Bartonville Scene Report: Aria
The music in Aria’s earbuds follows her into her dreams some nights. At times, she dreams vampire stories which she writes down in a secret notebook she keeps with her at all times, but most of the time, she dreams of dancing, whether in a darkened nightclub or in a more formal space. Her partner in these dances is a taller man in a top hat and sunglasses, his long coat swaying behind him as he takes her hand in one of his, resting the other at the base of her hip, just below the spot where her corset ends — and she wakes as they begin to sway together, usually to the sound of Bauhaus or Sisters of Mercy, the music on the goth podcasts she downloads surreptitiously and deletes immediately after listening. She’s gotten good at hiding; neither her parents nor her classmates at Bartonville Christian Academy suspect that she considers herself a closet goth, and for now, she intends to keep it that way. What worries her is that when she does leave all this behind and goes out into the wider world, she won’t know what to do, how to be. How to fit in with the tribe she’s chosen, when she’s never felt like she fits in. She imagines the other goth girls snickering amongst themselves as she passes, the way the other girls do at school; she imagines the boys passing her by without a second glance. She worries that she’ll be dressed wrong, that she’ll act oddly, that they’ll wonder what she’s trying to do in the first place. She no longer believes in salvation, no matter what they teach at school — but redemption, the chance that she might one day become the creature she feels like inside? That’s something she still dreams of, regardless….

Bartonville Scene Report: Bryan
Bryan slows down to look at his thin reflection in his mother’s Volvo windshield as he skates by again, but nothing’s changed. The gel in his hair hasn’t taken hold like it was supposed to; instead of menacing liberty spikes he’s aiming for, his hair is just a filthy-looking mass of clumped blond curls, and he knows it has nothing to do with the fact that he’s been skating for the past half hour. According to his best friend’s latest girlfriend, you’re supposed to use glue, but that’s out of the question; if he can’t wash it out, he’ll get kicked out of Bartonville Christian, and if he gets kicked out of Bartonville Christian, his mother and stepfather will put him in a military academy, and that can’t happen no matter what. So he kicks away again and goes back to riding his skateboard up and down the driveway; he’s not yet skilled enough to ollie over the rocks his stepfather’s company car kicks up onto the driveway, so he just sails back and forth, the wheels clack-clacking against the blacktop, steadily until they hit a pebble and whip it skittering into the grass (if it’s small enough). This far out in the country, he can ride his skateboard while listening to his Black Flag Live ‘84 cassette; it’s the only way he’s ever going to hear them live now that they’ve broken up. Since there’s no one else around, he can scream along with Henry Rollins, a tonsil-shredding YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAH! (and he’s getting better at it — he doesn’t start coughing and sputtering until he’s made it from one end of the driveway to the other). As the sun goes down — not much longer until his mom and stepfather get home from church — he dreams of turning eighteen next year, when he can hop a Greyhound to San Francisco and grow his hair out long and form a band and scream his fucking head off. He shuts off the tape but keeps skating back and forth, one direction then the other, builds up speed and tries an ollie, but he can’t get enough air and hits a rock the size of a pop cap, big enough to send him flying into the grass.
Bartonville Scene Report: Jonathan
Jonathan takes his bass outside and noodles through Metallica riffs in the cool air while he waits for the band’s guitarist and drummer to arrive; he’ll have to do his audition unplugged, there in the driveway. It’s humiliating; his parents won’t let him go to the Betrayal rehearsal space, but they won’t let them come in the house either, not even during the day, where at least they could plug into his tube stack amp. They’ve made it all the more difficult, making him have to play with only the driveway light to see his fretting hand by. I’m not going to make it. When the band arrives, they’re all smiles and hey-dude-what’s up, even as he apologizes profusely; “My parents are a little weird.” The guitarist shoulders up his axe while the drummer soundchecks his legs with a pair of drumsticks; once everybody’s tuned and ready, they tear into a cover of Pantera’s “Walk.” In this setting, it’s as if Jonathan is hearing the song afresh: even without the bone-sharp distortion of the original, the crunching urgency of what emerges from the three of them is not supressed or inhibited by the lack of electricity; if anything, it’s a different kind of power drawn out by it, an aggression unleashed that bonds him, smiling, to his new bandmates, who chant the chorus with him: “Re…spect! Walk! What did you say?”


Rob Hartzell lives and works in Morrow, OH. His work has appeared in the Jabberwock Review, the Eunoia Review, and Flyover Country Review.

Cover Photo: hobvias sudoneighm