Where were you when Holiday Rhodes died? When did you hear, who told you, how’d you find out? You remember, everyone in the neighborhood remembers, can pinpoint their location. It was an event, the man’s death, and events are not facts: facts slide into you, but events slice parts off. Events leave scars; they contextualize themselves. It’s hormonal, or at least that’s what the scientists tell us. Certain pieces of information rise to the level of trauma; this triggers the adrenal gland, which dumps rowdy juice down our spines and focuses up our eyeballs real tight. Generally, it is personal–Mom’s dead; husband’s cheating–but the human brain is jerry-rigged and dependent on legacy software, and often has trouble distinguishing between dreams and memories, so once in a while a complete stranger will die and you will sit on the edge of your bed, drunk, and listening to records in tears. Where were you when Holiday Rhodes died?
The Snug, man–The motherfuggin’ Snug–they were Little Aleppo’s own.
They would rock your dick off, brother.
Holiday Rhodes met Johnny Mister before either of them were called that. Jimmy Maudit and John Antilopo. They were assigned to share a dorm room as freshmen at Harper College. (Both would later claim to be high school dropouts.) John played a mean guitar, and Jimmy read too much poetry. They played records for each other until dawn: Jimmy loved the Beatles, and John loved the Stones. They got into arguments about Dylan that required trips to the library. They talked about their band, which did not exist, but still had a logo and a name.
“The motherfuggin’ Snug,” Jimmy said, and handed John the joint. They were sitting on the floor of their dorm room, using their beds as backrests.
“What does it mean?”
“It’s about how existence is shrink-wrapped.”
“Fuck you,” John said.
“You know that chick Stacy?”
“Short one with the tits?”
Jimmy dragged on the joint and blew it out PHWOO and smiled and said,
“You wouldn’t believe the shit she was talking. I was blushing while I fucked.”
“Complex series of emotions.”
“So, I’m on top of her and she starts bellowing. ‘Fuck that snug pussy! Fuck that snug pussy!'”
John took the joint back. It was canoeing, so he licked his index finger and rubbed the spit on the paper that was burning too fast. Hit it, PHWOO, cocked his head. He was growing his thick brown hair out, and it bobbled in a cumulonimbus shape around his skull.
“That’s a fucked up way to phrase that.”
“Yeah, right? But I can’t get it out of my head, man.”
John laughed, a huge and uncomplicated laugh, a teenage laugh, a sitting-on-the-floor laugh.
“The Snug, man. That’s the name, The Snug.”
“You wanna name the band after some chick’s pussy?”
“What are we gonna say when people ask what it means?”
“I’ll make up some bullshit.”
Jimmy Maudit still had ten pounds of baby fat, and it pooled in his cheeks, but he had eyes the color of the ocean in an ad for a beach resort. He was growing his hair, too. It was tawny blond, and Jimmy thought he looked like a lion. Girls thought so, too. John offered the joint, but snatched it back when Jimmy tried to take it. Hit it again, PHWOO, and said,
“The motherfuggin’ Snug.”
John took one last drag PHWOO and handed the joint to Jimmy and handed the joint to Jimmy and said,
“The Snug. Yeah, that’s funny.”
And upon such a rock is the Church of the Origin Story built.
What was your favorite record? The purists insist the first one–The Snug Is Coming At You!–was the primal Snug sound, and everything went to shit once the original drummer, Rut Morgan, left the band on account of losing all of his limbs in an incredibly high-stakes poker game. An elaborate mythology has built itself around The Snug II, which was the first record Jay Biscayne drummed on: it is a concept piece about a groupie with magical genitals named Alabama Ambulance.
Won’t you give me one more chance?
Pumpkins rot, St. Vitus dance;
I heard about you from the plants.
The precise story of The Snug II is argued about to this day, but the concept could never be denied. The Fire’s Light was the one with all the guests and covers (the band was not speaking to one another during the making of The Fire’s Light), and Crowded Nights was the one with all the disco songs on it, and Live Snuggery was the middling, contractually-obligated live album; 90% of it was re-recorded in the studio. Big White Yes was the cocaine album. Morning Lights was the rehab album. They all sounded the same: that Little Aleppo whistlestomp, thick and chattering and busy. Heavy guitars, man.
Which was your favorite story? Can’t be legendary without having legends told on you, and Holiday Rhodes was legendary. They say he fucked so many chicks that he got bored and turned gay, and then he fucked so many dudes that he got bored with that and turned back straight. They say he owns more fanciful trousers than you can imagine, even if you are particularly imaginative. They say he once fisted a mule to win a bet with David Coverdale. They say he killed that girl. They say he’s secretly illiterate. They say he’s a poet. They say he’s a junkie. They say he worships Satan. They say he worships Christ. They say a lot of things about Holiday Rhodes; he denied all of them, but he winked as he did. Keep ’em guessing. Little mystery is good for sales.
Two women were in bed. They were nude.
“He was beautiful.”
“His eyes,” Big-Dicked Sheila said.
“And his ass,” Augusta O. Incandescente-Ponui, whom everyone called Gussy, answered.
Judge Of Instinct was playing, the second side (the good side), and Sheila’s head was on Gussy’s chest. She listened to The Snug with her left ear and Gussy’s heart with her right. The speakers were chopped-out, half-sanded, hand-nailed, and there was Johnny Mister on guitar, round and crackling and full, on one side and Dave Ronn, who played bass, on the other. Jay Biscayne thrumpled and whamped.
And Holiday Rhodes, Holiday motherfuggin’ Rhodes, singing over all of it. He had a low and threatening baritone, and a sharkskin shriek, and a strangulated yelp in the middle register which he combined with a hiccup that always got the girls screaming. Johnny sang the high harmonies when the chorus came around, and there was always a chorus coming around when The Snug were playing.
It was late in the morning and Sheila and Gussy were in bed.
“Saw them seventeen times.”
“Only three,” Sheila said.
“You didn’t grow up here. The Christmas shows were something.”
Sheila rolled into her.
“One year, I think I was a Junior in high school, they flew in over the crowd in Santa’s sleigh. Real reindeer.”
“Deer. I don’t know about reindeer, but they were deer. They strapped nine of them into a harness thing and they were 20 feet above us. Didn’t go well.”
“Deer didn’t like it?”
“Half of them had heart attacks from the panic. And, you know, the shit.”
“The shit.,” Sheila said.
“Yeah. Everybody’s got deer shit all over them, there’s fresh animal carcasses hanging over our heads.”
“That’s pretty metal, actually.”
“In theory. It’s better as a story,” Gussy said, and she shoved her fingers into Sheila’s short red hair and pulled her head back and kissed her. When the kiss was finished, Sheila laughed and said,
The arrests. For indecent exposure in Omaha. (He beat the rap. His lawyer argued community standards: the crowd had cheered when he pulled his dick out, so clearly the exposure was not indecent.) Cocaine possession in Boise. Breaking and entering in Miami. He hit a couple people a couple times. The wire fraud charges from his psychic call-in line. Never paying his taxes. That girl. The time he took a shit in First Class on a 727. Trying to enter Japan with four pounds of pot, then titty-fucking the prime minister’s wife while he was on bail.
He got away with it. Holiday Rhodes got away with all of it. He was a Rock Star, and that meant immunity from law, or judgment, or moral gradation. He could yowl, dammit, and he looked so good without a shirt. And his hair was…well, you know how his hair was. Everyone can’t get away with doing whatever the fuck they want: this is called chaos. For a society to remain stable, the great majority of people need to do what they’re told. To follow the rules. Stick to the plan, Stan. But, in all of our eager hearts, there lies a tyrant and a teenager, a pulsating FUCK YOU that can’t be loosed, no, not if society is to remain stable, and so we nominate a caste that the law shall not apply to, a people beyond punishment, and we live through them. Among this caste are Rock Stars. We do not let them get away with it, we demand they get away with it. For all our sake.
All he saw in the mirror was Jimmy Maudit, aging Jimmy Maudit, with shaving bumps where his jaw met his neck and a chicken pox scar at the end of his eyebrow. He moved his head so the light did not shine directly down on him, and his hair looked thicker. There was a girl on the bed. There was always a girl on the bed. Clothes all over the floor. A boot standing upright, flopped onto itself. Various glasses of varying content. A beat-up paperback copy of Minor Acts & Their Amplifications on the dresser. Crow’s feet and his chin was loose. He never had a hero’s chin, but now it was loose. Holiday Rhodes lit a cigarette and thought about growing a beard and then he collapsed, dead before he hit the floor.
Holiday Rhodes didn’t feel a thing; he got away with it one last time.
The girl on the bed sat up and was very quiet for a long moment. She did not hear him breathing. The girl got up, put her clothes on, left the hotel via the fire exit. Three days later, guests began to complain about the smell.
“I was still working in the bookstore. Guy came in and told us. Never forget him. Redhead in a suit. Tie was really crooked, like halfway around his neck. Never forget that.”
“Frankie Nickels announced it,” Sheila said.
“I got up late. Went straight to work.”
“I was getting a blowjob.”
“Of course you were.”
“This guy I was seeing. Al. Dan. Maybe Al. Something like that. But, yeah, I woke up and he’s blowing me. Remember those old clock radios with the numbers that flipped over? He had one of those and I guess he had set the alarm. Radio just comes on. Frankie broke the news.”
She lit a joint PHWOO and she and Gussy lay there in silence. They were pressed against each other under the thick blue blanket and Sheila was stroking Gussy’s neck very softly, and a band led by a dead man was playing on the stereo just a little bit too loud. The women knew the songs by heart; they sang along together, lapsing into accidental harmonies. Everyone knows where they were when Holiday Rhodes died in Little Aleppo, which is a neighborhood in America.