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Today's Story by Lia Mitchell

You nod solemnly, taking him in for the last time as your bandmate.

Fuck Cats Reunion Show

MINNEAPOLIS!” you yell into the mic, then almost fall over from laughing so hard, stumble back to hit the distortion pedal. The squeal of feedback drowns out an annoyed shout from the back, Wrong side of the river, Den you asshole, these St. Paul fucks so serious, the lumberjack look and the chip on the shoulder—“Oh shit I thought it was the suburbs,” you joke to your tallboy before you slam it and whip the can at Mike. He blocks and it bounces off the cymbal with a shimmery crash.

“Two more songs,” Kjell snaps, all coked up and pissed off, hitting the first note of the bass line. You’re messing up his big farewell show fantasy, in which the trashy street cred of the Fuck Cats launches his new life in Brooklyn, where money and record deals await, rock stardom pissing down like a golden shower from the gods. Well, you can play rock star right here; you swing your arm in a giant circle to send your chord back, signaling readiness, then the drums start and off the song goes, a jangle of muscle memory and guitar. And it feels good, the truth is you’re still pretty good, still know the songs, and what would they be without you, anyway, just another mopey on-stage circle jerk in this pretentious St. Paul dive.

Of course that’s what this crowd wants, all these serious nodding beards—fucking sausage party, what happened to all the goddamn girls? And where the fuck’s Justine? You miss your backup vocal looking for her, catch a nasty look from Kjell. But there she is at the back, her blond hair shining red in the neon beer-light, standing near Lynnie and the others but not with them, like always—not enough tats for them, dressed too nice. But you like that, you feel like John Cusack or something, nailing this girl who’s obviously too good for you, and you’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

The chorus comes around again and you grin at Justine while you sing the harmony, trying not to crack up as you replace words you can’t remember: baby I love you, you’re so hot, I wanna lick you all over, and when she smiles and dips her head you know she heard, she’s blushing.

“Thanks so much for coming out,” Kjell tells the audience when the song ends—it means so much to him, seeing all his old friends, everyone from back in the day. You nod solemnly, taking him in for the last time as your bandmate: he’s so intense, squinting against the stage light, golden beard glittering—you could fucking hug him. You’ve been through so much together, so many shows like this, so many shitty drunk nights, passing out on strangers’ floors, man, you were just kids then. And now look at him, the big man, flying out of the nest in his tight red flannel, his designer jeans, his fancy Red Wing boots—

“Paul fucking Bunyan,” you say. “That’s who you look like. Where’s your axe, Paul Bunyan?”

Kjell stops, turns, his knuckles whitening on the neck of his bass.

“Where’s your blue ox?” you ask. “Where’s Babe the fucking blue ox?”

Kjell’s staring at you, evidently trying to decide whether to punch you once now or really kick the shit out of you later. But you turn instead to the thinning crowd.

“Ladies and gentleman,” you mumble all breathy, your lips pressed to the microphone like a tonguey wet whisper in all their ears, “you’ve been such a great audience, we just love all you guys, I mean it, I personally really love each and every one of you—” and then, without backing off, scream at top volume,“MINNEAPOLIS, YEAH!”

The crowd emits only a hostile mutter. You smile at them, your best smile shining out over their balding heads and bored faces, over your good buddy Joe making a wrap-it-up hand motion, past the clock showing ten minutes to last call, and then to the back, to Justine.

For a second it’s like it all goes silent, and you’re not sure what’s in those big eyes of hers, whether she’s going to weep with shame or wise up and leave. But she doesn’t do either; instead she starts laughing. And then you start laughing, and it’s you and Justine laughing across this entire room full of assholes who probably want to beat your ass but that’s okay, it’s all okay—let them grow up and get serious, you’ll still be around. So you start the last song, wait for the drum and bass to follow, Kjell’s vocal somewhere in the monitor, and look up to find again her big smile, and it’s been a good night, yes it has, the Fuck Cats’ last stand has been a good night.


Lia Mitchell is a PhD candidate in French literature in Minneapolis. She writes fiction in moments of joyful, furtive procrastination.


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