THINGS WOULD GO really well for everyone, every last one of them walking away unhurt and with their dignity left intact, if they’d just do Brother Buck the small little favour of shutting the fuck up.

The ones back at the diner deserved the admonishment, if maybe not the violence. What? They’d never seen a man walk in wet without a shirt before? He should’ve forgiven them, there’s a difference between people out to be disrespectful and those that simply didn’t understand, Brother Buck knew that, but still…

The DJ was testing his patience. The goons around him, falling about in hysterics at his every last word, did they truly find him hilarious, or were they paid to laugh that way and secretly wanted him dead? Why did the news speak of the rich and the foreign like they were the only ones affected? And who was this shorty all the singers wanted to do sexual things to in the club?

The radio had to go. He deserved a quiet night.

Back when they were up the river, Father Mills used to tell a story about a Japanese sky with two moons, and Brother Buck liked to picture them going round and round the fairest sun like a Ferris wheel, only without the screaming kids. Most days or nights, he saw nothing when he looked up, but tonight there really were two, in the sky, in the water.

He asked Mary if she didn’t agree that was the most beautiful sight they ever did see. Stuck on the dashboard, turned around backwards, she had the clearest view, but she wouldn’t say. Maybe she thought she’d wait till September, explain everything to his face, tell him she couldn’t forget that night either. Everyone deserved the chance to explain themselves, Brother Buck believed this absolutely, lend thy ears before ye shall pass judgement.

‘We’re home Mary,’ he said soothingly, cutting the engine dead and almost not hearing the clink of glasses by the pool above the laughter under his breath.

By Shihab S Joi
Peter Buck/ Michael Mills/ William Berry/ Michael Stipe 


FOR A WHILE, before I started to suspect she was rehearsing, it had to be for some terrible performance art piece for an awful crowd I never wanted to be a part of, I fancied that she was playing up purely for my benefit.

Assuming a frenzied clamber onto furniture followed by throwing her body hard against the floor, in an act replayed over and over again, could pass in anyone’s mind as playful.

If there was music, I couldn’t hear it.

The first time she acknowledged my existence, it couldn’t have been because I’d let my guard down, my guard was never going to protect me with all that twitching and shuffling, she looked me straight in the eye, a stare so hard it made me wipe mine, a gesture that would mark me out as weak, weak little bird-dog, who couldn’t meet her gaze at a distance even a mother would describe as safe.

The self-conscious audience. How amateur.

Little by little, I forced my body to learn to replace its shadow. The mesh curtain no longer a safety net, all traces of rain and snow wiped away, I stood, always upright, wearing a quarter-smile, and with eyes she could only describe to her art-house friends as ‘dancing’.

By winter, my confidence grew so tall, my own form had taken to art, thrashing around my room, climbing anything higher than the ground and flailing myself off it. A copy, of course, but displayed as inspiration. The days when she’d just stand there, staring, they were the best days, the days I caught her smiling even better.

When the time came for her to throw in the big performance, I missed it. Story of my life. Who can say if it was the story of hers? Some nights I lie there mapping out a hundred ways it might’ve been me, other nights I’m less cavalier, wishing that it had been anyone who had been there to catch her, anyone at all.

It won’t happen to you. That much I can promise you my darling, that much you can be sure of.

I think I might even know your name.

By Shihab S Joi
Robert Smith/ Simon Gallup/ Porl Thompson / Laurence Tolhurst/ Boris Williams