Real Rockers

Photo: Peter Župník

The bearded electrician lives on the third floor. Even though he doesn’’t show it, he’s a real rocker, he owns a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and uses it to secretly listen to his rock tracks when he comes home from work. He’’s the only one on our block with a tape recorder, everyone else has just a record player, but you can’’t listen to rock music on a record player because there are no records with rock music. Rock music is banned in our city. My friend Mishi and I once went up to him and asked him to let us in and play his rock music for us but he told us to get lost.

We don’’t get lost, we stay outside his door, Mishi and I, we stick our ears to the door and listen to his music. It doesn’’t come through clearly enough so we go and get our sand buckets, Mishi drills a couple of holes in their bottoms with his pen knife, and we press the buckets to the door with their open side and our ears to the holes, and now we can hear the music much better. Almost as if we were inside the room with him.

His favourite track is the one that begins with bells ringing, he listens to it at least fifteen times in a row.

No sooner has it finished than we hear a click on the tape recorder, the tape gets rewound, then another click and everything starts from the beginning again, with the bells ringing.

A cool track, Mishi and I really love it. We love it so much we have to move to the rhythm of the music. We can dance only by holding our heads still, otherwise the buckets would fall down and the music would no longer be as intense. We press our heads to the buckets and to the door as hard as we can, clinging to each other as we jump up and down on the bearded electrician’s doormat. The buckets keep sliding about the door but they don’t fall down, they just rub against the door making our ears squeak. Which makes the music even better.

Mishi pretends to sing along, holding his catapult to his face and singing soundlessly: Hells Bells, Hells Bells into it. The rubber on the catapult has been wound around a wooden fork and it does look like a real mike.

I get my catapult as well and sing, holding it in front of my mouth: Hells Bells, Hells Bells, Hells Bells.

We cling to each other, hopping up and down, the sand buckets filling our heads with music. Mishi isn’’t a real singer, I’’m the real singer, he just imitates me, for between the two of us I’’m the better singer and hopper. I shake my mike and dance, the doormat humming beneath my feet.

Mishi closes his eyes singing and as he bends over the catapult shaking wildly, his whole body one big convulsion, his bucket falls down and as he reaches for it, he presses down the bearded electrician’’s door handle. I make to grab the handle to close the door again but it’’s too late. The door springs open and we storm into the hallway along with our buckets and catapults, sliding down the lino floor and rolling into the living room. The bearded electrician stands on the bed in his underpants, a tennis racket in his arms, playing it like a guitar and jumping up and down on the bed, and the tape recorder with its black reels turning sits among beer bottles on a small table next to the bed. When he spots us, he stops jumping, screams what kind of shit is this, what on earth are you doing here! and I hear Mishi say we’’d like to join the band.

The electrician keeps yelling, you should start one yourselves, then he swings the tennis racket but misses me, for I jump to one side, and I see a black T-shirt hanging from a bookshelf by the bed, a real heavy metal shirt, really cool, it shows a half-skinned monster, a half-rotten skull with yellow hair, a bloody axe in its hand, it’’s about to deliver a blow, it’’s not clear who the monster wants to kill, I can only see one hand holding on to the monster’’s T-shirt, the hand’’s owner is presumably lying on the ground in front of the monster trying to intercept the blow but he won’’t succeed, it’’s obvious that he doesn’’t stand a chance. I’’ve never seen such a super T-shirt before, I tell Mishi to take a look. Mishi’’s mouth opens and he speaks open-jawed, saying, wow, how cool is that, and he asks the bearded man where he got it from but he just yells back, can’t you hear what I’’ve said, piss off you little arseholes, he yells swinging his tennis racket, ready for another blow.

Mishi jumps sideways, towards the tape recorder, I don’’t know what he’’s up to, perhaps he wants to remove the reel, the bearded electrician swings his tennis racket again, he’’s about to hit Mishi, I grab the duvet and pull at it, the duvet slips out from under the electrician’’s feet, tripping him over, his blow misses its target and hits the beer bottles and also the tape recorder which flies off the table but the reels stay on and keep turning, the music doesn’’t stop, the guitars howl and I see red blood flowing from the beer bottles onto the floor, then I notice the half-empty tubes with paint and the paintbrush, they’’ve also fallen down, they were probably lying behind the tape recorder, that’’s why I couldn’t see them before, I shout at Mishi, can you see, the T-shirt is not real at all, he’’s painted it himself.

I leap towards the bookshelf to get the T-shirt but before I can reach it the electrician has got up again and tries to hit me with the tennis racket, he hits my shoulder but not full on, just sideways so that the blow ricochets off me, it almost manages to make me fall over but I hold on to the side of the bed and then jump towards the door, the electrician swings the tennis racket again but he slips on the spilt paint, his blow landing on the T-shirt, the T-shirt gets a direct hit and flies to my feet, I pick it up, hold it tight and shout at Mishi, c’’mon, let’’s get out of here, I can already hear him behind me, just one more leap and we’re out of the room, we run across the hallway, out of the flat and into the stairwell, we run down the stairs, storm out of the block through the back exit and climb up the metal ladder to the roof.

We lie down on our stomachs, on the plastic awning above the tar, it’’s our secret hiding place, we’’re sure the bearded electrician could never find us here. The T-shirt is all crumpled up, Mishi and I unfold it very carefully, the paint is still damp but the monster’’s face hasn’’t smudged, it just looks a little bit more bloody, which makes it even cooler. We spread it out on the plastic awning to dry out in the sun, and lie down next to it, Mishi on one side, me on the other.

We lie on our backs staring into the sky and I hear Mishi sing, Hells Bells, Bells, Bells, I join in and sing along, not silently but loudly, as loudly as I can, drumming my feet on the black tar, Mishi follows my example and drums too, we lie there screaming Hells Bells, I reach out with my hand to touch the T-shirt wondering how we’’ll wear it, perhaps taking turns, for from now on the two of us are real rockers, just like the bearded electrician.

Translated (from the German translation by Lacy Kornitzer) by Julia Sherwood