Monday, July 25, 2005

Part V, or Harry who?

That's right, boys and girls, forget Harry Potter, here's the next installment that's really got you all talking: Violent Femmes: The Highway of Death, Part 5. This took me an insomniac hour and a half to write, so be grateful, cherubs.

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Night has well and truly fallen. Gordon, having found a suitable spot to relieve himself, looks up at the sky and shivers. Despite his earlier good intentions, the roadside party beats the prospect of wandering through the woods in the dark. "I'm sure Victor's found his way back by now," he mutters. "That Gypsy he was with seems to know the area well. Guess I'll head back." So he turns to go back - but in the pitch black all the paths look the same. With an inward groan Gordon realises he can't remember which way he came.

"Great. I can't even take a leak without getting lost. Should have brought the gal with the map along..."

There's no point hanging around in the cold and the dark, so Gordon makes an educated guess and heads off confidently down completely the wrong path. For dramatic purposes, it just so happens to be the path which took Victor and Gypsy to the well...

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Victor takes another look around. Miraculously, although no time has passed since we last saw him, the sky is now black and from the woods to the left comes the hooting of an owl. A mile to Petersburg seems a long way in the dark. A light goes on in the store across the road. Victor brightens. "Hey, they're open. Maybe I can grab a coffee." He crosses the road and crosses the forecourt. Above him, the moon appears from behind a cloud and its light reflects off something lying by the disused gas pump. Victor bends over to take a closer look, then straightens up in faint horror. Glinting coldly in the moonlight is an enormous bear trap, coated with congealed blood.

"Wow, didn't realise there were bears in this neck of the woods," says Victor. "Better get inside out of harm's way."

But it's not just the trap that's reflecting light. Caught up in it is something even more out of place in a rundown out-of-town gas station. It's a ladies' high-heeled shoe. Spangly, strappy, with four-inch heels, it lies tangled in the jaws of the bear trap, the buckle twisted and broken as if it's been wrenched of the owner's foot. Victor picks it up and holds it to the moonlight. He has a strong sense of deja vu as he realises this shoe is from another story.....

"Whoever this slipper fits shall be my bride!" he declares to the night.

There is a pause. An owl hoots sceptically from the woods.

"No, wait, got my stories mixed up there. Damn those panto days. This shoe - I've seen it somewhere before. Kicking rounf in the back of our van as I remember. And if I'm not mistaken, these killer heels are nothing compared to their owner's voice....."

It can't be. Victor's stomach turns to water and his knees begin to shake. "But she's dead, we saw her meet her bloody end....oh my God, in a bear trap!"

He untangles a long blonde hair from around the heel of the shoe and shudders. There's no going back now; the woods are dark and uninviting, and a terrible curiosity draws him into the convenience store. He has to find out what's going on.

Inside the store is eerily familiar. The marshmallow stand is right in front of him; oddly enough it's the only shelf not completely bare. The doorway and cash desk bear scorch marks from an apparent explosion, and the windows are blown out. There's even a roll of duct tape lying undisturbed on the floor. (What do you mean you don't get it? Didn't you read My Night With the Violent Femmes?) But otherwise it is empty. Dust and cobwebs cover every shelf, and a musty smell fills his nostrils. The place is deserted.

Except.......from a back room comes the faint but unmistakable sounds of a woman's voice, singing. If you can call it singing. If you can call it a woman's voice, for that matter. It is wobbly and off-pitch and breaks off periodically into demented cackling.

"You were my strength when I was weak/ You were my voice when I couldn't speak.....heeeheeehah, but I found it now didn't I? You were my eyes when I couldn't seeeeeee.....oh Goofy dear, what would I do without a fan like you? Now I can show those noisy rowdy rock types, mwuhuhahah, yes I can, I'll show them you can't get rid of Celine that easily, you can't kill the power ballad......ohhhh, my heart will go on and on and on and on and on and on....."

And on and on and on. Victor has a sudden terrifying glimpse of the future, and it's diva-shaped. Something has to be done.

*****************************************************************************
Meanwhile, what has happened to Gordon? Where did Gypsy get to? Who was behing the mysterious piercing shriek from the woods? Have the Femmebots seduced Brian yet?
Well don't look at me. Ask weesha!

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Apologies

My sincerest apologies for the lack of updates; I'm well aware it's my turn and we've had enough votes (six! wow, we're getting popular!) to decide what happens next, but I've been a bit manically busy recently and probably will be for the next few days. I'll try and get something knocked out ASAP, but if nothing appears then you know why. Or else I'll just delegate to weesha, seeing as she does such a good job....

Edit: I was gonna do an installment this weekend but I forgot that it's my birthday on Saturday so I shall be too busy eating cake during the day and I'm going out in the evening so, um....well, tough, basically.

I will do it, honest!


Rachel x

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Part 4

"I'll tell ya what," says Gordon. "You can sit here and chit-chat with the uh, ladies...I'll go peek in and give a shout and see if they answer." He hops up and down a little. "I kinda have to go to the bathroom anyway." He walks away.

"So," says Brian. "Do you all have names?"

The young girl with the glasses and the big stick pipes up. "Yes. I'm Flute--" Brian interrupts her.

"Flute?"

"Yeah. Hippie parents." She rolls her eyes. "The pirate here is McQualls, or so he tells us," she flashes a wary look at McQualls and continues, "Mit's the bearded lady, the bombshell here is Elda, our navigator is Mary..."

Mary peeks out from under the map. "What? Did somebody call me?" She turns the map around again. "I think I've just about figured out where we're going..."

"And I'm Weesha," says the driver. "Nice to meet ya. Guess we don't have to worry about being late for the show, since you all are stuck in traffic with us, huh?" She laughs weakly, then grabs the map from Mary and puts it over her head.

"She okay?" Brian asks.

"Um....probably. She's a little odd sometimes, but she's okay..." says Flute.

Up above, the clouds swirl and darken. Fat raindrops plunk onto the windshields and the people scramble to get back in their cars. "Oh no!" says Elda. "Just when it was starting to get interesting...."

Lee says, "I think we have a tent in the back of the truck somewhere. The one we use when we hit the flea markets...did we bring that with us Rose?"

"I think we did, but I'm not sure where it is under all that stuff back there," says Rose. "We may have to unload a little..."

They all head over to the truck to help, but just as they get there, they hear an ear-piercing scream coming from the direction of the woods.

"Oh my goodness!" says Rose. "I hope that wasn't Gypsy!"

"Or Gordon or Victor!" says Brian. Tent forgotten, they all run toward the woods to check on their friends.

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Victor opens his eyes, blinks, and rolls over. Rocks dig into his back and the sky is a grey circle of gloom. It's starting to rain, and he wipes the drops from his face. What on earth am I doing here? he thinks. He tries to remember, but all his mind produces is a vague memory of a dark shape and a thudding sound, then blankness. He sits up and looks around. On his left are dense woods, and on the right is a quiet country road. No cars passing.

Across the road is a small convenience store, with a tattered sign that says simply, "Goofus's", one gas pump in the gravel lot, a beat-up Coke machine beside the door. A crooked sign in the window indicates that the place is open.

Well, he thinks, I could go in there and find out where I am and get some help. But the name Goofus seems familiar to him, and not in a good way. The thought of entering the store fills him with foreboding. He stands and peers up the road, but there doesn't appear to be anything else around except trees. However, there is a sign that says, "Petersburg, 1 mile."

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So....should he take a chance on Goofus's, even though his instincts tell him not to? Or continue on to Petersburg and see what help he can find there?



Sunday, April 17, 2005

Part the Third...

Victor turns to the others, but they've already been taken off by Rose and Lee and are listening to a potted history of their furniture restoration business. Gordon's already rummaging in the furniture piled up on the back of the truck.

"Looks like it's just you and me, drummer boy," smirks Gypsy. "Come on, I'm not standing here all day. Are you coming or not?" And she marches off in the direction of the woods.

Realising that even a walk with a mad old gypsy is better than an afternoon listening to woodworm stories, Victor sets off after her, and before long they're strolling through pleasant woodland, chatting away like old friends.

"The trick with fortune-telling, you see, is to be as vague as possible," Gypsy explains. "That way you stand half a chance of getting it right. Let's face it, my repertoire consists mainly of 'you are in terrible danger' or 'you will live a long and prosperous life.' Beyond that people don't much care. You might be better paid for 'You will win $10m on next week's lottery', but it usually backfires."

"How's that?"

"Well, they usually spend that week running up the credit card bills - new cars, fancy holiday bookings, that landscaped garden they've always dreamed of - and then when their numbers don't come up, they tend to see red."

"You sound like you're speaking from experience," laughs Victor. "You ever get yourself into trouble?"

"Nothing I couldn't handle, kiddo," she says demurely. "Let's just says it helps that we're on the move a lot. Anyway, that's enough about me. Why don't we take a rest here and you can tell me about yourself?"

Victor looks around. They've arrived at a small clearing in the trees, which makes the woods around them seem denser than before. At the centre of the clearing is a well.

"Weird," says Victor. "We're in the middle of the woods, there's no village for miles around here. What's with the well?"

Gypsy plonks herself under a tree and fans her face. "How should I know? I told you, I don't have psychic powers. As far as I'm concerned it's damned convenient. I'm parched. Although I guess it's probably dry."

Victor tosses a pebble into the well and there's a splash. "Looks like it's your lucky day." He peers down the well and laughs.

"You know," he says, "Gordon once wrote a song about a well...."


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Meanwhile, back on the interstate......

Gordon is snoozing (but not drooling!) in an old rocking chair he found in the back of the truck. Brian is deep in conversation with Rose.

".....furniture stripping, you're so lucky. I always dreamed of being in the restoration business myself - got my very own French polishing kit for my tenth birthday - I had it all planned out. Then, y'know, the band came along, one thing led to another and the furniture stripping dreams were gradually sidelined, then forgotten. You know how it is; we all have to make a living. I expect I'll look back at what could have been when I'm an old man - all those years spent playing to screaming fans when I could have been running my own restoration business like you..."

While they're talking, a black van pulls up alongside them. A familiar bass line is pounding on the stereo, and the driver and passengers alike are singing along to a woeful tale of poverty, murder and suicide. They sound quite jolly about it, actually.

The young woman in the front passenger seat leans out the window and calls over, "Hey, how long have you guys been stuck here?"

Brian strolls over and peers into the van. His vision is partially obscured by the large map the woman has spread out in front of her, which is, rather worryingly, upside down. "About three hours so far, and looking at the traffic I don't think we're going anywhere in a hurry." He notices that the passengers and the driver are all women, although one of them is sporting a rather magnificent beard. One of the girls in the back leans forward excitedly.

"Hey, you look kind of familiar - did anyone ever tell you you're the spitting image of the bassist from the Femmes?"

"All the time," sighs Brian, rolling his eyes. He decides to change the subject. "So what are five lovely...ahem, ladies doing round here in a big black van?"

"Six," cuts in the driver. She's obviously not impressed by the charm, and Brian gets the impression that if there's any sanity in this van, it may lie with this woman. "There are actually six of us, and we're not all ladies."

"Yeah," says a bespectacled girl in the back. She's holding a big stick. "We had to restrain Mcqualls because he got drunk on rum and tried to board another car. I wouldn't have minded but we were doing ninety at the time." Sure enough, Brian spies a dishevelled figure slumped on the floor of the van, pirate hat and eyepatch askew, regarding him manically. "Ahoy there, shipmate!" he growls.

"And as for Mit here," says the driver, "he’s always wanted to be a bearded lady in the circus, but Nature kind of messed that up for him, so he has to make do with wearing a dress and speaking in falsetto."

Jeez, thinks Brian, the local loony bin must run a day release programme.

"It's nowhere near as glamorous as the real thing," says Mit. "There's only so much money to be made in the pretend-bearded-lady business."

"It's the same with fortune-telling," says Rose, who's been listening to this. "Our Gypsy's always complaining that too many folks are taking their custom to the professionals nowadays. I wonder what happened to her and Victor, anyway? They should be back by now."

They look at the sky. It's getting dark, and black clouds are beginning to gather overhead. There's still no sign of the traffic moving.

"Hey Gordon!" shouts Brian. "Wake up! We'd better see if we can find Victor."

"I wouldn't advise it," warns Lee. "These woods are a maze at the best of times; I wouldn't go wandering out there at night.

Gordon ambles over, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "Who are these guys?" he asks, gesturing towards the black van.

A bunch of raving nutters, Brian is about to answer, but the excitable young lady in the back leans out and grins. "We're the Femmebots. We were on a road trip but it looks like we're stuck here with you guys now." She bats her eyelashes at Gordon. "We're planning on having a little shindig while we wait. You guys wanna join the fun?"

Rose and Lee grin at one another. "Well, you know what they say about furniture strippers - we're a bunch of party animals!" says Rose. Lee's already helping the Femmebots set up the sound system.

Brian and Gordon frown. "What about Victor?" says Gordon. "We can't just leave him out there, we really ought to go find him."

"Yeah," agrees Brian, "but you heard what Lee said about the woods......and besides, who'll look after the van?"

"Oh come on, admit it! You just wanna stay for the party!" teases Gordon.

"Yeah, well, it beats trudging through the woods at night," says Brian. "Come on, we'd better decide pronto what we're gonna do...."


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So what do Gordon and Brian do now? Set off into the woods to look for their drummer, or decide that Victor can look after himself and join in the party?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Part 2

“I’m starving,” says Gordon. “I wish we had thought to pack a lunch. It doesn’t look like the traffic is going to move anytime soon. Maybe there’s some way we could play some songs for food….”

In the next lane, and a few cars ahead, is a strange sight--an old flatbed truck, the sides surrounded by picket fencing, and piled high with junky furniture. The side of the cab is painted with pink scrolling letters:


Gypsy Rose Lee
Furniture Strippers

A tiny woman is standing on the tailgate, struggling to get a table down from the pile. The furniture starts to shift precariously…

“All that stuff is going to fall right on her!” Brian says, alarmed.

“We should get out and help her,” says Victor.

They all hop out of the bus and rush to her side. Brian reaches over the woman’s head and easily extracts the table and sets it on the ground. A slightly taller, very pretty woman appears from around the side of the truck, carrying a picnic basket.

“Thank you so much for getting that down for us. I’m always telling Lee not to try and do everything herself, but she’s very stubborn,” she says in a sweet voice.

“Well,” says Lee, adjusting her glasses and scowling, “if you weren’t dawdling for hours over cutlery, I wouldn’t have to be the only one actually getting something accomplished around here.”

“Don’t pay any attention to her,” she says as she pulls a red-and-white checked tablecloth out of the basket and covers the table. “She’s just grumpy because we were supposed to be in Norfolk an hour ago, and time is money you know…My name is Rose, by the way, and if you guys wouldn’t mind getting some chairs down as well, we’d be happy to have you for lunch.”

The Femmes start pulling chairs down. “Wow,” says Victor, “so you guys are furniture strippers? Her name is Lee and your name is Rose, where does the Gypsy part come in? Do you travel from place to place selling this stuff.” “Oh no,” says Rose, “we have an actual Gypsy…she’s in the cab, sleeping. She had a bit of a rough night last night…”

Lee rolls her eyes and starts setting the table, “she had a bit of something, all right. Or something had a bit of her, is more like it,” she grumbles. There’s a jingling sound, coming closer. “And here she is, Miss America! It’s about time you got your lazy ass up. We were about to eat lunch without you.”

“How were you going to eat lunch without me, darling? When I have the lunch?” Gypsy plops a big pot on the table, bracelets, jangling. She looks exactly like a real gypsy. “Look! spaghetti and meatballs!” She takes off the lid and sticks her nose in. “Smells delicious.”

“Gypsy, where did you get that?” Rose asks.

“Oh, there was this sweet old couple on their way to a pot-luck lunch at the Branford Church. I told them I foresaw terrible danger, and for their spaghetti I would cast a protecting spell…” She grins slyly.

“Honestly, Gypsy! You don’t know the first thing about fortune-telling, you’ve got to stop tricking people like that, it isn’t nice!” Rose’s cute little nose crinkles in disapproval. Lee shakes her head and sighs, and starts filling her plate.

***

After lunch, they all sit around chatting and watching the people in the other cars. Gypsy leans back and stretches widely. “That was good. Now I need to go for a walk. Gotta go for a walk after a big meal, so I don’t lose my girlish figure..” She pats her big rear end and winks at Victor. “Hey sweetie, I like your pants. Wanna go for a walk with me? C’mon it’ll be fun. We’ll go pick some flowers…” She points to the side of the highway.

“I advise against it,” says Lee. “She’s trouble…”

“No, Lee, I’m fun. And you always have trouble with fun, always worrying..” She folds her arms over her chest and pouts. “C’mon kid, waddya say? You look like a cool guy, I’d like to get to know you…”

“Uh….” says Victor.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Part 1

The Violent Femmes, they put all their equipment on the bus...

And then they got on Interstate 64 in Richmond, Virginia, headed east toward Norfolk. The sun was shining, the windows were all open, they were flying, 80 miles an hour on a beautiful morning. Until they came to an abrupt halt.

"Holy crap! What on earth is going on?" Brian says as he swerves to avoid crashing into the car in front of them. Victor turns on the radio. "Maybe there's a traffic report."

"...wow, Steve, I think this may be the worst traffic jam this area has ever seen. The traffic's backed up oh, about 80 miles or so I think. Any ideas on what's causing it?"

"Well Bob, it appears to be a broken down vehicle....yup, somebody's got a flat tire just before the Granby St exit, a lot of rubberneckers. So far no injuries though..."

"Oh, well that's always good to hear, Steve. How long of a delay should people expect if they're headed through the bridge tunnel?"

"Oh, hopefully not too long. It should be cleared up in about.....oh I'd say...7 hours or so...This is just incredible, people are getting out of their cars, standing on the hoods, it's just a big party out here on 64 today." "Okay Steve thanks. Well, folks..if you're headed in that direction, make sure your air conditioning works and pack a lunch!"

"Oh man," says Gordon. "I don't wanna sit here all day! Why don't we get off the highway and have breakfast or something?" He looks out the window at the green grass and tall trees. "Looks pretty here. Maybe could take some back roads, go for a drive..."

"I dunno," says Victor, as he watches some people a few cars ahead getting lawn chairs and a cooler out of the trunk of their car. "This looks like it could be fun. Maybe we'd get on the nightly news."

"Well guys," Brian says, looking over the road map, "we have to figure out what we're going to do. the next exit is coming up soon."