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We Dance To the Sound of Sirens

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War, war, war, war/I want to declare a war

It was a hundred degrees inside the club, a ramshackle building made of concrete with
graffiti slogans all over the wall behind the stage. It used to be an all-ages disco, then the owner gave it to his cousin, who made it an all-ages punk spot, and also let the a/c die. Tommy had three PBR's and some of a bottle of Jack they were passing around in Jimmy’s car on the way over. Him and his friends (assholes) had listened to Stick It In to pump themselves up, coming through loud on the on-its-last-legs cassette player in Jimmy’s 1978 Chevy Malibu. When then finally made it he was late and buzzed and it had already started. Black Flag were on stage, Greg Ginn on the side, not looking at the audience while he played. Kira Rossler was on the other side, head down and frowning and Tommy wouldn’t have known she was a girl by looking at her. And in the middle, Henry Rollings was screaming his brains out as the audience thronged in front of him.

Tommy took off his spiked leather jacket, gave it to his girl (Mallisa, she had come with them), and ran right into the maelstrom. Immediately he was pushed and shoved from all sides, and he pushed back, loving it, already smiling. He couldn’t help it, he loved this, the violence and the sweaty slide of bodies. It was all guys, nearly, with just a few girls hanging around the back, holding their boyfriend’s leather. (There was one tough bitch on the scene, though: Carla Rossi, who could kick the ass of guys twice her size and Tommy had seen her do it. He’d gotten ice for her knuckles and given her some of his whiskey many times, admiring her lack of ability to take any shit.)

Tommy pushed up against Jack Demon, a fucking weirdo who had this combo hardcore/glitter rock band, which shouldn’t have gone together but did. Jack pushed him back, and they played off each other for a while before some fuckhead with his elbows up got Jack in the side of the head. Tommy got to the fuckhead first, breaking his nose with one well-aimed punch, and the place exploded. The main thing he remembered from the riot was Rollins punching some kid for getting too near the equipment, while Greg and Kira grabbed as much of it as they could.

Five minutes later, Tommy was running like fuck as sirens started coming from over down the street. Jimmy had already left, the pussy. Tommy dodged another punch and grabbed his jacket from Mallisa, her “Hey!” fading in the background as he ran through the back alleys. Behind him, the club was a mess of broken tables and chairs, the front window was broken, and Black Flag were waiting with their arms crossed for the cops. Tommy thought about the stoic faces they had when the riot started, and hoped they still got paid.

He ran until he found the house of a friend, Brent, and pounded on the basement door. Brent answered after a bit, looking tired and a little stoned. “What?”

“Let me in, motherfucker, the cops are out” was all Tommy had to say, and then he was in Brent’s basement. Within five minutes they were sharing a bong and watching Carnival of Souls on a tiny tv with the sound off. Brent got out his walkman-Ministry, of course, the goth fuck-and they shared the earphones, watching the girl who didn’t know she was dead being stalked by the inhabitants of the abandoned carnival. Brent taped his knuckles, put a bandage on the little cut he had gotten on his forehead from a flying broken bottle, and they both went to sleep in his fold-out bed. Tommy even felt a little kiss on his forehead, and he smirked right before he passed out.

Tommy woke up hungover and with his hand swollen, blood seeping out between the tape. Fuck, he needed to play tonight. Brent was still curled around him, and Tommy had to gently get up without waking him or pushing against his sleep hard-on. Brent was gay, they all knew Brent was gay-he was a goth, for one thing, despite having hardcore friends. It was sort of agreed among Tommy’s crew that anyone who fucked with Brent about it got a free baseball bat to the midsection. It’s not that they cared one way or another, but Brent was one of theirs-he didn’t have many little vampire fucks to hang out with, so yeah, fuck anyone who gave him shit.

“Whrhg,” Tommy said, looking for some pain pills in Brent’s stash. He wouldn’t care as long as Tommy left an IOU, he never did. Tommy took two, washed them down with a mini bottle of Jack, and left Brent a nice note thanking him for the place to crash and the pills.

See, he was a polite motherfucker.

Tommy made it to class in time for third period math. The whole class turned to watch Tommy stagger in, blood congealed around his knuckles. One of the prep girls huffed and Tommy just stared at her. Before her stupid jock boyfriend got up to defend her honor Mrs. Grayson had Tommy out of her class and down to see the guidance counselor.

Tommy sat in her office waiting room for a few minutes, poking at the bloody knuckles on his right hand. He could hear a high-pitched voice in the office with Mrs. Haden, and he couldn’t understand the words, but the fear and frustration came right through. He felt a twinge of sympathy for whoever it was.

Then the door opened, and Tommy looked up to see a tall, fat kid with red hair, freckles, and really pretty eyes. The guy stared at him like he was expecting Tommy to give him shit. That kind of pissed Tommy off-he was a punk, so he was supposed to hate everyone, which made him really did want to hate everyone-but he just nodded at the guy. “Hey.”

“Hey,” the guy said back, his voice soft and unsure. Tommy didn’t entirely get it-the fucker was almost twice his height. If anyone went after him he could’ve handled it easily. They just looked at each other a minute, Tommy with curiosity and openness, and the other guy-oh. Tommy got it, he didn’t get a chance to look much. Tommy held his gaze and before he thought about it, pushed his legs apart a little more. The other boy swallowed, Tommy blinked at him-and then Mrs. Haden was in the doorway. “Tommy, what are you doing? Adam, you can go to your next class now. Tommy, get in here.” The other boy-Adam-blushed furiously and ducked his head. He was gone before Tommy could even tell him ‘bye’. He slouched into Mrs. Haden’s office, her already bitching ninety to nothing.

Tommy came to somewhere in the middle of Mrs. Haden’s rant right about the time she said that he was going to be forced to take some sort of elective. “Because you need an outlet for your energy that isn’t getting into fights or playing clubs that turn into riots.” Tommy blinked, then looked at her. He held her gaze for a minute, and she squirmed under his look. He had to smile inside-he wasn’t even mad, she was just intimidated because he was a fucking dirty-ass punk. It was almost too easy. He dropped the eye contact long enough for her to get her breath, then returned it again.

“What elective?”

She seemed stunned that he wasn’t arguing with her over this, but then collected herself. “You can choose between theater, marching band, or debate. Art classes are all full.” Well that sucks, Tommy thought, and looked over the sheet she handed him with the times for classes. Marching band would require a uniform and going to football games-that was out. Debate-he loved a good pissing match, but he wasn’t that good with his words, and he would rather watch them than join them. He looked again, and then gave the sheet back to Mrs. Haden.

“Sign me up for theater. Maybe they’ll have a musical that needs some guitar.” She blinked at him in surprise and he smiled, one corner curling up. “Like you said, an outlet. Plus, it might be fun.”

“Tommy, I don’t want you taking this to get into fights with the theater kids-“ Tommy shoved forward in his seat.

“Theater kids are the last people I want to fight with, okay? They get shit from jocks same as me, and they don’t fight back. I don’t fight people who can’t defend themselves.” He just stared at her, because seriously? Is that what she thought? “I like performances, remember? I’m not scared of musicals.” Or being considered a queer for liking them, he added in his head. “Just sign me up, and I’ll be there for the next rehearsal. I’ll do props or something.”

She took the paper without any more comments, and Tommy was on for rehearsal at six. Tommy didn’t even know what the play was and frankly didn’t care. Whatever it was would be fun-shit, he was gonna miss band practice. Fuck, fuck, fuck. God, everyone was gonna be pissed.

When school finally let out, he flagged down this girl he knew. “Lisa! Can ya give me a ride home? I’ll buy you fries if you take me home, baby.”

Lisa looked over at him, her asymmetrical haircut swinging over one eye. “Anytime, my darling. Get in the car. Hey, I got another copy of Re-Animator, want to watch it?” Lisa’s mom somehow had a problem with a horror movie involving a severed head giving head, and had trashed the last one. Lisa had since learned to hide her horror stash a bit better.

“I would love to babe, but I have to get home. I gotta tell the band I can’t make it.”
“Fuck, what happened?” Lisa came over and gave him an a-frame style hug, and then rubbed over his wrist. “Wow, you fucked up that hand pretty good. I hope he deserved it.”

“He totally did. I have to miss it because I have to take an elective. I’m a theater geek now.” He grinned as Lisa dropped his hand and started laughing. He started laughing too because it was okay, Lisa could do that. She wasn’t mean. Then she squeezed his shoulder and they got in her Chevy, Lisa putting the radio on the local college station.

As they ate their fries and shared a chicken sandwich in the car, Tommy told her everything, and mentioned the boy in the office before him. “Yeah, he’s really shy, chubby but not bad looking. And I don’t know, we just kind of stared at each other.” He blushed a little-if most of his guy friends heard this he’d totally deny it, but he was pretty sure Lisa played for the other team. “I think his name was Adam or something.” Tommy was totally bullshitting right now-he knew goddamn well the kid’s name was Adam.

“Wait, his name is Adam? Shit, you’re gonna see a lot of him now.” Tommy just raised an eyebrow as she stuck a fry in some mayonnaise (and seriously, what the fuck was up with that). “He’s like, king of the theater department. He’s an amazing singer. I saw him perform in a college theater production-they just had him come in and sing show tunes. He fucking rocked them.”

“He can sing?” This got Tommy, well, kind of interested. He was a little punk fucker, but he loved music and people who made it well. Take Lisa-she pinch-hitted for horrible New Wave and dance bands, playing keyboards, but she was awesome on them.

“He can sing his ass off. He’s unbelievable for someone our age. Fuck, we gotta get you home, babe.” Lisa handed him the rest of the food and started the car back up, shoving a Misfits tape in the player.

“You know the rules, drop me off at Fifth and Whitman.” Tommy nibbled some of the fries. Fuck, they were going cold.

Lisa pulled her hair out of her eyes, the wind blowing it around from the open window. “You know, this whole thing you have about nobody ever seeing where you live just makes you hotter, baby.” Tommy laughed hard at that.

Tommy got home a little before four, walking the last four blocks. He looked at the house and shook his head before going in. He phoned the lead singer of his band and had a fifteen-minute argument that ending in him telling Chad that he could suck his mom’s dick and then quit the band. That was his fifth band this year. Oh well.

He put his bookbag in his room, fixed his hair, and left the house, jacket over his shoulder to walk back to school. Time to see how this drama experiment worked out. He went down the porch stairs and around the corner. The house was undisturbed.