Authors: Patrick Flores-Scott
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For Emma and our boys
an ultimate experience of some pleasurable emotion such as harmony or joy
a legendary kick-ass rock-and-roll band from my hometown of Aberdeen, Washington
'M THINKING ABOUT
My buddies from Aberdeen, out on the Washington coast. It's where I used to live before I was “temporarily” moved away. And it's where Rupe and Dave and I used to dream of becoming the next Nirvana.
The next hard-rocking, ass-kicking, world-famous band from Aberdeen.
A movie rolls in my brain. I'm watching us fish for cutthroat trout from the muddy banks of the Wishkah River. I see Rupert smiling at me with his big ol' buckteeth, his long, rust-red hair flowing in the wind as he baits his hook with a massive, wriggling night crawler. Dave zips back and forth along the bank, a blur of Coke-bottle glasses, dirty blond buzz cut and turbocharged ADHD, pointing and shouting, “Cast here! Cast here, guys!”
We're just little seventh graders fishing and having a good time, but all we can do is argue about Nirvana.
We argue about what Nirvana would be like now if Kurt Cobain hadn't decided to leave this world.
I argue that “Scoff” is a way better song than “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which is awesome, but there's no way it rocks as hard as “Scoff” does.
And Rupe and Dave argue over who should play what when we start our own band.
We wipe the mud and worm and fish muck off our hands and rock-paper-scissors it for who's gonna be Kurt and who's gonna be bassist Krist Novoselic, the two original members of Aberdeen's Nirvana before they added drummer Dave Grohl and became
We take our
Nirvana Tour of Aberdeen
and walk in the shadows of our idols, sneaking into Aberdeen High School, strutting the halls like we don't give a shit, peeing in the weeds on the banks of the Wishkah, smoking stolen cigarettes beneath the pier at night.
Stalking their ghosts.
Because those guys had something we want.
And we're not gonna stop until we find it.
We hang out at the abandoned old house where Kurt and Krist and a parade of drummers used to rehearse before their band had a name. Dave carves our initials into the peeling white shingles, and we stuff our faces with fat blackberries plucked from the tangle of vines taking over the yard. Sprawled out on the front porch, Rupe writes list after list of possible band names while I scrawl lyrics in my blue spiral notebook and imagine my voice belting those songs out over thumping drums and bass.
We dream of making Aberdeen rock again.
Making the country rock again.
Making the world rock again.
On summer nights, my mom stuffs us full of her incredible barbecue chicken and homemade mac and cheese and s'mores. Lying in the tall grass, under the ancient cedar tree, we press Play on the boom box and lose ourselves in “Scoff,” “Paper Cuts,” “Swap Meet.” We leave our troubles behind, shredding air guitars, pounding imaginary snare drums and tom-toms as we sing like rock stars and float way up to the cloudsâthen higher and higher, and far, far away, to a whole 'nother world of head-banging nirvana.
That was then.
FLEEING PUGET HIGH SCHOOL
'M ON A PISSED-OFF WALK IN THE GRAY
I'm thinking way too much.
I can't stop fucking thinking.
My socks suck up water through worn-out boots. Watching for potholes and mud puddles is nothing but a frustrating waste of time. You're wet if you do, wet if you don't.
It's just the way it is around here.
From Puget High School to my grandparents' house, it's four blocks up Twenty-fourth Street. Eight massive blocks down the steep, never-ending hill on 216th. Every step of the way, the fir trees drip gray and the fat black clouds droop low, dumping buckets of rain into the murky waters of Puget Sound. It cracks me up how people here in Des Moines, and up in Seattle, all love to say that this is one of the most beautiful places in the country. All the evergreen trees and Vashon Island and the Olympic Mountains to the west. Massive, snowcapped Mount Rainier to the southeast.â¦
But who gives a rat's ass if you never get to see any of it? This place is covered in a blanket of gray mush for about nine months a year and it wears on you. It's like the dripping, wet gray takes everything you could see, all the nice stuff, and pulls it out of focus so there's nothing in front of you but fuzz.
Nothing to distract you.
Nothing outside of you to think about.
So you're forced to turn inward, to go deep into the world of your own dark mind.
And that's the last place I wanna go.
So on days like this, I fight to stop the dark thoughts. I struggle to fill my brain with lyrics. I try to think about the most useless crap I can come up with. I think about stupid kids and the stupid things I see them do at school. I think about idiot teachers and the idiotic stuff they say. And I make up lyrics about them.
Lyrics exposing their stupidity.
Lyrics for great songs I'll never write, for cool bands I'll never join.
I spin the loudest Nirvanaâthe old stuffâthe wailing wall of sound stuff, and I fight to leave this place, to float away, to get back to the coast. Back to Aberdeen. Back to Rupe. Back to Dave.
Back to my mom the way she used to be.
But today, the music doesn't come.
I'm stuck solid on the dark, wet, messed-up side of my brain. And it's all the fault of one kid.
A THUG IN NO-MAN'S-LAND
T HAPPENS IN
“Scholars to the ready!”
It's one of Cassidy's
“I'm sooo excited about this poetry unit, people! Seriously!”
She bounces around talking about metaphor and the senses and the end-of-the-unit poetry slam. “Poetry is meant to be spoken and heard,” she says. “So we're going to have to trust each other.”
I look around at my “trusted peers,” and I know I'm not gonna write a fucking thing for this woman.
“For today's assignment, we're talkin' personification. When might one choose to
Cassidy's voice melts into the never-ending drone of jumbo jets skimming Puget High School's rooftops. I figure I'm home free for the period, so I pull my hood over my head and tight around my face and lean onto my desk.
Then the door to the class opens and
walks through it.
A Mexican gangster with a shaved head and a linebacker's body, he saunters on in and everyoneâ
âshifts their focus. All eyes are on this kid.
It's like you can hear the shift. Like you can
it. Like a bunch of tipsy, whale-watching tourists scrambling from one side of the ship deck to the other to catch a glimpse of a breaching orca and they almost tip the boat over.
He's one of
types. The type that every girl wants to
and every boy wants to
The boys all wanna be him 'cuz the girls all wanna do him. The girls all wanna do him 'cuz he's a bad boy and girls love bad boys. Or maybe it's that he's six feet tall and good-looking.
He hands Cassidy his transfer slip. What does she do?
She looks right at me.
It's the seat!
The seat next to mine.
The empty seat I fight to keep clear in every class. So no one bugs me. No partners. No one to turn and talk to like they're always telling us to do. That empty seat means teachers forget I exist. It means I don't have to act like a fake-ass dumbshit like everybody else. And when the bell rings and class starts, I can lay my head down and disappear under my coat and under my hood and escape from everything.
But right now, that seat is the only empty spot in the whole class.