Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stealing songs and souls

Flash Fiction Challenge #1 2014
Group 17
Genre: Historical Fiction
Location: An Interrogation room
Object: A handwritten invitation
1,000 Word Limit
Author: Mike Hammer

 Stealing songs and souls 
By Mike Hammer 

Courtney had been in police stations before, locked up for drugs and drunkenness and disorderly conduct, and B&E and shoplifting and slappin’ bitches, but she had never been ‘in the box’ before. She pushed up her bra, proudly displayed her chest and looked unfazed as the officer escorted her into the tiny room – concrete walls, a single table, 3 chairs and the famous one-sided window were all there; she held her breath, sat down and exhaled slowly – where she would wait for the detectives.

She had been on the edge for so long, trying to be mastermind, to be Head Bitch In Charge, trying to control everyone and everything, so maybe it was time to take a break. Let the cops charge her, ride it out and disappear. She was never good at disappearing tho, even if she wasn’t the center of attention she was around the fringes of it.

“Ms. Love,” the first detective through the door greeted her. He held a manila folder, with her doom.
“Ms. Love,” repeated the second detective.

Love, ha. Is that why she killed Kurt? Was it for love, so he wouldn’t leave her because she loved him too much? Was love always the reason when she poisoned and punched and paraded naked?

“Why am I here?” she asked the Junior G Men as they pulled out their chairs and sat across from her.

“Just routine Ms. Love, we always interview loved ones after someone commits suicide,” said the first detective. “We have no reason to suspect you of killing your husband.”
“Are you sure,” the second detective asked the first. “She has a history of violence, she had a P.I. following Kurt, she threatened her first husband, she allegedly offered to pay multiple people to kill Kurt. I am not so sure Ms. Love isn’t facing the gas chamber.”

“Kurt killed himself,” Love said, icy, dismissive, only 3 days after Kurt’s body was found, full of Heroin with a shotgun wound to the head, in the greenhouse above their garage - a garage they had hung out in, kissed, undressed, made love, fucked furiously and fought in. “He left a note. Read it. I’m leaving.”

Love stood up to walk out at the second detective stood up and shoved her back in the chair.

“You can leave when we tell you to leave,” her spat at her.
“If you wanted to get your hands on me you just had to ask detective,” Courtney responded, pulling down her shirt and revealing her breast. “There are more than a few cops who with give you a statement about my fantastic dick sucking skills.”

“Did you kill you husband Ms. Love?” asked the first detective.
“I loved Kurt Cobain,” she said soft, to herself, a mourner, a former groupie, testifying at a memorial.
“That isn’t what I asked,” the first detective said.

“He left a damn suicide note, I didn’t so shit, asshole,” Love barked.

“I know you got a lot of money from HOLE and showing your titties off in magazines and in film and on stage and I know you could hire a hit man to kill Kurt while you were out of town,” the second detective said. “You could get him waxed before he divorced you, you evil doping, whoring ball and chain.”
“He did call you a doping, whoring cunt in one of his notes,” the first detective said.
“Yeah, that was the more bitter angry aggressive note,” the second detective said as he opened the folder on the desk. Inside the folder Courtney recognized the handwritten invitation Kurt had gotten from Greg Sage. Kurt idolized Greg. In 2 weeks Kurt was supposed to go to Portland to record with Greg, some real old bluesy stuff, full of emotion, no gimmicks, no trendy lines and catchphrases, just heartbreak. Kurt was so excited. It was the last coherent thing he talked about before she shot that dickless cunt “The handwriting experts haven’t compared the notes yet, but lots of killers have tried to put fake suicide notes into the scene, and they always get caught. Did you know that Ms. Love?”

“I don’t know anything,” Love said. “Except my husband is dead and I am grieving.”
“You don’t sound real broken up,” the first detective said.

“She’s not broken up man, she’s happy,” the second detective said. “Kurt was gonna leave her, he wrote half her fucking songs, he supplied her with drugs and fame and a family, what would she do without him? I think she did some shitty heroin with him, got him so high he couldn’t move then took a shotgun to his head, that’s what I think.”
“Do you get paid to think up crazy shit?” Love asked.
“I do, I do, mostly ‘cause people do a lot of crazy shit. I get to think like them, get inside their jealous, pathetic, selfish minds. I get to pretend I’m forgetting about my daughter, jonesin’ for a fix and abusing people who love me,” the second cop answered. “It’s scary inside your head isn’t it Courtney?”
“You can’t get inside my head, you fucking cop,” she replied, cold, menacing.

“Oh, I had you wrong. You sound like a sweet girl,” the first cop said. “Why don’t you help us out then, explain to us why a we should believe a crazy, druggie hooker like you?

“You gonna let me leave yet?” Love asked.
“You gonna tell us if you wrote that suicide not we found a couple inches from the inside of Kurt’s head? How about the second note we found in his wallet?” asked the first cop.
“She’s not gonna tell us shit,” the second cop said. “She isn’t interested in finding out why her husband was killed.”

“Kurt killed himself,” Courtney yelled.
“Why would he do that?” the first detective said. “Why would a famous young man with a famous band and millions of dollars kill himself?”
“For love.”

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Interview with Christina Haviland, director of “Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical”

I have been working with a local arts center lately and this is an interview I conducted with one of the directors for the new production. Interview with Christina Haviland, director of “Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical” Christina Haviland has been working with Olmsted Performing Arts (OPA) since 2003, she is a director and scenic artist. She attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and has worked as an actor in California, Colorado and Ohio. Haviland has been set designer for several Northeast Ohio theaters and productions and is a director for Main Stage and Classic productions at OPA. Read below to see some of her insights into theater, directing and why “Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical” at OPA is a must see production. What draws you to theatre and directing? The stories that connect us as humans is primarily what I go to when I think of why I do this. To be able to create something, and to have others share in the experience (whether actors or audience) is rewarding beyond measure. For me, theater is about how we are similar, it sheds that light for us in a unique way. That is beautiful. How does a director prepare for his or her part? Everyone is different, some like to research by watching other productions, I do a little of that from time to time, but most of my preparation comes from reading the script and then ruminating on the theme, or overall tone. Sometimes, I will read books the play was based on. I’ll also watch films or plays similar to the one I’m working on, but not exactly the same. I listen to music that reminds me of the show, I’ll visit places the show takes place in - anything that will spark vision. Once I do that, generally inspirations strikes afterward, but when I least expect it. When you read play what do you see and hear in your head? What I love is the fact that often, I connect with subtext as I’m reading a script. Some stage direction is very clear, I try to stay true to it, but I also don't want my shows to look like every other version of the show done other places. What I do is look for the tone, for underlying motivation of characters and play with that. Color… I’m not sure why, and it's hard to explain but I "see colors"… it sets the tone for the direction of the show- I don't do it, it sort of takes off on its own. Sometimes my unorthodox style creates beauty. Sometimes it doesn't come to fruition the way it has in my mind, the execution fails and has to be changed on stage. Do you try to make plays you direct look or feel a certain way? What is your goal as director? Every show has to be "true" to itself so, yes, all of them look and feel a certain way - but that "way" isn't the same as the last one. My goal is singular, in that it is always to connect to the audience Is it more exciting to be a part of the first professional production at Olmsted Performing Arts or more intimidating? Why? I’m terrified and I’m thrilled - terrified, not because I undervalue our work here, but because, it’s a huge calling and privilege, thrilled because I truly love this place. What we have grown here, is unique and I’m beyond excited to share that with others who love theater as much as me. What surprised you about directing Jekyll & Hyde? I wasn't fully prepared for the darkness of this show. It’s asking me to go to a place, that I don't necessarily want to go, but it's my job, to help fulfill the image and to tell the story. It's strange that we can connect with the shadow on so many levels. Also, I have to give HUGE respect to the actors here, this show is so physically demanding, especially on the leads. I knew it was challenging going in - but I had no idea it was such a "monster" on so many levels. What have you learned directing Jekyll & Hyde? As a director and human, I have learned, when tacking a show like this, to clear my schedule. I will next time for certain. Also, I have learned that vulnerability isn't well understood by all us. I have rarely felt this exposed for my shortcomings, but it has brought a lot of knowledge I can carry with me - growth for certain. What will audience members learn and appreciate when watching Jekyll & Hyde? I don't think you can watch this show without deeply appreciating the music. I can’t really be the judge of what others will learn there are many valuable themes in this show. What I can say is I believe they will appreciate details in every aspect of the show, set design, staging, fights, costumes, and in the story. Ultimately, for me, the commonality of the story lies in this: Jekyll believes he is doing the right thing for humanity, but really he is exorcizing his own hurt, he becomes so singular in his task he causes massive damages to those he loves. There are times we "believe" we are doing the right thing, but we cause a lot of pain for others too. It's a difficult lesson, but aren't they all.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Poetry Month at Cuyahoga County

Cuyahoga County Public Library is bringing you 30 days of poetry to celebrate National Poetry Month. Here you’ll find poems to write, poems to read, poetry websites to get to know and poetry books to check out from the library. Here’s what makes this site special: our focus is on the poets and poetry of Northeast Ohio. Check out 30 Days of of Poetry HERE.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Iron Alexander, Iron Home

Iron Alexander was a lot like the Marvel superhero Iron Man, except he was poor, did not have a gorgeous assistant, had no weapons on his body and could not fly. But he could smash anything and he was strong and indestructible and he could beat anything in a fist to fist fight. Iron Alexander tried to fall in love with Iron Man once, but it didn’t work. No matter how Iron Alexander displayed his care and affection and was available and considerate and sweet and charming Iron Man could not shake his old habits of bad relationships. This was Iron Man’s fault, not Iron Alexander’s – Iron Alexander knew that, but it still hurt. When Iron Alexander confronted Iron Man about this they fought, and the battle was heard for miles and recorded on TMZ and the internet. Iron Alexander felt ashamed, he was the best he could be, but Iron Man still didn’t love him. Iron Alexander stopped taking vacations to war zones and private parties where he might see Iron Man. Iron Alexander threw himself into his work. He mostly got jobs digging tunnels in mountains, expanding railroads and such. “Oh my my my, my work is so hard, give me water…” always played in his head. Sam Cooke’s fantastic gentle, intense, heart wrenching and heartfelt rhythm and blues song “Chain Gang” moved him along always, except when he had time off to work on building his home. He built it of iron and the song in his head then was the song “To Build a Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra. He changed the words slightly to make them his own “This is a house built out of IRON/IRON floors, walls and window sills…This is a place I don’t feel alone/This is a place where I feel at home.” In his head was the only place he could escape the sounds of metallic clanging, the sounds of his joints creaking and squeaking, his body banging and clanging. His iron home would be indestructible too, like him. It would live forever, with him. It would always look like the day it was built, just like he always looked the same as the day his iron parents had left him on the doorstep of an orphanage. No other iron kids at the orphanage, no other iron kids anywhere – he looked, all over the world. He was special, unique; he was also alone. He finished his iron home after years, when most of the railroads were made and the mountains were tunneled. Now his sat and waited, on his front porch. He waited for all the wars to end so maybe Iron Man would come to him, although Iron Man was really a man and would never love Iron Alexander, who was really iron. He waited for other iron people, for his iron parents to come home. He waited for someone to truly break his iron heart. He waited for a sweet death he knew would never come.

Friday, December 6, 2013

"I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief." – Franz Kafka

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

No Street Lights

I cry out for you in the middle of Ohio. It is lonely, dead, and I'm spilling my guts to a stranger who doesn't care. I wanna see you laugh again, wanna hear your stories, wanna polish off a bottle of wine and fall asleep next you. I close my eyes and fuck the stranger. I say "Stranger, drink your wine, lie next to me, be quiet" but the stranger doesn't breathe like you and I can't fool myself. It's obvious now. If I can't fool myself, the problem must be that I could never fool you and that's why you left Left me alone, in Ohio not - searching for God/trying to be a better person/detecting and helping hopelessness - knowing your secrets

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Shifting, Moving, Dying

Shifting, Moving, Dying by Mike Hammer I have found a way to inhabit this sun, for the first time. In the past I have spent time as pottery or a pool or a piece of clothing, perhaps a moon rock, never something so massive and intense as this. I have to be careful. I don’t want to get caught in the wrong place and be sent out and down to the closest planet or out to space as a sunbeam. I want to stay in the burning rock. I want to watch the sunbeams assemble and assimilate, watch the inner function of this hot planet, watch it eat itself from inside out and touch it all, be a part of the destruction. This is the best shell I have had in a long time. I am a small piece in this enormous endeavor - floating throughout it, inside it, observing and participating. A sun is an incredible machine, a rock that burns with such power that it cannot be stopped. A sun destroys itself, but nothing can destroy it while it is at its apex, breathing, flexing, engulfing, demolishing, reforming, it’s a beautiful ballet. I float in the sun nimble and taking part in split second moves, pointing the way to reveal or destroy. I guide sometimes but mostly I just enjoy the process, enjoy the rush of strength and greatness. This goes on for centuries. I travel around the star, like a circuit speeds throughout a computer processing board. I consider myself the secret to the sun, the hidden component that flavors it and make it function superbly. I touch every part of the star, never interfering but leaving my presence, but each time I contact it I feel it dying. My days are filled with powerful heat and brilliant light. There are flashes of extreme pleasantness, then extreme pain. I can’t quite tell if it’s me or the sun feeling it. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter. A sun will only live so long, however, and the hot star rattled worse and worse as the decades went on, so I allowed myself to be sucked into a sunbeam. There was only minimal pain, but I dreaded the day. It seemed forever away, but it crept up on me, appeared on my calendar without any pomp or circumstance and no fair warning. I know tomorrow I will have to let myself be sucked out, squeezed up and hurtled out and through space. If I stay here I will eventually explode with this sun and be scattered across the universe, parts of me throttled deep into space, parts latching onto rings around planets, parts disappearing into Black Holes and reappearing God knows where. Maybe parts of me would end up with God. I’m ready to go to God yet. I thought I was but I am not. I shall become a sun beam and ride through space and land on the planet below in some form, trying to depart before I get smashed. The speed and distance are not things I worry about, I’ll be inside the light, but I am worried about where I land, and how. I know if I stay in the sun how it will end, it’s easier to digest – the unknown, possible, ending of the sun beam ride is what keeps my mind racing. Staying on the star will only lead to one thing however, death, riding the sun beam will lead to death also if I ride it wrong. But, if I can move to a new surface, a new object I will keep living. There is a possibility. When I am sucked out of the sun it’s the fastest and hardest thing that has ever happened. I am sucked up, like in a straw, from some god slurping at an incalculable rate. There isn’t much gravity but what there is tears at me, I feel exposed, like I could be rattled or destroyed as if I were any number of tiny molecular gnats on the ass of the universe. The real pain comes from the switch from the coziness of an oven to the bitter chill of the black, space. The heat is clawed from me. I gasp and twinge with pain as I begin to pick up speed. I’ve heard it takes around 8 minutes for light to travel from the sun to the earth. I’ve spent 10 seconds waiting for an answer and it felt like forever. So I know traveling in a sun beam will be over, before it begins, but I will remember it as taking a century. I try to concentrate on everything, on the blackness, the cold, the small circular pattern I keep making as I tremble. They use temperature as torture in some worlds, but it shouldn’t really affect me, I just have to adjust. Adjust. Adjust. Become part of space, join it in all its endless expanding expanse. Join it. But don’t get attached. I am leaving in 7 minutes. 6 minutes now, and I’m shaking. It’s pleasant. I am in the middle of space, hurdling toward a planet, encased in a sun beam. The view is marvelous. The planet is coming into focus, mostly blue, some white and some large land masses. Hopefully there is a soft slow atmosphere surround ding the planet earth, then I might be able to cling onto something, inhabit a piece of the sky, float over it all. That would be a safe transition, if my wits haven’t scrambled too much at that point I am gonna try it. 5 minutes now. The atmosphere is looking more like a hard shield at this point, but my eyeballs are ice balls and not reliable. Earth should bring me some heat soon. I can start functioning normally maybe, not just imagining I am fine. I need to be fine to transfer out into the earth atmosphere successfully. 4 minutes. The sun beam is about to hit the atmosphere. I think I am bracing for impact, but I’m not quite sure what I am doing. This trip is very scenic but very long. I need to make use of this time. I need to prepare. Get in the right state. Reach the Zen-like readiness of a champion fitness expert and martial artists, a fighter ready to react in milliseconds to any environmental change, to turn disadvantage to advantage, surprise to calculated plan, heartache to success. I role play in my head, I envision success, If I can picture It I can achieve it and avoid the slow death I would have had on the star, and avoid the quick death I’ll have if this sun beam strikes a solid object. 3 minutes now and the objects on earth are coming into focus, showing some distinctive shapes. I know smells and heat are coming soon, and I will spot tiny individuals below. How will they look from a sun beam, these humans. It has been so long since I have seen humans, and never on this planet. 2 minutes. The light beam is breaking into the atmosphere now. There is a burner turned on, and its getting turned up fast. The smells of chemicals and burning and speed batter me, I scan the surface, but I’m rotating now, I’m spinning, I’m losing grip – I could fall out of this beam into the atmosphere now. I prepare to switch mediums, to sneak into the atmosphere, but far below I see a huge ocean, and it captivates me. I pause and I lose my chance. So not it is an ocean. It is water but hitting it with a sunbeam might still be hard and unpleasant, maybe bad. I am almost home the. 1 minute left. I can see sailors, brown bodies glistening in the bright day, moving in rhythm as they work aboard a sailing vessel. Closer and closer we get, I influence the sunbeam toward the large soft back of a dark man straining to pull a rope. The muscles are large and meaty, I should be able to absorb into that, I should. I’ll have a chance anyway. It’s better than the prospects I had on that dying sun. The sun beam reached the dark man with a shock. My whole self rattled, and there was a momentary wetness. I was passing through a drop of water that was fresh and soft, streaming across the man’s back. I was almost home I just had to move between the water to the man’s skin. I could spread out in there. The skin was the largest organ in a human and it let me see everything and travel the whole human body. Inside this skin I roamed, feeling what the man felt, tasting what the man tasted, as he worked on the seafaring vessel. Most often he was setting sail early, as then sun rose, then going inside the boat and rowing. Seeing the sun from the view of the planet I missed it. It was a bright ball, hanging over the little people who inhabited this boat. The boat was getting closer to a land mass and the man often laughed. His skin and body shook, his chest heaved and he produced a short loud deep song. I was comfortable, and easy. There were no dangers, except uncertainty. I wasn’t sure how long I could last with the man. His days seemed all the same until the day the boat stopped. The boat stopped in a sunny spot, with lots of other boats. The man took only a small silvery metallic disk with him, in his pocket, and joined a group of other men and laughed and drank and went into a small building with loud music playing. There was a moist excitement in the air, and women were dancing, and the man drank more. He was approached from behind by a woman who told him she wanted to make his last night spectacular. I was not sure what this meant. She took his hand and led him through the inside place and up some steps in the back of it, to a quiet, secluded room, with a bed in it and a chair in it. Inside the woman began undressing, the man’s heart beat faster and his blood burned. I didn’t know if it was good or bad. I do know she said it was his last night and that is definitely not good. So I began to formulate a plan, and play out in my mind, transferring from him to her when they touched. But the man turned around and put his hand on the door knob. “Don’t,” she said. He paused with his hand on the doorknob and his heart was beating faster than before. I surged through his skin trying to calm his body, but it was no use. I had to get out. “Why do you want to do this Denise,” the man said. “I’m just a down on his luck sailor.” “You are a down on his luck sailor who is quiet a gentleman,” Denise said, slow and seductive, approaching the man from behind. He walked over to the chair and sat down as she tried to touch him. I needed her to touch him, so that I could transfer. I had transferred between beings before, many times, and without touch, a path to follow, I just have to hurl myself into the air where I could be scattered by a gust of wind or a sneeze and die without a shell around me. I needed a shell. For 737,000 years I have needed a shell. I have searched for a shell, and then searched for another for 737,000 years. Maybe I should have stayed on that sun like I planned. The woman, stopped, sighed heavily, then sat daintily on the bed. “Why did you even come back here then,” she asked him. “I’m not gonna let my brother die, you know that,” was his response. “It was his debt, not yours Keith. You aren’t responsible,” Denise said. “When we were together you never gave a damn about family. You didn’t give a damn about most things.” “Yeah, see where it got me. I meet The General in a hour and I will pay him the money to spare my brother.” “But he won’t spare you,” Denise whispered. “No,” Keith chuckled. “Probably not.” “He will have your head on a spike in his rose garden by tomorrow, Keith. You know that.” “A rose garden is not such a bad place.” His heart rate was falling, his muscles were relaxing. He seemed ready to hibernate. She stood and paced in front of the door, then began taking off her jewelry. She extended her long dark neck, thrust out her breasts slightly and licked her lips. “Well. We have at least 30 minutes for you to make love to me one last time,” she said. “I always liked making love to you,” he said. With their bodies connected I would easily move into her. I began to focus on transferring, fighting off the catches in the shell and finding a hold in the new one. The woman took off her dress and crawled onto the bed, on her hands and knees, with a sorrowful but determined smile. Now was the time I could move into her, and not worry about any death of this shell, any quick escapes, any being blown apart. I have always known it is best to get while the getting is good. He rose slowly from his chair and walked over to her on the bed. She looked like a cat, bathed in a dusty yellow light, ready to pounce. He stood over her, looking down as she moved, slowly stretching out her body, showing and tempting him. She placed his hands on the belt of his pants and he grabbed her by the hair, pulled back her hair gently, then leaned down and kissed her. The kiss was long and deep, their mouths sharing air and juices, I slipped quick into her lips. “I’m not going to stay with you and you better not be fucking around on my brother. Please, Denise, clean up your act and get ready to do something useful in this world for once.” As he straightened up and away she started to undo his belt. “Just let me do it baby, you know you’ll like. Once last smile for you. One last good memory for me.” Her words came out in sexy clumps. They were visible. I have never seen another creature do that. He language was robust enough for me to inhabit. How many people used language like this? How would it be to get into different words. What would it feel like to become Beautiful, Fuck or Lasagna. 737,000 years and something new? This is amazing, I thought. I’m gonna be a word. I will be language. I will last forever, shaped differently as different people and animals and gods use me. The man turned toward the door. “Where are you going?” Denise asked, in a sad disappointed shock. The words pulsed as they came out of her, and I slipped into the end of the question. This shell was filled with colors and pictures and it felt intense and almost as hot as a mini sun. I gasped. I traveled through the space between her lips and his. I moved toward the beginning of the sentence and felt a bit lost. I stopped at you and I felt like it was a comfortable reunion, and I smiled. I wondered. “I’m going to my rose garden,” Keith said. Now that I was language, I could see his language, and I transferred into it when it bumped into her words. It was melancholy in his sentence, but firmly resigned. As I hung in the air, in my word shelter, the man opened the door and stepped through it and it swung shut. He was gone. “Goodbye,” Denise said. I slipped into her word. It was blue, sad, and ready for a long journey. I wondered. What would I do. There was nobody to answer her.