The Boy Who Cried Wolf Parade
by Sarah Stanton
Round 1 Runner-up
Big glasses. Ugly jumper. Skinny jeans. The only uniform that makes you more unique.
My name is Holden and yes, I’m a hipster. I’m so hipster my favourite bar is a bottle of gin I keep hidden behind my dresser, because it’s a secret to everyone but me. Right now I’m in our living room, sitting cross-legged on the couch and looking wistfully off camera, except there is no camera, just my brother tossing a ball for the dog and snorting at something on Channel 10. So mainstream.
It’s hard, living with family like this. I can’t even convince my mother to dig up her flowerbeds and plant organic vegetables. I tried growing a pot of mint on my windowsill, as a sort of ironic protest, but it died. So I spend as much time as possible in a little cafe I know of, guzzling latte after chai latte and talking it up with the proprietor. I decide to ride down there now, get some work done on my laptop and soak up the scene. My brother tries to engage me in conversation as I’m leaving, something about a new singer he’s just heard of. Adele. I have to get out of here.
I live in a small city out west, so small you’ve probably never even heard of it. But the streets are wide and the sun is shining, and my mood brightens as I navigate the bike paths between me, good coffee and understanding. I’ve got a carefully assembled playlist piping through my headphones, and each gust of wind blows my hair into an even edgier shape. I lock up my bike outside the cafe and stroll in with practiced nonchalance.
‘Did you hear?’ a guy at the counter says as I enter. ‘The Handsome Furs split up.’
‘Seriously! I just read it on Pitchfork. They won’t even say why.’
I pull a fifty out of my wallet for the coffee, grimacing. These guys always have the news before I do. I check the right websites, I know the right people, but somehow my timing’s always wrong. That leisurely ride over here is going to cost me cred.
‘Have you heard the latest from Buckley Ward?’ I ask, sliding into my seat. ‘They’re doing an East Coast tour.’
‘Please’. The guy at the counter rolls his eyes. ‘Buckley Ward was old last month.’
I wince. This is the hipster equivalent of a steel gauntlet to the face. I pull my headphones out in stony silence, jam them into my ears. I came to shoot the breeze with the owner, someone who gets me, but he’s flat out making mochas and doesn’t even interject. The guy at the counter swings away from me, starts talking to some girl about the latest in toy cameras. I can’t let this slide. You can wear the glasses, the jeans and the jumper, but if you don’t know what’s hot before everyone else then you’re nobody in this town.
An idea strikes me, then, and I pull the headphones out of my ears. ‘You know,’ I say slowly, ‘I heard there’s something going down in Canberra. Something bad for all of us.’
The guy at the counter swings back, arches one perfect eyebrow. ‘Yeah?’ he says.’
‘Yeah. Seems the Optometrists Association of Australia has been petitioning the government, saying that people with 20/20 eyesight wearing glasses is discriminatory. They think it marginalises people with vision problems. So they’re putting a bill to Parliament to ban it. Looks like it might even pass.’
The guy frowns. A few other people in the cafe stop to listen, and I can smell triumph hanging in the air. ‘You’re saying they’re going to stop us wearing glasses unless we can prove we actually need them?’
I shrug. ‘That’s what they’re saying. You really haven’t heard about this yet?’
* * *
For a few days, I am the talk of the town. Then someone takes the time to actually call the Optometrists Association, and my stock plummets faster than the Athens Exchange. I tell them my sources are higher up than theirs, that some nobody sitting on the end of a phone hasn’t got a chance of knowing the things I know. It works, after a fashion, but I need a boost. I need a brainwave.
The proprietor of my little cafe is a short Chinese guy with a skilled hand on the coffee machine and a great taste in gin. We’ve spent many a long afternoon together discussing independent filmmakers and looking down our noses at passing businessmen. We’re friends, and when I walk into the cafe to mount my second offensive I feel a bit ashamed for using him. But I need to be someone in this town. ’I heard something the other day,’ I say to him conspiratorially, over my second chai.
He doesn’t look up from the double shot he’s pulling, but I can feel his interest. ‘Is that right?’
‘Seems MTV are finally giving a damn,’ I continue, ‘though not in a good way. Someone in their head office is fed up with how anything that’s actually exciting happens in the indie scene. They want to bring attention back their way.’
Now he looks up. ‘So what are they planning?’
I take a deep breath. ‘They are going,’ I say slowly, ‘to mount a media campaign in which every single indie or alternative band is pervasively and persistently referred to as mainstream.’
This is the big time. Girls in vintage dresses stop to shake my hand on the street and thank me for alerting them to the MTV menace. I’m the toast of every hipster club inPerth. People mount protests—Keep Indie Inconspicuous—advocating a full boycott not only of MTV but of all popular media, up to and including late-night SBS. Glasses get bigger, jeans get skinner, and expressions of feigned disinterest suddenly become bright and fervent. It takes a full two weeks before the truth hits them like a brick in a sock.
That guy sitting at the counter is back, and he’s pissed. ‘You made this up, Holden? What the shit. I mean what the actual shit.’
His voice cuts through my moment of glory like a kazoo solo in a symphony.
‘You made us look like idiots. And thanks to your little escapade, MTV have actually started playing indie music. What are we meant to listen to now?’
I sip at my latte, maintaining my counterfeit cool, but inside I’m churning. Churning because this poor excuse for a scene guy is lecturing me, churning because the people who were fêting me not one week before are now staring at me with dark, accusing eyes, and churning because I never planned for this development. I’d have to revise my entire playlist as soon as I got home.
He slams his fist on the counter, sending the raw sugar packets flying. ‘What the fuck, Holden? What the actual fuck? You’re finished round here. Your name is more mainstream than mud. And what’s with your name, anyway? You think you’re bloody Caulfield or something? Well, guess what, mate. Everyone else thinks you’re a ute.’
* * *
I lie on my bed, staring at the ceiling. A glass dangles from my hand, the gin bottle lying discarded on the floor. I have to face it. This whole thing was a mistake from the start. I’ve gone from being nobody in this town to something much worse: someone everybody knows about. I’ve ruined my own reputation and damaged the cause I believe in, and for nothing more than the approval of a bunch of pretentious posers. They could make my story into a bestseller. Then I’d be more mainstream than ever.
There’s a soft knock at the door. My mother.
‘Honey?’ she says, in that terrible American sit-com way she has. ‘Honey, there’s someone at the door to see you. They said they want to tell you something nobody else has ever heard.’
I pull on my jumper and head into the living room, where a slim young man in shuttershades is waiting for me. ‘Holden,’ he says, ‘I’m so glad you’re here. I came to you because I heard you’re good at getting the word out about this sort of thing.’
I elect not to comment on that.
‘It’s like this,’ he continues. ‘Remember the 1950s, when the US Government was petrified of beatniks and commies taking control? That fear never really went away. Now they’ve seen the growth of the hipster movement, and they’re getting worried. They want to move on us, Holden, before we become too much of a threat.’
‘Nice joke,’ I say bitterly. ‘Very clever. Very ironic. Now go away.’
‘It’s not a joke,’ he says, earnestly. ‘I’ve got proof. Documents, correspondence, it’s all here. Take a look!’
I take the file he hands me and riffle through the pages. My eyes light on one word, then another, and slowly my brain comes to a creaking, horrified stop.
‘Internment camps?’ I breathe. ‘They want to move every hipster in the world into internment camps?’
‘At an undisclosed location in theUnited States. To keep us out of trouble, and to stop us making it. There’s no mention of ever letting us out, either. And they’ll be moving soon! Holden, you have to help me get the word out in time!’
And so I start pounding the streets, telling everyone I know the Americans are coming for them, that they have to get the word out, that they have to get out themselves. They laugh at me, throw scorn upon scorn. Even the proprietor of my favourite cafe turns his back on me. I become a sad joke, the guy with a name that sounds like a car who thinks everyone is out to get him. I fail.
Five days later, theUSgovernment comes for us. They round us up in unmarked cars and trucks and helicopters, ship us back to the States for processing and finally, assign us to our respective camps. They parcel us out all over this wide land, hide us in secret bunkers, some of us on deserted farms and some of us deep underground. As one of those who attempted to prevent the cleansing, I am kept under the strictest security and subjected to the harshest interrogations. There is no hope for us here. I have seen good people, people who knew good things about good music, bow down under the strain. But we have pride—I have pride—and it is a pride that will never be burnt out of us. Because as high security detainees, we are in the most isolated camp of all. Really, it’s in the middle of nowhere. You’ve probably never even heard of it.