For the first time in years Simon Jones was having fun. He was painting.

He was sick of them all. Especially Andy. Andy was getting more boring by the day. The weird thing was that even though he was the reasonable one, the others seemed to side with Andy. Even James, their “long-suffering” manager had taken him aside yesterday after the sound check.

The others have asked me to have a word with you. Just to see if you are ok.”
“I’m fine,” he mumbled.
“How’s Susan?”
“Fine.” He didn’t mention the fight.
“We’re worried about you.”
He drew blankly on his cigarette.
“The guys just want to know where we are going with this.”
“What’s Andy saying now?”
“Nothing. He’s off with Jane.”
They both looked at each other for a moment, and laughed survivors’ laughs. Bitch from Hell.

James’voice turned serious now, although it didn’t suit his cherub face.
“Simon, it’s a system; you, the band, the audience and you’ve got to keep control. Let’s talk after the show.”

But he didn’t want to talk. He was done with talking. Tonight was special. It would be the last night. He was going to show them what a show was. They just provided the backing, he was the artist. They came to see him while the others fumbled in the shadows to catch up.

He had imagined this several months ago when he was tripping with Spock and the guys down at Chambers Street.

“I’ve got to take the show further. I want to take it out there.”
“Cool” they said.
“Communicating with the audience through non-communication”
“Cool” they said.
“More than face-to-face, it’s mind-to-mind!”
“Cool” they said.

Then they all took more acid.

He avoided the band the rest of the day. They were probably down the pub. It hurt him that Andy couldn’t understand where he was going with the show. They had grown up together. He used to tease Andy about his youthful desire to be a policeman. “When I grow up I want to be a painter, not a plodder”. But they had found that together they were able to attack the audience with their incompetent noise and even get paid for it.

Success for a short second. And then slowly, eventually Simon had got tired of hearing Andy’s complaint “We have to play better, we have to play songs the audience knows. We have to get more professional.”

But to Simon, this noise was professional. His art was unpredictability, not repeatability. And he didn’t want to explain that because it shouldn’t have to be explained. He didn’t want to argue. He just pitied Andy silently for wanting to control the uncontrollable.

The last show was amazing. He was on the stage, tripping, and the audience were feeling his vibe and getting off on it. He didn’t even have to play his guitar. It was like telepathy. There could be no closer communication of mind and spirit. The other guys in the band didn’t understand. They were scared, because they couldn’t let go. They would never understand what it was like to be out in front. Putting your mind on the line.

He saw a girl in the audience. She was swaying backward and forward. Back and forth to the music and colors in his mind. And for a moment she looked into his eyes and saw nothing reflected back but the universe.

James had tried to talk to him after the show, but he was on too much of a high. He didn’t want to say or sing a single word ever again. He had left that world and was now somewhere warm and comfortable. And frankly, he had never felt better.

And then it came to him. He had to paint. He was an artist and an artist must paint. He took a taxi back, clutching three tins of paint he’d found behind the stage.

Like a child he felt the wicked exhilaration of slapping paint on his wall’s cool surface. He dripped, he daubed, he rubbed. His fingers merged the colors of his mind into a huge swirl that looked like heaven and hell.

The yellow had run out. He threw the tin at the wall, making a cute sunburst, just like his guitar. Then he threw his guitar at the wall. Another sunburst. Then he threw himself at the wall.

Some time later when all the paint was gone and the sun seared through the slit in the curtains he pulled his wet fingers from the wall and stepped back. His masterpiece. It had perfect form. He smiled to himself and decided to call it “Sanity”. He sat, lit up his last cigarette and admired it for a very long time.

The phone had been ringing for a while. He shook himself and, looking back at the wall, lifted the receiver. “Mr Jones, this is housekeeping, this is your wake-up call…Mr Jones?…Hello?”

He replaced the receiver and looked at the wall. He was awake and he was an artist!

Copyright Mark Devlin July 30 2001