A Week in a Day in a Lockdown Life

A Week in a Day in a Lockdown Life

by Anisha Minocha

On Sunday, wilted blue, in some broken way

sit tired, dried eyes

which stay up till four-

waking, a dawning hope 

of becoming something more.

On Tuesday, the same she lay,

with lullabies of slumbered ideas

to alarm clocks yawning-

cocooned beneath

a damp, canvased awning.

Harsh upon rain soaked glass,

Friday’s mardy moon

left light

when it dipped too soon- 

the outside just too bright. 

At nine, or somewhere around that time,

teeth are brushed: thorough and thrice.

Followed swift by breakfast-

injected ink of paper weight pages

and sooted shards of downcast

timetable edges.

At the desk, everything had been said

originality erodes in it’s tomb:

cold, dusty,

dead.

With a half- heart, poised pen apart,

gripped between

failed words and sanity,

at home, feeling so far

from reality.

Weeks marked by times crumbled apart,

melting into the cold fever

of distorted calendars,

watch, as they fall

like a house of cards.

But think of the beauty in it all.

Static, enviable, yet achromatic

screens are watched.

Ethereal illumination,

frozen, shelves clean, pristine-

suspended from another world.

Wait. Darkness looms, a soulless slate,

Like Friday, unmoved in shadowed clouds, 

Suffocating skin that feels no wind.

Restless eyes, half closed on Keats

On this unmade bed of blank sheets.

Leaves waltz in the showered breeze,

open window. Untouched air.

Oh, to not drown in dust, sinking, 

heavy as raindrops. To float in streets,

where nature walks free.

Anisha a 17 year old writer from Manchester, passionate about poetry and the power of words. As a climate activist, I have performed spoken word poetry at the Royal Exchange Theatre in ‘Letters to the Earth’. I have also written articles on religion, social media and events in a local newspaper, as well as blogging for students and libraries.Follow my blog for regular poetry and articles: https://ajmwritesonline.wordpress.com/  Twitter: @Anisha_Jaya

Looking to submit to us? We’re accepting Poetry, Fiction, Articles and Art! Please get in touch.

A Fair Amount of Ghosts

He plays the trumpet brilliantly on the corner of Grand and Victoria. He doesn’t look like he’s from this era. He’s impeccably dressed, from his crisply fitting suit to his smooth fedora hat. There aren’t many folks that can pull that off. He’s cooler than the freezer aisle on a sweltering summer day. He performs the type of yearning melodies that give you the goosebumps. I’ve never seen anyone put any money into his basket.

There’s a formidable stone house that sits atop Fairmount Hill. It’s been for sale for as long as I can remember. The crooked post sinks deeper into the soil with each passing year. It isn’t a place to live in. It’s a place to dwell in. There’s a dusty rocking chair on the front porch. It’s always rocking. Always rocking. I’m not sure if the chair is occupied by an old soul or if it’s just the wind. Maybe it’s both. I guess the wind is an old soul.

This town is full of posters for Missing Cats. There’s one for a sweet, fluffy Maine Coon named “Bear.” He’s been gone for a while now. I’ve searched through every alleyway, under every porch, and inside of every bush for him. Sometimes I think I see him out of the corner of my eye. But then he’s not there. The rain has pretty much washed away the tattered posters. If he ever turns up, I worry that the posters will be missing.

I met the love of my life in Irvine Park, near the gloriously spouting water fountain, beneath the serene umbrella of oak trees. We spent a small piece of eternity there together. We talked about whether or not the world was coming to an end soon, and if all of our memories will be diminished along with it. After we said our goodbyes and she walked off into the distance, I never saw her again. So I left my heart in Irvine Park.

Zach Murphy is a Hawaii-born writer with a background in cinema. His stories have appeared in Peculiars Magazine, Ellipsis Zine, Emerge Literary Journal, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Ghost City Review, Lotus-eater, Crêpe & Penn, WINK, Drunk Monkeys, and Fat Cat Magazine. He lives with his wonderful wife Kelly in St. Paul, Minnesota

Looking to submit to us? We’re accepting Poetry, Fiction, Articles and Art! Please get in touch.

A King In Darkness

“Did you know that King Richard II was starved to death by his captors?” said Arabella, as Mark wandered back into the living room.

“Uh, no,” replied Mark, vaguely. Arabella could see he was distracted, as he loaded his mug very deliberately into the dishwasher. How he managed to do even the most basic thing so incredibly slowly was beyond her.

“Yes, he was imprisoned in Pontefract Castle, after being usurped by Henry, Duke of Lancaster – who became Henry IV. There’s a source in this book that says he was kept in chains and started trying to eat himself.”

“Self-cannibalisation is probably a fetish, isn’t it? I expect it would be rather alarming to Google it,” said Mark, becoming more interested, as he sat down on the sofa next to the cat.  The cat opened his eyes briefly, looked at Mark suspiciously, then closed his eyes again. It seemed that the cat wasn’t terribly interested in English history.

Arabella put down her wine glass on a little wooden tool trolley, one of Theo’s toys. A classic local mum network bargain, she’d been pleased with it – £5 and a slightly annoying drive through the suburbs to pick it up, rather than £45 new. And wooden, so it would pass muster with the plastic toy police. Theo had played enthusiastically with it for a few twenty-minute stints over a period of a couple of weeks, but didn’t seem to be particularly interested in it anymore. They kept it in place in the living room next to the sofa, referring to it affectionately as the “occasional table”. The things that you find killingly funny after having kids would surprise your pre-parent self, if you could go back in time and tell yourself. 

“It’s mad, isn’t it. All those famous history stories that we all know. Divorced, beheaded, died. My horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse. And I knew literally nothing about this king until I read this book. And it’s really salacious and gory, what happened to him. I wonder why it’s not more famous?”

Mark sat back on the sofa, watching Arabella getting more and more animated. She got all obsessive about things like this for a while, until it passed and something else piqued her interest.

Doesn’t he understand that I’ve got nothing else to do with my brain all day, she thought, waiting for him to reply, to engage in a conversation about something other than money or how tedious each of their days had been.

She sighed and got up from the armchair.

“I’ll get dinner rolling, then, shall I?”

Later, Arabella closed her eyes in bed and tried to go to sleep, but she couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d read. It was unimaginable to be so hungry that you started to eat yourself, to tear at your own limbs with your teeth. Unimaginable to be kept naked, in chains, in the dark. He must have been driven completely mad. If he wasn’t mad already, which by all accounts he may have been. Not by all accounts, actually – by that account. Which Arabella acknowledged to herself might not be true. It might be legend, or myth, or propaganda. It might be tabloid-friendly popular history, rather than weighty, properly-researched reference material.

But as she lay there next to Mark, who appeared to have fallen asleep already, she kept imagining what it would be like to never see the light. That kind of torture, without even taking the starvation into account, would be enough to break your mind into pieces. Alone in the darkness for hours and hours, days and nights merging into one. Alone with your memories and your regrets. Missing people you loved, raging against your captors and those who had betrayed you.

And there was so much to know, so much to learn. How astonishing and terrifying to think of all the things that were out there to discover, to read about. Infinite knowledge. Infinite light and infinite darkness.

Hannah is a freelance writer and blogger, who shares fiction, poetry and other ramblings at Secret Scribbles in London and ideas for living more sustainably at The Everyday Radical. She is currently also working on a strategic project with a public sector client, and is in the very early stages of writing a novel. Hannah lives in South East London with a marauding toddler, an occasionally-marauding husband and a rescue cat, known as The Fluffbeast, who believes he has a very tragic life.

Looking to submit to us? We’re accepting Poetry, Fiction, Articles and Art! Please get in touch.

My BFF Taught Me How To Drink

My BFF Taught Me How To Drink- By Kym Smith

The summer I finally got my picture ID (since I didn’t have a driver’s license yet) my best friend Kaye decided she would take me out on the town. Never mind that the last words out of my mom’s mouth were, “NO Drinking!” We were out to prove a point, by God we were going through with this thing. The plan had been in the works for quite some time, Kaye’s brother worked at a honky-tonk bar in south Ft Worth, she considered herself the authority on drinking. What I couldn’t have known and should have learned that night was this night would go down in history as the worst yet funniest drunk story in my long history of drinking; I should have learned something about mixing my alcohols, however, that lesson did not stick. I like every other teenager on the planet, considered it a rite of passage to go out drinking once I became the legal age. At that time in Texas, legal was eighteen. I had never had a drink in my life unless you consider sneaking sips from the glasses of Tom Collins I would occasionally make for my dad. My parents were champion drinkers; my mom had one of those nifty little beer coolers where the keg goes inside, and the tap is part of the bar top that makes up the cooler. She literally went into the city every week or two to the Miller Brewing Company and had her keg refilled. Or bought a new one, I was a little kid, how do I know how these things work? All I know is we accompanied her, marveling at the giant brewery and all the cool neon beer lights on display. Once we got home, she would roll the keg inside somehow and hook it up to the tap. Dad kept his liquor and bar tools on the tiny bar next to the tap. At some point, she became the proud owner of a neon beer sign, probably a gift from the management for all those years of weekly purchases. I could not even stand the smell of beer, Mom’s beers didn’t interest me, so of course, it makes total sense that the first thing I did after procuring my ID was to go purchase a six-pack of beer. Not only that, they didn’t even card me! I was incensed! Regardless, I headed back to Kaye’s car, popped the top off the first bad boy and chugged it like I knew what I was doing. It was gross, so I had another thinking it must need to “grow” on me or something. Nope, not so much. Well, of course that was not the end. Kaye had much bigger plans in store for this lucky girl. I should have been smart enough to sense the doom looming in my future, but no, I was so happy with my newfound freedom I didn’t think about what could possibly be next. The next stop was her brother’s bar, The Daily Double. I had never been to a bar before, even with my parents, in fact, I don’t remember them drinking at a restaurant or anything. They were the at-home or at a friend’s house kind of drinkers. Kaye decided it would be a good idea for me to order something called a “Wild-ass Indian,” which was a mixed drink served in a mason jar that consisted of a shot of everything behind the bar yet tasted like Kool-Aid. I was in trouble then. Walking around the bar like I was cool or something, it never dawned on me that mixing beer with liquor was going to have serious consequences. Kaye was on a mission I tell ya because the next thing I know, I’m puking in the bar’s parking lot and she offers me a cigarette, telling me it would make me feel better. This was my best friend, can I remind yall of that fact right now? I vaguely remember her brother Kent lurking around in the parking lot, possibly checking on us, and Kaye trying to hide from him. She must not have wanted him to know she was trying to corrupt me. What I did not know at the time and didn’t find out until years later was that I am also severely allergic to gin. That must have been one of the ten or so shots that went into the drink. It’s a miracle I ever touched liquor again. After the cigarette, as if I wasn’t dizzy enough already, the world

spun out of control, but I was not giving in. I refused to pussy out on what was supposed to be an epic night, so when Kaye spied the Opry House-an historic movie house at the time, I was not going to refuse the chance to see the latest hit…The Deer Hunter. Unfortunately for me, the only seats left were on the front row, so we literally had to slink as far down in our seats as we could go while staring up at the overly large screen. All that action moving in front of my eyes was evidently more than I could take, I puked again right there on the front row. Laughing at me now, Kaye escorts me to the bathroom, hanging over the stall next to me as I puked some more and asks me if I’m having a good time yet. I was too naïve to know she was messing with me, having a grand ole time at my expense, and so I said yes and that I still wanted to try and watch the movie. We found a seat further back this time, but the motion was still more than I could take, we ended up leaving before the intermission. Had I known it was going to be such a depressing flick, I would have asked for my money back. Back we went to the car which had the beer growing hot in the back seat, so Kaye could drive me home. I dreaded trying to sneak into the house, remembering the warning Mom had left us with. Somehow, I managed to play it cool, kept my head down and walked right past her to my room. She never said a thing, knowing full well I was drunk but never letting on. The next day I had a hangover from hell, she left me alone to sleep it off, never mentioning it again until days later in passing. Of course, I lied about it, I didn’t want further escapades with Kaye cut off forever. Let’s just say though for the record that I never trusted her again to order my cocktails.

Kim Smyth is a freelance blogger, a writer from the DFW Metroplex who lives at home with her hubby Dave and their three furbabies. She runs two blogs, contributes to different publications on Medium and has been published in Therapeutic Thymes and VitaBella magazines. 

Find her at https://kimmy1563.com

Looking to submit to us? We’re accepting Poetry, Fiction, Articles and Art! Please get in touch.

Overthinking

Overthinking, By Peter Wyn Mosey

Overthinking.
It's that sinking
feeling, shrinking
windows of opportunity 
commitment becomes a scarcity
my motivation in mutiny
there is no sense
I'll be sat on the fence
can't think in present-tense
because I overthink.

Peter Wyn Mosey is a freelance writer living in  South Wales.  He has written and performed comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has featured on Queen Mobs Tea House, Little Old Lady Comedy, Robot Butt,  The Finest Example, and posts most days at peterwynmosey.com  

Looking to submit to us? We’re accepting Poetry, Fiction, Articles and Art! Please get in touch.

There’s no such thing!

If you’re a parent, or a teacher, or someone who spends any time around small people, the phrase “there’s no such thing…” will no doubt have you reciting rhyming couplets about tusks and claws and teeth and jaws. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about – that’s a shame, it’s actually quite sweet poetry. Check out The Gruffalo, it’s ace).

So I’m going to say this quietly, because it’s flying in the face of the zeitgeist of the day. There’s no such thing as zero waste. Even though it’s on every lifestyle blog and featured in every weekend supplement you lay your eyes on at the moment. Live the zero waste life. 20 steps to reduce your waste. The 10 must-have zero waste beauty products. Zero waste your kitchen! (Insta-yuck).

I think that the concept of zero waste is approximately as realistic as the big, bad Gruffalo himself. And definitely more dangerous.

So what is it all actually about? Throw nothing away, ever again? The basic principle of zero waste is to send nothing to landfill. Ok, great. I think it’s not hugely controversial to say that burying huge amounts of rubbish in big holes scarring the surface of the planet is not a great idea. Landfill sites can leak methane and other dangerous gases into the atmosphere as waste breaks down, and plastic waste in landfill will cause microplastic pollution into the watercourse. All very bad. BUT. Only 24% of UK waste now goes to landfill (2017 figures, sorry… it’s ridiculously difficult to find more recent waste data for the UK online). An increasing amount is now being incinerated.

It’s also difficult to find out the absolute percentage of UK waste being incinerated – possibly 10% in EnglandPossibly 42%? (Maybe it’s hard to find this out, as these Energy Recovery Facilities are usually run by private companies?) Certainly, incineration has increased hugely in recent years. Proponents says it’s a good thing – generate heat and energy from waste, closed loop system. Bingo. (Also avoid the new landfill tax). But there are opponents too of course, raising concerns in terms of air pollution, contribution to climate change and undermining recycling. Plus, there seems to be a pretty major problem with the ash residue – it can be filtered to separate out potentially recyclable materials such as glass and metal, then used as a building material, but does it contain microplastics which will leach into the watercourses?

But the hands of local councils appear to have been forced; the UK has nowhere near the infrastructure required to keep up with its plastic recycling demands, and many developing countries are now refusing to take imports. Quite rightly. (There is a whole other article here about climate injustice and the grim post-colonial approach of outsourcing this problem overseas). So more and more waste is being incinerated.

Honestly, I’m not a waste management expert, or a physics person; I’m a mum and a blogger with an English degree who’s also done 15 years hard labour in the NHS. I don’t understand the science behind all this stuff, but I’m worried about it.

Is it better to incinerate your plastic Coke bottle, and contribute to global heating and air pollution, or put it in the recycling bin, knowing it might end up on a rubbish tip in a faraway country, or in the ocean? How can we possibly know?

So the answer is to go zero waste, right? Rid your house of plastic, replace with glass and metal. Buy your Coke in a glass bottle. Put it in the recycling and it will almost certainly be recycled in the UK, in a closed loop system, to make another glass bottle. Ace. Next?

But it’s not that simple, is it? Glass is much heavier than plastic, so uses more fuel to transport, generating more carbon emissions. Contributing to the climate crisis, undoubtedly. The glass recycling process is hugely energy-hungry. Even Coca Cola themselves have got some qualms about the current spike in sales of their glass bottled products. So, buy your Coke in a can then? Well, drinking from cans might kill you… (Actually, not really – no evidence of harm from BPA lining or aluminium “leaching” unless you drink 1000 cans of soda per day, but hey it’s a good headline, isn’t it?)

Do you really need the Coke at all? Reduce, refuse, have a minimalist lifestyle. You should probably not be having all that sugar and nasty chemicals anyway, right?

It’s actually pretty easy for me to refuse soft drinks, in whatever packaging they come. Wine, less so. We all have our vices.

The point I am trying, possibly somewhat lumberingly, to reach, is that rejecting plastic absolutely shouldn’t be the sole point. Everything has a waste impact, absolutely everything you consume or bring into your house has been transported from somewhere and been packed in a material which has a carbon footprint of some degree. Let’s not forget that paper bags are made from trees, of course, and trees basically are the only credible solution currently existing to mitigating against humanity’s carbon emissions.

Much of the zero waste discourse urges you to rid your house of plastic, along with perpetuating all the myths and scandal about plastic leaching from every surface and poisoning you and your children. Not only does this create an unachievable and intimidating aim which could seem too huge to even contemplate, but also it’s all focused on the individual. You are responsible for fixing this, because you throw too much stuff away. You make bad purchasing choices. You should budget better to be able to afford more expensive, lower waste goods. The focus on the individual takes the pressure off corporations and governments, who arguably hold the key to real and sustainable change in relation to the climate crisis as a whole, as well as the complex issue of plastic pollution.

The ‘you’ in this discourse is, incidentally, almost always a woman. Women hold a huge amount of purchasing power as the key domestic decision-makers in the majority of households. But how do you manage to shop at a zero waste shop or organise delivery of an organic vegetable box when you’re out all day at work? How do you justify the expense of plastic-free toiletries if you’re a low income family? How do you respond when your kids are clamouring for the latest plastic LOL doll monstrosity which all their friends have? (Plastic toy snobbery is a particular personal pet loathing of mine). The added pressure on women to mastermind this stuff seems to me to be another largely unspoken problem.

The call to be “plastic-free” seems to generate some other weird paradoxes. Some examples I’ve witnessed:

  • Driving to the local zero waste shop to stock up on loose goods in nice glass containers (which are too heavy to carry on the bus or on foot, hence driving).
  • Trying out numerous plastic-free shampoo bars or deodorants before finding one which suits, thus wasting the resources used to make and package those products. Plastic or no plastic, it’s still waste.
  • Throwing away (yes, really) perfectly serviceable plastic food storage containers and replacing with glass and metal ones, to “become zero waste”.
  • Throwing away (again, yes, really) plastic toys that they disapprove of, which have been given to their children.

Some of this stuff is jaw-dropping in its ridiculousness to me, but people get caught up in their cause, and spend hours arguing and being vitriolic on the internet, criticising the efforts of others and making it seem like nothing is ever enough.  

Ridiculous stories aside, it really is incredibly hard to know what to do for the best.

I used a tin of coconut milk in a vegan curry last night (we’re not vegan, we’re not doing Veganuary, but I love Jack Monroe’s recipes and we are gradually reducing our meat consumption). Is it better to use coconut milk from Thailand (ethically sourced and produced? Who knows…) or cream from a cow at an organic farm in Kent? Is it better to buy air-freighted strawberries from Panama, or a steak from Surrey?

I wish I had all the answers. I don’t. I’m scared about climate change, scared about the impact it’s going to have on my son’s life. I’m trying to make a difference, feeling constantly guilty that I’m not doing enough.

But I’m not going zero-waste. I’m trying to educate myself. I’m trying to reduce packaging waste, while also thinking about the wider impact of all my choices.

Like walking 50 minutes home from nursery school with my son, rather than driving. While he eats some Christmas chocolate that possibly has palm oil in it, and glugs a mini Tetrapack of apple juice, which may or may not actually be recycled. Because you can’t win ‘em all, folks, but you can win some of them. And I think that for now that’s good enough for me.

Hannah is a freelance writer and blogger, who shares ideas for living more sustainably at her blog, www.everydayradical.net

The Everyday Radical Just an ordinary mum, making everyday radical changes to save the world for her extraordinary son. http://www.everydayradical.net

She believes that radicalism starts at home.  She is currently also working on a strategic project with a public sector client, while dabbling in some fiction writing. 

Hannah lives in South East London with a marauding toddler, an occasionally-marauding husband and a rescue cat, known as The Fluffbeast, who believes he has a very tragic life.

Looking to submit to us? We’re accepting Poetry, Fiction, Articles and Art! Please get in touch.

Bad Company

Image by Jason Yearick

Bad Company, By Jason Yearick

Words are
falling,
tumbling, to
the ground
enjambments
spilling down
railways
without
a sound-
poets, are
whimpering,
writers,
simpering,
readers
wrestling
words
roughly,
regretting
this word
squall
realizing-
this poet,
has
abused
them
all.

Jason loves people and writes to inspire by speaking life through poetry, articles and Christian devotional pieces. Knowing how easily it is to allow the doldrums of life seep into one’s spirit, he reminds his readers that we’re all human and it’s our humanity that allows us to help one another.  He also enjoys scenic photography.

Visit Jason online at  http://fourcalendarcafe.com/

Looking to submit to us? We’re accepting Poetry, Fiction, Articles and Art! Please get in touch.

A Siege On Sleep

A Siege On Sleep, By Kim Smyth

The nightly turmoil I’ve so come to dread                                                        

At times I think I’d be better off dead                                 

Than lie awake here while all else are sleeping                 

It makes me want sometimes to start weeping 

From my hyperacusis to hubby’s loud snore 

To my long-nailed doggies clicking the floor 

Who scratch and lick to get out the door 

Although it is partially open. 

Tossing and turning, trying to go under 

Finally succumbing only to awaken from slumber  

By snoring, or coughing, or some other fit 

He makes me uncomfortable just a wee bit 

Oh, who am I kidding, I’m mad as a wet hen 

Once more I try laying my head down again 

The snoring begins and I cover my ears 

Yet nothing is working, I’m almost in tears 

I’ve tried everything from plugs to fine oils 

Headphones, pillows, it’s taking a toll 

Nothing it seems can stop the icepick pain 

My eardrum feels like it might explode again 

I’ve left them before sleeping sound in the bed 

To seek solace elsewhere, to the guestroom I head 

Then just as I feel myself starting to drift 

I wake to the sound of some sort of rift 

The cat is now fighting the enemy in the yard 

I shut my eyes tight, I try really hard 

Now the doggies are wanting to get in THIS room 

I curse as I get up, sensing the doom 

Of another night robbed of the sleep I so need 

When from this nightmare will I ever be freed? 

I get up and go to the couch to try there 

Arranging my blankets, pillow, and chair 

Reading until I grow sleepy once more 

I move all my things and lay down on the floor 

What’s that now? Some jingle I’ve heard 

Running round in my head and I think, “How absurd! 

Get out stupid song, so I can just sleep!” 

When finally, I feel myself sinking down deep 

I curse the alarm as it suddenly starts beeping 

So fricking mad that I’m close to just weeping 

I hear him get up, as the shower starts to splatter 

He enters the room later saying, “What’s the matter?” 

I give him a look that says, “Can’t you just guess?” 

Then drag myself up and go start to get dressed. 

My night is now over, this battle I’ve lost 

I really need sleep now, no matter the cost 

Maybe I’ll nap sometime later today 

Oh, who am I kidding, I know there’s no way 

No one can help me I’m starting to think 

This war on no sleep will drive me to drink 

Maybe tonight with a fine glass of wine, 

I’ll find myself dreaming of something divine 

Until then I try to get on with my day 

I sit down at my computer, start plugging away 

While dreaming of stories I shut my eyes tight 

The next thing you know, I’m out like a light! 

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Kim Smyth is a freelance blogger, a writer from the DFW Metroplex who lives at home with her hubby Dave and their three furbabies. She runs two blogs, contributes to different publications on Medium and has been published in Therapeutic Thymes and VitaBella magazines. 

Find her at https://kimmy1563.com

Looking to submit to us? We’re accepting Poetry, Fiction, Articles and Art! Please get in touch.

The Guitar Hero Goes Home

An angel came to me when I was just a little boy. I was in my bed. A winter morning was just barely creeping through the window shades. It was quite early. My little brother was sound asleep in the bed across the room from me.

She was blonde, the angel, and just so pretty. And she told me things I eagerly believed. All about destiny and dreams manifesting, hearts rejoicing and being fulfilled. She told me this in pictures, you know; not words, as such.

It had something to do with a guitar.

So I begged my dad to buy me one. He said no. I begged again. He said no. I begged some more and he said, “If you don’t shut the fuck up, Christmas is never gonna come.” And he kicked me.

Right on my little shin. My left shin. It hurt like hell. I was just a little boy.

But Christmas morning came and there it was. A big red bow stuck on it and everything. A beautiful acoustic guitar. I don’t know how he afforded it. He worked, and all that, but, man, booze is expensive and he was always drunk.

And then he helped me learn how to play.

He sat me right down on the couch in the front room there, and he taught me C, D, and G. And he said, “These are easy chords. You learn ‘em and you can play about 50% of everything. So just learn ‘em.”

I was stunned, you know? I had no idea he knew how to play a guitar. There were no musical instruments in our house at all. Nothing to indicate I’d come from any sort of musical lineage.

But that Christmas morning, he lit a cigarette, sat down on the couch with my brand new guitar and said, “Sit right next to me here so you can see.” And so I sat down next to him.

He put the neck of the guitar in front of me, his arm came around me – a man who never even hugged me or got demonstrative in any way. His arm goes around me and he takes my little left hand in his and with his what seemed to me to be huge fingers, he helped me shape the chords right there on the frets of the guitar. And by lunch time on Christmas Day, I was playing it. Really playing it, you know?

Because he was right. You can play 50% of everything that’s worth playing in rock & roll with those three chords.

“Oh yeah, your daddy used to play,” my mama said a little while later, while she and I were sitting at the kitchen table, alone. “He played all the time when we were first dating.”

This, of course, was startling news to me. “But it bothered him, you know,” she went on.

“Because his daddy – your grandpa, who you never met because he died so young – was a drunk. He drank himself to death when he was 49 years old. And all he did when he was alive was haul your daddy around with him – a beat-up guitar and your daddy. And he’d go hang out in this little bar called the Pissin’ Weasel.” My mama laughed then. She was so pretty when she laughed. “It wasn’t really called that. It was something like the Piston Wheel, or something similar. But your daddy always called it the Pissin’ Weasel. Your daddy’s so funny.”

My daddy was funny? The same man who kicked me on my left shin because my wanting a guitar had irritated him?

“Well, your grandpa would play that guitar for hours on end in that bar and just get so drunk. Made your daddy stay there with him, hour after hour, listening to your grandpa sing those old hillbilly songs. Your daddy didn’t call it singing, though. He called it caterwauling like a drunk skunk in a steel leg-hold trap. And then when it got near closing time, your grandpa would make your daddy drive them both home. Your daddy was just a child. A little boy. He could barely see above the steering wheel!”

My mama went on to explain that it hadn’t mattered at all how angry that whole scene had made my daddy as a little boy, he still grew up playing the guitar. And before long, he was playing it and singing in bars.

“And that’s what he was doing when we met,” she said. “I thought he was the best-looking young man I had ever seen. And the way he sang could just melt your heart. I always tried to dress up as pretty as I could – well, as I could afford to, at any rate. And I’d go listen to your daddy sing and hope that he would notice me. And of course, he did. Because I was always there. And then, you know…”

She sat there at the kitchen table and smiled at me in the most beautiful and yet peculiar way. And in the softest, prettiest voice, she said: “Now, don’t you ever tell anybody on Earth that I told you this. But it was right around the time that your daddy and me got married – right around that time; very, very close – we found out I was gonna have you.”

Then she winked at me! I was way too young to have any clue what she’d meant by that.

That cute little wink just stumped me. I’d never seen my mama do a thing like that before. It wasn’t until I was a little older and just by accident happened to do the math regarding their wedding day and my birthday. Then it all came together and made great big sense.

They’d been doing it before they got married.

And I was the reason they’d gotten married.

And having a new mouth to feed is what caused my daddy to quit playing his guitar and singing in bars and to go to work at a regular job, because he didn’t want to end up like his own father had – a drunk, caterwauling in a bar, dragging his son around so that he could get a sober ride home at closing time. But instead, my daddy became a drunk who had a regular job that bored him to tears and dreams so dead it filled him with nothing but anger.

Anger and a little rage.

But that Christmas morning, he was patient with me. For the first and last time, if I remember right.

He took my fingers in his and pressed them down on the strings against the frets and said, “No, son, like this. Press a bit harder. Let each of those notes really ring. It’ll hurt, at first, but you’ll get callouses and it’ll be fun to play. You won’t notice any pain.”

Right away, I started writing songs. But I didn’t tell anybody. My brother knew, but I made him swear not to tell a soul. I’m not sure why it bothered me that I was writing so many songs, or why I didn’t want anyone to know. I guess because, down in my heart, I knew I really, really wanted to go hang out in bars and sing and play my guitar. And I knew that wasn’t gonna go over at all in my house. Just not at all. And I was right. Because as soon as I got just a little bit older and started playing music with my buddies and practicing out in the garage like everybody else was doing back then, it pissed my daddy off to no end.

Even though he let us use our garage most of the time. I could tell it made him mad. My grades were suffering and he could see I had no thought in my head about getting a regular job, or going to college, or anything like that.

When I was 18, I left home with my guitar and a couple of the guys I’d been playing music with around town, and my girlfriend – who later became my first wife. We were all going to New York because I was gonna go get famous. I knew I would. I knew I had it in me. I knew my songs were good. But when I was leaving, my daddy took me aside and said, “Just try to keep it in your pants, son. Because there’s no quicker way to kill a dream. You will kill it quick and hard if she gets knocked up. It costs money to feed a kid. More money than you’ve ever seen.”

We all piled into the van and I left my daddy standing there in the driveway, just standing there, staring at me, a look on his face that seemed to say that, even though my little brother had eventually come along, too, and my little sister after that, it was me; I was the one whose mouth had been impossible to feed. I was the one whose hunger had cost him more money than my daddy had ever seen.

When I got a record deal, and when my songs got on the radio, and I got written up in magazines – it made my dad happy. It did. You had to know him pretty well to see it. It wasn’t easy to see the difference in my daddy looking drunk and angry and my daddy looking proud of me. But I knew the difference, and that’s what mattered.

By the time my daddy died, I was really famous. Famous, with two little girls who always had food in front of them whenever they sat down at the table. Girls who’d been conceived in love. Who were sheltered by love. Who were nothing but love to me.

It didn’t hardly cost me anything to feed those girls.


Photo by 42 North from Pexels

Marilyn Jaye Lewis is an American writer of novels, short stories, memoirs, screenplays, and theatrical plays. Her work has won numerous literary awards and has been translated into many different languages. “The Guitar Hero Goes Home” is excerpted from her newest experimental novel, Blessed By Light.

You can find her online at Marilyn’s Room. Follow her on Instagram; Facebook and Amazon.