August 05, 2009

Fish Store

By Arthur Rosch © 2001

Trevor Joyce made sure that the two hundred foot extension cord was securely fastened to the outlet in his garage. Carefully he measured out the length to the swimming pool. He walked with the plastic reel, paying out the line, around his Ferrari, past his Bentley, and when he came to the last of his car collection, the Silver Ghost Rolls Royce, he kicked the cord firmly under its rear tire so that it wedged there. Backing up the driveway, he tugged at the line, ensuring that it was firmly seated under the tire and would not come loose.

The driveway angled steeply upward under a line of cypress trees. From the top Trevor could see the ocean and a big chunk of Malibu Canyon with its winding roads and private gated houses. He stopped and scratched at one of the tattoos on his right arm: it was the band tattoo, the famous one-eyed cat that rock fans instantly associate with the heavy metal group, Fish Store.

For eighteen years Trevor had been the lead guitarist with Fish Store. As of last week, some snaggly little kid named Keewee Bonior was the lead guitarist with Fish Store. One by one, the old members were being squeezed out. Trevor had seen it coming; first it was the keyboard player, Pierce Holling. Okay, Pierce had lost three fingers in a car crash. But that was just a bullshit pretext for booting him out of the band. Pierce didn't need ten fingers to play rock and roll. It was really the paunch and the wrinkles, that's what it was all about. He just wasn't fucking cute anymore.

The extension cord reached all the way to the hedge at the far end of the pool. Plenty of length for Trevor's purposes. He wound it in long loops between his thumb and his elbow and returned to the garage, laying the cord carefully on the trunk of the Rolls Royce.

He went upstairs and got his favorite guitar and his little amplifier, the Boogie, the one he used for rehearsals, "the little screamer" as he called it. The guitar was the pearl-inlaid Flying Vee, once owned by the late guitar legend Claxton Wanko. It had played many immortal rock hits in Claxton's band. It had played "Eat My Heart Out," "Work Me To The Bone," it had played "Tough Love Tonight" and "Willng Pussy." Trevor had bought it at auction for six thousand dollars in nineteen eighty five.

He gave it a little wipe with a polishing chamois, flipped it around on its strap button, inspected it from the top tuning peg to the green serial number etched into its bifurcated body. He hefted the guitar in one hand, the amp in the other, and returned to the garage.

Trevor placed the guitar and amp carefully on the work bench that ran the length of the left hand side of the cavernous chamber. He returned to the interior of the house, walked up the soft purple carpet, past the billiard room and the theatre room to the master bedroom. He went into Lynda's bathroom; Lynda had been gone for weeks. She wasn't coming back. There was nothing to indicate her eight years of residence in the house but a hairbrush with a few wisps of blonde hair, a chunk of glycerine soap and a bottle of Jack Daniels, half empty. Trevor took a swig from the bottle, wiped his lips, then looked at his reflection in the mirror.

"The fuck," he said, mumbling to himself. He splayed his fingers and ran them through his long, lanky, thinning black hair. "Kick me out of my own band 'cause I'm going bald. I'm not going bald." He could not, of course, see the round circle of flesh at the very top of his head, like a monk's tonsure, from which his flowing locks seemed to emerge as if they were rivers running off some invisible glacial lake.

He took another swig from the bottle of whiskey and went across the bedroom to his own bathroom on the other side. He opened the medicine cabinet and took out a little sealed glass bottle shaped like a bell. Morphine Sulfate, Two Hundred Milligrams.

"That should do it," he said, tapping the bottle with his fingernail. From one of the drawers he withdrew a rubber tourniquet and a twenty two gauge insulin syringe. He took these items back into the garage, and set them carefully next to his guitar and amp. He then got the end of the extension cord from atop the trunk of the Rolls and unwound enough of it to reach the work bench.

From the far corner of the double-doored garage, he pulled a blue plastic tarpaulin off his gleaming Harley Custom. The motorcycle stood there like a science fiction insect about to ingest some screaming prey. Its headlight was like the eye of a cyclops. Purple swirling paint swept in flames down to the One Eyed Cat logo painted on each side of the silver gas tank.

Trevor pushed it off its stand and wheeled it around his cars to the tool bench. There, he put it back on its stand and straddled its bulk. He reached for a roll of duct tape and pried a few inches from the fat cylinder and hung the sticky part from the bar of the motorcycle. Then he placed the amplifier in his lap, settling it as comfortably as possible, dividing its weight between the bike's saddle and his thighs. Methodically, he began taping the amplifier to his chest. Holding it with his left arm, he wound the tape around the amp, then switched off to his right hand and continued winding around his back, over and over again, until he had the electronic device reasonably secured to his torso.

He picked up the guitar and used a patch cord to connect it to the amp. Cumbersome, he decided, but certainly do-able. He put on his shades. He tied a bandanna around his head. He was already dressed in leather pants and a sleeveless leather vest that showed all his obscene tattoos.

He plugged the amp's power cord into the long extension cord. He turned on the amp. The light glowed green. Clumsily, he strummed a C Chord. Thwong! It echoed hugely in the garage. He got the duct tape and wound it around the join between the amp cord and the extension cord. He wound and wound, dozens of times, until he was certain the tape would hold.

"Yeahhh," Trevor drawled. "Ready ready ready."

He kicked the motorcycle into life. Its engine roared and he throttled it so the noise of the bike and the noise of the amp blended into a single savagely gleeful thunder.

Then he took the vial of morphine and filled the syringe with its contents. He had forgotten to tie off with the rubber tourniquet, so he used the guitar's patch cord to raise one of his few remaining useful veins. He had collapsed the big one inside his elbow and the big one that ran down the side of his arm, and most of the medium sized veins lower down near his wrist. But there was still the inch-long minor vein about two inches down from his elbow; he had been getting hits there for the last couple weeks, he knew he could hit it, even with all this stuff strapped around him.

After a few jabs, a few misses, he found the blood and mainlined that huge hit of pharmaceutical dope right into his bloodstream. It took only a few seconds to feel its soft blanket spreading from his innards to the periphery of the nerve endings at his fingertips.

"This is it," he thought. "The perfect rock and roll suicide!"

He gunned the motorcycle. He turned the amplifier all the way up and thwanged a huge chord. He was going to accelerate into the swimming pool, electrocute, overdose and drown himself all at the same time. Someone would find his corpse in the next couple weeks, sitting there at the bottom of the pool on his Harley, with his Claxton Wanko guitar strapped around his shoulder, his Boogie Amp short-circuited, his blood full of dope.

"Yeehaaaa!" he yelled, strumming the guitar. He managed to roll the bike out of the garage, extension cord trailing behind him. He went to the very bottom of the sloped driveway, just inside the swinging metal gate, gunned the engine, twanged the guitar, turned the motorcycle around and roared up the drive towards the swimming pool.

He strummed as he ascended. G Chord, Bflat Chord, C Chord, the famous intro to Fish Store's biggest hit, "Slam Me, Ma'am." He fought to keep his balance. He got to ten miles an hour, fifteen, twenty. He got to the very top of the drive and the extension chord snagged on a bit of outthrust pavement and whipped loose. The sound of the guitar suddenly died. The lip of the drive acted as a ramp and Trevor flew over the pool like a stunt rider, landed in the hedge, passed through it, tore through his downhill neighbor's fence and wound up on Malibu Drive, stoned out of his mind but not dead, carrying his guitar and his amplifier on his Custom Harley.

"Aw fuck," he said aloud, as he swerved across the dividing line on the serpentine road.

A Mountain Springs water truck honked at him and managed not to squash him. Unable to control the motorcycle any longer, he gunned the throttle, closed his eyes and simply let fate carry him. He hit a curb, went over some rocks, crashed through rhododendron bushes, flew into the air and finally landed with a gigantic splash in someone else's swimming pool.

He was still alive. Hands came to the bottom of the pool, pulled at the amp, pulled at his armpits, hauled him from the pool. A dozen teenagers avidly surrounded his stunned form.

"That was fuckin' great, dude!" One of the youngsters said. "Awesome! Did my mom set this up for my birthday? Fucking great... hey. Aren't you Trevor Joyce? Aren't you, like, Fish Store, dude?"

The kid did a naïve imitation of Trevor's duck-walking stage style, mocking the chords to "Slam Me, Ma'am," playing air guitar with his tongue hanging out.

Trevor handed the Claxton guitar to one of his young admirers. He took the bandanna from his head and wrung it out.

Not today, he thought. Not today. I've still got fans.

Art Rosch is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Petaluma, California with his wife, three cats and two toy poodles. The Miracle of Highway Six is an excerpt from his book Green Highway: Living a Good Life in a Changing America.

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