The Pickled Mushroom

Fifty Percent Gay (36k!) | November 9, 2009

As hedgefairy already noticed in her comment on my last post, the name of this blog has changed again, and it’s probably going to stay at least for as long as I will be working on my novel. Now, to make the explanation I gave hedgefairy understandable for everyone else on here who doesn’t speak German:

The Pickled Mushroom is a setting in my novel, more specifically a pub that’s pretty much the most exciting place for a newcomer band to feature. I actually worked a lot with the impressions I got from the Irish pub and restaurant Hapenny Bridge in Geelong during my exchange when I saw Kate Miller-Heidke playing there. The Pickled Mushroom has a very similar layout, but is weirder, featuring an eccentric owner that never fails to remind me of Master Guy in disguise. (Hello, Naruto readers out there!) This owner also happens to be named in a special way, he is Mr Ian Woon. If you change those letters around, it spells out NaNoWriMo, and featuring him in their novel is an endeavour every good NaNoer tries their hand at. (Or at least, a lot do.) Piece of useless side information: he was actually called Mario at first, before I changed my mind.

So. We’ve got the setting, we know Jazz is playing with his band The Stingrays and he’s pretty nervous. Barbara is there and Abraxas too, his girlfriend Emilie and a whole bunch of others. The concert is awesome and stuff happens. Wanna meet the band? Have some of the unedited goodness. (There’s another post coming up right now, just to not make this one too long.) Just for your info, Marcel’s lead singer, London guitar, Andy bass and Jazz drums.

“Hey, Jazz!” At the shout, all three of us turned around to the brunet that had just stepped out of a door next to the stage. He gestured for Jazz to come backstage. “Stop flirting and get your butt over here, we need to decide if we’re doing Peacock tonight or not.”

Jazz offered us an apologetic smile and with a quiet “sorry” turned to follow, but not without taking the other guy into a mock headlock.

“That’s London,” Emilie explained and the look I gave her must have been quite comedical because she grinned. “Don’t ask about the name. Just don’t.” I nodded automatically.

The guitar player had ceased his playing and I felt a vague disappointment as the melody faded away after he had struck the last string, letting the sound waver in the air for a moment longer.

“And him?” I inquired curiously. I liked his playing and was really looking forward to hearing him along with the others. He had looked so introspective sitting there cradling his guitar and drawing the melodies forth, but I knew that people could be completely different off the stage from being on it.

“Marcel,” she answered, following him with her eyes as he got up and vanished through the door as well. “He’s actually the lead singer, but he’s good with the guitar too. Bit of an allrounder.”

My ears strained from the sheer immensity of the noise as the door opened – giving way briefly for an unceremonious glance into a somewhat messy room from where I stood – and the band emerged under shouting and clapping to climb the stage. Marcel, Jazz, London, and another one with shoulder length black hair framing his face. They picked up their instruments with practiced ease – or in Jazz case, sat down – and Marcel positioned himself behind the mic that Ian had retreated from with a thumbs-up towards him.

“Hi everyone,” he called out and was met with an array of shouts and whistles. “It’s awesome to see so many of you are here tonight. You excited?” The answering ruckus seemed to please him, because his already broad smile grew even wider. Jazz was twitching his left knee, letting his gaze travel across the crowd. When he caught sight of us not far from the stage, he grinned conspiratorially before turning his attention back to his dumset. I could hear a girl right behind me scream at her friend that Jazz had looked at her and I couldn’t help but give a small laugh to myself. The excitement had taken hold of me a while ago, but now it was seeping through my skin like water through silk.

“Yeah, us too,” Marcel answered the crowd and gave a small wink, but it didn’t seem as flamboyant as Ian’s jaunty antics a few minutes earlier. “So we’d probably better not waste our time talking and start playing instead before anyone has a nervous breakdown.” At this, he turned around to look at Jazz in a screamingly subtle way and turned back to the audience with a smug grin on his face while Jazz raised his drumsticks threateningly under roaring laughter, but it was easy to tell he was taking the joke well. Marcel gave us a moment to quiet down a bit again before he continued. “Well, they want us out of here by ten so they can clean the place and lock it up before anyone misses their bedtime,” he twitched his eyebrows and was echoed with laughter again, “so I’ll come back to what I said just then, let’s get going.” He gave the other band members a glance and was met with nods all around. Turning back to the mic, he threw his head back. His eyes positively shone in the headlamps. “Our first song tonight is one of your favourites, Crocodile tears.” It was hard to hear him anymore as he shouted his final words. “Here goes!”

Emilie was watching the group of girls surrounding Marcel that had become smaller by now. “They’re all over him,” she said pensively, her chin resting in her linked hands. “So sorry for them.”

“Why?” I inquired, quirking a brow.

“He’s gay,” Jazz answered helpfully and watched with a hardly suppressed laugh as my other brow travel upwards to meet its sibling on my foreheard.

“Oh,” I said.

Bas chortled. “Aw, poor Barb,” he said and leant over to put a hand on my arm. “Now she’s all disappointed. Don’t worry, there’s more fish in the sea.”

I shook my head. “Funny, brother,” I gave back drily. “Very funny.”

“Why, hello there.” I turned to look at the speaker and saw London standing just a meter away with his arms crossed in front of his chest. “Very nice dancing. Very inspiring.” He winked suggestively and bowed with a mocking flourish and out of the corner of my eyes I could see Jazz shake his head sadly, but I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Why, thank you,” I mimicked him and he straightened up again.

“Deeply, deeply inspiring,” he added with a conspiratorial twitch of his brows.

“I see.” I tried to, but I couldn’t keep a straight face. Today had been a long, tiring day and the unexpectedly vigorous dancing had worn me out right down to the bones of my wit and I didn’t feel like giving anyone smart replies when I could just as well simply smile and nod for the moment.

“Inspiring’s the word,” Marcel added, stepping up behind London and putting a hand down on his shoulder. Then, he stepped past him and held out his hand to me. “I’m Marcel,” he explained with a slight, open smile and I shook his hand. “We’ll have to do that again some time.”

I laughed at his suggestion. “Barbara,” I introduced myself.

“Bas’ sister,” Jazz jumped in.

“Ah,” Marcel made, nodding. “Well, Bas we know.” He grinned as he gave a glance to my brother’s Stingrays shirt. “Our number one cheerleader.”

That had both Jazz, Emilie, me and Andy cracking up, while London and Marcel merely exchanged smug glances and Bas folded his arms with what I would have called a sulky pout had he not been twenty-two years old.

London leant forward to pat Bas’ shoulder congenially. “Take it as an honour,” he said with an expression that clearly told Bas how much of an honour exactly it was. “You’re our only cheerleader. That’s got to count for something, don’t you think.”

Bas still looked vaguely put out, but even he could not hinder a smile, a tiny curve of amusement, from turning up the corners of his mouth. “You’re all idiots,” he grumbled, but everyone just laughed.

The next half hour was spent sitting around talking, and it didn’t take long until we all had gotten something to drink from the bar, where Ian made us drinks with lots of flourishes and elaborate words, congratulating the band on such a successfull show. He looked over at me and gave me an enthusiastic thumbs-up that was so vigorously thrust in my direction I had the inkling it would have knocked me over had I not been sitting already. No, there was no doubt – there was nothing about Mr Ian Woon that was not overly dramatic or staged or embellished in some way or other. For some reason, I found that extremely likable at this instance.

“Is yours good?” Fiona asked, nodding at the drink in my hand. She was London’s sister, the woman I had seen earlier when I had thought he was waving at me. Seemed like this was a family business.

I nodded, pulling on my straw. I wasn’t much of a drinker, seeing that I didn’t like the taste of alcohol much, but it was an exotic concoction with lots of coconut milk, the aroma of liquorice, ouzo, just underlining subtly, not too strong. It was sweet and sharp and delicious. “It’s really good, thanks,” I replied with a smile.

“Can I try some?” Emilie leant over to look at me questioningly and I handed her my glass.

This started a whole round of ‘pass your drink around’ until everyone’s glasses had circulated once throughout the whole group and came back to their respective owners a good few centimetres less full than before. Bas and Fiona both had gotten something with lots of orange juice in it so everyone had a double swig of those, and Marcel had opted for something sweet with cream. I promised myself to keep the name of that one in mind, ‘Cloud Nine’, because it was good. When I took a tentative sip from Jazz’ ‘Bloody Mary’, I could hear him laugh at my nose wrinkling at the unexpected sharpness of the taste, not anywhere near the sweetness of everyone else’s drinks, but peppery and earthy. I hadn’t tried a Mary before, but once the glass had passed on and the aftertaste warmed my tongue, I decided that I liked it. Andy, Emilie and Abraxas all had taken something non-alcoholic, seeing that someone had to drive.

After the glasses had passed and were back in their original holder’s hands, the talk came back to other things besides alcohol. Andy, Emilie, Bas, Jazz and I were sitting on the edge of the low stage while London, Fiona and Marcel were in a kind of semi-circle on the floor. Not long after London had emptied his glass, he inched over to Marcel and laid his head on his shoulder, mumbling something indefinable that made Marcel reach up and pat his cheek with a wry smile.

Noticing my looking, he grinned up at me. “Surprised?” he asked with one eyebrow raised slightly.

I shrugged. “Jazz said you’re gay, but I didn’t know London’s too,” I said, quite directly which I traced back to the alcohol.

London raised a finger. “Bi, actually” he corrected, then pulled himself upright again and rested his hands on his crossed ankles. “But right now, seeing that I’m shagging Marcel, fifty percent of our band members are pretty gay.” He grinned as I burst into a fit of giggles until Emilie had to pat me on the back to calm me down again.

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