Olivia: A Pebble Tossed into Still Water
Looking back, I can honestly say that I felt the trouble coming before it even arrived. As you know, I sometimes get feelings about these things, and I guess a part of me realized that summer vacation was starting off too well.
Things were far too good to stay that way.
I’d just finished my chaotic freshman year at Opequonsett High School and was looking forward to two quiet, predictable months of reading in my backyard, gathering shells on the beach, and relaxing with my grandmother and our thirteen cats. My only real responsibility was to help out with my grandmother’s mail-order printing and graphics business, which she runs from our house, but I knew that would actually be kind of fun.
Most of all, I was looking forward to hanging out with my Lemonade Mouth friends.
For a couple of weeks the five of us had been meeting in Lyle Dwarkin’s garage, trying to record some new songs Wen and I had written. Lyle is so good with that techie stuff, and his mother makes amazing orange meringue tarts. But you remember all this as well as I do, Naomi, because you were there too, hanging out with us and helping Lyle arrange the microphones and all the other gear. Remember how long it took to set up Wen’s trumpet mike that first session? How Lyle kept switching the angle and trying out different effects on his laptop until it sounded just right? Stella didn’t say a word, but it was obvious she was about to burst with impatience, because as she gripped the neck of her new ukulele, her jaw was clenched and her face was turning red. Mo and Charlie nearly fell over themselves trying not to laugh.
But Lyle is a perfectionist. That’s part of the reason why those recordings turned out the way they did. Even Stella finally admits it now.
I now recognize those were special days, a brief period of happy calm like the still surface of a pond just before someone throws a pebble into the water. In a way, it was my own fault that everything changed. Stella and the others had been trying to get me to agree to perform live again, but even though I’d tried to overcome my fears, the idea of singing in front of a crowd of strangers made me so anxious that I often threw up before going onstage.
If I hadn’t relented, maybe everything would have turned out differently. If I’d said no and Lemonade Mouth hadn’t shown up to perform an hour-long outdoor set at the Seventeenth Annual Rhode Island Chowder Fest in Cranston, my tranquil summer plans might have remained undisturbed.
But of course, that’s not what happened.
As everyone knows, it was at the Chowder Fest, immediately after we played our set, that our lives were forever altered.
It was a beautiful afternoon on a June Sunday. A pretty big crowd showed up to hear us, and I remember my lunch rising at the sight of so many people. But after a discreet visit to the bathroom my stomach calmed a little, and it ended up being an especially fun show. We opened with “Monster Maker,” and right away the audience was getting into it, jumping around, dancing and singing along. During the chorus of “Bring It Back!” I was amazed at how many people joined in.
I want lemonade in my cup!
Hold it high! Raise it up!
The song had kind of become the unofficial anthem of our lemonade machine rebellion at school that year, and that day I watched as an entire field full of people, most of them total strangers, saluted us by raising lemonade cups, some real and some imaginary, into the air. For our fans this had become the sign of unity and revolution. I couldn’t help feeling a swell of pride. After that I was having such a good time that by our third or fourth song I forgot to be nervous. But I also remember noticing a blond lady in a bright pink business suit near the back of the crowd. She stood out because of her clothing and because she was just standing there, watching us. Every now and then she seemed to scribble something on a pad of paper as if she was taking notes.
With so much chaos going on around her, it seemed weird.
When our set ended, the five of us started breaking down our equipment. As I often did, I went over to help Charlie with his drums. He uses so many of them—a giant wall of congas and timbales and cymbals and other percussion instruments I can’t even name—that it always took a while to pack it all up. Anyway, as I was helping him I noticed the pink-suited lady walk up to the edge of the stage.
“Nice show,” she said to us. “The crowd really liked you.”
“Thanks,” Mo answered, lowering her double bass into its big gray case. We were trying to move fast since there was another act scheduled to play after us.
“No, I mean I’m truly impressed,” the woman said. “Your music is wild and different, and it’s not often I see a band inspire this much devotion from its fan base. They know all the words, and they follow your every move. Do you always draw such a big crowd? And do you always get fans who show up in costumes?”
I looked out at the field again. The place really was packed, and a bunch of people had shown up in funny outfits—zombies, houseplants, cats, toilets and other crazy things. I remember a bunch of burly guys dressed as rubber duckies, and one couple that looked like a cookie and a giant glass of milk.
Mo shrugged. “Yes, usually,” she said, still struggling with her case. “Our first real performance was at a Halloween dance. After that it sort of became a tradition at our shows. It’s just fun.”
“It’s impressive,” the woman said again. “The vibe from your audience makes your performance feel like more than just a local show. What I just saw felt bigger—much bigger.” She reached into her blazer and pulled out a business card. “My name is Jennifer Sweet. I work for Earl Decker at the Decker and Smythe talent agency. Mr. Decker is interested in Lemonade Mouth.”
“Decker and Smythe?” Stella asked. Until then she didn’t seem to be paying much attention to Mo’s conversation, but she now moved nearer and looked over Mo’s shoulder at the card. She stared at it. Wen, Charlie and I stepped closer too. I have to admit, at the time I didn’t understand the significance of what was going on. I’d heard of Decker and Smythe , of course, but I didn’t really know much about it.
Stella must have noticed my confused expression on my face. “Don’t you get it?” she asked. “You’ve got to be kidding me, Olivia. Decker and Smythe? It’s only one of the most important talent agencies in the history of the music industry. They’ve represented some of the biggest, most successful bands ever. Devon and the Hellraisers? Monica Maybe? The Deadbeat Fingerwaggers? Exhibit A? The Church Ladies? You’ve heard of them, right?
I nodded. These were all rock- and- roll giants.
“Well, there you go. Earl Decker was there when it all began. He’s like . . . well, he’s a legend.”
The woman nodded, but her serious expression didn’t change.
“Mr. Decker saw the video clip of what happened at Catch A RI-Zing Star and he sent me down to check you out in person. You guys are on to something here. If you’re interested in seeing how far you can take this, call the number on that card. We’d like to set up a time to talk.” Before any of us had a chance to respond, Ms. Sweet had already left the edge of the stage and was disappearing through the crowd, hurrying toward the parking lot as if she was late for another appointment.
The five of us were left standing there staring at the little white card. It was only a piece of paper, and yet, like a pebble tossed into a pond, its effect was about to send ripples across our universe. We didn’t know it yet , but things were not about to go in a direction anybody expected. Certainly not us, and not Decker and Smythe.
Lemonade Mouth had just begun a bumpy journey to a place none of us could have predicted.
Delacorte Press Books
Hardcover: ISBN 978-0385737128
Library Binding: ISBN 978-0385906470
ebook: ISBN 9780307974396
Kindle: ASIN B0084TWN22