Chapter 39 1974 – Missing Fingers

Nixon was in trouble. Everything pointed to a conspiracy that led right to the top. Henry had seen and heard enough evidence that finally convinced him that all of his previous support had been in vain. Nixon was a crook. He was going to be impeached. The American Dream had been shattered.

Juliette tried to reason with him. “You’ve had plenty of warning over the years. I won’t say I told you so.”

Henry’s response was, “I think you just did.”

Together they watched the President address the country on television.

…Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office…

“Well, I guess that’s that,” Henry said resignedly.

The next day they watched the news reports as Nixon boarded the helicopter. Henry saw the ex-President holding up the familiar “Victory” sign. Henry raised his right hand and extended his remaining finger. This one’s for you, Tricky Dick. If I still had my middle finger, it would be up there instead.

From the road, the members of Golden Fingers watched the same set of newscasts. I remarked, “I’ll bet this is eating my dad alive. He has been Nixon’s man since before I was born. I don’t know how he’ll handle it.”

Spike agreed, “Your dad’s a good man, and he’s been good to us. Let’s dedicate tonight’s show to him.”

Isaac and Ozzie assented. I sealed it, “Tonight will be the Henry Mall Memorial Golden Fingers Show!”

“Uh, I,” Spike interrupted.

“Yeah, what is it?” as I turned to Spike.

“Your dad’s not dead. It’s only a Memorial if someone is dead.”

“Oh, yeah I guess so. O.K., try this.” I puffed up his chest. “The Henry Mall Appreciation Concert!”

“That sounds a lot better,” agreed Spike.

That night, I quieted the crowd as Golden Fingers made its way onto the stage. “Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight is a very special night and we want to dedicate this show to a very special person. He’s been there though thick and thin. Bought me my first guitar, built us a rehearsal studio and was responsible for destroying it…”

Laughter rose from the audience. Golden Fingers rough beginnings were etched into the annals of rock history.

“To the man who gave me everything,” I was being uncharacteristically sentimental, “I give you the Henry Mall M..,” he stopped and checked himself, “The Henry Mall Appreciation Concert! Thanks, dad! Now hit it!”

Spike’s drums rose alone, where the accompanying guitar chords should have rung out. I spun around and surveyed the stage. Isaac was nowhere to be seen. He looked to Spike and Ozzie and they both shrugged their shoulders.

The crown began to get a bit ugly, as they were used to perfection. This was not perfection. This was disaster.

I threw down his bass guitar and ran off the stage. There, sitting among the empty equipment cases was Isaac, stoned out of his mind and crying streams of tears.

“Isaac!” I yelled at him, “What the hell are you doing? You need to be on stage right now!” I was about ready to head over the edge himself.

“I’m sorry, man,” he blubbered through the tears and smoke. “I can’t.”

“Why the hell not?” I tried to drag him to his feet.

“You go out and honor your dad. I just can’t do it.”

“You got a problem with my dad? Get it out, man. We got a show.”

“No, your dad is cool, man. Spike’s dad is cool. Ozzie’s dad is cool. My dad is missing. I never knew him.”

“Twenty-one years and you picked this night, of all nights, to start on this? Buck up, man. We got a show. The crowd is getting restless. C’mon, strap on this axe, get out there and play!”

I pushed him out on the stage and the crowd started to cheer again, but when Isaac hit the first chords, they were a disaster. It was almost as if Isaac had forgotten how to play.

I signaled the sound tech to cut off Isaac’s guitar and went over to consult Ozzie. “You’re going to have to carry the leads tonight on the keys. Don’t screw it up!”

I positioned himself back on center stage, the stage lights focused on him as he counted out “1. 2. 3. 4!”

Ozzie caught the cue and came right in with the closest sound the keys could make to the heavy guitar chords needed, and Spike hit the skins hard as well. I’s booming bass joined, while sad Isaac’s broken frame languished in the back corner. A Finger was missing tonight, and the critics were not impressed.