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(A long short story of 13784 words)

Steve's Band


by Elaine Walker

Steve's longing for his own rock band takes him on a journey that gets too close to home for comfort. A story about music, friendship and what happens when you get what you wish for.

Steve plays his guitar like a man with a grudge. Strumming with the ferocity of the lonely, he watches the chords for ‘Whole Lot of Rosie’ take shape in the air and slip through the sliver of open window to float over the town. As they fade, he can smell burnt matches and ‘Highway to Hell’ chuckles from his file of songs. Steve turns his amp up.


Downstairs, Alison and the girls roll their eyes and turn Eastenders up. It’s only Tuesday. Two more evenings of this before he chooses a guitar, polishes fingerprints off the fret board and treks off to Acoustic Night at the Pig & Whistle. Sometimes Alison goes to watch, full of the same protective pride she feels when one of the girls does something both innocent and brave. She mainly stays home, though, and knows he thinks she’s embarrassed by him. But she missed the moment to explain and now it's too late. Maybe this week, she’ll keep him company. Probably not though. It’s Lost at 9 anyhow.


Azz plays his drums – well, not his drums – Dylan’s drums, but since Dylan’s at Uni, they’re more or less his now and, so long as he keeps the noise down, Mum won’t mind. Not much. It’s a bit lonely, of course, but better than not playing at all. Besides, he likes seeing Mum scowl when he says he’ll be upstairs playing with himself. He drums all evening then lies in bed watching the beats that didn’t escape through the window bouncing round the room like glimmering green fireworks. There’s an Acoustic Night at the Pig and Whistle down the road every other Friday and it’s not fair because he’s too young to go but he’s heard it’s all that folk bollocks anyhow.


Hefydd feeds the cows. He trudges past the shed, his wellies squelching in the mud and a bucket in each hand. He trudges back carrying a sick lamb and mutters curses because the sound through the closed doors irritates him. Once the lamb’s tucked into a bed of straw, he returns to the cows muttering some more because there’s still humming. He’s tried ear-protectors and wearing an itchy woollen hat pulled well down but nothing makes a difference. Later, he’ll check the generator again. It’s not running – of course, it’s not running. Yet the space behind the closed doors with the rusted bolt hums.


Friday night. Steve settles himself on the high stool, his acoustic guitar on his knees. All this folk bollocks. He recalls the time he brought his Strat, plugged it in and played it loud and proud. The crowd seemed to like it – 'course they might have been taking the piss because he sounded daft all on his own. But Gloomy Gary, the man with his finger on the off-switch, is an acoustic purist and barely tolerates the PA. Steve grins, remembering the lecture he got afterwards, though he’s unconvinced by his own bravado. If he wants to play, he has to keep on the right side of Gary, so he chooses ‘Stuck in the Middle’ and some Eagles stuff.


Azz wanders back and forth past the Pig & Whistle, trying to look like he’s just hanging out a bit. If Dad would come with him, he could go inside. He can hear a guitar and, peering in through the slatted blinds, he sees a big guy with a shaved head on the little stage platform beyond the bar. Sweat is standing out on his forehead, clear even from a distance, and his strumming arm is working hard. It doesn’t sound like folk, bollocks or otherwise. His raw voice makes the window shiver and the chords from his guitar flare in the dim room like flashes from sparklers. They escape outside and follow Azz up the road towards home. He feels bad when he closes the front door on them, hearing them patter against the glass then fall on to the slate step with a sad fizzling sound...

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