Through the Woods to See the Blackness Between the Stars
Angelica Whateley drives her brown beater of a car through the narrow backroads of Kingsport. The trees are full and green, curling over what can barely be called a paved road, making the early evening’s twilight all the darker.
She thinks to herself that the beauty of it could easily be an opening scene to a horror film or the closing scene of a romance. She reaches back and gives herself a pat for the depth of the observation then fumbles for her phone, swerving a bit as she struggles to wake it. She fumbles again to find the record button with another swerve, then taps it and clumsily tosses the phone onto the passenger seat.
“The beauty of it could easily be an opening scene to a horror film or the closing scene of a romance,” she says loudly while leaning the upper half of her body towards the phone.
“Gotta remember that one,” She continues out loud to herself, “okay, so I’m driving to see some new hot indie band called Ivan Rocket… through God knows where? Somewhere off to the side of the middle of nowhere in Kingsport. What am I expecting?” she rhetorically asks herself. She pauses.
“What am I expecting?” she monotonously asks herself, glancing up at the rearview mirror catching her own eye.
She talks aloud towards the phone. “Okay, so this guy is known for his spiritual kinda performances and I know that I am here due to my fucking dad and that my last name being Whateley… the paper thinks that will sell the article to readers. If I want out of this shadow, I need to take those readers’ eyes and change them from looking at the name to looking at the music. I will change their minds. This will happen.”
She cynically repeats the phrase in a chant as though a mantra to herself. She repeats it again with purpose.
“I will change their minds. This will happen.”
Ahead she sees some balloons and a sign on a fence post that says, “ONE MORE MILE – TURN RIGHT AT OLD HAY FLAT ROAD – LOOK FOR THE TENT”.
As she speeds by the balloons she hears the percussive hollow slapping of inflated rubber versus rubber and decides to slow down before she pisses off the locals.
She spends a moment staring ahead admiring the beauty.
“My god, how long does it take to drive one stupid mile at 30 miles an hour?” she thinks to herself. She contemplates doing the math, then decides that it’s not worth it, then does it anyway. “If 60 miles an hour is one minute a mile, then 30 is…”
“Two minutes!” She shouts. “This is either the longest two minutes ever or I seriously need to learn to just relax for a sec.”
Ahead she sees a splash of color. It’s more balloons.
As she approaches, she sees the signs. First the street sign, “Old Hayflat Rd”. Then another flyer amiably stating: “GO RIGHT AND YOU HAVE ARRIVED”.
She turns right down the road. It dips down as the asphalt quickly gives way to a dirt drive. Ahead of her, the fencing opens up into a dreamlike quaint meadow with a large, white canvas tent. Around the guy ropes and pegs, impossible amounts of white Christmas light strands of round bulbs are slung over the entrance then spreading out to the trees. It’s as if someone took a child’s dream fort and made it real life.
As she looks for a spot in the dirt lot she notices there is an odd assortment of vehicles. Some nice and fancy, some beaters like hers, a minivan, a pair of choppers with ape hangers, a cherry classic Beetle parked next to a new Bug that looks like it’s been in a flood. “I guess the weirdos in the wild drive whatever they can get their hands on.”
She finds a spot between a “work guy’s white big truck thing” and a Prius. She grabs her phone and purse and starts making her way toward the opening of the tent.
There are a few people standing outside. A farmer drinking from a beer can with possibly the most generic label she’s ever seen, a woman and her teenage son, who appears to be sick, and what might possibly be a frat boy from an 80’s John Hughes movie, among a few others.
As she enters the tent the audience becomes even more oddly diverse. “It’s like the parking lot was full of clique-specific clown cars that threw up their inhabitants in here.” Everything from cowboys to b-boys, from shirts to skins, and beyond. The place was packed, but none of the cliques and casts seemed to be intermixing. “They don’t seem to have problems, just each existing in their own personal bubbles.”
As patchwork as the crowd is, there are similarities. Angelica noted two types of groups. The first are groups of friends. People who obviously know each other and seem to be having a good time. Laughing and behaving as one would expect friend groups to do at a concert. The second she assumes are families. Many of them consist of what appear to be caregivers and a beneficiary. Several seem to be older parents standing with a sick child and some appear to be grown children with an ailing parent. She notes the oddest thing about this second group. In each case, the caregiving side wears scowls or concern on their faces and the sick seem happy. Happy to the point where the bags under their eyes wash away from the twinkle within.
She looks up at the stage. Most of the shined wood flooring is behind a large red curtain with gold roping. Above the curtain hangs a huge banner that says “Ivan Rocket and the Blackness Between the Stars.”
Beneath the banner, to the side of the curtain, she sees a neat, well-tailored man in a black suit wave to her.
“This must be Nicolas, Ivan Rocket’s Press Manager.” Angelica physically feels her eyebrow rise as she watches his approach. If one can glide masculine-ly? That is how she would describe it. He fluidly ebbs over to a folding table with red cups on it, grabs two of them and effortlessly flows over to her. As he approaches her impression switches from deified awe to nostalgic “ahhh” noticing his warm smile and outreached hands with what she assumes to be alcohol. “No wonder this guy’s a great manager”.
“Are you excited about the show Ms. Whateley?” Nicolas asks through his distinguished yet childlike grin.
Angelica views Nicolas to be charismatic, yet odd. His suit is black. All black. Black tie, black shirt, black jacket, and pants. He appears to be about 50 with a post-war-era-actor way of carrying on in a way the girls at the time would have found “terribly interesting”. It’s as if the Greatest Generation found the fountain of youth and stayed great forever. He was disturbingly perfect.
“Nicolas I assume?” Angelica asks, reaching out her hand to take the offered drink. Nicolas winks in acknowledgment. “I am excited,” she answers. “But, I’m looking more forward to meeting and having a chance to interview… The band? Is it a band or a man? Will I be interviewing Mr. Rocket?”
Nicolas chuckles. “Ivan, Ms. Wateley. Just call him Ivan, and no need to be all business. This show is an experience!” he proudly says with a wave of his hand accentuating the tent and stage. “How can you write about an experience without experiencing it?”
“What’s in this red cup Nicolas?” she asks flatly.
“Sierra Nevada I think,” he responds, takes a sip, then nods with a smile of assurance.
Angelica takes a drink and wonders if Rohypnol tastes like anything?
“Weird setup you have going here. Weird crowd too,” Angelica says.
He leans over and responds over the chatter, “How So?”
“Just appears to be people from all walks of life,” she says.
“Oh yes. Ivan helps people with his music. All kinds of people,” he says, answering her unasked question.
“What, like a faith healer? Cuz that’s what this place looks like. Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show or something like that,” she says, proud of her music-writer Neil Diamond reference.
“I guess you could say that?” he says as Angelica realizes that her coolness has landed on deaf ears. “He is a healer,” he continues over the chatter in the room. “But faith is irrelevant. Like most things in life, it just depends on what exactly it is that ails you. For those with the right sickness, Ivan has the right cure.”
“OK then, if rock n’ roll is the cure, what’s the sickness? Or is it more like a rock n’ roll deficiency?” she asks.
“The latter. Would you like another drink before we go meet him?” he says waving his arm and open hand out in guidance.
She chugs the cup and flatly says, “Yes please.”