By Joseph S. Pete
Anne stumbled into Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar as she had so many nights before.
She lingered over the beckoning display cases filled with amber bombers from faraway locales like San Diego, the Iowa prairieland and Warrenville.
She plunked down in the dark side of the bar with the graffiti in the drafty bathroom, not the new well-lit part with reclaimed wood and Korean-Polish fusion cuisine. To hell with light.
She scanned the room, squinting through the dark. That librarian wasn’t here yet.
Anne planted herself down on the barstool, surveyed the chalkboard menu, and asked the barkeep if he’d recommend the Hopmaggedon or the Nitro Schwarz.
“You mean an IPA or a dark lager?”
His tone seemed snide.
“I asked which you’d recommend.”
This bearded tool, who didn’t even know how to trim that wild, untrammeled mess, stared blankly.
“Just give me the higher ABV, the IPA, whatever.”
About halfway through her beer, the librarian sidled up beside her, told her he was a big fan and how everybody thought he was crazy for bringing punk bands into the library but how it really engaged the patrons.
“Punk’s not dead.”
“Oh, punk’s definitely dead. Punk’s been dead for years. I’m almost goddamned dead myself.”
“I don’t got much longer. I got cancer and the doctor said it’s terminal.”
“Oh God, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay, I always hated being alive anyway.”
Anne tuned her guitar in the library branch, which was unlike any venue she ever played before.
It was noon, for one thing. Sunlight flooded through the big glass panes. A group of schoolchildren gathered around, sitting cross-legged but barely able to contain their anarchic, unstructured energy.
The feedback in the amp buzzed and then roared.
She and her band, The Empties, launched into a wildly age-inappropriate cover of Jim Carroll’s “People who Died” which they shredded through with reckless abandon. Punk’s not dead, she thought, punk’s not dead.
Going into it, she assumed the morbid, despairing lyrics would shock and disturb. But that wasn’t the reaction she got from the room at all, not even from the librarian who hovered around the fringes in an apparently supervisory role.
The kids seemed bored and fidgety. She poured her heart out on stage and they didn’t even bother to pay attention.
Goddamn, she would find a way to reach them. She would strike a chord with this crowd. The Empties launched into a cover of Bowling for Soup’s “Go Speed Racer Go” cover.
It was too dated for these kids, squirming around in anticipation of snacks.
To hell with it. They’d just play. Anne strummed and strummed and sung until those kids finally started to perk up like late-blooming flowers.
She did hate life most of the time, but not with the roar of the guitar, the thunder of the drums, the thump of the bass. She couldn’t hate life when so many stared on, rapt in her cathedral-like wall of noise.
Joseph S. Pete is an award-winning journalist, an Iraq War veteran, an Indiana University graduate, a book reviewer, a photographer, and a frequent guest on Lakeshore Public Radio. He is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee who was named the poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest, a feat that Geoffrey Chaucer chump never accomplished. His writing and photography have appeared or are forthcoming in more than 100 literary journals, including Dogzplot, Stoneboat, The High Window, Synesthesia Literary Journal, Steep Street Journal, Beautiful Losers, New Pop Lit, The Grief Diaries, Gravel, The Offbeat, Oddball Magazine, The Perch Magazine, Rising Phoenix Review, Chicago Literati, Bull Men’s Fiction, shufPoetry, The Roaring Muse, Prairie Winds, Blue Collar Review, Lumpen, The Rat’s Ass Review, The Tipton Poetry Journal, Euphemism, Jenny Magazine, Vending Machine Press and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Like Bartleby, he would prefer not to.