We’d been wondering lately about our old rivals, Les Papys Rock. They haven’t been heard from since our showdown at Fete de la Musique last year, when Eric and I kicked their ass in the parking lot of their hangout, the local bad restaurant La Cabane.
Walking by the restaurant the other day, we hoped to hear them cranking up their sorry cover versions in anticipation of June 21 or a local fete desperate enough to hire them. But the place was silent, the chalkboard still reading “Salades XXL” from the summer, the sad net curtains hanging limply in the windows.
Things were too quiet. It could only mean a reunion must be in the works. This was merely the calm before the storm.
We pictured Patrick, the drummer and local plasterer out on a job, braced on a ladder, his hands in black-leather drumming gloves gripping a trowel of plaster as he smoothes it on the ceiling overhead. A call comes in on his mobile. “Merde.” He reaches down, answers – the group is getting back together and we need you – now. “Non, non et non!” He gave his all to rock and roll and here he is back doing hard labor. Never again.
“Remember the lady over in Le Puy whose cracks you spent a lot of time filling last month? Maybe Mme. Patrick would like to know about that?”
“Putain.” The still wet plaster falls down on his head as he closes his mobile. One down.
Over in the lycee, the beret-wearing lead singer, the worst philosophy teacher in the region, is teaching a class of bored teenagers about Descartes. He recently got a Blackberry which he keeps on the desk next to him, and as he drones on to the students he occasionally reaches down and lovingly caresses the keypad. All of a sudden the thing starts buzzing. Un texto! He can barely contain himself. Raising a finger to tell the youngsters to hold that incomprehensible thought, he reads the message. “Every man is condemned to rock.” Tears come to his eyes and he straightens up, squaring his shoulders. He stares at the back row of students, imagining they’re the top tier at Bercy Arena. With shaking hands, using both thumbs, he texts back: “I’m in.”
In a house next door to La Cabane, the bongo player is splayed out in front of the TV in his underpants and tan leather safari jacket, a bottle of cheap whiskey at his side, a can of half-price cassoulet heating up on the stove. The phone rings for the first time in weeks and he answers and happily says yes, grateful for something to do. Minutes later, he grabs a pair of bongoes and runs out the door, stopping in the middle of the street when he remembers he’s not wearing any trousers.
The sporty bass player is pedaling his bike up a steep road somewhere in the Alps, training for the Tour de France, wearing his trademark acid wash denim knee length shorts. A faster biker overtakes him and hands him a rolled-up fax. He keeps pumping as he smoothes the paper out on the handlebars to read. Seconds later, he wheels the bike around and speeds back down the hill as the fax falls to the ground. “…AND BRING YOUR AMP” it says.
The English keyboard player with the peeling nose has moved back to Suffolk, but he’s in France visiting his adult kids and their families. He only has to look at the shining eyes of his grandchildren as they listen to his tales of the concerts of yore to know he’s doing the right thing by joining up again.
The other English bloke, a decent guitarist who quit in disgust after the second gig says he’s on board – but only if they can get Ralph, the legendary soundman, and rumor has it he recently passed away.
But Ralph is eventually located in the retirement home, asleep in a chair next to some old ladies playing cards. A nurse taps him on the shoulder and tells him he has company. It’s the Papys’ lead singer, beret in hand, ready to plead his case. “We need you. We can’t do it without you.” Ralph turns up his hearing aid and after looking uncertain for a second or two he croaks “yes”. Then he smiles a tight little smile and falls back asleep.