The crowd cheered, maddening and deafening, swelling adjacent to the sharp shooting riffs Kipo sent through the speakers, zipping across all corners of the stadium, electrifying everything.
It was in moments like these that Kipo felt the most connected to everything, everyone. Every face in the crowd, illuminated by the blue and purple strobe lights; the vibrations of their cheers and the music.
“Thank you everybody! You have been amazing tonight. See you all out there. Good night!”
The crew flooded the stage ready to clean everything up and Kipo didn’t want to leave. She never wanted to leave. She never felt tired right after, while she was still on stage. She received everyone’s energy. This was her dream, her reason for being, and in this moment, she was one with the soul of the world. She felt like she could sing forever.
Of course if she did that the next day she would be voiceless and her manager, Jamack, would be furious. And she felt for him. Mrs. Sartori, the owner of her label, ModFrogsInc, was terrifying.
“Okay, okay, hurry up, get back here,” Jamack was already yelling at her from backstage. Harris took her guitar and Kwat sprayed her face with a water spritzer.
“Hey!” she said.
“Freshen up! We leave in thirty minutes!” Jamack shrieked.
Kipo wanted to sit in front of the vanity mirror, the outline of lights sparkling, smiling back at her, like, “good job, girl!” She wanted to go down into the crowd, hug people, thank them. She wanted to thank them for making this all possible. For letting her live her dream.
Sometimes people saw her on the street and thanked her and told her she was amazing and how she lifted their spirits and how they listened to her everyday on the way to work or school. It was insane. She was so grateful that she could make something that people could resonate with. She didn’t feel like she was amazing. She just was so happy this was all happening.
Even though she couldn’t enjoy this moment because Kwat was spraying the back of her head with the water spritzer again but she would always have these memories. She would always remember. She wished she could stay and see some of the cities. Site-seeing. Her dad could have never imagined. It was so different from the books.
Harris loaded her into the boxy old-style car, shut the door on her, the woosh of air making her skin cool under the water droplets that still hadn’t absorbed into her skin or evaporated.
“It’s a long ride, lilypad, so rest up,” Kwat said. Harris drove the big truck.
Jamack slid into shotgun. “Go!” he snarled.
They drove into the night.
Jamack had her on a grueling tour schedule. She didn’t really feel it until a few months in. She had just mostly been excited to see so many people. Live out her dream.
But she was being run raw.
Her rule was to never miss a call from her dad. She had missed like five in the last three weeks.
It really sucked.
Mandu nuzzled into Kipu’s lap. She always knew when she was sad. Kipu stroked her head and scratched behind her ears.
She was so glad that Mandu was with her. Even though this experience was amazing and awesome it was lonely. Kwat and Harris weren’t much good company, and Jamack was always stressed and yelling at her.
Mandu was so loyal. He even found a way onto vehicle when Jamack had swooped down at snapped her up on that fateful day.
She was singing to herself (well, Mandu always listened, she was very supporting), pretending to put on a concert for the ravine behind her house, like she always did, and Jamack swooped in.
She had no idea what was happening. A rope tied around her waist and lifted her up. She shrieked.
“A voice on that one, right!” she heard a strange voice declare.
“Just get her in here,” another voice growled.
She twisted and shouted.
And then they threw her into the music business.
Jamack made her sing in front fo Mrs. Sartori and they were off.
She was so glad to have Mandu with her on this crazy journey.
When Jamack first took her, he was so mad when he realized Mandu had somehow snuck onto the vehicle.
“What is that, a dog?” Jamack cried.
Kipu tried to explain that Mandu was not a dog. Jamack scowled and growled and said “dogs aren’t allowed on tour!”
“Should we drop him back home, boss?” Kwat asked.
Oh that could be a good idea. Then she could say goodbye to her dad. Or maybe her dad could come with her...
“Yeah, sure,” Kipo said. Everyone looked at her, Kwat on one end in surprise, and Jamack on the other end in disdain and disbelief.
“Okay,” Jamack said, signalling with his hand.
Harris opened the door. Wind flooded in whipped around, rattling her brain.
“Wait, what????” Kipu shrieked.
Mandu cried too.
“You said we could drop him off!” Kwat said.
“Not like this!”
Harris tried to grab Mandu from Kipu, but Kipu flipped out of the car with her.
“No, the merchandise!”
They lassoed her back into the car.
“It’s both of us or none of us!” Kipu snapped.
“Fine! Whatever! Keep your stupid dog!”
“She’s not stupid.” Kipu snapped. “She’s smarter than you!”
Jamack let out an indignant cry of disbelief.
“And she isn’t a dog,” Kipu muttered.
Kipo looked out the dark window as she pet Mandu on the head. She didn’t even know how Mandu managed to latch on, but she was grateful. It was nice to have a friend on the road. Jamack was warming up to her, she knew. But still. She missed her dad a lot. Even though going on tour and singing was super fun, she wanted to be with her family, but it still was kind of messed up that
She hugged Mandu tighter and tried to fall asleep.
She played a show the next night and they were on the road yet again. But the next afternoon they weren’t at a stadium or arena.
They were at an austere office building.
“What’s going on?”
“We have been summoned,” Harris said ominously.
“It’s Mrs. Sartori!” Kwat exclaimed. “She
“Shut up,” Jamack hissed while Harris elbowed Kwat on the head.
“Alrightie, let’s see what Mama wants,” Kipo said. She stepped towards the building only to be yanked back by her shirt.
“Hey, what gives?” she asked.
“No so fast,” Jamack said, while Harris still held onto her shirt like he was picking up a puppy by the scruff. “You need to shower first. You stink.”
After she had showered and was dressed appropriately according to Jamack, they waited in the hallway outside Mrs. Sartori’s office. Two guards stood outside, hands clasped behind their backs.
“Aw Harris, they kind of look like you!” Kipo said looking up at his ever-scowling face.
Harris said nothing.
Finally one of the guards nodded almost imperceptibly at Jamack.
“Alright, let’s go. Look sharp. Tuttut,” Jamack said, looking like he wanted to wrestle with Kipo’s hair, straighten her clothes, and maybe give her another bath.
The doors opened to reveal a circular room, left and right walls filled to the ceiling with overflowing bookcases. There were two large tables, one on either side, and then Mrs. Sartori’s main table in the middle. Maps and pencils overflowed on the table to the left and the table to the right was pristine, like it had never been used before. The carpet was royal purple, lush like foliage. Kipo wished she could take her shoes off and squeeze it between her toes. She wished she could roll around in it and sleep with it. She had no idea why such a wonderful material was at a place of work.
Mrs. Sartori’s hands were on her desk and she looked at them critically.
“Hello,” Jamack said, somehow stumbling over the one word he said. He bowed so low his head almost touched the floor.
“How are you?” Kipo asked Mrs. Sartori. “I like your office.”
Mrs. Sartori said nothing.
“Has the talent been up to your standards? We have been keeping up with the schedule you have set for us,” Jamack said, talking to the floor, body still bent in his bow.
Mrs. Sartori didn’t reply to him either.
“There’s been some changes to the lineup,” she declared instead, staring icily at Kipo.
“What? I’ve been cut?” Kipo didn’t really know how to feel. At first she was shocked. Was she not good enough? Did she fail them somehow?
But then she was like, maybe I can see my dad.
Mrs. Sartori closed her eyes briefly. “No. We are adjusting your act.”
“Wow, okay. Like the tour schedule?”
“No.” Mrs. Sartori’s eyes flicked up to the door. Kipo turned around trying to figure out what was going on.
The door clicked open.
As the door opened, Mrs. Sartori announced, “Meet your new bandmate.”