Below you will find the results of my having challenged myself for a number of days to write a short story with a beginning and middle and an end inside of 30 minutes. Here is what I came up with. I hope you like it.
I borrowed an old Martin acoustic and Dee Dee’s brother, Robert, sang. Folk-y, trippy stuff. Syd Barrett. Robert Wyatt. Skip Spence. Skip James. You get the idea.
Henry quit the band, so we replaced him with Dee Dee’s cat, Brick.
Henry was a shitty guitar player – great taste, no talent. He knew all the names to drop and all the magazines to read. He was tone-deaf and fumble-fingered, and he acted like he doing the world a favor every time he plugged in his amp.
He owned – of course – a few Fender Jazzmasters and Jaguars that were ‘tuned’ arbitrarily. He never got the hang of barre chords, so he leveled the playing field by randomly arranging the strings so that no-one could ever have fucking idea how to play the things. Mutually assured destruction, it seemed.
At first, it was just Robert and I. I wasn’t a real hotshot guitar player; live, we sounded pretty thin. Dee Dee knew a kid who went to Oberlin, Henry, who was ‘into the same stuff as” we were. He had moved back to RI, recently, and wasn’t doing much.
Henry ran the Fenders into a Marshall Bluesbreaker combo by way of about a dozen different effects pedals. I think he had three or four delays going at once. He would rub his fingertips against the strings, blow on the strings, coax out strange harmonics. It sounded OK. It definitely thickened out the sound; Robert and me sounded like were competing to be heard over a big air conditioner.
Henry was a heavily into dictating how people perceived him. He claimed, alternately, to have autism and to possess shamanistic powers. He insisted he had lived with guys from The 13th Floor Elevators on a communal ranch in Texas. He was a chess prodigy who corresponded with Gary Kasparov.
He also claimed to have a ‘black bowl’ of violence inside him that could erupt at any moment. He had no control over this bottled up fury. He informed us many times that he was doing everything in his power to protect the world from the effects of his explosive, possibly dangerous, temper, and, if only for that, we should buy him lunch.
Sometimes, during practice, when things maybe weren’t going his way, Henry would twitch and hiss like a stage actor turning into Mr. Hyde. Evidently, he was warning us that his black bowl of animosity runneth over, and that we should be careful.
Robert punched Henry, one night. Knocked him the fuck out. Henry was doing his misunderstood genius routine, and Robert had lost a small amount of cash at the office football pool. Henry spun some yarn about giving John Fahey a ride to McDonald’s and Robert called him on it. Henry screwed his eyeballs up, started hooting, and Robert belted him the mouth.
The next day, we found a note taped to the door of the practice space. It was covered in runes and symbols. Henry had neglected to take his equipment, however. Left everything behind.
Dee Dee would sometimes sleep at the practice space when her mom was getting too Holy Rollery around the apartment. She’d bring Brick, a Scottish fold, along with her. Robert and I decided to stay with Dee Dee at the space, just in case Henry decided to return.
Brick curled up and fell asleep on one of the Jazzmasters, and the overdriven pickups somehow amplified his purring. It sounded sick! We took to dropping acid and listening to Brick as he crawled around the neck of a guitar, plucking at the strings with his paws. It sounded better than anything Henry had ever done.
Nowadays, most of our audience consists of intense hippie chicks who politely tolerate Robert and I while they stare at Brick. He’ll rub his tummy against the whammy bar and this nocturnal howl will emerge from the old Bluesbreaker. All the girls in the audience will go “awwwwwwww…”
Henry got arrested for smuggling. Ah, fuck him.