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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Force Awakens - my thoughts.

In 1987, Eddie Murphy filmed a 90-minute show at Madison Square Garden that was later released as Eddie Murphy Raw. Take an evening sometime and give it a watch; the whole thing’s on YouTube. It’s Murphy pre-Nutty Professor, pre-overexposure, pre-everything; just loose, hot and cold running buckets of nastiness. It’s excellent.

In one of the most famous bits, one I’ve known for years, Murphy does his Bill Cosby impression. Cosby calls Murphy up to tell him he can’t be saying all that “filth flargin filth” – four-letter words – onstage. It’s interesting to look back at what it was like to talk about Cosby before we knew what his favorite hobby was (“when Bill Cosby lectures you, you forget you’re grown” Murphy says at one point, in all seriousness). The impression goes on for ten minutes of Eddie-as-Cosby trying to work around saying “fuck” and Murphy pretending he doesn’t know what Cosby means (because Cosby won’t say “fuck”).

Once Bill finally gets the word out, Murphy calls up his pal Richard Pryor, and there’s another few minutes of impression-y goodness while Pryor tries to convince Murphy that Cosby’s got his head up his ass. But Murphy’s scared. Pretty soon, Pryor’s done with it:

“I don’t give a fuck! Whatever the fuck makes the people laugh, say that shit! Do the people laugh when you say what you say?”

“Yes…”

“Do you get paid?”

“Yes…”

“Then tell Bill I said have a Coke and a smile and shut the fuck up!”

I’ll be having that Coke and that smile many times in the months and years to come… whenever the conversation turns to The Force Awakens.

It’s hard to remember now, because it was three years ago – so that’s fifteen or twenty years in internet-years – but when Disney bought Lucasfilm for the tune of four billion dollars (which is what to Disney, a week’s worth of grosses?) and instantly announced that they’d be making new Star Wars movies, this was widely seen as a wrong thing. A horrible thing. All-around bad, bad idea. Lucas had already raped everyone’s childhoods with the prequels, so went the conventional wisdom, so just let that dead dog lie where he left it, with Hayden Christensen’s uncanny resemblance to a block of wood and Natalie Portman deadpanning her way through the romance scenes, with Liam Neeson, in every frame of the entire damn movie, radiating –  radiating – profuse, overwhelming relief that he only had to do one of those things. Just let it lie there with all the Film school 101 direction and Jar Jar and the scripts Lucas couldn’t be bothered to start writing till all the sets and all the aliens had already been built. (“Hmmm… let’s see… not order 666, that’s kinda obvious… not order 6, that makes it sound like they don’t get very many orders. Oh… wait… I know…”) Lucas killed the child; it’s done. Leave it alone.

When it emerged that Disney wasn’t gonna leave it alone, any more than Hollywood could possibly leave the Terminator franchise alone after Cameron tried to lock it up airtight with his close to T2 that couldn’t have said THE END any more clearly with a rubber stamp, people got real loud, real quick. Seth McFarlane, who used to spoof Star Wars down the block and back in Family Guy, tweeted: “Can’t wait for more Star Wars movies from the studio that brought us Mars Needs Moms!” He speculated that under the new ownership, his days of lovably mocking the franchise would be dusted and done. (And he was right, of course: when Amy Schumer showed up in GQ this August wearing Leia’s metal bikini and deep-throating a lightsaber, Disney immediately released an ice-cold statement that they hadn’t authorized the use of their character in this way. Cease and desist. Playtime is over. And that was that.)

Finding a director for Force Awakens was difficult. Fincher passed. Brad Bird passed. Guillermo del Toro passed. Tarantino passed with a big, creamy scoop of pure boredom: “I could so care less. Not a fan, sorry. Especially if Disney’s going to do it. I’m not interested in the Simon West version of Star Wars.”

On first glance, J.J. Abrams passed too. He was busy with Star Trek. But then he took a second glance. Star Wars was in his blood. It was all over his 2009 Trek reboot, which made Trek purists swarm on the internet like their anthill had been kicked over. When he said yes to episode VII, a kind of floodgate opened up. “Oh… he might do it right… he just might…” Abrams, Star Wars supernerd extraordinaire, signed on, and it was like a portal to a certain galaxy in the past had been unveiled and everyone’s dreams and wishes went flooding in.

He seemed to be making all the right moves. He brought on Lawrence Kasdan, the co-writer of Empire and Jedi, to help put the story together. He insisted on casting unknowns for the leads, just as Hamil, Fisher and Ford had been in 1977. Back came Williams to tease the old score into something that seems familiar without ever getting stale, with new riffs that feel like someone took your Star Wars soundtrack-sofa and gave it all-new upholstery. Apparently this movie really wasn’t going to be about appeasing anyone or having a certain number of toys show up onscreen. It was going to be something organic and felt and… inspiring.

And now, here it is. And the majority opinion, from both critics and fans, is that it’s exactly that: “simultaneously gripping and a huge release… pure storytelling, streams by with fluency and zip… it’s not just a great piece of science fiction or a great piece of cinema: it’s a new hope…”

Here is the minority opinion.

There is not much that I care about as much as I care about story. It’s all I look for when I watch something or read something. The nuts and bolts; what makes a piece of work tick, where’s its heart, what makes it soar… or not. What’s the story. For this reason, I don’t often re-watch things. Once I’ve seen a show or a movie, I’ve seen it. I’ve got it. Move on.

When the credits rolled on Force Awakens last night, I sat there fiddling with the 3d glasses, listening to the applause and slowly digesting the fact that I hadn’t felt a story unfold for two hours.

I’d been shown a highlight reel. The Greatest Hits of The Force: from the 70s, 80s, 90s… and now today.

Before I continue with what I noticed and what I felt about the film, I want to talk about why it matters. Why does it matter? This movie wasn’t all that and a bag of chips? So what? It’s a movie. It’s an industry. And I’m no one; I don’t get paid to do this, give you my thoughts. So why?

I grew up reading more Tolkien than most people who are not named Steven Colbert. When it emerged that the Hobbit movies were appalling garbage, it didn’t bother me. I just didn’t bother to see them. I didn’t think about it very much; I heard a few stories, shook my head. Eventually I caught 25 minutes of An Unexpected Journey on network TV late one night. Confirmed that it was crap, turned it off.

I didn’t judge Peter Jackson for making them, either. Dude must’ve missed Middle-Earth something awful. He had the chance to go back and squeeze the nectar again; he took it. He made some bad movies; Tolkien’s estate put their foot down. He’ll never get to visit the land again. But even so, and even if he knows they’re bad, and he must, I’ll bet that the child in him rejoiced to make them. Good for him.

The endless corruption of Terminator doesn’t bother me. I saw T3 when it came out, six hundred years ago. A more forgettable movie would be hard to find. The one with Christian Bale I didn’t see, read four hundred reviews of, all bad. Took a lot of sick pleasure in picking them apart like a vulture with a week-old corpse, without ever viewing the horrorshow of the movie itself. No need. James Cameron has always been a filmmaker whose sensibilities are epic in the most instinctual way. That’s what Hollywood does with epics; it milks them ‘till they’re dry. No skin off my nose. I admire T2 passionately, but it’s still just a movie. It’s an intensely well-constructed and deeply thoughtful action movie, but the story it tells and the mythos it weaves can be enjoyed and then set aside. Because its visions are all cold steel and nuclear holocaust, they’re scary, but they’re not immersive. Life isn’t like that.

(I didn’t see the recent one either, where Daenerys plays Sarah Connor. I heard it was a comedy. Whatever.)

The nineteen sequels they made to Highlander never bothered me. The story of a funky five hundred year old antiques dealer with a sword under his trenchcoat, having duels that can only end in beheadings, and his ripped, thousand-year old skinhead nemesis with an empty grin and a mouthful of gravel (‘HEY HEY HEY, I’VE GOT SOMETHING TO SAY…”) was a tale clearly complete when the movie ended, the same way you know you’re finished when a satisfying fantasy novel swirls to denouement. The sequels retconned the story with such utterly flatulent cash-hungry greed that you couldn’t see them as slurs on the original. They were like scarecrows with silly hats on.

And speaking of Trek, what Abrams himself did with the franchise bothered me not at all, and I’ve seen every episode of Next Generation, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise. (Admittedly I was never that into the original series.) The 2009 movie falls apart like a house of cards if you try to explain it to someone, but somehow it magically holds up, beat for beat, while you watch it, like watching a master construct a house of cards.

Of course, Into Darkness did not pull that feat off, and Beyond, directed by the guy who’s done half of the Fast and Furious movies, assuredly won’t. But hey, we got a good alt-universe origin story, and I differed with the purists in that I had no problem with pushing forty years of continuity off the table to do something that felt fresh. While it would be good to see a return to Trek’s philosophical roots, I’m sure we’ll get there eventually: sometimes you have to destroy so you can rebuild. And after 20 years of watching the dullest space battles known to man or God, it’s absolutely fine to give Trek an upgrade there. As someone in the theater I saw the ’09 movie at shouted out during the finale against the Romulans: “damn… Star Trek finally got gangsta!””

It’s a big world, and there’s plenty of stories out there. Whoever you are, whatever you believe, there’s probably a mythos out there for you. Even if you’re not into science fiction or fantasy in the least, there’s probably something you’ve seen in your life that you have a warm spot for, that made you think a little or showed you a few colors you hadn’t ever seen before.

Star Wars is just another story, just another mythos. So why is it a problem if the new movie doesn’t live up to expectations – at least not my expectations?

The answer is simple and it’s complex. Star Wars is different because… it’s an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. It’s different because a more wretched hive of scum and villainy you will never find. Because if there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s furthest from.

It’s different because I find your lack of faith disturbing, because you’re a little short for a stormtrooper and because there’s vital information in the memory systems of this R2 unit.

It isn’t just because the originals are quotable (though they are, and Force Awakens is not). It’s because if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine. It’s because in making the original trilogy, Lucas and his collaborators tapped into something far beyond what they may have been expecting to. Something very powerful, very resonant and very primal.

The original trilogy is different because if you search your feelings, you know it to be true, and it’s all true… from a certain point of view.

You can explain it in terms of Joseph Campbell or Hindu mythology or Carlos Castaneda or other sources… but the fact is that none of these were really Lucas’ overriding motivations, at least not originally. Lucas was, and is, a businessman, and in making (what was later renamed as) Episode IV: A New Hope, he was making a practical-minded business decision. He was trying a new market. He’d made THX 1138, which was a science-fiction movie for grown-ups. Then he made American Graffiti, which was for teenagers.

Then he thought he’d try the kiddie market. And if the movie had not exploded like the Big Bang and invented, more or less by itself, the modern blockbuster… he would’ve just gone on and done something else next. Rom-coms, maybe. It’s hard to imagine, but if New Hope hadn’t immediately shown itself to be a money-printing machine… it would not have spawned decades of inspiration, tributes, imitators and, of course, merchandise. There would have been no (expanded) universe, to which dozens and hundreds of very good writers have contributed sometimes shockingly good novels over the years. (Ask me about my favorites.)

If Episode IV had not become a dollar sign writ as large and dreamy as Ayn Rand could ever have envisioned, it wouldn’t have mattered how many world mythologies it drew on. There probably wouldn’t have been a sequel. And Lucas knew this, which is why New Hope ends on a rock-solid note of punctuation: the throne room scene. If the story ended there, you’d definitely have a full story; beginning, middle and end.

So Lucas, the businessman, found and told a story that, perhaps, was just ready to be told, that perhaps the world was ready to embrace. On one level, that’s what happened.

On another level – he wasn’t just putting some kind of sci-fi space opera sort of thing out there merely to see what happened. He didn’t want to keep hacking away in different genres forever; he did want this to be IT. And it shows: the original trilogy has a dramatic tension within it that can’t be manufactured or studio-approved. The one thing that I and some of the people I saw Force Awakens with last night could agree on was that there’s no such tension within it.

Think of the first Death Star trench run in New Hope. Luke lines the opening up on his computer, he hears Ben’s voice, he lets the missiles go… and he gulps an enormous sigh of release as they shoot down the tube. And you realize that until that moment, Luke had no idea if he would make that shot.

Now look at the X-wing/Tie fighter battles in Force Awakens. Anyone nervous? Anyone seem unsure of themselves? Anyone wondering who’s gonna prevail?

Right.

Think of any key military moment in the original trilogy. Mon Mothma’s “many Bothans died to bring us this information.” Her gentle tones of wonderment and clear-eyed feeling. Ackbar’s “it’s a trap!” so often mocked because he says it ten seconds after everyone sees that it’s obviously a trap. But it still plays, because he’s saying the thing that everyone knows, but is wasting time by not admitting. He says it to jolt the Rebellion into action.

What does Force Awakens offer us for motivation to fight the big fight?

“Yeah, it’s big,” says Han. “Big ship. So?”

There are no stakes for the studio: as long as the main events, episodes 7, 8 and 9 (inter-episode movies are coming, of course) are helmed by someone competent, that four billion dollar investment will continue to grow over the next generation and beyond. Even if there’s never an episode X, XI or XII (naturally, there could be), the Empire that Lucas built is its own self-perpetuating, self-generating engine of profit. It was this before Lucas made the sale; with big D at the wheel, the money can only exponentiate forever. Lest you forget, this is the studio that first found a way around copyright expiration laws, that found a way to keep their trademark characters frozen in carbonite forever, so that even today you can’t market the image of Mickey Mouse without the approval of Disney. And now they have Star Wars, and it’s not hard to imagine that Star Wars will be coming at us through the 21st century. Maybe even beyond.

So. No stakes for the story. That isn’t to say that the story is bad; this is no Highlander sequel, and Force Awakens does not tell a bad story. It just doesn’t tell a realized story. The beats are there under the surface to make something really intriguing, if they would just gel.

Many large-scale choices that are made with the story are good ones. And let me now give them their due:

The choice to make Kylo Ren a psychopath who has all of Vader’s power and none of his discipline is a great idea. It makes for a very different dynamic than Vader had with the Imperials. Vader kept everyone in line through pure fear. Kylo Ren, though he could kill anyone around him just as easily, can’t do this. So others, like the commanding officer played by Domnhall Gleason, aren’t afraid to stand up to him. He’s a wannabe Vader who wears the mask just because Vader wore one. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in episodes 8 and 9 – how far will the series go in giving us a portrayal of, basically, fanboy fantasies taken to the logical endpoint?

The choice to kill Han is the right choice. There’s nothing more for the character to do. To make Ren his son and to let Ren kill him as a rite of passage into the dark side echoes the original storyline in a beautifully twisted way: instead of the Dark Jedi father imploring his Light side son to join him, we have an all-too-human father imploring his son to do the same. Both sons make the same decision, though where Luke and Vader are evenly matched, Ren’s power and Han’s lack makes this decision a final one. And of course, Han’s long fall off that bridge echoes Luke’s fall through Cloud City. (Abrams deep understanding of the originals’ visuals lets him play aesthetic riffs all over the place; it was the main thing – maybe the only thing – that kept me engaged throughout the film.)

Making Rey a scavenger on a (different) desert planet also resonates very nicely. The first time we see her, she looks like a Jawa. Letting such a character be our hero plays richly with our sense of who characters are and what they’re meant to do, just like that weird-ass holographic chess game with the beasties that’s in the Falcon.

Presenting Supreme Leader Snoke to us for the first time as A MOTHERFUCKING GIANT… and then letting us see that it’s just a hologram… pleased me inordinately. Maybe he’s human-sized? Maybe he’s two feet tall? Maybe he has penile issues? This will be a topic of debate until we find out; kudos to Abrams and Co. for so cleverly giving us that to chew on.

Also, the music in the new cantina is nicely mellow. And the fight choreography is good. And all of the acting in the film is great. Even Luke’s single shot at the end is heavy with gravitas and foreboding.

Those are the good points.

Let’s move on to the problems. The problems are not subtle. They’re typical. They’re the same problems so many blockbuster movies have had ever since New Hope invented the genre.

See the Death Star? Here it is, on the 3D map above the conference table in Resistance HQ. Now here’s the new ship. The Death Star is a gumball dropped down the head of that gumball machine. That said, the First Order’s flag-Godzilla doesn’t seem as big as the alien ship in the trailer for Independence Day: Resurgence that played before the movie, so… everything in moderation, I guess. Why does it need to be that big? So it can blow up five Alderaans at once. Why do they need to blow up five Alderaans at once…?

Hmmmm. I’m hearing crickets.

Those were five planets. You just blew them all up. That’s in the neighborhood of 35 billion people dead, yes? You’re not telling us they were uninhabited or a “demonstration of our power” or any such; you’re telling us they were Republic planets housing Resistance fighters. Boom. All gone. 40-second Nazi speech, 30-second solar charge, and boom.

Well, what's 5 fully inhabited planets? We do have a whole galaxy to fuck with; it says so, right there at the beginning of the movie. So in Star Wars, five planets into space dust is like leveling one medium-sized city in an earthbound action movie. No big.

(And back at Disney, a serious discussion commences in the boardroom: how many planets can we get away with blowing up in eps 8 and 9? Now let's not get greedy, I think we'll have to keep it to a total of five more between the 2 movies. 2 in VIII, 3 in IX... Colin Trevorrow is really pushing for 4 though... well, okay... what if the 4th toasted planet in IX is just... a fish planet? Planet of fish, no people? Well possibly... oh, shit -- are we still using Ackbar in the series? Yeah, we gave him one scene in Force Awakens -- yeah he's amphibian... damn. I like the fish planet idea, but no; then Ackbar would have to grieve, that's forty-five seconds of screen time... okay scratch that. Now: is it a problem if we blow up a planet with lots of wildlife? Hmm, the needle indicates that it could be; in Force Awakens Rey said she never knew there was so much green in the galaxy, and that played well... okay, no roasting green planets. Urban centers: fine, definitely gotta have the close-up on one person who's "distraught" before the blast hits... hey, what if the Distraught Person is... not on a crowded balcony, but... on... a children's playground...? JESUS, NO CHILDREN!!! People would THINK about that! No, of course, no children, but what if they're alone on a children's playground? One adult, all alone and Distraught, looking up, before the blast hits... hmmm... hmmm! I like it! Bit of a Terminator vibe... okay, put it on the big board...)

So, as we say: THAT happened. Back at Resistance HQ, no one seems to have… felt… a… disturbance. (Hang on, hasn’t the Force awakened? That would make more people Force-sensitive, no?) They know what happened; they just saw it happen. They’re all… quite… concerned… about that weapon getting fired again. But as act 3 plays out, it becomes drearily, tediously apparent that the only reason it doesn’t get fired again is because smashing five planets where we haven't met anyone is totes awesome, but you can’t actually blow up the planet that all the good guys are on.

Next. The First Order: who? No backstory. Nothing on how the phoenix of the First Order rose from the ashes of the Empire. The Empire which was toast at the end of the last movie. But check out those First Order duds: same stormtrooper white. Same Imperial black. Same snooty, bureaucratic attitudes. In fact, same organization.

Next. Poe and Finn crash-land on Jakku. They get separated: how? The logic gap here is gonna make Jean-Luc Picard do that facepalm thing. Finn blacked out inside the ship? Poe got thrown out of the ship? He got thrown… really far? So far that he couldn’t even see the crashed Tie Fighter when he woke up? He got thrown… out of his jacket? His jacket stayed inside the ship?

As plot points, all of these things are lacking, but they’re also all in the realm of the ordinary for action movies. It would be nice if more thought had been put into them, but none was, because typically, none ever is for these sorts of things. They are, therefore, forgivable.

The forgivable things are Tier 1. Let’s move on to Tier 2.

One of the best things a story – told through any medium – can do, is subvert audience expectations. You’re expecting something – the known thing, the trope that would happen here in a story of this type. But something else happens completely! You’re thrown off your feet; you don’t know where you are, and when you get your bearings the whole dynamic has changed and you’re holding your breath.

Okay, they throw Ned Stark in the dungeon. The Lannisters want his head, but you can’t KILL him; he’s the protagonist… oh… they killed him? Oh my god…

Okay… now what? Well… his son will have to avenge him. That makes sense… oh, my God. A sword through his heart? And his mother dead? And all of his generals dead? I don’t know what’s going on…

Tyler Durden runs a club where men pound each other to bloody bits. The narrator is his best friend. Why does Tyler like him so much? Because they’ve bonded, because… they’re… the same person? Where did that come from? I don’t know, but it makes sense…

Force Awakens pulls off a nice subversion. Except that it isn’t one. It just seems like one because it’s Star Wars, and half the population of the world (or about one-tenth of the number of people who were killed by the First Order’s death ray) have been hanging on the trailers for months.

The trailers set us up to believe that Finn discovers the Force through the story, and takes on Kylo Ren, prevailing… but nope, it’s Rey, actually, who’s strong in the Force, and it’s she who proves Ren’s match at the end of the movie.

If you had never seen any of the trailers and watched the film fresh out of the box, you’d have no reason on first watch to believe that Finn is going to learn the Force. He leaves the Order because – well, evil – and you get the impression that he’ll wind up joining the Resistance. And this is what happens, actually. His story is pretty straightforward. Rey’s, likewise. From the start, she’s cast in the Luke role. She’s agile, independent, the cute droid latches on to her, and she lives on a desert planet. Guess she’ll learn the Force.

Oh, she learned it. Right then.

Which leads me to the final problem with the story. Rey doesn’t actually “learn” the Force at all. She doesn’t know the Force, she finds a lightsaber, has a few visions, and then… she just… knows it. Knows how to do things. The mind push. The telekinesis. No mentor. No training. No discussion. No Force: then Force.

Children are great judges of story, because their bullshit-meters are finely tuned. If I were telling this story to a child, and I got to the part where Rey starts using the Force, they’d narrow their eyes. They’d get skeptical. They’d want details.

And I wouldn’t have any for them. She just… knows the Force, okay? She didn’t, but now she does.

The child would say, “that’s stupid!”

And I would say: yes. Yes, it is.

And yes: some (or maybe even all) of these issues will no doubt be addressed in the next two movies. But that doesn’t matter. They aren’t addressed here. A story that doesn’t stand on its own, doesn’t.

Whenever I see Force Awakens again, I’m sure I’ll shrug, the way many people in many places will be shrugging over the coming months, as if they suddenly sensed a great disturbance but were suddenly silenced: “oh, yeah. It’s fine.” That kind of shrug. It isn’t a great movie. It isn’t a good story. But it has some interesting things going on in it, and it’s cool to look at.

And so. There’s no shame in having a popcorn movie, if that’s your thing… but Star Wars doesn’t get to be a popcorn movie, because it never was one. Its themes are wide and deep, and if you don’t play them out from the previous generation into this one, then frankly, you’ve failed. You’ve failed the only test that matters: you’ve failed to inspire.

Lucas failed when he made the prequels. He knew it, and with each episode he seemed to find greater heights to fail from. (If the Darth Jar Jar theory is true, he even failed to unfold the storyline that attracted him to the prequels in the first place.)

Abrams and the other directors are in no danger of failing so astonishingly. Lucas had his own standards to live up to, and even if he tried to bury them, he couldn’t forget them. Watching the prequels fail must have been very hard for him.

Abrams and the rest of us grew up as fans. We didn’t give birth to this story and all the voices and all the colors that flew out of it. We discovered them, already hewn together. And our standards are our own. In an interview with Wired this month, Abrams said:

“…I tried to focus on things that I find inspiring about cinema. I asked questions like “how do we make this movie delightful?” That was really the only requirement Larry and I imposed on each other: The movie needed to be delightful… this has only ever been about what gets us excited.”

At the top of this piece, I said that the movie didn’t meet my expectations. That’s true, but in a more general way, it does meet all of the expectations that “we” – not you or I, but the sort of collective fanbase – has for it. If you said, just off the top of your head, “what would a Star Wars movie look like if it were made today?” The first thing that came to mind would be very much like the movie that is actually in theaters. A visual dream of a movie, skimming the surface like a landspeeder, never really touching anywhere or meaning very much – just zooming toward the horizon.

Watching the movie, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that we live in a society that tends to conspire to discourage emotion and feeling and genuine connection. When I realized I couldn’t stop thinking about this, that Episode VII was making me reflect on this, I knew I would have to write about it. Because the ability to destroy a planet – or be destroyed by one – is insignificant compared to…

Our world tends to tamp us down, leave us drained and without a lot to say. Our experience of things like: creativity, adventure, love and connection tends to be against the grain of this world; not with it.

So when you make a fantasy/sci-fi movie, you’re going to be aware of the difference between the world you’re creating and our shared real world. If the difference between the two is too vast, you’re going to have problems. Avatar in 2009, for instance, had problems. The gulf between our world and that world was too great for some people to bear. It sparked a run of suicides by people who couldn’t deal with that world being fantasy.

Force Awakens won’t let that gap get so large that anyone will die in it. The movie drains us in an expected way. It’s unremarkable and self-conscious and zippy and lacking imagination in expected ways. And once you accept that it’s going to be like that, it can even be liked on its own terms…

…but we deserve better than that, better than what this film showed us. All of us: everyone who’s bothered to read this piece of mine, anyway, because I can be pretty sure that only people with a visionary eye and a real, beating heart in their chests are going to read this. We deserve to be seen. Not just “delighted” and sent to bed.

Luminous beings, are we. Not this crude matter.

I do wonder how long people will go on insisting that the movie is everything they ever wanted and more.

I think that's everything I have to say. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to have a Coke.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Curious Poses: NYCMidnight FlashFic 2011 Story #2

Flash Fiction in the NYCMidnight contest = a 1000 word story written in 48 hours, with given prompts.  I'll reveal the prompts my group had to work with this time around at the end of the story.

**************************************

The Moffett Elementary school-grounds were a different sight to him at night.  Not a benign mesa, but a squat amplification of the dull compost pile he called memory.  Night and day, he thought as he approached: by day, the scene was a Prozac addict’s brain satiated.  Come night, the brain went off its meds. 

Off its meds, the brain’s eye registered only the compost.  And like a bonfire fed by leaking bullet casings, its stench only grew.

An ocean of violets in bloom…

A lone, pale bird turned, wheeling before diving and perching on a fence-edge.  It measured the human before it like the legged creature was an exhibition for avian amusement.

James tapped a pack of cigarettes and struck up at the playground’s borderline, waiting and gazing out at nothing at all.

“Intro,” he whispered.  “Techno leers, guitar riff and keyboard.  Thirty-five seconds.”

How can you just leave me standing…?

Some spanless interval passed before James sensed his old playmate.  Gone still all over, he palmed his cigarette, pinched the ember; flicked it invisibly at a bush.

Alone in a world so cold…

Forcing motion before he was ready, he turned to see a blast from the past.

A heap of maggots stood before him.  He blinked; it reconstituted into a man.

“Jack,” the man said with a rictus grin.  “Too long, dude.”

“James.”

Maggot-man vacillated, staring, jaw hung low.

“It’s James now.  Has been ever since we moved away.”

Billy nodded slightly, sucking on his gums.  “It’s like that?”

James shivered.

“Not like that.  Like this.”  Billy demonstrated…

The grown-up formerly known as Jack looked his oldest friend dead in the eye, and gave the thinnest of smiles.

“It’s been like that.”  He let a solitary beat waft by.  “Dig, if you will?”

He watched it hit home with pleasure.  Billy’s face screwed slowly into recognition and spat back: “Fuck you, Jack.  I hauled ass up here for you.  Fifteen years.”

“Seventeen, in fact.  You lose track at the Hilton?”

“Oh, you askin’ for it, Jack.”  Billy displayed that nonpareil thousand-yard stare; for eternities it’d made both of them lords of the jungle.  In the joint he’d plainly honed it past all mortal ken, to a terminal edge.  He shook like a stick-shift jammed in first gear.  “You must want it bad…”

Never like you did, James thought.

Dream if you can…
…a courtyard…

An o-cean of violets in bloom…

“Dude, it’s not even about what I want – it’s our due.”

Billy at thirteen loped under the net, ball ricocheting to the layup, in for two, still driving his point to the ground.

“Don’t tell me you ain’t itchin’ to hit it.  Besides, spics be makin’ noise how we can’t hit it.  If mothafucking Julio with his old-ass junk come cluckin’ and cocking around again, I will smash that baby bird down…”

Jack nodded, absently checking the perimeter where black on yellow fluttered in the corrugated door-hinge: POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS.  Shredded; like we’re Rottweilers.  He freaked at a sudden bass shift; Billy’d flicked the boom box to max, doing his low-riding Prince grin from across the court.

Dig if you will… the picture…

Of you and I engaged… in a kiss…

It rocked him back to reality.  “We can’t shoot here all afternoon,” he shouted over the bass.  “And we can’t tap that ass.  You catch the headlines?  We’re Poor White Trash; they’d pick us up for it day after yesterday.” 

Billy swayed to the beat and the grin got wider, brighter and emptier:

The sweat of your bo… dy co-vers me…
Can you mah darrrling --
Can you pic-ture this?

You need what I need,” Billy called back, working mellow trip-hop as Jack’s mind floated the options in the summer haze, through gasoline-fume emanating from sewage and manholes, out to the ozone.  “Peas in a pod, Jack.”  The courtyard rang to his laughter.

An-i-mals strike cur-i-ous poses…

They feel the heat!!
The heat be-tween – me and you!!!

“Nah, not like that.  Like this.  You gotta put it in her or you ain’t done nothing.”  Billy demonstrated, tossing Jack aside – again – and straddling Ashlee Archer, twelve-and-a-half, dean’s list, D-Cup, First Chair Cellist and future Fountain Valley High goth bitch and dropout, currently sobbing on the Moffett Elementary playground, between the swingset and the geodesic, organically designed jungle gym, choking on cries as she cradled the wrist Billy’d wrecked with a brick some time earlier.

Touch if you will… mah stomach—
Feel how it trem-bles inside—
You’ve got the buuuu-tter-flies all… tied… up!
Don’t make me chase you –
E-ven doves have pride…

Jack carefully watched limbs flail and bounce.  Then coughed once and nodded his partner up and off.

Maybe you’re just like my mother…
She’s never sa-tis-fied…

His father purchased a grey-suited man who brought a jury to reason: Jack was Billy’s naïve, brainwashed accomplice.  It was only natural; Jack’s innocence writ like lines of water in his face.  Billy’s, conversely, held knives.
                                      
Time served.  While Billy did seventeen, James hit an M.B.A., hit Wall Street, hit halls of power, hit models and songstresses, the heap of dead leaves and overripe, rotting fruit behind his eyes forever spilling and bleeding.
                                                   
This is what it sounds like…

“You asking for it, Jack, for something you do not want to unleash…”

James’ hand shot out, catching Billy under the chin, driving him up like a jig might; he smashed to the concrete like old China-ware.

“I came to give you that,” James said.  “Been keeping it warm for you.

“Now get the fuck out of my sight.”

Billy got.

James watched him stumble off. 

He remembered incantations he’d cast against the void in the years after he’d left this place, ripped from the playbooks of other drunks who once wandered to and fro in the earth, under the sun. 

He whispered one, now: And I only am escaped alone to tell thee…

To tell her…

…What?

The dove watched him incuriously, with no sound at all.

****************************************************


My group's prompts were: Open genre, A children's playground (must be the predominant setting) and police tape (must appear somewhere in the story.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Two Poems.

These two short poems have long been published on the poetry site Cosmoetica.  Yesterday, while editing my older blog posts, it occurred to me that I could, in fact, have my own poetry on my own blog.  The Sonata was written in 2006 and the villanelle Leather, Sketch, Score, Mist in 2002.

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Heat Sonata

Now motion is postmarked, sealed and shipped.
I recognize the propriety of stagnation
and await, with my brilliant reasonableness
the next hundred easels.

I await that old classic: the end of invisibility.
I await the confluence of light and need.
I await a microcosm of dogma...

In Lyle, perspiration's index sits on its stool
and thumbs its tail at a schizoid menu.

Fringe elements wail in the heat.  Thermonuclear with the Jewish 'u' on...
Leaf and chrysalis bent like a blank dogear...

Tasteless things.  Placards and shrugs.
Old anthems placated down through the pipes
Into one small --

Wash 'n wear kaleidoscopes.
Steel-belted harpsichords.
Thrill-seeking stonehowls.

The last impulse of speech is always fluted.




Elastic gong rings in a shivering space:
bent beams cross on a leafless cluster;
Unraveling a batch of glass-blown bake.

roily dodges wandering, opaque;
momentum, rivaling, lacks a pout to muster.
Elastic bound rings in a searing space.

Out in grace, waiting curious, all origami cascade:
illuminate this stillminded play concave maze –
unraveling spiral, of nonesuch make

while star-felt reelings la deedle de game
reaping, into verse, pelt static through flame.
Elastic bound rings in a salted space –

and moves impatiently, like an unsigned wave
palms up and soundless in any given enclave,
unraveling spiral, horn and wake.

at limbo, o scarlet harlequin, bow a sheer A;
a long-muted mobile sees its calmed outline fade.
elastic bound rings in a salted space
unraveling spiral, horn and wake.



Copyright Ó by Everett Goldner

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wolves, Lower.

[Note: this piece was posted on May 13th, but one of Blogger's strange editing glitches moved it while I was editing it today.  Blogger's editing program is horrible.  8/31/11.]

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High up in the North in the land called Svithjod, there stands a rock. It is a hundred miles high and a hundred miles wide. Once every thousand years a little bird comes to this rock to sharpen its beak. When the rock has thus been worn away, then a single day of eternity will have gone by.

--Hendrik Van Loon, The Story of Mankind.

I wasn't that into music when I was small. I grew up knowing a few select bands and singers, and they were mine owing to gut reflex, really, rather than because I knew what I liked. Some kids do. They learn what they're listening to and why, and so find themselves happily soaked in that instinct for something magically sonic and, what's more, something communal. Not I.

My tastes ran to the edgy and schizophrenically attractive to a kid's mind, but thoroughly puerile in retrospect -- They Might Be Giants -- or off the cliffedge genius -- Tori Amos, from who the theater geeks and high school divas got a first taste of dangerous sexuality as she rearranged our heads forever with lines that dove, bled or scraped through the mind like a rake on concrete... I... want to kill... this waaii-tress... she's worked here a year... longer than I... and all of this was roughly sewn together for me with some mass anthem, mass appeal: U2, Peter Gabriel. I'd like to say that I knew Sting, but I only knew Summoner's Tales, and I only knew that because of 'Shape of my Heart', the song that shows up at the end of The Professional, as a twelve-year old Natalie Portman tends to the houseplant of the hit man-cum-father figure who sacrificed himself for her life.

My first memory of music is set on Christmas Day, 1983. I'm six and playing with a slot-car track as Michael Stipe croons 'The One I Love' in the background. (Wikipedia tells me that the album Document was released in 1987. Do I care? Or even believe it? Not really. This vision of this song on Christmas has always been one of my clearest early memories.) Stipe doesn't mumble, which of course is not par for the course with him.

In high school I really gravitate toward R.E.M., to the disdain of my hipper friends who bliss out to Oingo Boingo, and while I'm well into a couple Boingo tracks -- 'Just Another Day' with its pitch-perfect optimism, 'Spider' and 'Can't See', Elfman's goth-lite pastoral scenes, even the eight-minute 'Insanity' (in my memory it's about twelve), which to a casual listener in a Pandora mix would mean nothing at all beyond "mid-nineties" -- it's R.E.M. that I always return to. Yes, I find 'Shiny Happy People' as revolting as everyone else does, but otherwise I love Out of Time, debatably the band's signature album to that point, certainly their commercial crossover. 'Low' defines mood music for me, and so when emo comes plodding along later I'm totally ready to trash it. 'Belong' somehow manages to assemble and invoke the spirit of ancient storytelling inside a tale that's driven by the very contemporary urge to heal something -- or someone -- broken. Somewhere in the late nineties, Tori Amos does an acoustic cover of 'Losing My Religion' that over the last decade has taken on a slow, indelible life of its own.

One year past Out of Time brought us to Automatic for the People, the title not communist slang, but the maxim of a diner in Athens, Georgia. The album opens with a guitar solo on an empty midnight road. Here's where someone music-savvier than myself might have pondered a hand-me-down Springsteen vibe in 'Drive', but the pulse is immediate, calm, centered and concerned with nothing but its own introspective dance, and I only ever knew that it felt the way I wanted to feel on the floor of a shitty Texarkanish club in Eugene, Oregon. The violin chorus plays haymaker to the guitar anyway. Portishead and GY!BE, I'm sure, were taking notes at a distance.

Four songs later we find 'New Orleans Instrumental #1' and 'Sweetness Follows', companion pieces in a way -- the former mellow where the latter is thunderous; the former a fast-flowing stream, the latter a tidal wave. All the best R.E.M. songs are unique, and while I wouldn't call 'Sweetness Follows' one of my favorites, there's really no dismissing its power. The band's name has always been somewhat of a misnomer, as R.E.M. has never been as concerned with dreams as with memory ('Maps and Legends', 'Second Guessing'); how it throws light on the past, how it twists. Life the way it looks in the rear-view mirror. Many, many trees gave their lives to produce the reams of essays that were produced about R.E.M.'s meanings once the band careened into the spotlight: the Joycean wordplay, the semiotics essay, "Metaphor as Mistake", that influenced Stipe at the University of Georgia. Later on, the approbation of the band's cult status by Hollywood for frenzied, postmodern shtick like Vanilla Sky

All of them lost their way in linguistic thrashing and missed the music. 'Sweetness Follows' is an almost painful melody about the distance in-between. It offers no answers. The oboe is brilliant.

Two years after Automatic, R.E.M. made a record with the giggly-clunker title New Adventures in Hi-Fi. This is not my favorite R.E.M. album (that's Document), might not even make my top five, but it contains what I have always considered to be their single finest piece of work. 'Leave' on the studio LP runs 7:18, and like a great movie deserves to be played without a break, though it's also a great song to drive to. It opens on a dripping guitar solo, slower than 'Drive', no dance floor in sight, just a ruminative, reflective strum. This plays for eight bars. Then the band hits up an air-raid siren -- this is not a metaphor -- that sounds without interruption for the rest of the song. It gets eight bars on its own and then the guitar joins it, the theme unchanged, but now somehow triumphant rather than sad. The lyrics are as elegant and seamlessly woven over the lone guitar (which is all the studio track uses) as anything Stipe has ever written.

Nothing can bring me closer...

Nothing can bring me near...

Where is the road I follow... to leave... leave...

When my high school goth friends sneered at my band, it was essentially because R.E.M. can seem too plain, too bald, if you're not really tuned in. These were, after all, southern boys who almost named their band Cans of Piss. The argument we had wasn't a stylistic difference about darkness or cynicism -- both R.E.M. and Oingo Boingo had heart to spare in their own ways, miles away from the autoerotic shock that NIN/Marilyn Manson tried to deliver in the same era. Where Boingo and Stipe's band parted ways was in their approach to showmanship: Elfman vamped like a white Prince, put midgets on stage banging drums and played dozens of different instruments like the musical prodigy he was, with a backup cast of dozens, whereas R.E.M. never grew past a four-man ensemble and rarely employed much instrumentally beyond the standard three-piece guitar/bass/drums set of Buck, Mills and Berry. But in 'Leave' they accomplished something I suspect they'd been methodically working up to for fifteen years: they crafted their awkward, inside-out sensibilities onto a rock anthem that revealed nothing less than a heart in motion, off and running in it own element. If a soul can be defined as that which universalizes experience, telling you not just my story but part of your own, then R.E.M. found the soul's notes here, even if they were nothing but signposts you might have seen once in a dream of a desert landscape.

Suffer the dreams of a world gone mad, I like it like that and I know it...

I know it well... ugly and sweet...

I temper madness with an even extreme...

In a 2005 performance of the song that's YouTubeable (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-TKqzlDy5I), Stipe looks as loose as I've ever seen him, hopping around the stage, tossing the mike from hand to hand, freaking out as far as the song requires and no further, cheerleadering the audience. It had been a long journey from the extreme self-consciousness of 'Radio Free Europe' on Murmur; from a first clumsy grab at big-time cool to an assured, steamrolling, vibing masterpiece.

Then they lost their drummer. Bill Berry had been feeling ready to leave the pop world behind, and made the break just before recording began on the new album. "Are we still R.E.M.?" Stipe wondered aloud. "I guess a three-legged dog is still a dog. It just has to learn to run differently." And so, like others were doing in the late nineties, they discovered electronica and made a record, Up, that many believe was a subtle influence on Radiohead's Kid A two years later -- and Radiohead, after all, is just R.E.M. turned British with a spinal cord that's ratcheted through a corkscrew. 'Lotus' was unlike anything the band had done before, except maybe Monster. 'The Apologist' seemed like a precursor to Accelerate while acting as a chorus for all the band's work up to that time. 'Walk Unafraid': the rhythm, the beat, even the title played to Radiohead's particular brand of urban gamesmanship. (Listen to the guitar intro and then listen to 'Airbag' again.) Stipe's lyrical flow in 'Walk Unafraid' is also much more classically R.E.M. than in 'Daysleeper', a concept song, or 'At My Most Beautiful', a Shiny-Happyish song I've never personally liked. Detractors of Up will call Stipe's words here a little too straightforward, a bit too plain, but I'd say the album possesses moments, as in 'Walk Unafraid', where they're just working the peak they found in 'Leave'.

I just want to hold my head up high...

I don't care what I have to step over...

I'm prepared to look you in the eye...

After Up came Reveal and Around the Sun, the latter probably the band's low point, with problems that fans understand well and which I don't feel the need to rehash here. Reveal, arguably a great album, is not one I've ever been drawn to, though it did have 'I'll Take The Rain', a stripped-down song that Stipe called "the big chick ballad" which, ironically enough, later found a place in the Goth, black-coats-and-anime subculture I've been contrasting R.E.M. with here.

What can be said about Accelerate? That it was their most secure album since Berry's departure? It was. That it was the closest they've ever come to flat-out rock and roll? It was that too. That live on tour, Stipe sounded like a different person, talking about black periods and depressions as if he'd never had any? He did. That's all. That's enough.

This year brought us Collapse Into Now, their fifteenth album. As with a lot of their albums, it's got a few songs -- 'Dicoverer' and 'Uberlin' -- that I love, a few more I appreciate -- 'Oh My Heart', 'Blue' with Patti Smith, 'Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I' -- and several that I'm indifferent about. 'Marlon Brando' harkens back to 'New Adventures', which in its best moments off from 'Leave' was a kind of lullaby. 'Oh My Heart' is a very simple song that showcases, if anything, Stipe and Co.'s maturity. 'Uberlin' shows you how far their ability to transform the mundane into the profound has come; the rhythm sounds a lot like the eighties R.E.M., Document and what they were jamming on prior to it, but it's now measured and settled: less a journey than a stroll. 'Discoverer' is another one they could never have made thirty years ago -- it's just an up-tempo geek-out about the world and how cooool it all is, with these computers and technology and all, boasting a deceptively simple verse that leads into a classically majestic R.E.M. chorus. It's only what they've been doing throughout their career, and yet each time they do it again it takes you by surprise.

The other surprise is the way the guys look these days -- middle-aged. Stipe looks like a college professor. As a young band, in the struggle to write about what they were writing about, to marry craft to passion, Stipe, the grandson of a preacher, found in his songwriting an innate simplicity to life and love that's never been matched in the alt. rock landscape. They'd show you something, tell you something, make sure you knew it, and then take a step back and think awhile. In the 1980s, in a world of white noise and infinitives split down the middle, it was a rare thing to encounter. It still is.

Singer, sing me a given...

Singer, sing me a song...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Newborn

This was my entry for round #1 of the 2011 NYCMidnight Flash Fiction Contest.  The contest puts writers in groups of 23 or 24, each group given a Genre, a Primary Location the story must be set in and an object that has to appear at some point.  Max length a story can be is 1000 words.  My group's assignments were: Comedy, a mansion, a saxophone. 

I'm in the process of revising the story, as time permits, out past 1000 words and adding some scenes; right now it's around 1040.  Feedback welcome.





******************************

“It can’t be open.”

“Turn the knob and see.”

“Gonna turn your knob if you don’t stop this bullshit.”

“Cowards die many times, ma Cherie.  The valiant taste of death but once.”

“Fuck you, Jack,” but she sighed and reached for the doorknob.

And it opened, at the merest glance from her knuckles.  Beyond stood three floors of an opulent Louisiana chateau, empty as daybreak, proud with slats of ancient, honorable light.  They peered over the threshold and a gage of keen curiosity tugged them inexorably inward.

Somewhere in the recesses of her imagination, she felt a Cheshire-like smile flickering out and in.
********************

They met, her freshman year of high school; shrunken deep within a pea-green coat, all vestiges of baby fat packed beneath her jeans, belying the sharper angles her frame would soon grow into; bent over cigs in the yard, she was, she thought that fall, doing well at alienating the wash of humanity she was so horribly fated to contend with for the forseeable ever, until the day this one freakish dude had the audacity to sit uninvited on the limestone bench she staked out every lunch hour.

“If you must smoke cloves, hide the logo between your fingers and sit edgier.  Not hunched like a cripple.”  He demonstrated, leaning off the bench and smiling politely at her.

“I’m not smoking cloves.”  A raised eyebrow: he popped a pack of Camels and waved it at her.  She flinched and he quivered with contained laughter.  The cloves were symbolic – a habit born when Kurt Cobain had shuffled off this mortal coil, two years previous.

“Jack.”  He extended a hand: she stared at it.  His fingers were wrapped in spiraling flesh-toned bandages, all torn at the first joint.  He followed her gaze down.  “Ah, they’re makeshift.  Protection when digging.”

“What’re you, an archaeologist?”

“Something like that.”

“I’m Anndrea.  My… some people… call me Andy.”

“So?  Which?”

“Andy.”

************************

Très gothic, Jack…” she rapped on a bannister, nodding as the sound reverberated through the space.  The echoes were mellifluous, and she caught her breath before doing it again to be sure she’d heard right.  “Oh, sweetness!  The acoustics in here are…”

“Yes.”  Below, in the spacious entryway, Jack prowled thoughtfully, skidding his boots on the hardwood floor for similar audial effect.  “The walls are… oak?  At least: maybe much richer than oak.”

“You think the owners…”

“Whoever owned this abode, Cherie, has clearly forsaken it for other pastures,” he said, plucking a cobweb from his coat to contemplate in the mid-morning light.  She rolled her eyes.  He’d been calling her “Cherie” for two months, while they set up shop in the French Quarter, telling their first clients that his name was Gambit.  He didn’t have a word of French, but New Orleans was giving his extravagant leanings full rein.  He spread his arms wide, now, intoning a few lines of magic:

“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree.
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea...” 

She shook her head and walked away before he could start in on the House of Usher.

She wandered the second floor hallway, tracing dust-lines as she went, wondering about the décor in here.  Roaring Twenties, she guessed, only because something of the quaint elegance in the surroundings suggested a flapper party, everybody Gatsby-ied out to the nines, Fitzgerald in the corner muttering something drunkenly witty to Dorothy Parker as a swing band mowed through Miles Davis numbers… wait, Miles wasn’t around then… who was…? 

Dad or Nana would’ve known…

(“Anndrea Torday, this will be new to you.  Not quite what your father crafted, but what he knew of music: of pitch, of mood, of tempo, of true musicality, he learned from me.” 

“He never said…”

“Which surprises me not in the least.  Your father was a complicated man.  But hush, now.”  The girl sat motionless as Nana carefully removed her violin from an elegant, flowered case.  Grandame’s sonatas rippled, slipping through her memory as she wound absently down the hallway…

“Daddy…?” 

He turned, in the doorway, adjusting his cap.  “Pops got a brand-new gig to-night, sweetness.  You know?  Told you once, fo’ sho’.”

She shuffled her feet.  “Those men came again, didn't they?  I heard.”

“Heard what, babe?” he drawled, all nonchalance.

Her tummy hurt, but she still looked up at him.  “They said, ‘pay or you gonna pay.’”

He looked away, exhaled, then crouched to meet her face.  “Andy, you listen up to me.  You listenin’?” 

She nodded silently: he only called her that when he was serious.

“I know these cowboys.  They know what I got, know what I’m good for.  This gig tonight?  Gonna leave it square, and then we gon’ leave all that babble in the dust.”  He smiled.  “Get us a fancy big car, you and me, and we’ll go, you dig, Andy?  We’ll roam the wide world and see what we can see.  Be explorers.”

It was a good speech; she knew far too well how good it was.  Nary a word had ever left her memory. 

Seven year-old Anndrea looked at her father doubtfully, and her mouth quirked up.  “For real?” she said.

“For real.  Only new frontiers for us.  Now gimme a hug.”  He swept her up, ruffled her hair once and was gone forever.)

…the music left in a bright, gentle flash as her fingers slid along the wall, catching suddenly on a closet frame, jerking her out of reverie.  The sweet wind of dad’s sax caught an upcurrent and evanesced; the music swept out and out, to the rafters, leaving her alone in the hall.

But something told her it was only awaiting its next cue to enter.

She looked at the closet door, and a rhythm nestled in her bones told her what she would find inside.

*************************

Jack was in the kitchen, inspecting pots which he'd wager good money were last cleaned during Nixon’s presidency when she stumbled in, crying, cradling something in her arms.

“Whoa – Andy?  Something happen…?” but she shook her head; with the most radiant smile he’d ever seen, she held out the saxophone. 

And after a moment, he understood.

“We’ll name it after your father…”

                                                    Finis.





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Hope you enjoyed it.  And hey, BONUS if you read down to here: Last week I participated in the NYCMidnight Micro Fiction Challenge, in which everyone had 12 hours to write a 100 CHARACTER story -- that's 100 characters including spaces -- using a given word.  My group's word was "crowd".  Here's my entries.



1): In gleam slipt hatchlings, nibbling at moss. So drawn, sinking, soundless, ran a crowd of blue bass.




2): Ahem: Abandoned limbs, loin of Michaelangelo, mexically neck on the plain, nickeling the sour crowd.


(And in poetic lines, which I like better, but in prose this is still my favorite of the three):


Ahem:

Abandoned limbs, loins of Michaelangelo
Mexically neck on the plain
Nickeling at the sour crowd.




3): Time’s coded sweat slipt west of the Appalachians in a child’s still sleigh, fallowed for the crowd.