Harlequin is a story which will be written in stages, it will be a science fiction/fantasy.
I have been writing bits and pieces about it for years, but couldn’t always find how things connected. I don’t understand publishers or people looking over my shoulder, I want to write without pressure or deadlines.
Rather than take it to a publisher, I have decided to write it freely here, though naturally under copyright, I didn’t want some corporation getting hold of it and stomping on anyone who had the mind to write fanfiction of it, to draw or to produce short films on the subject, as I have seen with Star Trek.
I doubt I’d make any money from the project, it’s my fantasy, that’s all.
I know I’m not a great writer, but I’ll do my best to convey my thoughts to you.
I just want to tell a story.
I hope that you respect the condition that I have set, and write your pieces “in cannon” after my story has been completed. Drawings are, of course, welcome at any time.
One of the reasons for going this route is so that I could be in constant communication with the reader, of course the online world is my native habitat, and a part of me feels that a physical book, although lovely, would mostly be about ego.
Still, Ego is not a dirty word.
Harlequin is Copyright Wolfie Rankin 2017
All Rights Reserved.
John and I had returned after our long journey, so after regaining our land legs, had decided to do some reconnecting with friends and family before getting down to business.
Things had changed a lot in Melbourne, since we’d been away.
The most noticeable being the freshness of the air, and the quiet.
I’d met a friend for lunch, and had been sitting at a table in Brunswick street with him, just taking our time, there was no need to rush. The old Fitzroy was an epicenter of food and free thought, An American friend once said that Fitzroy was like San Francisco, but without the bumps, and he was right. But now the bustling trams, grunting buses, and the heaving traffic, particularly at this time of the day, were gone.
What remained was the people, shops, pubs and restaurants. There were more parks though, and some of the roads had been dug up to allow for it.
My friend was one Michael Gravis. Eccentric front man of the band, Rat Smacker.
We’d known each other since High School.
Despite whatever newspapers and magazines had said over the years “Ratty” as he was known, had always been the quiet sort who’d kept to his closest friends and family.
Slim, tall, an almost ghostly white skin due to his habit of remaining indoors and waking later in the day. This had been his breakfast. I’m not having a go at him, My habits are similar really.
He still had that long blonde hair he was famous for back in the 80’s, perhaps there was a touch of grey, but very little.
His eyes, a deep blue, depending on when you looked at them, and his nose came to a bit of a point, something he didn’t like, he had often mentioned surgery, but never did anything about it.
He wore a black leather jacket with shiny studs in the lapel, and a badge or two, an old, red Harlequin t-shirt, blue jeans, some bangles on his wrist, and a few chains dangled around his neck and there was a whiff of apples about him.
He swallowed a piece of his second slice of cheesecake and cracked a grin “I was digging through some old VHS tapes and found one of the concert we did in Sydney, the one that was televised.”
He leaned over the table, his grin broadening. “You played six songs and took a break. We rushed out to play “Natives” for the first time, half way through you ran out wearing nothing but leather arm bands, feathers in your hair, War paint, and this tight leather jockstrap!”
I’ll admit I hadn’t thought about that in years, I grinned, displaying the tips of my fangs.
He laughed “The camera zoomed right in to your crotch and stayed there far longer than it should have.
“Then… THEN you did this… this erotic dance, and YOU… HUMPED… JIMMY!… I’m out the front playing my bit, I didn’t see any of it, but three girls passed out in the front row and had to be carried out!”
Ratty flopped back into his chair in stitches.
After he caught his breath, he said “The next day it was all over the papers, the radio, the TV news, everything. The Reverend Fred Neilson was having a field day.” Ratty put on the voice of a buffoon “We can’t have sexually explicit dancing on public view, utterly disgusting blah blah, What about the children blah de blah”
We broke into a fit of laughter.
Ratty stood up and stretched “The kids went straight out and bought every copy of the single, and the album too.”
I fell back in my chair and saw a confident man. Ratty could look the World right in the eye, He gave me the impression that if he wanted to do something, he could. Life for him hadn’t always been like that. I’ll tell you about it at some point, remind me if I forget, I’m bound to forget lots of things.
Ratty wrapped the remainder of his cheesecake up in a serviette and popped it into his jacket pocket, He hated wasting food.
He gazed up the street and swung out on a post to have a better look.
“John’s coming” he said.
I rose and walked to the curb, we could see each other, a small blue dot was heading this way, the only car on the road.
The old light blue Corolla pulled in almost silently beside us, since it had no engine, there wasn’t much to hear except for the wheels turning.
John pulled into the curb on the wrong side of the road, but nobody would care about that anymore.
John leapt out of the seat and Ratty grabbed him, and embraced his old friend who he’d clearly missed, John reciprocated, holding his old mate tightly, rubbing his back.
“How’ve you been, you old bastard” asked John.
“Alright mate, been looking after myself, I’ll tell you more later tonight” replied Ratty.
Ratty looked like a dog who’d been rescued by their family after months of living at the pound, and I felt as though I had a stone in my stomach, laced with a little guilt.
But Ratty didn’t want to come with us, we’d asked a number of times, but he had refused.
“We’re headed over to the old Kettle, You coming?” asked John.
“Of course” said Ratty, “I… I left some of my stuff in there, but couldn’t get back in”
“I thought it knew you” said John, rubbing his neck, “Never mind, We’ll give it a crack today”.
John opened the back door for Ratty, “Jump in Mate, There’s not much room, but it’s not really built for the likes of us tall blokes, or mammoth pooches, Hey Wolf?”
“John…” But he cut me off.
“Get in the front mate, I’ll let you stick your head out the window if you like”
“No need for belts, the car has had a few updates” Said John, giving me a wink.
And true enough, once I got comfortable, it became apparent that all the new features were active, although He and I were well used to it, it disturbed Ratty somewhat.
“You alright back there?” asked John, grinning at me, “You know what they say, just lay back and think of England!”
John pointed at an old map of the city and suburbs, which he’d pulled out of the glove box, “Take us here please” he said, and the car took off.
Our route took us back through the streets of Fitzroy, though we had to sneak through a few lanes as the roads were often sealed off, recovered for park lands, or places to eat.
And then past what used to be Flinder’s street station, which was now a more sedate looking place than I remembered.
“It’s a sort of cinema now” said Ratty, “I go there often, it’s nice, we should go together, with Beth.”
I watched as a group of Duffles climbed the steps.
“Tâg and Zaff are teaching music at a University, Ratty, Apparently it’s going really well” said John, who was shuffling some cassettes.
“Yes, Wolfie told me, How’s Beth?” He asked.
“Going well, We’re going to her place tonight for tea, wanna come? I’m sure she’d love to see you” asked John, pressing a cassette into what looked like a genuine cassette player.
“Love to” said Ratty happily.
John grinned at me as the music started “Mmm, Sister Sledge… This song could’ve been written about us, you know”
I began to fade out, absorbing the music, as I always did, listening to the guitar, to the beat and what was being said. Where would I have been without music, it has been my whole life. I had considered that on quiet nights, alone in bed. I thought of some alternate universe where I lived but where I wasn’t a musician, the thought worried me and kept me from sleep.
We approached the West Gate Bridge, which was now a structure made from something that looked like deep blue glass, The mid section was all cafes, libraries, kiosks and so forth, but we sped past them so quickly that I didn’t have time to see.
Above us, Sky taxi’s zoomed around, carrying people wherever they wished to be, which is why there were no cars or public transport anymore.
From up here I finally got a good look at the surroundings as a whole, and had the odd feeling that I wasn’t really at home, but on some Alien world.
John’s voice slowed and stopped as he gazed at the vista, his thoughts echoing my own, he turned the music down a little.
Everything looked so, clean.
There were beautiful buildings which looked like they were made of chrome, and the same blue glass the bridge was made of, all the dirty factories were gone, most had been replaced with parks, or small forests.
The air was so clean, that it seemed we could almost see to the edge of the world.
John and I were practically mesmerised, but then Ratty said “There’s a whole night club on the deck below, they have a fantastic stage, But it’s got nothing on our Hover Drome.”
I slapped John’s shoulder with my paw, “Hey, look at us gawking like a couple of country hicks.”
John laughed “Yeah, I know mate, but I never thought this place would change so much”.
John pulled up in front of the familiar old brick building, which used to be painted green, but had since been repainted with flamboyant art, pieces of which were references to the songs which came out of there.
We sat quietly for a moment as memories of music, people and events came flooding back.
I momentarily felt as though I had been invited to a wedding, and that my clothing was less than it should be.
Ratty reached over and put a hand on my shoulder, “Come on Mate, We’re home”.
John and I followed Ratty to the heavy wooden door at the front, He put his hand on the brass doorknob “Look” He twisted it, pushed and pulled “I’m locked out, Give me a hand would ya, Wolfie?”
I folded my arms and said “What do you expect me to do, it’s made of bricks, can’t do it, it’s against health and safety regulations”
John laughed as he pushed through, “You’ve got to treat it gently, observe”
He twisted the knob gently and said “Please open”.
There was a click and the door opened with ease.
“What!?, How? What the hell did you do?” asked Ratty frowning in confusion.
“I said please” answered John.
“I thought you were joking, John!” fumed Ratty.
Apparently John had told Ratty how to open the door before we left, that was fifteen years ago, fifteen years was a long time to be away.
The building had been an old print works in its heyday, and the rooms where the mammoth printing machines were kept were spacious, and had incredibly high ceilings.
A bulb blew out in one of the high light fixtures once, and was simply left as it was, because none of us dared to fix it.
Ratty indicated a soft guitar case propped up by the wall “Got my guitar back” he mumbled to himself, shaking his head.
Dust covered the reception desk, and cobwebs hung from the walls. The three of us ascended the ornate staircase.
The front room at the top was named The Ballroom, due to it’s size, but the back room was larger again, The Ballroom was where we liked to hang out, to listen to music, watch movies or practice, it was generally kept in good order, but the room was as unkempt as reception below.
John said “Clean!”
Dust began to rise up on one side of the room, from the carpet, the walls, tables, chairs and fittings, cobwebs too began to converge with dead insects and spiders… into a ball which floated in the middle of the room.
Balls of dust and grime began appearing in other rooms too, complete with a fierce whooshing sound, as though a storm were inside the building with us.
Once the room was clean, a window opened, and the ball was hurled through, up into the sky where it popped like a balloon.
Other windows opened to let in fresh air.
“Much better” said John.
“Wait” said Ratty, “How long have you had that?”
“I dunno, years” said John.
“But I used to vacuum…”
Ratty was great like that, thoughtful, would always keep things clean if he could, but he also worried more than he should. John discovered that cleaning calmed him down, so despite the building being self cleaning John allowed Ratty to clean up anyway.
Before Ratty could argue, John made his way downstairs, to one of the store rooms and we followed.
The heavy door was pushed open and the lights came on automatically.
And there it was, what was in effect a museum of a great chunk of our lives.
Racks of boxes lined the walls, Photos, Magazines, Newspapers, Papers we had written ourselves containing riffs and lyrics, Reel to Reel tapes, Video cassettes, Records.
There was far more here than one person could digest, and it wasn’t just about us, it was about Rat Smacker, The Lamp Post, Gazelle and all the other groups who had been a part of Kettle Studios.
John and I had been living far away from here for the last fifteen years, and we had learned a few things, and adopted a few local customs, and one of those customs was that a person should write a book detailing their life story, as they saw it themselves. So that, if they were interested, a relative from the future could find out about you. Not just when you were born, who you married and when you died, but how you felt about things, which they felt was as important as anything else.
I didn’t want to write a book.
I confess that I have grown lazy, and that when I did write, it may have been a tune which entered my noggin while sitting on the lav at 3am, or some fancy lyrics, rarely a whole song, I’d hastily write these down and give them to John, John was the song writer, He was the genius, I was only a guitar player.
If there was anything to be thankful for, it was that Coralie had filed everything away as neatly as a librarian, Everything would be easy to find.
“I think” said John, as he looked through a box of press photos “Is that we’ll set up a huge table upstairs and have a good long look through these, I’ll get everyone together”
Ratty held up a Beta cassette “Look at this, Rat Smacker, Dublin 1987, I had no idea that anyone even filmed this”
“There’s a master tape of the audio somewhere, over there I think” John pointed to a great stack of tape boxes on one of the racks. “Just remember to put everything back in place, or Coralie will have a fit” He laughed.
A few weeks later, John held a reunion.
He was surprised by how many came, and many had flown in from far away places, not that it was difficult these days, but they could have chosen to remain.
Even John Kettle himself had made a point to attend, and that was really something, because we rarely saw him in the flesh, there was an old joke that He was Charlie and We were his Angels.
The reunion was mainly private, but a few outsiders attended, writers, journalists, and a few friends from radio who had helped us over the years. Despite some of the cruel things which had been written by others, these people stuck by us, especially in difficult times, for which we will always be grateful.
And so, I’d like to get on with the story if I could.
According to the Duffles, the story should begin from Birth, so that’s what I’ll do.