Luke opened the door of the bus and tipped out the ashtray. “Still can’t get any of you big boys to clean up after yourselves, can I?”
“Nah,” Les answered, shrugging. “Usually Karen takes care of all that for us.”
“I do not!” Karen folded her arms and grimaced. “Not anymore, anyway.”
Tony swiped at a few of the spots where the ashes hadn’t made it into the ashtray with his sleeve. “Besides,” he said, “we’ve all acquired Beano’s bad habits, after long years of exposure.” Beano acknowledged the comment with a belch and a chuckle.
Luke parked the ashtray back in its customary spot on the table and slid back into his seat. “So,” he asked, “Keith and Brian started the band, yeah? And then they invited Les ‘cause they knew him from school, and he knew Tony because his mum was friends with his aunt.”
“That’s more or less right,” Hughie agreed. “Strictly speaking, Keith and Les met when they were hiding under the back staircase skipping maths class. Dunno if you could rightly call that knowing him from school.”
“Sure you can,” Les interrupted. “We were trying to get as far from school as we could get and not get caught out.”
Luke chuckled at that. “Okay, but how did Beano join the band?”
“Oh, that was easy,” Hughie answered. “Keith and Brian had been buying their grass from him for two or three years before they started the thing.”
Luke’s eyebrows went up. “Really?”
“I know a thing or two about the care ‘n’ feeding of what we call in the nursery business ‘tender annuals,” Beano said. “It’s a family business, you know.” He blinked and straightened up slightly. “The nursery, I mean, not the cannabis.”
“Okay, so that’s how they knew you,” Luke said, “but how did you get your spot in the band? I mean, did they come to buy their weed for the week and catch you practicing your paradiddles or something?”
“That sounds kinkier than it really is,” Ray observed.
“Yeah, I don’t want to hear anything about Beano’s paradiddles,” Karen laughed.
Beano looked as if he were trying to decide whether or not to be offended. Apparently he decided not to be, and continued, “Well, not exactly. At the time I didn’t have a drum kit yet, just a pair of bongos.”
“An old pair of bongos,” broke in Les. “As in, they’d probably belonged to his great-uncle and they were so far out of tune he’d have done better to bang on a guitar case.”
“Which, I might add, he did after we pointed this out,” Tony added, grinning at the memory.
Beano snorted in his general direction. “That’s as may be, but I heard that they were putting a band together when Keith came to get a shilling bag, and I insisted that they let me audition.” He straightened up in his chair and yanked his pants up in the back. “And despite my lack of any fancy equipment, they accepted me immediately.”
Luke smirked at Les and Tony. “Because of his immense talent, I assume.”
Les shrugged broadly. “He was the third drummer we’d heard. He was better on a pair of bongos with no heads left and Brian’s cheap pasteboard guitar case than either of the other two guys had been on a full kit, and we figured he’d have a connection if we wanted to pick up other drugs.” He chewed on his lip and looked at the bus’s ceiling. “Turned out we were only half-right about that.”
Luke waited for a moment, then sighed and took the bait. “Half-right how?”
Beano glared at Les, growling, “You didn’t need to tell him about that.”
“What he means,” Tony explained, “is that Beano started out with seeds he’d picked out of the stuff one of the local dealers was selling, but ever since then he’d been growing his own pot from his own seeds in the greenhouse - and he never gave Louis a cut.” He spread his hands and added, “Louis didn’t exactly like him after that.”
“It was his own fault,” Beano stated roundly, “for selling bags with seeds in them in the first place. No point in smoking them, is there? You’d do better to press them for oil.”
“Nowadays, they’d be health food,” Hughie observed.
Nodding, Luke asked, “So, you still grow it, or the heat get to be too much for you?”
“The latter, very much, I’m afraid,” Beano sighed.
“Too bad,” Luke sighed. “Guess the cops ruin everything.”
Beano’s eyes got big. “Oh, it wasn’t the police that put the fear of God into me,” he protested. “It was my Aunt Mabel. She finally figured out what my ‘pet plants’ were about a year after the band broke up, and not only did she tear each and every one out by the roots, roast my seeds, and threaten to tun me in,” and here he paused to take a deep breath, “she informed me that I was not too old or too large for the switch.”
There was a pause as everyone waited for a punchline, then uproarious laughter. Beano glared. “What? I tell you, that woman was ferocious! I’d like to see any of you suffer one of her switchings and not fear her.”
“If you say so, Beano,” Luke said, a hand over his mouth to hide the grin.