This week I've again used this forum as a way to tease out some characters for a film project I've started developing. It's a useful way to kick those ideas into gear - but it's also a really handy way of coming up with something late on a Sunday night to hastily write up and post first thing on a Monday...
With Our Fists
“Tonight we’ll punch the sky with our fists!”
“Punch the sky…”
“With our fists!”
Evan shakes his head at the call and response. God, her band is a little bit shit, isn’t it?
Steph is up on the stage, guitar draped lightly over her shoulder, purple light fraying in her tussled hair. She’s singing sweetly, but her bass player is breathing too heavily into his microphone as he provides backup. It’s deeply unsettling. Hufffffff, pufffffff…
There are about fourteen people in the backroom of the bar. Four of them are arguing loudly about something to do with cricket. Seven more are buried in their phones. Which leaves two more, plus Evan, who are actually paying attention to the band. It’s a grim scene, all irony and casual disconnection and misplaced dreams.
Evan hears himself think these thoughts, and mutters the word ‘wanker’ at himself for such self-righteous bullshit. We’re all so disconnected, man, so fucking disconnected... Evan shakes his head, and calls himself a ‘fucking wanker’ as he reaches into his pocket and checks his phone.
On stage, the bass player sees Evan’s mouth form the words. Gives Evan the stinkeye. Evan looks up from his phone, can feel the lasers burning into his forehead.
Evan shakes his head in response. “No, no, no—”
There’s nothing to be done. The damage is awkward and settled. The bass player grimaces, as the song tumbles to its end. The room is quiet. Evan is quiet.
“Thanks.” Steph smiles at the sparse crowd.
The bass player steps back from the mic and turns to Steph. It’s a small room, so everyone can still definitely hear him when he says to her: “I think your fucken date just called me a fucken wanker, Steph.”
Four of the seven look up from their phones. Steph looks at Evan.
Evan nods. Gives up. Speaks from the heart.
“Yeah, what a fucken wanker!”
Out on the street, the night is neatly warm. Steph enjoys it on her bare shoulders as she lugs her worn guitar case.
Evan struggles alongside her, hunched over, pushing her massive valve amplifer over the uneven footpath.
“I’m really sorry. I parked pretty far away,” Steph apologises. Evan shakes his head, and keeps tumbling onward.
“You okay with that?”
“Yeah—yep, yeah, yep—” Evan cuts himself off as he hits a crack, and nearly loses control of the amp. Steph contains a smile, watches him attempt to casually keep wheeling forward. He’s nervous, and that makes her less nervous, which is helpful.
They walk through wide warm streets for ten minutes in picturesque silence, drawn forward by summer air.
At the car, Steph throws her guitar in the backseat, and the two of them wheeze and splutter as they lift the amp into the rear. Steph closes the boot, and turns back to Evan, who is trying extra hard not to look sore.
“Your back okay?”
“Oh, yeah. Yeah, of course.” Evan blows the question off as he tries his absolute hardest to stretch without looking like he’s stretching. It’s a beautiful dance.
Steph nods. It’s hard to know what to say at this point. She always invites guys out to see her band way too early, hopes it will make her look cool but then feels hopelessly embarrassed on stage and ends up playing like shit and making Mark – the bass player – all weird and shirty. She longs for a cup of tea, laced with whisky. She wishes now that she had brought a jumper.
Evan cuts through the awkward quiet.
“Hey, can I ask you a question?”
Steph leans back on the back of her car and nods.
“That song, you sang, about punching the sky?”
“What do those lyrics… mean, exactly?”
Steph studies Evan. Studies his creased flannelette shirt, the sweat on the side of his neck. His not-entirely-innocent expression. She smiles, and shrugs, and studies herself.
“Nothing. They don’t mean shit. They’re really stupid but I don’t care, heaps.”
Steph looks around, eyes narrowed, speaks with a pantomime hush. “Yes. Don’t tell anyone.”
Evan nods, seems to relax. This makes Steph instantly tense up. She steps forward, her feet moving closer to his.
“Did you like the music, though?”
Steph stares at Evan, whose eyes search around as he thinks. There’s a streetlight above his head, and it’s starting to dim with age.
Evan speaks quietly, and assuredly.
“Yeah. Yeah, I did.”
Steph looks hard at the light, and lets her eyes adjust.
As the night slowly cools, the front windshield of the car starts to fog up. In the future, Steph and Evan will have to think so hard about so many things. They’ll have to make big, dangerous decisions. They’ll buy things they don’t need and won’t be able to afford things they probably do need and they’ll argue and fall apart. They’ll get so preoccupied with the future that their retinas will sear and their ears will clog up with dust.
They’ve set up a winding path, and they’re stuck on it now. Rolling forward, together, careening out of control.
But tonight, they’re making out in the front of a shitty old car, with a crackling stereo playing Elliott Smith softly to nobody.
They’re a beautiful, honest cliché, horny and happy, nervous and assured.
Fists clenched tightly, thrust boldly into the sky above.
Words copyright Matt Vesely. Image borrowed from the Grace Emily Hotel's page on the Music SA website. I hope they don't mind. It's a really good place to see bands.