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The 27 Club

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Amy sat up, blinking rapidly. She looked around, but the room she was in was blurry around the edges. She raised a hand and tentatively felt her skull. Had she hit her head on something? As she began to focus, the first thing she saw was a plain-faced woman with unruly hair. The woman loomed in front of her, seemingly frighteningly large at first. "Ah, there she is!" the woman crowed, seeing Amy stir. "Thought you'd never come around, girl."

Amy shook her head, trying to clear the cobwebs. The woman's voice was raspy, and she spoke with an unfamiliar drawl. Her smile was wide, though, and though she felt overpowering, there was something comforting about her. Amy licked her lips, still trying to take stock of where she was. Something about the room felt familiar. "Am I in the hospital?" she asked the woman.

The woman laughed. It was a big sound, seeming to echo. "Hey man," she said, turning to speak to someone in the periphery of Amy's vision, "she wants to know if she's in the hospital! Would that make you the doctor?" She cackled again.

Amy turned her head slightly and saw a thin black man with a great afro. Amy smiled. "I like your hair."

The man smiled back, a big wide grin. "I like yours too, little sister."

Amy sat up a little more, the room slowing coming into better focus. The more she could see, the more confused she was. Another black man, this one with crazy short dreads and a very intense expression, was painting a mural on one of the far walls. Though she could barely see it, Amy was struck by the color and intricacy of his work. She turned to the loud woman again, suddenly realizing where she must be. "Is he going to get in trouble for painting on the wall?" she asked. "This is rehab, right?"

The woman's laughter was joined this time by another loud voice. "That's some funny shit," the voice said. "Rehab." It seemed to be coming from behind her, so Amy turned to see the man to whom it belonged. She drew in a quick breath. There was something about him that was so captivating. His hair was shaggy, curling around the collar of his unbuttoned shirt, and his eyes bore into her. "No, baby," he said, smiling in a way that almost seemed to be a sneer. "This ain't rehab."

Amy shook her head again. This had to be some kind of bad trip. There was music coming from somewhere, she realized, and when she turned to find it, she saw a strangely formally dressed man, his head ducked and covered in a hat, picking at a blues guitar. He, and his song, seemed more familiar than anything yet. It took her several moments to tear her eyes away from him, and when she did, she remained oddly soothed by the sound of his guitar.

There were many more people in the room than she'd initially thought, Amy realized. She could see some of them more clearly than others. Normally, waking up in a room this crowded would cause panic, but this place didn't seem at all threatening. Though she couldn't put a finger on it, she felt like these people were here to help her.

Amy turned back to the woman, who was watching her curiously. "We wondered if you'd be joining us," the woman said. "Seemed like you might be on your way." Seeing Amy's startled expression, she smiled again. "Don't worry honey," she said. "This isn't a bad place to be."

Just as Amy was opening her mouth to demand someone tell her where the hell she was, another man approached her bed. This one didn't meet her eyes. He looked down, mostly, only occasionally glancing around the room. He was blonde and seemed sort of dirty, wearing an old sweater with holes in it, but his eyes, when she caught sight of them, were amazingly blue. "Give her a minute," he said, his voice soft. "She's gotta be freaked out." He looked up suddenly, then, meeting Amy's eyes for only a moment. "She's right," she said quickly. "This is an OK place to be. A...better place to be."

Amy looked confused again. "Better than what?"

"Better than down there." The thin black man spoke again.

"Down there?" Amy's question trailed off. "Jesus. Am I...am I dead?"

"Now she's gettin' it." The man standing behind her chuckled. "That one'll throw you through a loop."

Amy's eyes widened. "I'm fucking dead." The words sounded so strange coming out of her mouth. "I'm dead." She looked around the room again, casting around for an escape. She didn't see a door. A man with a big belly and a wild beard was playing a keyboard in the corner. A joint hung from his lips. "He's smoking a joint." Amy spoke almost to herself. "I'm dead and he's smoking a joint."

The plain-faced woman laughed that big laugh again. "Don't take it personal. He's always smokin' a joint."

"There are drugs here?" Amy shook her head again. It was all too much to understand.

"There are definitely drugs here." The handsome man behind her spoke again. "As much as you want. Different here, though. We do them, they don't do us."

"After a while, you don't really want 'em anymore," the woman added.

Amy looked at the woman again. "Is this heaven?" As much as she'd thought about dying, it had never really occurred to her that she would end up heaven. As she looked around the room again, she noticed that nearly everyone she saw had an instrument. It wasn't just the bluesman in the corner, or the man smoking a joint at the keyboard. A punk looking girl carried a bass, as did a long-haired guy with a very 70s vibe to him. A man with shaggy hair seemed to be giving multiple instrument lessons. Now that she noticed, even the thin man with the afro had a guitar strap around his neck. "Do you play music here?" she asked.

The woman smiled. "We do play music here," she said. "Some days, that's all we do. And I'm glad you brought that voice, girl. We're gonna have a great time."

"The music...doesn't hurt, here." The blonde man spoke softly again, his eyes turned down. "That part's all over."

"So it is heaven?" Amy started to feel herself relax again. Maybe this would be OK. As her body woke up, she noticed she wasn't in any pain. Her head wasn't pounding, her throat didn't hurt, and she was oddly hungry.

"No baby, this isn't heaven." The woman reached for her hand. "Welcome to the 27 Club."

3 Comments

Oh, Grace. This is beautiful.

"The music...doesn't hurt, here." Or "the words", "the art" , most of the great geniuses in history who have left such beauty have been tortured souls. Even before our modern culture with it's pressures of fandom.So sad .

An interesting change of pace. It took me a bit to catch on, but it is a nice tribute to all these artists.

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Writing Well Challenge #1: Character

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(Note: This is a piece of fiction, based on this week's challenge over at Write-of-Passage. The challenge is: "Find a person in public today and study their character. Make a story surrounding them. Build them in to your shorty essay.")

I am so sick of these damn dogs. I never wanted dogs. I don't like them. They smell, they bark, they can't use toilets. I especially don't like big, hairy, black ones. But they, like most of the things I don't like in my life, came with Kevin. Now Kevin's gone, and I'm still walking these dogs, every day, around and around the block. I wait as long as they'll let me and then I put them on their stupid leashes and walk them in circles.

Kevin's insistence that I'd grow to love his dogs should have tipped me off before anything else did that things with him would go bad. When I say I don't like something, I am not just doing it to hear my own voice. He could have insisted on keeping the dogs without demanding that I "warm up to them." I'd probably have resented them less if he had. But instead, he was so sure that I'd grow to "think of them as my children." No. I wanted children, once. My children would have, eventually, learned to wipe their own chins and asses. Unlike Kevin, though, I don't insist that I know better than someone else what he or she likes. When he said he didn't like children, I believed him.

The dogs were just puppies when I met Kevin. Brother and sister, he said, though I don't think they're smart enough to know what family is. He got them from someone with a box in a grocery store parking lot. He called them "mostly Lab," but they're really just big, hairy mutts. They were a year old when we started living together. I wanted him to move in to my apartment in the city. It was a beautiful, old apartment on a great street. It was close to everything--work, shopping, restaurants. But it wasn't a good place for the dogs, or for his bikes, or his tools. So I moved in with him, in this suburb, where all the streets looks the same and I still get lost after all these years.

Kevin knew every inch of this development. He knew which roads went through, which were dead ends, which led to parks and trials. He even knew which houses put up the best Halloween decorations and Christmas lights. He used to walk the dogs by a different route every day. He said it kept life interesting for them, that they could smell new things and mark new territory with each day's walk. He drove to work by the same route every day, every day had the same breakfast, every summer took the same vacation, even got me the same birthday present three years in a row, but he was very concerned with breaking up the monotony for his dogs. Now, I walk the dogs around the block, always north-to-south, for exactly thirty minutes (which is seven times around). They still sniff and pee, still pull on their leashes when they see a squirrel. I don't think they know the difference.

Kevin's been gone a year now. When his sister came for his memorial service, she said the dogs he loved so much must be a great comfort to me. I almost laughed in her face. Which part, I wondered, was supposed to be comforting? The gross, wet noses pushing against the backs of my legs? The constant muddy floor from their paws? The vet bills that were now mine to handle alone? Maybe it was the walking that was supposed to comfort me, the leashing up Kevin's dogs and walking them around Kevin's neighborhood, without Kevin. Or maybe it was watching them age, their black muzzles growing steadily grayer, the fatter of the two developing a bit of a limp. Maybe I was supposed to be comforted by watching them die, just like I'd watched Kevin die.

I know I don't have to stay here. I could sell this house, give the dogs to the pound, get rid of the bikes and tools. I could move back to an apartment in the city--maybe not one as nice as before, but one similar. I could shrug off all the things that Kevin left me with that I never would have chosen on my own. I could lose the suburban weight I've put on, get some stylish clothes, try again. I could call this whole creating a family experiment a loss and start over. But I won't. I'll keep having the lawn cut every second weekend, and stringing up white icicle lights the first weekend in December. I'll keep buying the same soap, the same coffee, stopping for gas at the same station. I'll keep walking these dogs, who I can't stand, in circles around this block. I'll keep waiting for him to come back.

8 Comments

Wow, Grace. Well done!

Brilliant essay. I could feel the anger for Kevin's leaving and the resentment his loss left behind. Brava!

Definitely feeling the anger! Great story, easy to imagine.

Such great emotion! This line especially: "Or maybe it was watching them age, their black muzzles growing steadily grayer, the fatter of the two developing a bit of a limp." brings up a raw sense of frustration. It is so real. It makes a physical attribute from an intangible emotion.

I'm enjoying these essays. So glad you're joining in. The more I read the more I appreciate

What a great story. I don't like dogs either LOL

Well told story, love your writing style.

Ooo what emotion. Anger. Sadness, deep down.

Great work, but such a sad tale, too. :(

I love this. It's heartbreaking and beautifully written.

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Novel

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For the last few years, I've participated in National Blog Posting Month. Though it's moved to an every-month thing now, it used to be an annual event that took place in November. It was created, I believe, in response to National Novel Writing Month. NaBloPoMo is pretty simple: blog every day. NaNoWriMo is a bit more complicated (but just a bit). The rules are:

  1. Write a 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.

  2. Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft (though outlines, character sketches, and research are all fine, as are citations from other people's works).

  3. Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction. If you consider the book you're writing a novel, we consider it a novel too!

  4. Be the sole author of your novel. Apart from those citations mentioned two bullet-points up.

  5. Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times.

  6. Upload your novel for word-count validation to our site between November 25 and November 30.

You know where this is going, right? I've been writing. In the last month, I've written more than 50,000 words (though I wouldn't call the result a novel). So, this month, no NaBloPoMo. I'm going in. I'm going to try to write a novel.

I won't be posting it her. I don't have any illusions about it being good. But it's something I've wanted to do for years and thought was beyond me. I know now that it's not.

1 Comments

Listen, I haven't read all your blog stuff, but I like you and your husband/boyfriend? I don't even know. I am not sure why I like you guys but here goes. I have two anatolian shepherds that I rescued from the cleveland spca. It was on a whim, I lost my 10 yr old rotty-mix and well I wanted another dog, a small dog, 1 dog. I left with 2 dogs, sisters, because I thought you can't split up sisters. So anyway, I left with 2 dogs, big ones and I love em and they are really sweet and nice and easy to walk and great with my kids and my wife likes them.....but they are a lot of work and my wife prior to my getting dogs just opened her dream alteration/dress/drape/anything that you want made shop, and is really busy. I am a fireman and gone every third day and it is not making her happy on those days. She is overwhelmed and I am bummed at work because I can't help her and I think it is bad for our marriage to feel so much stress. My kids will be sad but I will feel so much better knowing I gave them to the right people. Please tell me you are interested. My boys named them Coco and Rose. They are white with black spots and are really good girls, they are spayed, and have all their shots. I will take them to you if you say yes. I read some of your blog and I just think that you are the right people for these two sweet sisters. Sometimes we call the the ladies. Anyway, think about it and email me if you are interested in getting Coco and Rose to the correct home... Yours. I don't want anything in return other than a clean conscience and maybe an email once a year with an update. Maybe a christmas card saying thanks for giving us the best gift ever, Coco and Rose. That's all.

Sincerely,
Mike in Cleveland Hts., Ohio

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Party at my house

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At about 9pm last night, I looked around at my companions and found that I must be very boring company indeed.

curled up ata 2

sleeping huey

belle on bed 2

sleeping illy 2

Were it not for Leo, I may have gotten lonely.

leo on the couch

4 Comments

How funny. My dog does that too, he saves his excitement for my kid and snoozes whenever he's around me.

Those are beautiful pets, even sleeping.

I love it when they curl up in a circle like the first photo.

You are an extremely soothing presence.

Lol, how funny! And that lovely Leo, he's too cute! Must be his name. ;-)

Christine

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Passport photo

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The woman in my passport photo is not smiling. She's wearing a sleeveless white shirt and dangly silver earrings. She has a blemish on the right side of her lower lip. She has a look about her that could pass for ardor at a glance, but is likely just sweat. She's so young. Calculating the dates makes her 26. She seems younger to me.

I know, because I remember, that she wasn't planning a trip to anywhere specific on the August morning when she stood in line at the post office, filled out the forms, and had that picture taken. She was old enough to navigate the bureaucracy and pay the fees, old enough to think about obtaining a passport, but young enough to take pleasure in doing so, even without a trip planned. She was in that in-between state of embryonic adulthood. She had the outside trappings of being an adult--a steady job, a mortgage--but she wasn't all the way there on the inside yet. Adolescence lasts longer than we think.

I could say I barely know her now, with her silly earrings and her expectations all over her face. But the truth is I do know her. She's been here all the time. She emerges with every trip to somewhere new, while making reservations or in the security line at the airport or when the plane touches down on new land. And even if I don't remember the feeling she got standing in that hot university post office, posing for that terrible picture, she does.

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