The night they kicked me out of the band, everything fell apart. Yet we were grooving so well that night — in sync — and the audience (such as it was) had been right there with us, swaying and laughing and dancing and all, like we always hoped for and seldom got. It felt as if those two hard years of gigging non-stop were finally paying off.
Then there was the echo, or maybe it was feedback. I dunno. The reverb threw me off and then I couldn’t stop hearing the echo of my bass, every note doubled and fed back to me like it had bounced off the walls. I became so disoriented that I had to stop playing and catch myself up.
Stuart glared at me but kept strumming. Aimee looked concerned but never missed a beat. They went on without me, that was the thing — and it would become the thing from then on. That hurt then and hurt more later. All the invective they threw at me when we finally unplugged and slithered off the stage. ‘Useless,’ Stuart called me. ‘Dead weight,’ Aimee muttered. After more than two years together I couldn’t believe my ears.
Worse, I couldn’t stop the din. It was inside my ears, even though I was wearing plugs. When I finally took them out later my ears were still ringing like the reverb wouldn’t stop.
It didn’t stop.
I had gawped at the crowd as we limped through the last two numbers, desperately trying to recover the beat. Did you ever notice that even when people are having a good time if you stare at their faces long enough they begin to look like hideous rubber masks laughing at you. All I could hear was the echoing feedback of that low E thrumming in my head like a punch to the eye from the back of the skull.
The sound said failure. Out of the band. On your own again, most unnaturally.
There was nothing for it but to drag myself home. The city was empty like everyone was avoiding me and the stink of failure on me. I shuffled up to the house and scraped my key at the broken door, dragging it closed behind me. Now what would I do at night? No band practice, nowhere to go that anyone wanted me.
I didn’t tell the old man. He’s not actually my old man, but he was my mother’s dude before she died and he’s as broken down as she was before she kicked. They both absorbed too much of the old swallow. Now all we had was each other and inertia. Except for the band — but now I didn’t even have that anymore.
I didn’t even talk to the old man when I came in, not that he would have listened. Surrounded by cans, he slumped before the flickering telly, a single glint of light bouncing off his gold tooth. I hated that thing so much. We lived in a rubbish tip, but he had that treasure in his mouth.
For days I just lay in my bed. Without the band I had no idea what to do. The drone still quaked through my brain. The old man looked in on me once. My absence must have finally become a enough of a gap to stir him to idle curiosity. He just grinned at me like an idiot from the crack of the door. That gold tooth sparkled at me, winking like a faulty lantern.
The grand idea came to me in the night though I don’t think I was dreaming. I couldn’t really sleep with the reverb in my ears. I decided I would remove that gold tooth, pawn it for some cash, and head to the coast for some fun in the sun. Well, there’s not much sun round here, but away — that was the main thing.
The next night I lay in my little bed waiting for him to snore. The sound of the idiot box was intolerable even with the E drone of reverb still in my head. The tension grew, turning up to eleven eventually. I could feel screams making their way to my mouth, but I choked them back down until I heard his racket start up: snore snore snore. Then I got my bat. To think I almost chucked it when I left school.
Who knew the old man had so much blood in him?
For the first time there was something that drowned out the thrumming in my head. He didn’t make a peep. The bat though provided fine percussion though it could have used some thing with more of a ting — like a tambourine or maybe even a cowbell.
I showered and put on fresh clothes, didn’t even pack nothing as I figured on buying new gear at the seaside. Easy peasy jalfreezi. But it turns out pawn shoppie types get nervous about gold teeth. Maybe it was the blood. I thought I cleaned it all off, but I had been so nervous. So very nervous. The coppers were understanding, mostly. They even gave me ear plugs when I said I’d forgot mine. That drone, that E. I wish I could silence it. The echo in here is bad. Nothing but cinder block and that ticking ticking ticking sound. Enough to drive you mad really.