Flash Fiction: Punk’s Not Dead
What was that about the author meeting his own deadlines?
Yeah, I’m pretty much made of fail. Oh well. Here’s today’s flash fiction. This one’s about punk rock, which will no doubt impress my regular readers as it’s a subject which I so rarely touch upon. The soundtrack for this one is (Shut) Up the Punx!!!
PUNK’S NOT DEAD
By the time he makes it outside the club, squeezing through sweat-soaked bodies and bar queues, she’s gone. The car park outside is quiet and empty, occupied only by discarded fag-ends and metal barriers with no crowds to corral. He swears and glances skywards. The night sky is mostly clear, although wisps of cloud drift high and dark.
Something sharp glances off the back of his head. ‘Ow,’ he says, and turns to look up. He sees a pair of boots above him, attached to legs that dangle from the roof. Of course it’s Elana. Glancing around to make sure that none of the venue’s bouncers are watching him, he puts a foot on the nearest windowsill and boosts himself up, finding familiar handholds as he climbs.
The rooftop’s as full of old cigarette boxes, bottles and other rubbish as he remembers. It’s been a while since he climbed up here to hang out or smoke a joint. He sits down beside Elana, dangling his feet over the edge of the roof.
‘Hey,’ he says.
‘Jack,’ she replies. She reaches into the hemp shoulderbag sitting beside her and pulls out a can of cheap, extra-strong cider, which she hands to him wordlessly.
‘Cheers,’ he says, and cracks it open. The hiss of the can opening is louder than the distant sounds of traffic, louder than the thump and roar of the bands playing below. He takes a swig and waits for her to speak.
‘I’m so fucking tired,’ she sighs, ‘of all the bullshit.’
‘You know. Everyone in this goddamn town. Everyone in this… fucking scene. All these little-pond big-fish bands with their egos and their tattoos and their… all the fucking pretention. The shallowness. The politics. It makes me sick.’
Elana punctuates her point by hurling a half-finished can of cider into the night. It arcs clear over the car park, leaking a trail of chemical-tinged and apple-flavoured alcohol droplets behind it. It vanishes out of sight behind a fence, into someone’s garden.
She sighs, reaches into her bag and pulls out another can.
‘I get you,’ Jack says. ‘You know I do. It doesn’t get under my skin as bad but I don’t like it either. But you have your ‘zine.’
‘Yeah,’ Elana sneers, cracking open the can. ‘Albini would be proud. I have a fucking diary that, like, three people read.’
Jack opens his mouth to speak but she shoots him a glance before he can say a word. ‘Don’t. I know every single person who has ever read more than a paragraph.’
He shuts his mouth. He knows it’s true.
Elana sighs and leans back, bending her Mohawk against the concrete. Rubbish rustles and scrapes as her leather jacket presses against it. She kicks the air aimlessly. Jack takes a few more sips at his cider and pulls two pre-rolled cigarettes out of his pocket. He lights them both and hands one to Elana, who takes and smokes it lying down.
‘Did you see Harri?’ she says, breathing out hard and watching the smoke erupting above her like a geyser.
Jack laughs. ‘Yeah. That girl… seriously. What a walking tragedy.’
‘Walking or lying down. Two months ago it was Fingers/Thumbs she was following around, trying to get someone to let her suck their cock. And now she’s making eyes at Austin, just because Choppy Sincerity got a review in rock sound. Girl needs a new hobby.’
‘You see,’ says Jack. ‘Harri’s just funny. How can you get so pissed off at that sort of thing? It’s so trivial and stupid.’
Elana sits up and slaps Jack’s arm. It stings; he’s only wearing a t-shirt and it’s cold.
‘You’re missing the point, Jack. It’s not about idiot kids like Harri. It’s about what they mean. Take Harri: she stands for all the stupid, fawning sycophants who drape themselves around preening peacock arseholes like doormats ready to be walked on. All the women who debase themselves just to get closer to fame. All the wankers who mistake what’s transitory for what matters.’
‘So what matters?’ asks Jack. He draws on his cigarette and blows smoke into the cold night air, watching Elana. She sighs, staring down at the car park below. Below them the door bangs open and a couple stagger out into the moonlight, leaning on each other and laughing.
‘Punk means something. You know. It means everything to the people that care about it: honesty, respect, kinship. A place of our own… something that holds itself up to better standards than the world around it.’
She’s frowning as she says this, forearms resting on her thighs, cigarette and cider in hand. Jack admires her: the creasing around her eyes beneath thin, sharp eyebrows, the half-faded colours of her sharp-edged hair, and the bunching sleeves of her too-large leather jacket. There’s nothing sexual in the way he watches her: he admires and respects her strength, and her doubt.
‘You know, your problem,’ he says. ‘Is that you focus on the big picture so much that you don’t notice all the little things that make it up.’
She’s silent, so he goes on. ‘Our friendship. All of your words. The fact that you’re always trying so hard to make things live up to high standards. Every song that touches your heart, every song that makes you want to scream at the world and force it to be better. Nights like this. Talking and being honest with ourselves.’
She turns her head and looks at him again, and this time the sparkle in her eyes shows she actually sees him.
‘I guess you have something there,’ she says. ‘And you call me the romantic.’ She throws back her head and downs the rest of her cider, then raises the empty can in a mock salute.
‘To the small things,’ she says. ‘And to the big picture.’
He joins her in her salute, and they link arms and laugh and swear at the sky.