In which Andy receives a blessing, of sorts…
* The table dance is over. While William’s mind slowly disintegrates, Andy’s mind is on getting paid. Stanford enters the boardroom and hands the men their daily wages. Andy practically snatches his out of the boss’s hands. William looks like he needs to be reminded to accept it. Beneath a single-beamed spotlight in the town they say goodbye and part ways.
* If you followed Andy inside his motel room it became clear what he’d earmarked his money for. A black and white newspaper advert of a motorcycle is pinned to the wall. Andy leans close to the picture, index-finger pointing. “I’m gonna get you…” he’d say in a half sing-song.
* Every time I was transported back to my pre-teens, standing in front of my big brother’s Triumph, tracing my hands over its curves and breathing in the sweet smell of petrol. I think it was around this point in the loop that I fell in love a little bit - only with the boy this time, not the bike.
* Andy saunters out the back of the motel and takes a seat in the beat-up deckchair behind a line of washing. Squinting, you’d duck beneath the laundry, your path lit by a few flickering electric tea lights. A funny little maternal voice in me would always wonder how on earth he expected to be able to read his motorcycle magazines in such terrible light. But no matter. His evening was soon to be interrupted.
* As the weeks wore on, I stopped hanging out with Andy at this point and instead found Miguel - this summer, Ed Warner’s Miguel. He lurked beyond the wooden slatted fencing of the motel backyard, peeking through the gaps, guylinered eyes bright and staring. I’d crouch down, or tiptoe up, spying with him. Waiting.
* Two long, brisk steps and Miguel would flick at the sheet on the washing line before dashing through Andy’s room. Andy would leap to his feet with a “Hey! You come back here,” sprinting after him. Woe betide if you happened to be caught between the two of them. It was either hurl yourself against a wall and hope for the best, or else run the risk of starring in a Looney-Tunes-style slapstick scene of slamming doors and bashed noses. Following Miguel or Andy was a health-and-safety risk sometimes, and just one of the many reasons I loved it.
* That moment where your frantic run slowed as, like Andy, you turned around, searching for the pretty boy-pixie in black. We’d all stand there in the town, our feet shifting in circles, eyes looking back at Andy until…
* Oh god. The Shangri-Las. This show elevated one of my favourite albums into something approaching magical. Now I can barely listen to it without getting a keen attack of the blues. Sometimes even the mean reds.
* Miguel appears with a mischievous tap on Andy’s shoulder or a gentle blow against his cheek - the oldest tricks in the book. Arms reaching up, scaling William’s house, Miguel effortlessly rolls across the roof. This was real heart-in-mouth stuff, as boy-next-door Andy revealed his hidden boy-wonder powers - following the mysterious dust sprite - up!
* We stood there, necks craned, watching the two tumbling bodies as James Traherne’s Harry Greener opened the door to his room and snarled at them to “Knock it off!”
* Bodies sliding off the roof - dangling, swinging, falling to the floor - like two cats in a night brawl.
* If you followed Miguel your progress through the town was rapid yet casual. You had some shopping to do… Some corn.
* If you chose to stay with Andy you’d find yourself galloping past the drugstore, wandering up to the saddle shop, peering and glaring and wondering where the hell that damn kid went to…
* The jingle of the bell and the dash inside the drugstore where the air grew hotter and thicker as we crammed together, pressing towards the mirror and the barber’s chairs.
* The Drugstore Girl looks up, alarmed, at the entrance of two of her more mysterious customers…followed by twenty more masks.
* Andy would stride in, pointing, shouting, demanding answers from the elusive pixie dream-boy (a trope exclusive to Punchdrunk cf. Conor Doyle/Boy Witch).
* I wish I could remember this exactly, but I think Miguel would pirouette his index finger before Andy’s eyes, hypnotising him into a spinning barber’s chair and up onto the raised platform in the drugstore window, pushing white masks out of the way.
* And then he fell - into the waiting embrace of Miguel, drunk on dust magic and sandman sprinkles blown into his eyes.
* If I was lucky, I’d have snagged a space by the diner counter next to the twirling seat where Miguel would deposit the spellbound Andy, spinning him around. It was like Andy’s consciousness would come back to him as he slapped both palms face down on the counter, ready to accept whatever Miguel was serving…
* Miguel, leaping behind the counter as the Drugstore Girl jumps back in surprise. Miguel places a small black cloth pouch in front of him, scattering something inside it. Then up he climbs, one foot on the counter, one foot on the sideboard at the back, grabbing corn, turning in quick, rhythmic twists that mirror the strings in the Shangri-Las’ track.
* Miguel, plucking a single strand of hair from Andy’s head, who winces or scowls or just simply puts one hand to his crown in bemusement, as the final ingredient is added to the gris-gris.
* Miguel, both feet back on the ground as he folds up the charm, tightening the string that fastens it. Like a lasso, he whirls it around Andy’s head, whose eyes follow as Miguel drops it around his neck.
* Miguel, dancing or leaping towards the nearest drugstore phone-booth, as The Shangri-Las sigh to a close. He pauses briefly with one last backward glance at Andy before sliding the door shut behind him. Coming back to reality Andy runs after Miguel, no longer angry, just curious now. “Hey,” he yells as he grabs hold of the door.
* In perfect synch with the final strains of the piano, Andy tugs at the concertina-door to reveal the boy in black has vanished.
I must have seen this at least fifty times. I’d gladly see it fifty more…
What a gorgeous and vivid description of a beloved scene. Thank you so much for continuing to share your memories.