The air in CBGBs was filled with smoke and sweat and alcohol, and Penny could feel the thrum of the bass guitar in her ribcage. Jacko, the lead singer, screamed into the microphone, the mic's head halfway into his mouth. Next to him, Davey, the lead guitarist, pounded away on the strings--one of which broke at some point during the song, but he kept playing. Donnie was hitting the drums so hard Penny thought his arms would fall off. He was using two bass drums, too, the beat slamming into Penny's toes.
But Penny's eyes were on the source of the vibrations of her ribs: Ricky, the bass player. He had curly blond hair that he cut real close--not all wild like most boys did. That was why Penny loved seeing punk bands like Apple Corpse. They didnít do what other bands did.
She turned to look at her roommate, Phyllis, who was pressed up against the bar next to her. They weren't as close to the stage as Penny would have liked, and they could only see bits and pieces of most of the band members through the crowd in front of them.
But from this angle, they could see Ricky perfectly, which was all Penny cared about.
Penny leaned into Phyllis's ear and shouted, "Aren't they great?"
Phyllis just shrugged.
Rolling her eyes and sipping her rum-and-Coke, Penny stared back at Ricky. His zebra-patterned T-shirt was all nice and tight, and he looked so hip in his leather pants. Somebody squeezed in toward the bar next to her and tried to get the bartender's attention, but she didn't pay him any mind.
When the song came to an end, everyone screamed and applauded, Penny as loud as anyone.
Jacko screamed into his mic, his distorted voice barely understandable over the PA system. "Thank you CBGBs!" The cheers got louder. "That was 'Kiss My Teeth.' I wrote that one on the toilet."
"Yeah, we can bloody tell," said a voice to Penny's left with a British accent. It was the guy who squeezed past her. Her knees getting weak just at the sound of that accent, she turned to take a good look at him--
--and instantly fell in love. Not only did he have the accent, but he had blond hair that was even hipper than Ricky's, and he was wearing all black--ripped T-shirt, blue jeans, and leather-and-studs.
All thoughts of Ricky fleeing from her brain, Penny asked, "You don't like it?"
"It's bollocks. Give me Sid Vicious any day."
Jacko screamed. "We got one more song to do! It's called 'Bollocks.'"
The blond man winced as he lit a cigarette, striking a match on the bar, which Penny thought was just so cool. "Americans should never use the word 'bollocks.' Ever. Should be a bloody rule, it should."
"You have a really groovy accent."
Penny looked to her right to see that Phyllis was staring at the blond man also. In fact, Penny thought she saw drool coming out of her roommate's mouth.
Whatever other conversation might have followed was drowned out by Donnie slamming on the drums to open up "Bollocks."
Phyllis squeezed past some dude and moved so she was standing between Penny and the stage, which also put her closer to the British guy. She shouted, "What brings you here?"
The blond guy--whose cheekbones were just out of sight--leaned in close, giving Penny a great look at his eyes. He had a scar on his left eyebrow, and Penny wondered how he got it. Probably in a bar fight, she thought, shivers going up and down her body.
He said, "Heard this was the joint where the Ramones and the Dead Boys and the like got their start. Wanted to see what all the fuss was about."
At that point, the bartender came over, and the British guy was ordering a drink. Penny tried to give Phyllis her sternest I-saw-him-first look, but Phyllis only had eyes for the Brit.
"Bollocks" ended, and the place erupted. Jacko screamed, "Thank you New York!"
Hilly Krystal, the owner of the club, jumped onto the stage. A purple bandana, sunglasses, and his thick red beard combined to almost completely obscure his face. He wore a black jacket with gold butterflies sewn on the lapels, unzipped to reveal a black t-shirt that said THE GUIDING LIGHT, and bright red pants. "All right you rock-and-roll animals!" he screamed into the mic. "Open your hind legs and clap your paws for Apple Corpse! Keep your tails in their cages, 'cause next up are the incredible Cryers!"
"That's a sad name," the blond guy said after taking a drag on his cigarette. Then the bartender handed him a pint of beer. "Apple Corpse, I mean. The Cryers ain't bad. Honest, and all that."
"But--" Penny hesitated. She wanted to defend Ricky, though she also found that she wasn't caring as much about Ricky right now.
Phyllis jumped in. "It's a pun. Apple Corpse instead of apple core."
"Yeah, I get that--it's pants. Tryin' to sound macabre, but they just end up lookin' like poofters."
Frowning, Penny asked, "What's a poofter? I mean, I can tell it's bad from the way you said it, but--"
"I believe you Yanks use the word 'faggot'--but that's what I call this thing." He held up his cigarette. "I gotta say, since I met you two, my night has looked up."
Penny felt her heart melt. "Really?"
"You have really got it goin' on," Phyllis added.
"I'm called Spike."
"Spike," Penny whispered. It was a great name, one that sounded like violence and passion and all those things that Ricky didn't have. God, what was I thinking, falling for a bass player? This Spike dude is much hipper. "I'm Penny." Phyllis elbowed her in the ribs, and she added, "And, uh, this is my roommate Phyllis."
"Penny and Phyllis?"
The roommates exchanged glances and shy smiles. They always got this. In perfect unison, they said, "Two P's in a pod!"
"Bloody charming." Spike took a sip of his beer. "Guh. I keep forgettin' the rules of world travel--never eat the meat in China, never drink the water in Mexico, and never drink the beer in the States." He put the pint down and moved it away. "I thought I'd get to see the bloody Ramones at least. S'why I came to this dump."
Penny brightened up. "Oh, they'll be playing on Friday. They're headlining a whole punk weekend."
Phyllis added, "We're planning on coming--maybe we'll see you then."
Spike just took a drag on his cigarette. "Excellent. See, the Ramones, they're a band, not like these tossers. Just a buncha words thrown together pretending to be meaningful. It's not poetry, not like what the Sex Pistols or the Ramones do--or even the Dead Boys."
Her eyes going wide, Phyllis said, "You've seen the Sex Pistols?"
Grinning, Spike said, "I have. Plenty'a times."
"Wow. I wish I could see them."
"Well, maybe someday you will, pet."
Why can't he call me "pet"? Penny tried not to sulk.
Finishing off his cigarette, Spike said, "I don't know about you two, but I could use some air."
Before Penny could answer, she felt a finger tap on her shoulder. She turned to see Ricky standing there. "Hey there, foxy lady. How come you didn't come up to the stage?"
"Oh, uh, well, uh--" Penny didn't know what to say. She was supposed to go back to Brooklyn with Ricky and the rest of the band to that Irish pub they all liked, and then maybe back to his place, but ever since seeing Spike, she realized how shallow and meaningless her relationship with Ricky was. It was an excuse for some really really good sex, but it didn't have any substance to it. Spike, she could tell, was a real man.
As if to prove Penny's thoughts correct, Spike stepped forward, putting himself between Penny and Ricky. "The birds're with me, mate."
"'Birds'? What're you, some kinda British fag?"
"No. This," Spike flicked the cigarette into Ricky's face, "is a British fag. And I suggest you back off--now."
Then Spike leaned in. "I said now."
"Yeah, okay," Ricky muttered, and then went back toward the stage.
Penny stared at Spike with loving eyes. Next to her, Phyllis did the same. "Wow, that was so out there," she murmured.
"Weren't we gonna get some air?" Spike asked.
"You wanna come back to our pad?" Phyllis asked. "It's not that far--just a quick cab ride."
Spike nodded. "I'm feelin' a bit peckish, actually."
Quickly, Penny said, "There's an all-night Chinese place around the corner." She had been hoping to get Spike to a bar or something first, so she could find a way to ditch Phyllis. Maybe she could pull it off at Chung Wah's.
"And they deliver, too," Phyllis said. "We can order in."
"Sounds good to me, pet," Spike said, putting one arm around Phyllis, and another around Penny. It didn't last, as the club was too crowded for them to make it through three abreast, but they stayed close as they moved to the exit.
Dammit, dammit, dammit. Penny could not catch a break tonight. She finally met the man of her dreams, and Phyllis has to horn in on it. And she's the one who gets called "pet." Twice!
Jacko was waiting for them when they stepped out onto the sidewalk. The white awning with the CBGB/OMFUG logo and the club's street address hung over them. "Where you takin' them?"
"Not that it's any'a your business, mate, but they've invited me to their flat for a nightcap. Unless you're givin' me a better offer?" Spike stood nose to nose with Jacko.
After a second, Jacko looked away.
God, I can't believe that. He just backed off. If anything, it made Penny feel better about dumping Ricky.
Spike walked past Jacko, being sure to knock into his side as he passed, and raised his arm. A checker cab was coming up the Bowery and veered toward the curb to get them. Like a true gentleman, Spike held the door for Penny and Phyllis. Penny got in first and told the cabbie their address.
Then Spike turned to look at Jacko. "By the way, mate--your songs're poxy. You ain't fit to spit on Joey Ramone's shoes."
It wasn't until Spike got in and closed the door that Jacko responded. "Joey Ramone ain't nothin', you hear me? Nothin'! Ramones're a flash in the pan, man! You'll see!"
Penny smiled across the rear of the cab at Spike, who was sitting in the rumble seat. "That was wonderful."
"You really showed him," Phyllis added. "Uh, you do like Chinese food, right?"
"Chinese ain't bad--best meal of my life was in China, matter of fact." Spike lit a fresh cigarette. "But I was hoping for something more local tonight."
Spike was partial to all black these days. Colors made him ill.
Still and all, the evening wasn't a total loss. He didn't see the Ramones, but at least they'd be around come Friday. Spike figured his business in the Big Apple would take at least that long.
And I got a nice meal out of it. Two birds in their prime--home delivery, no less. He looked down at the orange-carpeted floor, which now had some red mixed in with it seeping out from the two corpses piled unceremoniously in the center of the living room--not a lot, of course, as Spike had taken most of the blood from the "two P's in a pod" for himself.
I almost bit them right then and there in CB's after they talked in unison like that. But it was so much more fun to take the girls away from their men, especially given that the men in question were such ponces. Apple bloody Corpse indeed. Oughtta track them down and kill 'em just on general principles. Not even drain their blood--wouldn't want any chance of their stupidity infecting me. Just snap their necks. Or maybe rip their guts out.
It had been fun to watch the look on Penny's face when Spike vamped out and drained Phyllis. Or was it Penny he drained first? He couldn't remember which P was which--and, upon reflection, didn't really give a toss.
He lit a cigarette, dropping the match onto the fake-wood coffee table. Now that he was satiated, and had some fun in the process, it was time to get to work.
I've got me a Slayer to kill.
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