Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – A Novel

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21.

Domenic the D.J. didn’t turn up until ten o’clock. Before that, all the music playing in the bar at the Re:Public came from the stereo. An Oasis album; probably chosen by Sally, the tattooed English backpacker.

Both barmaids, Sally and Anja, started work when Wally opened at nine. The place didn’t get busy until some time after midnight however, when people would come in after the various gigs around town finished up.

Pat and Johnny were talking shit when the Silver Top taxi came crawling down the alley toward the door. Like any good D.J., Domenic was still working off vinyl. Pat helped him carry his milk crates full of records inside and stash them behind the bar.

On his way out, Pat noticed Stevie poking around the big vermillion curtain behind the stage.

Outside, the crisp clank of Domenic’s stubby against Johnny’s was sharply audible through the rapidly cooling night air. He sat down and crossed his legs the opposite direction to Johnny’s.

“How is it, lads?” he asked in his Liverpudlian accent.

“It’s alright,” said Johnny, as if it had taken the last few hours to figure this out and, having arrived at the conclusion, was much relieved.

Pat mumbled something before sipping at his drink, ice clicking against his teeth. He found that if he wasn’t holding a glass of something while other people drank, he got a strange kind of itching in his fingers. Kind of like what he assumed amputees must feel watching other people exercise.

Most of the time, he felt like the tram that runs from the outer terminus back into the city, its emptiness exaggerated by the fact it is full of nothing but light.

“The shop’s a mess,” said Domenic. “The orders are all over the place and I don’t know what’s there.” Domenic’s day job was at Au-Go-Go Records. He had been in charge of importing rare and difficult-to-get vinyl for some years.

It was virtually a separate business to the record store, and Domenic ran it as it suited him.

Since the advent of the iPod and sneaky internet downloads, music culture had changed irrevocably.

“Looks as if Au-Go-Go will soon become a mail order service.”

“If it falls over, what are you gonna do?” Johnny asked, lowering his empty stubby down by its neck to rest on the road. The grit underneath grated against the glass as he set it down. 

“Don’t know. Get another job, I suppose.”

“What did you used to do?” asked Pat, hoping that Domenic’s ability to change careers might bolster his belief in his own potential.

“Primary school teacher, back in England.”

“Can’t see myself doing that.”

“You figure out what you want to do in life a lot of the time by doing things you don’t,” he said. “Wasn’t too bad, though. Kids are funny.”

“Not if they’re yours,” said Johnny, watching Stevie through the barred windows. “Hundred per cent worry.”

“Maybe Sally’ll take him home and talk tattoos,” said Pat. Johnny turned an eye on him, hard and sharp.

“I taught this kid, years ago,” Domenic began. “Autistic, mildly. But super-bright. I remember one day, one of the other little kids, they’re about ten, asks me, ‘How does the sun stay up in the sky?’ And this kid, he snaps around and says, ‘It’s yellow, you idiot!”

“Pat, can you come here?” asked Anja, leaning out the door, the ironed-straight curtain of her hair falling towards her boot like a plumb-line.

 **

“See these guys?” she asked. Pat looked down the line of her pointed finger at the four young men standing at the bar. “They came in around nine and they’ve been drinking for a while. The short one was fucking around with the flowers.”

Once a week, Wally had flowers delivered. This latest arrangement was a lot of long, sword-shaped leaves with strange things that looked like golf balls attached to stems.

“Can you tell them they’ve been cut off?” asked Anja.

“Sure,” Pat said. The phantom of Anja’s perfume hung in his nose as he approached them. They looked early to mid-twenties, all dressed as variations of one another. Jeans, skate shoes and polo shirts. Definitely out of place. 

“Hello gents, how’s your night?” A range of mumbled answers. Pat crossed his hands in front of his crotch and struck a polite doorman’s posture. From this position, he could ward off a kick in the groin. “I’m here to tell you that you’ve been cut off.”

“Why?” asked the tallest one.

“I don’t know, mate – I don’t ask. I just do what the manager tells me.” The leader started looking around the bar, hoping to see someone who might declare themselves ‘manager’ by dint of their appearance.

“You can stay on, but you won’t get served,” Pat continued. “Look, it’s early in the night. When you move on to the next place, you should be fine.” There was some conversation and the group moved toward the door.

They were either heading towards Wally, who, from his position behind the bar, did look like a manager, or were going to the bathroom. Pat gave them half a bar-length before following. He stopped beside Wally as the four went into the bathroom.

“Okay?” Wally asked, twisting a rivet in his denim jacket.

“So far.” He stood watching the bathroom door as Domenic came in and began setting up the turntable. “I’m going to go in and see what’s going on. Make sure they don’t smash the toilet or something.”

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