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Sneak Peek: ‘Earworm’ by Colin Varney

Published 25th September, 2018 in Behind the Book

Nicole’s ringtone: breezy and pointless as a puppy. I’ve been reduced to a ringtone and it’s demeaning. Anti-music, bereft of emotion. Brief and functional as giving yourself a big hand, if you know what I mean. Playing a solo on your intimate instrument, if you get my drift. Ringtones only exist for as long as they are heard. Real songs linger. I’ve never lodged in anyone’s head as a ringtone.

It was the tune that signalled Bryce. “Your dad’s outside,” he said. “Keeping to the shadows. Like an incompetent spy.” He dum-de-dum-dummed a rendition of the James Bond theme. Nicole imagined Bryce peeking through the curtains. Spy versus spy.

Nicole grabbed the car keys, her mute button pressed. Keeping mum around Mum. The house had become like the space between album tracks, resonant with what had gone before and tense with portents. Nicole had taken to wearing an iPod. iSolated. Mum was subdued, occasionally bursting into startling flurries of activity. Bang bang—Mum hammering. Photographs going up on the wall in the hall. Portraits of pop. Pictures of Nicole’s parents, hugging and mugging. Snaps of Dad and daughter. Tableaux of the trio, glowingly happy. Together forever.

I’m married to myriad memories, yet sometimes Nicole uses me to forget. To lose herself, trample her troubles. As she drove to Bryce’s house, she slid a CD into the player and flicked through to me. Empty Fairground ( Jones / Jones ) ( 4.22 ). Ramped the amps. Batted the steering wheel to my beat. Wailed my words. It made her feel better. I’m good at that.

4.22—that makes me laugh. Or it would if I had a mouth. A big operatic guffaw. That’s not how long I last. I echo between the ears. If you like me, I dig in. I’m a sleeper, waiting for the right moment to activate. Peek-a-boo! Guess who?

The CD was a cheap compilation of popular love odes. I wasn’t enamoured with the company I was keeping, but that’s OK. I was the best of the bunch, and the one Nicole always flicked to. She had me on a few CDs. And on her computer and iPod. There was a film clip of me on an old videotape somewhere, and a vinyl single in the loft. Nicole has a special connection to me. I’m linked to those stories her mother spins. Tamed tales of ooh la la in a far off summer. That’s right—getting’ jiggy as the Fresh Prince said.

Nicole played me again.

This is an excerpt from ‘Earworm’ by Colin Varney, which will be released on 1 October through Margaret River Press.

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