By: Jacob LePretre
J-Rock took the Chewy bar from his pocket and he stared at it like a man who stares into his hands after creating a masterpiece. Chocolate. He ripped it while keeping it in one piece and he took a slow bite before he went at it too fast. He chewed nice and calm. Remember, slow and steady, slow and steady. The inside of the Chewy bar was still cold from his freezer. A Chewy bar in the freezer was a great idea that helped it stay fresh and full instead of letting it melt like in the summer. Few things could ruin your day more than when your Chewy bar melted in the summer. J-Rock learned to keep them frozen. He finished the first and heard a light applause echo and die and he ate a second bar. This one was peanut butter. He turned the radio up a click, he liked this song and ate the second similar to the first. The song was Pink Floyd. The station 93.1, he liked the station too. Slow and steady. Enjoyment. Savour. The song, Time.
He finished the second bar and stored the wrapper with the first. He heard louder applause now. He breathed easy. Steady. Someone came back and told him something and he nodded and reached for a gulp of water. J-Rock walked on stage. Applause. Spotlight. Sweat.
I’m just bad at commitments, you know what I’m sayin. I mean, hell, they told me 20 minutes and I could already go for a beer and a hotdog right about now. Laughter. That’s a good combo. Beer and anything is a pretty good combo. Hotdogs too, now that I think about it. Laughter continues. You wanna know something? The first time I ate a bagel and cream cheese in public my buddy said to me, you want some bagel with that cream cheese? Fuck outta here! Come on, guy! Laughter. How do you think that made me feel? I haven’t had a bagel in public since. Laughter. Just can’t do it, harder than it seems too, not eating bagels in public.
J-Rock liked making people laugh and he was good at it. Play to your strengths, someone once told him.
You know, you’d think I’m a good cook right? Cause I’m, a, uh, big guy right? Laughter. You see you all even think so or else you wouldn’t have laughed. It’s okay, it’s okay. I actually am a decent cook. Laughter. Can preheat the hell out of an oven. One mean frozen pizza if you know what I’m sayin. J-Rock flew his arm across the crowd and they loved him and ate him up and he made them happy.
J-Rock left the stage sweating at 24 minutes and some change back pedaling from a standing ovation and backstage he was met with a big hug and nearly lifted off the ground by the owner of the bar where J-Rock performed tonight.
J-Rock J-Rock J-Rock, my beauty, my baby! Thank you, thank you.
It’s easy stuff, brother. Don’t worry about a thing. J-Rock waved his big paw at the owner.
Yes, yes but you are a good man. You are a funny man and BIG man! the owner slapped him on the arm and reached into his back pocket and took an envelope and handed it to J-Rock. Next weekend too? he asked, hopeful.
J-Rock looked at the envelope, checked the inside and nodded his head. I can do that, he said. Next weekend will do, he smiled.
The owner smiled larger. You drink for free tonight, you drink for free. Thank you, thank you. They shook hands and the owner left J-Rock in his warm up room behind the stage. He looked at the Chewy bar wrappers in the trash bin. J-Rock heard the owner yell to the crowd asking how it was and they applauded and he told them that the next drink was on the house and again the room applauded and hollered and a band started from a corner and the lights changed and the place was alive again. J-Rock joined them.
He stood leaning against the bar and for two hours he was bought and brought drinks by the people even though he drank for free to start with. He could have been mistaken for Jabba the Hut next to the bar or an emperor after the pharaohs. The people came and said hello and told him that they thought he was so funny and asked could they buy him a drink? Want to come to our table? Where do you usually do stand-up at? Are you famous? Did that really happen? How do you come up with that stuff?
At a quarter to nine and feeling a good buzz J-Rock left the club to pats on the back and do you want a ride and good luck at the next gig and see you next weekend and I love you and that made him laugh and he looked around but did not see who said it.
When he got to the subway he was already sweating even with the cold of the night and in fact he was dripping onto the concrete so much so that he felt himself sobering up. On the way to the subway he passed a group of kids from across the street and he heard one or two of them yell hey fatass and then yell it again a second time but he pretended not to hear them and they pressed on. He sidestepped, passed the gate and went down the stairs into the station and stopped at the bottom and he saw that the entire platform was empty. He leaned his shoulder on the stairwell and his elbow rested on the rail and it felt cool to his hot arm and he wished for some water and he waited for the next train.
That is absolutely disgusting. Take that as a lesson, eat right and don’t do drugs.
Hello? Move, said the mom.
J-Rock felt a foot in his back. How long had he been asleep? Huh, he said and turned his head around and then his body and allowed them to pass through like a gate. The pair walked some steps down. The mother couldn’t help herself and she turned back around.
No, I can’t. I really can’t. Not today. J-Rock thought she was about to cry.
You should be ashamed of yourself, she said. Fat and ugly and homeless. You need to get some help. Or eat a salad for crying out loud. How do you get this fat?
I told my son to take you as a lesson, a lesson on what not to do. Isn’t that right, sweetie? she called behind her and the boy stepped up.
Lady, you don’t know the first thing about me, said J-Rock.
I can tell all I need just by looking at you. She spat. The kid stepped forward again and mocked J-Rock with disgust. This is exactly what’s wrong with this country, she said. Right here it is. Fat, fat, fat. She threw the words at J-Rock. The son laughed and said fat man fat man fat man and then so did the mom and the boy pointed at J-Rock and said it again and again until J-Rock started to laugh which made the pair stop.
What’s so funny? they asked the laughing fat man.
J-Rock stopped and caught his breath, he looked them dead in the eye, he let the suspense build like he was on stage, comic relief, reel them in. Slow and steady. Now.
Kid, he said, I’d fuck your mom till she couldn’t walk then fry her up and eat her like I do a bucket of chicken.
The mom’s face flushed. J-Rock laughed like a lunatic and slapped his belly like an ape and the boy turned ghost white and dropped his head. Young enough but old enough to know that we’re mammals. The mom dragged him away from J-Rock and down as far as they could go and still be able to grab a cart and J-Rock stood grinning at the front end.
The three of them all boarded the same train. J-Rock went home.
J-Rock walked up the apartment stairs and into room 305 which was made up of a simple kitchen, bathroom and bedroom setup. The kitchen doubled as a living room and he had a small TV and a mechanical bike with a thick towel on top of the handlebars. He got the machine for a good deal from a garage sale last spring.
J-Rock turned on the lights and got some water and sat on a stool with his back against the wall and took slow sips until he felt full. He went to the bedroom and put the cash away into a drawer. He went to the bathroom and cleaned his hands and threw water on his face over and over and he let it drip some into the sink and he took a towel and dabbed his face dry. On the way back from the bathroom J-Rock stopped at the fridge and checked an X over today’s date. He looked at Wednesday and saw the booking of another bar with a small smiley face drawn next to it and he penciled in next Saturday with another smiley face. He slapped the fridge with an open palm and rocked his fist.
J-Rock changed into shorts and a tee-shirt and by the time he had done all of this he was sweating again. He took the water jug back from the fridge and he went over to the bike and he set the jug down and he got himself onto the bike and heard it creak and strain and he prayed it didn’t break or maybe that it did. J-Rock started to peddle and he started to go a bit more and a bit more. He did this for a minute or so and he would stop and drink some water. And then another minute or so and then some water. On many nights he would recite his act as he rode the bike, working slow and steady in both ways. A good compliment to one another, good production, good practice. And practice makes perfect. But tonight, after the fifth stop and go and stop and go, J-Rock found he kept going back to the calendar on the fridge and staring at next Saturday and it distracted him as he peddled and it took away his focus. He wasn’t acting his act or being funny. He stopped pedalling and got off the seat. Instead of the bike tonight, he turned on the TV and sat to write new material. He loved to make people.