Brown Jenkins part eight
Brown Jenkin cackled softly to himself. His words were virtually inaudible and clearly not in any language that Nat understood.
“Keep it to yourself,” he remarked. “I’m trying to work over here.”
For Nathaniel had found a promising lead. The leader of a local band had told him the night before that his band might soon have an opening.
They chatted for a bit, just “Do you remember?” and “What about that?”, establishing some common ground.
Carl seemed strangely familiar, as if Nat had met him before. He had a particularly dark complexion, and he dressed all in black, save for the silver bolo and earring he affected. The bolo clasp had a sigil upon it that resembled a stylized tree.
Nat knew he’d seen that before, but he couldn’t place it.
Carl had a pronounced hawkish air to him. Predatory.
But he was well-spoken, exceedingly polite and correct, giving the impression of strength held in check, of having tremendous control.
Nat had sure heard of the band before. They had been on a couple of national tours and were seen as up-and-comers. Their signature tune made a lot of noise at places like bandcamp and soundcloud, and was played on heavy metal-oriented stations.
“Dust Devils,” they called themselves, alluding to their desert origins. For they were homegrown.
Out back, Carl and Nat shared a blunt. They shared it with passersby also, as people seemed naturally drawn to Carl.
“It’s like you’re a King or something like that,” Nat told him. “A natural leader, I’d guess.”
“I’ve heard that,” said Carl. “I suppose I have a certain amount of charisma. Good to have in my line of work.” He grinned, showing rows of even white teeth. “I may not be pretty, but I am attractive.” He emphasized the last word strangely.
Nat could see Brown Jenkin hiding behind the dumpster.
“At any rate, we should jam,” Carl continued. Jenkin nodded “no” vigorously. “Get a feel for what each other do. I have a lot of projects underway if the first situation doesn’t happen the way I think it will. I can find you some work. Good–paying work…if you’re willing.”
“Yes,” Nat exhaled. “I think I could do that.”
“Killer,” Carl laughed, and handed him a card. “Here’s the address of my studio and my cell number.” He dug in his pocket. “Here’s a blunt for later. Stop by the gig tomorrow-I’ll call the office. Come see me after, meet the guys. I have to run-a chaotic situation I have to manage. See ya tomorrow.”
He walked down the alleyway and around the corner. Jenkin came closer.
“Don’t do it,” he said. “That’s bad news walking.”
“Since when are you any kind of judge of character?” Nat laughed. “I think I’ll follow my own instincts.”
“It’s your funeral,” said the beast. “I won’t be responsible for what happens.”
Nat blew up. “Since when have you EVER been responsible for anything? You take no responsibility, and you’ve managed to ruin what I had of a life. Go fuck yourself, Jenkin.”
“Not possible. I am not that flexible.”
“Then go eat some pussy, ALF. I don’t need to hear this bullshit.”
Nat went back in the bar. He still had a little money left in his pocket, and spent that on beer and tequila, eventually reeling back to his bed, ignoring the glowering Brown Jenkin, and passed out with his clothes on.
At one point he thought he heard the buzzing/hissing voice outside his window, whispering in the darkness, talking about “ranty goth”, but he went back to sleep without trying to suss it out.
When he awoke, Jenkin was nowhere to be found. There was fresh coffee made, and the room was spotless. There was a small pile of bills on the little breakfast nook-table, enough to pay the rent for another week, and little sack of bud.
“I accept your apology,” Nat said to the air.
He downed a quart of tap water, scrambled up a couple of eggs, added a small can of chopped green chilies and a bit of leftover ham, warmed up a large tortilla in the microwave.
The first cup of coffee disappeared. He refilled his cup and added a little cheddar to the eggs, scooped the stuff out onto the tortilla, made a burrito.
That disappeared too.
In his shirt pocket was the blunt that Carl had given him. Remarkable, it wasn’t crushed.
“I must have slept like the dead,” he said. “But this is a good thing.” He set the blunt aside. “I’ll smoke this at the show.”
He folded the sofa bed into itself, retrieved his cigar box from underneath it, extracted his little pipe.
“Man that smells good,” he said, opening the bag. He busied himself manicuring the weed, putting the stems and very large seeds in the ashtray. Nat filled his bowl and put the rest back in the bag. There were three or four bowls left.
He took his lighter and cigarettes and his guitar and the pipe outside, sat on the steps strumming and toking.
After a while, he remembered his coffee and went to get it.
When he got back out, Brown Jenkin was sitting in the shade under the trailer, worrying a bone.
“I don’t suppose I would want to know where that bone is from,” said Nat.
Jenkin pulled his face into ALF’s likeness briefly, grinned. His body faded, the grin remained.
“I got hungry while you were catatonic,” he said, and resumed his normal appearance.
“How do you do that?”
“I told you-what you can see are only small parts of the whole. It isn’t magic, it isn’t rocket science. It isn’t fool-the-eye. You’ll learn how eventually, if you stick around that long.
“So I heard you’re going to the show,” he added conversationally.
“Yes. I certainly am. I’ve been offered work, and I need work. And I’d like to see Dust Devils live. One, as a fan of their music, and two, to see where I might fit in.”
“I still advise against it. But I understand if you won’t take advice from me.” Jenkin pawed the ground, making a hole for the bone, buried it.
“Right. Thanks for cleaning up. You’re still the roommate from Hell, but that was a good deed.”
“I can’t be something I’m not,” said Jenkin. “S-s-s-s. The cicadas are busy today. It’s hot.”
The insects were indeed loud. Louder than Nat had ever heard. And they seemed a little more musical somehow, as if they were being conducted by an invisible hand.
They weren’t very far from the Air Force base. Nat was getting used to the fly-bys and overhead traffic. Even to the occasional sonic boom. And the Davis-Montham was attached to the municipal airport. There was plenty of commercial traffic as well.
But the object flying overhead didn’t seem to be any of those.
“I don’t believe in UFOs,” said Nat. “But that might just be one. I can’t identify it, anyway.”
The shape was strange, squat, no wings. It seemed to be much higher than airplanes usually were, and it was still huge.
“Probably headed for the White House lawn,” Nat finished.
Brown Jenkin eyed it and shivered. Nat didn’t notice.
Nat’s cellphone rang. “Hi,” he said. “Carl.”
“I hope you can make it to the show,” Carl said, amid line static, buzzing and hissing. “We have special stuff planned.”
“I’ll be there. Thanks for the invite.”
“De nada. See you tonight.” And Carl hung up.
Nat took his guitar and empty coffee cup inside. The cup he rinsed and set aside, the guitar went back on its stand.
He still had half a bowl left. He smoked that and laid down on the couch to watch tv for a while, maybe nap for a bit, to get rid of what remained of his hangover.
Jenkin stayed outside. He didn’t care for air conditioning.
He afternoon passed, uneventful. Nat watched baseball, snoozed, got up and ate a sandwich, played his guitar for a bit.
He showered and changed a little after five, locked up and headed for the bus stop. The show was at the casino, two buses away. He paid the rent on the way out, got his receipt.
It was a little after six when he got to the venue. He got in line at the will-call window, marveled as always at the variety of humanity that attended such events. All ages, all sizes, all races. People with babies and purple hair and tattoos, leather-clad biker-types, solid citizens in shorts and sandals and short-sleeved shirts, ragged homeless begging for coin, all of them seemingly on cellphones.
The desert night was coming on. The cicada chorus was beginning to subside, replaced by the calls of mourning doves. It was still beastly hot-the night wasn’t going to get much under 90 degress.
Nat collected his ticket and red arm-band, marking him as able to go backstage, made his way inside to his seat. He was ten rows or so back, in the “I” section toward the west end of the stage, where the bass player normally stood.
Once he had found his seat, Nat wandered over to the beer tent for a pre-show libation.
Aquamarine and amethyst and azure, the stage lights arced overhead, coloring the clouds and the tee shirts of the crowd.
The opening act was doing a final soundcheck, the guitar player sending cascades of notes into the impending twilight. With a drum roll, the noise then stopped, then restarted as the venue started the preshow mixtape.
A little cartoon was playing on the peekaboo screen to the right of the stage, Bugs Bunny being bedeviled by a gremlin. King Crimson’s “Epitaph” boomed out of the PA. Girls down front in their tiny shorts and elevator heels were trying to shimmy to it.
Nat laughed at the sight. He and his beer made their way back to the seat.
The roadies were hypnotized. Two of them sat crosslegged at the edge of the stage until they were called backstage.
The stage lights turned off, and the sound of a thunderstorm echoed over the crowd. The waning rays of the sun disclosed large threatening clouds gathering in the distance.
Nat glanced at the weather report on his phone. Wind and dust storms were possible, it said.
“Boobs, boobs, and haboobs,” he said under his breath.
“Excuse me?” Said a woman standing next to him.
“I gotta get some food,” Nat said.
“Ah. The burritos are good.” She returned her attention to the stage, where mist and clouds were gathering.
“Horsemen” was the name of the band, and a galloping bassline announced their entry.
They launched into a medley of their hit-“Bring the Apocalypse Now”, which lasted for ten minutes with solos. It played better on rock radio than in real life.
Nat decided to smoke some of Jenkin’s finest, which he had thoughtfully rolled up beforehand. In order not to awaken the usher/sentries, he kept it to himself.
“Shhhhtamps“, he bogarted, amusing himself and starting a coughing fit. He drew on the joint again, leaning back and letting the mellow wave roll over him. “I should go to the Post Office,” he laughed, enjoying the private joke.
“I’ll be damned,” he said. “There it is again.” The weird black aircraft was in view, high in the sky, just visible as an absence of starlight. He noticed that it had a bit of a corona, an aura of violet.
Horsemen were still rocking and rolling, their generic metal keeping the crowd awake if not fired up.
Nat smoked the joint down to a nub and enjoyed the music that much more.
Finally the opening set drew to a close, and the mixtape began again, this time playing an instrumental tune from Metallica’s Ride the Lightning disc.
“He calls! Ia!” Shouted a wit in the crowd.
“Ia!” said someone over a live mike. “Ia Ktulu!” and then a string of nonsense syllables.
And it began, with a wash of cymbals and an echoing E chord. The clouds seemed to close in, overhead, trying to envelop the crowd. The breeze began to ramp up into a wind.
“Nowwwwww,” screamed the vocalist. “It’s tiiiiiiime to party!”
And the band launched into a song Nat hadn’t heard before, full of complex changes and controlled feedback, with plenty of bottom, the way he liked it.
That segued into a bit of Deep Purple’s Child in Time and into a rendition of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song. Lighters flicked, the lights waved, the wind picked up still more.
Carl was waving the crowd on, encouraging more noise, more boogying, more crazy. His gestures almost seemed like incantations.
The lead guitarist was sizzling. He threw riff after riff into the ether, his guitar snarling and spitting and screaming for vengeance. He stepped forward for a solo, the green light outlining his body and highlighting his mass of blond hair.
He took the guitar off his shoulder and set it on the stage, howling feedback, and began a series of postures that looked vaguely like semaphore.
The wind began to howl in tune with the guitar.
The strange ship drew closer, and disclosed the void behind it. From the void came a dust devil, just a small one, and it whirled overhead until it was spent, at which point came another, and another, and another, each larger, more imposing, whirling faster, spitting lightning, morphing into small tornadoes.
The crowd began to scream and a truly massive storm touched down in the middle of the venue. An elephantine figure emerged from this and rushed the stage.
Carl began shouting offmike and gesturing.
He gathered the storm and the figure into his arms and thrust them into his chest in a maneuver Nat couldn’t quite make out.
His appearance changed. Carl’s countenance gave way to a monstrosity with a writhing tentacle for a head, which grew to twenty feet tall and snatched the guitarist up, throwing him onto the deck of the black frigate that hovered overhead.
People were streaming out of the exits, ignoring the cries of the dying, in the center of the court where the haboob had touched down.
Nat was rooted to his seat. It was all starting to come together for him.
Carl morphed back to his normal self. The winds stopped swirling.
He looked at Nat and winked.
“Tomorrow,” he said. “I told you we had an opening. Bring your axe.”