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Read Chapter 1 GO WITH THE FLOW

In the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California, a guitarfish named Jimi Fin Licks grew up swimming in his home school. When he strummed his strings, waves of sound rippled under the Golden Gate Bridge, and faded into San Francisco Bay. The young guitarfish wanted to play with other musical fishes, and form a band.

“I want to jam, man!” he shouted, hoping to be heard. He sang one of his songs.

Settling in tonight, settle over the sea.
Under the Golden Bridge where we have chose to live,
I see people trying to see.
Sweetwater Sun, shine on the Bay.
Sweetwater Sun, shine on we pray.
Sweetwater Sun, sweetwater Sunday.

The tune was inspired by a famous guitar player named Carlos Santana, who had once jammed with Jimi’s grandfather, James Marshall Fin Licks. He had played with many other notable fishes of every size and color. But there just weren’t as many fish in the sea anymore, and there wasn’t as much music in schools either.

People were overfishing. They were taking too many fish from the oceans too fast. Many sea creatures were in danger of being wiped out forever. The remaining fish had to survive with fewer instruments to play, and less teachers to teach them. Luckily, music was in Jimi’s nature, and boldness ran in his blood.

“My band is going to be the best in the seven seas,” he promised his family. Jimi practiced his scales, and learned everything he could about music by listening to his elders tell exotic fish stories of far away waters.

Skating across the reef one November evening, Jimi heard glorious banging and booming sounds bellowing out from a hole. It was the home of Inkx the Octopus. He was practicing his drums, which were made out of shells and skins.

Inkx was born off the island of Jamaica in the Caribbean Sea, and for several years he made his living playing gigs just outside of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico.He fled to California when a category 5 hurricane—that’s a nasty storm—blew through and ripped up the Gulf Coast.

Inkx was green when things were cool, but he would turn red when he got mad. He could also squirt out a dark cloud of liquid if he wanted quick cover, which was why he was called Inkx. His black hair was long and dreadlocked—like licorice. He played the drums like Jimi had never heard before. Jimi pulled up outside Inkx’s hideaway to listen.

Jimi was surprised to hear a voice with an accent say, “Hey mon, my name is Inkx. “Do you want to jam some groovy music with me?”

“Uh, I’m totally down to jam. Say, what kind of grooves are you playing?”

“Fun-key grooves, mon. Fun-key grooves are the best for jamming and dancing. Come, you’ll see. Play this fun-key groove with me.”

When Jimi started jamming with Inkx, it inspired Jimi to create lyrics and melodies.

I like to rock to a Cajun rhythm.
I like to roll on the open sea.
I live in a new world of discovery.
Magellan ain’t got nothin’ on me.
But when the wind starts whippin’ and wastin’,
I need protection from the elements.
And at the bottom of the wishing well,
I find a place to dwell. In My Shell,
I get the feeling I want.
I can be myself, or anyone that I want to when I’m In My Shell.

When they stopped grooving, Jimi and Inkx smiled, laughed, and slapped fins.

“Yeah guitarfish mon, ’dem some fine licks you layin’ down. What’s you’re name, bro?”

“Uh, my name is Jimi Fin Licks,” the guitarfish replied. “I’m down with your fun-key grooves, Inkx.

We should get a band together!”

“Right on, mon! Hey, you don’t have a shell as far as I can see.”

“Yeah, but sometimes I sure swish I did,” replied Jimi.

Inkx and Jimi buckled over laughing, and just then they noticed that a few grouper fish had gathered outside Inkx’s bungalow.

“You two make beautiful music together,” exclaimed the lead grouper, a girl named Candy, who batted her fish eyes at Jimi Fin Licks. “Got any shows we can come to soon?”

“We’d love to get a gig and invite you groupers out, but first we need to find some other players so we can have a full band,” said Jimi.

“Starting with a bass mon,” added Inkx.

“Hmmm, well I know a tight band from across the Bay just broke up because some of them got hooked on the last tour,” said Candy. “The bass player made it though. Shugga is a big, bad manta ray. He’s super fun-key. You can hear him play from far away. Tell him Candy says ‘Hel-lo Shugga.’”

“Let’s go find him and see if he wants to jam,” Jimi proposed.

“Right on, mon,” agreed Inkx.

“Thanks grouper girl!” “Good luck,” wished Candy as she and her friends swam away giggling.

Jimi and Inkx squirted under the Golden Gate Bridge. As they swam south, they began to decipher a thumping pulse coming up from the bottom of the bay. It was Shugga the Manta Ray, playing his big, booming bass.

“Oh man, that’s phat!” Jimi cried, making crazy, random guitar sounds in his excitement.

“Ugh, who’s there?” asked a big, bottom-heavy voice.

“My name is Inkx. I’m a drummer, mon. This guitarfish is Jimi Fin Licks. He’s a rad shredda’, and we’re looking for a bass mon to join our band.”

“Um hmmm,” said Shugga. “What’s the name of the band, boys?” “Uh, that’s a good question…” sputtered Inkx as Jimi grabbed his tentacle arm and interrupted…“We don’t have a name yet because we don’t have a bass player. Do you want to play fun-key jams with us?”

“Shucks,” said Shugga. “I’ve been searching for a couple of playas that can down in the sea dirt, and bring up some fun-key grooves. Let’s give it a go, y’all!”

Hey, hey, hey, I’m Shugga Ray,
the baddest bass playa in da Frisco Baaaaaaybay!
I come to play, open hearted.
C’mon, let’s get this party started.
Let’s get it under waaaaaaaay!

“Turn that crazy music down you freaky fishes!” snapped a Dungeness crab named Darlene as she crawled past Shugga’s flat. “I’ve heard a band or three in my day. It used to be that there were more bands around this bay than there were shells in the sea. But you better be careful today. You’ll get swept up in the nets, or swept up and go nuts.”

The three musical sea creatures looked at her like she was insane, but they knew well enough about the nets. And since folks were pirating more music than ever before, the music business had gotten pretty crazy.

“Might as well sell your stuff to the prawn shop if you’re just messing around,” hissed Darlene. Then she lowered her salty voice. “Take it to the Surf Ace if you’re serious.”

The Surf Ace was an unruly club out on Ocean Beach Reef. Lots of fishes washed in and out of the surf jams there. Jimi, Shugga, and Inkx set off that way. Tuesday was open mic night. Anyone who wanted to could come up and play.

A small crowd of cool fish was hanging out at the Surf Ace when the trio arrived. A lone green sea turtle gathered himself in the corner. As the three new friends took the stage, Inkx released a curtain of fluid while Jimi and Shugga bounced sound waves off a pair of tune-a-fish to get their guitars tuned up.

When the curtain faded, Inkx started playing a second-line beat. Jimi started strumming a Gee chord, and Shugga took to thumpin’. Jimi played a melody, Shugga got to plucking, and Inkx started swinging. When Jimi ripped his solo, sounds swooped back and forth from speaker to speaker.

“We’re surf, surf—surfin’ the swamp,” shouted Jimi. Inkx and Shugga joined in to create a chorus of voices. Finally, they ended with a boom, boom—boom bomp!

The hipster fish started clapping, whistling, and calling out, “Hey, what’s the name of your band?” “Uh, I’m Jimi Fin Licks, this is Inkx on fun-key drums, and Shugga the big, bad manta ray playin’ bass,” the guitarfish laughed.

The fishes flap-clapped some more, and then quieted down for the next act. The green sea turtle headed slowly but steadily towards Jimi as he jumped offstage.

“Good work, kid. My name is Graham, and I manage musicians. I’d like to help get your group going, and start raking in some sand dollars. I’m experienced. I toured all around the world when I worked with the band Phish. Now they were fun! And they knew how to go with the flow, ya know? That’s the key. Hey, what’s the name of your band again?”

“The Flllooooow,” Jimi replied slowly, slyly. “Yeah, The Flow!”

Shugga and Inkx chuckled.

“I like it,” laughed Graham.

“Let’s go with The Flow!” exclaimed Jimi Fin Licks, and they all joined in. “Let’s go with The Flow!”

Text and Illustrations Copyright 2011 by Jimmy Leslie Images by Kerri Kelting-Leslie All rights reserved. No portion of this book, except for short excerpts for review purposes, may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, phototcopying, recording or otherwise—without written permission from the publisher. For information, contact Leslieland Publishing. ISBN # 9781618421593 Published by Leslieland Publishing in conjunction with BookBaby.