PULP of the WEEK 

Dez May stood over the girl lying on the hotel room floor, wondering whether to call a taxicab or an ambulance. When he first saw her backstage the night before she'd looked twenty, but now, naked and unconscious, she seemed a hell of a lot younger. This being Boston, he hoped she was at least sixteen. Things would be a lot harder and more expensive if she wasn't. He couldn't count on Evan Tuile to have looked at an ID before bringing her back to the room and doing whatever it was he'd done. Shit, that Evan might have even wondered how old she was before dropping his leather pants was expecting too much. Evan had a teen chick hanging on his arm the moment Dez first met the guy, but what was a "Romeo and Juliet" offense when he was eighteen was something else now.

He glanced over at the bloated singer passed out on the bed. Evan lay face down, his head hanging off the edge of the mattress, stringy blond hair dangling into a thin puddle of whiskey-vomit staining the carpet. Passed out on his stomach; another lucky night. Evan was thirty-nine and as far as Dez was concerned, had been living on borrowed time for the last twelve of those years. Dez had been living on diminishing returns for at least twenty. Why couldn't you pull out like Kurt? Two platinum albums, then one in the brain, and you get to live on forever as a big fat tragic legend with T-shirt and tribute album royalties in perpetuity. Instead, Tuile turned into an overweight, middle-aged embarrassment on stage—the fifty percent of the time he made it to the show—riding the nostalgic-cum-ironic popularity of a song ripped off from The Doors. Morrison. There was another one with the decency to sail off before the sunset.

Picking up the girl's clothes, he thought back to the first time he'd met Evan. Dez had come up in the hardcore scene in the mid-eighties. He'd lived hard and lean, sleeping on floors and army surplus cots in plywood spare "rooms," working just enough to have money to spend on demo tapes and cover charges. Whatever was left he spent on Coca-Cola Slurpees and slices of pizza dried out under heat lamps. On good days, he varied his diet if he could make it to the 7-Eleven early enough to lay old newspapers flat in the trash bin to protect the stale donuts that got discarded when the guy stocked the case with fresh pastries. Near starvation and mosh pits made him lean and wiry, like a hungrier-looking Iggy Pop. After ten years of that, he was still working the door at the Whiskey instead of performing inside, however. Then, on a cool night while he sat on a sidewalk stool half-listening to some shit, preening pop-punk band inside pretending at angsty rage, Evan and his girl flashed a pair of fake ID's trying to get into the gig.

Back then, Evan had looked exactly like what he was: a well-fed ginger kid from Nebraska who'd packed up all the black clothes he could fit in a suitcase before hopping a bus to L.A. to become a superstar. But in his eyes there was an unplumbed depth of righteous anger roiling under the surface. Even though they were underage, Dez let Evan and the girl in after making the kid promise to come audition for his new band. Later on, he found out that the boy could really howl. Together, they'd worked up a band, a sound, and a message of real dissatisfaction and alienation. Something filled with energy and emotion and honesty. Not the shit that sold to mall kids back home in the Midwest but the real deal.

They toured local clubs and put out a demo CD that would have melted your dad's engine block if you played it in his Navigator. And then lightning struck. After two years of blowing up clubs, a shark in a human-skin suit offered The Transients a deal. The record company changed the band's name to Red Devil's Daughter, gave Evan a makeover so he looked like a greasier-than-normal carnie with a Coop hot rod pin-up tattoo they could feature on the album cover, and retooled the demo songs to market as sleaze rock instead of post-punk. Evan played along with the new dog-and-pony show, doing exactly what the label manager told him; fame was always his real goal. If there was anything good to say about him, then or now, it was that he was loyal. To a fault. When the label fired Dez to make room for a younger, prettier string-slinger, Evan hired him right back as the band's road manager. The label didn't give a shit as long as the band image appealed to the target demographic, and Dez was happy as long as he got the ASCAP writing credit on the albums guaranteeing his royalties.

He found the girl's purse under a pile of discarded spandex and leather that smelled like cigarettes and meth-sweat. A hypodermic needle fell out of a gauzy shirt and he breathed a deep sigh of relief that he hadn't been stuck. It was more of an occupational hazard for him than for a nurse on the ward. He popped open the groupie's clutch and found her wallet. The date of birth printed on her license made him almost laugh out loud. He tilted her ID this way and that under the light looking for signs it might be fake, but the picture-in-picture hologram winked at him, telling him it was the real deal. Fuck yeah! For once Evan got taken. There was nothing Dez liked to see better these days than a date of birth pre-dating 1996. The trash passed out on the floor was twenty-three and as long as she didn't die before the cabbie dropped her off at the Edinburgh Apartments in Waltham, everything was golden.

Hefting the girl over his shoulder, Dez carried her and her belongings into the adjoining room. Anyone else would say it looked like a bomb had gone off, but he knew it just looked like home. He dressed the girl ... woman, HA! ... stuffed a few hundred bucks for the abortion into her wallet along with her backstage laminate—souvenirs you can't buy at the merch table—and called the front desk for a cab. Fifteen minutes later he handed the chick off to a scowling Haitian hack who disappeared the extra hundred like he was Criss Angel doing street magic. Whatever. As long as he makes the girl vanish, he thought as he threw the deadbolt and slide lock on the door, shutting the rest of the world out.

He pulled the mini laptop out of his messenger bag and sat down to work on the book while he waited for Evan to wake up. Checking his watch, he figured he had a few hours to write before his baby-sitting duties began anew. Although he hadn't touched the manuscript much since the tour began, he didn't review his prior work. He didn't need to. Dez knew exactly where he left off: rationalizing saying no to managing the all-girl black metal outfit out of Montreal, who were about to break out with a crushing cover of some '90s pop tune, so he could babysit a has-been junkie with wrecked pipes on a reunion tour. The words on the screen begged to be deleted. He'd sold the book proposal as a memoir, but it was pure fiction and his editor hated it. She claimed it read like an AA inspirational tract lacking all the grit that moved rock-memoirs off the shelves. No one cares how you kicked your habit, Dez, she'd said. Readers want to see behind the curtain—know what it's really like to be a fucking rock star. Write what you know about sex, drugs, and all that stuff people dream about. Like she knew shit about real Rock and Roll.

Sitting in front of the computer, however, Dez realized she was right. Instead of writing honestly about being the ex-junkie coward who stuck with a sure thing because he felt too old and afraid to start something new, he portrayed himself as the elder brother who put family before business and really believed in the comeback album. He was a gambler who bet it all on 'Red Double-D,' certain he'd be cleaning up on this spin of the wheel. It could all be true too, if it weren't for the man in the other room and all the shit he was leaving out of the book. Prima donna stunts on stage and unreliability that meant no more gigs co-headlining arenas with the monsters of the industry. The band had been busted down step by step each time they came back to Boston. RDD went from playing The Garden to the Pavilion to the House of Blues to wherever the fuck the gig was last night—some hole in the wall with more people in the neighborhood for the ball game than a rock concert. It was the same story in every city they played.

He stared at the screen unsure how to end the tale which seemed to be spiraling down the drain forever. A meandering swirl into mediocrity and an eventual fifteen second mention on a VH1 special after the last encore. Retching sounds from the bedroom snapped him out of his reverie. He looked at his watch. Eleven fifteen. It was a miracle. Evan Tuile was up before the crack of three. "Fuck, dude!" Evan called through the hollow door. "The fuck?"

Dez put the computer away and walked into the room where his "little brother" crouched on his hands and knees on the bed, sagging stomach convulsing with each fresh heave. "How doin' Ev?" he said louder than necessary. "How was your night?"

"Fuuuck you!" The rock star gagged again and then pawed and pulled at his limp dick. "Where's the chick?"

"I sent her home, Ev. It's time for everybody to go home. Tour's over."

"I ain't done."

"We're all done, man. Done and done. If we was a turkey, the plug woulda popped by now."

The singer fumbled in his sheets looking for something. When he came up with a tiny tied off yellow balloon, he grinned and wiped a long string of saliva hanging off his lip. Dez walked over to the bed and snatched the dope out of Evan's hand. The singer looked at him with contempt and confusion behind his flat eyes before they went wet and he fell over on the mattress, slipping back into the hole of a pounding hangover and his pitiful jones. "I need a bump, man."

"Tour's over. Let's go home. Get off the hard candy for a while and let's write some good music. Do the album you been promising for the last five years. I'll help you. Then we can get back on the bus and support some new shit for a change."

Evan rolled over onto his back and stared up at the ceiling, whining. "Just a bump. Something to get up to baseline, man."

Dez knew there'd never be a new album. He'd heard the garbage that Evan had been writing on the road. Same old riffs. Same old melodies. It was the third album repackaged for the fifth time. Evan Tuile was in a rut and the cash cow was just about all out of milk. Looking at his prodigy, he bounced the tiny package in the palm of his hand. All the promise, all the talent, all the excitement was blown; it was swollen and old and graying. Rock and roll was a young man's game and neither of them was young any more. He tossed the balloon at Evan and said, "Let me get your works."

"You're a real brother."

"That's me." In the closet he found a wide leather belt with a double prong buckle but no studs or other adornments that'd keep it from cinching up nice. He paused and gave a couple of hard tugs to the rod in the closet before returning to the bed. He helped Even run through his cook ritual with the blackened spoon and needle off the nightstand...like when he'd first shown the kid how to shoot up. When the dope was bubbling, he mixed it up with the needle tip and sucked the hot brown fluid up into the hypo. He watched as tiny little filaments from the cotton ball sucked up into the hypo along with the brown mixture. He figured there was probably enough cotton in the singer's veins to make a custom tour shirt. Evan held out his arm.

"Like old times, bro," Dez said, slipping the looped belt up his best friend's arm and cinching it tight. Evan pulled the loose end and held it in his teeth. Dez lightly held his friend's wrist and injected half a fix into a nearly flattened vein. He gave him enough dope to feel it, but not so much that he went down.

"Savin' zum for yerzelf?" Evan slurred, dropping the belt from his teeth and leaning back against the headboard.

"I'm saving myself." Dez slipped the belt off of Evan's arm and took it back to the closet. Holding the hypo in his mouth, he tied the end of the belt in a knot around the rod, tugging a couple of times to test it. It held. The looped buckle end dangled down like a lazy noose.

Evan squinted as if it was hard for him to see ten feet away and asked, "Whatshu doin', MacGuyver?" He didn't resist when Dez pulled him off the bed and dragged him to the closet. He just whined about not being ready to get dressed. "Can't we stay a coupla more days? Order up some room service and Irish pussy?" Dez hefted him up with a practiced arm, used to lifting the man into vans, busses and bunks. With his other hand he looped the belt over Evan's head, dropping it under his chin before slowly letting him down. The singer's eyes went wide as the belt cinched. He tried to stand, but with the junk in his blood and Dez's heavy arm over his shoulder, he couldn't straighten his legs. He tried to speak; all that came out was a strangled croak.

"Shh. It'll be okay, dude." Dez grabbed Evan's cock and began to stroke it. He worried for a minute that the combination of hangover and horse was going to keep it from getting hard but, even in his state, he lived up to his backstage reputation—nothing kept Evan Tuile down. He jerked his best friend off, not for the first time, trying to think of the time that porn star dared them to get started first before she'd jump in the mix or when they'd driven the No-Homo rapper off the festival tour by glad-handing off stage during his set, making him miss his cues. When it had been a joke. Back when no one got hurt.

Evan came with a strangled groan—his last song. Dez skipped out of the way trying not to get any on his boots. He let go and grabbed the hypo out of his teeth. The bleach smell of a glob of semen on his hand caught him by surprise and he had to take a moment to hold his gorge down before finishing. He slipped the needle into Evan's vein and shot up the second half of his fix. Evan slumped in the noose, his head twisting to the side as the weight of his limp body pulled the belt tighter. His face went purple and his tongue stuck out, fat and swelling. Dez wiped the spunk from his hand onto Evan's palm before going to the bathroom to wash up. He dried his hands on his jeans and returned to the bedroom. Staring at Evan's body, he felt a long needle of sadness slide into his heart. He wiped the tears out of his eyes with the bottom of his Plasmatics shirt. Save that emotional shit for later. When they're asking questions.

"Tour's over, brother. Time to go home."

Pulling the door closed behind him, he walked back into the suite, sat down on the sofa and woke up his computer. He'd check on Evan around two or three when everyone expected the singer to be shaking it off. Until then, Dez got to work, writing the next chapter in his life.

Copyright © 2014 Bracken MacLeod.

and as a criminal and civil trial attorney. While he tries to avoid using the law education, he occasionally finds uses for the martial arts and philosophy training. His stories have appeared in several magazines and anthologies including Sex and Murder Magazine, Shotgun Honey, Every Day Fiction, LampLight Magazine, The Big AdiosFemme Fatale: Erotic Tales of Dangerous Women, and Reloaded: Both Barrels Vol. 2. His novel, MOUNTAIN HOME, is available from Books of the Dead Press. He lives in New England‚Äč

About the Author

Bracken MacLeod has worked as a martial arts teacher, a university philosophy instructor, for a children's non-profit,

Bracken MacLeod 

Final Encore