short stories

Home Again

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I believe when people don’t have much, they welcome nice things. Unlike The Fortunate, that often like to act in their play of life, as of people that don’t have much. And no, when I say ‘nice things’, I’m not referring to a hot car or a flashy watch. It’s more that one wants to come home to a kind house, clean clothes, enough food, and not just the bottom shelf food at that.

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4:30AM . We were heading home once again, all sitting up, looking out onto a silent and still Boston. We all share a feeling of happiness to be home mixed with a sadness deep in our stomachs and throats to have even left in the first place. Our love for Boston is great. Slowly we dropped each man off. Separating from the group is always tough after a long expedition; the silence is eerie and short conversation, clumsy. One of the men and myself were the last ones to get home. And truly, it’s not my home, it’s his, but there’s a bedbug infested couch that I’m to collapse on for two nights and I was only two miles away from it.

We parked the van in the deep collect in the driveway. Hopping out, Boston’s sharp, biting air threw us into survival panic. Oh, how quickly our New England skin relaxes to the warmth of indoors and toughens when tossed outside again.

Of course, the last man of our tribe, rightfully assumed I’d have the front door open by the time he latched up the trailer and locked down our exhausted van. But, with the complete loss of feeling in my fingertips, I was nothing but a fear-driven teenager in a slasher movie, illiterate in the functions of using one’s house keys. I had to reassure myself that if I kept enough pressure on my first knuckles, they would somehow relay a message to my fingertips to turn the key. This was one of the rare moments my body was so angry with me, that it was reminding us both who was the real operator of this complex appendage.

Like most men my age, the last man thought he could get the job done faster on drive alone. Now stood two exhausted, bouncing, Boston boys, laughing / cursing, fumbling with their temper-testing house keys, as our half zipped up bags lay in the snow, collecting a nice new light coat from above.

Where could I find warmth? I found it by sticking both hands in my mouth and desperately exhaling warm breath on what used to be my fingers, a small amount of blood could slip down my first knuckle and will the key slightly to the left for a successful unlatching of the front door. Success. We danced inside with the grace of a first year Inuit modern dance class student.

The trash was as generous as the skunk cabbage in my father’s swamp. It lay ankle to chin deep. If filthiness is ever commended, the gang I run with in Boston have given it a new talent.

Yes, there were trash bags filled, the product of a brief moment of motivation. But now they lay open, almost guilty looking, as if it were they who were accused of vomiting up the filth. My good friend Todd’s underwear and socks hung on the coffee table drenched in beer and leftovers. There was no way to tell exactly what the leftovers were. The only name that could suit it would be, chinese-freeto-pizza.

The last man let out a long, fully sodden breath and went up to his room to inspect the damage. “Hopefully, there’s no one doin’ it in my bed”, he said, as he made his final tour exit.

Without taking my coat or my backpack off, I began to push the trash about. I grabbed one of the trash bags and began to clean off the table. The scattered change wouldn’t come off; it was coated with sugar-beer shellac. This new, powerful shellac coated the entire makeshift coffee table, eating up the covers of different magazines, playing cards, and cigarette boxes, forever documenting they’re existence.

I remember getting word from the road that the couch given to us by a fan was now, indeed, full of bed bugs. This couch was Todd’s favorite place to watch late night movies, but after getting bitten so many times by bugs, I hear he now uses the chair. No matter, it was now 5:00AM and I wasn’t about to sleep on the sticky wooden floor.

So, I looked under and behind the small couch and found the ‘smiley face’ yellow sleeping bag no one has ever owned up to. I then made a nice little area, free of trash, but not odor, and finally lay down. Every muscle thanked me by fully relaxing and falling asleep before me. My senses, however, scanned around in disgust. They could see what my muscles could not. No matter, I was in heaven.

Sleep.

I woke around 5:30AM to Todd discovering me. Todd doesn’t sleep, he never has. I thought that if I kept the blanket over my head and avoided eye contact, the four-hour drinking reunion was avoidable.

“Hey, buddy, when’d you get in?”

“Just now”, I said.

“Who is that?” from his bedroom.

“Baby, this is my best friend, wanna Pabst, or are you hittin’ it?”

“SSAK,” Todd opened a can, he was having a drink no matter what I was inclined.

I was wondering if the young girl’s voice was the girl I had met before tour. Or could it be some new girl I hadn’t yet met. No matter, I gave her no “hello.”

“No, man, I’m just gonna hit it,” I said under my warm drinking shield, “Tomorrow though, we’ll hit up Charlie’s.”

Todd was satisfied; he loves any talk of an outing to Charlie’s…Oh Charlie’s is a seedy bar in Harvard Square where young people research degenerates like us. My last view was of Todd heading back to his room and of my silly feet at the end of the couch.

Sleep.

I woke30 minutes later to someone slamming the door with a small fist. My roommate Johnny Trouble came down the stairs in his boxers, sleepy and annoyed.

“Oh shit! Hey bro”, he said to me. We hugged, then look at the door. “Man I be that’s Todd’s ex.

BAME BAME BAME!

“TODD OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR. OPEN THE FUCKI…TODD! TODD!”

“Shit”, Johnny Trouble and I said in unison, stepped away from the door and took a seat on the couch.

Todd busted out of the room handing us all cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, opening them as he did it. He sat the girl in his room next to me and handed her a can as well, but not before taking a big long chug from it.

“Hi”, she said. She was sleepy, small and confused.

“Hi”, I said close to her. “Hey I’m just saying, if this is the girl that I know, stick close by me, she’s really tough. She give a new talent to daaamn meeean.”

The door banged and banged and the screams got more frantic and insane.

Todd opened the door and the ex-girlfriend sprang in like she had been pushing the door.

“Where the fuck is she.” First she check Todd’s room, when dashed to the bathroom, then dashed up the stairs, to the upstairs bathroom. She found nothing. Coming down the stairs with power she approached Todd. “Where the fuck is she Todd?” Then she slowly looked over at Johnny Trouble, Todd’s new girl and me. She sussed it out. “You. Uh, Uh, nope, no way.” She said as she made her way over the coffee table. “This is my house.” She grabbed the confused girls wrist, dragged her over the table, dragged her across the room and out the door.

Us men just sat there looking at one another. We all kind of smiled in fear. Slowly Johnny Trouble and myself rose from the couch drinking and we all walked to the front door. There we say the Ex-girlfriend tossing the new one half in the bushes, half against the van, fully in the now powdery snow, then storming back inside, slamming the door so hard the house shook and locking all the locks on the door. She then went into Todd’s room and slammed his door shut as well.

“Did you just get in now?”, Johnny Trouble asked as we both took are seats again. Todd lit a cigarette, grabbed my beer for a long sip and made a defeated look as he went toward the front door.

“DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT GOING OUT SIDE TOOODD”, Todd’s Ex screamed.

Then Todd turned around and went in his room.

“Night” he said dreadfully.

Watching him I though, ‘Well, Todd still lives dangerously.’

Johnny and I talked until our cans were done; we both were happy to see one another, but we’d catch up later. What was on both of or front burners was being unconscious once again.

Sleep.

Morning. I pulled myself up and scratched the five-day-old beard I had grown. I spotted an old water someone had left, but not finished, I killed it. However, my throat, my brain, and my body needed more. I reached for a full bottle of cranberry juice, what a score, and took a couple impressive, desperate gulps. It was too late for my taste buds to relay the encrypted message that there was more vodka in the bottle than cranberry juice, but they tried as fast as they could. It was too late, I guess I was now partying.

My bare feet blackened as I made sticky steps to the kitchen. It was as if someone poured glue on the floor and was having a laugh at me.

To make my other buddy from the house a bedroom, I poorly nailed to the kitchen ceiling an enormous blue tarp, which now drapes down, making him a makeshift wall. But, the six extra feet at the base of the tarp sit piled up on the floor. We all talk about cutting it, but never do. I tripped on it, of course, confused, forgetting the ways of the house and banged my knee on the open bathroom door. But I didn’t forget really, that’s just an excuse. I simply get confused in the morning; I trip on it all the time.

The kitchen looked like a cabbage patch of open trash bags over flowing. If you have ever seen the movie Aliens, it was similar to the scene where Ripley found the room full of open alien eggs. I noticed that every single dish, bowl, glass, Tupperware product, pan, and skillet was used and then stacked. The kitchen was one big ashtray, an orgy of rotting food and cigarettes. I opened the fridge in the hope of finding a half drunk Gatorade. Todd, for some reason, only drinks half of his beverages. But, when I opened the refrigerator door there wasn’t a small wave of coolness, it was a big wave of warmth and the most offensive odor I have come across to this day. In the first three minutes of being awake I hadn’t noticed that all the trash bags were full of rotting leftovers, eggs and milk. The fridge had been empted for a reason I still don’t know. I found the Gatorade I was looking for on the floor next to the old broom.

Ironic, huh?

I had to get moving, because I had a big day of going to get a haircut. I hadn’t talked to my father or mother for about two weeks and thought I remembered them saying they wanted to have dinner when I got home or was it for me to watch the house for them – I had forgotten. Either way I knew they asked for me to come home and one must look nice for Mum. However the hair cut would have to be paid for not with money, because I only had enough dosh for a bus ride, a subway ride, and a train ticket home.

“How was he to pay for a haircut?” an observant person might ask.

Well, the way the underground-lower class of Bostonians work is ‘trade within jobs’. If I worked in a club, I’d let you and your friends in for free. In return if I needed a pair of new sneakers you’d give me your employee discount. Got it? Well, Will’s girlfriend Gillian knows how to cut hair, so I grabbed two new records of the group I run with and a small T-shirt to trade for a cut. But I figured I should shower, so I don’t lose the deal on account of my offensive body odor.

The last time I had a shower was in Tallahassee and that was more days ago than I’m keen on admitting, so it was time to wash up. After tour, a long tour, the first shower home reminds me of the old western movies when the band of cowboys stop in at a town’s brothel and draw a hot bath to wash away any remembrance of their excursion.

I sludge up the stairs finishing up Todd’s Gatorade, but when I enter the bathroom I see that it doesn’t have a trash barrel anymore. The back of the toilet is now used for discarding used products. So, I let my empty bottle slide down the mountain of toilet paper rolls, used tissues, boxes of new toothpaste, pizza crusts, old beers and, I guess, someone in the house has a girlfriend now. I place me empty ‘Mountain Extreme’ Gatorade bottle on the top of the pile, it rolls down and out the doorway.

The floor was coated with wet magazines and brown molded towels. That brown scum in the toilet, similar to the scum found in abandoned truck-stop bathrooms, had managed to coat the floor, walls and sink. A movie director would have said that his set designers went too far trying to emulate a junkie’s bathroom.

However, my shower was divine, I stayed in there for at least forty-five minutes.

In the shower there were wet boxes of old products on the floor and on the shelf. The ink that labeled each box ran and stained the shower walls and floor, similar to a crying drunk girl’s running mascara. I combed through the wet boxes looking for a bit of soap. Under the sopping Zest soap box, (yah I didn’t know they still sold Zest either), was a piece of soap no bigger than half a dog biscuit. That piece of soap cleaned my entire body.

After the good wash, I threw on the same cloths and slicked my hair back in a manageable 1950’s pompadour. The way Pop does. As I walked downstairs, I eyed the crate of food that the last man was damn smart to bring in. The crate, well I should say the smashed plastic basket, was given to us in Texas by a fan, regrettably I never met her – so I don’t know her name. It was full of chips, cookies, and other snackable treats. But, I remember seeing some cans of Chef Boyardee raviolis in there one hungry night.

It was only seconds before I was back in the kitchen combing for a can opener. It was where I expected it to be, at the bottom of an old Tupperware bowl, covered and camouflaged by floating macaroni, used matches and cigarette butts.

When a can is frozen, the interior food doesn’t just slide out like we’re all used to, and the use of a plastic fork can only pathetically chip at the frozen future Petco breakfast. All and all, I managed, and dined on, warm in some places frozen in others, ravioli.

I headed out, the first time a lone in a long time. I took the 66 bus to Coolidge Corner and met up with Gillian. I asked her to cut my long hair like Calvin from Calvin and Hobbs. She did just that. It was about then that I realized I had bedbugs bites on my ankles, neck, fingers, and hipbone. They itch like a bitch, I mean, not as bad as poison ivy, but a bitch just the same. I hid them from Gillian.

After the cut, I took the subway to the commuter rail to catch the 2:00PM train home and I was scratching all the way.

Sitting on the train heading home with my bag beside me and my eyes closed, I received a message from one of the men.

“Mexico is on, are you in? So it will be Canada, The States, then Mexico for a week. Can you be ready in 2 days ?”

“Of course I can”, I wrote back.

From the book: The Modern American Gypsy coming soon

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14 & Stealing

Kids will always do dumb things, mean things, even destructive things, without thinking of the consequences or the affect their actions may have on others. I was one of those kids.

When I was young and a ‘headbanger’, my friends and I would occasionally walk over to Gordon Conwell, a college for future ministers. We would snack on their frozen snicker bars, their hamburgers, and their sodas. When it came time to pay, the trusting cafeteria would only have a basket, leaving it up to the hungry passersby to leave the correct amount of cash; the honor system.

I believe I was raised well, always worrying about the uncomfortable kid at the party or helping the unknowing spider relocate when house painting. Yet, when you are 14 and Skid Row, Motley Crüe, and Iron Maiden are telling you that you are “The youth gone wild,” there is a certain criteria you must meet to be as “badass” as them.

Not only would we eat all Saturday for free but we would snatch a couple of bills–well more like most of the bills–out of the trust basket. The students dining would only occasionally look over: They knew, and we knew they knew. We were “the youth gone wild”.
Not only would we have about 12 bucks in our pockets, but we would snatch a couple candy bars for that night’s slasher movie – Freddy, Jason and Mr. Myers were all a good way to end a thieving day.

I wish this was the end of my story, but it is only the start.

Hitting 14, we, of course, needed to start our own Heavy Metal band. It was clear to us that it was our job to keep the youth, like ourselves – wild. So we needed instruments, microphones, cables and amps.

Santa provided me with a shabby drum set and my friends with second-hand guitars. But, we didn’t have anything to sing through. Jesus and pals would have to provide that. So it was back to the priest school. We searched diligently class room after class room, sanctuary after sanctuary and received wary looks from students that weren’t quite sure why four small, pimpled-faced boys, all dressed in black shirts with blood-soaked corpses on the shirts, would be in the house of God. Or, why were they looking behind every podium.
Now that I am an adult, I will always remind myself that no matter how good a hiding space I think I have found, NOTHING can be hidden from a bored young boy.

We found all the microphones and chords, adapters and stands under a few different pews, near where the minister stands, to his side, to his left, in a hutch. They where hidden well, wrapped in a blanket; it only took 4 minutes to get everything in our backpacks and only 10 minutes to run home. They must not have known that all four of us had seen the movie Goonies 12 times. The band had its gear, thanks to Santa Claus, Jesus and his pals on earth.

I remember one day my Mom calling me down after there was a knock at the door. She said, “Davy, there was a man here telling me to not let you and the boys over to the Conwell because you are shoplifting candy. Is this true?”

I said, “No.”

“I thought not,” she said. “I told him that you didn’t”.

It’s never fun to lie to your own trusting mother, now is it? But there would need to be sacrifices to make a wild Heavy Metal band that would be the next to take over the world.

Mom would understand, wouldn’t she? I mean, after I bought her that yellow convertible VW bug she always wanted, she would definitely chuckle about that one li’l white lie of stealing from Jesus.

A year later, in high school, a teacher that thought I needed some extra attention took me out to teach me photography. I believe he was trying to get me into a nice hobby – keep the boy out of trouble, spend quality time together, and make sure I was okay. Sometimes us dyslexic kids can get frustrated and give up on the system that doesn’t know how to handle us. So, Mr. Jones and I went to this other priest school-type place.

While Mr. Jones showed me how the camera worked and explained that any shot I liked was a “good shot”, I happened to see a small acoustic guitar leaning against a lone tree. I took a picture of it and a mental snapshot.

After the Big Brother session Mr. Jones drove me home. I then walked 5 miles back to where the guitar was and took it. Not only did I take the guitar, I even took five dollars from the donation plate, held by a statue of the Virgin Marry, that I noticed on the way out.
Old habits are beginning to form and becoming hard to break. I know what you’re thinking…but hey, you weren’t a part of the Heavy Metal, youth gone wild movement.

On the walk home I thought to myself, ‘Wow, that’s so nice, they keep a guitar around for anyone to play. But man, how dumb of them, somebody is bound to take it and what if it rained? I’m never going to treat this guitar so foolishly. It’s a good thing I took it.’
“Where’d you get the guitar?” my Mom asked.

“I found it,” I said as I ran up to my room to tune her up and give her a couple of strums. My Mom has always trusted me and even though sometimes she shouldn’t have, the fact that she unconditionally trusted me has stuck with me my whole life, and is one of the reasons I am writing this story now. Guilt brought on by a trusting mother can turn a wayward man back to an honest life.

So the band played. We wrote songs, we played dances, we recorded demos, we even played the annual 4th of July town fair.

Our name: TWISTED REALITY.

High school ended and with a couple scholarships, I went on to Berklee College of Music. I graduated with a double major in Music Business with an entrepreneur direction and Music Production & Engineering. The plan was, “We’ll record our own music and put it out ourselves.”

I started a new band, BIG D AND THE KIDS TABLE, and with the same guitar wrote songs, and with the same mics, sang at practice. We played clubs, we got a little popular, we recorded a full-length record at a studio when it was closed at night with our friend who worked there and even went on little tours.

A year later we toured the entire States, then toured them again, and again and again, selling our record that we recorded ourselves. We even played Canada. Then went to England, Wales, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Spain, Mexico, and more. People liked the songs we wrote and told me so. They told me that the words helped them out in life and that meant a lot to me. We were pretty popular now, we were young and we were – wild.

But, ten years later, I finally learned through all my traveling, and with meeting all types of people, that stealing to shape your self image of ‘wild’ is simply off target. And things have come back to me now, kids stealing my disc man, clothes, hats, money, computers and many other things, when they sneak back stage at our concerts. So, where does that leave me, where does that leave this?

Well, today is Thanksgiving. I played a show four hours away from my home last night and didn’t get home until 4:00AM. It is now 4:30AM and I’m tired of writing this. No matter though, because I have to do something important while I’m home for this one day, something I had been thinking about for over a year now.

Awhile back, I bought a nice cordless microphone for about 200 bucks. Now with guilt, regret and the longing to set things straight, I’m heading over to that school to lay the microphone down on the podium, the same podium I haven’t seen in 12 years. On my way out, I’m going to drop $20.00 in the trusting basket and leave this letter. You might be asking yourself why, and to answer you, I’ll say this…

…don’t be someone who sings, “I wish I knew what I know now, when I was younger”, do your best to be wise and to do the right thing while you’re in your young moment. Try not to make excuses of why it’s okay to steal things from other people for your own selfish benefit. The fact is, I didn’t ever feel ‘wild’; I felt like a little shmuck.

Now, I’m not a doctor of any type of human psychology, but I think that we all feel better about ourselves when we do good things, make people laugh, or create things people enjoy, I’ve seen it in the eyes and smiles of the most brutish men. I also believe, deep down, that we all feel a little cheap when we take, thieve and steal.

But hey, do what you like.

I myself, already feel a whole lot better about who I am as a man and I haven’t even left yet. I read once, “Honesty is the best legacy” and believe that’s true. I’m going to wrap this up now; the sun is rising.

I’m off…

Gordon Conwell, please accept this microphone as a late trade and please accept my apology. I am very sorry to have troubled you all.

David McWane

From the book: Let The Poets Come And Stop Me coming soon

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