Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Like Credits": A story based on "Four Strong Winds" by Neil Young, as suggested by writer Bill Roorbach (1/100)

Like Credits

It wasn’t quite an argument, but there was some confusion as to who was leaving who. Both of us had packed as little as possible, a suitcase each on the bed, the tops open and resting against each other. I folded two pairs of socks together into one and placed them in the corner. She went right for her black dress, the velvet one that hung lightly on her shoulders. Her girlfriends said that it turned so many heads they began calling it The Chiropractor.

I commented on what I wasn’t taking. “Alberta’s too nice for sweaters,” I said aloud, throwing in a silk shirt her mother had gotten me years ago, one I hadn’t even worn. She ignored me and filled the rest of her suitcase with shoes. I watched her fit high heels together into a handshake and stack them on top of the dress, pair after pair. So I dusted off the front of a blazer and said, “I’ll need this when my friends up there get me a job.”

We zipped up and I began digging in my pocket for some change to give her, to tell her it could be towards bus fare so she could come see me, even though it gets pretty cold up there and I don’t think there’d be much for her to do. She was gone before I could get out the money or the words. When she opened and closed the door, I looked briefly at what was left, which was everything except the clothes on our bodies and in our suitcases. I did the same as she, opening and closing the door and trying to not be the one behind the other, the one going away the least. We moved in as quick a lurching manner as possible, each of us holding a single suitcase and making the same uneven patter on the sidewalk.

It was almost morning and the moon moved downward slowly, scrolling like credits on the ride to Alberta. The bus was mostly empty. I didn’t need the space but I used it anyway, stretching out my legs and giving my suitcase its own seat. I spent the whole ride unnerved and not knowing why. It was the feeling of having a belly full of stones, but the opposite, too, like a void beneath my lungs. It started as soon as I walked out of the apartment. I knew it wasn’t because of the obvious reasons, things or people I left, the books and records and gas station attendants I would never see again. Imagining them all alongside the bus, trying to catch up and tell me one last thing, I didn’t regret being in the seat while their legs beat into static. It wasn’t until the bus finally stopped that I figured it out. It was those gusts of air back in the apartment. That open and close, open and close of the door. How long will those four strong winds swirl before they blow so cold they stop?


Neil Young is a Canadian musician who has put out over 9,000 albums. His latest album is about a car, but I haven't actually listened to it, so who knows. "Four Strong Winds" was actually written by Ian Tyson in the early 60s. Neil covered it on his 1978 album Comes A Time, which is what Harvest should have sounded like.

Bill Roorbach is a kick ass writer of both short fiction (Big Bend: Stories) and creative non-fiction (Temple Stream, Writing Life Stories, Into Woods, Summers With Juliet). I haven't read his novel (The Smallest Color), but I'm sure it too is as honest and muscular as the rest of his work. Also a musician, Bill is making a video memoir about his life in music (I Used To Play In Bands), which you should check out immediately for a humorous, apt perspective of what it meant to be a musician in the early wake of the Beatles and beyond.

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Next week: A story based on "I Wanna Be Your Dog" by The Stooges, as suggested by musician Ted Nesseth of The Heavenly States.

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