I’m serializing the first 10% of State of Love & Trust here on my blog. It’s a story about Pearl Jam fans in Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, Corktown.
This is the first installment.
Ellie – Detroit, Mich. – Tuesday, May 20, 2006
I pulled the Yield bus into a rest stop somewhere between Grand Rapids and Detroit. Seeing Pearl Jam three times in four days was the kind of thing I lived for, but at two in the morning after the third show, I was cracked.
“C’mon you guys. Break time, then someone else has to take a turn driving this beast.” I tossed a pillow at the futon where my boyfriend Reece was kicking back, smearing marshmallow fluff onto an Oreo.
“Yo. Lovebirds. You heard the woman. Let’s go.” Reece licked his plastic knife and lobbed the pillow at the other futon where Clive, my twin brother, was snuggled down with his new wife, Becca. It bounced off her head. She snickered and flung the pillow back at Reece.
“Enough with your sass,” she said.
“Sorry, Ms. Becca. I was aiming for Clive,” Reece said. He offered her an Oreo.
“Is there any of my Fiddle Faddle left?”
He shook the empty box. “Oops. It was really good, though.”
She took the cookie, bit into it and dusted the crumbs off her yellow T-shirt with a peeling picture of Marc Bolan crouched on a skateboard. I barely knew her, but I trusted Clive’s judgment and he was thrilled with her. She was a heating technician with her own business up in Rogers City—sharp, with serious eyes and glossy black hair. But they’d fallen in together fast and gotten married before I’d even had a chance to meet her. There was a lot about Clive that I knew he wouldn’t have told her, and it made me nervous for him.
We all got off the bus except for the random fan who’d bummed a ride home with us. He was deep asleep on one of the bench seats, with his long legs slung over the backrest, and his beat-to-crap Doc Martens crossed at the ankles. We’d met in the pit. He’d held my spot on the rail so I could get in the poster line. Before the concert started, we’d gotten so caught up in comparing which shows we’d been to that I never did catch his name. But when he said he’d hitchhiked to Grand Rapids because his tires were too bald to make the trip, I’d offered him a lift back to Detroit.
At the vending machines inside the rest stop, I tried to talk Reece into taking a turn driving.
He dropped some change into the slot and punched the code for a Gatorade. “Sugar, I’m beat. How about I get you a Mountain Dew instead?”
“Blech. Can’t you just drive? I have to work in the morning.”
“Call in sick.”
“Shelby knows we were at a show. I’d never get away with it.”
“You back-seat drove me straight up the wall last time.”
He was trying my patience even if he did sort of have a point. I had a hard time letting go when Reece drove my refurbished school bus. But I’d put everything into it. Painted it red and white, sewed the ticking stripe curtains myself, installed the futons and bolted the mini fridge to the floor. Clive, who had a natural talent for art and calligraphy, had lettered “Push Me, Pull Me” on the back, and painted a Sacred Heart of Jesus style image that was actually Stone Gossard. It brought on two varieties of commentary in the arena parking lots: Why not Eddie? and, Oh my God, Stone, hell yes.
“This time, I promise. I won’t even look. C’mon, Reece’s Pieces,” I said.
Clive came up to us and Reece started rubbing his shoulders. My brother groaned. Those futons saved us a fortune in lodging, but we hadn’t nicknamed them Satan’s beds for nothing. Clive relaxed into Reece’s impromptu massage, letting his head hang forward and his wild mop of thick brown curls swing free. He was short, but deceptively powerful. I’d watched him smoke Reece at basketball many times.
Reece worked an elbow into Clive’s back. “Do me a favor. Take over for Ellie at the wheel, and I’ll be your best bud forever.”
“Pfft.” Clive straightened up and pulled his hair away from his face. “You’re going to need to seriously sweeten the pot, my man.”
“I’ll get you a Cherry Coke.”
Clive motioned for more with his hand.
“And Doritos,” Reece said.
He kept motioning. “And?”
Reece dug around in his pockets and passed something small to Clive.
“See?” Clive slipped the contraband into his wallet. “I knew you were holding some flowers out on me. Now, don’t forget my Doritos and stuff.”
Becca came out of the ladies room and headed in our direction, drying her hands on the thighs of her Levi’s. She smoothed down the large bandage across her palm from some kitchen mishap on their recent honeymoon in Canada.
Reece forked over the promised Doritos and pop to Clive. “We good?”
“Stellar. As a matter of fact, at this moment I’m the happiest man alive. I mean, would you look at her?”
“Oh,” Reece said. “You know I have.”
Back on the bus, I settled onto a futon and tried to concentrate on my latest embroidery project. Clive cranked up a playlist of Pearl Jam covering The Who, and we lurched onto the highway. He sang along with “Getting in Tune” in a baritone that could rival Barry White’s. Reece made his way up to the front and joined in at the top of his lungs. What my boyfriend lacked in harmony he made up for in volume.
The singing woke up the random fan. He stretched his slender body from a grab bar and gave me a wide smile. His eyes were round and dark with heavy lids.
I waved at him awkwardly with my embroidery hoop. “Hey, by the way, I’m Detroit Ellie.”
“Saint,” he said.
“Is that like, your real name?”
He plopped back down in his seat and shrugged. “Real as Detroit Ellie, right?”
“Can I check out your ink?” I asked.
I meant the lettering down the inside of his left forearm, a
guitarist’s tattoo for sure. I’d noticed it at the show but couldn’t tell what it said. Instead, he turned his back and peeled his Mother Love Bone tank shirt upward. The entire first stanza of “Whipping” was inked in a neat typewriter font on his shoulder blade.
Don’t need a helmet
Got a hard, hard head
Don’t need a raincoat
I’m already wet
Don’t need a bandage
There’s too much blood
After a while seems
To roll right off … hmm
That had to have hurt.
“I have seen a lot of Pearl Jam tats over the years, but that one is possibly the baddest yet,” I said.
He yanked his shirt down and turned to face me. “My favorite lyric. Do you have any PJ tats?”
I lifted the edge of my batik skirt to show off the Stickman on my ankle. “It’s way mainstream compared to yours.”
“That’s classic. Don’t ever apologize for it. I almost got that one too, but ended up spending all my cash on this.” He showed me Tremor Christ tattooed down the inside of his left forearm in Brad Klausen-style poster lettering. That was the one I’d wanted to get a better look at. It was fantastic, all in golds and rich browns.
“So you must be a Vitalogy fan,” I said. “It’s a great album, but we hold pretty fast to Yield around here, obviously.”
“Yeah, I figured. I got it for my puppy. That’s his name,” he said.
“Tremor Christ? It makes him sound tough.”
“He’s a big boy, but really still a baby. I’m working on teaching him some manners.” He reached for my embroidery hoop to see what I was making.
I handed it over, then watched him try to make sense of my highly textured crewel embroidering of a four-leaf clover with jagged edges where the lower leaves were torn away. They lay crumpled at the base of a brown stem. The Raffertys curved across the top in elaborate lettering. At the bottom I’d stitched We’re Fuckin’ Doomed.
Saint studied it for a long time before giving it back to me. “What is it?”
“A late wedding gift for my brother, the guy who’s driving right now. Clive. And her, too.” I tipped my head toward Becca, who was sprawled on the other futon, reading a Superman comic.
“Is that his personal motto?” Saint asked.
“Close. It’s our family crest.”
“Oh.” He shoved a lock of dark hair out of his eyes. It was gelled into something that wasn’t quite a pompadour. More like a pompa-oops. “That’s pretty grim for a family motto. Is it meant as a joke? Or do you guys actually live by it?”
I thought about it before answering, “Both. It’s one thing to accept your reality, and it’s another to be able to laugh in its face.”
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State of Love & Trust. Copyright 2016 © Grace Ombry. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever without the written permission of the author.
Words and Music by Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Michael David McCready and Dave Abbruzzese Copyright (c) 1994 INNOCENT BYSTANDER, SCRIBING C-MENT SONGS, WRITE TREATAGE MUSIC, JUMPIN’ CAT MUSIC and PICKLED FISH MUSIC
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