Altare Deorum

Varistor drove her band’s giant RV through the tree-lined highways from Kingsport to Beverly. She was an odd woman, or girl. She was still working on that distinction. At 25 she felt she was at a crossroads.

“Should I feel guilty because, before, kids came of age at, like, fourteen?” she thought.

Varistor was too impassive or judicious to even answer the question herself. She was a girl-woman of little words, which she found made her stand out even more in a world where women are often accused of having too many words. “Is there no happy medium? Is there not a place where a woman gets to have just the right amount of words?”. Again, she left herself unanswered.

The turned-low radio in the RV played the local college radio station, KRKN. The snarky DJ introduced himself as Orpheus, “the Rock n’ Roll Prophet”, and prattled off about the next band. It’s Down the Drain doing a cover of “All My Friends”. Varistor remembers playing a show with them before Ivan had truly dialed in his sound “They’re some kind of gothic rebel, preppy conformist fashion thing. Who comes up with this stuff?” She listens for a few seconds and then decides that she likes the LCD Soundsystem version better. “Is it weird that the Down the Drain band members are so young and play a song about being old?” Like most, she rarely preferred the cover versions. In fact, as a creative person herself, she harbored a little disdain for cover songs but swallowed the disdain quickly, knowing that there were probably one or two in her near future.

After playing a show and staying a few days in Kingsport they were now approaching Altare Deorum Catholic, one of the largest all-girl colleges in the Northeast, to play the school’s graduation ball. The school was also hosting the mostly boys college of Servi Deorum Catholic. “So, a historically all-girls school where boys aren’t allowed and a historically all-boys school that, by law, must allow girls?” she poses to herself. “Should I expect secret drinking and hand holding or an explosion of skin, booze, and brawls?”

She turned the monstrosity of a vehicle down the drive of the school taking care not to jostle it and hoping not to wake up the sleeping band members.

To her right in the passenger seat as always was Toggles. Toggles was her counterpart, or maybe antithesis in Ivan Rocket and the Blackness Between the Stars. They both played and programmed the synths, but while her approach was meticulous and precise, his was chaotic and messy. An odd musical pair, but they agreed that they both liked the challenge. Although, Varistor often asked herself “how much of a challenge was it really for him to be chaotic and messy?

Somewhere in the middle compartment were Dark Johnny, the guitarist, and BeeBee the drummer; and in the back? In the back bedroom of the RV, if you could call that musty closet a bedroom was Ivan.

Ivan was an odd collection of attitudes and styles. Mellow with a blonde shag and glasses, his style of dress was somewhere tossed up between an Elvis cowboy, Kurt Cobain circa 1990, and Motown Philly. Half the time he spoke like a prophet slipping seamlessly into speaking like a braindead stoner the other half of the time. He was a strange man, but his bass playing. When he played, people listened.

The band had nicknamed the RV “The Behemoth” and she was a stout broad. “She knew how to take a hit and keep on fighting. Is that a good thing to say about a broad yet? Is it okay for a girl to use the word broad? What, exactly, is a broad?” They had once had a discussion about how in The Bible and pre-that, the Behemoth is associated with being a male and the Leviathan was associated with females, but in the end, the discussion was forgotten and the personification and name combo stuck. It still handled pretty well, not as good as when they first got it, but as good as she needed to.

The driveway to Altare Deorum was long, and even in the darkness, she could see the money it was built on. The gabled buildings, the manicured topiaries, it was a castle devoted to learning, by and for the rich.

She approached the security gate, turning the quiet music down even more as she was greeted by a smiling face with a badge. The man was obviously comfortable in the booth, watching Immaculate Procession, some terrible funeral parlor reality TV show while eating a massive hoagie.

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“Evenin’, Hun,” he said, chewing and swallowing his bite.

“Hi. We’re the band for the graduation ball tomorrow,” she said, quietly so as to not wake the other passengers.

“Oh yeah, Arriving Rocket, we weren’t expecting you ‘till the morning.”

“It’s Ivan Rocket,” she corrects him.

“What?”

“Ivan Rocket. The band is called Ivan Rocket,” She says politely. They had decided to leave off the ‘Blackness Between the Stars’ from their name for the show in the interest of amicability.

“Well, Hun, you’re way too cute to be named Ivan,” he said, undoubtedly thinking he was being cute. Varistor got that a lot. While she may have been a rather mellow and to herself individual, her look seemed to inspire some sort of adventurousness in the world’s “normal men”. She thought it must have bee her dark hair and clothes, and white skin, or her air of having something else she’d rather be doing. “Why is it that men in the world associate being socially different as being sexually available?”

“Yeah, well, my parents must have had a sick sense of humor,” she said, figuring that she was beating him to his next line. Beside her, she heard a slight laugh from a half-asleep Toggles.

“Like a boy named Sue?” The guard retorted, in what she assumed was his best attempt at connecting.

“Yep, damn those dirty, mangy dogs that done gave me that name,” she acknowledged.

The guard responds with a flirtatious chuckle.

“Well, we’re dead tired here. Is there a place we can park and sleep until morning?” she asked, hoping to put an end to the torturous interaction.

“Sure, sure, Hun. You can park ‘round back. Drive past the main building to the right and you’ll see the Abbey. Park somewhere in there.”

“Awesome, man, thanks!” she called out, already driving the Behemoth away.

Next to her, eyes still closed, Toggles sarcastically asked, “You didn’t get his number?”

“Oh shit, I totally forgot,” she responded with an audible smirk. “Maybe I better turn around?”

“I’m sure he’ll still be single tomorrow,” Toggles muttered and fell back asleep.

Varistor parked the RV and leaned back in the comfy driver’s chair she so often used as a bed. She pulled her phone from her pocket and started to wind down from the drive. She typed into her phone, “What does broad for a woman mean?”

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