by Tom Mahony
The plan was to sneak me into the Iron Maiden concert. I had no ticket and the concert was sold out. Joey worked concession at the amphitheater and had inside connections. We paced his garage, plotting and scheming. We hatched scenarios and scrutinized them and scrubbed away the bad stuff until one option remained.
“You hide in the back of my truck while I drive into the employee parking lot,” Joey said.
“And then what?”
“I walk to my concession stand. You wait in the truck until the show starts, slip through the parking lot, and you’re in. Easy as that.”
I hesitated. It sounded simple enough. But nothing was ever simple with Joey involved.
“What if I get caught? I heard the security guards brutalize trespassers. Smitty’s brother used to work there. He said they beat kids all the time.”
Joey waved dismissively. “Once in a while.”
“Once in a while?”
“So they bitch-slap you a few times. What’s the big deal? It’s Maiden, man. One night only. Sold out. This could be your only chance to see them. Ever. Who knows if they’ll tour again?”
I hesitated. Fear versus history.
“Fine,” I said. “I’m in.”
Joey picked me up in his truck the next evening. We drove to the amphitheater. Joey chattered away. I nodded nervously, sick with fear. But it was Maiden, thinking-man’s metal. I had to do it.
As we neared the place, Joey pulled over and I hopped into the bed of the truck, covered with a mini camper shell and lined with storage compartments. I wedged into a cramped and sweltering compartment. It seemed to take hours to drive a couple of miles.
The truck slowed and stopped. I heard voices, probably the security checkpoint to the employee parking lot. I held my breath. The truck shifted into gear and accelerated. I exhaled in relief.
A minute later the truck stopped, the engine died.
“All clear,” Joey said.
I poked my head out of the compartment. “We’re in?”
“Yeah. Just stay here until the opening band is finished and Maiden takes the stage. There’s a gate over there with a security guard.” He nodded vaguely across the lot. “The guard should leave when the main event starts. Walk through the gate and you’re home free.”
Joey walked off.
The opening band started playing. I sat in the truck listening to the distant rumble. The set ended and the place went quiet again. The minutes crawled along. Agonizing. Unbearable.
Then the amphitheater went dark. The crowd roared, drums started pounding.
I slipped from the truck, crouched down, and searched for guards. All clear.
I trotted through the parking lot. The music thumped in the distance. I longed to be there, just one last obstacle. I saw the gate up ahead. No sign of the guard.
Maiden blasted through their first song. My fear vanished and I surged with anticipation. I had visions of front row seating, multiple encores, gorgeous heavy metal tramps whored-up in full concert regalia. Maybe, just maybe, I’d score more than a free concert this evening.
Almost there. Twenty feet. Ten. Five.
As I reached the gate someone grabbed my shirt and yanked me backward.
“What the hell, kid?”
A security guard spun me around and shone a flashlight in my face. I froze.
“You trying to sneak in?”
“You work here?”
My brain wasn’t functioning. I panicked. “No.”
“Then what are you doing?”
There was no weaseling out of this. I could only beg for clemency. “Okay, you caught me. But can you cut me a break? It’s Maiden.”
He lowered the flashlight and fixed me with a cold hard glare.
“C’mon, man,” I pleaded. “What’s the harm? Let me go and we’ll forget this ever happened.”
He kept glaring but in the flashlight glow I saw the first trace of pity in his eyes.
“You must’ve done something like this as a kid,” I said, the groveling coming easier with my desperation. “Let me go, just this once. It’s Maiden. A once in a lifetime experience.”
His face softened. A faint smile spread across his lips, perhaps harkening back to his own halcyon days of concert tomfoolery. Youthful indiscretions. This guy got it. He’d grown older but hadn’t forgotten what it was like back in the day. I felt a burgeoning bro-moment, an intergenerational connection.
A passing of the baton.
The pass was completed by his fist crashing into my jaw. I folded to the ground. He yanked me up by the hair and marched me to the exit gate and shoved me through and slammed it shut.
I trudged home five miles in the dark. There would be no Maiden that night. No gorgeous heavy metal tramps. The pain and disappointment and humiliation might conceivably offer life lessons, broad in scope and crucial to personal evolution. Revelations about responsibility, honesty, better strategic planning. But all I came away with was one insight, narrowly focused, that served me well in later years:
If you want to score heavy metal tramps at a Maiden concert, you have to buy a ticket.
“Thinking Man’s Metal” has previously been published in Cantaraville and Tom Mahony’s Slow Entropy.
TOM MAHONY is a biological consultant in California with an M.S. degree from Humboldt State University. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in dozens of online and print publications, including Surfer Magazine, Flashquake, The Rose & Thorn, Pindeldyboz, In Posse Review, Boston Literary Magazine, 34th Parallel, Diddledog, Foliate Oak, and Decomp. His short fiction collection, Slow Entropy, was published by Thumbscrews Press in 2009. He is looking for a publisher for several novels. Visit him at tommahony.net.