My short story, “Beat Me Daddy (Eight to the Bar)” (which wasn’t included in the collection, but is still a personal favorite of mine) was originally published in the print magazine Black Gate last winter. Now, thanks to the good graces of Fortean Bureau, an excellent webzine, the story is online for free in its entirety. Here’s a taste:
We were the Eight-Bar Band: there was me and my bugle; and Timson, whose piano had no top and got rained on from time to time; and Steve, the front-man and singer. And then there was blissed-out, autistic Hambone, our “percussionist” who whacked things together, more-or-less on the beat. Sometimes, it seemed like he was playing another song, but then he’d come back to the rhythm and bam, you’d realise that he’d been subtly keeping time all along, in the mess of clangs and crashes he’d been generating.
I think he may be a genius.
Why the Eight-Bar Band? Thank the military. Against all odds, they managed to build automated bombers that still fly, roaring overhead every minute or so, bomb-bay doors open, dry firing on our little band of survivors. The War had been over for ten years, but still, they flew.
So. The Eight-Bar Band. Everything had a rest every eight bars, punctuated by the white-noise roar of the most expensive rhythm section ever imagined by the military-industrial complex.
We were playing through “Basin Street Blues,” arranged for bugle, half-piano, tin cans, vocals, and bombers. Steve, the front-man, was always after me to sing backup on this, crooning a call-and-response. I blew a bugle because I didn’t like singing. Bugle’s almost like singing, anyway, and I did the backup vocals through it, so when Steve sang, “Come along wi-ith me,” I blew, “Wah wah wah wah-wah wah,” which sounded dynamite. Steve hated it. Like most front-men, he had an ego that could swallow the battered planet, and didn’t want any lip from the troops. That was us. The troops. Wah-wah.