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The Kids Are Alright

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James suggested it, in his own roundabout way.

“Gordon McPherson got a drum kit for his birthday. Bashes away at it all day long, he does, and it’s all right cos his dad soundproofed his room! Says Gordon might just be the new Keith Moon, or something. Who’s Keith Moon?”

That was when Dad went digging through his cd collection—bellowing, “Who’s Keith Moon? Who?”—and came back with “The Kids Are Alright.” He played it, enthusiastically pointing out the drum solo.

“That’s Keith Moon, son. That’s Keith Moon.”

Katie hadn’t cared about Keith Moon or The Who or making music, really, but she’d apparently kept the experience in the back of her mind, because the day she got her job at a music shop—not fucking ideal, but a job was a job, and she was down to her last tenner—and her boss showed her 'round the place, her eyes naturally gravitated to the drums.

“Don’t let anyone muck about on those,” Mr. Best, her boss, admonished. He was tall, a gangling figure with long, scraggly hair and a face about as interesting as an episode of Eastenders. Still, he looked like he got his suits done on Savile Row, and he made Katie dress up like she was working at a much nicer shop than Best & Best (“All the Best instruments!”), which was fine with Katie, really.

“Poncy brats run in, put their grubby hands on the instruments like they own them. Don’t let them, Katie Fitch. Understand?”

“I understand.”

“Repeat after me, then. ‘I, Katie Fitch.’”

“I, Katie Fitch…”

“’Swear not to let poncy brats put their grubby hands on Mr. Best’s instruments.’”

Katie repeated everything, and though she tried very hard not to laugh Mr. Best glowered at her near the end of it.

“You’ll be taking this job seriously, yeah?”

She put on her best responsible face. “Seriously. Absolutely.”

And she tried, she really did, but whenever Mr. Best wasn’t in the shop, lots of poncy brats put their grubby hands on his instruments whilst Katie sat back and read the latest issue of i-D.

It was late one Saturday, near closing, when the shop was empty and Katie was bored enough to dust the counters—entirely ready to lock up so she could (maybe, probably) go to a pub and drown her fucking sorrows—when her gaze strayed to the drum kits and she remembered James talking about Gordon McPherson bashing away. Maybe because she was tired, maybe because she’d spent the better part of the afternoon trying not to think about the fact she was working in a shop that vaguely reeked of wood cleaner and plasticine, maybe because her life had veered somewhere along the way and she knew she’d never have the things she’d been sure she’d have by the time she was twenty, at the latest—Katie took off her cardigan, draped it across the neck of a Hofner bass, and picked up a pair of drum sticks.

For a bit, she stared at them. Twirled them somewhat awkwardly. Knocked them together, not very forcefully at all.

Then she rolled up her sleeves and sat behind the one kit that was fully assembled. Snare drum, cymbal, kick drum—the whole bit. Katie looked round; no, no one had walked in. The place was empty, and the little bell attached to the door hadn’t rung. No one would see her. Up went the sticks and she hit the cymbal, once—heard the crash, felt the reverberation. It was an oddly satisfying sound—dissonant, jarring. Loud. It felt good to hear it again as she put down with more force.

But not as good as it felt to slip out of her heels, put her foot on the pedal of the kick drum, and:

Boom. Boom. Boom. Crash.

As she hit the cymbal again, then struck the toms with ferocity, Katie laughed. She grew warm—her blood rushed through her body—and she laughed.

What chance was there she’d hear the little bell? Fucking none. And, so, when she noticed movement from the corner of her eye, Katie nearly fell off her seat.

The way Effy was smiling reminded Katie of the first year of college, of the way things were before everything had gone to absolute shit. She wasn’t sure whether that made her happy, or irritated.

“You scared the shit out of me, you silent nutter.”

The corner of Effy’s mouth quirked as she tilted her head. “Good at hitting things, aren’t you, Katie?”

“Yeah, well, you should know.”

“Not much rhythm, though. A bit spastic, my little Fitch.”

“That’s hardly the point,” Katie replied, striking the toms softly as she spoke. “And I’m hardly fucking yours.” There was absolutely no venom in her tone. Effy was still smiling, broadly, and it was terribly lovely.

“I suppose you’ll be sacked if you’re caught smoking and playing with Mr. Best’s instruments?” Effy asked, already pulling out her cigarette case.

“Spliff?”

Effy nodded.

“Give it here.”

They smoked a bit; Katie banged on Mr. Best’s drums and Effy tried to blow into one of his clarinets.

“Need a reed for that, don’t you?"

“Weed?” Effy said.

Reed.

“Got weed,” Effy said, laughing around the spliff. She was being silly, which was good. Silly was good. Silly made Katie’s chest light with happiness, and relief.

Effy wrapped her lips around the joint, inhaled and blew out the smoke in Katie’s face. Katie closed her eyes, drew it in deep as she could.

When Effy kissed her, Katie dropped a drum stick.

“That’s nice, yeah?”

Katie didn’t open her eyes.

“Different,” she said.

“Yeah, but nice,” Effy repeated, kissing her again. This time, Katie kissed back; it was a proper kiss, the sort that leaves you wanting for air.

They snogged for a bit and, yeah. Yeah, it was fucking nice. It shouldn’t have been—Effy tasted like spliff and coffee; and, well, it was Effy—but there was nothing not nice about it. It made Katie forget a lot of things, and long for others. Things that maybe weren’t as out of reach as she had imagined.

“Time to go?”

Katie’s eyes opened. The world came into focus as she glanced at her watch. Half eight. Yes, time to go.

Effy grabbed Katie’s cardigan off the Hofner, helped her put it back on. “Fancy a drink with a nutter, then?”

“Only if you don’t mind I’m just a shop girl.”

“Nonsense. You’re Katie fucking Fitch, remember?”

"Too right.”

Katie locked up, and the two crossed arms as they walked to the pub. It was a nice walk.

They took their time with it.