Music Soaked: His Perfect, Little Life

This is the second in a series of short stories written to music. His Perfect, Little Life was written while listening to Leadbelly’s Absolutely the Best.

Clark’s life was perfect. A harsh sun beat down on Clark’s face just the way he liked. A soothing breeze kept him feeling cool under the sun’s blanket. His beautiful wife brought him a ice cold glass of tea.

A sea of golden crop rolled out like a red carpet in front of Clark’s home. He owned all that he could see. Small, insignificant bodies moved about through his fields. Picking. Planting.

He sipped at his drink letting the ice meet his lips in a lavish ceremony of joy. His wife placed her hand on his shoulder. It was the touch of love.

It was perfect. Clark chuckled to himself because he couldn’t believe it. Clark met Gale when she was fourteen. He’d been seventeen. He’d rarely gone to school in his childhood so he hadn’t know practically anyone outside the plantation.

He met her at a town shindig. The dance was starting and Clark was never a shy one. The way Gale’s eyes pierced his soul like she knew him even before she met him melted his heart the first time they locked eyes. He asked her to dance and after that his heart never healed.

That was a long time ago, and the truth was Clark hardly remembered a time in his life without Gale. Twenty years later and their firstborn was getting married. Beautiful babies grow up the fastest. She’d met the perfect fella. They’d be happy together.

Clark got up from his deck chair and stretched his arms out. His limbs ached with a bitter hope filled anguish. He turned to his wife and smiled.

Nothing needed to be said. He knew she was worried about the wedding. He nodded to her reassuringly. It would all be OK.

Clark walked with her through their swinging doors into their newly painted home and put on a record. He set the needle and a crooning dark voice came on through the phonogram. He closed his eyes and listened to the hum in the background.

The man sung about a woman, and it should have been sad, but records like these never sounded sad. They never sounded happy either. They sounded perfect. Clark swayed lazily from side to side and met his wife in the middle of the room where they took each other’s hands.

They stepped from side to side, partners in a lifelong dance. The way they moved was beyond the music. They knew their steps. They knew the song. The record was a matter of extravagance.

The record spun down and the dance stopped as quickly as it had begun.

“I love you,” said Clark who always felt the need to say it.

Behind Gale’s head, Clark watched the sun begin to set through an open window. There was a hole in the sky. It stretched it’s black tendrils hungrily, and it scared him more than anything in the world. It scared him because he knew what it meant.

“What is it, honey?” asked Gale.

“Nothing,” said Clark pulling Gale close so she wouldn’t be able to look.

He knew she couldn’t see it, but he still couldn’t stand her to look. It would hurt him too much. To see her searching for the one thing they couldn’t share. The one everlasting wedge between them.

A voice interrupted them. Their servant, Lorylenne.

“Ah, Mr. and Ms. Harding. Dinner’s ready,” she said.

“Thank you Lorylenne,” said Clark. “We’ll be to in a few.”

Lorylenne made her retreat.

“Shall we?” said Clark.

Gale swallowed and held up a gloved hand.

“It’s just,” she said. “It’ll be the last dinner at home with Hannah.”

She was so worried; so loving. Clark loved that about her.

“Honey, that just isn’t so. She’ll come back to visit us lots after the wedding. You’ll see.”

“I know. I know. Alright, I suppose we should go.”

Clark took his wife’s arm and lead her through the house to the dining room. Clark stood at the helm of the table while his wife took her spot on the far end of the table as was proper. Soon enough Hannah and Henry found their way in as well. They exchanged pleasantries. Then Andy and Susan, his too younger children arrived at the table too.

“Finally. The scamps arrived,” said Clark.

“Come on, Dad,” said Andy in his high prepubescent voice.

Susan gave him a look. Even without boys around she didn’t want to be made fun of. He supposed she thought it made it more likely to happen when there were boys around. Not that she had anything to worry about. She’d gotten her mother’s genes. Any man would be lucky to so much as look at her.

“Alright. Everyone please sit,” said Clark.

Lorylenne served everyone a small glass of amber liquid.

“What’s this father?” asked Hannah.

“Well, it is a special occasion,” said Gale.

“That’s right…” said Clark. His daughter glowed. “I have something to say…” He raised his glass. “Hannah…”

White light from outside hit his glass and refracted into his eyes. He winced. His body felt heavy. He tried to fight it. He thought if he thought about his family hard enough he’d be allowed to stay. He tried to resist it, but the harder he struggled the more it hurt.

The world shook, and broke apart. He watched as his loved ones were torn into thousands of pieces in front of him. His baby girl, and his wife. His hard working boy. His pride and joy. Everything he’d ever worked for. It all was torn out from under him like his life was just some cheap trick.

Because it was.

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Music Soaked: Crabs

Crabs is the first short story I wrote in a series asking how music influences my writing. It was written while listening to Big Star’s #1 Record/Radio City.

Crabs. They sit on the bottom of the tank and make it look easy. Their tough skin and rough shells don’t give even under tens of thousands of gallons of water. Under that immense pressure and without air. And they just sit there like lazy pieces of crap. But I’m sure their calm. These crabs have never had a bad day in their lives.

Crabs don’t get angry. Crabs don’t get lonely. Honestly. Where did “crabby” come from. Crabs aren’t crabby. These crabs don’t have anything to want for. Their lives are set as long as people keep coming to the aquarium.

I tap on the glass between our worlds. They don’t even care. I stare at them bathing in their blue heaven.

My radio crackles on and a man’s garbled voice tells me that C block is secure and that he’s headed off. I give him a quick, friendly acknowledgment. I walk out of the room and lock it up.

In the next exhibit I catch my reflection in the glass of an electric eel tank. A clean shaven man with enough hair and wrinkles a little uncommon for his age looks back. Big gritty bags under the eyes. The grey blue uniform reminds me of all the filth I have to clean. Filth the American middle class left me personally because what is life without some brown smeared on the wall.

I keep staring. There’s something in my eyes that I haven’t seen before. A question.

I think it’s that I haven’t looked at myself in a while. I haven’t stopped to see a sunrise in a long time.

It’s weird at a time like this that I suddenly think about a little black notebook I used to have. No, wait. I still have it. It’s somewhere around here.

That book is all the way from back in high school. Got it from a friend. My memory sucks.

It wasn’t a diary. Nothing in it was quite fact. Though calling what I scribbled fiction would be insulting to the form. It was back when I thought I could write. I’d transcribe a lot of the adventures Rodrigo, Matthew, Stephen and I used to have when we played D&D. I almost bust out laughing, but I remember where I am.

I walk over to the light well in my office and start shutting off the lights one by one. There’s still more to do, but I’d rather do it in the dark.

I wonder what I’d think about those simplistic story lines and the non-characters that filled them. Stephen always forgot he was supposed to be a refined elf out of his element. Most notably when he decided to stab the prince of the kingdom randomly while the rest of them were trying to help him solve what had happened to said prince’s father. He wasn’t popular around the table the next few weeks.

There’s no way those scribbles held up in any way. There was other stuff though. I remember typing a few manuscripts, but they were garbled nonsense. Stephen had read them. He said they were good. No one else read them. No one else really knew they existed.

And after high school? There was that coffee shop on Stark that I used to get tea at. Man I used to scribble away in there. That place was great. They never played any damn radio, and there were always cute girls to steal glimpses at. Is that place still around?

I can’t even remember what I wrote. Or what I thought I was doing. Where did I think that was going?

Not this job. No, not here.

The key ring feels hot against my fingers. Better finish up.

Under the dim skylight’s glow, I lock up the remaining rooms and scrub down the bathroom. I’m well suited to that kind of thing, so it doesn’t take long.

As I take off my latex disposable gloves, I get a call on my phone. It’s Robbie.

“Hello?” I say tossing my gloves at the garbage bin and missing.

“Dad? Are you running on time?”

Crap. I pick up the gloves and then dunk them into the garbage hitting my hand against the bin. That’ll probably bruise.

“No. Sorry. I’m almost out of here.”

“K. Dad you don’t have to come.”

“I said I was gonna come right?”

“Dad. You hate concerts.”

Sweaty people banging into you all night with subpar music? What’s not to love.

“Dad I’ll just go…”

I swallow. I’m being rejected by my son and it doesn’t even feel weird or wrong.

“Go do something you want to do,” said Robbie. “I’ll be fine.”

I walk into my office and fumble around with my key ring for a minute.

“Dad?”

“Oh. Yeah. You’re right. Have fun, and don’t do anything stupid.”

“Yeah dad.”

He hangs up, and I stare at the phone for a second. Then I find the key to the second drawer of the desk. The key clicks in and out slides the desk. There’s a little black notebook buried under a trash heap of expired coupons and unopened letters. I take it in my hand. It’s so light.

I open it up and see a stick figure drawing I did in high school. There’s no telling what it was supposed to be.

A smile creeps on to my lips as I flip through the pages quickly. I need somewhere to look this over. I ask my phone to find me all the coffee shops in the area.

I’m not a crab. I need this.