In 1964 Ricky Stevenson was living the dream. He was on the top of the charts, and on the cover of almost every fan magazine. What those publications didn’t tell you was that he had no privacy, few real friends, and a hectic schedule of touring and recording. Though tempted to lose himself in a haze of drugs and alcohol, Ricky knew it would only be a temporary escape. What Ricky wanted was to be rid of the pressures of fame for good, so one day he simply disappeared. Thirty years later people were still speculating about the fate of Ricky Stevenson, especially Ricky’s biggest fan, Steven White. Seventeen year old Steven is anything but your typical high school junior. While the rest of his classmates are perfectly happy spending all their time and money at the local mall, Steven spends his days combing the aisles of local thrift stores, and listening to oldies. Steven first became fascinated by the missing musician one fateful day in eighth grade when a classmate had pointed out his uncanny resemblance to Ricky. Soon afterward, Steven becomes an avid fan. He watches every Ricky Stevenson documentary, buys every book or magazine about the star and relentlessly searches for original copies of Ricky’s records. Steven even tries to dress like Ricky because he figures looking like a teen idol could be the fastest route to attracting the prettiest girl in his English class. Rock’N’Roll in Locker Seventeen is a novel about what happens to Steven when he discovers what really happened to the missing star. As the media invades Steven’s city and his family visits Los Angeles, Steven goes from your typical star struck 17 year old.
A short balding man was at the counter when I entered the office. He didn’t look very happy to be here.
“I’m trying to clear out number 116, my father’s locker–it’s a real mess. Do you have boxes?” He asked.
“We sell both cardboard boxes and plastic bins that will keep your items better protected from the elements. You can select from those on the wall over there we have them all in stock except for the large cardboard,” I said pointing at the wall where we sell a variety of boxes, locks, and tools all at a deliberately higher price than you can get at the local hardware store. (My father had sold the last of the large cardboard ones to Mrs. Rand for her Christmas party.)
He eyed the large cardboard box display, as if he hadn’t just been told that we were out. “Can I buy that one?” He asked.
“That’s actually just a display-but we have a comparable size in plastic,” I told him.
“I just need to move it to my apartment, a few blocks away. Why can’t I buy that box right there? When you get more in you can make a new display,” he said irritably.
Great, a pain in the neck. Hey you–I could be sleeping right now–but whatever.
“Sure I can sell it to you, but it has been on display for quite some time so I am just warning you, it’s gonna be dusty,” I said.
“That’s fine, I don’t care,” was his response.
“Okay then just let me get the stepladder.”
As I grabbed the box of the top of the shelf I nearly gagged on the dust. Ugh. Didn’t we ever clean up here? The dust had now formed a square outline from where the box had been. In the middle of the square was something metal catching the reflection of the lights overhead but I couldn’t quite tell what it was.
I quickly sold Mr. Picky the dusty box at a discount and five of our medium size ones, then I scrawled a note to my father that number 116 had decided not to renew his contract–perhaps a follow up phone call was in order? I watched out the window as he slowly dragged the boxes toward his space then grabbed the feather duster from beneath the counter.
The lump beneath the box turned out to be a key. It was one of the old style ones so it was undoubtedly useless by now but still I found myself trying to pry it up. Only a corner of the key had caught the reflection, the rest of it was all rusted and had somehow congealed itself to the metal top of the shelf. I climbed down again and grabbed some rags, a screwdriver, and some 409. After letting it sit in the 409 for a few minutes, I managed to wedge the key up with the screwdriver and get it loose. I wiped it down with the rags and took a closer look, I could just barely make out the number seventeen.
So we did have a key to seventeen after all. I set it into the key machine and made myself a new copy. Tonight if no one was around I was going to see if I could get number seventeen’s door to open. Another space may just bring in more money to this operation, especially since seventeen is one of the largest lockers in our complex.
Space 116 didn’t get cleared out until later that afternoon, when the customer finally drove off with a rented U-Haul packed to the gills. I did a quick walk around of all the lockers, or spaces as Dad insists I must always call them, saying:
“A locker Steven, is where you keep your schoolbooks. These are storage spaces, they are larger and much more versatile than any locker.”
I usually just ignore my father, he reads too many of those regulation binders the Stor‘N’More headquarters is always sending us. As far as I am concerned any place where you put stuff inside, shut a door, lock it up and forget about it constitutes a locker.
Shortly after the gate closed and the U-Haul had pulled out onto Highland, I did a quick check around the place making sure no one was about, then headed over to seventeen. As usual the dent really didn’t look that bad to me, sure it was large but it didn’t really look like it would cause the door to not open at all. I put the new key in, and slowly turned it. It seemed to work making the telltale click that new or old our doors’ locks always do. The door lifted smoothly and easily just as I thought it would. There seemed to be no problem from the dent whatsoever. Since the largest lockers were usually equipped with fluorescent overhead lights I reached for the switch just in case they still worked, much to my amazement they did. Then I let out the largest gasp of my life.
Copyright© Shannon Brown. All rights reserved.