You’re shipped off to a new Earth-like planet where there is always peace and happiness. But your memory is erased, and you’re only given biographical facts and numbers about who you were. You’re allowed to keep one memory per person for 3 different people you knew. Which people do you choose and which memories?
Your Daddy writes to be heard. Your Daddy writes to let the world know that he’s here. Your Daddy writes because he feels that he has something to say, a message that needs to be delivered and pulled out of his gut like some-type of science fiction movie. Your Daddy writes to not be interrupted when he speaks. Your Daddy writes to be loved. Your Daddy hopes to be understood, but at this point feels that most people will never understand him. Your Daddy writes because he cannot say what he means on the top of his head without the other person giving him time to think or respond. If Daddy were to try to verbally express what you’re reading now, he would sound like the under-educated, working class kid that he was. Your Daddy writes because he’s an artist. Your Daddy is an artist, someone that sees things so…
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Devin Maguire Can Bite My Dust
by Marc Alexander Valle
10-year old Devin Maguire held onto his BMX handlebars and stared at my new bike. “Your dad got that bike from a thrift store.”
“No, he didn’t!” I said.
“Yes, he did. I can tell.”
“No, he didn’t.”
“Yeah, cause there’s marks on it.”
I looked down at the bike. There were scuff marks on the handlebars, but that was it.
“He got it from K-Mart,” I said.
“Okay, which one?”
“The one down the street.”
“I know all the bikes at K-Mart. I didn’t see that one there.”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Well, that’s where he got it from.”
“Did he tell you he got it from there?”
“Then how do you know?”
Devin stared right into my eyes. He had a blank expression, but I swore I could see a smirk. It was the same smirk he always had, the same one he had whenever he beat a kid in a race.
“So?” Devin said. “How do you know?”
Devin kept staring. He looked as though he had all the time in the world and the absolute certainty that he was right. I knew that I had only a beat or two before I looked like a fool. I had to answer.
“Cuz,” I said, “My parents don’t shop at thrift stores!”
Devin continued to look into my eyes. I felt like he was searching for something, and I needed to keep my composure. Didn’t he see my brother with a new bike last year? Didn’t he know it was my turn?
I tightened my lips and gripped my handlebars. Devin scrunched his eyebrows. I quickly glanced down at his bike.
“Alright,” he said, letting out a snicker. Then he rode off towards his apartment building.
When my dad came back from work, he told me that he bought the bike from a thrift store. The same store we’d been to several times that year.
Nearly a century and a half of music recordings and centuries more of musical compositions are at your disposal. Use it. Find it. Let it talk to you. It can help you at any time. Never expect it to solve the problem, but music can expose the underlying issues of your life that make the problem seem real.
I was sad in my early 20s. Very sad. Everything was tragic, and everything I tried to do seemed to end in failure. I felt as though I couldn’t even get a hello from people and from the world. I wanted it all to end sometimes. Music was that hello.
It talked to me directly, and it made me believe that there are and have been others just like me. They think like me, and they feel like me. Music was the code between us, and the message was, “I am an artist.” Music told me that my role was to reevaluate norms. I was never to be satisfied with what we assumed to be true, but I was never to change my core beliefs. There was nothing wrong with me. I was normal. It was the conversation between the individual and the world that was distorted.
There’s a link between youth and music and the way it shapes our views. How will you allow it to shape yours?
A mini-story from my mini-book, So You Say You Want An 80s Childhood?
The Homework Thief
Brian Ross was my friend.
“Are you friends with Brian?” Anna said to me, sitting on the floor in gym class. “I think he puts mayonnaise in his hair.”
“No, he doesn’t,” I said.
“Yeah,” Frieda said. “He smells like my lunch bag.”
“No, he doesn’t.”
Brian Ross was my friend, even if he were to put peanut butter on his head. Brian liked what I liked on TV, and we could play the same characters every recess without my having to tell him about them. He was the only other kid that laughed at my cartoon jokes and references. Brian Ross was my friend. Then Brian Ross stole my homework.
It was there in the bin. I told Mrs. Cain that I swore I did my homework and put it there when I arrived at 8am. So she looked through all of last night’s assignments and pulled it out. I could see my name erased and Brian’s name now on top of it.
“That’s it,” I said. “I know because I wrote my name nice and big.”
Mrs. Cain turned to the class. “Alright, let’s go to lunch. Marc and Brian I want you to stay behind.”
At recess, my classmates surrounded me, trying to piece together what happened.
“He tried to make it look like it was his homework?”
“Did he ask to take it?”
“Is he getting in trouble?
I answered the questions as fast as they were given, and I assured them that I didn’t give him the assignment. I liked this feeling, this attention. It felt good. All eyes were on me for the first time in a very long time. The boys even stopped playing kickball to question me, and the hopscotch girls left their beanbags unguarded. This was nice.
Within two minutes, they’d gotten all the information they needed, and I ran out of things to tell them. They began to talk amongst each other about Brian.
“Yeah, he smells like ham sandwich.”
“He took my pencil.”
“Why’s he always dirty?”
They kept going on about different circumstances involving Brian. I laughed at a joke without even hearing the punchline.
“Mrs. Lee looked mad,” I said.
They kept talking.
“He got upset.”
They kept talking.
“I think he’s scared.”
They kept talking.
“He picks his nose too.”
They looked at me.
“I know. I saw it,” Lucy said. “He does it all the time.”
I continued, “He used to be my friend, but he acts stupid sometimes.”
“He thinks he’s funny,” Elvin said.
Their circle opened up, enough for me to fit in. It was as though they made the perfect spot for me with my name on it. I walked forward. The circle closed again. I was in. I was there. I was one with the rest.
Brian walked out of the building and onto the playground pavement. His head was pointed down to the ground as he zipped up his thin red jacket. The kids turned towards him. I backed away just a bit.
He stopped and scanned the playground, then turned and looked at me. I looked away. A kid in the group said something that made the other kids laugh. I chuckled at the joke without even hearing the punchline.
by Marc Alexander Valle
“The Unknown has always 50/50 for me. Malicious or benign. The Dispassionate Unknown. And the universe, its record playing its notes…”
“Pigs…” from Six-word Stories by Marc Alexander Valle
AN EVENING NOTE
(from a father to his 11-month-old son)
by Marc Alexander Valle
Much has already been decided. It was out of my hands. Out of your mother’s hands. Out of anyone’s control. I see it as you sleep soundly on this bed right now. Your mother’s dark blonde hair, your nose like mine, your cheeks like mine, your chin like mine, all out of my control. I orchestrated none of it. It was all God. It was all The Universe. It was all Nature. It was all Luck. Fate. Destiny. Chance. The Gods. Truth be told, I delivered some DNA that Odin would be proud of, but it was all in a genetic pool that I had no command over. And you are an extraordinary specimen, my son. Cary Grant. Marlon Brando. Superhero illustrations. Your face, so handsome and symmetric. The doctor said at your last check-up that you have a mug that she could stare at for hours and hours. I’d call her a weirdo if it weren’t so true. But it is true. And it was all decided without my authority and I am in love.
But what of these tentacles? These unwelcomed circumstances that are out of my dominion. What of the fact that your father is a peasant. And his father was a peasant. And his father was a peasant. I am a peasant. I don’t make too much money. We live with my parents. I have little saved up for retirement. I’ve never really traveled. I’ve never eaten crab in Maryland, and I never had Bar-B-Que chicken in Memphis. I’ve only been on a plane once. I get most of my news from mainstream outlets. I can’t get my weight down. And I buy dumb stuff on the Internet that I don’t even need. I am a peasant. And you will see your father struggle as a peasant. And work like one. And eat like one. And play like one. And maybe even love like one.
As you sleep soundly on this bed, I know that forces of the natural realm have already decided some things. Wherever you go, one way or the other, you will carry the ZIP code that you were born in. For that I’m sorry.
But what if I told you that I am a king? What if I told you that I cannot be touched? That I am impervious to the influence of the masses and their mob mentality? That the walls of mediocrity will never cave in on me? I am a king. With a mind burning as bright as magnesium lit by a 7th-grade science teacher. With the world’s greatest ideas stewing in my subconscious like your grandmother’s Puerto Rican kidney beans. With thoughts and emotions deeper than an atom at the dead center of The Sun. What if I told you that I put people at ease and that many people trust me more than their own lawyers, doctors, and spiritual advisors? Would I even really need to tell you that? Will you see it for yourself one day?
As you sleep soundly on this bed, I don’t remember what a restful night is like anymore. By the time I experience it again you’ll be your own man, and I’ll be closing in on the end of this life. The tendrils of time, space, and causality pull us towards a state of pure energy once again, and the crickets outside have been chirping for a good two hours. I think I’ll lie next to you for now. Just for a little. Just until you wake. Just to watch you wake. Just for now. I will lie next to you.
Happy 10-month birthday, Emile. Daddy loves you.