Naked, Stoned, and Stabbed

by Bradley Denton

Freddie’s looking for answers. Freddie’s also a bit unconventional: in his looks, in his music tastes, and oh yeah, he’s also a nascent ace who can manipulate sound. But he’s got a gig as a roadie for The Who and the opportunity of a lifetime in New York City. See, the only thing Freddie wants is the opportunity to meet his older half-sister — and not even a suspicious fire at the Bowery Ballroom can stop him.

Our third night at the Bowery Ballroom, Liam punched me in the gut. But I was happy to let him do it, for the sake of the gig. Besides, I hoped it might take my mind off a few things.

Such as the fact that we were in the city where my half sister lived. Who didn’t know I existed. And whom I’d sworn I would never try to meet.

Trouble was, after three days in New York, I was finding that a tough resolution to keep. It turned out Big Sis lived just seven blocks from the Ballroom, a fact I discovered because I couldn’t stay off Google. And I reckoned if I walked in that direction, I’d do better to turn around, step into Sara D. Roosevelt Park, and alter my motivation with the cheap K2 its denizens were hawking.

Of course, I’d already heard that some of that K2, the stuff the locals called KX or Xeno, would drive you starkers. Among other things, it was blamed for various incidents of violence, especially nat-on-joker or vice versa. But that was the sort of thing prigs said to scare you. My own experience, though limited to one party in London, told me that K2—or Spice, or KX, or whatever—was just mild synthetic pot.

On the other hand, my gaffer in chief, Liam, warned that whatever was being sold in an NYC Jokertown park wasn’t going to be what I’d had back home. And since Liam had tried and quit more drugs in more places than I’d ever heard of, I guessed he would know.

Besides, if I got baked, I might be even more likely to wind up at Big Sis’s apartment. And then I’d tell her who I was, which would also mean telling her that eighteen years ago, her dad had cheated on her mum with my mum. Not an auspicious icebreaker.

Especially since Big Sis just happened to be world-famous as a fashion model, reality-TV contestant, and, hang on, what was that other thing? Oh, yes: Insanely powerful, civilization-saving ace.

Given some of the barmy fans I’d encountered in almost two years as a Maximum R&B roadie, I reckoned someone like Big Sis would have delusional wankers claiming personal relationships almost daily. So knocking on her door and saying, “Hi, I’m yer secret baby brother,” might be problematic.

Still, I couldn’t help thinking it might be nice to have a sister. Half or otherwise. After all, it was a safe wager I’d never see my mum again. Since, if I did, one or both of us could wind up dead. I hadn’t run off to join the circus on a whim.

In short, I was a bit torn. The one thing I was sure of was that as long as The Who were in Manhattan, I would be arguing with myself about it. So I was ready for Liam to punch me.

But I wasn’t ready for the Bowery Ballroom to catch fire, and I wasn’t ready to electrocute myself.

Or to die and meet an angel.

Or to be attacked by a psychotic mob.

Or to be smacked to oblivion by an insanely powerful, civilization-saving ace.

So I suppose what I’m saying is:

Getting punched would be the easiest part of my weekend.


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Original Fiction from • Illustrated by John Picacio