I watch the Mayor dash about the rooftop, clutching his toupee against the wind. “My building!” he says, “Grey–what have you done to my building?”
I get it. They gave him the city in decent shape; he doesn’t want it broken.
Over on the balcony, rock-megastar Alex Grey is not empathetic, mumbling: “Just hang on, brother,” his voice a rumble beneath the shrieking wind. Grey tweaks his low-E peg, plucks his tortoiseshell plectrum across the string, holds the guitar up to his ear, and nods, satisfied that he’s in tune. We’re standing on the world’s biggest amp. During the morning bustle to blockade the New York Harbor, Grey sent a battalion of roadies to lash, strap, and solder hundreds of amp cabinets to the Empire State Building.
Today is my first as Mayor’s assistant, and while waiting for the Coast Guard to call, I watch as a wicked, westerly wind whip the Mayor’s ketchup-colored tie and whisk Alex Grey’s long, mustardy locks. As men, the Mayor is an egg and Alex Grey a sunflower. The Mayor wobbles as Grey sways.
The Mayor flaps and flails. His jowls slaver. He howls: “We’re evacuating the city, you psychopath!” I smack my clipboard atop the Mayor’s pate to secure his toupee.
My phone buzzes. The Coast Guard texts: “Take cover.”
“Guys: they say we’re supposed to take cover.”
Alex Grey shrugs and plugs his cord into his original 1964 Les Paul. He grins and perches his ostrich cowboy boot over a stompbox. “Hold on to your hats, y’all–shit’s about to go bananas.”
The Mayor dives at the rock and roll force majeure, grabbing the lapels of Grey’s komodo dragon leather jacket. Now my mayor’s face has become redder than the Les Paul guitar, a not-quite-ripe cherry. “Don’t do it, Grey,” he says, “we’re under attack!”
The toupee finally flies away, and I watch it go, fluttering a mile above the city like an airborne mink. Buzzfeed says Alex Grey prefers women like me: young(ish), red-headed, and freckled. I step over the back of the groveling Mayor and put my arm on Alex Grey’s scaly jacket arm.
Hey–what the hell, if things are about to go bananas?
The satellites tell us that something big is emerging from the ocean. We’ll all probably be dead soon.
I try to look insipid. “I’m a huge fan, Mr. Grey.”
Alex Grey winks and I feel good.
The Mayor just lays on the balcony. “Fine. Play your guitar. I don’t care.” The sunlight glints off his head.
Out toward the water, there’s this enormous blobtoo far away to have any definite form or color–maybe reddish brown? Then, getting closer, it turns to orange, like a spreading fire, and kind of hour-glassed.
I fluff the back of Alex Grey’s hair. “Why are we up here, Alex?”
“There’s earplugs in my pocket, babe–better buckle up.” I reach into the left pocket of his tight, Givenchy jeans–there must be twenty picks. But in the right one, I find two waxy plugs. I shove them in my ears. With a windmilling gesture, he rumbles out a thunderous note. The Mayor throws his arms over his head as if sheltering from a bomb blast. Windows shatter across Manhattan. From below drifts up a symphony of car alarms.
The thing gets closer–it’s all arms and eyes. Alex Grey leaps to the lip of the balcony.
The monster destroys helicopters. It knocks hoards of Instagram-hopefuls off neighboring rooftops. The fighter jets only piss it off. I step back under an awning and watch Alex Grey shred until his hands drip blood. The creature staggers the Empire State Building with a tentacle, and I’m knocked flat. I retreat inside to watch from a window. Grey’s fingers fly on the frets as his amplifiers roar.
The Mayor tumbles over the edge to Humpty-Dumpty somewhere on Fifth Avenue. Out of duty, I run to peer down, but I’m far too late. Another tentacle-knock sends me clinging, romance novel cover-like, to Alex Grey’s thousand-dollar blue jean leg. Grey hits a piercing high note, popping a string that whips back and slashes him across the face; the monster howls and retreats into the sea.
“Your eye,” I cry and swipe blood from his face with my J-Crew sweater sleeve. Although the monster is gone, the rockstar shreds and shreds and shreds.
It’s all he knows.
After that afternoon, Alex Grey disappeared.
His band, Red Arrows, released two more albums on Spotify and Youtube. Court debates dragged on over who should pay for all those Manhattan windows. Grey left the tethered amps behind, too, which was tacky, but most were auctioned off for worldwide relief charities.
Under shadowy circumstances, guitar shops in Nashville were donated a Croesus’s riches in first edition instruments: that 1959 Les Paul would regularly go for over 100,000 dollars, or more–it was signed by Grey (and Paul) himself.
In the following years, Rolling Stone, Spin, and NME published pieces like: ”Fade to Grey?” or “The Man Who ‘Rolled the World.” Sightings of Grey freckled social media. I published Fashioned At Last Into an Arrowy Shape, an account of Grey’s rooftop concert. Editors said it wasn’t “spicy” enough, so Alex and I became lovers, addicts, and (remorsefully) big game hunters in the African wilds.
The fight over the film rights grew hysterical. Anne Hathaway strangled an exec who called her “too old” to play me. Netflix finally shot the film. Depp won the Oscar, though social media agreed the Oscars were no longer relevant. Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a 71%.
As for Grey, no one knows where to find him. Shit, I check my mailbox everyday.
I imagine him floating somewhere in the Caribbean, having traded those guitar-callused fingertips for “claw hands,” a sort of nautical arthritis developed after years of grasp-fishing.
Is he convinced that the monster’s still out there?
During shifts at my San Diego record store, Santiago, I envision a man in a red sailboat, guitar always ready. My book royalties didn’t last. I daydream. Why does Grey never write? I did discover that the one guitar Alex Grey never donated was a D-45 Excalibur Martin–that’s the model’s actual name.
Look it up. It’s a hero’s guitar–talk about a savior complex.
So I picture him, drifting, floating, his skin gone leathern and the jacket’s fused to his flesh by salt, wind, and sunlight,
Does he hunt that monster, or is it chasing him?
On my travels south, I was told that if you listen to the trade winds blowing on cloudless nights, you can hear the twinkling of a forlorn melody and think, “That kind of sucks. His early stuff was better.”
Image: D-45 Excalibur Martin guitar – google images
8 thoughts on “Fashioned at Last Into an Arrowy Shape by Travis and Lucas Flatt”
Travis and Lucas–
It is impressive that such an over the top bit with a singular vibe to it is the work of two writers. Old Rockers Never Die–they return as the stuff of conspiracy theory ghosts!
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Great incidental detail. A particular thank you for the Komodo Dragon Leather Jacket.
LS is fine at featuring things off the beaten path. Something somewhat different – rock musical / bodice ripper / monster movie / Mobie Dick. Is Jimmy Buffett writing under a pseudonym of two people?
Weirdly wonderful from title to ending. Every time you think you know where it’s going, it veers.
George Bernard Shaw said “Two people getting together to write a book is like three people getting together to have a baby.” Well this story is a great baby in that case! The Alex Grey character is really compelling and would like to see more stories with him in it.
Hi Travis and Lucas,
I’ve not much to say except, this was a helluva lot of fun!!
Weird, inventive and very entertaining!!
All the very best to you.
Thanks for the kinds word, folks. PAULKIMM–I like the idea of working more with Mr. Grey.