Just Write: Week 7, 10th March – part 1

Another snappy title… but I haven’t thought of anything pithy to replace it yet. Next term, next term. It’s hardly as if this site is optimised for search anyway…

Have divided week 7 of the writing class into two as there was a fair amount of writing. Part one then covers the homework from last time; writing trigger was simply “No”, he said. Again we were supposed to write early in the week and edit later. Again there was a reasonable amount of the former and relatively little of the latter. I did, however, find that what I’d written fitted together with something else that I had from a few months ago and both pieces spend some more time with Emily, whom we met a couple of posts ago. She’s in there somewhere although I’m still not sure she’s coming out quite the way she is in my head. Anyway, feedback and comments very welcome as this may – may – be part of a bigger piece eventually. Here ’tis:

“No”, he said. He always said no and she’d almost given up asking.

“Come on Wil, why can’t we just try it ? It’s only one song.”

“We don’t play country music Em. I don’t know how many times we have to go through this. It’s not what we’re about.”

“It’s not country Wil” she half heartedly protested. “I’d say it’s more Americana.”

“Americana ?” he sneered back. “That’s what you have at Starbucks isn’t it ?”. He grinned smugly at his own joke and, not for the first time in recent months, Emily wanted to slap him.

“So what are we about then ?” she said instead, pretending to ignore his ridiculous pun.

The smile vanished from Wil’s face immediately; there was nothing he took more seriously than the band. Emily couldn’t decide if he was more annoying when he was trying to be funny or when he was deadly serious.

“Suburban alienation” he declared solemnly.

Emily strongly suspected that the most suburban alienation he’d ever experienced had been when the guy in Tesco Express had taken one look at his fake ID and refused to sell him a bottle of Strongbow but she played along.

“Alienation ?”

“Yeah, alienation. In the suburbs.”

“The suburban bit is important ?” she enquired, tilting her head, bemused. He mistook it for a doe eyed expression of puzzlement and genuine interest.

“Oh god yeah. It’s like everyone in this town is sleeping, not really alive. I don’t belong here Em, I belong in the city but I’m trapped. That’s why I had to start the band, to try to wake everyone up from their sad and cosy lives.”

In ten minutes he would actually belong in double chemistry but Emily resisted the temptation to remind him.

“I’m not destined for Leighton Buzzard” he finished, moodily staring into the middle distance.

“That’s what I’m talking about.” Emily decided to try one last time. “Let’s do a Whiskeytown song. It’s about escape. They’re all about escape those songs…”

“Did The Clash sing country ?” he asked

“I guess not” she sighed. “But they did embrace a lot of styles…”

“We’re not doing it Em. MK Ultra will never be some hillbilly country hick band”.

…… 

“Play something !”

The shout came from someone at the bar, a regular maybe. The crowd were impatient now, sensing that the band perhaps weren’t about to usher in “a rock and roll liberation from comfortable suburban mediocrity” as the posters outside the pub proclaimed. Emily looked out at the audience and wasn’t convinced that they wanted liberating anyway; there were only five people there and she had a sense that the only mediocrity on offer was currently being served up by the band.

“Play something !” hissed a voice to her left. It was Wil, singer and guitarist in MK Ultra. The name had been his idea (“MK Ultra, like the FBI mind control experiments, like extreme Milton Keynes”) but he’d even got that wrong, she thought, it was the CIA not the FBI. The posters had been his idea too – emblazoned with “wake up Milton Keynes” across the top above a picture of Che Guevera, that suburban mediocrity quote running across the bottom. Emily remembered him picking them up from a local printers (“they need to look professional”) and then helping him add the band’s name by hand; he’d forgotten to include it.

Wil was crouched on his haunches trying to untangle a broken string from his guitar. They’d been half way through a cover of the Manics’ “If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next” which Wil had sarcastically dedicated to the educational establishment of the Greater Bucks area, before his top E string had snapped, bringing the song lurching to a halt.

“We can’t play anything” Emily hissed back. “What are we going to do with just bass and drums ?” She was the band’s reluctant bassist as Wil had insisted that she couldn’t play guitar and she had gone along with it, content to stay out of the spotlight. The five members of the audience had turned their attention back to the bar, a couple of them talking amongst themselves. One of them finished up his pint and began to pull on a coat.

“Come on Em, do something” muttered Wil, briefly looking up from his unsuccessful attempts to re-string. He looked desperate. Playing in Milton Keynes had been a big deal for him. Besides none of the pubs in Leighton Buzzard would let them play anymore.

“I only know country songs, remember ?”

Wil frowned but recognised that the tangle of guitar string that had now managed to wrap itself around his wrist was going to take a while to sort out.

“About escape, yeah ?”

“Yes”, she said, her heart suddenly accelerating. He gestured with his head towards his acoustic guitar propped up beside his amp.

“Just don’t introduce it, okay ?” he said. Then added, “or, if you do, then say it’s Americana.”

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