Mark ripped the cable from Thom’s guitar. The amplifier crackled with static followed by a droning hum.
“What was that for?”
“You’re off beat again.”
Thom took a seat on the old, beat up couch, sinking deep into the cushions. “I can’t take this anymore. I don’t get what you want. I was playing to the clicks...I don’t even know where to begin.”
“It wasn't much, but I heard it. The only reason I'm bringing this up is because we should strive towards perfection.” said Mark. “Not silver level perfection, not gold level perfection, but--”
“Platinum. I get it. You’ve told us a hundred times.”
“Then why do you look so confused?”
“How come you don’t get that we’re humans? You know, real life musicians. We’re not robots. If you need perfection every single time to the 256th of a beat, perhaps you should consider a career in techno.”
“That’s not what I expect and you know it. I want us to strive towards that level of excellence, but expect...no.”
Thom lifted his guitar over his head, laying it on his lap. He ran his swollen fingers gently across the strings, pressing them down just enough to touch the fretboard, but the guitar remained silent.
“You could have fooled me with that whole 'platinum' perfection thing and the way you’ve treated all of us. And if this isn’t going to change at all, let me know because there are plenty of things I’d rather spend my time on.”
“Are you...you’re not thinking of leaving, are you?” asked Mark.
“The other guys and me, all of us, we’ve talked about it for a while. We’re at our breaking point. This was supposed to be fun. What happened to that?”
“I told you. The fun will come. But we have to make it first.”
“How’s that going to happen when the entire band dreads coming to rehearsal, studio sessions, and even shows?” Thom said. "The reason we sound so flat half the time is because we’re so afraid to make a mistake that we can’t put any life into the songs. This isn’t healthy.”
“Then maybe you should leave. If playing the songs the way they were written is too hard for you, perhaps you’re in the wrong band. I need people who can play.”
Thom pressed his lips up against his teeth and sucked in, making the sound of a balloon when air is slowly let out. He stood up, picked up his guitar, and packed it away. “I can play. You know I can play. But it won’t be with you anymore. It’s not worth it.”
“Give me back my key.” Mark held out his hand like a teacher demanding a student give up a toy they’ve been hiding.
“I’m gonna get the truck tomorrow so I can get my amp out of here. Then you can have your fucking key.” Thom picked up his guitar case and left the room, flipping Mark the bird as he turned the corner.