[Fiction] I Need a Priest (part 1)
Seemed like a good gig when I started out. I mean, a really good gig. No one else in my graduating class got paid to hang out with rockstars. Heck, no one in my graduating high school class had even met a rock star. And here I was, a dumb hick from No-where, Washington, hanging out with a band that was bigger than the Rolling Stones. Until I started touring with him, I hadn’t thought much about the world beyond my parent’s vineyard. I ain’t a big shot or nuthin’ but it gives a guy pride to do a good job and to bring the folks home some money at the end of the tour season. I’ll go home again if that’s what it takes to get away.
Now I ain’t gay or nuthin’, but this lead singer was one sexy sonuvabitch. I started out guarding the tourbus, ya know? So I’d see him at the end of the gig with four girls on each arm. He’d always give me a wink when he went by. Friendly enough. We just called him D. Short for David or Donald or something. I never had the guts to ask him much, and was just glad I didn’t have to call him Mister. He called me Jack, which was close enough, since I was born John Green. No one else called me Jack my whole life but I liked when he did. Jack was much cooler than John. Tougher. Jack could always keep the riffraff out, and John drove a tractor a few months out of the year. I was night and day.
But D, man? Funny pick for a rockstar. I think the band Purple Revelry had been together nearly thirty years. They didn’t play much modern stuff—sometimes they’d cover Led Zepplin or The Who—because that fucker can really wail. Not like the big hair mullet 80’s way neither, but that kind of guitar operetta drum solo sex rhythm that brought you right back to Woodstock. Not that I was there or nuthin’ since I wasn’t much of a twinkle in anybody’s eye and New York is an awfully long way from the vineyard, but back then, man, music stood for something. Music today is all about winey kids not getting what they want. Back then it was about beauty, art…it was against the war and against The Man. It was music you could groove to or fuck to. Best yet, it was the kind you’d get fucked up to. When D was on stage, man, with that bass pumping and the leather pants, nothing mattered anymore. It was you and the crowd, one with the music, checked out and gone. Crowd practically worshipped him.
He was a funny looking fucker too. I mean, kinda baby kid face, for someone who’d been around for as long as he had. He’d joke that it was the drinking that had pickled him. Thing is, he looked young too. Kinda baby faced with curly hair. He changed the color so often, no one ever had a chance to notice if it went grey or not. A few crow’s feet around his green eyes, but they coulda been from laughing. He definitely did that a lot. He had the look of a guy who could wrestle a bull, and then have a beer and a toke afterwards. Unconventional I guess. But when you’re a rockstar, that’s to be expected. I liked him right away.
First time I met him was when I worked security at the state fair. They always had the biggest crowd turn out to see Purple Revelry. I usually handled the front of the stage, keeping people from trying to get up the stage and looking for anybody crazy-eyed. I drank a lot then. Jack D. or Wild Turkey. Anything but wine. Used to keep a flask of it in my pocket, and gigs like this one kept it full. But I was tall and broad enough that nobody would fuck with me. Meant a lot of people wouldn’t bother even talking to me either.
This gig wasn’t right. I didn’t feel good about it. After 9-11 things got tight all over the country. People were wired. They had a lot they were trying to forget. That’s where D came in. When he got out on stage, he cranked out the music and he pulled out their hearts. He made everything ok. Everybody danced, just lost in the music. I like to pick out people to watch and gauge the crowd. This one girl, long straight hair and low-riders I called Hippie Jean, she was just gone. Her eyes closed and her head was swaying back and forth. When the song stopped, she would scream for him. When D got off stage, she would cry. I don’t know how anyone can have that much emotion in one show.
I was watching her dance, though. She was kinda pretty and I wondered what she took before she got there. But this guy she was with, I dunno. He gave me the creeps. Nervous looking type. Darty eyes, ya know? Never looked straight at anyone. Except D. He watched him like a wolf stares down an elk. He wouldn’t dance or nuthin’ neither. He just seemed off. I dunno if he was cracked out or cracked.
I saw him reach for the gun.
It was like, I don’t know, he couldn’t take the music anymore and it was all D’s fault. The guy was in the 10th row and I was by the stage. I only had a fraction of a second to decide what to do.
I jumped on the stage and pushed D down. The powder ignited and the crowd screamed and my side burned. It burned like a motherfucker. I put my hands to my gut, trying to hold my insides in and oh God it was wet.
D was under me holding perfectly still. I was sure that I bled on him. From the corner of my eye I saw Hippie Jean and her boyfriend. He had grabbed her wrist and was yanking her away. She was screaming and fighting back. She slipped from his grip, and he grabbed her hair and pulled her behind him like a pony. But by then, the rest of security was on him and he was in cuffs before I lost consciousness.
When I woke up, it was quiet. D was looking over me, smiling a shit-eating grin, “There you are.”
I sat up, “Sorry. Er, did I bleed all over you?”
“If that’s your blood, you need to cut back.” He pointed to my side. There was a hole in my jacket…and a bullet hole in my flask.
I couldn’t believe it, “It didn’t go through? I’m not hurt?”
He laughed, “I wouldn’t say that. Listen kid, what you did out there—“
“Oh shit man. Sorry, I didn’t mean to push you I just didn’t know what to do. I swear it’ll never happen again!”
“What? Oh that. A few bruises are the least of my worries. How did you know that guy was off?”
“Gut feeling, I guess.”
“Get those a lot?”
That seemed to be the answer he was looking for, “Listen, you wanna get outta here?”
“You mean, like, off the stage?” I was still lying down.
“Not exactly what I meant…”
And the rest, as they say, is history. I got lost with D. I was outta there. Out of the farm, into the loud cities and the party life where I think for the first time I finally had some peace and quiet. Inside I mean. I was finally where I was supposed to be. The band was like family. Cool guys, real mellow, but deep. They’d jam on the bus a lot, usually after a night of fighting and screaming. Burning at both ends. My job was to make sure they didn’t break anything they didn’t want broken—like the instruments, “Watch em’ Jack.” D would say, “You don’t know where these guys have been and you don’t know where they are going. And if you listen close to the music, you won’t have to go their neither.”
But I did go there. I drank with them and broke stuff. I kept out the riffraff with my blood and fists. If they were a threat, I’d take care of them.
Funny thing is, most of the time there was no threat. I’d stop the occasional overindulged drunk who’d gone off his rocker. Never stopped a woman, though: D was made for the women and a guy just doesn’t cockblock a buddy. Women would come, all giggling and drunk off him. He didn’t even have to try with women. He’d just smile and say something witty and touch a girl just right, and she’d give in and melt in his arms. He always had time for women. In the morning, they’d be gone, melted through the cracks in the tourbus.
I could barely talk to them. Not sober, anyway. Drinking helped with that. Liquid courage, you know. I never knew what to say. I’d say, “Hey baby, I’m Jack.” When I tried what D did, they’d slap me. I asked D how he did it, and he told me to just be myself. Yeah right. Mostly they were the same girl: maroon lipstick and leopard print bras, collecting cocks like some people collect stamps. Not too interested in bodyguards. I gave up trying after awhile.