256 Words

Sitting Still

W. H. Merklee

They both loved that first R.E.M. album. She went out with him after he wrote that song that sounded like "Radio Free Europe," slept with him after he pilfered "Talk About the Passion." They danced to "Perfect Circle" at their wedding. Music had always been a tool of seduction for him.

Then his day jobs became more serious, the gigs less frequent. He was too derivative for his own good. His drummer climbed the masthead of a New York magazine, his bassist grew happy with fat and fatherhood. You never write me songs anymore, she once said, and he just smiled and put his headphones back on.

After their second child, he mounted several comebacks by experimenting with different forms. She tried valiantly to tolerate these dalliances. The first one sounded like The Smiths, she thought: whiny and brooding. The next one was industrial and just plain stupid: people who screamed to a beat-box were a dime a dozen. Then there was his Pearl Jam phase, which she hated: too self-absorbed and pretentious. When all was said and done, he decided to return to what was most comfortable.

One afternoon, she dropped the day's mail in his lap to get his attention. He didn't remove the headphones or look up from his tape machine, eager to finish and play her this new song that sounded like R.E.M.'s "Sitting Still." Another two hours, he said, and it would be finished. Just long enough for her and the kids to be long gone, somewhere west of the fields.

Copyright ©1999 W. H. Merklee. All Rights Reserved.

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December, 1999
Issue #44

256 Words