair, a real tan, and blue eyes. It was so American of him. “It’s really good to finally meet you. Nick has told us so much that we feel like you are already part of the family.”
“That’s great of you to say. I’ve been quite nervous about all this.You really wouldn’t believe the emotions I’ve had.”
“Hold on!” Ozzy said loudly.
“No, no. Noel.” He pointed to his ear. “Sara is on the line and I…” He put up his hands as if in frustration. “Sara, you just made me yell at Noel and he’s trying to tell me about his emotions.”
“Yeah, he’s right down your street.”
He listened and when he did I faintly heard Sara’s voice.
“He’s here in front of me and I’m trying to give him…” A moment of silence passed, while Sara’s tiny voice continued. Then he caught a second and spoke. “Yeah, well these English folk need to be greeted properly and you are interrupting our chat.”
It was then that I noticed a small black and blue plastic piece in his ear. It was smaller than a hearing aid.
“Sara says ‘hello Noel’ to you and you can’t kiss anyone. She says that she wants to give you the first kiss you get in America.”
I smiled trying to be cool, as if this was just another part of being me, but I felt my cheeks getting hot.
“And,” Ozzy continued, “don’t eat the ‘shrooms before she gets to properly introduce herself.”
I was beginning to feel very self-conscious. I didn’t know where to put my hands or where to look. I picked up my bag and set it back down again. I couldn’t help but wonder how she really felt about me.
“She says she wants you to play for her.”
“Hell, I don’t know. The national anthem I guess.” He shook his head at me. “Look, I’m not being the messenger between you two.”
I heard her tiny voice raise a bit and then laugh. Ozzy joined in.
“You’ll have to wait until you see him to tell him that.”
I was extremely happy that Sara wanted to see me, but I didn’t want it to show, so I looked up at the house again. It was really a mansion.
“Sara wants to know if you will really play for her. The piano. She says please.”
“Yeah, but how did she know?” I began t ask, but I didn’t need an answer. I knew Nick told her.
“He says he will. Now I’m going.”
“Yes, I will. Now, his majesty needs to be shown to his room.” There was another pause. “You can tell him all of that yourself. Bye. Do it when you get here. Bye.”
I didn’t see any obvious way he disconnected with Sara, but I could see the relief on his face. When he began speaking to me, it was in his normal voice again. “Ok,” he said, “I’m supposed to keep you off the ‘shrooms and show you around the house a bit. So, first we are going to the room where you can reset your jet lag.”
“Shrooms?” I asked.
“Yeah.” Ozzy smiled. “Oh, yeah.”
“Are they any good?”
“I’ll put it this way. Everything here is good. This has been the best summer I’ve ever had and it’s just beginning. We have some really great gigs coming up and with you on bass.” He smiled again, showing his teeth. “I hear you can really play the hell out of a bass.”
“I picked up a few things here and there.”
“So I’ve heard. Oh, and just so you know, the band is me, Nick, Sara and you. In case you’re asked, you’re not replacing anyone. Just come on board and do what you do. The band is called ‘Black’ but the fans usually referred to us as ‘A Band of Black.”
“I like that better, actually.”
“You do, do you?”
“Yes,” I said as a matter of fact. I had a great reason to push against using “Black” as a band name. It was mine and Nick’s old band name, from our punk days in London and it didn’t seem right to use the name again. Of course, I didn’t tell Ozzy this small piece of history.
“Well, Nick wants the band to be called ‘Black’ and you know how Nick is when he wants something.”
Yes, I did know. I also knew that I liked ‘A Band of Black’ better than the one word. But I simply nodded and smiled, allowing the moment to pass without further comment, and followed him through the door and into the fraternity house.