By: Lee Sheppard
Officer Kevin Shultz
It sounded like someone was firing a machine gun through the back window and the whole car was shaking. In the passenger seat, Willa ducked her head. Kiki calmly steered the car onto the gravel shoulder.
The Oblititrons were supposed to be in Montreal in three hours, but they were still west of Kingston. The back tire was a mess of shredded rubber and what looked to Kiki like bass strings.
You pulled onto the shoulder just past them. Through your driver’s-side mirror you watched for a break in traffic, then stepped out and around the front of your cruiser. You adjusted your uniform when you got a good look at Willa St. Thomas and Kiki Roberts.
Kiki worried they were breaking some law.
“You girls need any help?”
“No,” Kiki shouted over the storm of a passing 18-wheeler.
You held up your hands and stopped walking forward. “Got all the tools you need?”
“There’s a kit in here somewhere,” Kiki shouted. Willa tried to make eye contact with Kiki, but Kiki had locked onto you. “Thanks anyway.”
“Good luck,” you said and turned to walk back to your car. You didn’t mean for it to sound like that, so doubting, but you weren’t going to apologize.
When Kiki and Willa pulled up out front of Casa Del Popolo, you went outside to help them with their gear. Your band mate, Louis, was telling everyone that The Oblititrons had arrived, the show was back on.
“Are people leaving?” Kiki asked, lifting their sampler from the trunk.
“We weren’t sure you were coming.” You felt bad. You loved The Oblititrons and you wanted to share them with everyone.
“Check this out,” Willa said, motioning towards the trunk. “It fucking burst outside of Kingston.”
It took you a second to realize what you were looking at. “That was a tire?”
Willa looked up to make sure that Kiki had disappeared inside. “A cop stopped to help us, but Kiki told him it was all good, we could put the spare on ourselves. We didn’t even know if there was a spare.”
“You drove here on a spare?”
“We’re off to Halifax in the morning,” Willa said.
You were pretty sure that was a bad idea.
Willa picked up a small box of CDs.
You held your arms out and said, “Let me help.”
“This is it.”
“What about this?” You meant the tire. “You gotta put it on the stage or something.”
“Willa,” Kiki shouted from the door. “We’re on.”
Willa started nodding. To you, she said, “Kay. Grab the tire.”
The wires sticking out of it were sharp and one even tore a little hole in your shirt, but it was worth it for the way they sparkled under the stage lights.
After the show, you told Willa that she and Kiki could crash at your place if they wanted, but Willa said Kiki’s friend from high school, Jovana, had just moved into town and they were going to stay with her. “Well, you’d be welcome on your own,” you told Willa.
“We gotta leave super early,” Willa said.
“My brother works at a garage. You want me to call him? He might be able to get you a new tire.”
Willa looked at her watch. “We have to leave in literally five hours. Six at the most.”
Jealous of Jonathan Livingston
Kiki was asleep. Willa was listening to a mix that Lucy had burned her and just trying to keep her eyes open as she wound along the Trans-Canada beside some river running through New Brunswick. She’d slept until Edmundston, but still, shit, that was not enough rest. Whose idea was it to play Montreal on Friday, then Halifax on Saturday?
Maybe it was hers.
You were catching an updraft over the St. John River when down on the bridge you spotted that female from your colony squawking with that jackoff who was always trying to fly so much higher than anybody else, like he was so admirable and great, king of the fucking seagulls. You came in slow, looking to make your approach land in that sweet spot between effortless and memorable. You were nailing it, dude, absolutely perfect. No need to fly a mile high when you could just—
“Fuck,” Willa screamed.
—spread your wings wide and let the wind currents—
Kiki woke scared. “What happened, what happened?”
“I think I killed him,” Willa said.
Kiki looked back, expecting some child to be lying there. “Killed who?”
“A bird. A seagull I think.”
One of your feathers—white with a black tip, quite striking really—was stuck to one of the wipers.
“Jesus,” Kiki said. “I thought you’d hit a person.”
“No. Fuck no. Thank God.”
Kiki was admiring your strong shoulders and just the sheer amount of beautiful face that stretched from below your chestnut eyes when you looked up at her.
“It’s spelled like the Marquis de, but it’s pronounced like the singer. Shaw-day.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Kiki said. “That’s wicked.” She sipped her beer to keep from saying something even more vacuous.
“My mom gave me the name. She loved Sade.”
“What’s there not to love?” Kiki said.
“I gave myself the last name. Blade. Like a knife.”
“It’s sharp.” Kiki laughed.
“Better than the slaveholder’s one I had before.”
“What name was that?”
Willa walked up holding out the keys for Kiki. “Hey,” she said. “Sorry to interrupt.” As Willa told Kiki, “I just parked around the corner,” you moved a little closer to her.
“I’m Sade,” you said, holding out your hand. “Sade Blade?”
Willa nodded at you, “Hi,” then noticed that you were waiting for a shake. “Oh.” She pressed her hand to yours gently. “Sorry to leave you hanging. Sade, was it?”
“Sade Blade,” you said again.
“Sorry. We’ve been in the car all day.” Willa closed her eyelids, then opened them forcefully and looked up at the ceiling.
“We’re coming from Montreal,” Kiki said. “Have you ever been to Montreal?”
“Of course,” you said. “I had a show there.”
“You play music?” Kiki asked.
“I’m a two-D artist.”
“Cool,” Kiki said.
Willa was already moving away.
“Well, good to meet you,” you told Kiki.
“Yeah, yeah. Uh, maybe I’ll talk to you again?”
“Sure thing,” you said.
Kiki was driving and trying to eat a falafel sandwich she’d bought at that Lebanese place around the corner from the Khyber Club. You were riding shotgun so you could direct her. Kiki asked, “Do you know Sade?”
“Right,” you said. “That’s new. I went to primary school with Sade.”
“She seems pretty awesome.”
“She can be,” you said. “Turn right here.”
“Didn’t you like Sade?” Kiki asked Willa.
Willa was resting her head against the window. “What’s that?”
“That girl Sade—”
“It’s right here,” you said.
Kiki abruptly hit the breaks, then checked the rearview before making a slow, hard turn.
“Shaw-day blah-day.” Willa giggled.
“Go to sleep,” Kiki told her.
“You’ll take your next left,” you told Kiki.
Kiki nodded. “Got it.” You noticed a big drop of tahini on her pants. “That Sade girl was hot.”
The car was quiet. Kiki made the turn. “My house is just at the far end of this block. The driveway’s right . . . there.”
“Kay,” Kiki said.
“You— You’ve got, like, a blob of tahini on your pants.”
“Fuck,” Kiki said. “Where?”
“I could wash them,” you offered.
Willa carried The Oblititrons’ sampler into your house and lay down on your couch, the sampler on her chest. Kiki walked with you to the washing machine and took off her pants. “I’m going to grab a load of darks,” you said. “Want me to get you a pair of leggings or something?”
“Yeah, that’d be great.”
Your track pants with DALHOUSIE written across the back were the only things clean enough to offer a guest. “My brother bought me these,” you explained.
Kiki pulled them on. “They’re comfy. Thanks.”
Kiki walked back to the living room and saw the precarious position in which Willa was holding the sampler. She picked the device up and put it on the coffee table.
Willa just stared at the ceiling. “I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep.”
“Get off the couch, then,” Kiki said.
Willa sat on the floor while Kiki rolled out her sleeping bag.
You asked, “Can I get you guys anything?”
“I’m good,” Kiki said.
Willa just shook her head, No.
“I think I’m going to have some tea,” you said.
“Herbal?” Willa asked.
Kiki’s snores were the soundtrack to your lovely late-night chat. You talked about the zine you were compiling from entries in your grandfather’s journals, about the repetitive, simple beauty of his writing style, about how effectively his private, unselfconscious record-keeping tells stories and gives a sense of the heart of the man. Willa smiled at you like she was falling in love or falling asleep or both. She talked about her mother recording interviews with her grandmother on cassette, about how they start with her grandmother describing photos from familiar albums, talking about who’s who and where they are, but that gradually the stories that Willa said her grandmother, “carried around in her body,” started to surface.
She slept with you that night. Literally, not euphemistically. In the morning, you lay beside her, hoping she would wake and wondering if the two of you would make out or make love, but it got to the point that you couldn’t keep ignoring Kiki moving around, so you got out of bed.
Sally was late as always. You didn’t want brunch anyway, you just wanted contacts that could finally get you a show in Toronto. You’d eaten breakfast at home with the kids and you’d already had enough coffee, but you couldn’t just sit there on a Sunday morning taking up a table without keeping the waitress busy, so you had two Americanos before Sally walked in with Willa and Kiki. You knew right away that they were going to throw names of promoters at you, but that they were like, you didn’t know, feminist electro-punks or something, and that they didn’t know anything about the hard rock scene in Toronto and so the promoters they worked with would scoff and snicker and hand you off to some other idiot when you said who your band sounded like. Still, you wrote down the names and the numbers that Willa and Kiki kept in their band’s little black book.
You felt a bit embarrassed for Sally because she was obviously in love again and Willa was into her, sure, but there was no future there, no way, because who leaves Toronto for Halifax? Seriously. Kiki was pissed off the whole time. You couldn’t tell why. But so what if she rushed shit along, looking at her watch and being all like, “We gotta get to Sackville,” “How long’s it take to get to Sackville?” You wanted to get home anyway. These girls were making you feel old. Plus, you’d promised Matthew that you’d make that Lego X-Wing with him and you’d promised Bella that you’d take her to the park.
Willa had a hell of a handshake and Kiki made good, solid eye contact. Fine, nice to meet you, goodbye.
Where the fans were, you didn’t know. You’d been here last night and Struts Gallery was full. Everyone you talked to said they were eager to see The Oblititrons. Did you not put up the posters in time? Was the date wrong? Where was the opening act?
You told yourself, Be calm.
Then there was a car. “Hey! Hi!” You waved as it pulled into the parking lot. One of the wheels seemed smaller. Was it a spare?
“Are you Raj?”
“Hi. Yeah. Willa?”
“Nice to meet you, Kiki.”
You offered to help them with their stuff.
“We have almost nothing,” Willa said, “but thanks.”
You asked about merch. T-shirt. CD. “We actually just sold out,” Kiki said.
“That’s amazing,” you said.
“We only burned, like, a hundred CDs,” Kiki said.
“And we’ve never had shirts,” Willa said.
“Well,” Kiki corrected, “we’ve got the silkscreen stuff, and we’ve got shirts, we just haven’t printed them yet.”
Kiki and Willa were unfazed by the empty room. They wanted to know if they should set up now. Or soundcheck, maybe. You said, “Whatever you need.” You were trying to figure out the P.A. system when the opening act showed. They introduced themselves and you stood back, smiling as you watched everyone get ready. Max, the drummer from the opening band, he knew how to set everything up. What a relief. Standing there, grinning, you remembered the eerie way your mom did the same thing as you were doing now—standing off to the side, smiling—when there were guests over that she was trying to impress. Fuck that. You weren’t going to be like that. You went and talked to people.
Kiki was very nice. She asked about what you were studying at Mount Allison and how you liked Sackville. You surprised yourself, saying how great everything was. Was it great? Probably not. But your career as a promoter was launched. That was great.
The show was great, too.
Maybe you would have liked more than 20 paying guests to your first show, but whatever. You gave all the money, $100, to The Oblititrons—after checking with the opening band, of course. You knew the etiquette. That was the etiquette, right?
People had a good time, you thought. Kiki and Willa said they were heading straight home. You wished them luck and a safe trip.
“I just really liked that feather,” Kiki said.
“I’m the one who killed the bird,” Willa said.
“So that makes the feather yours?”
“I didn’t know you wanted it.”
“I guess if I had been all like, ‘Oh Willa, this is just the most lovely thing,’” Kiki said.
“You don’t sound anything like Sally.”
“How do you even know? Do you even know Sally enough to say?”
Both women jerked their heads towards you when your wheels rolled onto the loose gravel. Lover’s spat, you thought. Who cares if they’re lovers? It takes all kinds.
“Hi,” Willa said.
“Thanks for coming,” Kiki said.
You looked at the tire.
“Seriously, thanks so much. For coming out on a Sunday, I mean,” Willa said. “I honestly don’t know what we would have done if you hadn’t.”
Kiki stared out over the St. John River and summoned the strength to keep herself from telling Willa to shut the fuck up.
“Was this the spare?” you asked.
Willa told you about what had happened on their way from Toronto to Montreal, about how they’d driven to Halifax and had been heading home on this.
You towed the car to Henri’s shop. It was eighty dollars for the new tire. A new spare was another eighty.
“There goes our profit,” Willa said.
“Maybe we should quit,” Kiki said.
Willa shook her head. “What would you even do without this band?”
There was a pause long enough that you could ask, “You’re in a band?” without feeling rude.
“We are the band,” Kiki said.
“The Oblititrons,” Willa said.
“For now, anyway.”
You asked, “What kind of music do you play?”
Kiki said punk, Willa said electronic.
“Sounds interesting.” You smiled.
Willa looked at the shredded tire on the floor of Henri’s shop. “Should we keep it?” Willa asked you, “You’re just going to throw that out, right?”
“Maybe we should keep it,” Kiki said. “Where will we put it?”
“The practice space,” Willa said.
“Let’s hang it on the wall.”
“You think we could hang that on the wall?” Willa asked you.
“Sure. Get a big nail, make sure it’s into a stud. Why not?”
Together they carried the tire to the trunk, though you were sure that either woman could have lifted it on her own.
“Goodbye,” you said. “Have a safe trip.”
“Thanks,” Kiki said.
“See you again,” Willa said.
You doubted it, but you said, “Yep, see you again,” anyway.