by Roberta J. Cabot
This is a story about Daniel, a guy with a unique talent and an even more unique problem: A great singing voice and the looks of his gorgeous sister. And how he and his family deal with his having breasts. And how he deals with getting turned on by his girlfriend.
Life got even more complicated after his boss, Mrs. Piper, convinced him and his sister to make his band part of the official launch of the station's new FM channel. It'd be the band's first real concert, if ever. But how would they be able to manage that and still keep Danny's true identity secret? ... Never a dull moment with Batch Fourteen, and Dan & his gang.
Chapter Twenty-Three: Brainstorming
***** (Danny) *****
We went with Tracey to our little town's mall - it was the mall where Fallon and I tried to hide from Tom Hennessy before. We followed Tracey to one of the new, more exclusive places on the third floor and she asked us to look around for clothes we thought we'd need for school tomorrow, as well as whatever else we needed, and Danielle took Tracey in tow to the ladies section. I went to the men's section and picked out a shirt and pants. I then went to the toiletries section and got Danielle and I some soap, shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste and, of course, a couple of toothbrushes. It's a good thing I knew Danielle's preferences.
I decided to get some underwear and socks for me (which included t-shirt bras lately). However, I had to move to the ladies section since I get all my underwear from the ladies section nowadays. In the rare moments when salespeople recognize that I'm a guy, I just say it's for my sister or something, but since people haven't been questioning it lately, I didn't need to say much anymore, and I was able to find the stuff we needed without being bothered. They probably did think I was a girl. I just shrugged and thought to myself, what can you do? That's life. Buying new stuff for school, though, coz we didn't want to be late - that's new.
- - - - -
Waking up in time was a real worry for me. Not the usual thing about being in time for school, but for work. To be fair, it's not all the time - just on the weekends.
Ever since Mario moved our gigs to Fiday nights, I've had to learn to do with less sleep on Saturdays. I had my Nighthawk Saturday morning program, which started at six AM. So, after our Friday night gigs (we'd finish our last set by around midnight, so we'd be home by around two), I'd just have a short nap and get back up by four - five at the latest - in time to get ready for my radio program.
The schedule change was murder, but Mario said that we weren't pulling in enough customers (patently a lie), but since my folks only allowed me to play one night a week, he decided to move us permanently to Fridays, so that he could compete with the other places in town for a bigger slice of the bigger Friday night crowd (My folks didn't protest much - it was on a Friday, so my schoolwork wouldn't be affected at all, so the 'rents agreed without too much protest).
However, Mario changed our fee from a flat fee per set to a percentage of the night's take on orders, thinking he could save a few bucks by doing it that way.
It turned out that we did pull in more clients, so we ended up getting paid more - at least twice our normal fixed-fee. This made Janet and the others happy.
Mario tried to weasel out and put us back on the old scheme, saying he couldn't afford the new one. But, acting as our sort-of manager, Danielle said that he was doing more business because of us so, if he did, the band won't play for him anymore.
Mario made a counter-offer, and said he could raise our standard fixed fee. Janet got it upped to three times our normal fee, and Mario instantly agreed.
We congratulated Janet for our new windfall, but then Danielle said she was suspicious because Mario agreed so quickly. She went and had a private talk with Mario, and she was able to up our fee to five times our usual.
Danielle said that she suspected we were being lowballed, and she was right. She also said that she actually thought we were still being lowballed - that Mario was really raking in the money on Friday nights - but trying for more might be pushing it, so she thought it best to leave the matter for now, and just try for something better later. Besides, five times normal was still pretty good. Especially for Mongo, who really needed the extra cash.
This was partly why Danielle suddenly became our new "business manager," much to Janet's displeasure.
That Saturday, instead of band practice, we celebrated, and the entire gang went out to dinner and dancing.
- - - - -
Back in the department store... while I was in the ladies' section, I bumped into Tracey and Danielle. Their cart was piled high - mine only had a handful of stuff.
I looked at Danielle disapprovingly for taking advantage, but she just looked back innocently. Casually, she mentioned that this was almost all for Tracey, and inside, I went, "ahhhh…" I felt slightly chagrined and guilty for thinking that of Danielle. I should have known better. She was actually helping Trace pick out stuff (Trace definitley needed some help in the fashion department), and who better to help her with fashion-related stuff than Danielle, the walking clothes horse. Heheh...
At the counter, Tracey just signed for our stuff, and asked if we could leave them there.
The saleslady seemed to know what to do, and just smiled at Tracey and said, "I'll take care of it, ma'am."
We then went to the food court and bought a couple pizzas, some burgers & fries, as well as other stuff, to go - not the healthiest but they were the quickest. Tracey looked at the ginormous amount of food we got, but she knew better than to comment on it.
On the trip to the Piper's condo, we got to know each other some more. We got so engrossed that it was only Tracey bringing out her house keys that made us realize we were already standing outside the door of their place. (Though their condo occupied the entire floor, their elevator didn't open directly to their place, as one would expect with fancy apartments like theirs. Instead, one still had to go through a hall and unlock a door. Tracey said that their condo was actually just several remodeled apartments whose adjoining walls had been knocked down, hence the old elevator, hallway and fire escape were still there.)
Danielle had about the same reaction to Tracey's and Mrs. Piper's place that I had before. Talk about luxurious.
All the stuff we bought we found piled neatly on the living room table. Except for the food, Tracey moved everything to her room so we'd have space, and we soon got down to business.
"Wait…" Tracey said, "this meeting is liable to take a long time. What about homework?" Tracey really was too straight to be part of our group. That'll change in time, of course. Heheh.
"I don't know about you guys," I shrugged, "but I don't need to work on anything that's due right away."
"Me neither," Danielle answered around a mouthful of hamburger.
"Okay, then," Tracey responded. "Lemme set up things, and I'll dial up Mom's office." She grabbed another slice of pizza, went to her room, brought out her Mac, connected it to their living room's entertainment system and, as she said she would, she taped over her Mac's webcam with a tiny piece of paper.
Soon, we linked up to Mrs. Piper's office computers. Tracey had obviously set up her mom's office beforehand since we connected instantly, and could see Mrs. P's office in two angles in a split screen on their panoramic big-screen TV: one at an angle shot from over Mrs. Piper's shoulder, and one from the opposite angle, allowing us to see Mrs. Piper in full. Obviously, Tracey connected to two computers, or a computer with two cameras.
After we were able to connect, Mrs. Piper said hello.
"How are you guys doing over there," she said.
"We're doing fine, Mom," Tracey said.
"Who's there with you, dear?"
Danielle and I couldn't respond since our mouths were full of food.
"Robin is here," Tracey answered for us, "as well as Danielle, Dannie's manager." (Danielle and I dutifully mumbled "hi" through our food.)
"Dannie who?" someone asked.
"Dannie Fairchild?" Tracey responded. "From the Rockrgrrl band?"
"Wait... one is named Danielle and the other's name Dannie?"
Mrs. Piper chuckled. "Yup."
"Ladies and gentlemen," Mrs. Piper said, "I asked the girls to join us, given we're planning on using, ahhh, Robin to cover the launch event, and using Dannie's band as the featured entertainment."
"I've seen Dannie and her band," someone I didn't know said, "and I've listened to the Nighthawk's program on the air several times. Good choice, ma'am. It's a pity it's audio only - it would have been nice to see them as well…"
"Sorry about that," Tracey said. "The bandwidth here's not big enough to have good video." Danielle and I giggled.
"We'll manage, dear," Mrs. Piper said. "Now, can someone summarize what we've agreed on so we can update the girls?"
Someone to Mrs. Piper's right dutifully read out the minutes, and we found out that, so far, they had agreed on a poster design, and that the people from PiperCorp promised to have several prototypes printed up and ready for approval by Mrs. Piper and the KPRX people, and then have at least a few thousand of the approved design printed up in a few days. The intention was to put up the posters in the mall, in popular retail spots, restaurants and fastfood places, and in the four schools in town. Mrs. Piper's having some people do it for her.
They also put together an outline for two commercials - a TV one and an audio-only radio one, to be aired on KPRX and KPRQ. And the idea was to have both Robin and Dannie do the voice-overs, and the people from PiperCorp to do the actual production. That rankled a little bit - why them?
Announcers from both our station and the TV station would then plug the event, using the material from the posters as their talk-points.
"Can I say something?" I asked in my best Robin voice.
Most of the people in the meeting were a bit surprised. I suppose they were assuming we'd just listen and be quiet.
"Of course, dear," Mrs. Piper said.
"Well, I was thinking that we just make one TV commercial, and we'd just play the audio over KRPQ as our radio commercial. That way, we save a few bucks, and we have one recognizably single commercial."
Everyone grew silent.
"Hmmm…" Mrs. Piper said. "We should have thought of that…"
"Also," I continued, "maybe we can have some of your copywriters write some press releases to go in the local papers, and to have it posted in the stations' websites and in some of the social media sites, like maybe facebook and instagram and so on. Or maybe just use the poster so it'll be uniform."
Mrs. Piper glared at some of the people in the room as if saying, "why didn't you think of that, too?"
"Go on," Mrs. Piper said to me.
"Well," I continued, "do we even have websites in the first place?"
"I'm sorry, Robin," Harry said, "I think KRPX has a basic site but ours is nothing more than a splashpage."
"Oh, no… well, that can't be helped. And I don't think we can do anything about it in two weeks…"
"Well," Danielle said, "nothing to be done, then. Let's just make sure a digital copy of the poster is posted on the sites. What do the guys from KRPX think?"
They shrugged. "Sounds good to us," someone from their group said. "We'll do our best to help."
And so the discussion continued.
And as the discussion continued, another fly in the ointment was discovered.
On Danielle's very strong insistence despite everyone's saying it was probably not a concern, Mrs. Piper called the Rockrgrrl people to see if Unlimited Bandwith's participation in KRPQ's launch would affect their standing in the Evolution Concert contest. If they say it does, Danielle said the band won't want be part of their event.
So, because of this, well, ultimatum, I suppose, despite the relatively late hour, Mrs. Piper contacted Rockrgrrl. She was apparently close to someone high up in the company, and was able to get through right away and explain the situation. However, no one she spoke to wanted to take responsibility. So it got bumped up and up through the company's hierarchy and she ended up being put through to Katie Hargraves herself.
Katie said it wasn't a big issue for her, but she needed to get the consensus of the other judges. And, after about twenty minutes of tense waiting, Katie called back and Mrs. Piper put her on speakerphone.
Katie said that it was all right with the judges. "However," she said in her kid-like voice, "Legal said there may be some problems since this constitutes a professional assignment, and their status as an amateur band may not hold anymore. And since the contest is only for amateur bands…"
"What?" I exclaimed. "You must be kidding, Ms Hargraves."
"Who's that?" Katie asked.
"I'm sorry, Katie," Mrs. Piper said. "That's Robin, one of our on-air announcers. You might have heard of her - her radio name is the Nighthawk."
"The Nighthawk!" Katie enthused. "I caught some of her radio shows! She's great! Pleased to meet you, Robin."
I couldn't help but blush. "Ummm, thank you, Ms Hargraves."
"Please call me Katie," she said, and asked about me and my show, and we got to talking a bit until Mrs. Piper cleared her throat.
Katie giggled and said, "sorry! I got carried away, I guess."
"You were saying, Robin?" Mrs. P asked.
"Well," I said, "I was just thinking that it's ridiculous that we, I mean, the band can't do this. Using that argument, then technically speaking, Unlimited Bandwidth was already a 'professional' band even before the concert, since they've had several paying gigs already. And almost all the other bands have regular gigs as well."
"Good point, Robin," Katie said, "but Legal said that 'amateur' in this case is taken to mean bands not having played in any major venues. It's in the rules. And an event like this, which is to be televised, is definitely a 'major venue.'"
This made everyone stop talking to consider her words.
"Well," Danielle said, "it's just local TV. And what if I can sell it to the guys not to accept payment for the KRPQ thing? Will that mean they keep their amateur status?"
"Oh! Sorry, Ms Hargraves. I'm Danielle - I'm the band's manager."
"Hello, Danielle. Well, you do make a good point, but such rationalizations might not cut it. To be frank, our concern is really with the upcoming contestants of the other two upcoming finals - future contestants might make an issue of having to compete with a, quote, professional band."
"Well, if you follow that logic, that practically means that my guys can't do gigs until the contest is over. Which will be in - when? - eight to ten months' time? That's close to a year of not playing anywhere! Are they supposed to give up their little gig at Mario's, too? That's not right."
"I agree. I wish I could help, but I can't commit to anything right now. Personally speaking, I don't think it's a problem but, officially, I don't know yet. I guess I need to check with my mother as well as get some more legal advice. I'll get back to you as soon as I can."
This was greeted with silence.
"Well," Mrs. P. said after a bit. "You've given us some food for thought. Thank you for your time, Ms Hargraves. I guess we need to make plans. And please contact us as soon as things have been clarified."
"Sure thing, Mrs. Piper. Good night. And glad to have met you Robin."
"Thanks, Katie. 'Night."
Everyone in our video feed looked at Mrs. Piper. You could feel the tension.
"Danielle?" I said, hoping that my sister had an idea.
"Well…" Danielle began, "I don't know how to continue with the meeting now…"
"Yes," Mrs. P said. "That kind of takes the wind out of our sails."
"Ummm, Mrs. Piper," one of the KRPX TV people said, "so what do you want us to do now?"
"My heart's still set on Unlimited Bandwidth," she responded. "They sound good, they have a following, specifically with our listeners - can't do better than that - and I like them… Danielle?"
"Yes, Mrs. P?"
"Do you think the band would still go for it if it meant giving up the Evolution contest?"
"Gee, I don't know… Probably not. I'll have to ask them."
"Okay, you ask them. When do you think they can let us know?"
"Well, given we only have two weeks, I'll ask them first thing tomorrow, and try and get an answer for you then."
"Good, good. For now, though, let's proceed as if they're going to say 'yes.' But just in case, let's talk about a substitute band. What do you guys think?"
"How about the runner-up from the contest?" someone suggested.
"Ummm, boss," Lou Jefferson said, "I don't think we can get any of the bands from the contest. The fans will ask, why them? Why didn't we get UB? And don't the contest rules also apply to them?"
Sally, Talia and Harry agreed with that while Dennis nodded sagely.
"Why couldn't it be that it's because we already featured them and we're giving the other bands a chance?" someone said.
"Doesn't matter," someone else said. "The rules also apply to them. So they might not want to do it, either."
The others looked at that guy with raised eyebrows until someone interjected, "well, the rules don't matter to them - they didn't win."
"You're right, of course, except for the runner-up - they have to remain eligible otherwise they can't take over for UB if UB gets disqualified or has to pull out for some reason. And if they can't then the next one in line can't, and so on and so on."
Everyone looked at him.
"That's just a thought," the guy said, and scooched down the couch in slight embarassment.
"What about getting some A-list performer?" someone else said. "Like…"
Mrs. Piper shook her head. "I don't think we can afford an A-list band."
"How about a no-name B-lister?"
"I don't think so," I said. "Remember how the people who organized the presidential inauguration were criticized because they only got B-listers in their event? And besides, our station's a small one and wouldn't attract a star. Betcha they wouldn't want to come and perform even if we could ask them, even a has-been act. Especially since this is just going to be a local program."
"Then who would you suggest?"
"Well, it definitely has to be local, and has to have a good rep…"
"I think I know one," Harry said. "There's this little vocal group I know - four girls that sing in that little coffeehouse at the college in the next town. The place is called the Juke Joint."
"Hey, I think I know them," Talia said. "I know Jenna and MacKenzie - two of the four girls. They're no Unlimited Bandwidth, but they're fairly good."
"Local girls?" Mrs. P asked.
"Okay. I'll trust your word. So, for now, they're our substitute band in case UB can't do it. Contact them. We'll know by tomorrow if UB will do it, but still keep your eyes peeled for other local bands or groups."
"But Boss, what if…"
Mrs. P rubbed her temples. "We'll think about that when we cross that bridge, Talia," she mumbled. "One problem at a time. Okay, let's continue…"
***** (Danny) *****
At around two in the morning, the meeting was more-or-less over, with everyone clear about their responsibilities. And a significant chunk of it was heaped on the three of us: Tracey would be the main driver for the advertisements on TV, radio, print and the Internet, while I was to make sure that the people on-stage would be prepared. Danielle was to prevail on the band for ideas for the actual show, which she needed to coordinate with the PiperCorp and KRPX people as the ones who would actually produce and cover the show. Also, one of the other major chores I had was to actually select the music. Not a small responsibility, actually. I planned to solicit the help of Morgan and the band, of course. And then I had to pass on the list to the PiperCorp guys to get the appropriate license payments, clearances and permissions.
Of course, everything that we'll be doing was dependent on whether the band would be willing to take the risk and still do the KRPQ launch event even if they lose their chance to participate in the big Evolution finals. So Danielle and I decided to tackle that one first thing.
So I texted all the members of the band asking if we could meet after school.
"Gosh," Tracey said after she had logged us out. "This has grown to be a complicated thing. Hope we can pull it off."
"Gosh?" I repeated and giggled. "Really? 'Gosh?' Gee willickers!" Tracey needed to stop hanging out with old people.
"Oh, shut up!" Tracey exclaimed, and giggled as well.
to be continued...
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