Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Quietly": A story based on "Little Mascara" by The Replacements, as suggested by writer Katie Ferring (23/100)


Mark’s band plays every weekend for a few hundred bucks and a few dozen people. It doesn’t take much to get me included on the band’s tab, so I still go see them when I can. I drink too much and listen to him sing about sex he doesn’t have. Not with me, anyways. It’s all “Talk Dirty To Me” and “Cherry Pie” and the like. When those songs were written, we were both still playing “doctor” as a matter of adolescent curiosity, a decade and a half from ending up in strange places, strange positions: my bra caught on a guitar stand, the legs of our jeans wrapped up in seatbelts. He’s all dolled-up on stage, gyrating with a microphone stand between his legs. The crowd is almost twice our age. I get really drunk.

The kids are five and three. They’re at my mother’s house eating popsicles instead of taking naps, which is the opposite of what I’d asked her to do. My mother is worn down cosmetically but still mostly functional, tall and strong, a rail of a woman in all aspects. She watches the kids partly out of love but mostly out of spite. She hates Mark quietly, the way Midwestern moms do, digging herself in and asking questions she knows she won’t like the answers to. It happened right away, the first time they met. For some teenage girls, that’s reason enough to marry anyone.

Mark and I don’t sleep together anymore, literally or figuratively. Women look at him like he’s a god. And I’ll say it: he looks good. No shirt, leather pants, shaved chest with baby oil and the bright lights burning it up. He’s trim and he’s tan and he’s as close to 1987 as any Friday night is going to get. Later, after the show, a taxi brings him home and deposits him inside the front door, where he collapses onto the couch and remains until Sunday afternoon. That night he’ll fall asleep in a desk chair, the next night watching a movie on the floor in the living room. There have been occasions when I’ll touch him on accident while I’m setting dinner on the table. My chest against his shoulder or two knuckles rubbing quickly. It shakes me. That night, every night, I sprawl out on our queen-size bed, sometimes like I’m being drawn and quartered, almost able to touch a corner each with my feet and hands.

By the time I get back from dropping the kids off at their grandmother’s house, Mark’s already been picked up to go help the rest of the band load gear. It’s never for very long, but the times when Mark has a show are the only times I’m alone in the house. I unlock the backdoor, call a taxi and put on a dress. It doesn’t take me long to get ready because Mark takes my make-up with him so he can be the big glam-rock star. That’s fine. I’m even lighter without it, one less thing to carry around. I leave the house with no keys, no billfold, no anything. Empty hands and pockets. It’s the only way. I come back heavy, sound overflowing from my ears, from my pores. When I wake up the next afternoon, Mark is still sleeping, destroying pillows with sweat and mascara. I don’t tiptoe, don’t close doors lightly. Until he wakes up, I’m the only one who hears the dull pang ringing in our heads.



The Replacements were a band from Minnesota. They have a bunch of great songs and one of the most annoying fanbases this side of the Dave Matthews Band--I was once called a "fair-weather fan" because I said I don't like much of the earlier punk stuff (I've got Tim and Pleased to Meet Me on vinyl, fucker!). There's a lot that could be said about them, but here's the short of it: drunk, clever, mild success, wearing Tom Petty's wife's clothes, drunk, broken up, Paul Westerberg plays too much acoustic guitar, quasi-reunion that nobody really gives a shit about, still drunk and kind of clever.

Katie Ferring is a writer from Dubuque, Iowa. She should really consider going by Kathryn, as the extra classiness might help combat all the time she spends eating pizza while not wearing pants. She really likes Morrissey and other gay men. One time, she saw my KISS tribute band play and said, "Yeah, that was pretty funny, I guess," not realizing that it wasn't supposed to be a joke. Katie recently graduated from the University of Iowa with an English degree, so look for her writings somewhere in the future.

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