To be a rock and not to roll: part two

by Richard Freeland

Hendricks looked down and discovered his hands firmly grasping leather handles, right foot buried in the gas pedal below. The Brute, crammed into Hendricks’ sidecar, grimaced at his destructively daydreaming superior. 

“Eh, Hen, what’ll we do to the bastard? I only had time to snatch my nunchucks. You got anything concealed?” the Brute queried. Only the flapping of Hendricks’ mane answered him.

The city slipped by and the demonic duo sighted the rural landscape ahead. Hills, valleys and fields crept up on the urban outskirts; grains and greens splayed wildly. Hendricks hucked a glob of phlegm and thanked Satan he didn’t live in the country. He rode his hog along dirt roads for hours, releasing abrupt screams every 45 minutes to wake the sleepy Brute beside him, and as he did, light stole away from the 31st of December. Nearly New Year’s.

A plywood hovel was perched on a pond. Hendricks let off on the throttle and rolled into his destination’s makeshift driveway. Hendricks had been waiting to meet his worthy victim. As an employee of the government’s Musical Admonition Department, it was his duty to end the lives of those who gave rock music a bad reputation via horrible covers.

“Let’s rock and roll, Hendricks. Let’s deform a teenager,” said the Brute, squirming to achieve freedom from the confines of Hendricks’ sidecar.

“They say the bastard’s been practicing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ daily. Just nailed the damn intro last week. That’s when the first reports trickled in. He should be right over…”

The Brute trailed off, staring intently at the pond. Hendricks shut his eyes and huffed in the country air. It fueled the pumping pistons of rage within.

Hendricks snapped his eyelids open, veined neck pivoting toward the pond. With sudden horror, Hendricks examined a boy ankle-deep in the water with his back to the two men. A gilded swath of flowing hair glided down from the boy’s brow. Essentially, a male Rapunzel. The youth turned and planted his feet in the pebbles, directly facing Hendricks.

“Will you hear me play, then? Before you do your worst, I’d like the chance to persuade you otherwise,” the boy said, grinning boldly. One hand touched a mahogany-colored acoustic guitar, slung against his side on a leather strap. Hendricks sneered. This was just a kid after all, even if he did have a mane that rivaled his own.

“Hear that, Hendricks? Says he wants to play ‘Stairway to Heaven’ for us,” the Brute said, breaking his silence, brushing aside the spell of the exotic youth. Hendricks reached into his pocket for his favorite Taser and as he did so, the boy adjusted his instrument, pick appearing between his teeth.

I will massacre this boy, Hendricks thought with the same certainty with which he dismembered drummers, refused to acknowledge taxes and declared good music dead.

The boy hesitated, his hands sliding over the neck of the guitar. The quiet country sounds ceased, the sun rose in symmetry with the boy’s head, his fingers started to pluck and Hendricks fell to his knees in astonishment. That sound, he thought. I know that sound.

The Brute was unperturbed.

“Time to mess you up good, pretty boy. You even had the nerve to not learn the solo,” the Brute said. The boy dropped his guitar to his side and stared quixotically back at him.

“Hendricks, whatever weapons you’ve … Hendricks? What are you doing?” The Brute strode uneasily toward his mentor.

Hendricks was still on his knees, his face a reflection of pure ecstasy.

“That … that was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard,” he mumbled, staring out to the rising sun.

“That was just another ‘Stairway’ failure, Hen,” the Brute said, fidgeting uncomfortably. Hendricks stood tall and laughed. His own tangled mane dangled across his shoulders. He crossed the distance to the motorcycle, mounted and cruised away.

“Hendricks! Son of a…” The Brute said.

Hendricks returned to the city with bronze light on his back—the dawn of a new millennium, Jan. 1, 2000. He extended his arms like a bird as he rode, reveling in the wind, soaring all the way back to the city and his downtown apartment. Hendricks worshiped that sound tirelessly for the first 20 hours of January.

“That sound,” he scribbled on a small piece of note paper. “Some hear it, and some don’t.”

Three days later the police found him peacefully arranged on his bed, hands folded—no breathing, no pulse. Peaceful and garbed all in white. Mane shaved.

READ: To be a rock and not to roll: part 1