An Approximation of Melody by Tommy Dean
After Love Street Blues published by Fractured Lit.
I wanted to live on an alley when I grew up. My nose flush against the cool glass, shadows cast over darkened brick, bottles broken, and the shuffle of running feet, the smell of sewage and greasy food waving into the room, mixing with the bunanabun of the Law & Order score. My parents wedged into their recliners for the night just conscious enough to stop me from escaping. Promises made to ourselves in the night sweat of our own rooms are the lost songs of future geniuses. Even if in this house my name is rarely spoken.
The guitar was my first love, and I played until the blood seeped from underneath my fingernails. I strummed the strings on sick days and on weekends when I stayed out too late, my music an approximation of melody. I held the wooden body close, pretended to know what love was, so I could break my own heart, until it beat like the powdery wings of a moth convinced of the safety of the light.
I grew up pill addled, sucking the chalky residue of Vicodin and Percocet until the tinnitus of phantom pain rattled in my chest. I pawned my guitar, the strings as slick as the bald tires of my boyfriends’ cars, each one adding more miles to a body that had long ran out of gas. Hold m by the neck, press on the nodules of my spine and play my harmony until the world sings along. The buskers surround me the street corner a diagonal from where I’m supposed to be.
I stand in alleys, these not-quite streets that I love, pressing my face against the outside of the glass, looking for a girl like myself, the one I used to be. I rest my hands on empty window sills, reaching in, my throat catching, slick with notes unsung, breathing away those lost melodies, a ghost of someone’s future-past.
One of the challenges of writing anything like Meg Pokrass is that she is a master of making each sentence in a story have a threat of escalation. Each sentence drips with a burst of tension. No word or part of her stories is weak, unnecessary, or trivial. They all march to the specific drumbeat of that story, and these stories take us to wonderfully resonant places! My challenge in writing something similar to “Love Street Blues” was finding a character that refused to sit still, that desired boldly, and went after these desires despite her fears, and fitting this all into a 4 paragraph structure! I hope I’ve created something worthwhile in my respect for meg’s genius writing!
Tommy Dean lives in Indiana with his wife and two children. He is the author of a flash fiction chapbook entitled Special Like the People on TV from Redbird Chapbooks. He is the Editor at Fractured Lit. He has been previously published in the BULL Magazine, The MacGuffin, The Lascaux Review, New World Writing, Pithead Chapel, and New Flash Fiction Review. His story “You’ve Stopped” was chosen by Dan Chaon to be included in Best Microfiction 2019. It will also be included in Best Small Fiction 2019. Find him @TommyDeanWriter on Twitter.