prompt: nothing, title: a word for ginger brown in "the next big thing" flash fiction

  • Nov. 27, 2021, 3:47 p.m.
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  • Public

“You play any instruments?” Frank asked, deflecting back to me. “My brother,” I said, “brilliant guitarist, though he’s rusty. My dad is, was,” Frank and I both stumble on the line between what is and what’s lost, I guess, “my father was a pianist, an amazing blues rock keyboardist before Remington Arms’ assembly line ruined his hands with arthritis. Poisoned his heart with toxic chemicals. Killed him check-by-check, piece-by-piece.” “You didn’t answer my question, Mike. You play anything yourself? You. Not your family or your friends, you.”

“Oh, sweet nothing,” I finally answered, “I don’t play nothing at all.” “Even admitting you can’t make music, you quote the Velvets.” “That’s the thing, man, I tried. I tried so many times to pick up the piano like my dad and every time I failed. I could read music fine, reading has never been the problem. When I was six, I could read the New York Times as a parlor trick at family parties. I knew all the words fit to print, didn’t know what they meant, of course, but I knew every single word. But I never could make music, like my brother, like my dad, like all the girls swooned for. I mean, that’s what happens when you can’t hack it as a musician, right? You become a writer.”

“I never heard that one,” Frank mused, “must be a human thing.”

“Writing, Christ, it’s the easiest thing in the world,” then I corrected myself, “well, writing well is hard, hard as hell, but writing badly, anyone can do that. Everyone does that every day, easy. Anyone can write an e-mail to their gramma or a shopping list. Five hundred words, that’s just ten shopping lists. A novel, what, two thousand shopping lists? A hundred thousand words of nonsense, you just need ink and time, as long as you don’t know what’s any good. That’s why almost no one values it. They’re so goddamn bad at it they think they’re good and everyone is just as good or bad. Same with driving a car or politics.” I stopped to breathe, realizing I hadn’t for that whole whopper of a self-own. “Sasquatches must have the Dunning-Kruger Effect too.”

“Like your difference between song and faith, we learned that one from you guys, I’m afraid.”

“I grew up thinking a rock star was the coolest thing in the world,” correcting myself again, “thinking my dad was the coolest thing in the world. But I couldn’t be cool like that and so I went to film school instead, thinking maybe winning an Oscar would be, maybe, eighty-three percent as cool as playing guitar for Guns N Roses. As playing piano like my dad. And Frank, spoilers, I came here to Los Angeles for it and failed at that too. But it’s just who I am now, I guess. Those who can weave the gut-punch beauty of music, they do it. Those of us who can’t, all we can do instead is write about it.”

Last updated November 28, 2021

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