D.E.A. (Minor) – Will Ashon
Taken from the Anthology of short stories recently published by the wonderful Open Pen (www.openpen.co.uk)
“After a compelling opening salvo where we learn that our story’s protagonist, Travis, is being beaten to a pulp by a punky girl band whilst he contemplates how he got there, the story slips into a more steady pace. In some-ways this is a shame as this early intrigue and dark humour keeps us guessing. As he lies on the floor being kicked he critiques the girl band’s performance: “He couldn’t deny there was a brutal, driving rhythm developing as they kicked him that he found thrillingly primal. Though he still preferred the diminuendo that occurred as they lost interest…”
Slowly we get the picture; Travis, thirty-something, is at a music festival and finding it hard to leave his youth behind. He has become darkly cynical of the music scene and is starting to see it for how it really is: The magic has been tempered by the lights coming on at the end of the disco. There’s a niggling feeling that the writer might be in the same place. The tale is littered with music scene references that lend authenticity yet risk alienating a wider readership: “the hope that Mark E. Smith might die onstage so you could say I was there,” is a very niche reference. Someone’s a big fan – The Fall’s frontman is referenced continuously.
The story is cut into sections between story-reveal and dialogue. The dialogue comes at us at a cantering pace alien to the rest of the story. Through the dialogue we learn that Travis has a young child and ex-wife. In questioning the music scene is Travis questioning himself? The tale turns when Jenny, a girl from the band responsible for beating him up, comes to him in the crowd. We learn that his beating was mistaken identity (a missed opportunity to add more colour to Travis’ past – we are are under no pressure to like him after all) and he is drawn to her only to learn she is as lonely and as alienated as him. Suddenly he has a choice to make.
Despite the staccato feel of the dialogue, this is a story that reveals itself slowly taking us from questioning Travis, and his motivations, to Travis ultimately questioning himself – helping us slip from antipathy for the character to sympathy.”
The SHORT TALE Review 2016
Check out The Open Pen Anthology