Liu And Bill Withers
By Simon Barget
We’d done well. We’d sold a heck of a lot of CD’s, books, all the limited edition vinyl and posters and prints, all the black and white merchandise which looked so chic and desirable sitting in stacks on that warehouse floor, on the brute artificial surface of these industrial premises, like a conceptual art space, all the stuff was on pallets and most of it had gone now and we were amazed and were basking in that sense of satisfaction of a good night of having made a good deal of dosh.
Liu was a Bill Withers expert, he was his agent, confidant, his right-hand man, he knew every song by heart, every little sigh and inflection, he had the direct line to Bill and we knew Bill would be more than pleased with the result.
We looked over the stock, to see what had gone, the piles had been decimated, the public had really taken to it, and as Liu went through the final checks and took care of the cash, I looked over some of the albums I wasn’t even aware of, some of the newer ones I didn’t know existed, but that when I called Liu over, he knew them back to front, gave me chapter and verse, and the ones I happened to look through were some Japanese limited editions which hadn’t sold well but you couldn’t sell everything could you.
We had a little space in the warehouse. Out the back, towards the back door were some toilets but apart from that we didn’t really know what else was in there, because we only came in from the doors went into our space and went out again.
I felt this funny communion with Bill, I started singing, and when I sang, the actual song came on. I told Liu that the best song had to be ‘Lean On Me’, when I sang it, it came on, the real song, and it came on as if in emphasis, emphasising what I was saying about it, it came on in the same key, at the same pace, as if I had just made up the song in that very moment and I found myself singing along with Bill, feeling it strongly, feeling the pull of the song, I suppose I was getting carried away, just showing off how well I could sing, how well I knew the song but it really felt as if Bill was there singing along with me, joining in with my fun.
There wasn’t much left to do and Liu kept going there and back to the area by the toilets when he must have asked me something about the takings. We were ready to leave, and were about to, but Liu had forgotten to go to the back, which is where we kept them, to pick them up so we could take them to the bank. We were talking there and back, me in the space, and Liu in the toilet area, talking about the money. We were very audible. We were talking about where it was, how much and so on. It’s just not something I would have thought of.
Anyway, we were all ready to go, when suddenly I heard a movement, I noticed something in the shadows, there was someone there. We realised that this person had been there all along, they had been listening to us and then I realised this person was there because they wanted the money.
We didn’t run, but set off at a brisk pace. This was the kind of thing where you didn’t want to run to make out you knew the guy was going to get you. You didn’t want to go berserk to start with. You didn’t want to show fear.
So we walked out just briskly. We walked out to the main path where we knew there’d be some street light and people, so that if the guy did decide to jump us, there’d be people, and we could scream, and he wouldn’t just be able to take our money so easily.
Liu was carrying the money and I was just behind.
He was still there. If we didn’t know then, we knew now he was after the money. He had a dog baring its teeth and he was keeping a tight leash on the dog and us. However quickly we walked, the man kept pace.
And then he got even closer and since I was the one behind Liu, since I was closest, the man suddenly set the dog on me. It bared its teeth and it started growling and coming up to my legs and trying to bite me, trying to get at me, to hurt me.
At this point we were crossing the bridge over the river, in fact the path was raised over a field, and the dog was getting closer and closer to me and I couldn’t bear to let the dog get close to me and the only way to keep distance between us was to jump onto the side of the bridge, to maintain a distance.
I didn’t even do it consciously, something, probably fear, just propelled me onto it. But I was teetering on the top of the bridge over the edge of the river, which was quite a way down, and I felt several times like I was going to fall and I thought I was going to die, although it can’t have been that far down, but somehow I managed to keep my balance and jump down back to the path.
But it all happened so quickly, it was a blur.
By now Liu had made it to the centre and there were loads of lights here and people and the open-air government bank was just about still open, but there was a line, but it was still a big relief and we somehow knew that our assailant wasn’t going to get far with us now. We were safe.
I didn’t quite understand how it all worked, but the Judge was there, Liu said, I think it meant that we could fast-track our complaint and the Judge could get the guy locked up there and then. In any case once I heard Liu say ‘Judge’ I knew we were good.
Liu got in line, and the man stood there looking on, not daring to come closer as if held up by a force-field. He had been thwarted. He had left it too late. The dog kept baring its teeth, grimacing. The man was inert now, neutralised but it took me a while to calm down.