Chuck Wendig, over at Terribleminds, has a weekly Flash Fiction Challenge wherein he provides a prompt for you to write to. This week, he provided a random band name generator. We were tasked with picking on name at random and writing at story about that band. Whatever we wanted. This was my entry. Enjoy!
(P.S. Senor Wendig has a new book, 500 Ways to Tell a Better Story, that just came out yesterday. Go, buy, enjoy. It's only $2.99 and available in many formats to fit your e-reader needs.)
Wine Beside Defect
We’re not that band.
We were band geeks in college. Most weeks we’d get bussed to whatever shithole town our football team was playing in, we’d have ourselves a show, and then we’d get bussed back. Overly pumped up men slammed into each other repeatedly, scraping and clawing for a yard here or two yards there while the crowd screamed and ate it up like candy. When halftime arrived, the crowd would mostly funnel over to the concession stand. The few remainers politely applauded as we marched out to perform our little show.
Honestly it sucked. It’s a thankless job when no one gives a shit that you’re even there. So my friends and I decided to start up a little side project. We went to different Salvation Armies and Goodwills until we found four black suits. Then, we packed up our instruments and headed off to a club.
We called ourselves Wine Beside Defect, a classy name for a jazz band, we thought, with a sort of wink and a nod to the audience that we knew this was just as ridiculous as they did. And yet, we were a hit. I mean, we weren’t Top 40, record-execs-tearing-down-our-doors, but we had a fairly steady stream of gigs. We became known around campus. People would hoop and holler at us from across the quad, praising last weekend’s show. We took to wearing our fedoras all of the time, like a badge or a uniform. We were going places.
One night, we were playing at a toilet of a place known as Ralphie’s. A no-talent screamo band was ahead of us. The lead singer had tattoos of quotes from literature he thought made him look deep, along with quotes from the Bible, the Koran, and Buddha, because, you know, he was a child of the world.
By the time they ended their set, my ears were ringing despite the earplugs I wore. No rhythm, no melody, just a constant pounding and a high pitched screech. I was glad to see them go. I was gladder to see them go with a pathetic smattering of sarcastic applause--a slow clap that never got going.
After they’d broken their set down, we raced on stage, set up our drums, and gave the signal to the light man. He put up a red filter and I nodded my thanks. I threw my sunglasses on, big Ray-bans, and tapped my right foot. Our post-ironic suit and Converse combo seemed to be doing the trick. The crowd was laughing and applauding. I opened my case, gave one girl in the front row the Finger Guns, and then produced my trumpet. We counted down and blasted off. Glen Miller, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, we played ‘em all. Everyone was on their feet, clapping, hollering, having a great time. When the set was over, the people clamoured for an encore.
Out back, we took a smoke break. Sweat was pouring down my face, and my undershirt was soaked through. The crisp autumn air felt good. I took a drag on my cigarette and let it out in a neat little ring, a trick my older brother had taught me before he went to Iraq and got himself blown up.
“You boys were pretty good up there,” we heard someone say.
Out of the shadows appeared a man in a tailored black suit. He had on little round Victorian Era-looking sunglasses, and walked with a slick, black walking stick with a polished crystal for the handle.
“Thanks,” our drummer said. That was all he was going to say. We didn’t like the cut of this guy’s jib, as my grandpa would say. He was seedy.
“You know, you’re all too talented for this. I can think of a better use for your talents.”
“Oh yeah?” I sneered. “We’re not really looking for a change. We’re happy with what we’ve got here.”
The man chuckled. “What? Playing for pennies in a shithole dive bar on weekends while you cram for your Biology finals during the week? Please. You know you want something more. And you know you deserve it. Hell, look back at your set tonight. Do you realize who you just played to? Drunken frat boys and slutty, sorority girls. And you had them on their feet.” With that last word, he slammed his cane into the ground, which sounded surprisingly loud in the quiet, echoey alley. Like gunshot or a car backfire or something.
“...What’s the gig?”
The man explained that he’d come to claim someone’s life tonight--someone in the audience who’d racked up a high debt. He liked having a soundtrack--a roving band of minstrels to entertain him while he worked. If we followed him from job to job, he would pay us handsomely.
Of course, we didn’t believe him. Not until the next day, when the man he’d mentioned at the show turned up dead, eyes wide, like he’d met his death staring into the face of Fear itself. Each of us received a letter that week in a red envelope with no recognizable postmark, urging us to consider his offer.
I tell you this because tonight, we’re playing again, just like we have a hundred times before. Tonight he claims another life. Tonight he’s coming for you.