Countdown to Launch gives you one of our favourite submissions every Monday. Stephen’s story can be found in the FREAK Circus bumper Kindle edition. Available 1st of October.
Today we at FREAK HQ prove that we love SHORT short stories as much as anything else. Today we bring you Stephen Barnaby, a favourite of Edinburgh, Musselburgh, and Portobello. Normally well know for 50 word short stories Stephen extended his word count specially for us. Go find Stephen and you must go to his Fringe show. He’ll tell you about that at the bottom.
FEAR AND LOATHING, SNAKEBITE AND BLACK
The year: 1989.
The place: The Mission nightclub, Victoria Street, Edinburgh.
The usual clientele: punks and goths.
The usual styles: wall to wall mohiccans, piercings, studs, leather, bondage gear, eyeliner, patchouli oil.
The usual ambience: not a smile cracked, saturnine glowering, carefully stylised hostility. More patchouli oil.
The usual dance techniques: either studiedly statuesque or vaguely aggressive, though not in a way calculated to cause any actual damage.
In the midst of this:
The new arrivals: a group of what we would later learn were Madchester baggies.
The new styles: huge jeans, white trainers, floppy hats, hooded tops with the hoods pulled up all night, even over floppy hats. Faces thrown wholly into shadow, except for exaggeratedly pursed/pouty lips. No other trace of black anywhere.
The new ambience: immaculately cultivated air of Ooh-we’re-mad-us-and-off-our –faces-honest, meticulously learned at the Hacienda.
The new dance techniques: crouching, flexing at the knees, wobbling legs, waving arms, twisting hands, general impressively fluid bendiness.
The reaction from the usual clientele: confusion, uncertainty, insecurity, hostility, fear.
The manifestation of this: several mohiccanned-studded-pierced-bondage-trousered punks creep gingerly towards the newcomers, but not too close.
‘You’re freaks!’ they roar. ‘You’re fucking freaks!’
They edge away again and continue to watch in twitchily angry, fearful turmoil. They take half a step closer again.
‘You’re fucking freaks!’
They retire to the bar and the safety of their snakebites and blackcurrant.
The postscript: A fight breaks out later, but not with the baggies. A few casuals have sneaked in from the rave club on the floor below and decide to have some fun with the leather clad hordes. The police arrive; a friend of mine is interviewed. A few days later they go to her flat to complete the interview.
The air of the returning police officers: baffled amusement, or perhaps amused bafflement.
The punchline: the police tell my friend that through the week they’ve been taking statements from many of the Mission regulars, mainly at their places of employment.
Turns out that most of them were wearing suits and working in banks and insurance companies.
The moral of the story: Nothing you didn’t know already.
Stephen Barnaby generally writes and performs 50 word stories but occasionally, when he’s summoned up enough energy, attempts something longer, as he has here. He will now need to lie down for a long time.
He has two collections of 50 Word Epics, ‘Self Loathing Ostrich Tragedy,’ available from Calder Wood Press, and ‘It Was Happy Hour At the Nutty Nun,’ available from Amazon. Both can also be bought from the Mercat Tours Shop, Blair Street, Edinburgh.
He will be compering a storytelling show called ‘Tale Twisters’ in the PBH Edinburgh Free Fringe at Clerk’s Bar, 74-78 South Clerk Street, Edinburgh, Aug 8-10 and 12-15, 7.15-8.15pm.
He can be found on Facebook, Twitter and by leaving trails of breadcrumbs in woodland clearings and hiding behind a tree.