“Hi. We haven’t met. I’m Shiela, Malcolm’s Mom.”
“Oh. OK. I’m Renee. Jason said you were going to call.”
“So, you’re letting your son go to this thing?”
“Sure. Why not?”
“Well, I don’t know. I worry. This kind of music, the kinds it attracts.”
“Weirdos, you know. All that glorification of death and gore. It’s just, you know, creepy.”
“They’re three big teenage boys. What could happen to them? I’m going to drive them down and pick them up. They’ll be fine.”
“You really think it’s OK? You hear these stories—kids trampled to death in those, those mosh pits. And that music. You have to admit, it’s just awful.”
“It’s what teenage boys listen to. Did your parents like the music you listened to when you were a kid?”
“Uh. Yeah. I guess not.”
“In the 1800s, people used to write to newspapers about the shocking Strauss waltzes the kids were dancing to.”
“I guess you’ve got a point.”
“Want to hear something funny? You know ancient Sumera, thousands of years ago? the first “civilization”? Well, there’s this clay tablet, the oldest surviving written text that isn’t a record of the amount of grain in a granary. It says, ‘Children no longer honor the Gods or listen to their parents.’ It’s a phase.”
Sheila had heard that Jason’s mother taught at the university. “OK. If you take them down, I’ll pick them up. What time?”
“You don’t have to. Really. I already told Jason I would drive him and his friends. He says it’s over at 11:30.”
“11:30? That’s kinda late.”
“It’s OK. Don’t worry. They’ll be fine.”
“If you say so. It’s called Carnefest. Good Lord. No wonder kids are shooting up high schools.”
“It’s OK. Really. Kids need to be kids.”
“If you say so.”
Malcolm rang the doorbell at Jason’s, but it was Mikey who answered it. Jason was right behind him. “Dude, you made it,” Mikey said. “Jason’s here’s spent the last half hour upstairs finishing his HOMEwork. Left me down here by myself.” Mikey was contemptuous of homework and of anyone who bothered with it.
“Malcolm pushed Mikey aside and gave Jason some skin.
“Your Mom, dude,” said Jason, “she’s got some tight leash. Grilled my Mom for half an hour on the phone.”
“Yeah, sorry,” said Malcolm. “She’s a pain.”
“Just sayin’,” said Mikey, not letting it go. “Jason here’s spent the last half hour up in his room doin’ some GRAMMAR. Or maybe he was in there doin’ his GRAMMA. Doin’ GRAMMA. Get it?” A lot of kids in Florida were from somewhere else. Jason was from Massachusetts, and sometimes he left the r’s off the ends of his words. Mikey thought that shit was funny. “Did you know that, Malcolm? Jason here sits in his room every night whacking off to TranniesandGrannies.com.”
“Climb off him, douche,” said Malcolm.
“Yeah, fuck you, man,” said Jason. “You’re a little too interested in my whacking off, if you ask me.”
“I guess it takes him so long because he has to find it first,” said Mikey.
“Jesus, you guys, chill,” said Malcolm.
“No prob,” said Mikey. He fished in his pocket and took out a flier. “Look,” he said, “I’ve got the lineup.”
Malcolm stared at the flier: Carnefest, Ybor City, The Tropicale. It was real. “Awesome,” he said.
“Yeah, can you fucking believe it? Blowfly, Miss December, Pustule, Ragnowrath, Autopsy, Suck-U-Bus, Evisceration Nation. The best fucking bands on the planet.”
“I heard they tried to get Slayer and Impending Doom, but they were already booked in like Europe or something.”
“Who cares?” said Malcolm. “You know what I love, that one Pustule song that starts with the foreign language, like Spanish or whatever.”
“Latin,” said Jason. “I think it’s Latin.”
“And I LOVE the way the lead singer screams like backward, sucking in.” Malcolm could hardly contain himself.
“You would know a lot about sucking I guess,” said Mickey.
“Dude, if you want, you can just walk to the concert,” said Jason.
“Just sayin’,” said Mikey.
Jason stared Mikey down. Mikey exaggeratedly scratched the tip of his nose with the tip of his middle finger. Jason decided to ignore him.
“So, we ready to go?” Malcolm asked.
“Yeah, soon as Mom gets back,” said Jason. “She ran out to Target to get some shit. I told her she had to be back like now.”
“I can’t wait,” said Mikey. “This is gonna be so sic. Gonna do me some hardcore dancin’.” He started flailing his arms around like he meant to hurt somebody. “And then find me a Scene chick and get a little dome.”
“Dude,” said Jason, “if you get in a fight dancing, you’re on your own. You hear me? Neither one of us is gonna back you.”
“Pussies,” said Mikey.
“You are what you eat,” said Malcolm.
“Yeah, like you guys ever got any,” said Mikey.
Jason ignored this. It was too true. “Come on in,” he said to Malcolm. “I got the new Need for Speed.”
Jason asked his Mom to drop them off two blocks from the Tropicale. No one wanted to show up at Carnefest, of all places, being driven by his mom.
A long line had already formed outside the club. “Not many girls,” said Malcolm. It was one of the few downsides of death metal: the crowds were always ten-to-one dudes to thots.
“There’s some,” said Jason, who could always be counted on to look on the bright side. “That one. She’s kinda hot.”
“Too Emo,” said Mikey.
The inside of The Tropicale was appropriately dark. A bar on one end, some seating, a railing, then the dance floor and the stage, where long-haired dudes in metalhead T-shirts were already setting up half stacks and plugging in cords and checking mikes. The boys pressed through to the railing. “Want one?” said Mikey, pulling some pills out of his pocket.
Jason looked at the three pills. “What are they?”
“I don’t know. Ruffies, I think.”
“No, thanks. Maybe later.”
“Suit yourself,” said Mikey, stuffing tossing one in the air and swallowing it like popcorn. “Snooze you loose.”
“No brain, no pain,” said Jason.
The first three acts were local. OK, but not the really heavy stuff. Malcolm nudged Jason in the side. “Hey, it’s your Emo babe. Over there. Dope. And she’s got friends.”
Jason looked in that direction. It was actually kinda hard to place these girls. The one was definitely Emo, but the others were a sort of a cross between Scene and Color. Come to think of it, most were Scene: black T-shirts with death skulls, dog collars, studded belts, that kind of thing. But the one—she looked like their leader or something—was definitely a Color girl, skinny, but with nice little round boobies popping from the top of a red bustier and one of those short, multicolored tutu skirts and stockings with big white and black stripes and ribbons and shit tied into her pink hair and mismatched earrings, one a feather and the other a baby’s binkie. Jason wondered how you made an earring out of a binkie or whether she had just bought the earring like that at Spencer’s.
“So, go say something to them,” said Mikey.
“Yeah, man. Do it. Go on over there.”
“Dude, he won’t. He’s freakin’ gay,” said Mikey.
“What do I say to them?” said Jason.
“I don’t know. But you gotta say something,” Malcolm offered. “Girls aren’t like us. You gotta talk to them.”
Girls. They were from another planet. They went to the bathroom together. They huddled together and snickered. They held these marathon texting sessions with each other. They went to the mall in packs and wore each other’s clothes. (No dude would wear some other dude’s clothes.) And they wrote their own names over and over again on their notebooks as if they were going to forget who they were and had to be reminded lots of times.
“I wonder what it’s like to have boobs,” said Malcolm. “I mean, if you had boobs, wouldn’t you just want to touch them all the time? I mean, wouldn’t you just stand in front of a mirror and look at them and touch them?”
“That’s fucking weird,” said Mikey.
“I would have to agree,” said Jason.
“Yeah, girls are not like us,” said Mikey. “And that’s a good fucking thing, too.”
“Why’s that?” Jason found himself surprised that he was interesting in anything that Mikey had to say.
“Think about it, dude. If girls were like people, I mean, like dudes, . . . Think about it. How many times you whack off in a day? If girls were like us, people would just be fucking all the time. Nothing would ever get done. No jobs. No school. No civilization. No nothing. Just fucking. Come to think of it, if I was God, I woulda made it that way.”
The boys sat for a moment thinking about that awesome prospect. “Go on,” said Mikey. “If you’re man enough. Talk to them. Before the band starts. I dare you.”
“You talk to them,” said Jason.
“Maybe I will,” said Mikey, but he didn’t move.
“What the hell, Jason. No pain no gain.” Malcolm was pretty gung ho when he didn’t have to make the move.
“He won’t. He’s a faggot.”
“Fuck you,” said Jason.
“See what I mean?” said Mikey, looking at Malcolm but pointing at Jason. “Faggot.”
That was enough. Jason walked over to where the girls were standing. The Emo girl looked bored. “Hey,” he said to her. She looked to the Color girl. The Color girl nodded, some sort of sign. The band was starting.
Emo took Jason by the hand and led him down to the dance floor. Only she didn’t dance like a Scene girl, all tough and flailing around and shit. She danced kind of dreamy and weird, with her arms waving slowly in the air and her white belly above her blue jean skirt making these circles like a slow-motion belly dancer. Trippy. Then she plastered herself against Jason and sort of started gyrating against him and breathing heavily into his ear. “So, you like the music?” Jason said, realizing that he was like, a micron from her ear but shouting over the band’s thrumming bass and its loud, deep, rumbling, growling animal vocals. In response, she sort of bit down on his neck and clutched his crotch, massaging it. OMG. A hardcore dude went flailing across the dance floor and practically knocked them over. Jason shoved the hardcore dude, and he went sprawling. Emo took his hand and led him off the dance floor and past her friends and his and back into the long, dark hallway that led to the restrooms.
She pinned him against one wall of the hallway and put her arms up around his shoulders and pulled him down, all the while kissing him deeply, tonguing the inside of his mouth and touching him all over, and when they were both sitting, he remembered that in sex ed they had said that even if you were like really, really excited, you had to ask, and Jason wondered what to do, and he shouted over the music into her ear, “Can I touch you there?” and in answer she grabbed his hand and thrust it down between her legs and his fingers slipped aside the panties and she was really, really wet, and OMG, he couldn’t believe he was doing this, and his fingers slipped in and she pushed his fingers in deeper and then OMFG it was practically his whole hand inside her and she kept pushing and that was when he felt the sudden jab like an ice pick into his hand and the screaming pain and his mouth was open and his eyes bugging out and WTF had just happened and he realized that he didn’t feel the pain anymore but he also couldn’t fucking move and then his arm got all weird and lumpy and the lumps seemed to be draining out of him and his arm started to go flat as she fed.
Females of Dolomedes fimbriatus, popularly known as the raft spider, grow to prodigious sizes, as much as three-and-a-half inches across. They live on the surfaces of boggy pools and in the boggy grasslands of Northern Europe. Fimbriatus will stand stock still on the water’s surface, feeling for vibrations with the tiny hairs on its legs, using the water’s surface as other spiders use a web. When it feels a vibration —a small frog in the water, for example—Fimbriatus will scurry across the water, grab the creature, and bite into it, injecting venom that simultaneously paralyzes the victim and liquefies its insides, turning them into a kind of slurpie that the spider sucks up through its hollow jaws until all that is left of the frog is its skin, floating on the surface of the water.
According to the Wikipedia entry on Dolomedes, some male spiders of this genus “fall victim to females that pretend to be interested in sex when all they want is an easy and nutritious meal.”
Copyright 2009. Robert D. Shepherd. All rights reserved.
Art: Aftermath Music rundt 2010/2011. AsgeirHolm [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D
For more short stories by Bob Shepherd (and essays on the reading and writing of fiction), go here: https://bobshepherdonline.wordpress.com/category/short-stories/