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The stage carpet looked like it couldn’t get any more banged up without becoming something else. All it was now was a patchwork of electrical tape, cigarette burns and brown stains. It had no smell of its own, overpowered as it was by the bodies in the room, the heave and heat of the audience as they expelled sweat, spit, booze.

Pat came back to himself, face against this carpet.

Someone had him by his shirt.

He swung an arm out and scrambled loose.

He touched his head.


In front of him, the crowd sprawled out, hundreds of them writhing around, layered over. Ramon was close. He was still playing but the look on his face said something was wrong. Trina grabbed him then and he felt himself lowered back to the floor. Someone yelled out, ‘Pat, your head’s all messed up. Pat, quick—’


He came to in the ambulance. ‘What’s happening?’

‘Someone in the audience brained you with something. You passed out onstage. Twice.’

Another voice said, ‘Verso il basso, si sta andando tutto bene.’ 

‘Do what he says,’ said Trina.


It was a warm night. They had him propped up in bed so he could look out the window. Another motel, worse than the hospital. He could hear Ramon laughing in the next room and the television playing and an acoustic guitar.

Pat closed his eyes.

It had gone too far this time. Everyone knew it.

‘It was a crowbar. Somehow, some fucker brought a crowbar in.’

This was LA all over again except it was Milan years later. As far as Pat could remember, he had never found trouble in Milan. Never argued with a local, never talked shit. Never fucked anyone’s girlfriend. He couldn’t remember any real problems. 

No, this was karma, straight up.

The bathroom door slid open and Trina came and sat on the bed. She wiped moisturiser on her face. ‘How are the eyes?’ she said.

‘I can see okay.’ 


A few mornings later he took a walk in the morning sun. 

People stared at the bandages.

Birds flew over.

Joggers came past.

He looked across a piazza and his head ached.

If every one of these cobblestones in front of him were a mistake, this town square was the size of the problem. Here they were, each and every one. There’s Anna Barish. That cobblestone is her kicked-in sink. There’s the way he treated his brother. That one’s Simon, that one’s Dee. Mary. Fiona. Peter. Penny. Richard. The label intern. His overdue taxes. His habit, and his father’s habit. Then there were the other stones: the forty one-night stands, the twenty brawls, ten one-sided break-ups and five sleazy texts. The stones spanned out across the piazza. 

Underneath one of them is a faceless Italian guy, some wronged dude, some hazy drug-fucked memory. He’s down there somewhere, with a crowbar up his sleeve.


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