Every piece I write seems to have its own soundtrack. I used to attribute it to mood, but it’s more than that. When I go to write a poem, story, or novel, I simply can’t write without the right music. I usually don’t know what that music is until I start writing. Still, the words won’t come until I hone in on the proper musical mood. I’ve put the following together, mostly for myself. I’m curious as to whether the music affects the “tone” of the writing, or if it’s simply a means to get the right words out. I think it’s more the latter, as I can see the thread of my writing style throughout the selections. Still, it’s interesting that the more breathy kinds of music (New Age, Jazz, World) lend themselves to more airy, lyrical writing. Simple music, simple words. I guess that makes sense.
The Changeling ( Discovery)
New middle school. The words had become a chant that declared his liberation from the tyranny of primary school and its bus rides full of three-abreast first graders. By his reckoning, the sixth grade was midway to college and midway out of his parents’ house. He loved them, but he’d spent the bulk of his early years dreaming of the day he’d leave his Virginia home to see the world. One more year—this year—and he’d be halfway there: halfway grown, halfway gone, halfway free. This new school meant a new start and a possible end to his interminable loneliness. Charlie was a bright, personable boy who almost no one knew. Ignored at home, bored at school, and without a close friend to speak of, he had become so accustomed to feeling invisible that he had adopted it as part of his persona. His teachers knew him, likely because he was more like them than he was the other students. However, few embraced the boy who showed so much promise but muffled it with bouts of overt defiance and abject indifference. Had he applied himself, he reasoned he could finish school a few years early, but his mom would never let him leave home before he was eighteen. It was better to cruise through than be stuck going to a local university. His goal was exploration after all, not graduation.
Grandfather Time (Awakening)
Charlie’s longboat pitched and yawed, rolled port and starboard, rose and fell, while the rest of the lagoon stood as serene as a glass sculpture. I wish Robin would sit still just this once. Knowing he could no more control his best friend’s actions than he could the weather, Charlie focused his attention away from the girl’s insane dancing and to the vista before them. Long, tree-born shadows stretched across the broad lake, interspersed by bright stars of sunlight that danced through their leaves. Beyond the shoreline, a long arc of snow-capped mountains scraped the underbellies of clouds until they surrendered, fell as fog, and began to obscure the mountains’ peaks.
The Heaven Plane
Charlie lay in the thick brush, trying not to breathe. The padded footfalls crept closer, and every few steps, a twig would snap or blades of dried grass would rustle underfoot, and the steps would stop, followed by angry whispers. The voices were gentle, but they caused the hairs to rise along the nape of his neck. He lay on his belly and barely craned his neck above the swaying grass with the tips of seedlings bristling against his face. A gust of wind blew past him, carrying his scent to the small pack in front of him. They stopped, lifted their noses to the air, and turned in his direction. Charlie dipped low in the grass, held his breath, and clenched his eyes in the childish hope that if he could no longer see them, they would not find him. Through the grace of God or the luck of hopeful idiots, the breeze shifted and pulled his scent away, carrying the beasts’ musk to him. He lay there for a time, listening for more whispers and trying to ignore the jagged points of microscopic pollen tearing into his skin. Suppressing the claustrophobic urge to scratch, to scream and to run, he lifted his head once again. There, standing on a bed of Virginia clover, he could just make out the large brown feet of a rabbit, drenched in blood that was not its own.
The sand had long-since turned to glass. At some distant point, here in the place beyond time, the hills and valleys of desert sand had been heated to above 1,700 degrees Celsius and had melted, cooled, and then crystallized into amorphous fragments of light-diffracting beauty. Uncountable eons weathered the sharp edges, leaving only minute beads of glass. The gleaming sand in the high dunes was loose and dozens of meters deep. Though it crunched underfoot, the glass did not break. As zephyrs whispered and gusted, carrying the vague scent of lemons and nutmeg, the glass beads tinkled, the desert itself chiming in a gentle song. Sahila, Robin, Charlie, and Gabrielle marched in single file, with Gabrielle in the lead. She was dressed in white, her long, ash-blond hair billowing behind her. She wore a diaphanous white scarf that streamed behind her in the warm wind as though she were a perfect, ivory kite with a gossamer tail. Charlie walked behind her, trailing by ten feet, fifteen, thirty. With each foot of separation, the scarf grew, unfurling from Gabrielle’s neck until it formed an unlikely sail behind her forty feet long. Charlie, as did the two females behind him, wore dark, almost black sunglasses. The sunlight refracted from the glass beads of sand shimmered in a blinding kaleidoscope. The light danced against Gabrielle’s white outfit, breathing it to life with color.
Hard as Roxx
A bloody Rembrandt, this guy, God.
It was the seventh dawn since their escape, and Roxx had yet to acclimate to the stark Saharan sunrise. As light crept over the arid landscape, she was momentarily disoriented, unable to distinguish one low hill from the next. They were somewhere south of the ends of the earth, but north of hell, so her daughters were safe. For now, that was enough. She glanced down, pushed a button, and the navigational readout on her modified 1940 Indian Chief motorcycle displayed 14 degrees, 43 minutes north by 18 minutes east. That put her location well into the Chadian desert. She smiled, and with one hand, pulled a scarf across her mouth, shielding her nose and lips from the harsh desert wind. Early morns were frigid here, particularly for a slender woman bracing against the biting air on the back of a motorcycle. Before her, on the hardened sand that passed for a road, long shadows clutched at the undulating dunes; black and reddish hues painted the landscape ahead like a madman’s abstract.
The man charges Roxx, and she drives her heel into his crotch. He is fast, but she is faster. He lies, writhing in pain, and the match is over as far as she is concerned. Once again, she tries to lead Trint out. He is not done, however. The stupid ones are never done. A second time, he charges Roxx. She reacts, protectively shoving Trint out of the way, and turns adopting a typical boxer stance. She begins bouncing: one leg and then the next. She is Clay, and it is 1964. And, to Drunk Bloke’s great detriment, she is beginning to have fun.
He stands taller than she, six-and-a-half feet tall, and laughs. “Will you look at this bitch?” he says.
“That’s not my name,” she answers. Roxx reaches into her breast pocket and pulls out her shades. She puts them on. The bar darkens to a fight-ready sensuality. She is excited now, nearly horny. He has run afoul of Roxx’s Rule Number Five. It is a simple rule and the easiest to understand: “When she puts on the shades, run.”
The morning of our flight to New York, well before sunrise, a perfumed, naked Mina woke me up by slipping into the small bed with me. I remember being in a dream wherein I was an antelope being chased by a herd of cougars, and the next thing I knew I was completely naked and this gorgeous woman was kissing my neck and telling me to wake up because I’d somehow made her horny. In between kisses and being submerged in her oceanic expanse of passion I probed, trying to discover what I’d done to trigger her arousal. Her answer was, “You can be so dumb sometimes,” followed by, “Hush. You’re spoiling the mood.” Now, the way I see it, when a pretty girl wants to be in control and you are both nude, you yield. So I did. She was a tidal wave, this woman, lashing my shores until I feared that by the time she ebbed there would be nothing left of me but a driftwood shell. Afterward she rolled sweetly into my arms, smiled up at me, and fell into sleep. Even a hard case like me has to admit that was the best part.
Jazz, Reggae (Dark)
Foss woke me outside of the restaurant, which was quaintly named “Chennai Concourse.” Initially, I was nonplussed as to my whereabouts, as I had been dreaming I was back home. We were in my grand-père’s house, just south of Paris. It was raining, with the sound of a strong summer storm setting a percussive rhythm against the window. I always loved the rain—it had a brown sound that always calmed me, but this one was rich with thunder that painted the storm with booming waves the color of jade. I recall many such nights when I was a little girl, wherein I would lay awake in bed unaware that everyone did not see colors at sound of raindrops nor could they smell the freshness of fruit at the sight of backlit globules streaming against the windowpane. In my dream, as I swayed with the meringue rhythms of Grand-père’s soprano saxophone, its taste bright and tart in my mind, I could hear his notes admonishing me to stop dancing, as Maman might be watching and would not approve. “It is not a dance,” I tried to explain to him. “My body is just singing the notes you play.”
Jazz, 70s Funk, Reggae (Foss)
It was the sixth time he’d said rogue and I was prepared to chuck my contract and shove the word down his throat if he said it again. I stopped myself and closed my eyes, trying to regain some semblance of professionalism. The man was two hundred and sixty pounds of jargon-spewing irritant. “Look,” I said, “I admit her going off on her own is worrisome, but it’s not out of the ordinary for her. Dark isn’t used to following anyone else’s rules, and she’s already proven herself a capable investigator. Besides, once she’s gotten the scent of a bit of evidence, she’s like a bloodhound. The best thing to do is let her start tracking.” In truth, I was at least as worried as Hardesty, now that he’d filled me in on her background, but I wasn’t about to let him know that. He stopped his pacing, took a slurp of his coffee, and squinted a frown my way. “Kevin, I’ll find her. I’m sure she’s okay.”