The Adventures of Ted and Windy in Nina and The Jets
By James Matt
Published by James Matt 
August 2001; 1-93139-116-5; 232 pages

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Nina and the Jets by James MattSUB-LIGHT VERSUS LIGHT-SPEED

"What are you doing in Parkhill?" Windy shouted over the music. The band in the front was doing a cover from Man or Astroman? and it smashed through the house with the energy of an atomic blast.

She leaned against the pitted kitchen counter and stared at the massive ruptured light bowl barely hanging from the middle of the high ceiling. Its one lone light bulb visibly shook every time someone dancing in the living room fell on the floor or slammed into a wall.

"Hanging out mainly, but I've been playing guitar again, writing a bit of music, you know trying to get something going," Nina shouted back and poured a couple of margaritas from a plastic pitcher.

"Oh, so how did you get this house?"

Nina licked the salt off the rim of her glass and took a sip.

"It used to be my aunt's and uh…she died last year and my mom got it. I've been living here while she tries to unload it, but nobody wants to buy on this block anymore."

She nervously flicked the ashes from her cigarette into the sink as another loud rumble shook the light overhead. Windy nodded as something went terribly wrong with her vision. Lights danced crazily around her in color shifting patterns reflecting off the 1940's steel counter-tops and bright blue walls. Feeling instantly giddy she grabbed the counter for support and stared at the dingy floor.

"What's in this shit, Nina?" she moaned.

"Nothing but the usual."

"Aww, fuck that!" Windy leaned over the sink and threw up on some dirty dishes. Nina jumped back in disgust.

"Eeewww…that's disgusting. Don't be sick on those, they're not mine," she said.

"Uhhggg! This is extremely strong shit," Windy croaked as deep bangs began ripping through her eardrums in an unfamiliar barrage of musical notes.

 

Nina giggled and filled her margarita up again. "Yeah, but it doesn't last long enough."

Windy groaned and held her stomach. Nina frowned.

"I guess you shouldn't have taken that third hit with me, huh? You're such a lightweight."

Windy weakly flipped her off and slowly pulled herself up a bit.

"That's it, girl," Nina said. "Don't go out just yet."

Her voice was nearly inaudible to Windy as she felt herself grow numb. The sounds and dancing lights were slowly filtering out of her head, discarded like so much background noise.

"You never could keep up with me," Nina seemed to whisper.

Windy swung her head to look at her and stopped when Nina's fuzzy face strayed into the middle field of her vision. She blinked as half of Nina's face slumped down her neck, then slowly oozed back.

"I should tell you about the side-effects, Windy," she said. "But I think you've already had them."

Windy only smiled as she felt the uneasiness in her stomach dissolve, releasing her mind to start wandering among possibilities. She slid down the front of the counter, landing with a soft plop and a giggle on the floor.

Nina smiled. "Yeah, that's it. You're there."

Mostly denim, but a lot of bare legs and thighs walked randomly in front of her, offering Windy only a fleeting glimpse of her surroundings. It took her a long time to realize she was sitting on a hard floor staring at nothing as people passed randomly around her. It was also very loud, but that didn't seem to bother her though as she briefly wondered how long she'd been there and if she was hungry.

Through a doorway across the room, Windy saw me in the living room. I was dancing with some blond motorcycle chic. Several more pairs of legs abruptly blocked her vision. Now I seemed to be swaying with a couple of strung out loser guys. Once again someone passed in front of her. This was getting annoying, she thought. I was back with the woman in the black leather mini-skirt and Windy giggled. She laughed harder and fell back to sprawl on the floor. Yeah right, in his dreams, she whispered to herself.

Suddenly all the noise in the room disappeared and it became very bright, as if someone had switched on flood lamps. The shadows of the people still walking around her appeared starkly on the ceiling and a dark form quickly loomed over. She flinched.

"Windy…hey, Windy," someone said. "Long time no see, how's it going?"

She squinted and put an arm up to shield her eyes. A masculine hand slowly reached down and helped her sit up. She stared at the man who bent over her. He wore ridiculous plastic framed glasses and unmatched pants and shirt. Altogether he was extremely odd looking and she laughed.

"Hey, it's, it's you," she began, then stopped. He grinned from ear to ear.

"That's right, Windy! It's me, The Donovan!"

Remembrance slammed back hard. College, several years ago when she worked at a tiny bar in town for a tall, strange perpetual student named Joe something, but whom everyone called The Donovan. They became friends over time, but she never did find out why he was called that.

"I haven't seen you in awhile, what are you doing here?" she asked in surprise.

"I'm leaving, I'm on my way outta town!" he said in a fast, clownish voice.

"You're leaving?"

"That's right. This whole thing is going to come to a head real soon and I've got to get ready! I have more dates to line up."

She giggled again. "Uh, what are you talking about?"

He pushed his glasses up, getting excited.

"Everything! I'm talking about everything, Win! It's called the Ultimate Gig and it's going to happen real soon. You see I've met some new friends who are really into underground music and I'm helping them organize this thing. They are at the start of all of it and so am I!"

She struggled to figure that out, but gave up. "Uh, what, what are you doing?"

"It's my new friends," he said and looked over his shoulder, then leaned in closer and lowered his voice. "They're aliens from another planet and they need people like us to help them out, so I'm going with them."

"Oh, really?" she asked slowly. "And where are you going to go, outer space?"

"No, we stay here on Earth. They've set up this deal for small bands to play, I don't know exactly where around here yet, they keep it secret until the last moment for security you know, but they're going all over the place. You guys ought to think about coming along. They said I can bring whoever I want."

She frowned as she thought for a second. "I don't think it's a good idea. We've got, like, responsibilities and stuff."

"That's okay, you can come out later, but don't wait too long." He stood up and grinned.

"Just remember, you can't get to light-speed without having the light in here," he said and pointed at his chest.

"Uh, what?" Windy mumbled.

"I gotta run, Windy, but I'll probably see you once more before this thing happens, so take care!"

"Wait a second," she said, struggling to stand. "What are you talking about? You'll see me once more?"

"Yup! I'll be in touch, so don't worry, okay? All right? Good, I'll be seeing you, Windy, you little freak of a thing!"

He smiled, waved and was instantly swallowed up by the mass of people moving through the room. The lights immediately dimmed to normal. Had she imagined him? Her thoughts were quickly interrupted as a small flurry of activity entered the room and Windy recognized a familiar face approaching.

"Nina," she cried softly.

"Goddamnit, Windy!" Nina cried. "What are you doing on the floor?"

"Nothing. I…I was just talking with The Donovan."

"Who?"

"The Donovan, don't you remember?" she asked. "You know, the manager of the bar I used to work at off campus."

Nina frowned. "The geeky guy with the glasses?"

Windy nodded. "Yeah."

"Oh God, not him! That bizarre fuck is here!" Nina said in surprise. "You think anyone else noticed? Oh shit, what did he want?"

Windy hesitated. "I…I don't know. He was very odd."

"Oh good, that's normal! Damnit, Windy, Marco split, Ted's dancing with any short skirt he can find and you're wandering aimlessly around my house talking to lunatics. Some fucking party animals you guys grew up to be."

"Marco's gone?" Windy asked after a pause. "Where did he go?"

Nina lit a cigarette to calm herself and said. "Don't know, but he said something about Derek seeing that stupid ice cream van again and he wanted to go after it. He gives me the fucking creeps sometimes with the weird shit he pulls."

"Uh-huh."

"Come on let's get away from here, I need to cool down," Nina reached for Windy's hand and they attempted to slip their way through the crowd. Several times people stopped them and raved over Nina and how cool the party was, but Nina shrugged them off quickly and led Windy to the rear of the house.

"That's a hell of a high girl," Windy said over the punk sounds of Bad Donkey barely muffled outside the house. She sank down on the rickety back porch step and Nina sat next to her.

"Yeah, I got it from my roommate, Chris. He goes away on business trips, as he calls them, and always comes back with some new shit from like, Albuquerque or somewhere."

"Cool," said Windy. "Say, have you seen my cigarettes?"

"Yeah," replied Nina. "I'm smoking them."

"Huh?"

"You dropped them inside."

"Giv'em to me," Windy demanded.

"No."

"Uh, why not?"

"'Cause, you bitch, you trashed my gig."

"Yeah, fuck you. I'm your entertainment, I make this place happen."

Nina laughed and handed her one. "There and smoke it slowly, cause that's all I'm giving you!"

"Uh, can I have my lighter too?"

"Shit, girl, I didn't find a lighter. I guess you're screwed."

Windy closed her eyes and said. "You're such a bitch."

"Here," she threw a lighter onto Windy's lap. "God, you're so helpless. Just like when we lived together in that cat infested, shit-hole dump near campus."

Windy lit a cigarette and said in a soft and weary, far-away voice. "I like cats."

"Yeah, I know you do!" Nina shot back. "You were always bringing one home and pissing me off."

Windy laughed. "That was so fucking funny though 'cause you were allergic to them and…and you'd lay there, flat on your back butt wasted, laughing and sneezing the whole time!"

"Yeah," Nina said dryly. "Hey, speaking of old times, you run anything for Marco anymore?…What was that code name you used?"

Windy shook her head. "Bambi Satin. I stopped doing that soon after you left."

"Bambi Satin. Too bad, 'cause your alter ego was very fun to party with."

Windy shrugged. "Yeah, it was fun, but I got burned out fast. I'm only twenty-eight and I have gray hairs already."

"Umm," murmured Nina. There was silence for a moment, then Windy asked. "By the way, where did you disappear to?"

"Nowhere," she said. "I dropped out of school in fact, even stopped playing guitar for awhile. God, how I've missed that. I tried to find a job and fit into society, you know like a good citizen, but everything sucked."

"Huh. You know, Ted plays guitar."

"Yeah, is he any good?"

Windy shrugged. "He thinks so."

"Cool," Nina replied. "Maybe him and I ought to get together sometime and play a bit."

"Yeah, he'd probably like that. Him and Marco started jamming in our garage a couple of months ago, but it's nothing serious."

"Really? That old fuck-face still plays drums?" Nina asked. Windy nodded.

"Huh, I guess that's one more thing I'll have to give him shit about then," Nina said with a slight grin.

Windy smiled a bit too, then asked. "So, Nina, where did you go to?"

Nina glanced up into the sky for a moment looking at the soft amber glow emanating from the city, then reached for Windy's lighter. She restlessly flicked it a couple of times, watching as the flame licked this way and that in the warm night breeze. Windy was about to press her again when Nina finally spoke.

"I went out east for awhile, played around a little with a couple of different bands, then got a lead on a decent modeling job, you know like I was doing here on the side, but only better 'cause I got paid for it."

"Yeah, what did you do?"

"I modeled clothes for this company called I-Wear by Jet. See," Nina said and pointed out her shirt.

It was a tight, short sleeve T-shirt with a high, dark red crew collar and an odd logo on the left breast pocket. The logo was enclosed within a blue ring and looked like a cross section of a jet engine with several, thin, short lines raking back from the top, bottom and rear of the emblem. Nina ran a finger along it.

"The company made a small splash on the coast last year with clothes that were based on sci-fi designs from the '50's and 60's, you know, spacey type shit with v-necked colored bands and lines running diagonally across the shirt. Shit like that. They even made Capri pants too," she said and patted the top of one knee.

"Huh, that's pretty cool," Windy mumbled. She took a hit off her cigarette and felt the material in Nina's shirt.

"I like this, it's kinda like, I don't know, retro or something. So they let you keep these clothes too?"

Nina lit another cigarette and said. "Uh, not really. My last couple of paychecks bounced, so me and a couple of the other girls broke into the storeroom one night and took just about everything we could lay our hands on. I beat the hell out of New York right after that though."

Windy stared at her with blurry eyes. "No shit? You stole their clothes?"

Nina frowned and nodded. "Fuck yeah! Assholes weren't going to pay me, so I said screw that and took their shit," she said.

"Wow," Windy uttered in a hoarse voice. "How much did you take?"

Nina shrugged. "About two large suitcases full I guess. Pants, shirts and shorts, everything. I even got some guys clothes too. Does Ted like polo shirts?"

Windy nodded. "Yeah, sure."

"That's cool. Hey, I've got some I-Wear stuff that I don't use. Would you like it?"

Windy smiled. "Sure, I guess. I mean if you don't want them."

Nina waved an indifferent hand. "Hell, there's one whole suitcase I haven't even opened yet. You can have anything in there."

"Cool, thanks," Windy said and crushed out her cigarette. "So you left New York because you thought you'd get busted for stealing?"

Nina shook her head and blew a large cloud of stale cigarette smoke into the night.

"Fuck no, I don't care about that. It's…I don't know. The scene there was kinda fucked up. Many of the girls were heavy into drugs and parties and I guess I was too, for awhile."

"Heavier than what we did in school?" Windy asked.

"Oh yeah. Those days of little Bambi Satin and her pesky, 'wanna be' rock star roommate selling pot and pills for kicks are long since gone, Windy. She's dead and so am I."

"What's that suppose to mean?"

"Nothing, I don't want to talk about it."

"Oh no, you can't do that."

"Can't do what?"

"Can't, not tell me what's on your mind."

"Yes I can."

"Uh-uh. You brought it up. You've got to tell me now."

"What if I don't want to?"

Windy paused and bit her lower lip. "I think you do."

"Oh God! Always the fucking psych major! All right, fuck you," she said angrily. "I just found out I tested positive for HIV."

"Oh my God!" Windy exclaimed softly. "I'm sorry. Have you told anyone else? You know, like Marco?"

Nina gently shook her head. "No."

I passed by the back door and thought I heard Windy. Spying her outside with her friend, I flung the door open with the bottom of my sneaker and bounced onto the deck.

"Hey, what's going on?" I said and grinned. Nina abruptly stood up and roughly brushed past me.

"Excuse me!" she said.

"It's cool," I said as she quickly disappeared into the house.

"Fuck! Goddamnit, Ted," said Windy.

I attempted a smile and asked. "What?…What did I do?"

"Asshole!"

"What did I do?" I asked again.

"Good timing, dick-head! We were having a girl talk and you interrupted us."

"Sorry," I shrugged and kept smiling, hoping that would help. It didn't.

"Don't…don't you have to go to work or something?" Windy asked and scowled at me.

"Huh?" I glanced at my watch. "Oh shit, you're right."


HAVE ATTITUDE, WILL TRAVEL

I bolted out of there leaving Windy with Nina and the secret they shared. Bored and speeding fifteen miles an hour over the limit I lit a cigarette to keep myself awake and turned on the radio.

"…is totally shocking. Local and state police, including members of the National Guard, have used tear gas and rubber bullets to subdue the crowd, however it is difficult to ascertain who is in control here. Dense clouds of smoke are pouring out from several buildings on this downtown street. Uh, it appears that the wind has blown the gas and smoke back into the faces of the authorities, while the crowd, a majority of them students, are pelting the police with rocks and bottles as they retreat down a hill. Also…" A horrendous din drowned the announcer out.

"I think…I think an automobile just exploded in the next block and…" Static replaced the reporter and after a short pause another one came on.

"Uh, we've seemed to have lost connections with our network affiliate covering the civil unrest in Baltimore. This one is reportedly connected to a large rock festival that started out of nowhere today in the old warehouse district of Baltimore. Eyewitnesses say the crowd was not a problem until the police stormed the area just as the concert was wrapping up. So far, fourteen people have been arrested and at least that many have been injured in the rioting. We will try to re-establish communications with them, but in the meantime stay tuned because we have more local news for you. When we come back we'll have a story on an unidentified man who was found dead in a plastic brown sack earlier today on the city's west side, plus additional news on our other stories of the week. We'll be back after these messages."

"Hi folks this is Crazy Ace down at South Green Valley's new and used cars and…" Click. I've had enough of this garbage for one night.

Eleven minutes later.

"Here you go, Mikey, here's the pictures you wanted."

I threw down several photos on the large desk in front of him and fell into a chair, my T-shirt instantly clinging to the sweat on my back.

"It's about damn time," he said. "Where the hell have you been? I got less than two hours before deadline."

I yanked the shirt away from my back, but it only provided momentary relief.

"I had to get something to eat," I said.

Mikey looked at his cheap watch, then at me.

"You called around 6:30 or so, it's now 11:15. Do you mean to tell me it took you almost five hours to eat?"

"I was hungry."

"Shit," he muttered and looked me over. "What's wrong with you? You've been out drinking adult beverages again, haven't you?"

"No, I'm just tired," I lied. "It's been a long day."

He pointed at me. His fingernails were short and ragged, bitten down past the quick.

"You're not on drugs, are you?"

"Yeah, I do them constantly," I said sarcastically.

"Don't get smart with me, Ted, because I won't tolerate anything like that. Not around here. You can do drugs if you want to, I don't care, but you won't have a job here if you do. Understand?"

"Huh."

"And get out of that chair! It's an antique, you know that."

I stood up quickly and winced as my knees popped from the effort. Turning for another chair, I glanced around his office. Hanging on the cheap water stained wood paneling were plastic decorations of some excellence in journalism award from two decades back. A dusty reminder of some petty pat on the back that Simmons' paper probably didn't even earn in the first place, just bought like everything else. With one small window over-looking a dismal parking lot and a fair amount of dust covering everything in the room, I suddenly remembered why I never come in here. Finding no other chair, I sat on a corner of his desk.

"Get the hell off my desk," he said instantly.

I stood up and shoved my hands into the front pockets of my shorts as he sat hunched over the photos. I wished the florescent lighting was dimmer in here. God my burning, dry eyes must look fried and he doesn't even notice. I once again struggled with the idea of quitting this job, but to do what? I'm shit with a computer. What does that leave me, work the drive through?

"Wait a minute! Damnit, Ted, I can't use these!" He shoved the pictures across the tabletop towards me.

"Why not? They're good photos."

He put his hands up to both sides of his head and pulled on his thinning hair. Several large veins swelled around his temples like little blue rivulets held back from bursting by a thin shield of flesh.

"AAHHGG! They're pictures of the fucking model from the computer you idiot! Most of these buildings at Village Place haven't even been completed yet!" He pounded a fist on the desk as small bits of spit flew out of his wide mouth.

"Yeah, I know. About the only one that is, is this warehouse facing 187th street."

"Why didn't you get a picture of that?"

"One building? That wouldn't have looked very impressive."

"So?"

"You told me to get a shot of something that would look impressive."

"Oh, and I suppose those first shots you took of the uncompleted portions of the office park development are?"

I made a non-committal grunt and squeezed my eyes shut for an instant. What a moron. My head was hurting slightly and I know it was sending out fuzzy bits of logic.

"Now look," he said. "What am I to do? Deadline is approaching and I don't have any pictures." A smile began to grow on his portly, yellowish face.

"This is the final straw for you, Ted. Simmons will not be happy when he hears about this."

I ran a hand along the back of my neck and thought for a second.

"Umm, okay the original idea was to show the place was a dump," I said. "But now it's not, right?"

He nodded and his fleshy chins jiggled. "Yeah, that's right, I had to re-do the whole story this afternoon to make it sound more appealing. Simmons said there's something finally going down with the place, but nobody seems to know what."

"Yeah, okay, that makes sense," I said quickly. "You know what? I think one of Simmons partners or a friend finally bought out the project, or is about ready to. You know that construction company that gets mentioned a lot in our paper? What's it called? The one that his cousin or uncle or someone owns? Well anyway, I've read they've been bidding for the contract and since you said you had to re-write it suddenly, I think the shots from the model would probably work."

He frowned. "You think so, huh! What about the new final project, Ted? Even if there is one it may not look anything like this now."

"So, what difference would that make? It's bound to look different from any model it started with."

"Well, smart ass, why don't we call up Simmons and ask him?"

"Okay by me."

Too tired to keep standing I flopped down in the antique chair as he dialed up Simmons. He shot me a scolding glance, but he didn't say anything.

"Mr. Simmons please…Yeah this is Mr. Henstead…Okay, thank you." He leaned back causing his large leather chair to creak loudly under the strain.

"Yes, Mr. Simmons, sir," he said a moment later, completely forgetting about me and shoving his nose far up the bosses ass.

"How are you this evening?…That's good, anyway…what? Yes, I'm fine thank you. The reason I'm calling is about the photos Ted took…Right, I told him to do them again, but he didn't…Well, he did bring me some shots, but I can't use them…What's that?…Oh, they're shots of the damn model of the completed project and…What? Use them?"

Mikey leaned forward quickly, his chair threatening to collapse under the sudden shift in weight.

"But, Mr. Simmons, they're the same ones we printed a year ago when we first ran the story…Yes, they are…Well, that's what I said," he glanced quickly at me. I stared blankly back at him.

"No, there isn't anything else we can use…What! Yes sir, of course, but…but we've already…Yes sir, but…Yes sir. Okay, I'll tell him…I'll call you in the morning. Goodnight."

He hung up the phone and laced his hands together as if in prayer. He wasn't looking at me.

"Mr. Simmons says to tell you that it was…good thinking."

"Cool."

"Go home, Ted."

I got up and staggered through the doorway.

"Just one thing," he shouted out. "You step out of line once more and I'll make sure you're fired."

I paused, leaning heavily on the door jamb to support myself.

"Mikey, you've been saying that for years. When are you going to lighten up?"

He folded his arms and looked away from me. "Goodnight, Ted," was all he said.

As I returned to my car, strung out and tired, I was not looking forward to the long drive to pick up Windy and the return trip home. Just by chance I perceived something strange out of the corner of my eye as I was backing up. Turning quickly in my seat I caught a glimpse of three large ice cream trucks disappearing quickly around a corner. Each one had a satellite dish, plus numerous other antennas poking out of their roof. I frowned. Three satellite receiving ice cream trucks making the rounds at this time of night?

"Uh, that's too fucking weird!" I muttered to an empty parking lot.

Copyright 2001 James Matt
Reprinted with permission. (back to top)

Synopsis

The Adventures of Ted and Windy in
NINA AND THE JETS

This is a pulp science fiction novel of a group of misfits who form a punk rock band and are assisted along the way by aliens from outer space.

The story is told through the main protagonist Ted, a twenty something quickly going on thirty something. He and his wife Windy, yearn for something more out of life, but they are not sure what. Windy is unsatisfied with her life as a responsible, corporate clone, while Ted labors to keep his job as an under-appreciated newspaper photographer. That is, until their best friend Marco, a shameless, but innocuous drug dealer, takes them to a party where they run across Nina, a burned out former small time model and Windy's old roommate from college. From then on, while Windy and Nina re-kindle an old relationship on the side, Ted, Marco and Nina accidentally start a band and right away everything breaks loose.

Bounding about, barely in control of where they are going, the friends fight with society and each other to make a sound. Ted is cautious and pensive at times, resourceful at others. Windy wavers in direction-less boredom and wants to hide from life. Nina flirts with anger and resentment towards most everything while Marco swaggers about innocently. Beyond their classic struggle to form a band though, lurks something else out of the ordinary, a world a bit out of kilter.

There are odd, rubbery men who claim to be from a world beyond ours, a trio of stalking, oversized ice cream trucks and finally The Donovan, another old friend of Windy's and now a talent scout for the aliens. Despite his odd looks and quirky behavior, he is the first to recognize the band's musical ability and he eventually leads them towards a fateful meeting with the rock promoting aliens. From then on, nothing is ever the same for the fledgling band.



Reviews

"Nina and The Jets is an entertaining literary mix of rock and roll and science fiction. It moves easily from descriptive prose to humorous dialogue. Try as he or she may, the reader will not be able to anticipate the twists and turns of the plot in this thoroughly enjoyable work."
Jason Lewis
knee-jerk irony entertainment

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Author

James Matt has written several short stories on a wide range of subjects from fantasy to horror to contemporary fiction. In addition to his first novel, Nina and The Jets, he has a short story published online at FrictionMag.com. He is also working with other websites to publish additional works of fiction.

Buy Nina and the Jets at Amazon.com

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