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(C)rock Stories: Million-Dollar Tales of Music, Mayhem and Immaturity

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message 1: by Dave (new)

Dave | 3 comments This is from "Rescue, Won't You Come on Down to My?" from my debut short story collection, (C)rock Stories: Million-Dollar Tales of Music, Mayhem and Immaturity.

As I looked out the smudged window of a dingy room in a Combat Zone flophouse, I thought of Echo & the Bunnymen, and how I should be sitting comfortably in the Wang Center enjoying them play “Do It Clean” rather than drinking warm Bud from a can and wondering how I was going to avoid having sex with an ex-con.

Just two hours earlier I’d eaten dinner at Friendly’s with my buddies Jim and Ken. We talked excitedly about that night’s show, which was also to feature The Church, a band I didn’t care much about, but whom I knew was likely to draw in a lot of attractive, introspective girls who liked to sway seductively back and forth with their eyes closed.

The drive down to Boston was smooth and liberated us from another night in Keene drinking Piels, listening to Joy Division and bullshitting about everything from the ethics of journalism to the deep symbolism of “Repo Man” to how many cute girls would show up at band practice on Sunday.

After eating, Ken split to find a pay phone to call his girlfriend, who wasn’t feeling well. He said he’d catch up with us, so Jim and I set out to buy tickets. The show was sold out but we figured scalpers would be on the street, as they are for just about any event that involves holding a stub in your hand for admittance. I once bought a scalped ticket for a midnight showing of “Dawn of the Dead,” which I’d seen 15 times already. A guy in the movie theater parking lot had to unload one because his girlfriend was puking her DQ Blizzard all over his car, and I bought it because I found the idea of paying MORE for a ticket to a movie I knew by heart to be incredibly hilarious. Also, I was drunk.

Jim, who grew up in Somerville, one-time car-theft capital of the U.S., assured me that buying tickets on the sly would be easy. As far as I knew he did this sort of thing all the time; I on the other hand was an ignoramus when it came to things involving deception, lying, street smarts or being cool, as in “You cool, man?” The first time someone asked me that question, I discovered once and for all that I am decidedly not cool.

I was working a temp job in Hartford the summer between high school and college and had a package to deliver one day. In an instant I went from cool suburban kid singing Black Flag’s “Rise Above” to clueless idiot trying to hold my own amongst pimps and pros milling about on the street corner.

“Hey, my man, how you doin’?” asked a guy whose arm was suddenly around my shoulder.

“Oh, real good,” I responded, as though this sort of thing happened to me all the time.

“Cool, cool,” came the reply. “You lookin’ for a lady?” he asked.

“Oh, uh, no,” I stuttered.

“You like the fellas?” he said, his arm dropping back to his side.

“What? Oh, no! Not me! No way!”

“Cool, cool.” And just like that one of his ladies hooked her arm through mine and started walking on the other side of me.

“Hey, baby,” she cooed. Grabbing my crotch, she smiled and made some comment about how perhaps, given the impressive nature of my stuff, I might be given the opportunity to avail myself of her services for free.

“Oh, yeah, I gotta deliver this package, so…” Her pimp slipped away into a doorway.

“It’s OK, baby,” she sang. “I’m fast, but soooo good. We’ll be done in a few minutes and you go on and get that package where it’s going.”

I knew there was no way I was going anywhere with this woman. First of all, I found her most unattractive. Second, the diseases. Third, well, that was enough. I kept walking and figured eventually she’d get the hint and drop off. Her man swung back next to me.

“You cool, man?”

I wasn’t sure in what context he meant. If you asked my 9-year-old cousin Billy I was pretty cool, because I could ride wheelies down our street on my bike. My girlfriend thought I was semi-cool because I played in a band and bought my clothes at thrift stores. My brother, on the other hand, thought I was a loser for listening to bands with names like Butthole Surfers, Dead Kennedys and Circle Jerks.

“No, I’m not,” I responded. They disengaged from me like I was on fire and slipped back to find their next hook-up. I continued on as though nothing had happened, and spent my lunch hour wondering how people lived like that.

So there I was following Jim down Tremont Street, being completely uncool and looking up at all the tall buildings, and gawking at the pretty ladies and leaping out of my skin every time a cab honked its horn, when all of a sudden…I wasn’t following him. I turned around and caught a glimpse of him walking into the smallest McDonald’s I’d ever seen. I started to follow him in when he whirled around and told me I had to stay out on the sidewalk.

“Why?” I asked.

“Our man here says he’s only gonna deal with me,” he said, so sure of himself that I stepped back onto the sidewalk, excited that we had scored tickets so quickly.


I had no idea where “our man” had come from. While I was taking in the sights, Jim had apparently found our scalper. I didn’t know how these things worked, so I assumed it was normal for me to be standing on the sidewalk while Jim was conducting business with a total stranger, out of my sight. The sun was going down and the wind was picking up, so I sidled over next to a building and pulled my collar up.

Looking toward the Friendly’s, I was hoping to see Ken walk up at any moment. I thought about how it was gonna feel really good to get inside where it was warm and watch one of my favorite bands. I imagined that Jim was exchanging money for tickets at that exact moment, and would stroll up to me with a hot apple pie from McDonald’s.

“Escape,” a voice said from over my shoulder.

“Excuse me,” I said, turning to find a short, grizzled man with a pompadour and a greasy, dark trench coat.

“Escape,” he repeated, pointing to a button I was wearing. I had found the button a few weeks earlier while walking across campus toward a philosophy class. I put it on and forgot about it.

“I escaped from the Norfolk House of Corrections once,” he said matter-of-factly.

message 2: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne (jeanne_voelker) | 2 comments I like this. The flashback was so engaging that I forgot it was a flashback -- so I was a bit surprised when it ended with the narrator following Jim down the street again. I don't know if it needs to be more clearly marked, or if I'm just a tired reader tonight.

Somerville, one-time car-theft capital of the U.S.? Is this true?

message 3: by Dave (new)

Dave | 3 comments Thanks for the feedback, Jeanne. I can see how you might get momentarily lost in the flashback, which is why I made sure to bring Jim into the the first sentence of the next paragraph, to remind folks of what's going on in the present tense.

As for Somerville (Mass.), there are numerous references online to this fact, but I have no idea if it's backed up with statistics. Either way, it's a much better place now than it used to be.

message 4: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne (jeanne_voelker) | 2 comments Yes, I've visited Somerville many times. There are many stable young families living there now. I love the library, the ethnic markets and restaurants, the outdoor produce market with live music...

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