Incendiary

I first met Incendiary the summer I spent hunting poachers in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo with Richard Brautigan. 

Down the Congo way bad deeds were done and done again, only the stars were innocent, unless you can be guilty of looking upon a crime and doing nothing.  If that is the case, the stars were as guilty as Mars, but there were so many of them no courthouse on this world would convict them.  To do so would make a mockery of beauty.  They were innocent.  They were holy.  They were clean. 

Will you stop looking at those stars and pass that jug? asked Richard. 

I dropped out of my revelry and passed him the wine.  You hear that?  I asked, cocking my head to something I maybe half heard. 

I did, said Richard, taking a swig of wine.  It was the sound of my gratitude. 

Not that, I said. The other sound.  There it is again.  It sounds like a stampede. 

It sounds like a heart breaking for the first time, said Richard. 

It sounds like neighbours arguing over the biggest fence in the world, I said. 

It sounds like you two should shut up, grab a rifle and do your damn job, said Raoul, our squad leader. 

We followed the sound, keeping low in the brush, rifles at the ready, the moon’s waxing crescent grinning a glow to light our way.  The noise grew louder, more rhythmical, a booming racket vibrating the earth.  After a mile or so the sound was so loud that going on was like wading through mud.  I ripped squares off the hem of my shirt and stuffed them in my ears, as did the others in the group.  It barely helped. 

I was at the front of the group, nervous, sweating, afraid of what was causing a din so loud it sounded like God moving furniture.  The ground was pounding with Mother Earth’s heartbeat.  I felt the dirt would erupt, the birth of a new volcano.  I wanted to turn, to run.  I would be happy to never know what the cause of such a tumult.  Then, I pushed through the last of the grass and stopped so suddenly Richard and Raoul bumped into me. 

In front of us was a sight I will never forget.  Elephants.  Hundreds of them.  More than was contained in the whole park.  They must have come from all over Africa.  They were jumping.  Impossibly bouncing.  Pushing at each other, trumpeting, pounding, barging with their shoulders, coming together with the force of tectonic plates.  The thing that made me pinch myself, rub my eyes, check the stars and the moon were still in place, that I was still on this Earth; one of the elephants was riding atop the crowd, buoyed up by his brothers and sisters, trunk in the air blasting with joy into the night. 

It was an Elephant circle pit, and one of the elephants was crowd surfing. 

More than this, beyond the churning grey heap of thrashing elephants, on an elevated stage were four men with guitars, bass and drums creating a sound so loud it had gravity.  A fifth man stood in front of the players, screaming lyrics into a microphone like he wanted the Devil to give him a fist fight for dominion over all fallen souls.  The three of us fell to our knees, buried by the sonic force.  Richard, his hand trembling, movements molasses slow, passed me the jug. I drank wishing for something stronger.  Suddenly, the music halted.  The silence flowed over us like a midnight tidal wave.  The elephants as one trumpeted their approval, stamping the ground, and the band pushed their fists in the air before taking a bow. 

The revellers melted into the night, bellowing their goodbyes to one another as they once again scattered to the four corners of the continent.  We came to our senses and stumbled over the ground that had been bashed into a bog by the elephants. 

Hey, said the man who had been singing by way of greeting. 

What?  I said. 

HEY! Shouted the man. 

Oh, I said. Hey.  We introduced ourselves. 

We’re Incendiary, said the men. 

What was that? I asked. 

INCENDIARY! He shouted. 

No, I said. I heard that. I meant the song.

That was The Product Is You from our album Thousand Mile Stare(2017), said Brendan. It was our third encore. 

We try to get out here at least once a year, said Brendan Garrone, the vocalist.

These guys have supported us since the beginning, said Don Lomeli, the drummer. 

Their energy is insane, said Matt McNally, the bassist. 

Are you going to use those guns? Asked Rob Nobile, guitarist. 

Fuck Chekhov, I said.

There was an elephant crowd-surfing, said Richard Brautigan. He seemed delighted. 

If you think that was crazy, said Brendan, you should see the shows we do in the Mariana Trench. Those Xenophyophores know how to party.

I believe you, I said, and we’ve been friends ever since. 

 

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