UKArchive ID: 25106The Black Velvet Band by chrissytotoro
Originally published on July 16, 2010 in Fiction    

A story about a band.

The Black Velvet Band

I've been over it so many times. My head is spinning with it. I'm torn in two different directions and just lately I'm falling apart. This is a young persons' business and I'm thirty years old. I've had ten years of this abnormality and I think that's enough. The trouble is once I get out on to that stage and see the people and I hear the music, I'm not sure I can live with out it. The life I think I want now is not the life I've prepared myself for. Sometimes I wish I'd been born a man and then the choice wouldn't be there, I wouldn't have to have one or the other. Men get both.

I watched the other two and wonder if they really don't know what I'm thinking. They know there's something wrong, that I'm not 'right' I'm a terrible one at disguising my feelings. Joshua always says that, reckons he can read me like a book and I've known Mickey as long as I've known Josh and he's equally as intuitive.

I'm not sure whether Kendra 'knows' anything. She has spoken to me about it but she has her own concerns. I think she is the one I feel most concerned about. She's so young; just a baby. She's the age now that I was when I started out when Mickey and Ailsa and me got together in a Belfast pub and decided that we were going to be a band.

Poor little Kendra. Mickey won't look after her. Morals of a ferret on heat has Mickey and he only thinks about himself. I do love him, I love him dearly but sometimes I don't like him. He's selfish and mean and if she doesn't fit in with his ideas when I'm out of the picture, if I'm out of the picture, he'll just dump her.

He struts in front of me, pulls a face, like a kid, to make me laugh and when I don't laugh he goes surly and mumbles something about it being the wrong time of the month.

I want to hit him. Why do blokes always assume that? If you're moody or miserable it can't be because you've got life changing stuff going on in your head, no, it's got to be bloody hormonal.

Joshua isn't like that. Josh is a gentleman, a lovely, wonderful man who makes me feel like a real woman with a real personality not some velvet clad tart with a voice like it came straight from a sixty a day habit, which my voice doesn't incidentally. I gave up the fags five years ago and I don't even pretend for publicity now.

He's clever, Josh. He lectures at the university and he writes poetry. All right, Mickey writes poetry, good Lord, I write poetry but Josh is a lot better at than the two of us.

He was our first groupie. He used to come to our gigs at the university. He told me once that it started off for the music, just the music and then he said it changed.

He's thirty years older than me and that's part of the problem, always has been. He doesn't think he's a right to me. Silly old fart.

Mickey comes back and starts playing his Mick Jagger in front of me. Kendra usually finds that funny but even she isn't laughing. There's a real feeling here tonight, a real depression. I feel like I've already told them.

I'm a shallow bitch. It's probably nothing to do with me. Now I come to think of it, she's been off since we played Cardiff. I think it's a bloke. I saw her with him and he didn't look that prepossessing.

Kendra's a replacement. We started out with me and Mickey and Ailsa but Ailsa got into drugs and one day she just went to sleep and didn't wake up. We blamed ourselves, I know I blamed my self so when Kendra came to us and especially with her being younger I've tended to be a bit over protective. That's how come I noticed this bloke. He's black, not West Indian, North Africa, I’d say, fine features, very black skin. He's good looking enough but I got a sense of him not being quite... Oh shite, I don't know. That's me over reacting again. I always see the dark side of things.

We don't do the same things every show. We do rehearse, but sometimes we get ideas and we do them. Mickey's the really spontaneous one. He's always surprising and he's always brilliant.

Tonight he wants to do a new song with Kendra and I'm OK with that. It's a brilliant song and it doesn't suit my voice.

So, we're almost ready. Josh comes back stage which gets right up Mickey's nose but I don't care.

Then we're on and it's like slow motion as we walk across the stage. The three of us all in black; Mickey with his knee high boots and his long black velvet coat and crisp white shirt and Kendra in her arse high skirt and her tight jacket, with her dark curly hair all over the place and me, flowing black dress my red hair all tumbling from the black velvet band.

The lights hit us and the noise of the crowd and the magic happens. We play and we sing like this is the last night of the world and for me, I think it is, so I love it.

You can always pick out some faces in the crowd. The ones standing close to the stage, you can pick out the little girls who would sell their mammies to sleep with Mickey. Daft little mots. The big lads below the stage keep them in their places with just a look

I fancy I saw Josh, he always comes to the front, bless him and I'm certain I saw Kendra's bloke and he didn't look like he was there to enjoy himself but then the music takes over and we only see each other. The place could be empty and we wouldn't care because we're the only ones who matter.

We slam it to them. We rock and roll, we sling our voices into so much stuff and I think the audience might go completely berserk when Mickey does his Rod Stewart.

That man can make me laugh out loud sometimes.

At some point, while I'm taking a drink and then playing the fiddle, Mickey and Kendra do his new song. It really gets them. He's holding her hands and looking directly into her eyes and it's like they're in love but only on the outside.

On and on it goes and in my head I'm wondering if I can give this up, if I can be satisfied with just Josh. I've done this for so long and what the hell if we're yet another Irish folk-rock trio in a very crowded niche. We're good, we're the best we can be and I know that I can't stop this.

We're close to the end and it starts sort of slowly, like a mumbling and then it's clear New York! New York!

We pretend we can't hear them and then you just can't ignore it.

Mickey and I walk to either end of the stage and we start.

" It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won't see another one
And then he sang a song
'The Rare Old Mountain Dew'
And I turned my face away
And dreamed about you"

We start to walk towards each other and eventually we're back in the middle of the stage.

"You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging,
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night

The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing 'Galway Bay'
And the bells were ringing
Out for Christmas Day"

It's going really well and then suddenly there's a bang and flash that isn't a camera and Mickey isn't singing any more; he's fallen down and he's lying on the stage. There's blood coming out of his mouth, staining his crisp white shirt scarlet, the lights are making his black velvet coat shine as the blood seeps into it.

I bend to look down at Mickey and then into the audience and I see someone pointing. He's pointing at Kendra. I stand quickly and for no reason I can think of that isn't completely insane I get in front of her. There's another bang and a flash and a terrible pain in my neck. As I fall, I vaguely see the security men grabbing at some one, throwing them down on to the ground. I can see people getting onto the stage, people screaming and running around and Joshua in his black overcoat and Kendra mouthing something that I can’t hear. I can taste the iron in my mouth feel the blood pumping up, choking me. Then it's black and I wonder when the light is going to come and I wonder too if I’ll have the bottle to walk towards it.

The light comes eventually but it isn’t the light that I was expecting. There's no sainted granddad there to take my hand and lead me on to a better place of apple trees and kids in washing powder advert white, just a nurse looking like she might have come out of a war zone and then as my vision clears I can see Joshua standing at the end of the bed. He looks so old and tired and all I can think is; “This is my fault.”

It's still in my head. I can't shift it

Over the next few weeks I got more out of the Gardee than they got out of me. The shooter was a psycho who just happened to be Kendra's natural father. Don't I wish she would have shared that with me. Nobody quite knew why he did it. I suppose if you're crazy enough you don't need a reason and it doesn't matter anyway. It won't make Mickey any less dead or poor Kendra any less mentally damaged or me any less… I don’t know what I am. Reasons are for the perpetrators, to justify what they’ve done, for the investigators so they can tie everything up in neat little packages. They’re not for the victims, the ones left when it’s all done and dusted, we don’t care why.

I can't sing anymore but that doesn't matter that much. Josh and me are happy enough.

I still wear my black velvet band only it's round my neck to cover up the scars.

© chrissytotoro (chrissy on OLD UKA)
UKArchive ID: 25106
Archived comments for The Black Velvet Band
pdemitchell on 16-07-2010
The Black Velvet Band
This was an excellent micro-drama that captured the maniac in the night club, The number of bands i was in, I got assaulted twice, having ten guys stomping you 'cause they didn't like the music is a bit of a downer. Excellent and poignant end. Mitch

Author's Reply:
Mitch, many thanks for reading, commenting and rating. Glad you enjoyed.

Gee on 16-07-2010
The Black Velvet Band
It's lovely to be able to read something new from you, Chrissy.
First of all, you really got into the character and made her come alive for me. You captured the thoughts, the atmosphere, everything, and the ending to the story was just right.
Lovely to see you again, especially with something like this.
Gee x

Author's Reply:
Gee, many thanks for reading and commenting and for the welcome back. I feel like I've been gone a long time.
I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

pombal on 17-07-2010
The Black Velvet Band
Hi chrissy - I enjoyed your story and the pace very much - I had to check that it wasnt a biographical story about the pogues - just shows how ignorant I am about music!

Author's Reply:
Hi pombal,
much thanks for stopping by to read and comment and I'm glad you enjoyed it.
No, not about the Pogues just poguish song. I love that song.

Ionicus on 17-07-2010
The Black Velvet Band
A nice, gripping tale nicely crafted and deserving of the nib. Well done, Chrissy.

Luigi x

Author's Reply:
Hi, Luigi.
Thanks for reading and your kind comments. Glad you enjoyed the story.

e-griff on 18-07-2010
The Black Velvet Band
this story has come a long way since I first saw it, and now hangs together really well. You capture interest and have the reader second guessing who the attacker is before you tell us. and ... you don't say too much, you credit the reader with intelligence to fill in the spaces throughout, and that too enlivens interest. That's why it works so well.

Congrats... 🙂

Author's Reply:
John, many thanks for taking the time to read and for your generous comments. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

sirat on 18-07-2010
The Black Velvet Band
Well, praise from Griff is hard to come by, so I hope it gives me permission to tell you the one or two things that I'm still not entirely happy with. I think I said the same things the first time you posted it.

I still think the logical structure would work better if it was in fact the new West African boyfriend who did the shooting, out of jealousy over what he considered too much friendliness between Kendra and Mickey when they stared into each other's eyes to sing the song. That would make some kind of sense. It still makes no sense to me that her natural father would suddenly turn up and start shooting band members. In fact you say 'The shooter was a psycho who just happened to be Kendra's natural father'. Do you really mean that? Is there no significance in the fact that he was her natural father? Are we to look for no motive whatsoever? You've laid the groundwork for the boyfriend doing the shooting (he looks a bit questionable, Kendra has been upset about something, she and Micky have just had an intimate-appearing moment on the stage, he's in the audience), and then you produce this other killer from nowhere like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. For me, this damages the structure of the story. I'm not saying that it couldn't happen, just that it isn't interesting from the narrative point of view. There is (according to your account) no human motivation involved. You could just as easily have had a stage light fall on top of the two of them, producing the same outcome. Random happenings don't make interesting stories. The diligent reader is left feeling let down – deliberately misled for no particular purpose.

Another slightly puzzling thing was when, as narrator, you said: All I can think is: “This is my fault.” Why would the narrator think it was her fault? What had she done wrong? She had actually shielded Kendra with her own body.

Finally, I'll repeat my point that there are opportunities for making the relationships between the three band members more complicated and more interesting. The narrator seems almost inhumanly well-disposed towards the young newcomer. Wouldn't it be more interesting if you introduced a bit of three-way sexual tension, vague feelings of jealousy and resentments on the part of each female of shows of closeness between the other two? Or even something more subtle? But at the moment all you've got is what comes over as dislike on the narrator's part towards Micky (coupled perhaps with some degree of professional admiration), and this striking protectiveness towards Kendra. I'd like to be able to understand and believe in the dynamics of the group more thoroughly. I find that aspect more interesting than the shooting, which as I have said is just a random event like a lightning strike.

Sorry if this seems negative. Obviously I'm greatly in the minority but I feel an obligation to say what I think, in the hope that it might have some small usefulness to you, as something to consider and probably reject. It's only because the other aspects of the story are so good that I think it's worth analysing in so much detail.

Finally, a couple of tiny technicalities: 'makes me feel like real woman' – missing indefinite article 'a'.

The sentence: 'I always see the dark side of things' comes just after you have mentioned that Kendra's boyfriend has very dark colouration. Because of this it jarred a bit with me.

I really do hope this is of some use.

Author's Reply:
Hi David.

Thanks for taking the trouble comment.

I think in the early draft the relationship with Kendra and her natural father was clearer, more spelled out than 'flagged', but cutting it the way I did, lost a lot of the exposition. By making him North African and indicating that Kendra was of what's the term, dual heritage, it was, in fact a lot clearer in the early drafts.

Also, the narrator's own relationship with Josh, would have led her to think that it would be normal for Kendra to have a relationship with an older man.

The narrator is protective of Kendra because she feels that she failed the original other girl in the band and because Kendra is very young.

She is not sexually attracted to Mickey because she doesn't like his 'wham bam thank you mam' attitude to women. I think that's pretty clear but in a way she loves him because he has contributed to her being able to make music so on that level adding any kind of sexual tension between the three of them would seem contrived and really I think if I complicated the relationships within the band, it would not be the story I wanted to write. That's not what the original story was about.

I think I wanted to show more of the complications within the narrator's own life.

I will ofcourse correct the typos (I thought I had. Shows how carefully I check things)

Thanks again,


e-griff on 18-07-2010
The Black Velvet Band
everything can be improved, and I have no doubt that David's ideas could help. I must admit (maybe because of my knowledge of earlier drafts) that I thought it was her boyfriend so the pyschotic father was surprise. This may not be true for fresh readers, of course.

still a good story as it is IMO.


ps. I do praise stuff often (check my home page) It's just people (except the authors, I hope) don't notice it. Vultures!!!! 🙂

Author's Reply: