Luna arrived at work. It was barely light, the rising sun loosing the battle with the heavy mist settled over the city. After stubbing out her cigarette, Luna entered her four digit pin, pushing the door open as the light buzzed green from red. Luna walked through the various hallways, creating a lonely echo. Reaching the staff lounge, she dumped her bag and heavy coat into heavy coat into her locker. As usual, Luna was the first to arrive for shift, already dressed in leather pants, combat boots and a lilac lace shirt. She left the heavy coat in her locker and took her lighter jacket as she went back outside, slipping through several service alley’s to reach a hidden laneway breakfast bar.
Ash’s Smash Repairs was a converted car garage, oil stains embedded in the original cement floors. Rough oak benches and long handmade glossy oak tables were stacked against deranged blackened brick, rubbling cement cohesive crumbling between them. Ash’s was an insiders secret, hidden as it was within creases of the city, enfolded within its layers. While the old building had been a host of places, once it had become toiled within back city alleyways, businesses swelled and fell with generations passed from one skill set to the next. Ash was a cantankerous old mechanic who ran the place before a heart attack left the place to Jamere, a Chef disillusioned enough with the foodie revolution to leave the sign and the name where it was. The kitchen, silver and dull metal gleamed under the fluorescence hanging from cords twisted to the roof, replaced tools and beyond broken cars hoisted to heaven on hydraulics’. In spite of the odd location and indifferent style, Ash’s produced a committed grifter element in both customers and food, and with the 24 hour operation, catered to cross-cultural elements rarely seen in many other places. Committed to charitable causes, Jamere participated not in the ideology of community, but in its practicality by wasting nothing left over at Ash’s to feeding the homeless and the broke daily, and hosting an annual charitable event Smash Punch Women to raise money for domestically abused women.
Luna loved Ash’s, having been a regular customer for almost all of the five years she had spent in the City, relishing the red brick dirty history of the place. The ebb and flow of Ash’s suited Luna, the squall of the night, the monsters in the minds of the darkness played against the busy raptured sins of coffee soaked daylight. Luna walked under the roller doors, by now rusted into there immobility, to the back counter that stretched wide across the back wall. At five-thirty, the breakfast menu’s were at there best, after the night drunks yet before the rushed business people, lacking the skills to manage life, or its time. This was Luna’s favorite time, her solitude before the solar people began their day. Jamere knew Luna’s order, passing it through to the kitchen before bringing pot brewed coffee and a glass of ice over to the long mahogany counter bar throwing warmth across the back length of the garage where Luna had thrown her jacket behind the end chair she had climbed into and was leaning back into the chilled brick wall.
“How are you baby girl”
“tired” a weak smile and a mouthful of hot coffee poured over ice, steam spiraling out of control skyward, scanning the few bereft customers “unusually quite”
“Yes, you always had timing” with a smile an a shrug.
“I guess” flat, no inflection.
“Really, Jamere, I am good”
“Ok. How’s Kai”
“The usual. Nights at Marlaree’s, as always. I only see him when we are both on nights. He will probably be in after his shift.”
“Most likely” Jamere smiled. Kai and Luna often used Jamere as a message courier when shift splits required it. A plate appeared with steaming food, a clatter of cutlery followed next to the plate. Jamere pulled away from Luna and retrieved her food, then laid it in front of her.
Jamere smiled gently then turned towards the slow trickle of customers sleepily stumbling up to the counters with orders strong enough to help them assimilate into the day. Luna began on her breakfast, methodically working her way anti-clockwise on a square plate. When finished, Luna pulled her jacket back on her small frame, waved at Jamere, then escaped back to the alleyways to her coded door and echoed hallways.
The rest of the shift staff has assembled and were in the meeting room by 0630. Luna and the other forty-three commencing the early morning rotation worked at the Pacer Entertainment Complex, a seven story, 24 hour operational “Entertainment Specialist” megastore. Staff shifts spanned across six rotating times, crossing each other as if lightening scars on flesh. Each floor was themed in the style of the genre it contained, as well as housing a stage, a band area with house bands and exclusive guests. Next to this was a three tiered café, a perfected view of the floor, of performances, of bands and the art of consumerism, flowing through the store, petals on the snow swirl attached to the mortal coil. Pacer was unlike any traditional entertainment store in that in participated in the progress of the industry. It created musical theater in a commercial building, added accoutrements and had become large, diverse and had evolved when others would not. There were available instruments and with talent staff, infamous midnight sessions had developed, basement style jams that collected music fanatics.
Luna’s preference was to work on the second level, alternative music, over the ground floor entry level floor, which housed popular music. Level three, where Luna was often, was classical, theater and experimental. Level four was country and international, which lead to Level Five, Children and Young Adults. Level Six was DVDs, and then there was the restricted Level 7, Adult Entertainment. The three basement Levels, BS1, BO2 and BA3 contained staff areas, officers and Archer. Staff usually worked on a specific level, knowledge and passion a major selling point of Pacer, however they could be shuffled around. Level Seven was the only exception to this, and were an exclusive team with specialized security measures.
The assembled staff were busy adjusting their headsets, and base feedback. All Pacer staff are hired on the premise that they were performers of any kind, musicians, dancers and collectives of artists and bands. They were required to not only be customer service but to perform as part of either the house bands, as dancers or musicians and in any of these capacities be able to support guest performers. The headsets allowed all staff to maintain permanent individual contact with the mainframe so that what would once have been loudspeaker announcements would never interrupt live entertainment, scheduled or impromptu. Pacer was technologically advanced and proud of it and controlled everything via an artificially intelligent program that integrated all conceivable operational systems into what is colloquially called Archer. The manager strolled in, adjusting the earpiece of his headset while reading the live digital array scrolling on the tablet feeding directly from Archer.
“Morning Team. Luna and Galla, I need you both in Classical. Claudia Jean and Webster Xaiden are unable to attend until the midday shift. Tanikaa, our Guest Band for the second floor have canceled, and the house band is currently on tour and has of yet to be permanently replaced. Any volunteers?”
“We will” Calais and Fletcher, members of the band Spenal spoke. Calais smiled. They were both new and had formed Spenal and had not yet had a chance to play yet. They had taken this job primarily for the exposure it brings. Pacer produces and stocks all staff member albums. Those who are good enough or are around long enough to become house bands get automatic access to the recording opportunities Pacer provides. They also took the job to meet other musicians to fill missing band positions, many forming and dissolving within the walls of Pacer due to the temperamental nature of musicians. Working for Pacer was converted, a Kickstarter for careers.
“Ok. Can anyone help with drums?” moments pass before Archer breaks with the silence with “Bree Khiam”
Bree looked up from her black and red fingernails, “Ok”
Archer broke the silence again with her calculated with her calculated, balanced voice “The classical act for the hummingbird just cancelled.”
The manager acknowledged, then looked at Luna and Galla “Can you too play the 1300 and 1400. Claudia Jean and Webster Xaiden will be on shift then. Sanihda and Eviva can you do the dance set at 9 on 1”
“Why don’t Xaidia play.” Galla asked.
“Claudia Jean has tendonitis. Xaiden Webster will wait until its healed. They have asked for a break so that Claudia Jean can seek treatment.”
All four nod their acknowledgement. The hummingbird hour was a misnomer describing the time between 1200 and 1500. Mythology surrounding the name refers to the socialite women who spend the afternoon lunching and shopping. There were two types of hummingbird, the society kind, who live via inherited or married wealth, secure in time and status. The other, the corporate kind, whose independence was fought for from family and social parameters and whose social status is paramount to their own power. They shop at lunch to appear important and time poor in a 24 hour society. After a few more negligible announcements, the team dispersed, Luna leaving with Galla for the third floor “I don’t want to play today” sticking out her tongue.
Galla laughed, and replied “What if we played Gothic chamber music?”
Luna laughed. The classical floor often was the hardest to play. During the morning, it was quiet and often the standard sets were ignored. There were three morning and three afternoon sets of 45 minutes with 15 minute breaks in-between. The classical afternoon sets attracted fanatics critical of any interpretation beyond their own. Luna had received classical training in piano and cello, Galla in violin and sitar. They both knew that in spite of their preference for working on the second floor, their knowledge and talent left both of them the most obvious replacements on the classical floor. While on the third flood shifts together, they experiment against each other with disregard for the hummingbird fanatics.
Classical by Pacer defined the category, encompassed quiet a substantial amount of music. Musicals, variants on ballet suits, composers that were unheard of anywhere else, a collector’s paradise. With an ethos similar to staff policy, Pacer stocked and in nearly all cases assisted in the publication of music students graduation compositions. The top 3% of undergraduate music students were automatically offered an opportunity to record their compositions of the Pacer label, as well as all honors and Masters students. The only requirement was that all musicians and producers utilised were themselves students.
Luna and Galla both preferred the night shifts, either one of the two times (2100~0300 and 2200~0800) or the late afternoon shift (1700~2300) that extended into the night as it gave them more creative flexibility, more interesting customers and rarely the classical floor. There was also the infamous midnight sessions (known as “Owling”) where the staff and customers played without restriction or restraint. The Owling happened anywhere between midnight and four whenever the will took the people present. The freedom in this melding of talents, experimental delineation lost within gaps of time, allowed Luna to fold the spaces in her soul, fading away the hollows and cracks. For Luna, the leaderless melting of molten glass blown by the oxygenated bodies of unhampered participants flowed her away from all the traumas of her past and forgot the sharp edges of her present.
This shift, this day, she would be on until 1500, and was already exhausted at the unexpected and additional performances over the last two hours of her shift. As they walked onto the floor, waving at Kali and Lethe, Luna smiled at Galla, then added “Ok. But the least we could do is mix fusion Jazz with Gothic Chamber.”