books / samples | prose

Sample chapter from “Tangents From A Mystery Cruiser”  |  Jesus In My Arms


Update from Richard, “I should apologize for this sample.  I recently took a first aid class.  Reading this sample, I now realize I’d done everything wrong with this dying young man.  I’ve never been big on regrets, but this one hurts to read.  But I was 27 years old when this happened and I did give the him what I thought was most important – no fear and love.  Please forgive me for not doing more.” 

A Hymn of Resurrection

Can’t remember the name of the place but this was my break out for experimental music.  Jay had been encouraging me forward into full expression of not only the light but the shadow.  I had been exposed to and enjoyed Archie Shepp’s Fire Music, Ornette Coleman’s Harmelodic Polyphony, Coltrane’s Sheep on The Battleground Saxophone.  So this was the night I was going to roll out the chaos, let the primeval dissonance range freely over the dance floor. 

Jaime MacKinnon is an accomplished sax player, to say the least.  Friend to both King Curtis and Igor Coltrane, John Stravinsky, he was capable of pulling a demon or two out of the circus master’s top hat and letting the invisible lions loose into a crowd. 

I had a song, “Fragile World” where the demon in the basement was unchained and fed a fair dose of Ephedrine.  And a life threatening overdose of Uncertainty.

The bar was different.  It wasn’t your regular bar in Maryland.  There was a vibe about it and I should have sensed that it wasn’t the place to release the jaguar.  There were jaguars already in the audience. Big, strong ones. It was a sort of redneck bar, but it was almost within walking distance of the University of Maryland, so I thought there would be someone in the audience who was familiar with Baudelaire’s Flowers Of Evil.  

We played our hearts out.  The mood in the bar quickly picked up on the vibe of the band and immediately knew what to do with it.  I can’t really describe the Hellish atmosphere well enough.  The walls were red.  The band lights were red.  If only I’d had a spiked goatee and maybe a pitchfork!  But at some point either The Archetype of Satan or one of his handy men entered the room.  It spun out of control.  We played and played and no violence erupted in the room. 

Fragile World was toward the end of the night.  And we got through it without incident.

As always musicians do, every night, before loading up our equipment, we go out back and smoke to release the lava back out into the cool night air.  Sometimes it’s to sober up with a cup of coffee before driving away.  I walked around back and it was a Heironymous Bosch scene in living color under the weird lights of the parking lot.  It was right out of a B grade movie.  One man was pounding another man’s head into a trash tire that was there.  Some men were standing up and bare fist beating each other face to face.  Some were flying around, their coat tails flared like dark dancers in a Hell ballet.  There was an art and a grace to the terror.  

All I felt was guilt.  Two men, young men, were fighting close to me.  I went up to them and tried to talk sense.  ‘You have to stop.  Come on guys, let’s make peace.  Back off’ I was pulling the two guys apart when one of them dropped to the ground and the other ran off.  

Wine was pouring out of his stomach.  Hot red wine.  Blood.  I lifted his shirt and his intestines were poking out.  

“Am I goin’ to be okay?  Am I going to be okay?”

“Yea man,” I said as I smoothed his hair back from his face, over his head.  “Yea, it’s gonna be alright.”  He was losing blood fast.  I went into the bar and told the manager of the bar.

“Yea yea it happens every night.  Let them work it out.”

“But he’s bleeding badly”

“Yea well fuck him.  He should’a known better.”

I ran back outside and the pool of communion wine was all about him.  It was thick like watery ketchup in a widening pool.  It was odd and angelic and so moving the tears were too backed up to come out of me.  And I knew I had to be strong for this guy.,

“Am I going to be okay?”

“Yea man.  Rest, feel the peace.  It’s gonna be okay.”

He closed his eyes and I ran back in, furious.  

“Give me the fucking phone now.  I need to call the police and an ambulance.”

Okay okay.”  The manager called the police and ambulance. 

I went back outside and the Christ was fading into the Divine Uncertainty where flowers and star light comes from.  The spear had pierced his side, his life force, and it was running out fast.  The fighting had pretty much stopped, many had gathered at Golgotha to see the young savior in his body for the last few minutes.  Barrabas and all the thieves and ruffians had awoken.  The Buddha was walking among them.  Angels mopped up blood and vomit. 

The Holy Mother was there and by this time breast feeding the young Christ on the asphalt.  All had become reverent.  Not one soul dared peek at her alabaster breast full of Mystery Milk. The Divine Transformation and Transfiguration was happening right before our eyes.  

The whole parking lot was flooded with the Divine Mother’s milk.  All were fed like they’d never been fed before.  All were swimming in the sweet sperm white milk.  It was conception and birth and death and sustenance right before our ignorant and undeserving eyes.  Every last asshole there that night, including me, was forever and permanently changed. 

We had seen the miracle of death, which is so close to the miracle of birth.  

We saw the Canyon of Uncertainty open up before us, we saw the river of blood and the egg of the Phoenix hatch.  

There is no poetry or description on or above earth that is sufficient for the moment of death.  Especially a stupid death, a sudden death like that. 

The policeman who came was a friend of Mike the Silverbacks and for the first thirty seconds I think he suspected I had done it.  That was the reputation of the Sales boys, but we’d never really killed anyone.  Fortunately, Stanley quickly figured out that by this time in my life I had issues with swatting flies, much less people.

The boy was dead by the time they got him to the hospital.  It was his twenty first birthday – his first night of legal drinking in Maryland.  He had barbiturates in his blood.  They called ‘em reds back then. The boy that stabbed him eventually confessed.  I don’t think he’d done anything like that ever before in his life. 

Everyone was wide awake at 1:00 a.m. that evening in College Park Maryland. 

I cry now just to think about it… and that was thirty five years ago. 

I haven’t done dissonant music since.  

Some uncertainties are best kept in the strong box.