The Battering of Drums and The Shouts and Screams

I have a friend named Joe who I used to work with years ago surveying land in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virgina. He’s a great writer and just a beautiful human being. About a month ago, I approached him through a Facebook message and asked him if he’d be interested in writing a short story for my new album. The following is a long and amusing excerpt from his response.

“…I do not know whether anything that I might piece together would come out sounding like anything you would recognize. (There is a battering of drums, for instance, and shouts and voices. Though of course he is dying. And of course he is old.) I do not recognize myself, right now. My own writing comes out in a dead language. Long dead. My life is a haggard army on a battlefield full of health and have. Melissa framed a collage and proped it on my desk: FOR YOUR MISINFORMATION. For your misinformation.

And yet I want the glory of heaven found in the wilderness. But I cannot speak. I cannot move my tongue or my hands. My family grows up and I cannot move my tongue or my hands. You know the story. Tongue. Hands. Generations of rot.

The bald unhappy saint. But hey! I am buying a house further downtown and biking to work and watching the happy happy people realize their common unhappiness and I am fighting back the kudzu. Swimming in the kudzu. Drinking the kudzu.

Oh wait, that’s beer.

I mean to say I could not keep Carter Lee out of your stories. Carter Lee is my favorite character. We drink often and heavily. More then I should: it cost me a DUI. But he does not talk much except to say why am I so unhappy in the land of milk and honey? He quit work for three years to sit at the few bars around town and drink up an early inheritance. He has a few things to say and I like hearing him talk. He does not talk well. He tells me about moving rocks from the creek behind his house in buckets. Carrying buckets full of rock up the hill and into his front yard. Spreading rocks from the creek around his yard. Filling his entire yard with rocks from the creek. For three years.

It looks like shit, he says. Weeds that I cannot pull out. I’m going to cover it with dirt, he says. Cover the whole things up with dirt.

We imagined him–back when he left work after leaving nothing but a note scribbled on a napkin with magic marker that read: I QUIT–we imagined him riding across the country on a motorcycle, his long, long beard parting and blowing behind his head. Smoking dope by the pound and laying on top of the rockies getting messages from god. But he has no beard. He has no motorcycle. He has no faith. No father to greet him with a fatted calf upon his return. No great distances or miraculous influences or permanent designs on happiness. Only me, sitting beside him at the bar, listening to his story. We gave him his cubical back at work. Gave him a few jobs. And there he sits, silently engaged in the world of CAD, silently resigned, like the rest of us, to the common unhappiness promised by Freud.

So where does that leave us? IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU SURVIVE. (Beyond that, I mean, amongst the battering of drums and the shouts and screams.) Back to the river that flows nowhere? Back to the scream outside my well lit room with its well lit windows to the scream back to the scream back that sounds like a sound from inside my own head?

Perhaps.”

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