• Vol. 02
  • Chapter 10


I know we’re stuffed as soon as I see the apostrophe shorting out.

Chairs stacked on tables. Maroon flock wallpaper. Sand blowing in under the doors. Thin girl passing a mop over last night’s spit-and-vomit.
Chris smiles. Winks. ‘Dressing room?’
She leans on the mop, snorts, jerks a thumb.
The passage smells of piss, the boiler room of vinegar and last night’s weed. We clear the cold chips off the table, unpack the instruments and squeeze onto the stage.

Wormy’s Little Brother is still humping in the speakers. He’s 14, skinny but keen, with a fondness for chemical highs and a reputation as a gifted but obsessive motor mechanic. Chris prefers him to Wormy Himself, who gets stroppy over his roadie cut and can never start the van first time.
Plug in. Feedback. Wah-wah not working. Lesley speaker somehow left behind in Croydon. Pete throwing a wobbler over a dented high-hat, Chris smiling his manager smile at a fat bloke at the bar. Fat bloke not smiling back.
Then the news. Not £100 each.
£100 between us.
Less drinks.
Chris laughs, slaps shoulders. ‘We can still make it work. It’s a gig, when all’s said. We’ll be all over the local press.’
‘You know what.’ Don stuffs a few heavy glass ashtrays into his jacket pockets, straps on his beloved Fender bass and makes for the door.
Chris stops smiling. ‘And where the hell d’you think you’re going? No play, no pay, matey!’
‘Sorry guys.’ Don hauls the door open. Sand and sunlight stream in. ‘Should’ve done this long ago.’ The door slams behind him.



Pete and I follow him out. He’s heading back along the pier towards the turnstiles. ‘Leave him be,’ Pete says. ‘Got a roll-up?’
We lean on the pier railings. ‘Usual bloody chaos.’ I throw my fag-end down into the water. It sizzles and sinks. ‘Can’t blame Don for walking out.’
Pete nudges me. ‘There he is.’
Don is striding down the beach towards the sea, Fender clunking on its strap. When he gets to the water, he just keeps going. Doesn’t even hold his bass up clear of the waves. When the water reaches his chin, someone shouts, and people start running in after him.
‘Cool.’ Pete takes a last drag. ‘Come on. Better get the gear loaded.’

Outside Nero’s, a crowd has gathered round the van. The bonnet is up. Wormy’s Little Brother is sitting cross-legged on the pier boards, staring at a long row of engine parts lined up in order of diminishing size. He’s muttering some kind of mantra over and over, and his pupils are enormous. ‘Fucking far out,’ he’s saying. ‘Fucking far out!’