Sunday, October 31, 2010

"When There Is No Road": A story based on "Rock N Roll" by Paleface, as suggested by musician Monica "Mo" Samalot of Paleface (19/100)

When There Is No Road



Paleface is a band from North Carolina. Paleface is also the name of the tall, singing/guitaring man in the band. Mo the name of the short, singing drummer in the band. Their sound is fun and casual, enjoyable without being pointless. Daniel Johnston and Beck both like Paleface, and you should, too. They have a new album called One Big Party, featuring the song this story is based on and other sweet jams. Order it here.

Monica "Mo" Samalot
is a drummer. She is quite nice, rather adorable, and a good musician. She is Puerto Rican, though she relocated to the USA in 1993. Because I don't know much about her, I will just say that 1993 was a great year for black metal.

Our Band Could Be Your Lit on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

Next week: A story based on "Mike's Love Xexagon" by The Fall, as suggested by writer Thomas Cooper.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sittin' In: "Double or Nothing" by Eirik Gumeny, as based on the song "Waiting For An Alibi" by Thin Lizzy

Double or Nothing

Ramirez went down in the second. A couple times. He’s standing now, on the ropes, uncertain of his footing, of where he is, but he’s standing. The referee calls it anyway. TKO.


The room erupts, four thousand people on their feet at once, spilling drinks and tossing fight cards, shouting and calling for blood.

I grab Maria’s hand and make a break for the exit.

* * *

Outside the casino, I light a cigarette mid-stride and start, quick, toward the St. James stairs. I can hear Maria behind me, the crowd pouring out of the casino behind her.

“Val,” she says. “Slow down, Val. What the hell’s going on?”

I can hear the staccato of her heels against the boardwalk. I’ve got nearly a foot on her; she’s practically jogging to keep up.


I ease up, just enough to let her know I heard, but I’m still moving. Her steps are staggered by vodka and vanity, like Morse code against the salt-stained wood. She’s sending me a message, a broken S.O.S.

I’m halfway to the stairs when she finally catches up. I feel her next to me, her hand warm against mine. I can’t keep myself from slowing.

“Val,” she says.

“Maria . . .” I say.

“Valentino!” says someone else.



I toss what’s left of the cigarette, grab Maria’s arm, and start sprinting.

“God damn it, Val,” she says. She’s furious, stumbling, but she’s running. Right now, that’s good enough.

We fly down the stairs, off the boardwalk and onto St. James. I turn sharp, barrel through the door of some dive bar and collide with a table. I kick it to the side.

“Jesus, Valentino,” says Maria. She’s on one bare foot, removing her shoe from the other.

“The back,” I say, nodding toward the kitchen door.

I can hear the fat man behind the bar shouting.

Maria throws her heels in his face.

* * *

“Valentino,” Maria says, her hand on my back. “Talk to me, God damn it.”

We’re eight blocks from the bar, in the parking deck beneath some boarded up motel. I’m bent at the waist, elbows on the hood of my car, sucking wind and seeing stars. I haven’t had to move like that in years.


“We gotta go, Maria,” I say, my chest heaving. I stand, eyes still swimming. “And then you’re not gonna want to be around me, not for a while.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Things – the fight – didn’t go the way they were supposed to. The way I said they would. And now I gotta get outta here.”

I hit the keychain in my pocket, unlock the doors.

“We gotta get outta here.”

I pull open the passenger side door.

“What did you do, Valentino?” she says, her voice cracking.

It’s not fear, though. And it’s not a question. It’s anger, accusation. She knows me too damn well.

“I fucked up, Maria. Took money from the wrong guys, told them to put it on an even worse fighter.”

There’s footsteps, echoing against the buildings across the street. Voices. They’re not happy.


“Who is that?” she asks.

“No one you want to know,” I answer.

I hit the button for the trunk on the keychain, hear the thunk as it opens. I walk to Maria and take her hands in mine.

“I will never understand why a woman like you is wasting her time with me,” I say.

I kiss her hard. Then I give her the keys.

“You know what kind of shit is about to go down. I don’t want you here for it. I don’t want you to see it, and I don’t want them to see you. You need to run.”

“Val . . .”

“Go. You have to.”

I go to the trunk, lift the door all the way open. I stand, holding it with both hands, and take a deep breath.

“Maria,” I say, “I love you. When you’re around I’m a better person, smarter. I don’t do the kind of shit that gets me into situations like this. All I want is to be with you, a million miles from here, where tonight is nothing but a terrible memory.”

I grab the tire iron from inside the spare and step back.

“But I’ve got to get through this before I can forget it.”

Maria’s standing next to me.

“Maria . . .”

She reaches into the trunk and returns with an aluminum baseball bat.

“I love you, too, Val,” she says, resting the bat on her shoulder, “but I wish like fuck I didn’t.”

Shadows spill down the street, crawling across the opening of the parking deck. We can hear the voices distinctly now. They’re still not happy.

“I wish you didn’t either.”

I can’t keep myself from smiling.



Thin Lizzy is the best band ever.

Eirik Gumeny is a writer from New Jersey. He runs Jersey Devil Press and knows what to do in Denver when you're dead. His book,Exponential Apocalypse, has bad words and pop culture references, which the 15-year-old in me cheers, and great writing, which the English major in me cheers. Place your orders along with the other book JDP released this year: the 2010 Jersey Devil Press Anthology, featuring almost two dozen stories in it, including one by yours truly and one by OBCBYL alumnus yt sumner. Get that one, too. Eirik's favorite pizza topping is victory.

Our Band Could Be Your Lit on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

Next week: A story based on "Rock n Roll" by Paleface, as suggested by Mo from Paleface.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Call For Guest Posts

Starting in November of 2011, I'll be posting a new story every Wednesday from a guest writer. Submissions are open to everyone. Unfortunately, I will not be able to accept every story, but I will try to leave unique comments when responding with a rejection.


* Stories should not exceed 1000 words, not including the title (this makes a big difference sometimes, I know).

* Stories must be sent as an attachment (.doc preferred, but I won't snub my nose at .rtf or .docx). Please don't copy your work into the body of the e-mail. If sending more than one story, it doesn't matter if you attach two individual files or combine both stories into one document.

* I'm not too picky on the formatting of the story itself, but don't be a dickhead. Shoot for 12-point Times New Roman with 1" margins unless you have a really good reason not too. I can already tell you that your story does not look better in Comic Sans or Chiller. Also, I don't care if the body of the work is single-spaced with a line break between each paragraph or double spaced with a tab at the beginning of each paragraph, as long as it's readable.

* For the e-mail itself, format the subject line like this: SUBMISSION, YOUR NAME, TITLE OF STORY. (Ex: Submission, Samuel Snoek-Brown, "Orgasm In French"). I don't need a fancy cover letter or anything, but it'd be nice if you clued me in to some information that could be crucial--simultaneous submissions, a bio written in third person, which song your story is based on, etc.

* Simultaneous submissions are totally cool with me, just make sure you let me know right away if someone else has picked up the story. I'm going to try to respond within a few weeks, but response time is usually much shorter than that. Please query if you don't hear back within a month. I'm not interested in previously published work. (And, actually, I think it'd be kind of weird if you just already had a story sitting around that was based on one of the available songs.)

I look for some sort of synchronicity between the story and the song, both lyrically and musically. Sometimes it manifests itself as a glorious retelling of the narrative and sometimes it's a left-field interpretation on some parallel plane of reality. Either one, or anything in between, is acceptable, as along as it's a good story. Let one medium twist itself into another and interpret the song as you see fit. There's that one quote abut how writing about music is like dancing about architecture, and maybe whoever said it is right, but writing through music is a different thing entirely. So do that, instead.

Please send one or two of your most realized, completed attempts at capturing one of the songs below.

Neko Case - This Tornado Loves You

Roky Erickson - Two Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)

Morphine - Cure For Pain

Lifter Puller - Sherman City

T. Rex - Life's a Gas

Prince - Pussy Control

Floor - Night Full of Kicks

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Moya

Sleep - Dopesmoker

Dinosaur Jr - Tarpit

Earth - Omens and Portents I - The Driver (Taken by Samuel Snoek-Brown)

Thin Lizzy - Waiting For An Alibi (Taken by Eirik Gumeny)

Guided By Voices - I Am A Tree (Taken by Mike Sweeney)

Swans - Failure (Taken by Melina Rutter)

As soon as someone does a story about one of the songs, I'll cross it off and add a new one (so check back every week). When the story goes up, I'll provide a link to it.
Send away, y'all: ryan.j.werner [at]

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"To Be the Sun": A story based on "Farmer In the City (Remembering Pasolini)" by Scott Walker, as suggested by musician Steven R. Smith (18/100)

To Be the Sun

Gabe counted the ten-penny nails in his lower lip. There were two rows, like the base of a pyramid: eleven in a line and then, a bit further away from his teeth, ten more. He had woken up seated at his kitchen, his hands bound behind his back and his lower lip nailed to the edge of his giant oak table. The blinds and curtains were open, but the windows were closed. It was dark outside and the lights overhead were dimmed to a dull yellow.

“You’ll start to get some more feeling back in that lip as time moves on,” John said from behind Gabe.

Drool and blood were pooling together in Gabe’s mouth. He kept moving his tongue forward and pushing out loads of the whole mess, where they fell in long, shiny pillars that crawled downward onto the carpet.

“I’m not the brightest, and I can admit it,” John said. “But I do know what a premonition is. And, since you seem like a man refinement, is it fair to assume you know what that means, too?”

Gabe said nothing and John dropped a hammer onto the table. It landed within an inch of Gabe’s lip, and the tiny vibration cut into his mouth.

John pulled out a chair and sat next to Gabe. “Good. I had one of ‘em, once. It was after you killed my daughter.”

Gabe became omniscient. He knew the things he already knew, that nearly two decades ago he had helped two other men kill John’s daughter. He’d been consumed in a fit of restlessness. Extreme restlessness. Still, it was just a magnification of simple, ceaseless anxiety. And in his omniscience he learned new things. His current position—punishment—and what would come. More punishment. Heavy and soon.

“That premonition I had came after y’all killed her. I thought, ‘Hell, this thing came a bit late. All the bad stuff already happened.’ But then it got worse and worse and I figured that the premonition came just in time.” John cleared his throat. “I began to forget everything except that dream, that crazy dream where I see three guys beatin’ her. I couldn’t remember how to run the thresher. I couldn’t saddle a horse to save my life. There was just that dream.” He kicked his feet up on the table, and Gabe felt another vibration surge through his lip, regaining feeling faster now. He both smelled and saw the cow shit sitting thick and green in the treads of John’s boots.

“Farm’s gone now, like everything else. I like to think if I still had her, I’d still have the rest of it. I can’t prove that, though, you know? I can’t prove that you had anything to do with it, either. A dream don’t hold up in court,” John brought his feet down and stood up. “But I ain’t wrong.”

The kitchen lights were dimmed slowly down to nothing. Gabe remained silent. Within a moment John had taken out a large, wide buck knife and rolled the edge of the blade over Gabe’s lip. The sound was like that of a palm slowly gripping a moist sponge, coiling finger-by-finger into a fist. Gabe fell to the ground and began kicking his legs. He didn’t yell out, but he began to nosh his teeth and sputter out moist noises, producing tiny bubbles that ran down his face.

John watched him, would watch him and occasionally feel for a pulse until there wasn’t one. The bottom of John’s stomach was cold and he felt as if it were cavernous, completely empty and larger than his body would allow. He walked over to the window and looked through it for hours until the sun began to come up. It slipped in between the buildings, unlike on the farm, where it hit everything at once, like a new apocalypse every day. I’d switch you places in a heartbeat, John thought, looking at the rising sun. John began to think of the places it would light, the places it would pass over.



Scott Walker is a crazy old genius from Ohio. In the 1960s, he was a part of the group The Walker Brothers. None of them were related or had the actual last name of Walker. They're probably best remembered for their version of the song "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)" but I think their best track is "The Electrician" from their 1978 reunion album Nite Flights. Scott put out four self-titled solo albums in the late 60s, each one showcasing his giant voice and, as time went on, his originality as a songwriter. After the completely-original Scott 4 was declared a commercial failure (and later praised as a masterpiece, as is usually the case), he lost whatever self-confidence he had gained and made a couple lackluster albums that were supposed to pander to the masses. Then he started taking about eleven years between albums. But goddamn, it's so worth it. 2017's gonna kick ass!

Steven R. Smith is a highly-prolific and inventive Californian that people sometimes refer to as "the ambient David Lee Roth." His music is occasionally like Jim O'Rourke and occasionally like Stars of the Lid, but more often than not his music is his own and, because of its emotional impact, it is ours, too. His album Cities is the audio equivalent of a Cormac McCarthy novel, the way violence sounds when it's slowed down enough to be beautiful. The rest of his catalog is as wonderfully thoughtful and apocalyptic, and you can order some stuff from it right here.

"Oriel" from 2002's Lineaments

"The Road" from 2009's Cities

Our Band Could Be Your Lit on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

Next week: A story based on "Mike's Love Xexagon" by The Fall, as suggested by writer Thomas Cooper.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Grace": A story based on "Code Blue" by TSOL, as suggested by writer Matt Baker (17/100)


Most of the people who remembered Monica Kelly remembered her because she had two first names and she was dead. Will thought there was so much more to her than that, but the name and the death were the only things people ever brought up about her. Will himself remembered that her father had been the undertaker in town, running the funeral home out of the basement of his house, and that Monica looked like the people her father worked on. She wasn’t morbid or suicidal. She was just soft porcelain, shapely and white, calm as a coma.

When Will got the invitation to his ten year high school reunion, he contemplated not going, but he was more curious than spiteful. Monica Kelly had been gone for almost fourteen years and his Mohawk had been gone for about seven. All that was left was everything else.

Will had been at the reunion for over an hour and no one had recognized him yet. A few people walked by him and assumed he had shown up with his wife—the real old classmate of theirs—and had been left to fend for himself while she was away talking to old friends. He overheard one woman say to another something about that one girl who drowned freshman year, the one with the weird hillbilly-styled name, Mary Betty or something. They agreed it was a shame, a tragedy, even, and then kept eating chips and commenting on who had gotten fat, who had gotten fatter.

It had been years since Will had thought of Monica Kelly, and he hadn’t expected to hear her name that night. She came up again later on, an entire table of people trying to recall anything else about her. No one there had grown up with her. She was homeschooled until high school and even then was only with them for three months before she drowned, down in the deep, wide part of the Fever River, her ice skates sinking her to the bottom like a bullet. When Will first heard about it, he imagined her pirouetting like a drill.

The people at the table were all guessing wrong. Monica hadn’t been short by any means. She had been of average height, average weight. She had several different green shirts with the bottom hem colored in black marker. She slipped her shoes off in class and scratched the top of one foot with the bottom of another. These things were lost and Will wondered why. Had everyone done so many things before and after Monica Kelly’s death that they were able to squeeze her entire life into a non-sequitur? Will went over to the table with the yearbooks. He turned the pages of the book from his freshman year and found Monica’s picture, an inch by an inch with a timid, black and white smile in the center. He walked to the table with the people arguing, debating one inaccuracy against another, and then slammed the book down, his palm sticking to the open page.

“Monica Kelly smelled vaguely of formaldehyde and had such grace that you missed her completely,” Will said. The yearbook was splayed open on the table and Will remembered why he never bought one, from any year of high school, and looked around at the sallow eyes of the people around him, people he’s always known to have the worst qualities of both the hectic and the dull: disorganization with no eye for detail and nothing relevant to say. They turned to one another and asked loudly if the man in front of them was Will the Punk, Fuck-up Will. As they sat there figuring it out, Will walked away from them, the real corpses of his youth.



TSOL are a punk rock band from Long Beach, California. In 1988, I bet a couple metal nerd started to get into punk because they saw Steven Adler wearing a TSOL shirt in the video for "Sweet Child O' Mine." Unfortunately, Izzy Stradlin was unable to bring back the vintage Rod Stewart haircut he was sporting in the same video. In a move that I thought only happened to Ratt, LA Guns, Faster Pussycat, and other bands of that style and era, there were once two different TSOLs playing shows at the same time (sometimes in the same cities). We can get two TSOLs but not one Misfits. I call bullshit on the universe.

Matt Baker
is a writer from Kansas City who lives in Little Rock, Arkansas. He thinks the movie Repo Man is awesome and he saw Slayer a few times back in the late-80s/early-90s. He also likes Bill Hicks and Barry Hannah. As if you don't think he's exceptionally rad already, he's also a badass writer, and you can read his short short story "Frank"--which is how I found out about him--over at SmokelongQuarterly. He rarely does flash fiction, though, so you should also do yourself a favor and get his novel, Drag the Darkness Down. I'm guessing his height at about 6'2".

Our Band Could Be Your Lit on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

Next week: A story based on "Farmer in the City (Remembering Pasolini)" by Scott Walker, as suggested by musician Steven R. Smith.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sittin' In: "Buzz" by Samuel Snoek-Brown, as based on the song "Omens and Portents I - The Driver" by Earth

It's only fitting that Sam Snoek-Brown stepped up to the plate to sit in on this week's OBCBYL, as I spent a fair amount of my time away from this project reading/editing/mocking/feedbacking the stories in a collection he recently finished. (Ten years of work, but a hell of an anthology so far and only getting better. Butthole Surfers fans, stay on the lookout.) He whipped up a killer little short short about Earth's "Omen's & Portents I - The Driver" and I did some Gordon Lish style heavy-editing to it--with Sam's consent, of course.

I'll be back next week with a story based on "Code Blue" by TSOL, but for now, enjoy Sam's story (and check out his blogs).

(Also, for anyone else interested, the list of songs featured in this post still stands if anyone would like to do a story for OBCBYL in the future. I'll always take time off if it shows up.)



There had been thunder, flat as a hand, driving in the storm behind Ray, and it had reminded him of earlier, the click and the pounce and the silence. He’d left shortly afterward and had been in the old Ford for some time, almost nine hours since, with the promise of Texas hills ahead of him.

He wasn’t sure he could sleep or if he deserved it anywhere except behind the wheel. When he saw a rest stop up ahead, he felt like he’d found a church. He didn’t need confession, he just needed sanctuary. For now, sleep. Forgiveness would come later or not at all.

He parked his car and dozed in a driving position, his head leaned back against the seat. When he woke, he did so in a flash, gripping the air with all fingers. He blinked and looked at his hands, remembering the way the white noise we all hear every day—the hum of lightbulbs and refrigerators—grew louder in his head, like a bright pang of reverb, and then snapped off in an echo.

A door opened and closed behind him. Ray sat up and cranked the car. The sun had just stuck up over the hills as the starter whined and quit. He scooted forward in his seat and turned the key again. Nothing else happened. He tried the radio. Static. Silence. Again.

He thought about the car that woke him, but when he turned in his seat to find it he saw it was a state trooper’s. He squinted his eyes and saw the seats were empty. He pulled on the door handle and eased out of his car, left his door open. Stubby cedar trees dropped down a slope behind the rest stop. A tangle of barbed wire outlined the woods.

“Can I help you?” the trooper asked from the restroom doorway, a paper towel still in his hands.
Ray swallowed and blurted out, “Battery’s dead.”

“Don’t you worry none,” the trooper said. “Got some cables, I’ll give you a jump.”

As they stood between the open hoods, the trooper’s engine running and Ray’s battery charging, the trooper said, “Arizona plates? You drive all this way by yourself?”

“My wife,” he said. He had left her on the floor, head broken and limp as a single plum in a plastic bag. Her neck turned purple before he even made it out the door. Ray felt, but did not hear, the slight crunch of her throat in his hands, like a beetle under his foot. “She’s back home.”

The trooper nodded, said, “Shoot, I wish sometimes I could get away myself.”

Ray’s stomach churned. Blood throbbed in his brain, bile jumped into his throat and burned. Sweat poured from his messy, oily hair and dripped all down his arms. When he opened his mouth, he vomited in a spray that splattered the trooper’s pants and car. Ray himself fell down alongside the vomit, and nearly beat it to the ground. The trooper jumped back and cussed, then said, “Listen, sir, no offense, but you been drinking?”

Ray coughed twice, gripped the trooper’s shoulder, and pulled himself up to his knees. “No sir, I’ve just been driving all night to get here.”

“Well, I feel a little woozy after a double night shift m’self. I guess that and the heat must of done it to you.”

Ray nodded along, anything to explain himself. The tropper insisted Ray not drive just yet and offered to take him the twenty miles into town and back. Ray was in no position to decline, though he tried faintly to do so.

As they stood there waiting for the battery to finish charging, Ray stared at the shotgun perched between the front two seats. The trooper spoke into the microphone clipped to his epaulette, and he was writing something, then he opened the back door for Ray.

They pulled out from the rest stop, the sky behind the car, back west, roiling dark and thick. Little flashes jumped in the clouds and the trooper said, “It’s something, ain’t it? It’s all one system, I think. Pretty sure it started east of California, just inside Arizona. You must of been just ahead of it the whole way.”

Ray thought of his wife eyes bulged in their sockets, the vessels an absurd red. The living room furniture lay in ruins around her. Two flies moving through the dust mites.

It was so silent then.


Earth is a band that used to play really loud, heavy-as-fuck power drone music until guitarist/leader Dylan Carlson took too many drugs (and then stopped taking drugs). Then all the songs became like the background music to a western made in Hell. One time, while listening to Earth 2, I thought my brain stopped working. It was that awesome. This song is from the 2008 album The Bees Made Honey In the Lion's Skull, which I played one time for a girlfriend who said, five minutes into the first song, "So it's pretty much just this for 45 minutes?"

Samuel Snoek-Brown is a Texan living in the Middle East. He owns over 400 bolo-ties. He has been known to write short fiction, with his most well-known story being "Orgasm In French." He put out a poetry chapbook as an undergrad. I think one dude bought it (collector's item, bro). Due to "a few" streaks of grey in his hair, he refers to himself as "the Anderson Cooper of literary fiction." Here's a link to some of his stories, all of which should be required reading for any writer worth their weight in free trade coffee and black berets. He runs a blog about smiley faces and I'm pretty sure I saw him wearing a Rusted Root shirt once. Everything else about him is unknown.

Our Band Could Be Your Lit on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

Next week: A story based on "Code Blue" by TSOL, as suggested by writer Matt Baker.