By Mar Vincent
The Punks lost their lead singer to a unified attack of Honkeytonkers and Whiteboy Rappers. From opposing arcs of the Venue’s stage, posse and gang built a two-pronged assault of banjo and drum machine, cheatin’ wives and old Chevys and Cristal in the Club and Dat Ass, Dat Ass, Dat Ass. The Punks worked their three proscribed chords and Duckie raged against institutions until his voice cracked, but it wasn’t enough to help Fuck the Machine win out over Dat Ass.
Duckie dropped in a moment of fatal disharmony with the second guitarist, which led to catastrophic heart failure — both apparently caused by the banjo. It wasn’t unheard of for frontmen to die in the line of fire, as they bore the brunt of performance, but the rest of the band panicked and fled, guitars and prized cymbals slung over shoulders, leaving Duckie’s legendarily overtaxed liver and dogged idealism to be disposed of by the enemy.
That night in the crumbling cement, bare-wire, gasoline- and cigarette-poisoned back alley behind the Punks’ warehouse-commune, Duckie’s guitar was laid to rest, the case nailed shut. The band spray-painted final sentiments to the decedent:
I said quit smoking, wrote Frack, the drummer.
An all right guy, wrote Slinky, the bassist.
What the fuck, wrote Jizzabel Jackass, the second guitarist. Whether an expression of remorse or disbelief, only they could say.
Emissaries from the Emo, Screamo, and Goth camps came to pay their respects. The Doo-Wopers sent silk flowers and the Teen Pop Rockers sent a soap basket — a backhanded insult if ever there’d been one. Jizzabel heaped the shallow gifts atop the guitar case, doused them with plentiful acetone, and lit all that shit ablaze. The funeral party moshed and drank and abused substances around the bonfire until they passed out on curbs and a few in thickening puddles of vomit. It was the way these things were done.
In the aftermath, Jizzabel awoke in a dogpile with something other than the agonized shriek of a hangover ringing in their ears. A familiar sound, hypnotic in its pull; Jizzabel climbed out from under Frack and listened, slack-mouthed and revolving in place. They’d never heard divine inspiration before, but this was it.
Jizzabel’s eyes stopped on the silhouette of a boy with a guitar atop a nearby warehouse, wailing about message over melody. It was the core of the Punk ideal, but his delivery was new, different. To have any power it had to be. Jizzabel attempted shouting the kid down, but nausea lurched from stomach to throat.
The ascent up graffitied stairwells proved no less harrowing; the mere thought of the word vertiginous turned each step into a war. And yet, gaining the roof, it wasn’t sunlight stabbing into desiccated pupils that caused Jizzabel’s eyes to leak, but the beautiful cacophony of that kid.
The kid was familiar. A safety pin like a chicken bone through his nose. Hair others would call snot green looked like sour apple candy to Jizzabel. He’d volunteered for backup before, for stage security, for sound guy. He’d tried to write material, but Duckie had shot him down. This must be why.
“Your name?” Jizzabel demanded. Or wavered, more accurately.
The kid turned. “Brad.”
It wasn’t a good Punk name, so Jizzabel translated it into an appropriate form. “Brat. All right. You’re in.”
Brat had fast fingers and youthful lungs that, Frack and Slinky agreed, could level the entire Venue with the right support. While the band made plans, Brat picked at forehead acne and grunted assent.
Runners were sent to call in favors — to the Screamos in their converted asylum, the Goths in their slumping Victorian mansion, Emos in parents’ basements or congregated at the eastside hostel — requesting the presence of every sideman, every sound guy, every spare speaker and amp.
With reinforcements, they filled almost half of the Venue’s stage.
As soundcheck finished, Jizzabel issued the Punks’ traditional challenge: “Oy, oy, oy!” The city’s speaker system carried it to every last borough, barrio, and hood.
Soon, they came. Not just the guilty parties but Dubsteppers and R&Bers, Ska Rockers and Instrumentalists from uptown, a medley of Alternatives and Experimentals. Souls and Folks and Psychedelics. All without any dog in the fight.
When they arrived, the Teen Pop Rockers seemed acutely aware of the fate of their soap basket.
The Whiteboys showed first, and Brat fired a warning shot with The Disillusioned State of Youth Today. The Whiteboys, who were men, not boys, volleyed back with You Think You Got the Street Cred to Stand Up to Us? Brat responded with Your Valuations of Strength are Self-Determined Social Constructs.
Jizzabel led the band, shouting a chorus of “Anarchy, Anarchy, Anarchy.” Sound waves became battering rams pummeling Whiteboys toward redundancy. The Honkeytonkers arrived yodeling how one of those old Chevys had stalled and There Ain’t No Honor in Starting a Band Fight Before Its Time. Brat deflected with Lifelong Victims of Oppression Don’t Play Fair.
Jizzabel watched the kid, salivating over sour apple hair that framed a face screaming Justifiable Rage. Brat’s voice jolted the crowd to revelation, moving hands to wave and voices to shout in unison. Everyone obeyed when Jizzabel and Slinky urged Justice, Jump! Justice, Jump!, and Frack thrashed the drums like he had five arms.
Soundwaves rippled like a collective heartbeat. The whole crowd, in that time and place, became Punks.
They all wanted justice for Duckie.
The Venue turned on the tag-teamers in a singular tide. From nowhere a pickup cut through the crowd, scattering bodies and whisking away Honkeytonkers and the few Whiteboys swift enough to hitch their saggy pants high and jump for the tailgate.
The crowd pursued, Brat’s words translated into action.
Jizzabel couldn’t remember the last time anyone sang a riot into being. Divine inspiration struck again as they cast aside their guitar and took a running leap into the crowd.
Hundreds of hands stretched out to catch them with a cry of music for all, seeing as music, for Punks, was another word for justice.
As a fine art professional, Mar has wielded katanas and handled Lady Gaga’s shoes. As a veterinary assistant, she has cared for hairless cats, hedgehogs, and, one time, a coyote. As a writer (under Marissa James or Mar Vincent), her short fiction can be found in Flash Fiction Online, Translunar Travelers Lounge, Zooscape, and many other publications. She is a recipient of the Ladies of Horror Fiction grant, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and a reader for Interstellar Flight Press. She resides in the Pacific Northwest and can be found on Twitter or Mastodon @MaroftheBooks.
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