The Tribe - Chapter One
Running To Stand Still
For the life of him, Jacob Sandler could not shake the feeling he was being watched.
It seemed a crazy notion, as he was not doing anything of any interest. As a matter of fact, in the small town where he lived, Fergus, generally nothing of interest ever occurred and no one had any reason to surreptitiously watch anyone else.
They say in small towns everyone knows everyone, and in a way that may be true, but not entirely. As Jacob and his friends discovered, a lot of people knew each other, and even those you did not know by name, you knew of them as you have seen them around town many times. The problem with the people you did know, or those who knew your parents, was they all felt they could act like your parents and tell you what not to do if they felt you were up to something foolish. It was like having far too many parents and no teenager wants that many interested eyes on them at any time.
The feeling he had today however was unique.
Why would anyone be watching him?
So why the feeling?
Jacob had spent the last hour sipping on a Coke in a corner booth of Clive’s, the local greasy spoon at the end of his small town’s Main Street. It was one of the few restaurants in town, and despite the fact its décor had seen better days – long before he started frequenting the establishment – the food was good and reasonably priced. He and his friends, from time to time, when they were flush with allowance money, would indulge in cheeseburgers and fries, the fries the best they had ever eaten – as Clive’s has been around for a long time, they figured they had the time to get it right and did. Jacob had seen re-runs of Happy Days on TV, or at least part of the show (it really was not his cup of tea, as they say) and he imagined that was once what Clive’s had looked like, probably in the 1950’s. Today, in the 1990’s everything was faded and worn including the restaurants assortment of black and white photos of celebrities he did not know. There was Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Gary Cooper, Tony Curtis, and rock and rollers such as Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Duane Eddy, Eddie Cochran, and Elvis Presley. He had no idea who the hell Dean Martin or Jerry Lewis were, but when it came to the rockers, he had a vague idea about some of them, but that was it. When it came to rock and roll, they represented rock’s ancient history and could not hold a candle to the music of his generation. He was mostly aware of Elvis, but did not see the appeal, especially when he got on stage in those rhinestone studded, white jumpsuits – he guessed at the time it was cool, but with time, at least for his generation, it seemed almost comical. Some of the photos were autographed, although Jacob had a hard time believing anyone of any note had passed through Fergus, let alone stopped and had a meal at Clive’s. At the age of fourteen, Jacob Sandler was pretty sure he lived at the end of the world, where nothing happened and no one visited and the only way to find any excitement was to leave, although as far as he knew most people did not.
Jacob liked this booth at Clive’s as it was the farthest from the restaurant’s door, offering some privacy, yet still giving him a view down the town’s Main Street, where he could occasionally glance, curious if anything interesting was going on, or at least get a clear view of the tumbleweed he often expected to see blowing along.
The diner was one of his favorite places to kill time, and seeing how it was four o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon, the place was not particularly busy, the waitresses and cook (who could be quite surly when he wanted to be), did not really mind him occupying a booth and nursing a Coke, as there was nothing to do otherwise; they probably thought he was avoiding going home, and wondered why (gossip ruled in small towns), but that really was not the case. He just liked the atmosphere and felt comfortable here. Clive’s was his oasis away from home to think and contemplate matters of importance, of which he had one weighting heavily on his mind this afternoon.
Jacob reached into the ratty-looking old knapsack he always carried around and pulled out the CD, placing it on the table before him, and considering it carefully. He had been anxiously awaiting its release and could still remember the excitement he felt upon seeing it at the local used record store, which in Fergus, also stocked new copies of all the popular new releases. If Vinyl Dreams did not do that, he would have to wait until his mother got around to driving him the one hour it would take to get to the city where real record stores existed. They did not go there often, and he knew it would have been unbearable to wait, so thankfully he did not need to. Sometimes life worked in your favour.
The cover offered a great deal of promise. Featured prominently was the band: Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. – U2 themselves! Each of the band members had their own corner of the CD’s cover and were photographed in close-up. If the cover of the band’s CD had any reason to give him pause, it should have been the title “Pop”. Jacob was familiar with ‘Pop’ music – hell, the Spice Girls where ‘Pop’, but not U2 – never U2! Their last album, Zooropa had challenged him, quite different from the studio albums Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree that had proceeded it, but he had come to appreciate it with each repeated listening, and even forgave them for changing things musically – didn’t all great bands do so? One of the few bands his mother introduced him to that he enjoyed was The Beatles. They were not a band that stood still musically, but shook it up quite a bit, and did so brilliantly; as far as Jacob was concerned, U2 where as good, if not better than the Beatles, so to see them doing the same was expected. They were his favorite band, so he could give them some leeway with their musical offerings, but Pop, well, Pop was a mystery to him.
The excitement he felt upon seeing their next album quickly turned to panic when he listened to the album’s first track, Discothèque, and it did not get much better after that. Jacob sat and listened to the entire album not knowing what to make of it, and somewhere in the middle of listening, he longed for the purity of a rock ‘n’ roll song like I Will Follow or Sunday Bloody Sunday, he longed for the brilliance of The Joshua Tree, he longed for anything but what he was hearing. They were experimenting again and good for them, but as far as he could tell, this latest experiment had gone horribly wrong.
Jacob stared at the CD’s cover and contemplated the severity of this miscalculation by his favorite band and how it had rocked his faith in the world of rock ‘n’ roll. He was a fan of rock and roll, and bands like R.E.M., Nirvana, Def Leppard, Pearl Jam, Green Day, Foo Fighters, The Stone Temple Pilots, and to a lesser extent Guns N Roses (there was something about Axel Roses’ voice that sometimes grated on him), were his bands – his generation’s bands, and of all of them, U2 were the most brilliant, and he would argue this point, and had argued this point heatedly with his friends, numerous times. Sometimes these arguments were ridiculous. Stanley Patrick was one of his close friends, but a friend who had the worst taste in music possible. Presently Stanley was infatuated with The Spice Girls, a new girl-group from Britain, but not a band of substance as far as Jacob was concerned. Even worst, Stanley was willing to argue the merits of The Spice Girls while putting down U2, always arguing they were overrated and dull, which thoroughly pissed off Jacob. How he and Stanley got along, he did not know.
Drew, Stanley, Ryan, and the brothers Eric and Ernie were going to throw Pop in his face, using U2’s new musical direction to undermine every argument he could make for the band. Music was important to them, and they each argued vehemently in favor of their favorites, yet no one seemed to succeed in changing the others mind. It was just what they did and enjoyed.
Jacob reached into his knapsack and pulled out his collection of Rolling Stone magazines, all featuring U2 on the cover; he had a 1993 one in which the band was named Artist of the Year, and the issue featured an interview with Bono, another 1993 edition that had The Edge on the cover, a 1992 issue with Bono on the cover, and a 1991 edition with the whole band on the cover and a story on The Making of Achtung Baby, an album he loved. There were earlier issues of the music magazine with U2 on the cover, but he had yet to find them in used bookstores or the flea markets he could get to – but he was always hopeful. It bothered him that the band had released their new album at the beginning of March and a month later, still had not graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, with a new interview by Bono or the band. Hell, the latest issue of Rolling Stone featured pretty boy Brad Pitt on the cover – how in the hell was that rock ‘n’ roll?!
What the hell were the editors of Rolling Stone thinking?!
Jacob had a pad in his knapsack; since discovering music and Rolling Stone magazine, he had become fascinated by the written word, and wanted to explore writing in general, especially as it pertained to rock ‘n’ roll. He had written his own personal reviews of the various albums he bought and thought he should knuckle down and finally write his review of Pop and his disappointment with the CD, but instead found himself drawn to the 1993 edition of Rolling Stone and the Bono interview he had read numerous times and figured he would read again. There was something about putting his disappointment down on paper and skewering his heroes that was not sitting right with him, although he knew sooner or later, he had to do it – a music journalist, or wannabe music journalist had to be honest in his or her opinions.
As Jacob looked up from his magazine, he could see Vicki and Lynn, the establishment’s two full time waitresses off in the corner gossiping as usual. Sooner or later just about everyone entered the place for a cup of coffee or something to eat, so he could only imagine what they overheard on a daily or weekly basis – they could probably gossip forever.
He looked back down at the Rolling Stone and the Bono interview. He continued reading, but still had a feeling he was being watched – that something just was not right. But what?
He finished the interview and considered pulling out a more recent issue featuring Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails; in that issue there was a brief feature on the making of Pop, but he could not bring himself to re-read it; instead, Jacob flipped the pages to the Reader’s Poll section. His interest here had nothing to do with U2, but instead a black and white photo of Madonna, who in the poll was voted Sexiest Female Artist, and whose album Erotica was voted Worst Album Cover. He was not a fan of Madonna’s, but she was sexy, and the black and white photo featured her wearing a see-thru halter top. The appeal of the photo was the fact that one breast and nipple were prominently visible in the photo beneath her see-thru top.
Jacob looked around the diner to make sure no one was near his booth. The last thing he wanted Vicki or Lynn to see – or anyone for that matter – was him gawking at a black and white photo featuring Madonna’s breast.
Why would anyone wear a shirt like that? It had taken him by surprise when he first flipped through the magazine, and he had been drawn back to it many times.
It just seemed unreal.
Jacob could not imagine anyone he knew taking a photo like this. In Fergus, everyone covered up. Hollywood was obviously a different world than the one he lived in. No one in the pages of Rolling Stone was ordinary or did ordinary things, he was pretty sure of that.
It was at times like this, when he was drawn to the Madonna photo, he was sure he was being watched. Not the same feeling he was experiencing since arriving at Clive’s, just an overall belief that someone was going to see him looking at the photo and accuse him of being a pervert. He was pretty sure he would die of embarrassment if that happened.
Jacob looked up from the photo. Something was not right – why was he feeling this way? Who was watching him? It was almost as if they were staring so long and hard at him that their gaze had become physical, demanding he take notice – challenging him to take notice.
He looked out the restaurant’s window and scanned up and down the street – if someone was watching him, he wanted to know. It took a few seconds to register but he finally noticed the pick-up truck. It was parked at the corner of a crossroads to the Main Street. It was a brown pick-up truck, or at least he thought so; it was hard to tell, as the vehicle was caked in dirt and grime, as if the owner had never thought to wash it. For all he knew, it could be a white or red pick-up truck that had become camouflaged in a decade’s worth of dirt and grime. Even the windows of the pick-up seemed to have a layer of dirt on them, which probably made it a challenge to drive, he imagined.
Jacob stared at the windshield of the pick-up truck. He could see the shadow of someone in the driver’s seat, but he was too far away to really make out any features; at the same time, he sensed that whoever was behind the wheel of the pick-up, he, or possibly she, was the source of his discomfort. He sensed that whoever was there had been watching him closely, and he had no idea why.
Why was someone in a dirty pick-up truck watching him?
He had no idea, so he did the only thing he could think of and stared back at the pick-up. If the driver was watching him, he wanted to let him or her know he knew. It did not take long before the pick-up truck roared to life and pulled out onto Main Street, heading down the street in the opposite direction of the restaurant, ensuring he could not get a good look at who was behind the wheel – although he was not sure it really mattered. Had the pick-up driver been really watching him? Was he just imagining things?
What the hell was going on this afternoon?
“Now that young man is definitely a nipple and breast,” said Vicki.
Jacob was momentarily startled by the sound of Vicki’s voice. He looked up to see her standing there, looking down at the black and white photo of Madonna, a big smile on her face. How had he let this happen? Embarrassment overcame him, as he quickly closed the magazine. Bono had never put him in an embarrassing spot – damn you Madonna!
“Don’t sweat it, honey,” said Vicki, “ain’t nothin’ wrong with appreciatin’ a nice breast. But remember, honey, they ain’t always that perky and firm. Sooner or later they ain’t ridin’ that high. You’ll find out one day.”
Jacob started to say something (actually, he had no idea what to say, but felt he had to) but before he could, Vicki turned and walked away. She no doubt had to tell Lynn about the pervert in their midst.