Loud Sheila


Sheila was afraid of quiet.


When she was very young, Sheila suffered medical problems and spent most of her first three years in hospitals. At such a tender age, no child really knows what the grown-ups are talking about- but the emotional tone isn’t difficult to decipher. And so it was that Sheila regularly experienced lying weakly in her hospital bed while doctors huddled nearby -sometimes with her parents and sometimes not- and had very serious discussions in muted tones. These discussions often came soon before or after various unpleasant tests, procedures, and surgeries. When Sheila cried over her misery, her mother always tried to calm her with soft voice and soft touch. The hospital is no place for a small child’s natural tendencies. And so it was that Sheila began to associate quiet with pain and suffering.



By the time that Sheila started going to school, the medical problems were mostly cured and what remained was fading quickly- but the damage was done. Sheila fought desperately against the quiet. As she learned to speak it seemed that speaking quietly was not a possibility. Her parents were very concerned, wondering if Sheila had some developmental disorder that was only now becoming apparent. The girl seemed to have no ability to be subtle about anything, and not only spoke with gratuitous loudness but seemed to think the same way as well.



So the medical doctors and hospitals gradually gave way to psychologists and special schools. Eventually the psychologists determined that Sheila was emotionally challenged to be sure, but was otherwise mentally healthy enough to live what they called a normal life.



But this life would be anything but normal. Sheila had problems at school from the beginning. Her grades were never good, and there were behavioural problems too. Sheila often showed a poor understanding of basic academic concepts and seemed to be in trouble more often than not.



By high school Sheila was solidly among the social outcasts, but even they regarded her with a mixture admiration and caution. Her behaviour was often outlandish and outspoken, and she showed signs of being given to a nihilistic view of the world. And Sheila still feared quiet. She’d discovered heavy metal music and took it up anthemically, making it the core of her life. She looked the part, acted the part, lived the part. Sheila’s hair was dyed jet-black and spiked, she wore ripped leather clothing and chains, and she had a loose circle of ‘friends’ who were the only people who showed her anything resembling acceptance.



Of course it wasn’t long before Sheila’s embrace of heavy metal led her to participation. She began to scream lyrics whenever she could, and tried to learn to play guitar like her heroes. Before long Sheila had dropped out of high school and had joined a metal band that played around town. She’d also discovered sex and drugs and partook of them in just as intense and excessive a manner as everything else she did. The band gained a lot of notoriety, probably more for Sheila’s onstage antics than for being good at playing heavy metal. If Sheila lived an amped-up life, her life on stage was an even more concentrated distillation of what she lived. And of course all shows must come to an end. Sheila feared the end of every show with a cold dread that ate at her from within. She often pushed her bandmates for encore after encore, often to the consternation of the staff of the bars and clubs who needed to close their establishments for the night. The audience of course loved every moment of it, and this left the members of the band caught in the middle.



Sheila clung to the stage for dear life itself. But quiet always came sooner or later and she would do almost anything to avoid it. The parties got wilder, the drugs got stronger, the sex got more extreme. Life had to be kept loud and louder at all cost. Would this urge eat her alive? Would it kill her without a second thought?


Practice Room

At the old warehouse downtown

open the padlock and kick the sticking door.

Flashlight in the drawer guides me to the lightswitch

a big lever deep in the darkness

past mountains of entombed junk

and doors stacked like cards,

one of which we’ve hung in the gaping hole

at the top of the stairs.

Twist the key like a stiletto in flesh.

The ill-fit metal slab swings wide

as the space opens to us.

Hole-shot walls of bright green,

bearing a song list and a picture of Iggy Pop.

The ceiling is low-

the white planks float just over my head.

The formerly orange carpet lied tied

with cables and wires hither and thither,

and pinned under a ton of silent amplifiers.

They stand like Larry Curly Moe,

and old one, a new one, an in-between one.

A pair of old Voxes-

desperately needing new strings-

lies limp on the old sofa.

Back by the door the drums rest aslumber

like a gleaming metal elephant

in a frail and pointless cage

that will not contain the rage

when the elephant awakes.

Cymbals like flying saucers

hang as if caught in a museum.

The place is permeated by a haze

of beer bottles and cans

and broken strings and paper and plastic

the strings were once wrapped in.

There’s no real smell here

but it doesn’t smell clean.

The room is silent but not for long

as we file in and exchange hey whats ups.

An amp hums to life.

A few jangly chords.

drum beats.

Okay guys-





English countryside, 1937

It was a bright if still somewhat overcast day, and Marjorie anxiously awaited Edward’s arrival.  She’d been at her uncle’s cottage.  Marjorie loved her uncle, but her could be such a dreadful bore at times.  It wasn’t that she was terribly keen on Edward either, but the escape would do her good.  Now wait, Marjorie thought to herself, Edward isn’t so bad.  Come to think of it, he was one of the least intimidating -if difficult to read- people she knew.  He was handsome enough, to be certain, but his nature was simple and honest, and he rarely showed much flair for excitement.  But when he smiled, he meant it.

Marjorie heard the sound of Edward’s car approaching.  She excused herself from her uncle, who muttered as she left something about that young Edward and how he was dangerous in that car of his.  She fled the cottage and stepped out into the light of mid-day as the car drew near the cottage.  Edward had the roof down as he usually did, and the car glided to a stop as he smiled at Marjorie.  “Fancy a ride?” he asked.  Marjorie had agreed the previous day to ride with him from the cottage, and his asking at this moment struck her as needless formality, but she was thankful for his courtesy.  She’d had her share of the brashness of the local lads.

In a moment they were underway.  The car was a sporting model, light of weight, and Edward drove it perhaps a bit quickly and it bumped and rocked along the lane, wind rustling through the open cockpit.  Edward clearly enjoyed driving, though his face remained plain and he didn’t say much.  To the casual observer he would seem a stoic countenance, but Marjorie knew that he found a pleasure in rushing through the countryside, even if he said nothing whilst doing so.  That wind though, such a nuisance!  It threw Marjorie’s hair about and it howled in her ears- and before long it made her feel dry and thirsty.  Her face must have betrayed this state of affairs, as Edward was moved to speak about it.

“Are you alright, Marjorie?  You appear a bit distressed.”

“It’s this dry wind,” she replied, “I’m feeling positively parched.”

“I keep a pint of lime juice in the glove-box for just such emergencies,” he said in a matter-of-fact way, keeping his attention focused on the road ahead.  Oh dear, thought Marjorie, so uselessly thoughtful, as a shudder of helplessness passed through her.

How I met Jenny B

It was a dark and stormy night, and the weather outdoors wasn’t too hot either.  I was sitting and an old and dusty bar, drinking some old and dusty whiskey, trying really hard to forget about what had happened in Dubuque, and that’s when you walked in.  Every head turned as the door flew open and slammed against the wall, making the neon sign that identified the establishment simply as ‘BAR’ flicker for a moment.
Your hat was pulled low over your face and your coat was so dark that it was like a three-dimensional shadow, and after pausing for half a beat you walked into the room in a way that seemed to defy motion itself, like a whole city block slinking seductively, your heels clacking on the old, worn wooden floor like harbingers of guillotines yet to fall.  Most of the room turned away and resumed their miserable mumblings, and I pretended to return my attention to my whiskey but I could tell that you were headed straight for me.  Oh no, I thought, I have no idea who that is or what’s about to happen, but why does this kind of trouble always manage to find me?
You stopped half an arm’s length from me, and, knowing that I’d noticed, immediately spoke.  “Senor Guzman,” you said, in a very obviously affected Mexican accent, “I have the frogs.”
“Excuse me,” I replied, “but I think you’re mistaken.  I’m not Guzman, and I’ve never even met anyone named Guzman.”
You raised your face enough to fix me with your eyes, which you did with a coldly certain intensity, and without missing a beat you confidently repeated, “I have the frogs.”
I felt a sinking suspicion in my stomach that this was going to be a long night as I gently slapped a bill onto the bar and slid it toward the bartender…


I’m partly Captain Kirk but mostly Arthur Dent

and it’s time again to travel, my friend!

Let us grab our glass and sit our ass for a while.

Fill it full, you fool, that we may partake

rum laced with green, I mean, dimethyltriptamine

Drink it down and let it infect your crown.

A shift of spectra, and oh!  What ever is that?

Come and greet us, old familiar friend.

None other, the Horse of a Different Colour!

He won’t deny us- he’s here to guide us

through worlds quite odd and a harlot named Maude.

Our wing-ed ship glides past ring-ed planets.

Strange melodies sensually set our sould free.

The journey is short- yet farther than time.