Through the Woods to See the Blackness Between the Stars
Angelica drove her brown beater of a car through Kingspot’s narrow backroads. The full green trees were shrouded in black as the sun sank; their branches and leaves curling over what could barely be called a road.
She thought to herself that the beauty of the scene could be an opening scene to a horror film, or the closing scene of a romance. She fumbled for her phone, swerving a bit as she struggled to wake it. She tapped record and tossed the phone onto the passenger seat.
“The beauty of it could be an opening scene to a horror film… or the closing scene of a romance,” she said, pausing in the middle for effect.
“Gotta remember that one,” She continued. “Okay, so I’m driving to see some new hot indie band called Ivan Rocket, through… God knows where? Somewhere off to the side of Kingsport I think? What am I expecting?” she asked herself. “What am I expecting?” she repeated with dismissal as she glanced up at the rearview mirror.
“Okay, so this guy is known for his spiritual kind of performances and… and I know that I’m here because of my dad… I got this job cuz they all think his name will sell papers.” Her voice switched from exhaustion to irritation. “Weird girl from a weird dad writes a weird review about a weird band. Jesus Christ.” She tried to shake off the negativity. “If I want out of this shadow, I need to take an open door.” She hit stop on the recording. “Christ what am I talking about?”
Ahead she saw balloons on a fence post with a sign reading:
ONE MORE MILE – TURN RIGHT AT OLD HAY FLAT ROAD – LOOK FOR THE TENT
She sped past the balloons. They smacked together to the point Angelica could hear the hollow tings of rubber versus rubber from inside the car. She decided to slow down before she pissed off the locals.
“My god, how long does it take to drive one stupid mile at 30 miles an hour?” she thought to herself. She contemplated doing the math, then decided that it wasn’t worth it, then did it anyway. “If 60 miles an hour is one minute a mile, then 30 is… Two minutes!” She shouted. “This is either the longest two minutes ever or I need to learn to relax.”
Ahead she saw another splash of color; more balloons.
As Angelica approached, she saw more signs. First the street sign, “Old Hayflat Rd”.
Then another flier stating:
TURN RIGHT AND YOU’LL HAVE ARRIVED
She turned right down the road as instructed, wondering if there was a deeper message to the sign. Has the performance already begun? The road dipped down as the asphalt gave way to dirt. Ahead, the fencing opened up into a meadow with a large, white canvas tent. Around the ropes and pegs clung impossible amounts of white Christmas lights. Strands of round bulbs were slung over the entrance and spread out to the trees.
As she looked for a spot in the dirt lot she noticed there was an odd assortment of vehicles. Some nice and fancy, some beaters like hers. To one side there was a minivan and a pair of choppers with ape hangers. To the other, a cherry classic Beetle parked next to a new Bug that looked like flood salvage.
She found a spot between a “work guy’s white big truck thing” and a Prius. Grabbing her phone and purse, she got out, and made her way toward the tent.
There were a few people standing outside. A farmer drinking from a beer can with a generic label. Next to him, a woman and her teenage son who appeared to be sick. Next to them, what might have been a frat boy from an 80’s John Hughes movie. The row went on, each conventional in their own right, each unconventional by their proximity to one another.
As she entered the tent the audience became more diverse. Everything from cowboys to b-boys, from shirts to skins; every category of pop culture betty and niche topic neckbeard was represented in some fashion. None of the crews and casts in the crowd seemed to be intermixing. They didn’t have problems, each group just existing in their own personal bubbles.
As patchwork as the crowd was, there were similarities. Angelica noted two types of groups. The first were groups of friends, groups that seemed to be having a good time, laughing and behaving as one would expect at a concert. The second, she assumed, were families. Many of which consisted of what appeared to be caregivers and a beneficiary. Several seemed to be older parents standing with a sick child, and some appeared to be grown children with an ailing parent. In each case, the caregiving side wore concern on their faces and the sick seemed happy. Happy to the point where the bags under their eyes seemed to only highlight the twinkle within.
She looked up at the stage. Most of it was behind a large red curtain. Above the curtain hung a banner that read “Ivan Rocket and the Blackness Between the Stars.”
To the side of the stage, she spied a neat, well-tailored man in a black suit waving to her.
“This must be Nicolas, Ivan Rocket’s Manager.” Angelica thought, lifting an eyebrow as she watched his approach. If one could glide masculinely, that’s how she would’ve described it. He stopped at a folding table for two red solo cups.
“Are you excited about the show Ms. Whateley?” Nicolas asked through a childlike grin.
Angelica viewed Nicolas to be charismatic, but odd. His suit was black. All black. Black tie, black shirt, black jacket, and pants. He appeared to be about 50 with a post-war-era-actor way of carrying on that the girls would have found “terribly interesting”.
“Nicolas I assume?” Angelica asked, taking the drink. Nicolas winked in acknowledgment. Angelica continued. “I am excited, but I’m also looking forward to meeting and having a chance to interview… The band? Ivan Rocket and the Blackness Between the Stars, is it a band or a man? Will I be interviewing Mr. Rocket?”
Nicolas chuckled. “Ivan, Ms. Wateley. Just call him Ivan, and no need to be all business. This show is an experience!” he exclaimed with pride and a wave of his hand. “How can you write about an experience without experiencing it?”
“What’s in this red cup, Nicolas?” she asked, noticing a level of retro-verve in him that made her question his sobriety.
“Sierra Nevada I think,” he responded, oblivious to her implication. He took a sip, then nodded with a smile of assurance.
Angelica took a drink while wondering if Rohypnol had a taste?
“Weird setup you have going here; weird crowd too,” Angelica said.
“How So?” Nicolas asked.
“It appears to be people from all walks of life.”
“Oh yes. Ivan helps people with his music. All kinds of people.”
“What, like a faith healer? Cuz that’s what this place looks like, Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show, or something like that,” she quipped, a little too proud of her music reference.
“I guess you could say that?” he responded as Angelica realized that her quip had landed on deaf ears.
“He is a healer,” he continued over the din, “but faith is irrelevant. Like most things in life, it just depends on what exactly ails you. For those with the right ailment, Ivan has the right cure.”
“OK then, if rock n’ roll is the cure, what’s the sickness? Or is it more like a rock n’ roll deficiency?” she asked.
“The latter… Would you like another drink before we go meet him?”
She chugged what remained in her cup and flatly answered, “Yes please.”