Gypsy/You Call That Music?, Version I

Gypsy/You Call That Music?, Version I

A Story by Rachel Knight
"

A story I've been working on for awhile featuring a character I've been working on for longer. This is one of the first drafts I made of this piece.

"

In backwoods Vermont farmland, a trailer-sized home stands in defiance. The tired white paint is tinged with yellow and clay-red around the corners and windowsills. A foot of insulation is exposed on the side, pink like burn scars and thick like muscle. Though grass around the property is scarce, weeds grow as they please, overshadowing the two concrete steps that precede the screen door. Inside the decrepit building are the only creatures for miles: four young women on an organized killing spree.

Sue pulled into the driveway just moments ago; the dirt road is still billowing up in breaths around the wheels of her car. She steps through the door, with brown paper bags gripped in both hands.

“I’m here.” No answer; Sandy and Mary would be asleep. Early morning naps never claimed Gypsy, though. Sue leaves the bags on the counter for whoever might want to claim them, and walks with haste to the bathroom door.

Sue looks at Gypsy through a crack in the bathroom door, deliberating over whether or not bothering her is worth the attention. The girl sits on the porcelain vanity, staring into the mirror. Some schizophrenics lose track of their personalities; Gypsy, she never wanted to acknowledge them in the first place. She doesn’t keep separate names for her separate identities, but merely shifts shape in front of the mirror.

She is straddling the vanity lazily, one foot in each sink. Gypsy whispers to her reflection, softly, as if comforting a child. Single-word murmurs and sissified whines make up her speech. (Is it perverse to be impressed by such an utter lack of normality? In the house, Sue is not alone in her vague reverence. Any contempt towards Gypsy is a veiled attempt at imitation; the respect she receives is similar to masochistic flogging—or better yet, Sue thinks, clinging to a friend who you know hates you, and who, deep down, you hate too.) Sue opens the door gingerly and steps in.
Now Gypsy leans back with one elbow on the sink, her head cocked just a little at her intruder. When she puts on this air of absolute aloofness, it doesn’t matter that she is in gray, ill-fitting underwear, with bony limbs and skin that peels off in patches. She looks cool, intimidating. Gypsy, a careless chain smoker, pulls a pungent stick of tobacco out from between her lips. Sue waits in reverence while the other girl snuffs the cigarette butt on her pockmarked forearm. After one last glance in the mirror, Gypsy speaks. Her voice now deeper, raspy, she says:

“Clean yourself up in some other sink, b***h, does it look like I don’t have enough blood on the tiles?”

Sue’s perpetual scowl twists, and she slouches her shoulders in an accidental display of inferiority. She runs the sink for a few seconds until the water turns clear.

“There’s no other sink to use; Sandy crashed in the tub near the other faucet. I didn’t want to wake her… you know she’s a real pain when she’s hung over.” Sue, of course, did not actually know where Sandy was sleeping. She brings her hands—still dusty, she noticed—to her blonde hair, and fluffs her lazy curls. Testing Gypsy’s patience, she deems it necessary to rifle the bathroom drawers for shampoo. “Anyway, hello. I’ve been out to see Lenny, if you care, and he had a new job for us. It was close by, so I offed the guy on the way home… some KKK son of a b***h no one’ll search for too hard. Fat b*****d died easy, but he bled like hell, as you can see. I also picked up booze, it’s on the counter if you want some.”

Gypsy had gone back to the mirror, wholly uninterested in a routine murder. Her glass-stroking and heavy breathing was now far too sexual for comfort. Sue forsook the most stubborn of the blood stains and made a quick escape to the den. Fascinated but scared by the incomprehensible soliloquy Gypsy had now started, she stayed close to the bathroom but turned on the radio.
“You call that music? Turn that s**t off, or get away from the bathroom.”
“Yes, Gypsy, I call this music. This is f*****g Hendrix.”

“You think that means something to me? You can’t defend that garbage with a name. At best, that kind of music can pay tribute to the real stuff.” She continued on, her voice cracking and rising in volume.

“Music, music is not something you turn on and turn up. You can’t turn off real music, you can’t ignore it, it either keeps you sane or it kills you. What happened to the gnashing of teeth, what happened to sonatas on peyote lying dead behind cacti in Mexico? What happened to real music?

“Music, it’s change in the coffee cup of a beggar that died and looks asleep. It’s that beggar man’s snores, no, no, that’s the last breath in his throat. It’s the Sunday sermon when you’ve just found out why you’re alive.

“When music was alive and walked the streets, there was deus ex machina in every Bulgarian disco. God came from the machine, the machine being synthesizer keyboards, and if you weren’t too high you could see him. If you were too high, you saw something far better than God, and you called it by the same name. Song bridges didn’t change pitch, and they didn’t change melody; they changed reality. With just a few notes, the musician would slice open your stomach and gut you. Your reality turned over to the music, you find yourself hanging boneless on a meat hook while some ignored bassist tenderizes your flesh on a nearby table. Then the song ends, and you’re sitting in front of a mirror or whatever when you thought you were in a butcher shop window with an apple stuffed down your throat.”

Sue had walked away by now. Gypsy goes on, only half-aware of her absence.

“Are you listening? Hear me, hear me say this. When we die, we will die blind. Music is dead but it sees. It sees us, sees everything, everything we do in its streets. And it hates us with all of its love. Are you listening? Hear me say this.

“Music is what happens when the guitars stop and the lead singer chokes on her own vomit and keels over and still finishes the note.”

© 2009 Rachel Knight


Author's Note

Rachel Knight
I've written more than one version of this story. In another version, which I will be posting soon, the story is told through Sue's point of view, and the description of the band of girl murderers is much more extensive.

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I think the opening is wonderful; the only minor tweak I might make is substituting "single-wide" or "double-wide" (and I think "single-wide" is preferable, it implies run-down, white-trashy) instead of "trailer-sized" to describe the home; the rest of it is spot-on, and the way you almost casually toss in the notion of a group of female killers is just top-shelf stuff. You have a very nice touch with dialogue--it feels very natural, and that is no mean feat. I think you go overboard with the final seven paragraphs; the discussion of the music overwhelms the rest of the piece, and, with what we know about the characters (and I allow that, if this is part of something larger, this particular point may be moot) it doesn't seem to flow naturally from who they are.

I would also like to note, for the record, that it doesn't take more than a sentence or two to understand that this is the work of someone who can write very, very well; I would hope more people find their way to your work.

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

I really enjoyed this--it was a vivid and unique little world. I particularly liked
"When music was alive and walked the streets, there was deus ex machina in every Bulgarian disco. God came from the machine, the machine being synthesizer keyboards, and if you weren’t too high you could see him."
It says so much about the character and her setting. Your descriptions are detailed and relevant, and your characters leap off of the page (screen).


Posted 9 Years Ago


I think the opening is wonderful; the only minor tweak I might make is substituting "single-wide" or "double-wide" (and I think "single-wide" is preferable, it implies run-down, white-trashy) instead of "trailer-sized" to describe the home; the rest of it is spot-on, and the way you almost casually toss in the notion of a group of female killers is just top-shelf stuff. You have a very nice touch with dialogue--it feels very natural, and that is no mean feat. I think you go overboard with the final seven paragraphs; the discussion of the music overwhelms the rest of the piece, and, with what we know about the characters (and I allow that, if this is part of something larger, this particular point may be moot) it doesn't seem to flow naturally from who they are.

I would also like to note, for the record, that it doesn't take more than a sentence or two to understand that this is the work of someone who can write very, very well; I would hope more people find their way to your work.

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on March 17, 2009
Last Updated on March 19, 2009