Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Sex Gods from the Planet Metal - Chapter Eight
Personally, I was impressed by the rooms, especially the fact that I didn’t have to share one with my Mum. Okay, so I was next door, but in my mind I was a million miles away. With Farrah Fawcett.
The best part about the whole situation was that our rooms were not in St Ives, they were not even near St Ives, and they were not even in Cornwall. How so? Well, I couldn’t have planned it better myself…
My head was still spinning as we walked out to the car after the meal. It was like being drunk, but without the utter fear of being found out afterwards. I was so confused I didn’t know what to do. I could have tried to persuade Mum to forget about St Ives and stay exactly where we were for a few days, but I knew that once she had a plan there was no deviating for silly reasons like love and happiness, oh no. The only real option I had was prayer, and I felt that God might not grant and begging petitions from yours truly due to the tiny fact that I had spent much of my life not believing in him and calling those that did utter nobheads. Sod it, I thought, and prayed anyway to a new deity I had just invented. I called him Norman, and decided he was a benevolent God who granted all sorts of wishes and the like without any need for worship or sacrifices. I liked Norman, and to this day feel there should be more Gods like him.
Okay, so there wasn’t a thunderclap or anything, but the actual noise Norman sent was a lot more welcome. It was the sound of a car engine refusing to start, like a racehorse whose back legs have gone to sleep. Mum was determined that the plan was not going to be thwarted by a mere machine, and was stubbornly trying again and again, whilst the cars weak protestations the it wasn’t at all well got steadily weaker. Finally, inevitably, it went “floot” or something like it, and was pronounced dead. Mum gave a frustrated growl and dragged me back to the pub where she called the AA, who told her that someone would be there soon. Mum, whose body language hinted strongly that she would prefer if a mechanic was beamed down Star Trek style immediately, gritted her teeth and thanked them in the way a schoolboy being caned thanks sir and asks for another. Then we went back to the car to wait.
You know that noise mechanics, plumbers and the like make when they are about to give you expensive news, when they suck air through their teeth? Well, I don’t know how to spell that, but the closest I can get is “fffffffffffffftt…”. Just so we’re clear what it means, okay?
“ffffffffffffffffft…” said the mechanic, who had arrived within five minutes from his garage up the road. “I’m not going to be able to fix this, love.”
To her credit, Mum didn’t disembowel him for calling her ‘love’.
“Well what can you do?” she asked politely. “We have to be in St Ives later.”
“Not in this, sweetheart,” he replied, as I waited anxiously for him to call her petal.
Mum still didn’t disembowel him. “How long will it take you to fix it?”
“Couple of days, I suppose. It’s the parts, you see. I’d offer you a hire car but the only one I’ve got’s out at the moment. Looks like your stuck here for the duration, Petal.”
Mum quietly digested this information, whilst I silently cheered and promised Norman I would spread his gospels far and wide. Norman, nice God that he was, said I needn’t bother.
“Fine. Is there anywhere round here we can stay. Anywhere decent, naturally.”
“To be honest, darling, you’re already there. The Winchester here’s the best in town. They got some nice rooms up top, I’m sure they’ll have a couple for you and your lad here.”
“Thank you, Mr Beard. You’ve been most helpful, and I shall be checking up on your progress. As you have been helpful to me, I shall be helpful to you and give you a bit of advice.”
He leaned towards her, like a fly drawn to a carnivorous plant.
“In future, it would probably be best if you didn’t refer to female customers as darling, flower, petal or any other such nauseating sexist twaddle. Personally, if you refer to me as anything other than Mrs Banner, or Ruth if you manage to fix my car, I will disembowel you. With a spoon.”
I knew I’d heard that before I saw Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves.
Mr Beard just smiled at her, raised his oily cap and said “Certainly Mrs Banner,” then stomped off to his tow truck.
So we were staying. What a shame.
The Winchester, as well as having good clean kitchens and pretty kitchen staff (well, at least one), had good clean pretty rooms. The pretty part was mainly because they were decorated in nice colours with lovely paintings of coastal views on the walls. Mum was totally happy with her room, which was a rarity, because she only really seemed happy when she had something to complain about, but try as she might she couldn’t find anything. After she’d found her own room to be frustratingly clean, she inspected mine, which was similarly perfect. With a sigh, she sat on the bed next to me.
“I’m sorry about this, David,” she said. “We were going to have fun, but it looks like we’ll be stuck here for a while.”
“It’s not your fault, Mum,” I said, trying to look a little downhearted for appearances sake. “We’ll be okay.”
“Why don’t we take a walk around the town, see what’s here,” she suggested.
I nodded. “Sure.” So we did.
The town, it turned out, was called Culvernay, and although it wasn’t too big, it wasn’t the ghost town I had first thought. There were plenty of craft shops to keep Mum happy, and we pottered in and out of them so she could pick things up and admire them, whilst telling me not to pick anything up as if I was five years old. I still picked things up when her back was turned, but only because in some ways I was still five years old. There were a few grubby little pubs and the promise of a market on Wednesday morning, but not really a lot else. At least the biggest of the newsagents had some super hero comics, and I got a few without having to pester too hard, Mum still feeling guilty about having to stay here. The biggest saving grace was that it had a cinema. Not much of one admittedly, but to my delight Tuesdays was reserved for showings of classic films, and that night was War Of The Worlds, my favourite film since I first saw it on television. I really wanted the opportunity to see it on a big screen, and after noting it started at seven thirty, slowly and surely I drew my plans together…
We sat in the restaurant, having just enjoyed another excellent meal. Mum seemed tired and weary from the stress of the day. So much so she didn’t even complain when she realised her soup was seventeen degrees too hot. It’s that sort of uncanny temperature measuring that always stopped me being able to fake being ill. It’s not easy having a human thermometer for a mother, or a human vegetable for a brother for that matter.
“You look tired,” I said, playing the caring son. “Do you want to go and have a lie down?”
“I could do with one, I suppose. I just feel guilty about having landed you here – there’s nothing for you to do, really.”
This was my opening. She had walked right into my trap.
“Well, I did notice the local flea pit’s showing War Of The Worlds tonight,” I said brightly, as if I had just thought of it.
She groaned. “Not that old rubbish. I swear there should be a law against Americans stealing our books to make poor films out of them. You know I hate that film, David.”
Of course I did. That was why it was so perfect.
“You don’t have to come with me Mum,” I said, the voice of reason. “It’s not like I can’t go to the cinema on my own. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll be better off just having a rest. We can go somewhere tomorrow when you’re feeling more up to it.”
“Are you sure you’ll be okay on your own?”
“Mum, I’m fifteen. This place is hardly any bigger than Hinton really. I promise everything will be fine. I mean, if I can survive an Iron Maiden concert I’m sure I can survive a sleepy Devon town.”
“I suppose it won’t do any harm,” she said, giving in gracefully. “I want your word, young man, that you won’t try anything stupid like getting served in a pub.”
“Of course not.” Who did she think I was? Oh, right – fair enough. After my drinking escapade with Nick I still hadn’t touched a drop, and had no wish to, so it was an easy promise to make. “So can I go?”
“I don’t see why not. Just don’t stay out too late, and keep away from the locals.”
Inside me, there was a whole ballroom of people doing victory waltzes, so it was easy to lie through my teeth. “Yes Mum.” I looked down, but my pants weren’t on fire, so I reckoned I’d got away with it.
As I’ve got older, wiser and lazier, I’ve realised that choosing clothes for a date is basically a piece of piss. Pick a T-shirt that hasn’t got a band name on it, some clean jeans, whichever pair of boxers makes my cock look biggest and finish off with any old socks and trainers. If the occasion is formal, such as a royal reception, then substitute the trainers for a pair of shoes, preferably slip ons. Shaving is optional, depending on whether my stubble makes me look like George Michael when all the girls fancied him, or a tramp. In the end, as long as you are comfortable, you will appear to look good. It’s your attitude and confidence that wins over the girls, not the fact that your socks match, although if they are fussy about that it’ll be too late by the time they find out.
Of course, at fifteen I had no such preconceptions, determined that what girls liked was purely on the outside, and that a good heart and soul was nothing if not accompanied by a shirt with a little crocodile on the breast. With this in mind, I spent forty five minutes trying to tart myself up as best I could with the limited resources we had brought with us. There wasn’t that much to tart up, mind you, as I was a fan of the straight and boring school of haircuts, not yet introduced to the wonder of gel. The clothes I had brought with me consisted entirely of band t-shirts, but I reasoned that this hadn’t bothered Kaz earlier and wriggled into a tightish one with the Saxon logo slashed across it. That was it for dressing, as I had one pair of jeans and one pair of trainers, so I mainly practised looking as cool as possible in the mirror, which meant trying endless different brushes of my hair, all of which were useless as it invariably slid back to its natural flop soon afterwards. I decided there and then that I would get a decent haircut at the soonest opportunity, even if it meant being a less effective headbanger. At quarter to seven I slipped into my denim jacket. Luckily I had brought the one without the patches all over it. I think some of the local old boys might have had a fit of they’d seen some of the lurid images plastered one very available inch. I went to say goodbye to Mum, but she was asleep, so I quietly closed her door, composed myself, and went to meet my date.
One thing I am not a fan of is being late. Another thing I am not a fan of is people who use the word “actually”, but that’s another story, actually. I always like to arrive on time for things, which naturally makes me a crappy party guest, as everyone else knows to arrive at least an hour after it says on the invitation, at which point they will find me and the hosts putting up decorations. At fifteen I was no better, although excitement was a big contributing factor in me being in the bar fifteen minutes before I had to. Naturally, I wiled away the time with a few blasts on the Space Invaders machine, and after a few goes noticed that Kaz was late. Ten minutes late, as it happened, and my heart sank like a sinky thing. Ten minutes may not seem like a lot, but at fifteen it basically means you’ve been stood up, so I finished up my game and decided to plod back to my room. For some reason I didn’t feel like seeing the film anymore. Just as I turned to go through the door that led to our rooms, a voice came mercifully from behind me:
“Oi! Where have you been then?”
It was Kaz, naturally. She looked great, mainly because everything she wore was tight and she had a great body. “I’ve been here. You said meet me here at seven, so I’m here. Are you grasping the concept of here yet?”
“Think back, spazbrain,” she said, looking straight into my eyes. “When I said that, where were we?”
I though back. “Um, in the restaurant?”
“Ooohhh… well done. Now, and this is the tricky one, where have I been waiting like a twat for the last fifteen minutes?”
“In the restaurant,” I said, more confident of the answer this time. “Sorry.”
“So you should be,” she said, mock pouting. “So what do you want to do? There’s not much on round here, believe it or not.”
“How about the cinema?” I suggested. “They’re showing “War Of The Worlds.”
She looked at me for a brief second as if I was totally mental, but must have decided that putting up with what I now realise is a very crap film was an acceptable evening out.
“Sure,” she replied with a nice little smile. So we linked arms and off we went. I love it when a plan comes together.
Sid was right. Osmium are pretty fucking good, and heavier than an elephant who’s just eaten his yearly bun ration in two hours. At the moment they’re playing a lovely little ditty called “Sex Gods From The Planet Metal”, which contains the charming line “Showing off our metal tits cos sex gods don’t wear bras”. They are all wearing various leather strappy things and cod pieces, and all have visible burns due to the frankly insane use of pyrotechnics on display. As the lead singer screeches like a banshee and drinks blood out of a skull I can feel myself sink lower and lower, wishing I had never agreed to this stupid bloody trip. Surely even the love of Kate isn’t worth this shit, or more accurately the shit that is due to come flying at the band and everyone who knows them after they have been stoned to death on stage.
At least Simon is happy, as the crowd are his type of people, being long of hair and not ashamed to whirl it about whilst making devil signs and playing imaginary guitars. He barely notices as I slink away out to the front bar, thankfully separate from the band area. I’ll give Sid this, he’s managed a dynamite soundproofing job, as the ear shattering metal is reduced to background squawking as I sit on a stool and bury my head in my hands like a film drunk. I know that Wayne, Neil and Marlon will be upstairs getting ready, so it’s nice to just be on my own. On my own, that is, until a tap on my shoulder causes me to start and then turn to look at Kate, who has plumped herself down on the seat next to me.
“Aren’t you going to buy a girl a drink then, Mr Grant?”
“I may as well,” I say gloomily. “After all, dead men have no use for money, do they?”
“Never say die,” she says in a booming, Brian Blessed like voice that causes a few heads to turn our way. “You never know, they might just pull it off. You have to admit, Dave, they are very good musicians.”
“So are the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, but they wouldn’t fancy following that lot.”
“Are they really that, well, metal?”
“Go and have a look,” I prompt. “Go on. I’ll save your seat and order your tombstone.”
She goes out to the main bar, reappearing a few minutes later with a rather shocked look on her face. She sits down and chucks the vodka I’ve thoughtfully got waiting for her in one.
“We,” she says slowly. “Are fucked.”
It’s nice to hear someone else admit this, as Wayne nearly had me convinced that all was going to be peachy. I start to hum the funeral march, and Kate joins in with a sombre look on her face. We lock eyes as we harmonise, until we finally reach the edge of sanity together and dissolve into snorty laughs that must make a few of the locals think there’s a Porky Pig convention in town.
“What are we going to do?” I ask.
She thinks for a few seconds. “Nothing.”
“That’s not a plan,” I say. “If anything, that’s an anti plan. A lack of a plan, if you will.”
“So why do we have to do anything?” she asks reasonably. “After all, you’re not actually their manager, are you? You didn’t lie through your teeth to get this gig.”
“Well… no, I suppose not. I just feel responsible, but I don’t know why?”
“Because you’re that sort of guy, Dave. You see someone fuck up, and you want to help. Believe me, this isn’t your fault, and if you’ve any sense you’ll keep away from it. Wayne should have known better that to come up with all that crap, and he deserves every piss filled missile that is no doubt coming to him.”
Wow, she sounds bitter. Trust me when I say that this is not the tone of a woman preparing to stand by her man, more that of one preparing to stand behind him with a bloody big carving knife in her hand.
“So, um, you’re not too happy with His Wayneness then, I take it?” I venture.
“Hmph!” she snorts. “Dave, describe Wayne to me accurately. Don’t pull punches, just say what you see, as if you were on Catchphrase in the Nineties.”
Now this is a dilemma. If she’s throwing a trick question at me, I could be rather fucked here, and also walking home. If she’s not, and I praise him to the skies, she’ll think I’m either blind or a suck up. Well, she’s the one who’s always going on about honesty, so I tell her straight.
“He’s a nice enough bloke, but he’s deluded, not averse to lying to get his way, and along with Neil is a totally sexist git. Oh yes, and he’s far too stupid to go out with you.” The last part, I admit, was me casting my line into the water to see if she would bite.
“Flatterer,” she says with a grin, taking the bait like a hungry pike. “You’re right, you know. He’s such a bullshitter. I don’t know why I’ve put up with it for this long. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been much more interested in the contents of his trousers than the contents of his head, and I’m now convinced that the letter is probably the larger organ.”
“Thanks for sharing,” I say with a grimace. “I’ll add that information to the chart I have in my bedroom.”
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, he’d have to have a really tiny brain,” she says, her eyes twinkling.
We both laugh, and I feel the tension dropping out of me like a bomb though the bay doors, happy for it to explode on some other poor sod, because I’ve had enough of being miserable for one night. I decide that this is my time, my chance to steam in and take the girl of my dreams. Nothing can stop me now.
“Dave, you’re wanted,” says Simon, sticking his head round the door.
“Nobby and the Nobheads want you to introduce them to the baying mob. They’re setting up now.”
The correct response to this would be to tell them to fuck off, but for some reason there’s something inside me that wants to give Wayne and the boys whatever help I can before the inevitable happens.
“Tell them I’ll be there in a minute,” I say wearily, and Simon disappears with a happy grin, looking forward to the bloodletting.
“Wuss,” says Kate simply.
“I owe them this much,” I say. “God knows what’s going to happen, but I think they’ll be needing friends, even if they’re only fair weather ones. Are you going to come and watch?”
“I may as well,” she says with a sigh. “I mean, how bad can it be?”
As I stand up in front of seventy or so metalheaded lunatics I begin to regret wearing my Dave Lee Roth shirt, because Dave Lee Roth is not metal to these people. Not to many people, to be honest. Regardless, I launch into my piece, aware that Osmium were introduced by a man in a devil costume shouting “Are you ready to rock, motherfuckers!” then running off stage.
“Let’s have a big roar for the brilliant Osmium!” I shout, knowing this is a good way to get a reaction. Thankfully, the crowd cheer and whistle in appreciation of the opening act. “Okay… well, it’s not over yet, as It is my absolute pleasure to introduce to you possibly the best band in all of the street where they live, apart from Black Sabbath at number 28…” a few people laugh, which is a good thing. “Please welcome for the first time at The Plume the one, the only, Idiosyncratic Routine!!!”
As I get the hell of the stage and behind the crowd to the bar where Simon and Kate are waiting, the band strike up, surprisingly with the opening chords to Black Sabbaths “War Pigs”, not a song they are known for doing. The ponderous bassline rumbles through the bar, and when Wayne sings the opening verse it’s with passion and feeling, as well as more throatiness than I’ve ever heard him use. Amazingly, the crowd to not throw petrol bombs, they begin to shake their heads, and more amazingly so does Simon.
“What the fuck are they doing?” I ask Kate incredulously. “They’ve never played this down at The Moon.”
“I’ve never heard them play this sort of thing,” she replies, equally bemused. “Maybe this is going to turn out okay after all.”
And wouldn’t that be the most ironic thing? If all our fears came to naught and the gig was a roaring success? “Well,” I said, raising my glass. “Here’s hoping they know more numbers like this one.”
Marlon nurses a nasty gash on his head, whilst Kate dabs at it with a damp cloth. “I think I might be concussed,” he says forlornly, with the air of a man feeling very sorry for himself.
“How will we know?” I mutter, unsympathetically. “How about you, Wayne, will you be well enough for the big tour with iron Maiden?”
“Bog off,” he says miserably, all the chirpy optimism knocked out of his head with at least two of his teeth.
We’re all in the front bar, which has been closed to all others and is being used by us as a makeshift hospital, although it’s not quite up to the 4077th MASH standard, as there are no doctors making quips, just Kate and her damp cloth plus a lot of plasters.
Whilst “War Pigs” had gone down a storm, it was, sadly, the only heavy metal song the band knew. Following it with a ballad called “Be My baby Tonight” was possibly a mistake, as was following that with a cover of Slades “Coz I Luv U”. By that time the natives were definitely restless, and the spitting increased to bottle throwing. Marlon was stopped midway through the nest song (“Rock Me Baby”) by a Strongbow can to the head. This would normally not be a problem, but the assailant had neglected to drain the can of Strongnbow first, and as such Marlon got instant unconsciousness instead of instant refreshment. Wayne and Neil were their usual selves and failed to notice that they no longer had a drummer, prompting the crowd to inform them of the fact by getting onto the stage and grabbing their guitars and beating them about the head and body with them. With Marlon in the land of nod, and Wayne and Neil in sensible foetal balls, I decided it was probably a good time to call the police in case no one else had done so, but I was stopped before I could do so by a very loud bang, followed by silence only broken by the tinkling of ceiling plaster falling to the floor. At the bar was Sid, still without a shirt on, and in his hand was a gun, indeed it was the proverbial smoking gun, Sid having just emptied a live bullet into the ceiling.
“Right!” he shouted. “Anyone of you bastards left in the pub after I count to ten will get the next one in their kneecap. One…”
He only had to get to six.
The bar emptied of everyone but us and the band, and Sid casually went about locking the doors as me, Simon, Kate and Morgan helped the three twatsketeers to the front bar.
“I don’t want to be a roadie anymore,” states Morgan with finality. He escaped injury by sensibly hiding under a table and desperately peeling off his band t-shirt. The shirt was now a small pile of ashes.
“Ow,” says Neil, as he wobbles a loose tooth. “That was not a good gig.”
“Really?” I say, sarcasm mode on full. “Do you think? As your manager I would say that it was an absolute fucking disaster.”
“Do you still want to be our manager then?” says Wayne hopefully, looking for a final straw to grasp. I look at him in astonishment.
“Wayne. I just saw your band set upon by what can only be described as a hoard of metal fans who hated your music so much they would rather face a murder charge than listen to it. I think it’s safe to say that my enthusiasm for becoming a band manager has waned somewhat.”
“Oh,” he says, appropriately. “Well, thanks anyway, mate.”
“Don’t mention it,” I say, losing the will to do anything except go along with the flow. “Actually, if you want to thank anyone, thank Sid here, because without him we would be peeling you off the stage with a spatula.”
They all gracefully thank Sid for saving their lives.
“I should have let them have you, for that load of old shit you fed me,” he says, “but I’ll never get me license back if there’s another killing, so I thought I may as well step in. I can’t let you go out there now, so you can stay as planned, but I suggest an early start tomorrow so you can get away whilst all those drunken sods are still sleeping it off.”
Sid’s suggestions are taken with good grace, and I wonder where Simon has got to. On cue, he sticks his head round the door. His all is right with the world grin is still on his face, and I know he’s found the whole experience highly amusing.
“I’ve got something for you, lads,” he says, sniggering. “Do you want your guitars back?”
“Oh yeah,” says Wayne happily. “That would be great.”
“Possibly not,” says Simon, his grin wider than ever as he steps fully into the door with what remains of two guitars in his hands. He hands one each to Wayne and Neil, who couldn’t look more aghast if they’d been handed a dead puppy each. As they hold back the tears. Simon beckons to me and Kate, and we follow him into the corridor outside. Standing behind him is a very pretty girl who has obviously fallen under his evil spell.
“This is Lauren,” he says proudly. “Sid’s daughter. We’re going to retire now, but don’t fookin’ tell him or I’ll get a bullet in the arse.” He looks at Kate. “Have you finished with that donkey in there yet?” he asks her, gesturing towards the casualty ward.
“Well I haven’t told him, but yes,” she admits as my heart soars once again.
“Right. I hate people faffing around, so I’ll just tell you that Dave likes you, and if you like him give him a bloody kiss, because otherwise he’ll never get around to doing fook all about it.”
As I stand there like a startled chaffinch, Kate digests this information before turning to me.
“Is this true?” she asks. Her face is giving nothing away, but what have I got to lose?
“Yes,” I say simply, and she kisses me.