Reconcile (Garage Fiction #32)

Like piranhas on a pig’s carcass, it only took the crowd five minutes to tear down the chicken-wire cage that kept the band out of harms way.

Once the wire was down, it looked like we were playing the gig from a two-by-four jail cell.

Truth is, the chicken-wire was never going to hold this crowd back.

It was really more of a suggestion than a deterrent.  It did it’s job to keep beer bottles and other projectiles of mayhem from hitting us, but when a drug fueled punk is determined to storm the stage, you’re going to need a whole lot more than some two-by-fours and chicken wire.

But it was cool.  We’d gotten used to it.

After spending the whole summer touring with Black Flag our band was finally coming into our own.  The crowds were getting bigger and bigger by the gig.

As the opening act, our job was to warm them up and we didn’t disappoint.

But as crazy as things got for us in the opening sets, it paled in comparison when Henry Rollins hit the stage.

His presence was larger than life no matter how big (or small) the venue.  His raw energy and power could turn the scrawniest nerd into a mosh pit psycho.

And to think Henry didn’t drink, smoke or do drugs.  He was just a burning man, long before there was a Burning Man.

But as for Billy, Stitch, Mule and me, drinking and drugs were part of the territory.

That was until Mule started beating members of the audience at one show after another.  He had a drug fueled rage that kept us in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Snuffing out our rising star before it hit the sky.

Everything started back in our junior year.

Mule had just moved from Fresno. We met in homeroom, started talking about different bands, and just hit it off.  We were into the same misfits and outcasts. Black Flag, Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Agent Orange, Joy Division, the Ramones.

We were quickly inseparable.  All we talked about was forming a band.  I’d been playing the guitar since I was seven. Painfully shy, and skinny as a rail, I knew a band would be the best way to pick up chicks.

Mule would sing.  And at six-foot-two, two hundred and twenty pounds, he cut the perfect frame for a messenger of angst and rage.

It didn’t hurt that his biting lyrics added fuel to the fire.

By Christmas, we’d recruited Stitch on bass and Billy on drums.  In less than four months, Toxic Insight was born.  And the next two years were oblivion.

The punk rock life played hell on my grades. And my parents ended up kicking me out my senior year.

So the four of us got our own place, down in Echo Park.  It was rathole, but with the money from three shows a week, we made it work.

That was until the Mule lost control.

We’d just signed with Black Flag’s label, SST Records.  And I think Mule let it go to his head.  The drugs got harder and so did the onstage antics.

Like the time in Culver City when a guy hanging off the stage tried to grab Mule’s mic.  In split second, the guys face was hamburger and Mule had thrown him back into the mosh pit.

After the ambulance came, so did the cops.  It took us a week to get the money to bail Mule out.

Once out. He was right back at it.  Heavy drugs, heavy music, heavy fists.

It got to where every show was ending in violence. And the Los Angeles Police Department had us and the SST offices under surveillance, 24/7.

They then started harassing venue owners to keep us from playing the clubs. And if we couldn’t play, we couldn’t get paid.  And if we couldn’t get paid, we couldn’t eat.

So I quit.  That was 25 years ago. And Mule hasn’t spoken to me since. Back then he told me I was a traitor, blasting me for abandoned the band when the times got tough.

But those times were more than tough, they were out of control.  And Billy and Stitch felt the same. Within month’s they were gone, and Toxic Insight was dead.

I’d touch base with Billy and Stitch every once in a while. And they would fill me in on Mule.  I’d wanted to reconnect, but they said he wanted nothing to do with me.

Years passed and we all moved on.

Stitch had landed in a grind core band up in the Bay Area, made a bunch of albums, and ton of money.

Billy became an accountant for Deloitte and moved with his family down to San Diego.

And me, I went the most radical route of all.  After college, I became a pastor, married my college sweetheart, and raised four incredible kids.  And just last month I released a fourth bestseller. A book on restoring relationships and healing resentments.

I’d sent Billy and Stitch a copy with with a note to call me, just as I’d always done.

The book was an excuse to connect. And since I usually wove our punk rock days in there somewhere, it was always fun to get their take on what went down.

But when I got the first call, I was shocked at what I heard.

“Hey, it’s me… Mule.”


This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Dogwood Daniels…
Bootleg footage of Neurosis playing at The Masquerade in Atlanta on August 14, 2015
As recorded by Dogwood Daniels.
This is the first 56 seconds of the song, “Locust Star.”


These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”.  Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels and Me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Sundays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here: Parallels
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: Father’s Love, P3

Creep (Garage Fiction #31)

I met Ellis at the coffeehouse during my Freshman year.

It was the typical college hangout. A bit bohemian with an intellectual flair.

Students studying during the day.  In in the evenings it was open mic. Local artists would line up to share their work with anyone who would listen.

But I was usually gone by then.  For two reasons.

One, I was on a scholarship and was pretty focused on my studies.  And two, I knew Sarah and her entourage would be coming down to hang out.

I wanted to avoid her at all costs.

Being required to live in the dorms during your freshman year wasn’t all that bad.  But being required to live with Sarah Bellenkamp was sheer torture.

It was like waking up and being punched in the face every single day.  Not only was Sarah pretty as hell, she was rich too.

And the worst part was how she wore it like a badge.  So it goes with narcissists.

It’s not that she would outright say, “Hey look at me I’m pretty and rich.”

She’s was much more skilled than that.  She had an ability to ask you a simple question to get you engaged, only to turn the entire conversation into a self-focused oration. 

Last week it was all about how her dad flew in from Paris and brought her back a new Louis Vuitton purse that you can’t even get in the states yet.

This is why I try to avoid her at all costs.

I think a lot of people give her a pass because she’s so freaking pretty. I remember reading a study about how pretty people have higher salaries, get more breaks, and often live better lives.

From the outside looking in, it was clear that was the case with Sarah.  It obviously hasn’t hurt her having a supermodel mom and a GQ banker dad pass down some jaw dropping genes. 

It’s not that I’m jealous of her.

I mean, I’ve got good looking parents who aren’t hurting for money.  And I’ve had plenty of people tell me that I’m pretty.

And while I’ve appreciated the compliments, I’ve never really seen myself as all that pretty.

Which is why I was shocked when Ellis told me the truth.  We’d become decent friends throughout the year.  And while he’d asked me several times to come back in the evening to hear him play, I never did.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to hear him, I just couldn’t stand being around Sarah.  Especially when she came home and told me that Ellis had written a song about her.  She’d heard it a dozen times or so and was convinced it was all about her.  She’d even written down the lyrics.

She started droning on about how Ellis was kind of a creep.  And how it was weird that he would write a song about her.  How he couldn’t look her in the eye. How she was angel with skin that made him cry.

She handed me the lyrics with a gackle.  Kind of a giggle and cackle all in one.  And it made me want to puke.

And the more I read. The angrier I got.  Not just at her, but also at Ellis.  I actually started to think he was a creep.  The last thing a Sarah needed was more fuel for her narcissistic fire.   And telling her she floats like a feather and how special she is was not helping matters.

Once again, the entire world revolved around Sarah.  Or so I thought.

After reading the lyrics and listening to Sarah spew her self-obsession around the dorm all night.  I had nothing to say to Ellis.

And it stayed that way for the rest of the semester.

Once finals were over, I stopped in to the coffee house on the morning I was heading back home for the summer.  That’s Ellis dropped the bomb.

He asked me if he’d done anything. And that’s when I laid into him about Sarah and his song.  How everything always revolved around her, and the last thing she needed was an anthem to her perfection from an alienated admirer.

And that’s when he told me that the song was about me.


This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Jinn Zhong…
Creep written and performed by Radiohead

Lyrics:

“Creep”

When you were here before,
Couldn’t look you in the eye,
You’re just like an angel,
Your skin makes me cry,
You float like a feather,
In a beautiful world,
And I wish I was special,
You’re so fucking special.

[Chorus:]
But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo,
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.

I don’t care if it hurts,
I want to have control,
I want a perfect body,

I want a perfect soul,
I want you to notice,
When I’m not around,
You’re so fucking special,
I wish I was special.

[Chorus:]
But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo,
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.

Oh, oh

She’s running out again,
She’s running out…
She run run run run…
Run…

Whatever makes you happy,
Whatever you want,
You’re so fucking special,
I wish I was special…
But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo,
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here,
I don’t belong here.


These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”.  Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels and Me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Sundays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here: The Black Shard
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: Father’s Love, P2

Inspiration – Epilogue (Garage Fiction #30)

*SPOILER ALERT: This is the final part of a series.  To start from the beginning CLICK HERE FOR PART 1
6 years later…

 

After writing the last sentence for the opening chapter in his new book, Morgan closed his laptop and looked out over the Grand Canal from the balcony of the two-room suite. 

He wanted to write more but knew Sigrid wouldn’t have it.

It was their first time in Venice.  And she was dead set on seeing the bright, Crayola colored buildings on the Island of Burano. She also wanted a slice of pizza at the little place on Via San Mauro her mother said was the best pizza in all of Italy.

Bottom line, there was no missing the boat to Burano. So the writing was done for today.

Actually, Morgan didn’t mind the break.  This was his toughest book yet. He had no trouble penning his first two thrillers, both of which had now sold more than 100,000 copies each.  An incredible feat for a brand new author.

But this book was different.  It was much harder to write.  The flood of raw emotion it stirred was often too much to take.  At least not yet.  It was too soon. Or so he thought.

“Sigrid, you alright?”

“I’m alright.” Sigrid shot back from the other room as she got dressed.

The last 6 years had flown by.  His entire life had taken wild, fantastic turn the moment he’d met her.  She’d changed everything. 

Her belief in him made him believe anything was possible.  He began to believe he was a writer, long before the first book was ever sold. With her by his side, he believed every day was worth living to to the full.  

So he jumped in with both feet. 

He never would have believed just ten months after crashing the wedding at the Hemingway Estate, they’d be standing at the The Quintessa on Whidbey Island, just north of her parent’s Seattle home, pledging their lives together… for richer for poorer … in sickness and in health … ’till death do they part.

The rich part was easy. 

Right before the wedding Sigrid’s father had funded her trust with a hundred and fifty thousand shares of his Microsoft stock.  The dividends alone were more than enough to live on.

After the wedding they were off for a month-long honeymoon.  And in Malaysia he came up with the idea for his first thriller.

A story about British journalism student spending his gap year in Kuala Lumpur. After stumbling on a global bank laundering oil money for islamic terrorists, things go south quickly when The Guardian newspaper publishes his findings under a pseudonym.

And once the bank finds out it’s him, all hell breaks lose.  With high-profile ties to the British embassy, the bank has him labeled a co-conspirator and gets his passport revoked.  Now trapped he has to prove his innocence while exposing the bank.

Gripping and Fun to write, Morgan had finished the novel in just over four month’s time.  Thanks to Sigrid.

She had gone from an inspirational, breath of fresh air to an anchor for his soul.  A grounding that became permanent when they tied the knot.

The second novel came just a quickly.  And was a raging success.  But this third book continued to plague him. He’d wrestled with it for months, but he knew he had to write it. 

It was the only way to process the past year with Sigrid.  A way to put their fairytale into perspective.  A way to handle the cancer when it came it back.

They knew it could happen.  They just never knew when or how bad it might be.  That’s why they lived everyday as if it were the last, like riding a speeding train in slow motion. 

The big window on the side of the car would frame every day.  Most were sunny with fields of colorful flowers or the occasional pass through through a new sleepy town.  But a few were pitch black.  The days when the train dove violently into a seemingly endless tunnel.

But as with any moving train, there is always a destination.  Black windows come and go as another sunny, flowering field bursts into view once again. 

It may not be the exact same field as the train rushes on, but the glowing warmth of the sun and beautiful colors that await are what you hold on to when you’re in the dark.

That’s why, no matter how hard it was to write the new book, Morgan knew he had to get it all down.  Every flowering field, every dark tunnel.  He needed to do it for himself, and for Sigrid too.

It was something they could both hold on too until death do they part.

“Sigrid? You ready?

“Yeah… I’m ready Daddy.” Sigrid bounded out of the bedroom with her little, blonde curls cascading down her four-year-old cheeks.  Every time Morgan looked at her he could see her mother.  Another gift. Another inspiration. Another anchor for his soul. 

Today would be a day filled with flowery fields as the two of them soaked in the colorful scenery on Burano and ate pizza at the place Mommy said was the best in the whole world.

Morgan reached down to pick Sigrid up, and as he did…

“BARK!”

“No Otis. You can’t come today buddy.  But I promise we will bring you back some pizza.”


This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by me…

“Around Venezia”, a beautiful video shot on 5DMark2 by “Icam”

Around Venezia from Icam on Vimeo.

Check out the rest of Icam’s videos here: https://vimeo.com/user869654
And if you’re desperately wondering what that haunting song is, it’s “I Found A Reason” by Cat Power.

 


These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels and Me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Sundays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here: City of Masks
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: Father’s Love

Inspiration Part 6 (Garage Fiction #29)

This is Part 6 of a series.  Click here for Part 1

The salty breeze blew through the suite as Morgan opened his eyes. Smelling the fresh coffee he smiled. It wasn’t a dream.  Not only was he still in Sigrid’s hotel room. She was walking toward him with a fresh cup.

“Just cream, no sugar, right?”

“Yes.  That’s great.”

Her angelic frame glided across the living room as his heart began to race.  It felt right sleeping on the sofa.  Just knowing Otis was at the foot of her bed all night made him feel close enough. Morgan took the cup and brought it to his lips.

“Hope you don’t mind decaf?”

Morgan tried to remain expressionless as he thought we stay up until two in the morning and all you have is decaf?

“Just kidding.” Sigrid gave a sly smile. “You sleep ok?”

Morgan laughed inside, amazed. Who is this girl? Beautiful, funny, I feel like I’ve known her all my life but know so little about her. He anchored himself with a quick look around the room, still not a dream.

“I did. Thanks.”

The salt air continued to ride the cool morning breeze into the living room. Sigrid sat in the chair opposite of Morgan’s makeshift bed. Without taking her gaze away from him she sipped her coffee and said, “You never asked.”

“Asked what?”

“Whats wrong with me? Why I’m dying?”

Morgan had thought about it when they first met. But he was taken in by just being with her.  He’d forced the idea of her dying into the background.  Back in the fairytale folder of his mind he selfishly wanted to believe it wasn’t true.

“We’d just met. You looked pretty happy so I wasn’t going to focus on it if you weren’t.”

She smiled took a breath and then said the words that drove her finance away, “brain cancer.”

Morgan took it in without saying a word.  If she wanted to talk, this was her time.  And as uncomfortable as it was, he wasn’t going to rob her of whatever she needed to be at peace with talking to him.

“And when I said I had a year to live, that wasn’t quite accurate.”

Morgan raised his eyebrows above his cup as he took another sip, beckoning her to keep going.

“It was actually three months. At least that’s what the medical team said when I was first  diagnosed.  Then after the first surgery and treatments, it was another three months.  Then another.  And now I’m up to a little over two years.  I’ve tend to plan in three month increments, it gives me a clear focus.  But I’ve started saying a year because I want those next three months and then some.”

Morgan was relieved.  Perhaps selfishly, but relieved.  “They” were wrong.  It wasn’t a year.  It wasn’t even three months. And as far as he could tell, no one had a clue.  Sigrid was defying the odds and he wanted a taste of what she had.  An ability to chuck all the crap that didn’t matter focus on what does.  And for him, all that mattered was she was here now and he was going to stay as long as she’d let him.

“I have to admit, I was hoping “they” were wrong.”

“They were. So far.” She sipped her coffee with a smile.

She was calm.  Like she’d made peace with her lot.  But Morgan could still see a small hint of fear.  Fear of the unknown.  The fear a small child has when they don’t want to go into a dark room alone.  Eventhough they know full well the room is safe and the boogey man isn’t real, they still want someone to hold their hand as they go into the dark. At least until the light gets turned on.

Morgan thought, what do you say when someone tells you there dying?  All the social niceties and common encouragement seem trite and insensitive. This was not something he could fix so he decided to hold his tongue.

“I have to admit the borrowed time has brought a ton of clarity.  It’s like the first twenty-five years of my life was spent watching a black and white tv and now I see in full color HD. All the things I thought that mattered, don’t. My job, where I lived, what I drove, the clothes I wore, how people saw me or what they thought of me.  None of it matters when time is short.”

Morgan listened intently as Sigrid continued. She told him about her fiancé Ben. And how he’d broken off their engagement after he heard she only had three months to live. He was more concerned with making money and keeping up appearances with his venture capitalist buddies in Seattle and Silicon Valley than he was nurturing a cancer stricken bride.

His loss my gain, Morgan thought.

Sigrid continued to fill in the gaps from her life before the diagnosis to now. How she’d been an elementary school teacher after graduation from the University of Washington to now jumping out of airplanes, zip lining in Costa Rica, and even diving in a shark cage in the San Francisco bay.  In fact, the more daring the feat, the the more she went after it.  But all the early thrill seeking after Ben left had faded quickly.

It was clear she wanted to live every minute to the full.  But Morgan could also see she didn’t want to do it alone.

Sigrid continued on for a bit more and then stopped.  Morgan could see in her face that she wasn’t sure if she’d said too much.  She’d laid it all out there. Hr could tell this was the point where she was thinking he would likely make a run for it.

“You going to say anything?”

“Was just taking it all in. I didn’t want to interrupt your train of thought.”

“And?”

“And … what are you doing for the next three months?”

Smiling a side smile, Sigrid’s face lit up as she wiped a small tear from the corner of eye.  Morgan got off the couch and went over to Sigrid’s chair.  Taking a knee he got down to eye level, reached his left hand behind the nape of her neck and pulled her close.  Their lips touched as he took his right arm and slid it around the small of her back, pulling her even closer.

And just as he pressed his body to hers, “BARK!”  Otis went ballistic, spinning in circles, barking.  Face to face Morgan and Sigrid burst out laughing.  Not to be left out, the kisses continued as Otis stuck his face in the mix.

This is Part 6of a series.  Click here for Part 7

This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Dogwood Daniels…

A Bloomberg article published on July 22, 2015:
These Superhumans Are Real and Their DNA Could Be Worth Billions
Written by Caroline Chen

Here is the article’s lead:

Steven Pete can put his hand on a hot stove or step on a piece of glass and not feel a thing, all because of a quirk in his genes. Only a few dozen people in the world share Pete’s congenital insensitivity to pain. Drug companies see riches in his rare mutation. They also have their eye on people like Timothy Dreyer, 25, who has bones so dense he could walk away from accidents that would leave others with broken limbs. About 100 people have sclerosteosis, Dreyer’s condition.

Both men’s apparent superpowers come from exceedingly uncommon deviations in their DNA. They are genetic outliers, coveted by drug companies Amgen, Genentech, and others in search of drugs for some of the industry’s biggest, most lucrative markets.

Read the rest here: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-22/these-superhumans-are-real-and-their-dna-could-be-worth-billions


These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels and Me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Sundays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here: Read the Bones
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: A Poem For Penelope Part 5