It was almost evening, and- incredibly enough- Aunt Judy still showed no signs of leaving the antique store on King's Road. For the past hour or so, she had been tripping about the dusty shop in her fancy high heels, poking at gilded urns, mahogany desks and marble statuettes, while the snooty clerks fawned and hovered over her as if was the Queen of Sheba. As Sam hated antique stores- the clerks were glaring at him as if he were ready to break some priceless dust collector any second now- he had gone outside. At least for a few minutes, he was away from his aunt.
Sam Reshad leaned against the wall, pushed his black hair out of his eyes and gave a big sigh. Life just really sucked sometimes. He had hoped against hope that he might be able to get a little excitement, a little adventure. He didn't ask for much. It was, after all, his first trip overseas. But whoever thought a trip to London could turn out to be this damn boring?
All his friends back in Alhambra had been so jealous, too. "You're gonna have such a great time, Sam," they had said. "You're so lucky. Getting a week off from school to go to London!" Little did they know what Aunt Judy had in store for him. They had seen a few touristy things- the Crown Jewels and the Tower of London, which was okay. Sam had been really set on seeing Madame Tussaud's wax museum- he had heard that the Chamber of Horrors was totally gory and disgusting. Severed heads, iron maidens, murder victims lying in pools of blood; he knew it had to be a hell of a lot better than that lame-brained wax museum on Hollywood Boulevard. But, back in the hotel, when he mentioned Madame Tussaud's to his aunt, she had just shuddered.
"My dear," she had then said with an airy wave of a well-manicured hand, "I am going to show you the best of what this great city has to offer."
"But Madame Tussaud's is the best," Sam had replied earnestly. "It's really famous. I've seen things about it on TV!"
His aunt had then raised a single eyebrow, haughtily. When she did that, it always had the effect of making him feel about two inches high. "When I say 'the best,'" she said, "I don't mean as in famous. I mean as in. refined. Elegant. High culture. Museums. Shopping. Good music. Fine dining. There will be no Tommy's chili burgers here in London, my dear. And I certainly won't allow you to read any of those ghastly comic books."
"Hey! What's wrong with comic books?" he cried indignantly.
"Everything. And it just how immature you are, Sam, that you like that nasty, pulpy nonsense," she said in her superior way. "You're almost thirteen, but you act like you're ten. And this is how I can help you. After all, your young mind needs. exposure to cultured things."
"Exposure?" Sam grimaced. It sounded like he was a roll of film that needed to be dunked in some rancid smelling chemicals.
"Yes, Sam. Exposure. And that is precisely you are going to be getting in London. Your mother will be very proud of you when you return."
His mother. As he thought of her, Sam frowned. He had the feeling- at least from the way his mother was talking as she had driven him to LAX- that he should be overwhelmingly grateful. As his father, "that no- account Persian falafel salesman," as Aunt Judy had put it, had "shamefully absconded from his responsibilities," he needed extra guidance from his loving relatives to make sure he grew up to be a clean-living and productive member of society. At least, this was what Aunt Judy had told Mom over the phone; Sam, who had been very careful to keep the receiver away from his mouth, had listened to the entire conversation on the other line in the master bedroom.
At the end of it, he was ready to hurl the phone through the window. That Aunt Judy thought she was so much better than everybody else, just because her husband was some big cheese for United Artists and she lived in a mansion in Pacific Palisades that got cleaned twice a week by half the population of Tijuana! Not only did he hate it when people talked dirt about Dad, but he couldn't stand it when grown-ups talked about him like he was some pitiful little doggie that needed house-training. Unfortunately, he couldn't let Mom know how he felt. She would ask why he felt that way, and Sam, who was lousy at making things up, knew he would probably end up telling her everything. And if Mom ever found out that he'd been listening in on her private phone calls, she'd ground him until he was at least sixty- five.
So, when she called him downstairs and cried- "Guess what, Sammy? Your Aunt Judy is taking you to England!"- he'd merely scowled, and stuck his hands deep into his pockets.
He remembered how disappointed she'd been by his reaction. He tried to seem pleased, but he just couldn't fake an excitement he didn't feel. Quickly, her disappointment turned to vexation, than to thinly disguised anger. She told him that Aunt Judy was going to a lot of trouble for his sake, and what was more, she was spending a great deal of money on this trip. "So you'd better be on your best behavior, young man," she'd said. "And stop sulking. You should be grateful for the opportunity to see another country at so young an age."
Maybe he'd feel more grateful, he thought crossly, if he wasn't being constantly reminded he should be grateful. He kicked his sneakers against the pavement. It sucked to be twelve. You couldn't do anything. People talked down to you like you had scrambled eggs for brains, or something.
He sighed again, and walked over to the edge of the curb, so he could sit down. He was so lost in thought that he slammed right into somebody else. "Hey!" the other person yelled. "Watch where you're going, kid!"
Sam looked up, startled, and all apologies died on his lips as soon as he stared at the guy he bumped into.
The guy was older, about nineteen or twenty, he'd guess. He was short, and stocky, with a round freckled face and a snub nose. He must be some crazy rock and roll guy, Sam thought with awe, but he'd never seen anybody like him back in California. His clothes were really weird- he wore chains around his neck, his jeans were all covered with safety pins, and his t- shirt was this ragged pink thing with some funky band name on it- the "Mex Pistons" or something like that. But what really took Sam's breath away was the guy's hair. It was bright green. It was the green as the Incredible Hulk, or the Jolly Green Giant. Or maybe the lime Kool-Aid that Mom bought at Vons.
"Whaddya starin' at?" the guy with green hair demanded aggressively. His accent sounded almost as American as his, but that scarcely registered with Sam, so intent was he at staring at his hair.
"Your hair," Sam blurted. "It's so. GREEN!"
"Yeah?" Green Hair looked flustered, but he merely stuck his thumbs into his studded leather belt. "So what of it? You gotta problem with it?"
"No!" Sam exclaimed. "I don't. I mean, it's just so. green. I mean, it's cool. Like totally cool!"
"Really?" Green Hair scratched his chin. He almost seemed pleased. "You like it?"
"Yeah! It's really crazy! I've never seen green hair before."
"No. In fact, I've never even seen anybody like you before," Sam replied with perfect honesty.
"You haven't!" Green Hair said again, beaming. "I mean, of course you haven't," he said, changing his smile to a frown and making his voice suddenly gruff. "I'm a punk."
"A punk. You know." Green Hair balled his fists. "I'm into punk ROCK!"
"No, I don't know." He blinked. "What is punk rock? Is it anything like, uh. Kiss? Gene Simmons?"
"Kiss!" Green Hair hollered. "No fucking way! Gene Simmons is a poncey asshole. Punk rock is REAL music, not this fucking arena bullshit. Punk rock is underground. It's dirt, it's filth, it's music straight up from the sewers and hittin' you in the face. It's ANARCHY!"
"Anarchy? Like no government?"
"Like no government, no rules, no NOTHIN'! No pretentious wankers tellin' you what to do. No dealing with this fake plastic bullshit, of pretending to be some good little consumer who buys all the right brands and shops at the right stores and goes to a job he hates and marries the right sort of girl and spends his whole lifetime preparing for his funeral. It's lookin' life straight in the face- and it's tellin' everyone and everything you ever hated to fuck off and DIE!"
Sam blinked again. "Really?"
"Fuck yeah. Does it scare you, kid? Wanna run home to your mommy?"
"Don't be such a jerk," said Sam angrily. "Like I can do that when my mom's on the other side of the freakin' world!"
Green Hair said nothing for a moment; he seemed almost abashed. Sam wondered if he was going to apologize or not, but he only went on to ask, "Are you visiting?"
"Yeah." He sighed. "My aunt took me here. She's in there, looking for antiques."
Green Hair smirked. "Sounds like you're having a blast."
"Not really. All the stuff I want to do, Aunt Judy just looks down her nose at it. That's because she says I'm 'immature' and I only need exposure to 'the finer things in life.' Whatever the hell that is," he added furiously. "So she drags me through museums or let me sit around while she shops for something. And she's always lecturing me about what I should like and dislike and why I should listen to her because she's worldly and sophisticated and she once met the King of Spain! I'm just so SICK of her. I'm so sick of listening to her! I just wish she could disappear off the face of the earth!"
"She sounds like a total cunt," Green Hair commented.
Sam's mouth fell open, and as try as he might, he could hide his look of shock.
"What's the matter?" Green Hair teased. "Ain't you ever heard the word 'cunt' before?"
"Well, it's been... a long time," Sam stammered, turning red and feeling both incredibly stupid and naive.
But Green Hair just shrugged and went over to the antique shop window. "Is she your aunt?" He pointed. "That skinny, made-up bird with the blond hair?"
"Yeah. It's bleached, though. She thinks she's Grace Kelly or something."
"Look! She's glarin' at me now!" exclaimed Green Hair with perverse delight. "Fuckin' A!"
Sam turned around, and saw the shopkeeper and Aunt Judy staring at him and the rocker guy with horror. "You're right, though. That's one uptight lookin' bitch," drawled Green Hair. "Looks like a good fuck would shatter her into a million pieces." With an insouciant gesture, he pulled a comb out of his jeans pocket and began to comb his hair into a greaser-like quiff. Sam saw Aunt Judy grip her Chanel purse and head out the door, her immaculately made-up face creased into a furious scowl.
"Jesus!" moaned Sam. "She's going to give me hell!"
"Well?" Green Hair asked. "Are you just gonna stand there and take it?"
"Hell no!" said Sam, and bolted down the street. He had hardly gotten very far when he heard Green Hair yell, "Not that way, kid- down here!" He saw Green Hair waving at him, from the entrance of an alleyway nearest the shop. He ran back to the alleyway, just to see Aunt Judy emerge from the antique shop.
"Samuel Reshad!" she screeched. "Where do you think you're going? Talking to trash on the street. Just wait until I tell your mother!"
"Yeah, well I'd rather deal with her than you!" Sam yelled, and he ran into the alleyway, following Green Hair. He ran a few yards, past some overflowing dumpsters, when he stopped and gasped. "It's a dead end!"
"It's just a little fence." Green Hair jumped up, grabbing the fence and putting his feet between the chain links. "It's easy to climb. Unless," he cackled, "you're chick-en."
"Fuck you!" he snapped, but Green Hair only laughed again raucously. "Now you're catchin' on," he said, as Sam began to climb the fence, albeit rather clumsily. He had made it almost to the top when Aunt Judy screamed after him: "You'll be sure that I'll be telling your mother about this! And if you think that I'm difficult, just wait until she hears of everything! Sam, come back here! Sam? SAM!"
"I'll come back to the hotel when I'm good and ready!" Sam shouted back at her, before he clambered onto the other side of the fence. As he dropped onto the ground, he still heard Aunt Judy screaming his name, like some distant seagull. Green Hair started jogging down the street, and Sam tagged after him, until they reached where the alleyway intersected the street. It took him several minutes to catch his breath.