Chapter Two - Morgaine
‘Hello,’ I said into the phone. I’m quite a private person on the whole and so my number is known to very few people, so I was taken aback somewhat when an unfamiliar voice answered.
‘Is that Peter?’
‘Yeah, who is this?’
'Oh, I’m Charlotte, Charlotte Gregory.’ I was silent. I didn’t know a single Charlotte and my only connection to a Gregory was the fact that I once read a book about Pope Gregory the First. With that information tucked neatly away, I was quite aware that the man who gave his name to Gregorian Chant and lived over a thousand years ago was probably not the owner of the sharp, female voice on the other end of the phone.
‘And?’ I eventually asked when no explanation was forthcoming.
‘Oh, sorry, I though you would know…’ said the voice even more sharply.
‘Who I was.’ Now, I’m not usually this brusque you must believe, but when someone rings me, someone I don’t know and speaks without actually saying anything, I tend to think that they are trying to sell me something, like a candy floss making machine or fair trade maracas. That, or trying to sign me up to something. So, I cut the line and switched my phone off. Job done, I didn’t have to hear the endless crap about why I need new windows or what the benefits of a yearly subscription to ‘Peg Monthly’ would do for my ‘well-being in these turbulent times’. Instead, I was free to enjoy the world in a condition I find more agreeable to my constitution. And, as far as I thought, that was the end of it. Of course… it wasn’t. The next day I turned on my phone to find it bleeping a noise I can’t ever remember it making before. I pressed a few things but it had no effect, except for making the screen zoom in and I couldn’t work out how to change it back. After ten minutes, I decided to leave the office and make my way down the house, and ask ‘her who knows’.
‘Can you sort this thing out for me?’ I asked of my good lady wife.
‘Sort it, what do you mean?’ she asked as she took it from my hand. She did a few things on the screen and asked,
‘It’s just zoomed in, do you not know how to alter that?’ I decided not to answer the question and instead, move the target of her ridicule.
‘Not the screen thing, the noise, it keeps making an odd noise,’ I insisted, trying to wash over the incident of the screen.
‘There is a missed call, someone phoned you and left a message.’
‘Oh,’ I said.
‘You don’t know how to do that do you?’ she grinned and took the phone back seconds after handing it to me. She then phoned a number and handed me the phone back shaking her head. I pretended to ignore it and listened as a message was relayed to me from the person who was not Pope Gregory. She left her number but I ignored that too.
‘Wrong number,’ I shrugged and left the room but I heard her call after me asking, ‘why would someone leave a message to tell you that they had phoned the wrong number?’ I ignored that too. Ignoring things was becoming rather a habit but I made my escape back to the office and sat, resting the phone back on the desk. It rang. I was on a roll and so I kept the trend by ignoring it, but that lead to the thing making a noise it had made previously, and though I had been helped to retrieve the message, in my arrogance, I had omitted to ask how she had achieved it. I switched it off, and then back on, but the noise persisted. Then I had an idea. Rather than go back down the house and admit defeat, I emailed my own wife, in my own house to ask, very casually, what number she had rung. Instead of emailing back, she soon entered the room. I then had to endure the fact that if I bothered to learn how to use the phones features, I would see that it was giving me a hint by giving me an option to ring it, and it even displayed the number on the screen. I pretended to be busy, and would check it once I had finished, but the damn phone was still bleeping away. Once again, she shook her head and then left. I stared at the phone wondering how this stupid lump of plastic had ever replaced the old white phones with a solid, robust handset that rested atop a telephone the size of a typewriter. Well, it was obvious. They were smaller, mobile, had cameras, GPS systems, games, internet access…
Well, I suppose some people want everything. I didn’t, I wanted a phone. Just a phone, and now I had a nagging noise on a machine that seemed to embarrass me whenever it did something that wasn’t phoneish. Is phoneish a word? It is now. But back to the story. The upshot of this is that I found that Charlotte Notthepope, was doing her best to contact me, and this time, she actually explained that she was the manager of Bloodstick. That didn’t endear me to her one bit, but it did explain why she thought I would know who she was. I was still wondering how she got my number as I hadn’t given it to Andy. Eventually, two more days eventually, I phoned her back if only to stop my phone buzzing and trilling. In hindsight, I should have known it was her as there had been a plethora of emails from Charlotte over the last few days.
The conversation had been brief, she had tried to press me on making a decision on the band’s offer and I told her what I had told Andy, I was too busy and I didn’t think I would be able to help them. She seemed to know my real reason though, I detected a slight amount of anger in her voice and she eventually asked me if I would at least speak to the person who ran their fan club. Now this quite took me aback. A rock band, who hardly ever played live, didn’t record, unless it was a few privately distributed CD’s, who didn’t do interviews, have promo shoots or post Youtube videos... actually had a fan base? How could that be? She must have registered my disbelief over the phone.
‘Does that surprise you?’ she asked.
‘A little,’ I admitted, but there was no way I wanted to meet someone who ran a fan club of a ‘None-Band’.
‘Her name is...’ there was a pause, ‘she calls herself Morgaine,’ she added. I don’t know why, I suddenly got the picture of someone with a ridiculously high pitched voice, with purple hair, several nose rings and tattoos proclaiming that she regularly slept with the devil. I know it’s stereotyping, but hey, sue me, that’s what I saw in my mind. Then I realised I has been silent for some time, maybe because I was thinking that I would rather throw myself from the Ord of Caithness than spend any quality time with someone who calls themselves Morgaine. I think when I eventually found the power of speech I said,
‘Okay, she is a little weird,’ admitted Charlotte, ‘but she’s nice.’ That made it worse. Charlotte Notthepope had very little patience from my brief experience with her on the phone, and I would even err on the side of officious. So, for her to call anyone ‘nice’, made me wonder what a social misfit Morgaine was. ‘Just speak to her on the phone first if you like,’ she then added.
‘Two questions Miss Gregory,’ I said, only just swerving out of the way of calling her Miss Notthepope, ‘firstly, why are you so eager for me to speak to this woman?’
‘Her love of the band is infectious,’ she replied, ‘and to be quite frank, she is able to sum them up better than anyone else.’ I thought about this for a moment but my thoughts were interrupted by her question. ‘What’s the second question?’
‘What is your interest in the band, a band that doesn’t gig or record?’ She paused for a moment and I expected her to say she was the mother of one of them or an aunt wanting to push her relation. Her reply was quite a surprise.
‘I believe in them,’ she paused as if summoning the words. ‘They are very good, and if I were a proper manager rather than an agent for mediocre variety acts, I would have the means to make them wealthy.’ That, answer explained a great deal.
‘And yourself?’ I asked.
‘Well, yes it may be a bonus, but it isn’t the only driving force,’ she insisted. For the first time since I had spoken to her, she began to sound wistful and I somehow managed to agree to meet Morgaine.
I was late arriving at the Slice of Soup to meet Morgaine, mainly because though I had already travelled to Kindale, I got lost. It was as if the village had been moved slightly, and the route there was somehow different. She didn’t complain however and I had no issued recognising her. Of the three people in the café, one was male, the other was a woman of around seventy and lastly, the younger female had unfeasibly coloured hair and was dressed as if she had chosen her attire in the dark. I passed the older female as I considered that Doris was probably a more likely moniker than Morgaine. The girl was of course busily working her thumbs and fingers on her phone. I sat and stared at her. She looked up, back to the phone and then was taken aback, as if she hadn’t seen me the first time.
‘Oh my god, that made me jump,’ she exclaimed holding her phone to her chest and covering her startled mouth with the other hand. She was in her mid to late twenties but I had been wrong about the colour of her hair, it wasn’t purple but black with red streaks, long, and so knotted, I wondered if a mischievous monkey crept into her room at night and tied her hair in loops for fun. I was also wrong about the nose rings and the tattoos. She did have piercings in one of her ears however, and there was so much shrapnel in her left ear lobe and around the edge, I couldn’t help wondering if the muscles in the right side of her neck were of far greater strength than those of the left. Even before we had spoken, I was considering that she must have to wear a hat with counterweights sown into the right side to balance up her head. The tattoos were not clear. There was at least one on her arm, I could see it just poking out from the sleeve of her garment. I call it 'garment', as I had no idea what it would be called. I made a conscious attempt to never comment on her at all, any statement from my lips would immediately render it obvious that I was very old and had no idea what had happened in the world since tank tops and short trousers went out of fashion. I could almost hear her saying to her friends with full conviction,
‘Do you think he knows the war has ended?’ So, I kept it simple and tried to think through every comment before I opened my mouth. I apologised for startling her, even though the reaction had been delayed, and explained who I was. I’m fairly used to meeting people who ask me questions about what I do, and in that respect, her rebellious look, did nothing to sway her mainstream, obvious first question.
‘You’re a writer, how do you get the-‘
‘I don’t wish to seem impatient,’ I interrupted, ‘but I have limited time and I would like to hear what you have to say about Bloodstick.’ This shocked her slightly and her happy-go-lucky smile evaporated for a moment but she soon regained her fidgety actions and the smile returned.
‘Charlotte said I was to try and explain the band to you, but the thing is, it is complicated,’ she began and I was slightly glum that this was going to take longer than I expected. ‘They call themselves an enigma but I don’t think that says it all,’ she continued. ‘The music is colourful, the band are colourful too but most people see black and white and not the colour.’ I was by now thinking drugs were to blame but she continued after bringing her feet onto the seat beside her and resting her chin on her knees. I didn’t know what her lower garment would be called either but it/they, looked worn out. I had better attire for working in my garage. But, I digress, she began to animate herself as she continued. ‘To know they are good as a band is enough for most of the fans, having them turn up to prove it makes no sense to us or the band.’
‘I doubt the manager sees it that way.’ I offered.
‘No,’ she shook her head and gave me a cheeky smile, ‘she thinks that they should be gigging every weekend and making videos for the internet.’ I nodded, I offered nothing else. She put the end of a drawstring from something she was wearing into her mouth in a very insecure way. ‘The boys don’t like that idea, they just think their point is proven.’
‘I don’t know,’ she smiled dropping the drawstring and sitting to the table once more. ‘You would have to ask them about that.’ I could see that getting plain answers from anyone connected with Bloodstick seemed fraught with problems.
‘The problem is,’ I said with a theatrical sigh, ‘if they want me to write about them, I have to know what I’m writing about, and as of yet, I still know nothing about them.’
‘Oh,’ she said, raising her brows as if everything about the band would be known to everyone.
‘So unless you can give me anything,’ I added with a serious look, ‘I am wasting both our time being here.’ She nodded and looked at the counter.
‘I’ll get us another coffee,’ she said and brought them to the table. I noticed both Doris and the old man look at her and then to me, I could only guess at what they were thinking. ‘So ask away, I’ll do my best,’ she smiled as she sat.
‘What makes them worth writing about?’ and I quickly added raising my hand to stop her sudden reply, ‘and answer as if you were telling someone from another world.’ This seemed to amuse her but she settled back into the seat and began.
‘They are different, as people and musicians. They have no edge when it comes to fans and anyone can engage them. They have no airs and graces like other musician and well,’ she paused for a moment to give me her trademark smile, ‘they are just so damn good.’
‘But with all due respect, there isn’t a lot of competition this far north and as no one I know has even heard of them never mind heard them play, it is difficult to evaluate their musicianship.’ Her eyes narrowed at this and so I continued. ‘I can’t even get to hear any of their rare recordings, do you have copies?’ This seemed to make her uncomfortable. ‘And why does no one like others to hear their recordings?’ I added.
‘They are personal, each recording is for the ears of the listener only.’
‘That applies to anyone who can hear, that doesn’t explain a damn thing.’ I must have raised my voice a little at this point as her brow furrowed. I decided to try something else. ‘Then tell me why you like them, why do you like their music?’ She perked up a little at this and sipped her coffee.
‘I think their melodies are profound, they make me feel good.
'Is that all? I asked.
'Well, their lyrics are complex, they say all the things I want to say but can't find the words.’ This surprised me. I hadn't considered lyrics, I had assumed that Bloodstick would be one of those bands where the vocalist would make a sound like one long, monotone burp. And meaningful lyrics? That was the last thing I would expect from a band who called their first two CD's, 'Blunt Force Trauma', and 'Dance of the Cannibals'.
‘What sort of things??’ I asked becoming increasingly frustrated.
‘About the way life is, how people are and what emotions we have.’
‘But that isn't unique, most songs fit that criteria.’ I said, and this time she frowned again and brought her knees up once more.
'Maybe, but, Bloodstick are differet.' I sighed once more. Rather than being the best person to explain about the band as Charlotte has insisted, this girl was testing my patience and I knew it was time to leave. I stood and she jumped a little. I thought about drinking the coffee but thought better of it. I needed to get away and tell Charlotte what I thought about the whole idea.
'I have been in a few bands over the years,' I explained looking down at Morgaine, doubting that was a real name, 'and I can assure you that every musician and every band that has existed, started out life thinking they were different. The sad truth is, very few are.' I
said goodbye to her, and made my way to the door. She called something to me but I wasn’t interested. I pulled out my phone to ring Charlotte, but of course, true to form, there was no signal. I asked a passer-by if there was a public phone. He assured me there was one just down the lane by the café. I was told it was a bit of a walk but it was the only phone for the village. Why it wasn’t in the village he couldn’t say. It was signposted as Bum Lane, but again, an accurate graffiti artist had changed it from Burn Lane. After fifteen minutes I was wishing I had driven there, and then I saw it. Probably the most isolated phone box in Britain. Not a house near it and the irony was, as I stood by the box, I got a signal on my mobile. I knew because it was making that annoying sound again.
To be Continued...
Bloodstick and the Bloodstick Chronicles are copyright of Tricky Imp Publishing and Peter Gray | © Tricky Imp 2020.