Wednesday 2 February 2011

Jacob's Shitty Day

“The jam sandwich is in the Death Star. Repeat, the jam sandwich is in the Death Star.”

If there was one sentence that Jacob did not want to hear tonight, then that was it. Firstly, this was because of the extreme chaos and danger that those words heralded, and also because it seemed incredibly stupid to have a coded message that vague. What was it supposed to mean? Where had that obscure collection of words originated, and what was the connection to the meaning? Jesus, it would have been clearer even if they’d said something like “The backstage cougar is loose at the Avril Lavigne concert”.

Because that was what “the jam sandwich is in the Death Star meant”. The “jam sandwich” was literally “the cougar we have backstage for the big finale” and “in the Death Star” meant “loose, and wandering around backstage, possibly looking for lightning technicians named Jacob to feast on”.

He ran to the holding facility and sure enough, the cage was empty, with a forlorn looking padlock hanging on its slowly swinging door. Ted, the animal wrangler, shrugged and pointed at the corner of the cage. “The droppings are fresh. It can’t have gone too far.”

Any distance was too far, as far as Jake was concerned. The distant bass rumble of Avril Lavigne and her band was muffled, but still recognisable as “The Best Damn Thing”. He needed to get this situation under control as fast as possible. There are three things that are bad news at a massive gig like this one: live cables sitting in puddles of water, Sum 41, and hungry mountain lions.

He’d been opposed to the presence of the cougar from the start. He’d been okay with pyros, backing dancers, stilt performers, jugglers, and all of the various other stage shows that performers had come up with over the years. Jacob Tripp, a professional lighting technician for the past fifteen years of his life, had remained clear on one thing, though: live, carnivorous predators were dangerous. If there had to be a cougar backstage, then it needed a proper wrangler, and it needed to be secured. He wasn’t impressed with the shady operation of “Bjorn’s Performing Menagerie”, nor the temp worker they had supplied to supposedly keep an eye on the beast – but there you had it.

Jacob grabbed a handy torch and strolled off into the darkness of the backstage area. The feeble beam shot out by the Tesco Value, AA powered, -1 Light Source of Fail didn’t really do much to cut through the dust and gloom. His footsteps echoed around him, the sound of Avril Lavigne and her backing band reduced now to a vague rumble. He wondered what he should do? An NVQ in Stage Lighting fifteen years ago hadn’t really taught what to do when attempting to locate a missing mountain lion at a gig.

Should he try and make a noise like a cougar? Or should he make one like a food source? Or should he get the hell out of there?

Option C sounded the most user friendly, he could hardly deny that.

Then, like a bad horror movie, something dripped down onto his head. He didn’t want to look up, knowing that he would see the vicious fangs of the beast above him.

The good news was he had found the cougar, at least. The bad news was that it wasn’t drool. His hat was now warm and smelt of cat piss.

Jacob turned tail and fled headlong down the labyrinthine corridors of the backstage area. Some old joke ran through his mind. Something about shouting “Hello, Cleveland!” and getting lost backstage. The soft but insistent pulsing beat of the cougar's claws behind him kept him running as fast as he could. He could hear its harsh breath behind him. Could almost feel the weight of it approaching.

Following the sound of Avril Lavigne, he ran towards the side of the stage, diving into a flight case at the last minute. He barely had time to tuck his legs in and hide before he saw the cougar run past him and out onto the stage. There was a roar of excitement from the crowd, a road of excitement from the cougar, and a Canadian scream of terror from Avril Lavigne.

Jacob peered up out of his box and, sure enough, Avril Lavigne was being eaten by a cougar.

There was a grim sort of karma in it. She had sought to use the beast for entertainment, and the beast had in fact, found entertainment in her; so had the crowd, technically, so it was a messy sort of karma, really.

Jacob was in two minds as to what he should do. Should he rush out there and rescue her, or should he sneak backstage and pretend that hadn’t noticed, claiming that he suffered from a rare medical condition that rendered him unable to hear screams of terror or feasting big cats.

Jacob Tripp had never really done all that much with his life, now that he reflected on it. He’d bummed around school, he’d bummed around college and he’d bummed around work. Now, here was his one and only chance to act like a hero. He stood up, and grabbed the nearest thing he could conceivably use as a weapon, which happened to be Taylor Swift.

Leaping from the flight case, and ignoring the country/cross-over artist's screams, he grabbed Swift under one arm and ran onto the stage.

Carnage was everywhere. It was amazing what the appearance of a single carnivorous mammal could do to an otherwise tightly rehearsed, well organised and professional band. Spinning Taylor Swift around like a quarter staff, Jacob struck the cougar right between the eyes with the country singer’s skull. The cougar put on a dazed expression for a moment, and then keeled over sideways.

Jacob reached down to help Avril to her feet, but screamed and fell back at the monster that had replaced the world famous sk8r girl. A horrendous blend of feeble rocker, irritating country star and cougar had been spawned at the exact moment that the three collided, and lo, how the world did suffer.

Words: Brad Harmer

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