In The Van On Comeback Road Part 24

author: Nolan Whyte date: 10/20/2006 category: fiction
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I'm lying on my back with a dim awareness that I'm supposed to be doing something. I'm not in bed. I don't know where I am, and there's a terrible pain in my head. There's a voice shouting something, but there's so much other noise it's hard to make it out. Then I understand, the voice is shouting my name. "Terry! Terry man! Are you okay? Terry! Wake up!" I try to open my eyes, but a stinging pain prevents me. I blink them open and shut, but I can't see anything. It's all hazy and black. "I'm blind?" I murmur. "You're not blind. You've got blood in your eyes." Those words. They are familiar. Where have I heard them before? Reservoir Dogs. Tim Roth telling one of the other bank robbers, you're not blind. You've got blood in your eyes. "Are you okay? Can you sit up?" The voice does not belong to Tim Roth. I know the voice. It belongs to Jason, my guitar player. He grabs my shoulder and helps me sit up, but I still can't open my eyes. "Jason man, I can't see. Where am I?" "Jesus, Terry, we're on stage! We're in Sudbury, at a gig. Can you get up?" There is chaotic noise in the background, like a brawl. "I can't see. Can you grab me a towel or something? Everything is all black. What happened?" "You got hit with a beer bottle." Someone holds a wet towel to my face and I grasp it, wiping my face clean. With my fingers I can feel the rough edge of a cut across the bridge of my nose where the blood is flowing from. "Lean back," I hear a different voice say. "I'm going to pour some water over your eyes." I do as I'm told and icy water splashes across my face. I rub my eyes with the towel and blink again. I can see murky shapes. With repeated blinking they sharpen into the faces of Jason and Mark and a few other people I assume to be bar staff. Harsh stage lights glare down on me. The sound of the brawl dies down. I suppose whoever was fighting and throwing bottles must have been thrown out. The bar has a hum to it though. Everyone wants to know if the guy with the split face is going to get up and keep playing or not. Everyone wants to know if the poor baby is okay. "I'm okay," I say. "Let's play." "Are you kidding?" asks Jason in a shaky voice. "You want to keep playing?" "Yeah." I grasp at the people around me and they help me to my feet. There's a cheer from the crowd, like when an injured player at a sporting event walks off the field under his own power. I blink into the lights and look out at the crowd. I don't recognize the bar. It's not a huge place, but the room is full. My head spins a little and I stagger back a step to gain my balance. Everything is mixed up. I look down at my feet, where the set list is taped to the hardwood flooring of the stage. I have no idea if we had played any songs or if we had played them all. "Jason, what song are we on?" "Oh, this isn't cool, man. We can't keep playing." "C'mon man, just tell me what song we're on." "Um, we were in the middle of 'End of Us' when you got hit, but seriously, let's forget it, man." I adjust my mike stand and look back at Mark. He's back behind his drums with his sticks in his hands, but he looks wide-eyed and nervous. "Ready Mark?" I ask him. "Aye, Terry, but we don't have to, you know?" "Let's just start with the next song. 'Rough Go.'" We start playing. I can here shouting from Jason. I look back at him. He's screaming something. I step towards him so I can hear him better. "You're playing the wrong song!" he screams. I listen hard to what they are playing, and try to correct what I'm doing. When I think I've got it right I step up to the mike and begin singing, "Even after you've reached the end/ Even after she's gone?" Again Jason screams at me. I look at him and I can make out "Wrong words! Wrong song!" I look back out the crowd. They are standing, open-mouthed, staring up at me. I lick my lips and taste the familiar sickening flavor of iron. I look down at my hands thumping at the strings of my bass. My white t-shirt is splattered with red. Blood continues to drip from my nose and down off my chin. I don't bother with singing. I keep banging out notes and Jason and Mark, faithful soldiers of rock that they are, continue playing along. "Hey," I say into the mike. "If someone would come up and wipe off my face, I would appreciate it." Some chick climbs up onto the stage. She looks like punk-pop chick, with long blonde hair and tight black t-shirt, plaid school-girl skirt and the whole bit. She picks the towel up off the floor and cleans off my bloody face. I try to stay in time with the band, keeping up with the changes while she drags the bloody towel over the jagged cut between my eyes. She drops the towel back onto the floor, does a pose for the crowd and hops off the stage to a big cheer. "Thanks baby," I say into the mike, and she blows me a kiss. "You boys ready?" I say, and look back at Mark and Jason. We reach the chorus and I jump in screaming "Rough go! Why do you always give me such a rough go?" I think I'm singing the right part. Jason doesn't scream and tell me I'm wrong, so I sing it through and we bring the song to a finish. According to the set list we have six songs to go, but looking at the names of the songs I can't remember how any of them start. "Okay kiddies," I say to the audience. "I think we're going to cut this a bit short. "We'll leave you with one last tune. This is an old Black Sabbath song. It's called 'Sweet Leaf.'" It's not on the set list, but it's one we know and that I can remember. We hit it and play through, managing to keep it together. Jason helps me out with the vocals when I stumble, and we make it through to the end and get a big cheer. People clap and whistle, not so much because we played a great set, but because they were able to witness an unexpected and entertaining spectacle. That and people love to see some jerk overcome adversity. And yeah, I think a bottle to the face classifies as adversity. I hop off the side of the stage and there's a member of the bar staff right there with a clean wet towel which he immediately applies to my still-bleeding nose. Unable to see, I follow him as he leads me to a chair and sits me down. "You might need some stitches there, dude," he says. "Don't worry about that now," I say. "What the hell happened, anyway?" "Some guys started fighting at the back of the crowd and somebody chucked a bottle. Just back luck it caught you, I guess." I feel a hand on my shoulder. "Nice one, Terry," I hear a female voice say. "Sheila?" She slaps my shoulder. "No, it's Gina. Jesus, are you brain damaged now?" Gina. Right. I slept with her, is the first thing that crosses my mind. It was pretty good, too. I was good. I was good in the sack. She came twice. Also, I remember with more clarity where I am. I'm on tour with The Clutch Dogs, opening for Gina's band, Machine Within A Machine. I wonder if Gina thinks scars are sexy. "Yeah, maybe I am brain damaged," I tell her. "At the very least I must have a concussion. I can't remember any of my kid's names." "What? You've got kids? How many?" I pull the towel away from my face, look at the blood and press it back into place. "Let's see, how many kids do I have? Three, four?six, seven?um, none. So I guess I'm not brain damaged after all." "Don't be so sure." I hear another voice. I look up. It's Wayne, Machine's singer. "Terry, we'll help get your gear packed up. You just relax, okay?" "Don't need to tell me twice." I look around. There is a semi-circle of kids around the chair where I'm sitting, all staring at me. "Oh, Jesus," I say and put the towel back up to my face. I ask the guy from the bar to get me a beer. I silently wonder if I can make it through the rest of the night with the towel covering my face so I don't have to talk to anyone about how it feels to get clocked with a bottle half way through a song. Already punters are coming up and asking if I'm okay. I nod and tell everyone I'm fine, but I don't take the towel from my face. Why not? Shame, I guess. I don't want people to see what a bleeder I am. Some girl pulls a chair up next to me. She puts her arm around me and tries to take the towel. She wants to play Florence Nightingale, I guess. "I'm cool," I say. "I've got it." "It's okay," she says. "It's me, Christine." The name is not familiar, but I let go of the towel and let her hold it. She keeps it against my face for a few seconds and then pulls it away, saying "Let me have a look. There, it's not too bad. You've stopped bleeding I think." I look at her. She's mid-twenties, chubby-cute and somewhat familiar, but really I have no idea who she is. Maybe I talked to her earlier. My memory is shot. My beer shows up, and I take a long drink. I know that alcohol slows your blood's ability to form clots and it's stupid to drink when your nose is cut open, but my face hurts like hell and I hope for some pain relief. I'm sure if there is any chance I've got a concussion, beer can only make things worse, but I can always blame the concussion for making me stupid enough to drink. I look up at the stage. Jason and Mark are taking apart the drums, and the guys from Machine are lugging their gear up. I feel like a dick for not helping, and I start to get up. The girl, this 'Christine,' grabs me by the shoulder and pulls me back down. "No, no," she says. "You need to sit. Just rest here." I turn on her with an angry look. "Do I even know you?" I ask. Her smile drops. "We talked before you played." "That doesn't make you my doctor," I say. Grabbing my beer, I get up and lurch onto the stage. Mark is hefting the bass drum and I give him and hand with it. "All right, Terry?" he asks. "No, my head feels messed up," I say. "This might sound like a stupid question, but where are we staying tonight? I have no idea." "The bar owner set us up to stay at some guy's house," he says with a worried look. "You really don't remember? Maybe you're like, seriously hurt, mate." "I'm fine, I'm fine. I just don't want to hang around here all night." "We're not going to the house until after the bar closes. We've got a bit of a wait." "Christ." I look back to where I was sitting. Christine is still there, watching me. Fair enough. If I have to hang around for a few hours I might as well let a good looking girl dote on me. I stroll back over and sit down. She half-turns away and says nothing. I see. I hurt her feelings. God. Chicks. "You want a beer?" I ask her. She turns back around. "Maybe later," she says. "Do you want to go outside and smoke a joint before the next band starts?" I can't remember ever hearing about the effects of marijuana on people with concussions, and even though I'm fairly certain the effects are probably bad, I get up and follow her out. What's the worst that could happen? Permanent memory loss, motor skill damage, mild retardation. No one would even notice the difference. We walk a block to her car and get in. She produces a joint from her purse, sparks it up, and we pass it back and forth. We talk while we smoke, but I'm not sure what we're talking about. I think at some point she puts her hand on my leg, and that's about when I pass out. 2006 Nolan Whyte
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