A Band of Black (part 5)

A Band of Black

part 5

by Thadd Presley

“So, you were talking about psychedelic mushrooms, right?” He nodded. “I can’t wait to try one. I mean, I’ve heard of them for years, but never had the opportunity and I’ve always wanted to have a natural trip.”

Ozzy was watching me closely when I spoke. So close that it had an effect on my thinking. I realized, it was my accent that made him have to pay close attention to what I was saying.

“Psychedelic mushrooms are perfectly natural, aren’t they?”

“Yes, natural. Nick has an organic set up.”

“We have all the acid and ecstasy anyone could ever want back home, but no mushrooms. I’m sure with Nick at the helm of my trip through America.” I smiled.

“Pun intended,” Ozzy chimed in.

I knew we would get along. “I’m sure I’ll get a taste of my first American party, soon enough.”

“But first you should rested and meet a few more people.” He walked further into the house.

It was obvious that Ozzy was going to take me on the tour. And the first place he stopped was a poster hanging on the wall. This place was paradise. And just as all others, it had rules that had to be followed.

On the wall, written in large black letters was the “House Rules” followed by seven serious rules. The rules were written on a large piece of cardboard and sticky-taped to the beautiful marble walls of the foyer. It all seemed funny. The cardboard on marble was like a joke, but Ozzy’s body language and tone in his voice told me otherwise.

I glanced over the rules and smiled. All of them seemed sensible. Well, almost all of them. I had no intention of breaking any of them. Two of the rules stuck out immediately as probably not as important as the rest. Rule #3 was “No Females Allowed in the House” and Rule #7 “No Alcohol in the House.” I was surprised at these rules, but said nothing.

Ozzy did not read them to me. I’m sure he didn’t want to come across as one who lays down the law. It was as if he were saying “The rules are right there and if you are a wise man you will heed them.” Then, he opened the foyer door and continued the tour.

We walked from the marble foyer into a larger, more beautiful room where a stunning staircase rose gracefully from the floor up and up to an open, second story landing bordered only by a lovely and dainty wood and iron handrail.

Ozzy spoke in a normal volume, explaining how Nick was currently responsible for the house and essentially had become King of the Castle until Fall Semester, but as we passed from the marble foyer into the open room, the size of the room caused his voice to fall to a hushed whisper. The foyer door closed silently behind us and a quiet calm came over me

It was a feeling that told me I was in the right place for once, that coming to America had been the right choice.

I slipped my shoes off before walking onto the carpet. Although I’d never removed my shoes at the door at my own home and did occasionally when it seemed necessary at someone’s home. This house was different. It demanded respect. It was built and arrayed with upper-class values and manners in mind.

I asked Ozzy to tell me again how Nick had come into such a nice place and he laughed. “Yeah, crazy as hell, but it’s Nick’s for the summer. He’s fallen into graces with the Frat. The Alumni love and have high hopes for him. It was their decision to have him come to Tennessee.He has lived here since day one. When summer came and most of the student were leaving, the council voted him as a temporary Sargeant at Arms to watch over the house. Trust me, he’s got his hands full. It’s more of a curse than a blessing.”

“And he’s going to school?”

“Of course, he’s taking a full load. Chemistry and Physics and Botany. That where he got the strains for the mushrooms. It’s all done through the University as research. He’s growing them for use in the labs.”

“Just like back home. He’s always had this way of getting things other people could only dream about having.”

“Yeah, you’re pal Nick is smart as hell.  He came over here and took over the frat house and is now teacher’s pet to most of the important professors. He blows my freakin’ mind man.”

Ozzy was ahead of me and heading for the the stairs and I couldn’t see his face, but I could tell he was smiling.

Once we got to the top of the stairs, he pointed to a closed door. “That is your’s and Nick’s room. He wanted to bunk with you like in the old times back in…”  He thought.  “Where did you guys come from?”

“Wales.”

“No man, I mean, what town?”

“Oh, we grew up in different places. He is from Dartford, close to London, and I’m from Eastbourne, close to the Channel.” I opened the door and looked into the room. A set of bunk beds were against one wall. “Yeah, it’ll be just like old times. We slept in bunk beds while we were in a school.”

“You had beds at school?”

“It was a boy’s school. We lived there.”

He smiled again. “We call it reform school here.”

“No, no. It weren’t nothing like that. In England some of the children go away for school and stay until they end of the year. It’s like private school.” I looked around, noticing a pile of dirty clothes crammed into the front of a drum set. “Where is Nick now?”

“Um, today is Thursday, so he’s in school most of the day. He has at least one class everyday, except Tuesdays. But, he’ll be home in a few hours.”

I walked into the room and he didn’t. “Look, if I were you, I’d get some rest. You’ll need it to be ready for when the group gets home. I’ll show you the rest of the house later.” He turned to leave, but quickly turned back. “And remember, Tuesdays are band practice. So be ready.”

Band of Black: part 4

A Band of Black

(part 4)

by Thadd Presley

I stepped out of the cab in front of a huge, two story estate complete with four high-rising pillars and a circle drive big enough for ten cars. It was a brick house with six tall windows on the second story and eight on the ground floor. Eleven wide, concrete steps lead up to the front door where Ozzy was standing.

He had just opened the door when the cab came to a stop.

I imagined him looking down from one of the second floor windows at the immaculate yard when the yellow cab turned into the driveway.

Now we stood face to face and his smile was beautiful.

I already knew his name was Gerald Osbourne, but everyone called him Ozzy. I shook his hand and thanked him for meeting me.

“You have luggage?” He pointed to the car. “If not, he’ll still want a tip.”

“Not much. I have a little in the boot.”

“Money to boot or a trunk full of money?”

I looked at him confused.

He smiled. “My, you Australians really know how to…”

“No, not money, just a bit of luggage.” I walked to the boot, which was opening, and removed my bag. I then quickly walked to the driver’s window and handed the driver the fare and turned away. He drove away, knowing to keep the extra for himself.

“And not Australian, although I do appreciate you meeting me. Seems Nick has forgotten his manners.” I took a step back, now that the cab had gone, and looked up at the second floor windows. “This is truly a beautiful place.”

“It belongs to the University. Nick totally knows how to talk to these authoritarian types. He’s got the run of this place for the summer.” Then he looked at me again. He was certainly a beautiful man. He had perfect white teeth, blonde hair, a real tan, and blue eyes. It was so American of him. “It’s really good to finally meet you. Nick has told us so much that we feel like you are already part of the family.”

“That’s great of you to say. I’ve been quite nervous about all this.You really wouldn’t believe the emotions I’ve had.”

“Hold on!” Ozzy said loudly.

“Sorry?”

“No, no. Noel.” He pointed to his ear. “Sara is on the line and I…” He put up his hands as if in frustration. “Sara, you just made me yell at Noel and he’s trying to tell me about his emotions.”

He listened.

“Yeah, he’s right down your street.”

He listened and when he did I faintly heard Sara’s voice.

“He’s here in front of me and I’m trying to give him…” A moment of silence passed, while Sara’s tiny voice continued. Then he caught a second and spoke. “Yeah, well these English folk need to be greeted properly and you are interrupting our chat.”

It was then that I noticed a small black and blue plastic piece in his ear. It was smaller than a hearing aid.

“Sara says ‘hello Noel’ to you and you can’t kiss anyone. She says that she wants to give you the first kiss you get in America.”

I smiled trying to be cool, as if this was just another part of being me, but I felt my cheeks getting hot.

“And,” Ozzy continued, “don’t eat the ‘shrooms before she gets to properly introduce herself.”

I was beginning to feel very self-conscious. I didn’t know where to put my hands or where to look. I picked up my bag and set it back down again. I couldn’t help but wonder how she really felt about me.

“She says she wants you to play for her.”

“Play what?”

“Hell, I don’t know. The national anthem I guess.” He shook his head at me. “Look, I’m not being the messenger between you two.”

I heard her tiny voice raise a bit and then laugh. Ozzy joined in.

“You’ll have to wait until you see him to tell him that.”

I was extremely happy that Sara wanted to see me, but I didn’t want it to show, so I looked up at the house again. It was really a mansion.

“Sara wants to know if you will really play for her. The piano. She says please.”

“Yeah, but how did she know?” I began t ask, but I didn’t need an answer. I knew Nick told her.

“He says he will. Now I’m going.”

He listened.

“Yes, I will. Now, his majesty needs to be shown to his room.” There was another pause. “You can tell him all of that yourself. Bye. Do it when you get here. Bye.”

I didn’t see any obvious way he disconnected with Sara, but I could see the relief on his face. When he began speaking to me, it was in his normal voice again. “Ok,” he said, “I’m supposed to keep you off the ‘shrooms and show you around the house a bit. So, first we are going to the room where you can reset your jet lag.”

“Shrooms?” I asked.

“Yeah.” Ozzy smiled. “Oh, yeah.”

“Are they any good?”

“I’ll put it this way. Everything here is good. This has been the best summer I’ve ever had and it’s just beginning. We have some really great gigs coming up and with you on bass.” He smiled again, showing his teeth. “I hear you can really play the hell out of a bass.”

“I picked up a few things here and there.”

“So I’ve heard. Oh, and just so you know, the band is me, Nick, Sara and you. In case you’re asked, you’re not replacing anyone. Just come on board and do what you do. The band is called ‘Black’ but the fans usually referred to us as ‘A Band of Black.”

“I like that better, actually.”

“You do, do you?”

“Yes,” I said as a matter of fact.  I had a great reason to push against using “Black” as a band name. It was mine and Nick’s old band name, from our punk days in London and it didn’t seem right to use the name again. Of course, I didn’t tell Ozzy this small piece of history.

“Well, Nick wants the band to be called ‘Black’ and you know how Nick is when he wants something.”

Yes, I did know. I also knew that I liked ‘A Band of Black’ better than the one word. But I simply nodded and smiled, allowing the moment to pass without further comment, and followed him through the door and into the fraternity house.

What happens when we die?

Some of you don’t know that I am a student of metaphysics and the global consciousness and tat we have the ability to alter our reality. Some of you only visit the blog to read poetry of short stories.

This has been a hard year for me. I’ve lost many friends, which has me thinking about life and death tonight. Here is my summation of what could be possible.

Does our brain waves simply disappear when we die? Do we have a place to go after this world and this body has deteriorated? Besides our spirit or soul, what lives on after death? Many of these questions can’t be answered with accuracy from this side of the life/death threshold. But, if we look around us we see many things that resemble other things many ways. For example, an atom resembles a mini solar system, a river system looks like a lightening strike, and something recently discovered was the amazing similarities between super clusters in space and neurons in our brains.

Then, we have maths that go deeper than all of these discoveries which we use to try and understand the amazing underlying complexity of the world and how it is built up from simple mathematical expressions such as the Mandelbrot Set, and the Fibonacci Sequence.

All of these amazing discoveries proved over and over that we are part of a bigger picture and our understanding of the universe isn’t complete by any stretch of the imagination. The mystery of dark matter and dark energy is only one example of what we don’t know.

The fact that a neuron looks like a super cluster give me the idea that all of our memories, our experiences, our lessons, and more than anything our personalities have a larger interface to connect to once we pass on to the next phase of our experience.

Someone once said that “the Universe created us so that it could know itself better.” Maybe it was Carl Sagan.

The Greek believed that what we saw “out there” was “schema.” Nothing but the reflection of ourselves. Sometimes I wonder just how much ancient knowledge we have lost, because know that we can see 13 billion years into the past and we can see the movement of brain waves along with the ability to create living, working neurons, it seems the Greeks might have been right. The universe is a like us.

My theory is this: when we die, our information goes from the operating system inside our craniums and uploads to the giant operating system in the sky.

Gigantic Planet

My newest short story collection has a poem along with each story.  This poem loosely accents the story. The poem below is for the story “Freegonism.”

If you should ever find yourself enjoying my poetry or my short stories, please buy a copy of my ebooks.  “Thadd’s Twelve($1.99) is a collection of short stories and poetry and “Poetry Principia (.99) is a poetry collection.

 

Gigantic Planet

by Thadd Presley

 

With walls built high to the sky,
and seated on the mountain high
the shielded city shined so bright.
Only the cannons divided the night
every time a missile’s scream let fly.
And my mom told us not to cry,
for we would find our way back in time.

 

The idea took centuries of planning.
It was the undertaking of supreme understanding
and physics that included the greatest mathematics.

We began catching unknown radio-static
And combined with unparalleled skills of mechanics.

Lift off had to be perfect because this planet was Huge Gigantic.
The fuel was posi-electric, the engine quasi-magnetic.
We stood in a circle with our hands connected
and waited silently while the solar collected

The ship was a solar-quantum drive
designed for outer-galaxy flight
created by one of the Great Elder Nine.
Those Elder Ones who had positron-organic minds.
Both robot and human, the only nine still alive
Surviving the war of an ancient time.

Inside the ship was a symmetrical atomic receptor
adapted to fit the solar collector,
and in the form of two towering rings
stood the statues called the Batteries.

Did I tell you, the planet was Humongous Gigantic
with underground laboratories very deeply planted?
Because the past was so terrible and utter fantastic.
Tales of life, and war and love so romantic
and the sorrowful hatred by mankind was tragic.

Underground were homes built by a forgotten race,
who had been here a long time, but now lived in space.
Once they were humans, but the virus gave waste
It was agony for those left behind, some screaming
The whole world watch a world where infection was teaming.
Never to return, the ships left one by one long into the evening.

We traveled to a new galaxy and saw the cold surface.
We called this new planet, the Calla Bryn Sturgis.
The green air here made the scientists and military nervous.
Never before had the priest preached so a long service

But soon we would have to open the door.
There was plenty fresh air, but out there lived much more?

The zoo we brought for the new world to be filled
Many creeping things and animals and humans, but still

life would have to forge it’s own way and it wouldn’t be a pretty dance
We went so far in space that we would only got this one chance.

With our breaths held and our eyes squeezed shut
the big door squeaked opened and the air suddenly gushed

It wasn’t poisonous or acid and it didn’t give spark
So we left our ship, the craft we called “The Ark”

and stepped out into a new world to get a fresh start.
My mom told me, in order to make our lives fantastic

We were brought to a safe place, where a promise lasted.
I smiled and asked if this world was like the old, home planet.
She shook her head, smiled, and said:
“No sweetheart, our old home was Huge Gigantic.”

It’s in our Nature to talk to Snakes

It’s in our Nature to talk to Snakes

by Thadd Presley

Bring yourself to me
allow the mist to hide you
the glade to refresh you,
and the warm water to wash you

Allow a moment out of life to ponder the unknown
and how it might be
living, dying, not young, not old

And fantasy will interfere
evil will rear it’s tempting head
But, not a moment will we be concerned

though lost, afraid, we go where we’re led

We must live life to it’s fullest
and learn from each of our many mistakes.

It’s in our power to know the dangers

It’s in our nature to talk to snakes.

Band of Black (part 3)

 

 

Band of Black:

(Part 3)

by Thadd Presley

In the Yellow cab on the way to Nick’s house on Park Place, I asked the driver to take me through downtown. He looked in his rear view mirror at me with a puzzled look. I didn’t know what the look meant.

“Which downtown?  You want the pretty part or the ugly part of town?”

“Oh, I see, yes. I want to see the places everyone parties.”

“Gotcha.”

He took me through the Old City and up Neyland Drive describing some of the landmarks, local heroes like Pat Summit and Phillip Fulmer. The first thing I noticed was how old Victorian-style mansions sat next to small country style farmhouse and right across the road a hacienda. As we got closer to the University the size of the houses got bigger. Immaculate neighborhood with tree in the lawns and forests along the roads.  The driver explained to me that the fraternity houses were spread through the community. I told him this particular house I was looking for was Psi Omicron Zeta. He knew exactly where it was.

I didn’t like being forgotten at the airport, but a feeling passed over to me, at that moment in the cab, watching the houses pass by the window, that I was in for a really good time. Possibly being forgotten had given me the opportunity to learn something about Knoxville and realize that the rest of my life was just beginning. Although the future was taking on an unknown quality, it was exactly what I wanted.

The April air was warmer in Tennessee than in Wales, so I had the window down and spring was in the air.

I was anxious to see Nick again and also to meet his friends, but there was one aspect of this visit that I’ve tried not to focus on to much. Her name was Sara.

My first reason for being in America was to sit in with the band and there was no doubt I could pull it off given the chance to learn the music. From what I’d seen just from the cab ride over, I reckoned there would be a copious amount of drugs and women provided.

Atleast, it was the usual unspoken musician’s deal, no matter what country. But, that wasn’t the only reason. Just as important as seeing my friend and playing in his band, I was finally going to see Sara in the flesh.

If it wouldn’t have been for her and the possibility of meeting her, I probably wouldn’t have come to America at all. You see, I secretly wanted to play for her and I couldn’t wait to get the chance
I’d corresponded with her through Facebook a few times and talked with her during a couple phone calls I’d had with Nick. She was a very smart woman and I liked her immediately. Even though, she told me she loved my English accent, I never told her how I felt about her and that I wanted to know her better.

I’d instantly fell in love with her smile and her sweet giggle.
She told me once, while we waited for Nick to get the phone, that she would love to date a man who could play a piano. My heart melted in my chest and I thanked God, my mother, and Mrs. Wilkerson for making me practice for two hours every other day and thirty minutes a night for six years.

I almost told Sara that very night that I had a surprise for her. But, I didn’t want to give myself away.

Maybe, I would be her dream guy.

I felt we were soul mates.

Band of Black (part 2)

Band of Black  (part 2)

by Thadd Presley

Nick was my best best friend. We grew up together in a small Wales village. He moved to Knoxville, Tennessee last year on an educational exchange program just after he started his first semester in Bangor University. He wrote me once he got settled in America and told me all about the fraternity house he’d been staying in and the friends he’d made. He even told me about the new band he’d started and seemed to be boasting about all his good fortune.

I took the letter all wrong and it made me mad. The more I thought about it, the more offended I became. His new band, his amazing luck, his friends this and that. It was more than I could take. Living in a mansion filled with half naked girls and I’m still at home giving guitar lessons to twelve year old boys.

I was mad to the point my hands trembled. Tears were in my eyes.

I’d lost my friend and my band mate to this great fortunate turn of events.

These emotion quickly turned when I got near the end of the letter and he finally got around to inviting me to America. Saying in his letter that: We would join forces again and it would be like the old days.
America! I was going to America. I couldn’t believe it. The ticket would be waiting at the airport. Tears were in my eyes.

The switch of emotion from rage to elation was too much for me and for the first time in my life I had to sit down before falling over. I was so over come with sensation my legs were actually weak.
I only wished Nick could see me. What a picture it would make. His oldest friend collapsed in a chair laughing and crying at the same time. If only he could see me now.

After a moment, I put the letter to the side and just sat in the chair. My imagination took me to America. Floating before my eyes was a new city, a new stage, a new crowd of people. It was overwhelming at the least.

What would the University of Tennessee be like? Did they have a good football team?  It would be American football of course. But, the local bars downtown might be the same and the crowd inside would be wanting to hear music.

Would it be anything like London’s music scene? I couldn’t imagine a club like Heaven being in Knoxville, but there might be a place like Barfly and Nick.

No matter, though, because I was going to find out for myself and Nick said his band was doing well.

So, I was going to America. I’ll play bass with Nick on the drums and everything will be just as it was before.

Before Nick left for Bangor, our band had quite a reputation in London. We were practically local punk celebrities. Many times after playing a show, I find our names spray painted on the sidewalk and walls outside the venue. The clubs didn’t seem to mind.

The letter from Nick arrived in my post in January, but it wasn’t until April that I actually leave for America.

In my heart, I was still jealous. I couldn’t imagine, after all the time Nick and I had spent together, after all the music played together, and all the time sitting in my dad’s garage, listening to records, playing until our fingers bled, that he could replace me. I remember many mornings, sun barely poking above the sea to find us arguing over fingering patterns, push each other to stretch our minds and incorporate more than fifths, but to play seconds, ninths, and flattened eleventh chords. It hurt my feelings that he was happily jamming with other people. There’s a ritual to music, it was sacred and magical, and for him to practice our sacred witchcraft with others was almost unforgivable.

In the same thoughts, I couldn’t help but wonder what was his new band like or if the would like me?

These questions would continue to haunt my days and nights until the day I met them in person. And there was also the point of them knew that I was coming and all the questions being reversed upon them. Were they wondering the same about me.

Although that was a distraction, it didn’t make waiting any easier.

In a sense I was scared of them.  All I could imagine were cowboys and Hooters girls with attitudes much larger than they needed to be.

So, needless to say, I was reluctant and nervous to meet them. I worried about it and dreamed about how terrible it would go everyday. I was worked up into a frenzy.

On the day I was to board the plane, I hesitated.

I questioned my responsibilities.

I had been working in a London studio four days a week laying down bass tracks for various groups. It was the best playing gig I’d had all year and it was a steady gig.

I could see myself staying. I was so close to not going.

That morning I went into to work.

The entire place was surprised to see me. They knew I was going to America, so question came from every direction.

Nine A.M. came and a band called The Stevenage Three came through the door.

They took their time setting up and I noticed the guitarist had a rare guitar. For a moment, I watched him and I could feel the magic on coming off of him. I went into the studio and began to set up my gear, which only took a second.

My back was to him and he hit a note, then played a riff, then the music filled the room. It was true magic. The notes set me on fire. They made me want to be in front of an audience again. The keyboard joined in, driving the music up another dimension.

I realized in that moment that I need my own band. I would soon get bored with the studio schedule and be on the street alone. I needed to move on for my own good. I had to have a band again.

A rolling stone gathers no mass and all that, I told myself.

In truth, I think I wanted to see my best friend more than anything.

So, I laid two tracks for the band and at lunch I quit.

The studio head, who I’d only met three times before, Emmett Barrett, came down stairs and shook my hand. “You’ll be back, my boy. And I want you to come back. Do it when you’re ready and bring your band with you. We’ll cut a track that tops the charts. Now, take this.” In is hand he had an envelope. “Go get some lunch, then go see America.”

With his blessing, I went home to pack. I didn’t look in the envelope until I got home.     Inside was five hundred Euros and a letter of introduction to a studio in Nashville.

The next morning, I was 35,000 feet in the air on my way to Tyson McGee airport where Nick would meet me at the gate.

I couldn’t wait to see him again.

Band of Black: part 1

A Band in Black

by

Thadd Presley

When I came to the United States for a week, Nick was supposed to be waiting for me at the airport.  I crossed the Atlantic Ocean by myself. A metal head from Sweden was my row companion. He had a good mind and we spoke on everything from music to world events, but I was relieved to hear the captain inform us the flight was just about to end. I watched as the mountains passed below us. They were more rolling hills than mountains. Once you’ve seen the Alps, you’ll understand what I mean.
As Knoxville came into view below me, a display of lighted streets and buildings broke broke over the mountains. Again, it wasn’t London or Paris, but after the all darkness it was beautiful.
The musician, whose name was Heinrick, exited the plane directly behind me and once we were on the tarmac, asked if I would like a CD of his band to which I said yes and thank you. He rummaged through a small carry on backpack and handed me a CD and a wristband. I thanked him, but he waved his hand and thanked me back, saying it was his first time in America that his band was about to officially begin their North American tour. I thanked him for the gifts again, silently wishing I had something to give him. After all, I was in a band as well.

Black was a London based rock group I’d started with my friend Nick. We just hadn’t played together since he left for school in the States. My short vacation to see him was going to change all of that.
I made it through customs with only a limited sexual encounter with a large black lady. Her hand actually touched my package and moved it to the side while she left into my pocket. And it wasn’t just a passing brush. She actually moved it over. I thought for a minute there would be more to it, but by then it was over.  As I stood around the pick up area for my two bags, I reflected on the security nod I received in London and realized I could have brought anything onto the plane with me. But, the game would have ended in Knoxville. The search was so thorough, my ink pen was taken from my jacket pocket and screwed apart, the contents emptied on a tray.
“You weren’t supposed to have this on the plane,” she said and it seemed like a warning. As if I knew better and did it anyway. I held back the urge to make an excuse.

No attempt was made to put my pen back together. The tray was pushed to the side for me to deal with how I wanted.

It was two hours later, when I realized I’d have to make my own way to The University of Tennessee and find the fraternity house. I walked up to a cab sitting in front of the terminal, cursing Nick for forgetting about me, and began my journey down Interstate 40.

Count ’em Out

Count’em Out

by Thad Presley

“Get up,” the drill Sergeant ordered, cocking his head at the man on the ground. When he didn’t move, he turned his attention to the platoon. “We have a dead man laying here and all you can do is stand there. You,” he pointed to the Private on the first line, “what did you see?”

“I don’t know Sergeant.” Then, “Nothing Sergeant.”

“You don’t know?”  Like a bolt of lightening, it happened. The drill sergeant hit private Gerard in the stomach with the butt of his M16-A2 service rifle. “Now, what do you know about that?”

The recruit fell to his knees out of breath and looked up at The Ape from the ground and shook his head, “Nothing Sergeant. I didn’t see a thing.”

“And you,” The Ape shouted, looking at the other recruits. “Did any of you see how this forgetful puke lost his weapon and then got killed?”

A thunderclap of voices lifted into the air, “No, Sergeant.”

“And what about Private Gerardo, here? Does anyone know what killed him?”

Again the voices thundered, “No, Sergeant.”

Sergeant Perry was called “The Great Eight Ape” because of rumors he’d received a Section Eight and then got it over ruled by some big wigs way high up in command. The next year, he returned as an instructor a Ft. Lost in the Woods. Rumors going around said he’d been found eating an Iraqi soldier during the First Iraq War.

Everyone hoped it wasn’t true, but the rumors persisted. All the recruits called him The Ape and although he was an extremely hard instructor many of the men were honored to be under his guidance. It made for great war stories if nothing else.

It was the fifth week of Basic and the platoon was in the middle of Bivouac training where they were learning how to live without luxuries and to keep a camp in working order.

Missouri was known for it’s great expanse of woods, hence the name. The day before was spent on the “old firing range,” which was not supposed to be used but The Ape didn’t care. He usually just trained the men how he saw fit.

During the evening of the night before, the platoon displayed their weapon cleaning skills and made small bets, which involved betting their rations and duties to see who was the fastest. Pvt. Ensign bragged that he could clean his weapon blindfolded and was taken upon the bet by Pvt Greene.

Greene bet Ensign that he couldn’t disassemble, clean, and reassemble his M16 blindfolded. Of course, Ensign took the challenge and bet if he did it blindfolded, then Greene would have to take his Fire Watch for the next week. They both agreed and shook hands.

Everyone watched as Ensign began.

The evenings had become the most exciting time for the men. The drill instructors were starting to lighten up on the recruits. With the dropouts already sent home, the mood was serious but laid back. Ten minutes later, Ensign took off his blindfold and held his clean M16 out to Greene to be inspected. Just as he’d said, he’d taken apart every piece, just as he’d learned the second week in training, and cleaned it.

The day had been fun for everyone and all was well until the next morning when Pvt. Ensign realized his weapon was missing.

The Ape had not taken kindly to the missing rifle and out of frustration began to punish the recruit with exercise. Little did the sergeant know, it was all just a gag orchestrated to make Pvt. Ensign look bad.

After his performance the night before, the platoon got together for a little fun and retribution. No one thought it was a big deal. Practical jokes were played all the time by the men. Two recruits devised a plan to steal Pvt. Ensigns M16 and hide it near the latrine.

It was Corporal Smith and PFC Greene who snagged the weapon. It wasn’t meant to hurt anyone, they just wanted to get back at Ensign for showing off, but things escalated faster than they anticipated and before anyone could say anything. The Ape had swung on Pvt. Ensign.

When Ensign ducked the punch and then a few guys in the platoon laughed, the Ape started to walk away, but turned abruptly and hit him in the stomach with the butt of his rifle. He then quickly brought it up catching him square under the chin. Pvt Ensign fell to the ground and didn’t move.

Everyone knew two other sergeants would show up within the hour to take over the platoon, but that seemed like a million years away.

As Pvt. Ensign laid on the ground, The Ape began to tear into Pvt Gerardo who stood beside him in line.

Growing irritated by the concern on Gerardo’s face, and at Ensign for daring to challenge his authority in front of his men, The Ape raised his weapon and placed the cold steel of the barrel in the center of Gerardo’s forehead. “Do you have a God, son?”

At first, Gerardo couldn’t speak and once he gathered his courage in the face of death, he opened his mouth and the words were interrupted by a stream of puke that erupted from his throat. “Holy mother of Crow, look at this dumb fuck puke on my boots.”

He grabbed the private by the collar and pulled him close.

The private instinctively pulled away from the Sergeant. “You know what you have to do now, don’t you. You’ve got maggot detail.”

Private Gerard knew exactly what the sergeant was going to make him to do and he would have done anything to get the sergeant off his back. But, licking puke off his boots was too far. He couldn’t do it.

“You’re a chicken shit, no brain, puke-eater and it’s time you do something for my Army.”

A wave of anger filled him.

Why won’t anyone help me? One of him and sixty of us, he thought.

No one moved.

Ensign was knocked out. And they did nothing. Reality set in. He wasn’t going to lick the Sergeant’s books.

I’m going to be killed, he thought.

“Do it, puke-eater.”

Gerardo once again gathered his courage. “I have a God, Sergeant.”

“You do? Great. So do I.”

“But,” Gerard was shaking so bad he felt his chin quivering. He had to focus to keep his teeth from clashing together. “I try to do what my God desires of me.”

“Oh, for Crow’s sake, don’t give me that crazy religious nut shit. I can just see it now: Private Jesus Freak sent home on a medical discharge. You trying to act crazy with me, Private? You want to clean my Army up and make us PC and lovely?”

“No, sergeant.”

“I think you do. I think you have a big plan on how you can make my Army a better place. Well, I’ll give you a chance to show me what your worth. You want a nice, pretty, clean Army? Well, you can start by licking Uncle Sam’s boots clean.” The sergeant looked at the other soldiers. “What do you think men?” No one moved a muscle. They didn’t want the man in their face. “If he cleans up the mess he deposited on Uncle Sam’s beautiful pair of boots, maybe we can let him live.”

The private looked down at the boots.

“That’s right maggot. Get to work and you can live to fuck up another day.”

“You won’t shoot me.”

The Ape’s voice lowered to a grumble. “What’s wrong with your ears, Private. Let me tell you in another way. Do it now!”

Private Gerardo held back tears. He fought desperately to hold a straight face. But, it wasn’t going to last long. His emotions were under too much stress. The only way to get this over with was to do it. Just lick the puke up. After all, it was his own. He could do this. He was a soldier. Slowly, he got down on his knees and started to bend over the right boot.

Then, The Ape kicked him in the chest, rattling his head. It hurt so bad that Gerardo thought it broke his sternum. “Do whatever you got to do, private, but get to licking, right now. Them boots better be in parade condition by my count to ten.” He looked at the platoon, “Count ’em Out.”

Slowly the dry tongue of private Gerardo came out of his mouth and stretched toward the black, polished shoe of his sergeant. “One…” The men began in unison,  anticipating the first lick. The Ape, held up his hand and stopped them.

“Come on puke-for-brains, get in there. I want to see you licking that boot the way Jody’s licking your girlfriend’s twat. Clean that Crow-loving boot.”

Then, in a desperate attempt to get out of the situation, he started licking the boot.

“One,” the men counted.

Gerardo just did it, fast, not thinking.

“Two, Three…”

The cooling puke entered his mouth and he swallowed it.

Luckily it was mostly tasteless with a bitter after taste that only barely burned. “You disgust me.” The sergeant yelled, taking a step back and look down on the private as if he was seeing an alien slug for the first time.

“Get on your puke eating feet.” The sergeant was just getting on a good roll. “We have a real, honest to God, puke-eater here. Not in all my time, not in all the holy time of the immaculate Army have we ever had a puke eater in these hallowed ranks.”

The sergeant walked back and forth in front of the men who were still lined up at parade rest. They had been formed up for nearly an hour now and they were all looking for the jeep that would herald the arrival of the two relief sergeants.

“As you all know, we don’t have much time and I need to know what is happening to this world. Terrorists, sympathizers, sleeper-cells, God knows what all. I could say a lot more, but I do not use derogatory names. Because most people are good people. Most people are not puke eating, shit for brains.”

The platoon of sixty men waited to see what the sergeant would do next.

“Let me ask you this. Do you men want a puke-eater watching your back when the chips are down? Do you want him walking the perimeter when you know all he thinks about it slurping puke?”

The men give a sloppy, “No sergeant.”

“You know that this maggot, first thing, is going to run to CO and rat on us. Rat on you!!” The Sergeant let this sink into the heads of the men. “That’s right, he’s not going to tell on me. No, cause he can’t hurt me. He’s going to say ‘THEY let him do it. They made me eat puke.’ Well, lt me ask you this. Can anyone make YOU eat puke?”

There was another, “No, Sergeant,” and this time it had grown in strength.

“Hell, no, they can’t. There ain’t a man in this world that could make ME eat puke. I’d rather die than be a puke eating maggot. But, you were witness to this. You watched as this maggot licked puke and swallowed it. I tell you now, he’ll say to Captain Barrett. Through his sobs, he’ll tell them and swear that YOU let it happen. Both of these numb skulls aren’t worth the time it’s going to take to bury them and yet here we stand wasting the whole day on them. Private Dumbass Number One got himself killed by threatening and then attacking a killing machine known on this base and around the world as Section Eight. That’s right, I know all about my little nickname. But, Private Puke Eater here didn’t learn anything from his battle buddy’s stupid mistakes. He wanted to dance in the mine field. He will now be dealt with in an expedited manner.” The sergeant wait a beat and began again, this time addressing the men eye to eye, one at a time. “But, it’s not ME who will suffer. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind a vacation. It’s YOUR asses that are on the line. Do you want a puke eater lying to the powers that be about your character? Do you want im protecting your six out there when the shit hits the fan?”

“No, sergeant.”

“Then, who wants to do something about it?”

Silence.

“Are you all puke eaters?”

“I’ll do it.” Corporal Hicks, from Knoxville, who the Sergeant called Hicksville, stepped backwards, looked left then right, and ran to the end of his rank and around to the Ape.

“At least we got one set of balls between the fifty-eight recruits standing here.”

“About to be fifty-seven, sergeant,” Hicks said.

A smile formed on The Ape’s face. “Then, get to it, soldier.”

Hick’s wasted no time in attending to his duty. “Turn around, Gerardo.”

“No, shoot him in the gut Private. I want to hear him call for his mommy.”

“Sergeant, this puke eater does not deserve to be shot in the front. He is a coward and should be killed as one.”

“God Damn it, Hicksville, I do the thinking around here. Now do it the way I want you or step back in line.”

“Yes, Sergeant.”

Corporal Hicks shouldered his M16-A2. Then, he lowered the weapon. “I can’t do it, not with him looking at me.”

“Then get back in rank, maggot lover.”

The Corporal Hicks turned and started back into line, but he had a change of heart. “Sergeant, I want to do it. I have to do it.”

“Well, get here and do it this time. We’ve got a day to build and it’s getting late.”

At that moment, a shot rang out and Section Eight the Great Ape dropped to his knees.

The platoon looked at Hicksville as he lowered his weapon. Blood bubbled from The Ape’s mouth, but he still spoke a few last words. “This Army is going to maggots and puke eaters and…” then he slumped and died.

A hush went over the men. It was like the flame in their souls went out. Gerardo dropped to his knees and put his head on the ground. He couldn’t believe he was alive.

Hick’s took the lead. “Everyone get ready and pack up the gear. Gerardo stay with me.”

At this, the men, gave a weak, “Huaa!!”

Hicks called a medic and then put in a call to the MPs so they could come out and process the scene. He spoke to Gerardo after he hung up. “I want you to tell them exactly what happened here.” Gerardo started to talk, but Hicks held up his hand. “Don’t worry about me. I have a God too. I spend most of my time in this Army ignoring my morals, but I couldn’t ignore them today.”

“Thank you.”

“Yeah.”

Minutes later, the two relief sergeant’s pulled up in a jeep along with the driver. They unloaded and began asking questions.

Unite

In 2012 I became the bass player for the band Minor Nine. We never got famous, but we made an album in 2013 and had a blast playing shows. For almost three years I practice Saturday and Sunday and played almost 200 shows. During our time together I learned a lot about music and a lot about getting shows.

It hard to keep a band together. Everyone has a role to play as a member of the band, as well as a life they much continue to live at home. The two lives are often at odds, leaving hard choices to be made weekly.

We did however create amazing music. We had a diverse group of musicians. Even though there was only 4 of us, the age range when we started was 13, 28, 34, and 60.  We all had different backgrounds and somehow it worked magically. With a set list of 30 originals we set out across Tennessee and played show after show meeting really cool bands and even cooler people. One show we played with Swedish metal band Avatar is my claim to rock and roll fame.

I quit the band for many reasons. I suppose the biggest reason being the band falling apart from the inside. I had better things to do than watch it crash, so I took my gear and went home. Simple as that.

I created a few videos for the music we created.  The one that follows is “Unite.”  The words came from a poem I wrote years ago and the music and voice is Rex Green. He and I have a special ability to create music. I don’t think I’ll ever meet another person like him and I’m sorry we aren’t working together all the time.

At one time, it was amazing how we were climbing in the scene. Now, I’m not talking about fame and fortune. I’m only talking about the little music scene in Knoxville, Tennessee.Yeah, I know it’s not Long Beach, but it was our patch of the scrap yard and I enjoyed it.

The music in the video was created by Rob Ruddick, Matt Fahey, Rex Green and Thadd Presley.  I hope you enjoy.