Mid-July, 1979 / Cambridge, UK
Deanna put on a second pair of socks, stuck her feet back into Merriam’s shiny black military surplus “skinner” boots. “The last time I wore work boots I went to a tractor pull. With a nice, straight redheaded racist who worked on a farm, smelled like my grampa and had a pickup about two stories off the ground.”
“A what pull?”
“Tractors. Only tractors like dragsters? They tried to pull trailers full of heavy stuff, or tug-of-war each other. They got really loud and then one or both of them blew up.”
“Lass, sometimes I don’t know if you’re high or lying.” Merriam reached over, pinched up a piece of black tight from Deanna’s thigh and stuck a fork in it. Randomly pinched and repeated on both legs.
“There are times I don’t know if you’re crazy or just fucked up in the head. What have you done to my only pair of warm tights?”
“Laddered. Can’t have you punkin’ as a night out for the Vicar’s missus. Mind you, laddered punked tights would run thirty pounds or more in a shop.”
Deanna held up a the Daisy Dukes cut-offs that moments ago had been her next to last pair of Jackson’s old Levis. “So it’s like a favor, you ruining my clothes?”
“Oh aye. Your clothes are refugees from the bin as it is. At least the ones you wear.” Merriam dug around in Deanna’s dresser, found the long-sleeved leotard Deanna lived in as her bottom layer.
“NO! Not that. You can’t. I –”
“Right. You’ll wear it under. But this…” Merriam’s scissors went across the bottom of Deanna’s brother’s orange Miami Dolphins jersey with COLLINGS across the shoulders and a foot tall 92, back and front.
“Oh…Well, it’s not like he doesn’t have any more.” Deanna held it up, checked the ragged trim running under the numbers, tightened her lips. “They’re fan jerseys, really, not game jerseys. I mean the real ones would be down to my knees. And this one covered…Used to cover my butt.”
“If arse were valuable you’d be chained to the far wall in debtor’s prison. Let’s put your face on.”
Deanna followed to the small dining table where sometimes they ate, she studied, Cat and Merriam drank. Merriam screwed the bulb into the hanging flying saucer fixture until it flashed on and proceeded to finger dusty black powder around Deanna’s eyes, followed with a streak of red across the top almost to her temples, told her to close her eyes and shot her eye art with hairspray.
“Done.” Merriam squinted, kept the laugh in check. “You look like a bloody escapee from the Hammer vampire lot.”
“Are you sure you won’t come? I mean it’s Alvy and…I’ve never done this before. Punk I mean. Really.” She grabbed Merriam’s hand. “Please? What do I say? I mean I’ve been to concerts and watched Jax play and everything and I know my way around, but not…Well, I’m not punk. Or never have been.”
Merriam removed her hand. “I’ve been, thank you. Keep your mouth shut or they’ll take you as smarter than the whole room and you’re out or worse. If they get you on top in the pit stay tits up or you’ll take a beating. Gets too much for you kick and scream and shove till you’ve found a door.”
Alvy maneuvered Deanna through the gauntlet of leaflet and handbill pushers, sprinkled with a few rude, rough and glam boys that floated like litter in a sloshing edge to edge tide pool of mostly male, middle class kids in various stages of high, sporting tails out button down shirts and jeans or t-shirts. All in poor imitations of the Fifties James Deans or Sixties Mods. Deanna had hurried through several essays in the sociology files about the state of punk. Too many influences, too much anger and volatility confused up with skinheads and squatters and no direction. All along the walk they were spewing what Deanna’s old mentors called “two bit sloganeering” while covering the ground with their oversized confetti handouts. Alvy pushed her head down, led her through a hole in a chain link fence past a smelly guy her brother’s size who grunted recognition and on through an open steel door in the back of a building she wouldn’t have known the front of if she saw it.
“Alvy! Rotten little faggot, what have you brought us?” The skinny guy with a Three Stooges bowl haircut and a sprinkle of facial moles, who wore skin tight black everything, slammed a cupped hand into Deanna’s crotch, grabbed the back of her head, lifted her off the ground and stuck his tongue far enough down her throat to gag her. She fought her way loose, backed up bent over, hacked projectile spit on skinny mole face’s feet. He threw his head back, laughed and dropped an arm collar around Alvy’s neck.
“Can’t have us a gagger, Alvy. What else have you before she’s off home with the good girls?”
To Deanna’s wide-eyed shock Alvy produced a Zip baggie stuffed with light blue, white and yellow pills, handed it off.
“Alvy? What the fuhhh –”
The backhanded slap from a guy in slashed brown fatigues landed on Deanna’s left cheek followed by “Shut up, bitch. Not your game, is it? Why don’t you bugger right – ”
Deanna’s right fist landed hard on Shredded Fatigues’ nose and lip, dead center. He duck-walked backwards into a cinder block wall. Another guy in normal street clothes who could have been working behind the counter at Burger King, if he wasn’t smoking and strapped onto a huge electric bass, caught the guitar stumbling Fatigues knocked off a stand when he hit the wall. All the sound from outside and the front of the club disappeared from the tiny cinder block alcove.
Alvy broke the smokey soundproof Vaseline bubble. “Her brother’s an American footballer. His jersey she’s in.” Everyone cast an eye at Deanna and nodded, barely, as if it was enough explanation for a thin, pretty, pasty girl with crazy hair to have a solid, shoulder driven right.
“Fair done, Miss.” Street Clothes tossed the guitar up, caught it by the neck closer to the body, looked down and kicked Fatigues in the ribs. “By a Cambridge schoolgirl. Pathetic shit.” His throat rumbled, he hocked something green and brown and slimy on fatigue’s chest, dropped the guitar in his lap and left by a narrow, doorless opening. His exit elicited a wild rise in the noise from beyond the alcove.
“Scab and Freeze don’t get on. So…” Skinny Moles examined Deanna. He threw up his hands, palms out in mock surrender when she stepped up into his gaze. “Alvy’s a chemist. We’re a band. We throw a handful out into the crowd.” He checked his watch. “Gone half-ten they’re off in as many directions as a pack of blind Bishops on holiday in Rome, we’re a third down the set. Come midnight the press interviews the puke parade, says we pulled another stunner of a show. Trust you to forget all and say less?”
“It’s not really…” She looked into the black holes that were his eyes. “Never mind. It’s not for me to say.” Shredded Fatigues edged past her, sullen, bloody nosed, his guitar strapped on. Her eyes burned into his back. “Your fraud’s not my game, is it?”
“No…Nor yours ours.” Skinny Moles offered a vague smile. “What it’s all about, eh? Vive la différence? Where would we all be with no one to hate…” He held his hand on the opening like it was a curtain, stared off into the noise. “You’ve done us a favor, Freeze starting out bloodied.” His sigh was on the edge of imperceptible. “Scab will still have another go at him.” He waited a theatrical pause and followed Shredded Fatigues through the narrow hole in the wall to yet an even louder eruption of noise.
Deanna tilted her head through, hands flat on either side, in time to see an older, muscular, covered in tattoos head shaved guy wearing nothing but baggy capri length pants and high top dirty white Converses use two members of the crowd’s heads to vault himself onto the stage with a free air summersault. She blew a buried in crowd noise finger whistle in ex-cheerleader appreciation. Muscled tattoos jumped over and behind a meagre, mismatched drum set, clacked his sticks and the Quigleys overrode the crowd noise with a deafening cacophony of feedback, throbbing bass and screaming delivered with retarded string puppet prance dancing.
She turned, screamed at Alvy. “This is Punk?”
“Yeah,” he screamed back. “Like it?”
“Not yet.” She ducked under his arms for the back door, still having to scream. “Is it better from the front?”