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  • Barnabus' first lucid thought that morning was this -

    What the motherflipping heck am I supposed to do now?

    He squirmed about under the covers for a little while, trying to resurrect a sense of purpose. His crusted eyelids, thick with the residue of sleep, gradually prised apart. As the digital digits of his clock sharpened in to focus, he realised it was time to get up.

    Barnabus' second lucid thought that morning was this -

    Better ring in sick.

    And if Barnabus was an expert at anything, it was calling in sick. The trick was to leave a decent amount of time in between each 'self medicated' holiday, say a minimum of two months, remembering of course that his company would only pay for three periods of sick leave per year, so to use the time wisely. And the call in to work itself required a masterclass in acting. It was best to call just as one had woken so that the vocal huskiness was natural and to apply a forced normality to one's tone. It wasn't enough to just sound like one normally would, one had to sound like one was trying to sound normal. Observe -

    “Hi Carole, it's Barnabus.”

    “Oh hi, everything ok?”

    “Well I'm wondering if you would mind asking someone to cover my work today. I've er, been up all night. On the loo.”

    “Oh dear, that doesn't sound good.”

    “No, not really, ha!” Cough, cough, cough. “Of course if you need me to come in, I will. I know we've got to get that backlog of orders done today.”

    Cough, cough, cough.

    “Don't worry about that. We'll just have to manage without you.”

    “Thanks Carole, you're an angel. What would I do without you? I really owe you one.”

    “Oh pish and tosh, you just look after yourself. Feel better.”

    “Thanks Carole. I'll be back in as soon as I can.”

    Barnabus put the phone down. Then had a wank. Then slept til Midday.

    At one minute past midday he got up, had a shower, and thought about what to do next. The options were -

    a) Call Rachael for the hundredth time, begging for forgiveness and another chance.

    b) Tidy up his apartment.

    c) Have another wank.

    d) Play the guitar.

    A was quickly discarded as an officially Bad Idea. The thought of B made him feel physically exhausted. He was tempted to delay doing B by doing C anyway. And D always seemed to help him alleviate stress and work things out in his head. It was a close call between C and D, but you'll be pleased to know my dear readers, that D won out.

    So Barnabus carefully, and with a customary angelic 'Aaaah' of holy reverence resounding from his lips, picked up his Ovation Applause electric-acoustic guitar and plugged it in to his Fender Amp. The switch was flicked and glowed a hot, rebellious red, and from the speaker came the voice of unparalleled potential – a low, deep, vibrant, throbbing bzzzzzzzzzz. He checked the dials, nudging and twiddling until he had the correct mathematical sequence. (8 + 4 + 7 + 3 = ROCK.) He got himself comfortable on the chair, and adjusted the mic stand to meet his posture. Then a practice chord...


    The strings shook against him, and the floor shook beneath him. Barnabus was satisfied, and decided to greet his imaginary audience.

    “Hi everybody,” he breathed huskily. “So glad you're all here. I'm going to sing you a little cover version first of all. This is by the Dresden Dolls, and it's called..... Sing.”

    Imaginary applause.

    There is this thing that's like touching except you don't touch
    Back in the day it just went without saying at all
    All the world's history gradually dying of shock
    There is thing that's like talking except you don't talk
    You sing
    You sing

    Barnabus was getting in to it now, imbuing every slow stroke of the guitar with all his sorrow, with all his bursting anxious energy. He stood up, kicking the mic stand on to the sofa, whacking up that volume that little bit more.

    Sing for the bartender sing for the janitor sing
    Sing for the cameras sing for the animals sing
    Sing for the children shooting the children sing
    Sing for the teachers who told you that you couldn't sing
    Just sing

    Barnabus skidded across the laminate floor on his knees, still playing. He gasped with joy.

    There is this thing keeping everyone's lungs and lips locked
    It is called fear and it's seeing a great renaissance
    After the show you can not sing whenever you want
    But for now let's just pretend we're all gonna get bombed.
    So sing

    His voice was starting to crack with emotion now. Playing guitar had always been cathartic, but not like this, not like today.

    Sing cause it's obvious sing for the astronauts sing
    Sing for the president sing for the terrorists sing
    Sing for the soccer team sing for the janjaweed sing
    Sing for the kid with the phone who refuses to sing
    Just sing

    The floodgates opened and the tears flew out. He could no longer see what he was doing and his flipping fingers were slipping with sweat on the strings. For the final verse he retrieved the microphone and sang acapella. Eyes closed, letting his soul be exultant, rising from his body.

    Life is no cabaret
    We don't care what you say
    We're invading you anyway
    You motherfuckers you'll sing someday

    A thud, thud, thud came from the apartment upstairs, then the loud, muffled but unmistakable words “You can't bloody sing mate!” Barnabus answered by returning the thuds with his mic stand on the ceiling.

    “Don't tell me what I can and can't do!” he cried back gloriously.

    It was going to be amazing to see Amanda Palmer singing that very song tonight, doing it properly, not like his amateur hour theatrics. Barnabus was on such a high, he started to tidy up the kitchen, cleaned the dishes, mopped the floor, degrottified the freezer and threw out all the miscellaneous groceries (with the emphasis on the gross) from the fridge.

    But when he got back into the bedroom/living room and started tidying up there, it wasn't long before he found the tickets to the show tonight, and he was instantly bummed out. Tickets, plural. One for him and one that would have been for Rachael. The love of his life. The one person he knew he could spend the rest of his life with, and he'd blown it. He sat down on the armchair and felt sorry for himself. For hours. By the time he'd freshened up, got dressed and got to the gig he was in a right melancholy mood.

    But who should he bump into the gig, but Hector, of all people!

    Barnabus felt a sudden affinity for the man just then. They had, after all, been in love with and lost the same woman. And apparently they both liked Dresden Dolls. To Barnabus, this made them like brothers. He strode up to his old rival and gave him a strong manly hug.

    After an uncomfortably long time, Barnabus broke the embrace.

    “Hi Barnabus,” uttered Hector, understandably a little bit stunned.

    “It's good to see you Hector,” grinned Barnabus. “Can I buy you a drink?”

    Hector looked pleased, and relieved.

    “That'd be great. I'm a little short on money at the moment.”

    “Oh don't worry about it mate.” Barnabus put his hand on his new best buddy's shoulder. “I'll shout ya beers for the night.”

    Hector wasn't about to turn him down. For the next couple of hours, he couldn't shut Barnabus up, but that was okay cos Hector preferred to listen than talk anyway. It turned out that Barnabus had some pretty interesting things to say, about growing up with the music of Manchester and what that meant to him, about the way he'd loved Rachael and his regrets about the way that ended, (which of course Hector could identify with,) and some bizarre incident he couldn't quite believe about a gay guy shooting a skinhead and Barnabus getting caught in the aftermath. And then the Dresden Dolls came on and everybody, including Barnabus, shut the hell up.

    Amanda looked fantastic. Dressed to the nines in full theatrical make up and garb and her compadre Brian Voglione in matching vaudevillian attire, all black and white and sporting a bowler hat, they settled down to their respective keyboard and drums, and began the show.

    As time went on and everybody was singing along to their idols' tunes, Barnabus started to realise that his ole pal Hector had really quite a marvellous voice. And as the show drew to a close Barnabus realised he'd been listening to Hector more than he'd been listening to Amanda. It was the range and the power of his voice that Barnabus admired, the strength and the heartache and the sheer humanity that he invested into each breath, each harmony, each note. There was truly no-one, in all of Barnabus' vast musical knowledge, that could sing quite like Hector.

    “Wanna form a band?” Barnabus asked.

    “I can't play an instrument,” Hector answered.

    “You could sing?” suggested Barnabus.

    “Okay,” shrugged Hector.

    They each got their coats from the cloakrooms and left. They walked in silence for a while, until Barnabus spoke up.

    “Hector?” he asked.

    “Yes?” Hector answered.

    “I'm sorry I fucked your wife.”



    (You can find the official playlist for this series here - Barnabus Rigby's OST and the first 'track' here. You might note that Track 1 looks very different to how you remember, and that's because it's been significantly rewritten to fit with the rest of the series and to enhance (hopefully) your reading pleasure. Thank you very much to all those who have taken the time to read this series and also to those that have loved it or will love it. It's been a pleasure! Stu)
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