The Band Plays Again: Short Fiction

Those of you who have been following along will know I like to write short fiction and I am a very keen fan of the Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction Competition. The once a month competition has been revamped to be only once every three months. I’m disappointed that my monthly writing prompts have been whisked away. I know I will be less inclined to write without the monthly prod.

This story is inspired by true events from April 2021. In NSW, we were between lock downs and I had taken a short road trip with my grandson. We were glamping in a caravan park. I envisaged the story to be written in three parts from different points of view.

This is Part 1 – my own viewpoint. Unashamedly, there are lots of Australian references which may be baffling to a wider audience. If you’ve not heard of Cold Chisel check them out, they are a quintessential Aussie pub band.

No doubt we’ll start seeing movies and books based on Covid and it’s affects on our lives.

The Band Play Again – Robyn’s Story

Robyn’s finger was firmly jammed into her ear in a vain attempt to block out the road noise. 

Conveniently located close to the Newell Highway” the ad for the holiday park had stated.

“Hmmph, very fucking conveniently!” she thought “So convenient the trucks sound like they are about to run over the tent.”

Then a whistle blew, followed by the steady ka-thump ka-thump ka-thump of a slow train rattling on the tracks.

“Oh great! A freight train!” She rolled over and switched fingers.  

A new noise entered the tent. Unfamiliar but familiar. She withdrew the wedged finger. Music? Live music? A crowd cheering and hooting. The bass drum a dull thud, but a thud no less. She listened more intently. “What are they singing? Is it Khe Sanh?” She picked up the lyrics in her head and began to mouth the words. “Yep, Khe Sahn.” She smiled.   By the way the crowd were reacting, it could have been Jimmy himself performing.

Her smile was followed by the wider realisation that this was the first live music she’d heard in over a year. Some of the restrictions had been eased. You could walk around with your beer. You could dance AND sing and bands could play.

Despite the fact that it was keeping her awake she couldn’t but help feel the joy as she imagined those happy rockers who were finally out playing again.

Judging by the set-list they had to be over 55. It was all old stuff. Not all Oz Rock but all from the ‘70s and ’80s. I bet they were all wearing black jeans and had skinny legs. Some band’s logo (probably AC/DC) would be emblazoned across their chest. Tufts of white hair sticking out from their neck lines. The lead singer would have long hair. Long, grey wiry hair that should have been cut 30 years ago. Their leathery faces cracked by the Australian sun would make them look older than they really were and the years of hard drinking and smoking added another decade.

Distant chimes of the town’s clock struck twelve, interrupting the music and heralding the fact that the band would have to stop soon. The bar staff would have already started collecting the glasses and offering last drinks. On cue, at 12:05, the band did stop and the crowd whistled and jeered in disappointment.

MORE! MOOORRRE! MOOORRREE! They were crying out. This special evening obviously finishing too early for the COVID starved crowd. 

The band began again. The crowd settled and another classic of the ‘80s crossed the road and swirled around her tent. Billy Jean? That seemed like an odd choice. Perhaps it was the only other song they knew. 

Two more songs and they were done. The crowd was less insistent on them returning to the stage and soon the sound of squealing utes (they had to be utes, after all, this was Dubbo) filled the void. 

She drifted off to sleep thinking how lucky we had been here in Australia. How sensible we had all been following the restrictions, after all, people were still dying like flies in the UK and the US. Little did she know.

This is a ute (short for Utility)

Parts 2 and 3?

I haven’t written the next bits yet! This part was written in May 2021. We are still muddling along with Covid and not as lucky anymore! Gary one of the wiry grey headed band members will tell his story and Alicia a young woman in the crowd will go home with her drunken abusive partner.

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