Somewhere near a check cashing joint on the east side of Indianapolis, in all the scenery that could apply, a guy takes a humble walk and has a tangle. He has some fun, and doesn’t die.
“Jookabox! Jookabox!” whispered that night, whose holy clouds cut the lights, and whose trees clicked their high twigs together in the dark, and whose bugs all breathed hot one long wheeze at once and without ceasing even when they changed keys. The sidewalk cracks dropped beat machine claps, and sewers sucked the bass hits down. And all around this one man (alive in the Dead Zone, so it seemed, to see none of it and hear it all) there moved the Phantom.
The Phantom was wise, but the guy knew the paint and followed the lines and stayed low in the Zone (which he’d known, he explained in his mind, as he’d grown.) “I know all the paint in this street!” he squeaked. A hush. A leak in his lungs made him speak. So the Phantom stopped. And the street felt afraid. And a bearded boy stopped eating cake. A babe held her breath with a hand to her face. A bro held a fart, and a writer stopped typing for… just… one… moment.
“THIS ZONE WAS ONCE YOUR CHILDHOOD STREET??” cried the Phantom, and yanked it up with two hands like a sheet and snapped a beat out, “BOOM!” Bolts of blue lightening flashed and then, after some time passed, the great sound of 1,000 late night sitcom laugh tracks arrived and rumbled away, (away, away, away, away) popping powerlines in gridded waves and dropping radio towers for hours.
It was dark and quiet save the man’s “Don’t go! Don’t go, Don’t go” to the Phantom’s beat. The bearded boy continued to eat. The bewildered babe made a yawn in the street. The bro made a sound that was naughty and brown and the writer bowed out of the book.
Who writes the songs that make the whole world sing?
Who wrote the tale for the pretty girl's ear?
Who makes your face look so much like your face?
Who told your mama to have you right here?
Who put the calm in the smell of an arm?
Who stamps the wild on the mind of a child?
Who do we mean when we talk about dreams?
Who did we look like the first time we smiled?
“WEEEEE!” said the Phantom glueing back flips to clouds, “Now be LOUD!” The man understood where he stood, and he took, then, the very next step that he could. With a mystery deep as a gas station ashtray, a courage up high and a faith really long, he made Song.
What. What’s wrong?
Oh, the cake boy and babe and the bro and writer? I suppose they know the Phantom too.
So do you.
(A crackling sound…”BOOM” and a fading-out “wooOOOoooooooooooooo…”)
Jookabox's Dead Zone Boys is out today on Asthmatic Kitty.