Music for the People in the Shadows

“In the movie of my life / Nothing is real / Most of my performances go straight to the gag reel / Everything sucks / Even the score / Most of my scenes hit the cutting room floor!”
—Manny Bat, the lyrics of Unnamed Tragedy, track 4 in band DeathWish’s album You suck—and I don’t even know you.

We were playing one last time before breaking up the band for good. We were playing for free at this bar that we go to. We were playing at six, because there was a bigger, more successful band that was not breaking up, that was scheduled for the 9 o’clock slot.

I wish someone would have told me that was the night that I would hit my peak. I could have taken a picture or something. Still, I knew. When that grumpy man in a suit came to me and asked how good my Manny Bat was, I knew something was up. Suddenly, it hit me that this was the moment I’d been waiting for, the moment I’d been preparing for, all my life. I had been born to accomplish this simple purpose in time and space.

So I explained to him, in my Manny Bat voice, just how realistic an experience I provided.

~

Not a week prior to that, we were waiting for the new album to come out. Before, we were used to doing this in line in record stores at midnight, but now we just waited for the songs to be released online, each of us in our own houses, in between jack-offs, sad and sort of old. Before, you had that feeling of being a part of something bigger—now we were small and wrinkled, and maybe we’d always been small and wrinkled, and it felt sort of pointless, too, waiting for a band long past its prime to release new music when you’re in your mid-thirties.

Earlier that day, we’d discussed forming a listening party, Connor and Robbie and Poosh and I. The idea, however, fell apart when Robbie said he didn’t want to take the bus all the way here. But you’re already here, I told him. But I want to go home to do the dishes and then I don’t want to go all the way there just to come back here later, alright? Connor intervened: Why couldn’t he do the dishes later?

We were all aware of Robbie’s situation. He’d moved back in with his dad to nurse him, even though his dad threatened to kick him out at least twice a week in case he failed to perform his house chores. Robbie senior was a deadbeat carcass of a man and one wondered why he hadn’t yet been buried. He smelt of sour milk and mothballs. Still we’d known him all our lives and he’d always smelt that way, so it wasn’t about how old he was.

“Fuck you, Connor,” Robbie (junior) said. His father was at home, where the dirty dishes lay, waiting.

“Take it easy on Connor,” said Poosh to Robbie, trying to be sympathetic, but breaking out in laughter just seconds later. “He just got fired from Uber.”

Thus followed a prolonged session of laughter at Connor’s expense. Then we said goodbye.

“I really hope this is good,” I said. “If it’s not they should just break up.”

“Shut up, Macaw—this is blasphemy, you know,” said Poosh. People have been calling me that since forever. My real name is Steve, but I honestly prefer Macaw. Poosh’s real name is Immanuel, so he understands. I don’t know why we call him Poosh. He was Poosh when we met already.

It was his idea to form a cover band, around senior year of high school. It was a way for the group to keep in touch when we went off to college. We called ourselves “We got it Covered” and played on cafes and shit. That didn’t last long, since the music we were playing was hardly café music. Once we came of age to drink, however, we decided to try again at bars, which worked out for a while.

Our covers were from a band called DeathWish—perhaps you’re familiar with it? Chad Sporez and Manny Bat were real pioneers of the unfiltered heavy metal, the kind that doesn’t exist to neutralize the music’s threat to sensitive ears. It’s mostly a way of protesting capitalism and the way it strips a movement of its political messages and of its very soul so they can play it as background music while you shop at Bed Bath & Beyond. DeathWish does not bow to that—try playing that shit as background music.

First time I listened to them, I was about sixteen, working at a record store in the city, listening to all kinds of weird shit. At that point I already knew I wanted a career in music. Ever since I was a kid, in fact, I’ve known I wanted a career in music. That is, nonetheless, a rather broad spectrum, and I’m afraid I should have been more specific when the genie came to me and asked me about my wishes.

Of course, you could do a lot worse than part-time Manny Bat impersonator. You could be like Connor: a part-time Rocky Shiver impersonator, DeathWish’s second guitar player. Because it was Poosh’s idea, he called dibs on vocalist Chad Sporez, but Manny Bat was always my favourite anyhow.

Sure, Bat didn’t do much on stage, really, all he did is write the songs. In concerts, he just stared broodingly at you, at times murmuring lyrics. I hope it is lyrics that he was murmuring, and not a curse or whatever—he can be very intense, Manny Bat. He’s got to cultivate his persona.

But there is much more to the art of covering than just singing. In order to be an impersonator, you have to understand someone. You have to do your research. I take it very seriously, actually. The guys make fun of me for my Manny Bat Google alert, and my Manny Bat unauthorized biographies. But see, I’ve read a lot about interpretation in these past few years and I’ve come to some conclusions.

Firstly, Method acting does work to a certain extent. That is not to say that I have taken up heroin purely because of him. It is important that you know that I am my own person. I have, however, oftentimes gotten high in my Manny Bat Mind-set, which is a mode I have in my brain, for when I want to think like him. It is likely I have gotten high as Manny more often than as Macaw, however.

Still it is not an easy task to hit it just right. Method acting can get out of hand pretty quickly, and I know about some cover artists who just use their characters as a way to escape, to do whatever they want. I believe this attitude is fundamentally wrong. This is about honouring someone you respect. Just because you are, at that moment, out of your own mind, it does not mean you can let it loose. You need to get into someone else’s mind.

This process of knowing your character requires that one completely disappear when in action. I cannot, to summarize, simply deliver my own interpretation or search for the Manny Bat inside me in order to deliver a successful presentation. I need to be him. And, in order to be him, I need to believe it.

It is not a matter of merging oneself with the character but of letting the character take over one’s body. Some people mistake the art of imitation with the art of performance, but they are quite different in nature. See, there are actors who seem to always play the same character no matter what they do, and there are actors who disappear inside their parts. I never remember their faces because they make me forget about them as soon as they step into new shoes.

Now, I am not saying I am a great actor. I do, after all, always play the same part. It is however a part I am always ready to play.

In the past few years, another Philadelphia based DeathWish cover band “DeathWishers” came onto the scene and started swooping gigs from us. Their Manny Bat is abysmal: the guy’s real name is Rudolph, and he’s a twentysomething nitwit whose main motivation to play the part is that he can’t grow a beard on his own—so, he needs the Manny Bat costume kit.

We have run into them more than a few times, mostly due to double-booking. Event organizers are always surprised to find out there is more than one DeathWish cover band in a hundred mile ratio.

In one unhappy occasion, in a soaking wet day, having driven through the mud to get to the venue, we were so pissed to see them already onstage prepping that Connor slapped one of them. It was sort of ridiculous, because they were both in character dressed as Rocky Shiver. It looked like a clone war.

Soon enough, their group started to fight back and we were all fighting our own counterparts. Rudolph punched me in the stomach, I swung my guitar case to clash into him. I remember hearing Poosh scream, “I am the real Chad Sporez!”

The event organizers were bewildered and kicked both bands out, which was a stupid call, if you asked me. We could have finally decided which band was better based on the public’s reaction.

Anyway, that night we got in our vans and went out for beers and we talked and established our domains. Ever since then, there have been fewer altercations. It still happens now and then, but calls for gigs have become so spaced out lately that it’s actually sort of nice to run into those bastards. Soon enough, they’ll be the only ones in our show, I thought.

But they’re so young and they are nothing like DeathWish. Maybe that is why for a while they were such a successful cover band: they only play early DeathWish songs, from the nineties, and they look like rock rebels as opposed to bitter old men whose dream is a collection of Harley Davidsons. I am not talking about our band, by the way, I am talking about the actual DeathWish members, who looked beaten and maybe even more decrepit than Robbie’s dad. I’d recently had to purchase some make-up to make me look like I do heroin every day, as opposed to only once in a while.

In so many ways, DeathWishers is a more perfect version of my favourite band—stuck in time, still full of potential. There were so many places they could go. It’s a shame, really. But what I’d said to Poosh, at the bar, was real. They should have broken up, then.

But this isn’t even what I am mad about. I have watched every video there is of Manny Bat in order to imitate his speech pattern. I have grown a beard to resemble his. I have been banned from the same restaurants due to this resemblance. Most importantly, I have come to share opinions with him, to the point that I remember who had the opinion first. See, his is a second nature to mine. I could stop doing my research; it would not nevertheless change anything. It’s too late to exempt me of his influence. I am first his shadow, then me.

Does that worry me? In all honesty, I know that it should, but there are those of us who are comforted by the shadows, not because we are humble or shy but because we are not. We are weak people who won’t risk their lives for a sip of glory or whatever they say. We still want that glory, though, so we suck it from the bloodstream of those who possess it. I am a leech.

It’s fucking awful, then, to feel like you’ve wasted your whole life on this person who didn’t really live up to what you expected of him. All this time, I was sucking on the blood of a loser? Perhaps this is how more normal people feel about divorces, come to think of it. But when you get divorced, at least you’ve got some kids to traumatize (my parents did) and not let you forget about all the time you spent with that person. What do I have? A bunch of DeathWish memorabilia? I don’t know, maybe I should just find someone to marry.

See, there are very few areas of my life that haven’t been affected by my connection with DeathWish. While this is not transparent to the passerby, the most important things in my life have in some way related to the band. I asked my friends to start calling me Macaw partly because Manny Bat had legally changed his name to an animal-bound name. Also because I love macaws—still, I liked the symmetry of our personal histories. All of my best friends, I have met through DeathWish. God knows what I would be doing with my life if I’d never listened to them. Probably covering an inferior metal band, if I’m being completely honest.

Perhaps that is why sometimes I feel like I know Manny Bat better than anyone. Perhaps not the superficial Manny Bat, but I know him from the inside-out.

Not that I ever met him, or even wanted to meet him. I believe in that whole “don’t meet your idols” shit. No one can be their best version a hundred percent of the time. If I met with him, say, and he were feeling low and I were feeling low, too, we’d both end up having a boring conversation about the weather. You can’t just go and start talking about life weighing on you and what does it even mean, life. It would be unnatural, almost as unnatural as talking about the weather.

Sometimes, I feel like the person I really am is living in a world of ideas and that he can fly. But in real life, you don’t want to discuss ideas, you want to talk about music and TV shows and the news, in a superficial, real cliché way. Having to think for yourself all the time is exhausting.

Most importantly, I think, is that one has friends with whom one can be silent, completely silent. I used to think I should hang out with people because they were interesting, until I realized that I was not that interesting myself, so I needed friends I could talk to about which restaurant makes the best mashed potatoes or who is the best late-night show host—you know, the things that really matter in life.

I imagine Manny Bat has the same kind of friends and that when in their company he lets his guard down and cracks some dumb jokes. Deep inside he’ll still be tortured, so it’s okay.

~

The story of how DeathWish came to existence is common knowledge: Chad Sporez and Manny Bat, tired of the institutionalizing of heavy metal, decided to form a band themselves. The conversation, according to them, went like this:

“Let’s form a band, Chad.”

“Alright, cool.”

Later, Chad would reveal that he was very high during that conversation, and did not think it was really happening until they started holding auditions. Eventually, Rocky Shiver and Timothy Lowe were chosen as second guitarist as bassist, respectively. Bat has mentioned in multiple interviews that he chose them not for their talent, but for the lack thereof.

“They were completely untrained. They had no idea how to harmonize. Chad and I, we had to unlearn all of these things, but these two were natural artists.”

No one knows if he was joking or not. I for one think he wasn’t.

As soon as he was accepted into the band, Timothy Lowe made the move from Tulsa to San Diego. Despite having cited dedication to music as the reason why he was willing to relocate for what was at the time a hobby, his bandmates attribute it to sheer idiocy. The leap of faith, however, payed off almost instantly. DeathWish’s first album, Fresh Meat, recorded in one day, was a moderate hit.

In total, since starting their career in 1993, the band has released fifteen studio albums, three “Best Of” compilations, and five live show recordings. Their latest one, dropping today, is supposed to be called Skeleton in the Closet, and some are saying it is their comeback. The last four or so DeathWish albums, you see, didn’t really capture their best musical abilities: The Comeback (2011), recorded after vocalist’s Chad Sporez summer in rehab, was deemed underwhelming by Rolling Stone; Digestion Tracks (2013) was based on lyricist Manny Bat’s real life experience with cannibalism and horrified even the most dedicated fans; DeathWish’s Death to the System (2015) was pretty much about Bat’s year in prison for acts of cannibalism.

As DeathWish stumbled, those of us who’d tied our horses to theirs started to feel the side effects. Soon enough we were all stupidly broke and pissed at Chad and Manny for making us so.

At some point we wondered if we should rebrand ourselves, maybe cover different bands, and yet we could not agree on one. Each one of us had branched out into different places in music. Poosh now liked classical music, which was a weird evolution. Robbie was into rap and I’d taken to soft rock quite a bit. Only Connor listened exclusively to heavy metal now, which is probably why he got so many complaints in his short run as an Uber driver.

Last year’s album, This band will give you an Ear Infection, despite having done a little better, still underperformed on the market. If you asked me, this last one actually showed an impressive maturity in both tone and concept. It was only dismissed so quickly due to its predecessors.

See, the best tracks in it, “A Real Death Experience” and “Fuck you for not listening to me anymore,” explore the vulnerability of their real life struggles in a metalinguistic way. The hilarious title makes reference to a review of one of DeathWish’s first albums, Fresh Meat, which Rolling Stone called “A seventy-five minute long sequence of sound effects from the worst possible horror film.”

This new album got us hanging on a thread as a cover band, really. If they didn’t make that comeback, we’ll be done. That’s what I’d decided, anyway.

~

Sept. 9th, 2017, Google Search for DeathWish new album:

(search for “Death Wish new album” instead)

Is it time for DeathWish to finally have their wishes granted? Our…

5h ago- www.punsnproses.com

Metal band DeathWish has been around since the early nineties, but amidst their history of rehab and cannibalism, we wonder if they have what it takes to survive this rough patch. Is their new album good enough for us to overlook their recent mistakes?

Interview with DeathWish Frontmen: New Album will…

one day ago- www.heavymworld.com

We sat down with DeathWish frontmen Chad Sporez and Manny Bat to talk about their new album and talk about that Cannibalism controversy and that year in jail, and about Chad’s stuff, too! We…

Manny Bat on new DeathWish album: I never thought we’d sell a copy…

one week ago- eonline.com

In a shocking revelation, DeathWish member Manny Bat revealed he and his band mates Chad Sporez, Rocky Shiver and Timothy Lowe released their first album “as a joke”…New album “Skeleton in the Closet” is sort of a love letter to the fans who’ve…

Manny Bat clarifies that “Fresh Meat” comment: I never meant it as an insult…

4 days ago- eonline.com

…promoting DeathWish’s new album Skeleton in the Closet…said they’d only released their first album “as a joke”… “I love making music,” said Manny, “I just meant that we never thought anyone would be interested”… Some fans took to Twitter to express their indignation over his comments “Not cool, @BatManny! Can you really afford to lose fans rn?, one angry user wr…

Skeleton in the Closet, DeathWish’s new album, thrives in mediocrity while…

54 minutes ago- metallz.com

DeathWish’s bad phase, or rather, bad decade, doesn’t end with the new album, but that album is an improvement over last year’s “This band will give an ear…”

~

BATMEN

THIS IS HOW MUCH YOU SUCK

NOTHING TAKES

SOULS FOR SAIL

REFUGE FROM MYSELF

VENERATED CORPSE OF DEMOCRACY

CRUSADE OF THE DAMNED

DEMOCRACY AUTOPSY

ARCADE OF SORROW

SKELETON IN THE CLOSET

I did not know what to think at first. By all means, Skeleton in the Closet was a textbook DeathWish album: you had your harmonized screeching, your sitcom sound effects (used ironically, obviously), your off-key counter-melody, and, most importantly, the permeating theme of frustrated efforts and nothing being worth the fight.

There were a few social criticisms here or there, some subtler than others: Democracy Autopsy (They found a bullet / Lodged in her head / And we all screamed / Democracy’s dead!), for instance, is obviously an examination of all the putrid ways in which we allow an aberration such as the electoral college exist in the 21st century, simply by doing nothing.

Other songs, like “Crusade of the Damned,” might seem at first sight a satire of the Crusades. In a closer look, nonetheless, one understands it as a parallel to our own present lives, and how we haven’t changed a bit. The chorus to the ten minute hymn is such that we are left to contemplate whether we too have become so determined to spread our democratic values that we are undemocratically forcing people to follow our almighty system (I’ve been promised forgivenesss / Hot ticket to heaven / I will slaughter your infidels / Be back home by seven / I will carry a weapon sticky with your blood / My killings are holy / Leave you lying on the mud).

The entire album is telling a story, leading up to the title track, “Skeleton in the Closet.” The implication being that there is a skeleton in the closet of all of those whose lack of purpose has made them complicit of war crimes and devastation. They try to get rid of the responsibility, as the lyrics dictate (Who put that skeleton in my closet / My home’s not your skeleton deposit), even though they clearly benefitted from interventionist policies (Cedar of Lebanon is hard to find wood / I sure hope it’s understood ). Observe that the “I” in the song is not quite worried about the skeleton; in fact, he’s much more worried about his expensive furniture. There is a certain motif of a sense of individualism, taken to the extreme, which allows for the chorus to go: Don’t kill…people! / Don’t kill anyone! / And if you’ve killed people! / Don’t leave them in my home!

The fact that this person does not really care if people die as long as it does not affect them is the epitome of apathy—and apathy, as you know, is seemingly the most common side effect of capitalism. Here, the album reaches its climax and the journey we’ve been taking is finally clear to us: from Batmen, which implies a plural, a pack of people with nothing but ideas, to the edge of solitude and egoism.

Still, there was something missing. I sort of wondered whether Manny Bat really had sold his soul to the devil as is described in Souls for Sail, because the whole album was so perfectly put-together that it sounded a bit formulaic. Normally, I have to listen to a DeathWish work three or four times before I’m able to tie it all together. This one, they made it too obvious and simple, too commercial. And I would have understood if they had been simply trying to make bank of it, but from what I’ve seen no one has bought the album.

If no even wants to listen to the real band, then who is going to come see a bunch of impersonators? So that is when we decided to break up the band, and scheduled our last concert.

~

When the grumpy man approached me with his proposal, I thought he was playing a prank on me.

“No one can find him anywhere. Not even Chad. We have this concert tonight, and we’d have to pay a fine… We don’t have this kind of money… I’ll pay you anything! As long as it’s less than what they’d be asking for if, you know, we had to pay the fine. God, you look just like him. How long have you been dressing up like him? I guess you have a broader chin. Doesn’t matter, he’s had a beard for a long time. We’ll dim the lights a bit, you’ll stand onstage like he does usually, sing some backing vocals, stare at the audience like you’re angry at them… You know the drill, I mean… You’re obviously some kind of stalker…No offense…”

“Are you their manager?”

“Oh right, where are my manners? Stan Holtz, yeah, I’m their manager, hoping to retire from that position soon.” He offered his hand.

“Macaw.”

“What?”

“That’s my name.”

“I…Alright, are you in?”

There was a pause, which I hope was long enough to conceal my off-the-charts enthusiasm, and I muttered an “I guess.”

Stan took me to a van and left me alone in the back. I was suddenly concerned I was being kidnapped and they had found my weak spots. But soon enough there we were at the airport running against the time difference. The concert was at a crap venue at some crap town in Colorado.

I was preparing myself to meet the band members. What could I ever say to them that would express how much they’ve influenced me? But none of them was there. I was suddenly terrified that they had actually found Manny Bat, and that I would be deemed unnecessary. No, he wasn’t going to steal my thunder. I wasn’t gonna let him. I’d fought one Manny Bat before, I could always fight another.

Fortunately, that was not what happened. I was given a seltzer and left in a white room sitting on a bench. There was no table on which to place the seltzer.

This is how conspiracy theories begin, I started thinking. Maybe they’ll never find him, or maybe he OD’d somewhere and they’ll hire me to keep up with appearances. Maybe I could rebrand DeathWish and start out a new era…

I’d never really bought that whole Paul McCartney is dead thing, but I was starting to find it a lot easier to believe.

Maybe fifty years from now, I was thinking, there will be a documentary on the History Channel on me, the mysterious Manny Bat impersonator… And no one will believe them. But this feels suffocating. I need people to know the truth. Maybe I’ll write a note and hide it somewhere. Maybe I’ll leave clues in the lyrics.

I needed people to know the truth, in any case. It was me, me, me, not Manny Bat. At least on this History Channel fantasy. Although, in order to believe this is possible, I guess I would have to fully support the McCartney conspiracy theory and a bunch of other crazy shit.

~

I kept a lot of journals as a kid. They’re mostly irrelevant. I don’t even have them anymore, they got lost somewhere between my mom moving houses and her garage sale. Still, I distinctively remember writing something important in the margins of the events of an otherwise commonplace day, as an afterthought: “By the way, today I ate a cookie that tasted as good as it smelled.”

This was an important occasion in my life, not only because it was an amazing cookie but because it disproved my theory that nothing could ever live up to its expectations, at least when it came to food. Funny thing, then, that this was an isolated incident, almost like an accidental moment of loose meaning.

It is more than likely that since then I have tasted better cookies. It is possible that such cookies held also a great smell. But, because taste and smell were inequivalent, they were unremarkable cookies.

The thing is, though, that in having this cookie I to this day still cherish, I knew what was happening to me. I knew, on some level at least, that on many ways I was not prepared for it, that I was not fully present, that even though this is all I would remember from that day for the rest of my life, there were probably a thousand distractions to swerve me away from fully appreciating that cookie.

So this was more or less how I felt onstage with my favourite band. Whereas I was doubtlessly enjoying myself, I was suddenly very aware of how finite that moment was, and that this was probably my peak, and what a low peak at that! What had I done with my life other than that? What would I ever do again? Playing with a C-band (I mean, who am I kidding?) for a hundred people, as someone else. My excitement fizzled into shame.

The strange part was that I was full of adrenaline, still distanced enough to experience it from afar, so in memory it could become nothing but a blur of sensations flowing by unrecorded, screams from the audience and the screeching of my guitar. It was exactly like hard rock: present and grave, but in many ways trying to conceive of moods and feelings dissociating you from this place. A lot of art does that. You go see it just so it takes you somewhere else, no matter how close you get to reality, it is never enough. But it’s still better than reality itself, because reality doesn’t have a soundtrack, and reality is tactless and absent and apathetic, and reality isn’t real, not really. Most of the time it feels like we’re walking in slow motion, or maybe playing a video game, your mind sitting idly on the couch as your body completes task after task, and sometimes you wonder if your mind is still there or whether it’s gone to the kitchen to grab a bowl of popcorn.

You hear a lot of people make jokes about how kids these days prefer playing sports in a console to playing outside. But truth is, I think that in trying to be realistic and recording high scores video games succeed in reminding us how frail reality is. By admittedly pretending, we feel like we are not pretending anymore.

Or, who knows, maybe kids just want to stay home because they are idiots getting fatter by the minute.

You want to get the closest you can to a feeling of completion. You want to immerse yourself in the moment and disappear, completely, by heightening some senses and ignoring others (mostly common sense). What you want is for someone to tell you what you are, for once. What you want is to get farther and further away from yourself, so you can be that someone. You want to jump from a building holding onto a rope, so you can feel more real than you do in your own miserable body because your body is not enough. You say you want to feel the present, but what you really want is to stop feeling time. You say you want to feel alive, but you actually want to see it from a distance.

I call bullshit on this behaviour. It’s like that one DeathWish song, “Bullshit.” Living in the moment is nothing more than a desperate attempt to dissociate from time.

Another anecdote from my childhood: I ate a bar of soap once. It smelled really, really nice, like roses after it had rained, so I took a big bite and spat it up. My mother was angry at me—it had been a present from a well-off friend—but no one was angrier at me than myself. How dare this bar of soap lure me in with its exquisite smell? How dare I believe it? I realize that the lesson in question, that nothing is what it seems, is overwhelmingly obvious.

But there was something else in play. See, people do eat roses. (It’s true. I saw it on the Food Network.) Rose petal macaron, rose petal potato chips, rose based foam and so forth.

As I was curious, I ordered a rose macaron on the local bakery the other day. Now, imagine tasting a bare rose bouquet. The bouquet does not smell of anything at all and therefore the smell is transferred into the flavour.

It wasn’t bad, but something felt wrong. Rose tastes like a bad movie adaptation, like it was not adequate for a certain medium. It was lyrics without a melody, just like that DeathWish song, “The Song of Silence” (which is basically “The Sound of Silence” being recited). That macaron tasted exactly like you’d imagine a smell to taste like, like you were not feeling a flavour but a faraway fantasy without concrete representatives in this world.

I guess I’m going on and on about these metaphors and comparisons and opinions because it is the only way I can explain what I think happened to me during that hour and a half concert. All of these sensations hit me simultaneously and I felt the hits only when it was over and I was in the trailer, alone and feeling surreal.

Suddenly I heard a knock on the window. It was a blond woman, thirtyish. I assumed she worked for the band, but, again, nothing is ever what it seems.

“Manny Bat!” she said. “Oh my gosh, I have waited all my life to meet you and finally, you’re standing right in front of me. I’m Jane. I followed you on your Ear Infection tour. Maybe you remember my face.”

“Hum, not really. Are you like a groupie?”

I noticed now that she was wearing a DeathWish T-shirt. I wondered whether I could take advantage of that, but she was quick-witted:

“Like a groupie? Wait…”

I saw her eyes widen, very close to my face, and in a flash she pulled my beard out, like kids dream of doing to shopping mall Santas.

“A-ha!” she said, which made the situation even weirder. Who even says a-ha anymore? Isn’t that a cartoonish way to react?

“Okay, you’re onto me,” I said. “I wear beard extensions.”

“Your chin is different, too.”

I panicked: “I had chin broadening surgery. I was being made fun of for my soft jaw.”

“Wow,” she laughed. She started walking around the room, picking things up and talking with her hands. “You were really good upstage. You almost had me. Who are you, man?”

“Manny Bat,” I answered helplessly.

“Right. Why isn’t he here?”

“No one knows.”

“Was this the first time you’ve performed as him? How deep does this go?”

“Not, not that deep. It’s not a big deal, okay? It’s the first and the last time I’m doing this and…I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to mess with this stuff. It’s not mine or yours.”

“You seem tense for someone who just played with DeathWish.”

“Yeah, well, maybe it’s time I retire. Please don’t tell anyone about this?”

“Alright, relax. I like keeping secrets. Makes me feel special.”

“Thank you,” I said, and then: “Did you come here to sleep with Manny Bat?”

“No! What do you take me for?”

“Sorry, sorry.”

“No, I totally was, though.”

“Wow. Good for you. And him.”

“Yeah, maybe it’s for the best. You know, I’ve been following this band around, and I quit my job, and… I don’t know. It’s just a fucking pathetic life. I just thought that if I slept with him it would be less pathetic.”

“It would not.”

“Jeez, thanks.”

“Dude, I’m a Manny Bat impersonator. You couldn’t get more pathetic than that.”

“Well, you could be like a Rocky Shiver impersonator.”

“True, true.”

“I don’t even know why I do this anymore. It started like ten years ago. I was going through a bad phase, trying to break free… But I guess I’m just the sort of person to get stuck on the mud.”

“Well, I guess, you could follow some other rock band around for a change. Maybe even a punk rock band? So you can, you know, expand your horizons?”

I made her laugh.

“How did you get into DeathWish?”

“That song, Fuck this shit, speaks to me on an existential level.”

She started singing the song. It was a great song and she had a decent voice.

“You wanna get a cup of coffee?”

“Sure, then maybe you can tell me your real name.”

“I told you, it’s Manny Bat. Why do you think I became a Manny Bat impersonator?”

This was a nice girl. I knew they would not go on like this for much longer, but what the hell? Time for Carpe Diem: I was in my Manny Bat costume and I was invincible.

The next day we found out that Manny Bat had OD’d on heroin the previous afternoon. It seemed about the right ending for DeathWish. Given most people’s creepy obsession with just-dead folks, we were suddenly swamped with gigs once more. The band wouldn’t have to break up after all.

 

by Beatriz L. Seelaender

 

Seelaender

Beatriz L. Seelaender is a Brazilian author. Her fiction has been featured in online magazines such as Psychopomp and Feminine Collective, as well as in print, and she was a finalist for the Atlas Review Chapbook Contest in the non-fiction category. Seelaender’s essays can be found online in The CollapsarThe Manifest-Station, and others. Currently she is a student at the University of Sao Paulo, pursuing a major in Literature and Languages.

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