License to Rock
by Shannon Anthony
followed by Q&A
Despite my efforts to explore fresh territory, the conversational needle—totally rejecting my venturesome metaphor—gets stuck in a gouged-out groove. See, we never meet any Eds or Eddies even close to our age, so isn't it fascinating that the name is disproportionately represented in the population of famous rock guitarists? We can never actually name that many, and that's including The Edge—how hilarious it always is to include The Edge—but afterwards there's this smiling silence like we've discovered a not-the-least-bit-boneheaded truth. This time this pisses me off.
"How the fuck would we know how many Eds are out there? What new people do we ever meet, Eddie or otherwise?"
Lisa just smiles. "I run a tight friendship."
I can't stay mad at her. I mean, I can, but it makes me a complete dick. Because she's so—I mean, she makes people feel...I mean, her home is so homey it can only be described with words I haven't learned to use properly—but I strongly suspect the presence of bolsters and sideboards and cozies.
I don't let the apartment door slam on my way out. The hallway's full of welcome mats and holiday door decor. Lisa's neighbors aren't like mine, in that none of them strikes me as likely to be interested in our services as suppliers of genuinely realistic out-of-state ID’s.
Hey, it's not about the money. We remember what it's like to be underage. So we give the kids what they need to get into rock clubs. Look, they could drink and drive themselves to death just fine without our help. The important thing to understand is that what our customers lack in legitimately issued photo ID's with late-eighties dates of birth, they more than make up for in a headbanging, hip-hopping, moshalicious, rockaholic will to make it to the next show.
Myself, I'm not getting out and about so often anymore. Good enough things can always be downloaded by those who don't care to wait. And, well, the last concert I was at, I looked around and realized it's almost getting to the point where I'm old enough to have fathered some of these kids, I mean if my genetic material at the period in question hadn't all been earmarked for Daisy Duke. You know, back in the day before anybody said back in the day.
Of course if the bands had been any good at all, I wouldn't have given a shit about the crowd, but the thing is, everybody else was seriously into the garbage. So I was like, okay, I get it. We've outgrown each other. Have fun, kids, I'm going to find new places to be young.
Because what happened to me was NOT that I felt suddenly old. I am so not old. People are always telling me how youthful I am. ("Thirty-two, huh? I'm still going to have to see some ID.")
* * *
"...and as Minnesotans, this concerns us."
Damn it, Lisa just had to go and meet herself an Edward. Dressed to impress someone who's not me, Ned is pretending he's warm enough in svelte wool. He's our age but in dress shoes taking old man baby steps to cross a piddling patch of ice. I am of course wearing traction-packed work boots. It's totally beside the point that they make me look cool. That is, the boots and the parka make me look like I don't give a shit, and that is what's cool. At least if the parka's connected to the boots by Bowie legs encased in long, lean jeans.
"Mac, you're washing these jeans every couple of weeks or so, aren't you?"
Uh huh. How would Lisa notice it's the same pair if she wasn't totally checking out my Bowie legs?
"As I was saying..." Ned is still saying. "Minnesota is a border state, and..."
And we are in a bored state. I yawn and start fishing in my parka for our most recently finished products.
Lisa gives me a warning look. "Ned's obviously very interested in the border, being Department of Homeland Security like he is.”
Wham-bam—my Bowie legs shoot out from under me, and I come down hard on an icy curb. See, being a Minnesotan means something significant is always happening to me. Mostly in the form of weather.
* * *
"It would be safer if we stop hooking...certain kinds of people up." Lisa knows what I'm trying not to say. "I don't want to get them—or us—into trouble with the Department of Ned. I mean, it's pretty serious, right?"
This isn’t the first time our feet have gotten cold. Sometimes it's looked like we won't be able to keep up with the technology, but then of course technology always puts us right back in the game. Whenever I've had doubts, Lisa's always been the one to go, "We can't quit now. It's totally the principle of the thing!"
Now all she says is: "Serious? Of course it is."
* * *
"The thing is, Lisa. I have to tell you. You should know. The truth is. Here's a fun fact." I'm kind of in love with you.
"A fun fact is where now?"
Jesus! After all the concerts we've gone to together, how the hell does Lisa's hearing not suck?
* * *
"Mac! Can we give you a lift, buddy?"
Ned is a professional threat collector. Yet he doesn't seem to feel threatened by me.
"Why the hell not?" I climb in.
But I can see Lisa wishes I hadn't. Why the hell not? All is explained when the radio informs us we are tuned in to "the best new country."
I punch Ned on the shoulder. "This is my stop! Thanks, man." I feel safe giving him the finger, knowing he can't see it.
"Mighty cute mitten you got there, Mac."
Whatever, asshole. Some of us cheerfully violate the rules of fashion if it means keeping most of the feeling in most of our extremities.
* * *
Lisa says, "I never did get my fun fact."
"Here's a fun fact: The 'best new country' is the worst music in the world."
"Seriously, Lisa? EIGHTY languages are spoken in the Minneapolis Public Schools."
"Yeah. And these kids are tomorrow's professionals and parents and public servants and, yes, party animals!"
"Oh. So you're not stopping."
"I guess I can't." And by the way, your boyfriend really needs to be...well, me. "It's totally the principle of the thing."
* * *
"Mac, I'm here for the license!"
Lisa would know totally evocative words for the fabric that frames my customer's face. I don't know the cloth or the colors. What I do know is that this chick—let's call her Melody, like it says right here on her driver's license—could totally be a not too distant cousin of Iman.
I share with Melody my standard words of wisdom: "If you squander this opportunity and settle for barhopping at fucking Mall of America, I do not want to hear about it, and, frankly, you'd deserve to get busted. I mean, you just want to drink: That's what Wisconsin's for."
Young Melody assures me the license won't be wasted. That's all I need to hear, but she goes on to mention some of the establishments she'll be visiting. The names ring a few bells, and set off...twangier instruments. "Um, but aren't those places totally...?" I can't say it.
"Yes, I love—"
"You don't need to tell me! This biz is strictly don't ask, don't—"
But she tells me. She says: "Country!"
I'm not completely closed-minded, you know. I'm not opposed to the existence of Dixie Chicks, or Judds. Country music was good enough for Daisy Duke. And hell, peaceful rebellion can be such a rockin' thing, even if what's being rebelled against is, well, rock. But—country! I don't know what the world's coming to.
* * *
Here's a fun fact: Ned is Department of History.
And by the way I was totally right. That long pillow thingie that gets in the way when Lisa and I fool around on her couch? Definitely a bolster.
* * *
Kids (I now find myself saying), I totally believe that the opportunity for immediate gratification is not even close to the worst thing in the world. This license means I'm trusting you not to drink and drive. I believe in your right to culture, be it popular or unpopular. We're in the land of the this and the home of the that. And, kids, I TOTALLY believe, if your taste happens to suck, in headphones. So enjoy. We've got weather, we've got music. We're in the middle of it all, where east meets west and K stations share the air with W's. Yeah, they mostly suck, but work with me here.
Kids, understand that it IS a small world, as well as big and scary. We are Minnesotans, kids, and everything, but everything, concerns us.
Shannon Anthony lives in Minneapolis. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming at Bound Off, Brink Magazine, Menda City Review, The View From Here, LITnIMAGE and Coal City Review, among other places. Her shortest fiction is tweeted @shannon_anthony.
Q: What can you tell us about this story?
A: The first version was “finished” almost ten years ago. (Most of the intervening time was spent in denial of the need to cut a few thousand words and add a plot.) Though written in and about the wake of the September 11 attacks, this was from the beginning a very fun story.
Q: What have you been reading lately?
A: Mostly fiction. Recent favorites include Alissa Nutting's story collection Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls, Elaine Dundy's The Dud Avocado, and Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Wizard of the Crow. I've also been reading classic sci fi, and not long ago I began a leisurely journey through the works of 18th and 19th century novelists like Burney, Oliphant and Trollope.
Q: Where do you write?
A: At my dining table; at a desk that was once padded with foam rubber and used as my baby sister's diaper changing table; at a homemade standing desk (the secret ingredient is duct tape); in my head, especially while walking, washing dishes or taking a shower.
Q: Deciduous or coniferous?
A: Deciduous. (Sorry, coniferous, but what else would I say in October? Ask me again in January.)
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Thank you for asking! I'm writing a novel…but I don't like to say much about work in progress. Thank you for not asking. I also have an ever-growing list of short stories in the works.