Wednesday, May 1st 1991, 11:39 a.m.
“Yo, Alva, see that girl over there?”
Alva’s gaze followed Corn’s pointing finger to the girl waiting in the french fry line. “Who, Tina Barnett?”
“Tina, yeah, that’s right.”
“What’s so special about her?” Alva asked.
“Check out her booty in those short shorts.” Corn smacked his lips.
“Isn’t she a little…heavy?”
“Wha? Heavy?” Corn shook his head. “You white boys don’t appreciate the finer things in life. Shit, Alva, that girl is stacked. You don’t think she’s fine?”
Alva shrugged. “She’s cute. So you gonna talk to her?”
“Tina? No way. Girl like that wouldn’t give me the time of day.” Corn nudged Alva in the ribs. “What about you? Who are you looking at?”
“Me? Nobody. Just doing my thing.”
“Come on, Alva,” Corn said. “You need something to take your mind off your break-up. You’ve been moping around for weeks. Alcie’s old news. You gotta get back up on that horse, man.”
“I haven’t been moping, I’ve been busy,” Alva said.
“Yeah, doin’ what? Another screwy invention?”
“Come by tonight about seven and I’ll show you.”
“I’ll be there,” Corn said. “What is it this time? Another of those mirror doohickeys for setting mailboxes on fire from down the street?”
“No, nothing like the light concentrator. My mom made me promise our neighbors I’d never do that again.”
“What then? A thermonuclear bomb?”
“No, this one’s something special,” Alva said. “Something that’s going to solve all our problems.”
“Oh, you’ve got to tell me now,” Corn said.
“Be there tonight at seven, that’s all I can say.” Alva pulled the brim of his Tarheels cap down lower and checked Tina out one last time. She was laughing with a couple of her friends. Her skirt was kind of short, and she wore black boots up to her knees.
“Hey, man, the line’s going down,” Corn said. “Quit starin’ at Tina’s ass and let’s go get some lunch.”
Wednesday, 4:18 p.m.
Fast food wrappers and empty soda cans littered the floor, cords and guitar cases cluttered every corner. A calendar featuring hot Mustangs and hotter bikini girls hung from the wall behind an expansive drumkit. And Barrow and Grunt practiced a new song at a volume just short of the level they knew from experience would draw complaints from the neighbors and a visit from the cops.
“Okay, let’s try it again,” Barrow called out, adjusting a tone knob on his amp. “Can you start it off with the four count?”
Grunt called out one-two-three-four and started in with a bass drum-heavy rhythm, hitting the ride cymbal on every beat. Barrow jammed over the top, chopping out a funky riff and interspersing it with short solo phrases high up on the fretboard. The two were locked in pretty well until Grunt missed a snare hit and the rhythm broke down.
“Sorry about that,” he said, tapping lightly on the high-hat.
“Don’t worry about it.” Barrow switched off his amp, creating an audible click through the speakers. He took off the guitar strap and put his axe in its case. “I think we got that one down.”
“No doubt,” Grunt said. “Sounded awesome.” He laid his drumsticks on the snare and stood up. “You gonna be there tonight, right?”
“What, you mean at Alva’s?”
“Yep. What do you think this whole thing’s about?” Grunt sat down on an amp and took a long swig from a can of Mountain Dew.
“Said he got something to show us,” Barrow said. He wiped the sweat from his hands on his Infectious Grooves t-shirt. “I don’t know, man. After his last invention, I just don’t know.”
“Yeah. I hope he doesn’t create a black hole or somethin’, you know?”
“He’s being pretty secretive about this one, too. I gave him my wah-wah pedal to fix weeks ago and he hasn’t gotten to it. Been working on this special project of his all the time.”
“Damn, when you get the wah-wah back,” Grunt said. “It’s gonna sound like this.” He belched out a boom-chikka-wow-wow and tossed the empty can to the floor.
Wednesday, 4:32 p.m.
Alcie’s fingers danced up and down the piano keyboard with ease. She sat on the bench, back straight but body relaxed, and let the music flow out. Clear-minded but focused, breathing even. Okay, now for the cadenza. Her fingers hit precisely, each note following the last with perfect execution. And now for the finish. She brought the movement to a close, holding down the keys on the final cadence and letting the chord fade to silence.
Clapping from behind her. Alcie smiled. “Hi Carol. I didn’t know you were there.”
“Oh, I’ve been listening for a couple minutes,” her step-mother said. “Very nicely done. Mozart?”
“Yep. The tenth sonata.”
Carol approached behind her and ran a hand through her hair. “I’m so glad to see you in a good mood and enjoying yourself.”
Alcie closed the cover over the keyboard. “Yeah. I guess I’ve been pretty grumpy lately.”
“Oh, that’s okay. Young ladies your age feel things very…intensely. You just have to realize breaking up with a boy is not the end of the world.”
“Yeah, I know,” Alcie said.
“Your father and I are going to a movie tonight, if you’d like to come with us.” Carol stroked the side of Alcie’s face. “Might be good for you to get out of the house for something besides school.”
“I’d like to Carol, but I have to study for a big physics test tomorrow.”
Carol sighed. “Well, okay. Don’t stay up too late studying.”
“I won’t.” Alcie clapped both hands together. “You know, Carol, I think I really am over the break-up. I’m feeling a lot better now. Strong, even. Like it would take something major to knock me off my balance.”
Wednesday, 4:35 p.m.
“Hey, Mom,” Alva said coming in the front door.
“Hi, David, how was school?” Alva’s mother insisted on calling him by his birth name. She stood at the kitchen counter, spreading dough out with a rolling pin.
“It was fantastic. I’m going down to my lab now.”
“Fantastic? Wow. I haven’t heard you say that about school in a long time. Can I bring you down a snack?”
“No, that’s okay. Thanks, Mom.” Alva skipped down the steps to the basement two at a time.
“You sure?” she called down after him.
“Yeah, Mom. I’m working on a special project. No interruptions!”
Since his brother had moved out, Alva had taken over the den, turning half of it into his personal laboratory. He flipped on the light and straightened the framed pictures on the wall. Nikola Tesla. Samuel Morse. And of course, his prized possession, the cover of an issue of the Vancoram Review, signed in the corner “Mr. Thos. A. Edison.”
At his workbench he straightened piles of wires, servos, capacitors, diodes, battery testers, LCD displays, and dozens of other types of electrical ephemera. From a shelf he pulled down a wire-entwined device, about the size and shape of a cordless telephone. He pushed a stool to the center of the room and placed the device on it, covering both with a white sheet.
He checked the clock. Almost show time.
Wednesday, 7:10 p.m.
“Man, you know it’s impossible to come down here without a sandwich?” Barrow said to Alva as he walked down the stairs with Corn and Grunt.
“Yeah, Alfa’s mom ish the besht,” Grunt said around a mouthful of bologna and white bread. “I neffer leaf here hungry.”
Alva looked up from where he sat at his workbench, putting in miniature screws on a tiny motor. “Oh, she’s happy to feed you guys ’cause I hardly ever eat anything.”
“Yeah, what’s up that?” Corn said. “It hurts my eyes to see how skinny you are, son.” He picked up a whirring device from a shelf. “What’s this thing?”
Alva jumped up from his chair with wide eyes, grabbed the device from Corn. “Nothing you should touch!”
Corn’s face fell. “Sorry, man.”
“Ha ha! Corn almost blew up the neighborhood!” Grunt said, swallowing the last of his sandwich.
“What was that shit anyway?” Corn asked. “Did I really almost blow us up?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Alva said. “That’s not why I asked y’all here.”
“Yeah, what’s this all about?” Barrow asked. “I’m supposed to be studying for my trig test tomorrow.”
“Oh yeah?” Alva said. “What’s it on?”
“Trigonometric identities,” Barrow said.
“You’ll ace it.”
“Yeah, right. Not all of us have the damn textbook memorized.”
Grunt cleared his throat. “Can we get on with this, you Poindexters?”
“Alright, guys. Prepare yourselves for something amazing.” Alva dimmed the lights and strode to the center of the room, standing next to the stool with the sheet over it. He ran a hand through his black curly hair. His friends leaned against the tables and shelves around the room, staring at him expectantly. With a quick yank he pulled off the sheet and cast it aside. He pressed a button on the top and the device began to hum, a warm light on its top glowing blue. Everyone’s eyebrows raised and the friends glanced at each other. Even for Alva this was theatrical.
“What the hell is that?” Barrow asked.
“Gentlemen, this is the thing that will change all our lives. No more being turned down for dates. No more sitting around on Saturday nights with nothing to do. No more pining after girls who don’t even know our names.”
“Yeah, but what is it?” Grunt said, eyes wide.
Alva picked it up and held it in the air. The hum shifted to a higher pitch.
“I call it the Love Machine.”
I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of The Love Machine! Now read the rest of the book!