Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Dreams in Heavy Metal - Short Story

This one was influenced by the kind of people I encountered while working in warehouses during university vacations. It was pondering about the bisecting of students and their futures with the possible futures of working people. I think a couple of people I had known had dropped out of university for an uncertain fate. I had also become critical of the people around me at university who seemed even more embedded in the 'right' way to do things than I had been myself and I had thought I was uptight.

These were the tail end days of the Thatcher years and many of us lived in fear for the future, but many more felt there had been a revolution and as John Major's regime was to be characterised 'things are a'changing back' and so us, as young people should be the 'Blue Guard' and ensure society returned to 1950s values and behaviour. I remember a protest among female students taking English Literature at the university that they were being force fed too much feminist-Marxist 'claptrap' rather than 'proper' analysis of literature, which seemed to consist of Conservative post-feminism, well out of step with the views of their tutors. Such attitudes impinged on personal relationships and in particular I was struck by a Home Counties princess who fell for a bluff Scotsman whose family had been unemployed since the 1970s. She had a boyfriend from home and so would sleep on the floor of her student hall bedroom from Wednesday when the sheets were changed right through to Monday so that when he visited he would have clean sheets. Of course they did no sleep together (my parents, young people in the 1960s found that fact shocking). I do wonder if she had followed her heart rather than her societal norms how different her life had been. Anyway, in this story, I was trying to suggest that not following the track laid out did not necessarily mean disaster. I see now that this comes back to 'Bind' and re-reading it, it seems unnecessarily positive, avoiding all the pitfalls it is quite possible the couple would have fallen into. In addition, living in a caravan hardly seems appealing now.

I have just remembered another element and that was how many women fell head-over-heels for my brother when he visited. He was in a heavy metal band and it was incredible how they flocked to photograph him. He perceived them as very phoney, not realising it was his sex appeal that was having such an impact. So I imagine some of this stems from thoughts around how appealing a heavy metal (a music genre at its peak at the time) lifestyle might have been to some of these princesses.

Dreams In Heavy Metal

The heavy metal track faded and the cassette clicked stop. Alex tossed the headphones onto the bed. the only noise in the caravan was the light breathing of Kate asleep in her cot. He gazed out of the window watching children running between the other caravans parked in pattern on their fixed sites. It was the boredom of these sort of days that had led them into this life.

Carelessly he reached for a battered rock magazine from the pile. His fingers, hardened by constant strumming flicked the pages over. Staring back at him from contrived poses were others dressed like him: their hair long, their clothes tough and tattered. They were the fantasy - the rebels without a cause, the rebels for a profit.

How many months had it been since he and Liz had wandered bored around the newsagent in the village? Nothing went on around here, that was the standard chant. The nearest town was nine miles away. They found the way out, a style to follow. Both had thrown themselves into it, that had been that Summer’s game.

She had always been a friend. In this sort of place where people were scarce you knew every family around. It was hard to say when they had become enmeshed. Was it when the crash had landed them in a ditch and in court? Or when Kate was born? He no longer regretted that.

He knew when things had begun to change. In his mind persisted the image of Liz framed in the doorway, her hair grown long, and her dressed in her new outfit. Alex had swept his eyes from the spike-heeled boots over the tight shiny trousers to the unworn leather jacket. She had giggled, it was still a game to her. He knew it was going further. It had been the beginning of good times too. He remembered her on his shoulders at concerts, racing through the countryside with her arms wrapped around him, her hair streaming. He remembered too when she realised the affection between them, that things could no longer be reversed. He had sweet memories, what had soured?

From the start they had looked to avoid conforming to the route traced by their parents. Now they followed a path well worn by many of the their neighbours.

Alex stopped himself. He ran his fingers over his naked arm up to the shaggy edge of his threadbare black teeshirt. They had survived. No drugs had violated their flesh and both had escaped injury if not a record from his reckless biking. Their families had turned away forcing them closer. He had never thought of leaving, despite the difficulties. He accepted the consequences of realising fantasy.

Liz tapped at the door and he sprung up to help her in with the shopping. She rested the bags on the floor and turned into his arms and to his lips. As they stood there, they resembled the dream. They could have been straight from a photo in any of the discarded magazines. The winnings are never the same as the stake.

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