Armageddon Rag

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Authors: George R.R. Martin
Tags: Fiction
nice place,” he lied.
    “Hell,” said Slozewski, “you’re just saying that. It’s just another goddamned bar to you. I know how tacky the place looks outside. Cinder blocks and all. I’m not dumb. But you don’t know the half of it. This is an important place.”
    “Important?” Sandy said.
    “The Gopher Hole is kind of a dream come true for me,” Slozewski said. “I put everything I had into this place, and I’m losing money on it, but I don’t give a fuck. I’m paying back some dues, the way I see it.” He scowled. “Music’s a tough game. I remember how hard it was, breaking in. I always remembered that, even after we got big.”
    “The Nazgûl?”
    Slozewski nodded. “You saw the end of it, those years we were on top. You never saw the beginning. Mean times. We had a new sound, raw and angry like the times, and we did all our own material, Faxon’s stuff. No one wanted to hear it. No one wanted to hear us. When we did get a gig, we’d get these bozos in the crowd requesting all kinds of dumb shit. Standards, you know? And we’d get managers leaning on us to do that crapola. And the pay was… hell, there ain’t no word for it. We all had second jobs on the side. I was a cook at Denny’s, on the graveyard shift.” He shrugged his massive shoulders. “Well, when we made it, I made up my mind that I was going to make things easier for kids breaking in. That’s what the Gopher Hole is all about. You ought to come back in a couple of hours and hear the Steel Angels. They’re damn good. New Wave kind of sound, you know? Not commercial, but good. That’s the only kind I book. To play here, they have to be doing their own stuff, original. No disco crap, either. I give them a start, a regular gig if they need it. And I pay them decent money, too. I’d pay them better if I could, but we haven’t been doing as well as I’d like.” He shrugged again. “But what the hell, I can afford it. The music is what’s important, not the money. But you don’t want to hear all this, do you? You want to hear about Jamie Lynch.”
    “And the Nazgûl,” Sandy said. “Sorry. Maybe I can get Jared to do a little item on your place.”
    “I’ll believe that when I see it,” Slozewski growled. His voice was as rumbly and deep as it had been in his performing days. “Look, I don’t mind talking to you, but I’ll tell you right up front that I think you’re wasting your time. I don’t know diddly-shit about who killed Jamie, and I care less. And I’m sick of talking about the Nazgûl.”
    “Why?” Sandy asked.
    “Why was Lennon sick of being asked about the Beatles breaking up?” It was a rhetorical question. Slozewski walked around the edge of the bar and continued as he methodically began to fix himself a drink. “Next month I’ll be thirty-seven years old. Forty isn’t so far off. A lot of life. I’ve got a place I’m real involved in, trying to do something good for music. I was a good drummer for a long time. After West Mesa, I had a three-year gig with Nasty Weather, and then with Morden & Slozewski & Leach, and for a little bit with the Smokehouse Riot Act. The Riot Act could have been one hell of a band too, if only Morden and Jencks hadn’t been such flaming assholes. We did some good tracks. If we’d stayed together, we might have made people forget all about the Nazgûl. Do I ever get asked about that, though? Nah.” He scowled and shook his head. “All they want to know about is the Nazgûl. I’d be the last guy to put down the Nazgûl, mind you. We were
good
. We were a world-class rock band. I’m proud of that part of my life. West Mesa ended it, though. Some crazy out there in the dark squeezed a trigger, and it was over, and we had to move on. Only they won’t let me. You hear what I’m saying? I’m John Slozewski, and I want to be treated like John Slozewski, not just like I’m one-fourth of the Nazgûl. Fuck that shit.”
    Slozewski’s deep voice had taken on a

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