Sunday, April 24, 2011

"Things That Are Glacial, Things That Are Gone": A story based on Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber, as suggested by writer Stephanie Momot (31/100)

Things That Are Glacial, Things That Are Gone



Samuel Barber was a composer. Now he's dead.

Stephanie Momot is a writer from Platteville, WI. I remember when she was 13 and got into an argument with me (I was 24) about how she read Little Women when she was 12 and thought it sucked. I thought she was a bit of a snot, but she turned out to be an all right kid and a hell of a dedicated reader/writer.

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Next week: A story based on "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" by Bob Dylan, as suggested by musician Patrick Fleming of The Poison Control Center.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

"We Expected Angels": A story based on "Step Right Up" by The Constellations, as suggested by writer T.S. Mallow (30/100)

We Expected Angels

Two shots of adrenaline straight into his heart and Benny’s back now, alive as ever. He plays piano once a week at any place that will have him, usually dives and usually a Monday or a Thursday, nights that last as long as the dead that they resemble. When he plays, he churns out Turkish ballads and instrumentals from porno flicks and pretty much anything else he wants.

“What’s it like to be dead?” someone asked him one night after his set.

“Death’s a black girl with blonde hair who lets you sleep at the bar,” he said.

There’s no evidence that Benny sleeps. He drinks twice as much and looks half as tired, but he’s never been caught passed out or asleep—just dead, once. Nobody knew what he meant. We expected bright lights. We expected angels. “Do you think that was heaven or do you think that was hell?” I asked.

“Dunno.” Benny picked the ice from his drink and used an index finger to drive it around in a figure-eight on the top of the table. “I don’t think it was either one, but then again, I didn’t see my tab in the morning, either.”

There are so many bars—clubs, lounges, taverns, pubs—that by the time Benny is kicked out of all of them he returns to an earlier one in the series to find that he has been forgiven for his outbursts, his incoherence, his ability to turn himself into a roadblock. When Benny himself moves, it’s always toward the same woman, the same type of woman, some girl with a loud dress, cocaine on her nose, and a mouth with too many teeth. The names are always short, one-syllable affairs, the only kind Benny has any time for: Gwens and Kims and Dawns.

His name has never been on a marquee, but he’s bigger than that too. The buzz of the lights is in his voice. When we see him downtown he’s already been kicked out of wherever he just was. “Listen,” he always says. “They’re playing my song.” I’ve heard him say that about “My Funny Valentine” and “Sympathy for the Devil.” He’s said it about hip hop songs and dance remixes. He’ll sing along no matter what it is and we’ll listen until we can’t anymore, until we have to give him some money and walk away, tell him to go get a sandwich at the gas station and a drink at a bar that hasn’t put him in the gutter yet, which is our way of saying, Benny, you’re breaking my fucking heart, man.

We’re at Deacon’s, a big shack with whiskey specials and a broken piano. When we walked in, Benny was already yelling at the waitresses and changing all the lyrics to find new ways to ask for free drinks. The only thing emptier than the bar is his tip jar. He’s sweating and teetering in his chair, the slickness of his fingers making smooth glissandos from the black keys to the white. I sit down and within seconds Benny’s eyes get a far-away look to them. He swallows a mouthful of air, cartoon-like, with his neck going forward and his face going back. His head hits the top of the piano. A chord so beautiful rings out that none of us move toward or away from him until it’s done.


The Constellations is a band from Hotlanta. Their music sounds like a dozen girls in miniskirts puking up glitter. And they obviously think Tom Waits is cool, so they've pretty much got it all going for them. Check them out, because they seem like good, talented folks--maybe they've got some awesome stories about all the killer old school wrestling that the area has spawned throughout history. Or maybe not.

T.S. Mallow is a writer from Canada. She recently had her very first publication over at one of my favorite journals, the comely Jersey Devil Press. You can read her story "Seven of Swords" right here. It too is a piece of band-lit, as it's based on some lyrics from the Bruce Springsteen song "Wild Billy's Circus Story," in accordance with the rules of the ongoing JDP project Brilliant Disguise.

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Next week: A story based on "Adagio for Strings" by Samuel Barber, as suggested by writer Stephanie Momot.

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