Status: Updates weekly-ish.

S/he Screams in Silence


Glancing up from where he was swapping out the strings on Blue, his electric guitar, Billie Joe finally addressed the elephant in the garage. The night before, the wound had been too tender to even graze it, never mind joke around about it, but now, a day later, it seemed as good a time as any. “So I guess Sweet Children wasn’t such a bad name after all…” A subdued chuckle escaped from his mouth as he wound the lower E string around the tuning peg with meticulous care.

Mike effortlessly picked up the conversation’s unspoken thread. “Well, I dunno, maybe Naïve Children woulda been better.” He ran a cloth over the smooth acrylic body of his bass, one that had been soaked in polish at least eleven times between then and its last wash. Then he turned the bottle over onto it again, to give it a fresh dosage.

“Or Still Green,” Billie Joe threw out, raising a shoulder in a half shrug.

“Wet behind the Ears.”

Billie Joe snorted. “You lose on that one.”

Tapping a foot to a thinking beat, Mike tried again. “Is ‘Bong Water behind the Ears’ better?” When Billie Joe cocked an eyebrow, he sighed. “Ah, fuck it. Tré would probably come up with something that would blow all these out of the water.”

“Yeah, you just stick with the bass…” He moved on to the A string while Mike had another go at the bottle of polish.

After about a minute of concentrated silence, Mike asked, “Where’d you say he had to go today again?”

Billie Joe’s eyes flicked up nervously. “Tré?” he checked.

The bassist balanced the polish on top of the cinderblock lying near his sneaker. “Who else would I be talking about?” He squinted at his friend suspiciously, keen senses not to be fooled.

Billie Joe shrugged. “I dunno man, somebody else?” He bit his lip, gaze lowered.

Mike had detected a hopeful lilt in the rhetorical question, and it worried him. “Hey hold up, is there trouble in paradise and you haven’t talked to me about it? I was pretty surprised you were dealing with that disappointing shit last night pretty well…I didn’t expect there to be something else you were worrying about on top of it.”

Choosing the simplest part of Mike’s concern to navigate, Billie Joe answered, keeping up an air of nonchalance. “No, to be honest, I’m actually relieved, in a way. About last night,” he clarified. “Like I want to be big, I want to reach people. More people than can cram into Gilman or a sweaty basement. But also I’m not sure I’m ready to betray everybody who’s believed in us.”

Mike nodded firmly, a strand of blonde hair spilling into his eyes; he brushed it back out of the way. “I get what you’re saying. I don’t want to be a sellout either.”

Billie Joe grimaced upon hearing “sellout,” a word which he had only recently considered the possibility of applying to himself. Somehow he had never taken into account the very personal pain that such a word, belonging to the ilk of “traitor” and “backstabber,” could deliver so close to the heart. It conveyed something intimate and yet tarnished in the most despicable of ways. He shuddered, because he felt the pull both towards and away from it, but all he wanted was independence.

“I almost don’t give a fuck,” he admitted, moving onto the next string of his guitar.

An amused hum escaped Mike’s lips. “Oh yeah?” He draped his right arm over the curve of his bass and rested his chin on what he liked to think was the top wing of the guitar—the part where the body jutted out over the neck. When Billie Joe wasn’t exactly forthcoming with an explanation, Mike prompted him. “You mean you don’t give a fuck about being a sellout?”

“Well,” he sighed in frustration, “I mean I guess it’s more like I mainly give a fuck about other people thinking I’m a sellout.” He paused. “That probably means I’m already one, doesn’t it?”

“Not quite.” Mike shook his head. “I’m pretty sure you have to score a record deal first,” he laughed. “In any case, you’re saying you’re kind of glad the meeting was a bust?”

“Yeah,” he assented, twisting the final string into place around the peg. He got up from the wooden bar stool he’d been sitting on and, with Blue in tow, shuffled towards his guitar case. He rooted around in it while suspending Blue carefully above the garage’s cement floor, an awkward balancing act that always set Mike’s heart on edge when he witnessed it. But he hadn’t dropped it yet. He returned to his seat with his tuner.

Mike plucked a few notes and let them buzz out into the air, to be blown away in the breeze. “So…” He scratched his head through his feathery hair. “What’s up with you and Tré? If you’re this intent on avoiding it, it must be pretty bad.”

Studying the wavering tuning needle, Billie Joe shrugged and merely continued to turn the E string’s peg so that it urged the needle towards the center of the tuner’s dull screen.


“Nothing,” he mumbled.

Mike watched Billie flare his nostrils unconsciously as he tried to keep his lip from quivering noticeably. “Aww, come on, man. You’re so fucking obvious it hurts, just tell me already.” Having realized he wasn’t going to get anything out of him while sitting facing the same direction, Mike decided to force some eye contact, or at least to make things awkward enough that his buddy had to look up at some point. He laid down his bass carefully in its case, and then picked up and relocated his stool to a distance of about two feet in front of Billie Joe.

With his friend—and currently, interrogator—planted firmly before him, Billie Joe sighed. Most of the time he appreciated Mike’s curiosity; it usually saved his emotional glass bottle from bursting under intense pressure. But sometimes, and really he meant now in particular, he still needed time to mull things over and come to some sort of conclusion. At the moment a slimy cloud of grease obscured his feelings toward Tré, and he was afraid that if he opened his mouth to talk about it, it might coat his lungs in something irreversible.

“I can sit here all day.”

The tuner needle shot to the right side, for sharp, and the string stretched tighter. “Dude, fuck off.”

Mike cocked his head, more interested in the cause of it than inclined to follow Billie Joe’s stern advice. “Fine,” he feigned letting up. He sat up a little straighter and stretched ostentatiously, throwing in a yawn to complete the act. Billie Joe exhaled slowly, and that was when Mike struck. “Just give me a sentence about it. One sentence. As short or as long as you wanna make it.”

“Jesus, Mike—” Billie Joe snapped, and the slim gauge nickel-coated B string pulled so sharp it flung away from Blue’s neck and nicked Billie’s cheek, just under his left cheekbone. He jumped, reflexes too late to do him any good. “Shit, Mike,” he grumbled, reaching up to touch where the string had scratched him.

Unfazed, Mike dismissed the injury. “It’s like paper cut sized, no worries. Are you gonna talk or what?”

Billie Joe wrinkled his nose and huffed. “You are so fucking persistent it kind of scares me.” He lay Blue flat on his knees, momentarily giving up making it playable. “By the way, you owe me a pack of new strings. I don’t have any more Bs.”

“What? I didn’t make you break that string. You did that by not answering my question,” he protested, though he knew he would probably end up spotting him the money anyway.

“Alright, I’ll answer,” he promised, looking directly at Mike for the first time that afternoon. “Just give me a second.” He sniffed, and wiped his nose with the back of his wrist. How was he going to fit all of the colossal doubt he’d been feeling into a concise statement? He still didn’t want to say too much. He didn’t want to say, for instance, that maybe he wasn’t sure anymore whether he was with Tré because he wanted to be, or because it had become a habit.

He mulled a couple words around in his mouth while Mike patiently waited for him to string them together. Maybe they didn’t taste so bad. He hesitated anyway.

“I think Tré likes me more than I like him.”


“That’s it? ‘Ah?’ All that effort trying to get me to say something and that’s all you’ve got?” Billie Joe asked, incredulous.

“I’m thinking, I’m thinking. You’re not giving me much to work with here.” He scratched his head again.

“You did say in one sentence,” Billie Joe pointed out.

“Yeah, as a last resort,” Mike shot back. He chewed his tongue, considering what to say. He opened his mouth, closed it, and then opened it back up to speak. “Well I don’t want to sound insensitive here, but I’ve gotta ask. Does it really matter who likes who more? Am I missing something?”

Billie Joe rolled his eyes. “That’s not what I’m getting at. Look,” he sighed, “Tré says he loves me, and he’s not the kind of guy to lie unless he’s boxed into a corner, which he’s not since he said it first.”

“…And you don’t love him back,” Mike finished, carefully.

Hedging, Billie Joe continued, “It’s not that I don’t, like, for sure. I just don’t fucking get how you know. I feel like there’s something wrong with me, like all these fucking people in books and in movies, and even the ones I’ve seen in real life, it’s like they’re all part of something and I’m the only one not in the loop.”

“I haven’t been in love either, dude.”

“You haven’t had the chance!” Billie Joe shifted his eyes, wondering if that had come out too strongly.

“Okay, you’re right. All of my relationships have ended pretty quickly. I don’t really know what to tell you. Maybe love just takes longer for you.” He shrugged, keeping his eyes trained on Billie Joe, whose expression had been running through a cycle of emotions, rapid fire. Depression: downward cast and blank. Agitation: knit brows and twitchy mouth. Disappointment: sighs and droopy eyelids.

Billie Joe shook his head. “I don’t think so, Mike. I don’t think it’s coming. I don’t know how much longer I can keep pretending that there isn’t a huge gap in the way we feel about each other. Honestly…” he trailed off.


“Maybe it would be better if we just broke up…”

Mike inhaled sharply. He wasn’t sure whether he was seeing the situation clearly, but this seemed like something Billie Joe was going to regret later, and hell if it didn’t seem unnecessary to him if they weren’t even fighting. He moved in for damage control.

“Whoa, doesn’t that seem a bit drastic? I mean, you guys haven’t really been having any problems, at least that I know of. Not to mention Tré’ll probably be really hurt if you give him that reason. Shouldn’t you wait things out a little longer?” Mike’s voice thinned to a whine, the aural version of tiptoes.

“Ah, man, I knew you wouldn’t get it. Wait and see what? There aren’t gonna be any fireworks if they haven’t happened by now.” The more Billie Joe spoke, the more conviction he gained—it was exactly as he had feared.

“You’re just gonna end it like that?” Mike stared.

“It’s not ‘like that,’” Billie Joe said defensively. “I’ve been thinking about it for a while now.”

“Well just because you have doesn’t mean that Tré is gonna be prepared for it. I dunno, BJ, I’m not sure I can really get behind you on this one.” He frowned.

Billie Joe wrote Mike off coldly. “You know what? I didn’t exactly ask for your help, so…I’ll figure it out on my own, thanks.” He glared at him stonily, daring him to apologize for taking Tré’s side.

“Fine,” Mike said, equally frostily. “I think I’m done practicing for today; I’m gonna head home.” He hopped off his stool and slung his bass over his shoulder, and then left without saying anything further.

Alone now, Billie Joe dropped his head into his hands. He talked to Blue. “Looks like we’re about to fuck everything up, huh, Blue? Am I doing the right thing? I wish you were here so I could ask you if I’m doing the right thing, Dad…” He wiped his nose again.
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Sooo very sorry it's taken me so long to get this up! Honestly a bit of the fault lies with me and my laziness, but also my beta reader took longer than expected to get this back to me. Not to mention I've been busy moving into my new apartment and getting settled in town and at work, etc. etc.

In any case, I hope you enjoyed the update, although I do apologize for doing bad things to Trillie. Drop a line, why don't you? :D