This is an impressionistic little story/sketch I wrote that I’m planning on expanding into a novel. Some of you might recognize James and Katie from a serial I wrote in my zine BLAH! way, way back in the mid-90s. And some of you might remember the awesome skate park that was behind the Independent Records in downtown Colorado Springs, which is where I set this scene.
fireflies swam around her as if she was their mother but they were only stars and she only a girl in love roosting goblinish in the rafters beneath the skylight. she liked to think of the stars as fireflies but it was their thought to think of her as their mother—in the vast chilly reaches born of dust and a restless churning breath they felt lost and alone and clung to silly notions childishly. Katie did too, clung childishly to her love, clutching it the way a mermaid clutched a dead sailor longing for him to live and love her and never understanding that it was her embrace that brought him to this end. she clung to it now as she watched James his hair a-sweat and sticky with blood the blood swabbed under his eyes like warpaint and crusting his nose. dots speckled his white buttoned-up shirt and swam with the paisleys on his tie swam with him as he careened and careered drunkenly drowningly through the moshpit. the music picked up the bass line a primal call a howler monkey hooting and crooning wound up James more and sent him spinning a top a whirling dervish lost to religious ecstasy until he drove his face into an outstretched fist and stopped abruptly while blood spun from his nose again and he rocked back and forth on his feet more cartoon caricature than feeling flesh. she watched smiling, knowing that this was James full of impulse and abandon more Peter Pan than growing boy—they’d all grow up and he’d be there grinning, amused at the suits and ties they wore to their jobs whilst he wore his for amusement a black ritual in mockery of their sacred vestments. he teetered in eternity threatening to spill over the floor threatening to cease to exist and with him the world—“Banish James and banish the world” he would always joke and she knew it was true—and then just as it seemed he and the world would topple into chaos and ruin he sprang forward and skipped through the throng around him skipping and wiping his blood on his sleeves as if unaware of their existence lost to in adoration of the music the moshpit of life and all its idiosyncrasies.
they were at the skatepark. it was in the back of a Groovy Ghoulie’s Records and Tapes, a record store in a little warehouse in downtown Newbury. on the weekends punk bands came and played always three or four bands for three bucks. they came every weekend and sometimes Katie’s band, The Snack Traps, played here but tonite they weren’t and she could perch in the steel rafters above the crowd the moshpit the stage watching and listening and pining. sitting above them she felt like a puppeteer pulling strings on marionettes—pull this way and they’d stampede in circles pull this way and they’d cheer and stagedive let go and they’d crumble in a heap. she wished she had the strings to pull James up to her now but then he’d be her James and not his James—not Jim or James or Jamie but a puppet fawning over her whenever however she wanted. To have James meant to never have him—loving James was loving a protean creature, mercurial and capricious.
James climbed up on The Joop’s shoulders (“The Joop” called this because his real name was Jupiter and they all looked up to him as a father and because he was seven feet tall. he was wild and unbred brought up like she and James but sloughing it off like a snake and lived unabashedly free of the dictates of his family and society) and they ran around the moshpit an animated totem pole, James kicking his legs at everyone that came near making Katie think of the old arcade game “Joust” with James the rider and “The Joop” his ostrich mount for he did look something like an ostrich, gangly and pale and always with a look of hunger and madness in his eyes. he gave out a low guttural howl as they ran while James giggled one hand under The Joop’s chin to steady himself the other flailing in the air sometimes whacking the backs of heads or just spinning like a child’s pinwheel. They made three passes through the pit before James latched onto the steel rafters.
James leapt up and seized the beam under Katie pulling himself up to face her. he swayed there an oversized apple bruised but not rotten, a Riesling grape just between sweet and rot, a state of perfection, he grinned at Katie and she tipped her baseball cap to him.
“ a fine evenin’ to you, and what brings a lass as lovely as you to such a den of thieves—ruffians all and I the king of scapegraces.” he winked and then with fingers sweaty slipped from the steel beam fell to the floor the crowd parting so as not to get caught or crushed by his collapse. like Icarus falling from the heavens or a meteor skipping over the atmosphere finally bright and burning and bounding to earth gracelessly James crashed to the ground, a marionette with strings cut slumping in a heap. the crowd silenced and the band stopped playing, the music the voices vacuumed out of the stunned room by James’ booming collapse. Katie spun and glided from her perch down to James. The Joop loped over and scooped the ragdoll from the wooden floor. His eyes fluttered flirted with consciousness his lips mouthed a moan but no moan came no sound just a soft wheeze.
“Bring out your dead. Bring out your dead,” The Joop called in a pathetic attempt at an English accent carrying James out of the skatepark. Katie trailed behind caught up and stopped in front of The Joop. The Joop smiled, took off Katie’s cap and ruffled her hair, “He’ll be fine, just a concussion. I’ll carry him home.”
Katie watched them walk down the alleyway. The Joop only in a paintstained wifebeater tee and jeans his freckled back in the chilly air the sweat steam rising off him, James craning to peek and waved to Katie as if to say I’ll be okay. she smirked and shook her head and waved back to her DonQuijote her Popeye her angelheaded hipster.