Had he never misplaced the mojo, he may, he reasoned one evening, have been able to keep a keener eye on his star. But, he sensed, it had fallen.
He came to this late. Drew scant detail. Reason, as such, eluded. He dreamed a nearfuture pocket of his being patted. Mojo? He looked up in the darkroom blue. Empty. He looked down. No mojo.
He found that retraced steps revealed nothing but mere meanderings; faint traces in a broadstroked meadow. He fancied, within the vapid shadows, shapes, fading. He wondered if he should’ve taken a left, not a right.
He threw off the bedclothes, dressed and went down downstairs to grumble about the volume of the music.
There was a handwritten communiqué taped there, 70s 80s. PARTY (a spiky collective of exclamation marks). He knocked hard. Read the words again, but when the door opened, found himself in charge of a change of heart.
She giggled, she frowned, she drew him in. Blessings and welcome. She took his arm and proffered plate, offered glass. She said, “brownie?” She said, “mojito?”
“Four extra Bank Holidays,” he was saying idiotically, some time later on the decking, to an American. “The country’ll go to pot!” She touched his arm, “Funny!” He frowned and smiled and, emboldened – with mojito, bosom, curl? – slipped back inside to the low lit kitchen with the intention of nosing out further mojito to fuel his mojo.
He watched her through the dark window, out on the decking, moving through the crowd. The object of her enthusiasm (he could certainly hear her tinkling voice, diminished little by the glass) was a dreadlocked and dreadful man in a black turtleneck, butchering Purple Rain. Death by karaoke beneath the strings of lights.
He’d fridged the jug, and was toying through some new gambit, dabbing the last of a brownie, when someone tapped his thinning crown. He turned around and was surprised to find himself, face-to-face, with punk rock legend & sometime t-shirt icon, the late, Sid Vicious.
“I thought you died years ago.”
Sid organised his shoulders beneath that thieved and rotting leather, sneered grimly, and said, “Punk’s not dead. It just smells funny.”
“What I mean – ”
The dim star leaned in, jacket creaking, breath reeking. Close. He closed an eye and, dropping his head to one side, lip arched snottily toward nostril, and asked, “You calling me a cunt, cunt?”
He backed up. “Not at all! Just surprised to see you here.”
The bass player spread his palms wide and, jiggling his grubby fingers around in front of his pale face, said, “You’re quite stupid, ain’t you.” Adrian’s belly, in contact with dead cow, churned. It made a gurgling sound. Vicious giggled and, at that moment, the air all around those fingers quivered, sending out (tangible, tangible, yes) tendrils of danger, disease and dissent. The closer the dim star came, the more the kitchen, the space of the kitchen, the party, the world fell away, until all that was left was death-breath and, distantly, soundtracking this punk-black hole, Prince soloing, forever.
(nb: Purple Rain is always a rash karaoke choice, unless one is willing to style it out with endless air soloing).
“Do you live? In the flats?” Adrian said, stupidly.
“Visiting, ain’t I.” His delivery was loaded with italics. He could feel them, leaning sharply toward him. He pushed one of the glasses toward Sid. “Mojito?” The dim star sneered and sneezed into the lime, wiped a nostril on a knuckle, said, “Cheers, wanker!” He gulped it down, burped and everything, with that, suddenly relaxed, the kitchen exhaled. The party began to expand again around them.
“Oi, you couldn’t front me some gear, could you, mate?”
“No. No, I don’t think so, sorry. But, why don’t you come outside. Have a sing.” He gestured outside the window, the life from Prince, almost sucked. Camera flash, dance steps, flesh. The dim star sniffed the air, fingered the padlock at his throat and said, “Yeah, alright. You’re on. I’m better than this fucker anyway.”
“No doubt about that.”
The purple one was preening on a screen that had been erected behind the tiny karaoke stage. A little white dot skipped happily along just beneath the words that passed over it, giving indication to turtleneck of when to sing. The turtlenecked man waited out the solo with a slippery grin.
“Amateur night, is it?”
They elbowed their way through the crowd. People gave odd looks and wide berth. They found a spot near the sound system and scrolled, shoulder to shoulder, through the songs listed.
“… Rubbish. Don’t know it. Don’t know it. Crap. Hippy shit. Rubbish …” Until, finally, Sid leaned in again and said, “Here we go. A bit of fucking Bowie! You do it. Come on, wanker!”
Adrian stepped onto the stage and wrapped the microphone cable tightly around his arm for some reason. He struts, with a swagger, the boards as the honky ham-piano jams. Mojito and mojo. Behind him, passing through time, nineteen hundred seventy one to now, Bowie, English teeth flashing, graveyard grinning, star-eyes eying the camera.
He glanced toward the dim star, already fading beneath stringed lights, lens, film burn and flare. Star slide, rum rush, warm flesh, screen glare: Slow ghosting.
Punk-barbed hair shadows brush Bowie.
He dipped toward the lip of the stage, gripped the mic in both hands and, mojo rising, sang
Wake up you sleepy head.
Put on some clothes,
shake off your bed…
He looked down into their faces. Found her. Wide eyed. The little white dot bobbed happily along beneath the words. She sang them.
Oh! You pretty things…
The dim star faded into the offing.