by Paul du Preez
Last week: Darren had taken over, had sidelined Marcus (du-rag) with an accidental-on-purpose blow to the head, and has performed an amazing solo. The crowd loved it, but now they’re not sure what he wants them to do.
Leandré watches Darren lift his hands above his head and begin clapping.
He wants them to clap too. It’s obvious!
She starts off and her girlfriends follow. Within seconds the whole virtual crowd is doing it.
Next, Darren goes back to that falling-third call of his, and sings out, “Hi-yo,” singing and playing it at the same time.
She gets it. Of course! “Hi-yo,” she answers, echoing him a bar later.
“Hi-yo,” calls Darren.
“Hi-yo,” answers the crowd.
He starts varying it: “Hi-yi-yo,” and the crowd follows.
“The virus isn’t transmissible till thirty-six hours after symptoms develop. No one here has got Ahinitoo.”
The danger of her little brother’s public embarrassment temporarily averted, Leandré relaxes. Holy…heavens. He’s reckless! She takes a sideways peek at her girlfriends. They’re enthralled.
Back to Darren: tall, dark, chiselled, designer stubble, floppy hair. Aloof. Handling that guitar like a giant…
She snaps back. Darren is doing something different. And she’s missing it.
He’s chanting something that sounds like an old, US Marine marching call, ad-libbing words: “Ain’t no virus gonna get me down.” It takes the crowd a few repetitions to get it.
Then Darren switches to something more flowing, “Holy Jesus got my back.” The crowd latches on to that too.
And then, he starts alternating them: “Ain’t no virus gonna get me down – Holy Jesus got my back.” The crowd…
Well now…global dread is a fine inspiration, and the crowd sings from the heart. And the band, who have been doing OK till now, also get caught up, sensing this is the final push, and put everything they’ve got into it.
The auditorium rocks.
Darren glows like a neon sign, arms stretched wide. Chanting.
And Leandré thinks, Little brother mine, this is a fine show of hypocrisy. Because she knows her brother. She knows that, really, the only person he’s worshipping right now is himself.
Darren whips the guitar from his neck, leaves it on its stand, and steps to the very edge of the stage, rising on his toes. It looks like he’s going to throw himself into the adoring crowd – like he’s planning on riding high on their sea of uplifted hands.
But most of the crowd is virtual.
Leandré’s girlfriends and beaux will not be able to catch him; if he jumps no way can they stop him face-diving into the carpet!
Leandré’s heart is jumping up and down inside her throat. But, fortunately, Darren’s sense of reality keeps hold (Thank you Lord!) and, with an ironic bow, he steps down into the applauding, milling virtuals. VR spatial protocols give his physical body precedence and make space for him, batting back avatars like closely packed skittles.
Leandré waits for him. Sees Pastor Arendse push through to him; sees Marcus, the rapper, coming up behind him.
And dares wait no longer: she moves to intervene. Marcus puts his hand on Darren’s shoulder. His lip is cut. There are still traces of blood. “Hey bra,” he says, forcefully.
But that’s all he has time to say before Arendse steps in, smoothly placing a gentle but firm hand on his forearm. “Awesome show boys. But you need to work on your on-stage coordination next time.” And before Darren can more than half turn he’s got a fatherly arm around Marcus’ shoulders and is leading him away. “You know, I wasn’t fooling when I said I think you’ve got a hit there…”
Leandré takes charge of Darren. “What was that all about?”
“Sis, you know me; I’m a philosophical guy,” he drawls.
They glare. Behind smoky AR glasses, they can’t see each other’s eyes. But there’s still a charge – a sense of unspoken history flashing between them.
“Put your mask on.”
“Why? I didn’t wear one on stage.”
“Because it’s socially responsible.”
“But it’s just for show. The virus isn’t transmissible till thirty-six hours after symptoms develop. No one here has got Ahinitoo.” (Which is how most of the world had gotten to pronouncing A(H1N2).)
“Well…we’re in show business – we certainly are now, going by what you just did. Put your mask on.” Darren grimaces, twist his head to one side. “Oh, for heaven’s sake!” Leandré fishes a folded mask from her handbag.
As Darren puts it on he mutters, “Not a word about my zapping amazing solo?”
Darren bites out, “Not a word about…”
But before he can finish, Saloni, Leandré’s bestie sails in. Double-breasted white leather jacket, Paris edition Levi’s, and diamanté heels.
“…my zapping amazing solo.”
“Oh yes, dear boy,” she says, plunging her prow up close to Darren’s navel. “An amazing solo. Failure always slaps you in private, but success hugs you in public. That’s life†.”
† Widespread, not attributed.
Darren, Glowing Like a Neon Sign by Paul du Preez
Angel Wings by Sergei Tomakov on Pixabay https://pixabay.com/illustrations/angel-wings-fairy-isolated-4870050/
Intro Music (on Podcast)
Excerpt from Black, White and Blue by Paul du Preez
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Syblings the Syrial is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are the product of Paul du Preez’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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