When I started this blog my intention was to share prose as well as poetry (though poetry will likely always be my main focus), but I have neglected to post any prose pieces until now.
Summer of a Doormouse is an unfinished prose project that I haven’t done any signifigant work on in many years. I have hopes of finishing it in some form someday, but, until then, I want to share it here and mayb get some feedback.
The Summer of a Doormouse
by John W. Leys
“When one subtracts from life infancy (which is vegetation), –sleep, eating, and swilling – buttoning and unbuttoning—how much remains of downright existence? The summer of a doormouse.”
– George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron (1788-1824) Journal Entry, dated 7 December 1813
What follows is the truth. All names, characters, places, and events are a product of the deranged imagination that created the Universe. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, deities, or persons, living, dead, or both, is entirely on purpose. Only the names have been changed to protect me from a lawsuit.
There’s only one slight difference between
Me and my epic brethren gone before,
And here the advantage is my own, I ween,
(Not that I have not several merits more,
But this will more peculiarly be seen);
They so embellish, that ’tis quite a bore
Their labyrinth of fables to thread through,
Whereas this story’s actually true.
– George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron
Don Juan: Canto the First, Stanza 202 (1818)
Nothing in this story’s been changed except the words.
– Bob Dylan, 10 May 1965
Prologue:28 December 1980
I kneel down on the linoleum and drape my head into the bathtub. Someone from the party is pouring cool water down the back of my neck.
“Are you feeling any better, man?” says a comparatively sober voice.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” And with that brilliant observation my stomach begins to retch up everything I’ve ingested in the past few hours. Half digested Snickers bars mix in the tub with what was once peanuts, while regurgitated vodka takes the skin off the back of my throat. Behind me someone is talking. I think it’s Donna.
“Oh shit, what the hell happened?” Yep, it’s Donna all right.
“He had a little too much, too quickly.” My anonymous caretaker responds, “I think he’ll be alright in a few minutes.”
“I hope you’re right.” She pauses for a moment until my stomach settles, in the tub, “And all this time I thought you were the responsible one.” Yeah that’s what I thought too.
Eventually, with some help, I make it back to the party. Everyone is up and dancing. I can’t quite place the tune, but I’m not sure if that’s because of my current state of bliss or Jim’s shitty sound system. Wait a second, why’s the stereo on anyway? I thought he was hiring a band for tonight. Must’ve changed his mind, I guess.
After a bit the crowd starts to stare as I partake in a unique form of dance that is somewhat reminiscent of Pete Townshend’s stage show (Except Pete usually pays some attention to the rhythm of the music and I, obviously enough, lack a guitar). After my performance is complete I head off the dance-floor trying to find a chair to collapse in. I’m within steps of my destination when I trip over the floor and one of Jim’s coffee tables flies up and smacks me in the forehead. As I regain my feet, someone puts their hand on my shoulder.
“Are you just about done?” Oh shit, he doesn’t sound happy.
“Hiya Jim, uh what’s with the stereo? What happened to the band, man?” Jim begins to grin, just a bit.
“Well it’s like this, they played for a while, but they had to stop for a bit.”
“Uh. . .why’d they stop?” He looks downright amused by this.
“They had to stop because their lead guitarist has spent the last twenty minuets either throwing up in my bathtub or making an ass of himself in front of my guests.” Oh shit, I knew I was forgetting something.
“I guess that means I’d better get back on stage, right?”
Fifteen minuets later I’m sitting on the edge of the jury rigged stage when Lionel, our bassist, cheerfully informs me that it’s my turn to start the set.
“Um, hullo. . .This is. . .Oh Christ.” Some of the more sober people in the audience wince as a wave of feedback bounces off of every surface in the room, “Sorry ‘bout that. Anyway, this is an old Who song, written by Pete Townshend, called Pure and Easy.” There’s a strained applause. I hope we haven’t played this one already. As I turn my back to the audience for a moment, to adjust my amp, I catch Lionel’s sly grin out of the corner of my eye. He knows I only chose this song because it’s one of the few I can usually remember how to play while I’m in the bag.
The tune starts out soft and melodic, most of the crowd don’t seem to appreciate this. They seem to prefer loud and senseless. As the tempo picks up the crowd seems less and less distracted by the fact that I can hardly remember how to play, though they also really don’t seem to care for my choice in songs. I’m not sure whether it’s the music or the sharp blow to my head earlier, but I don’t feel quite as numb as before.
Rich ends up the song with a hard crash on the cymbals as I do a Townshend-like leap several feet into the air, nearly killing myself as my amp cord wraps itself around my leg. In a moment of panic I attempt to regain my balance, but my momentum carries me forward. I can feel the cord tightening around my ankles as I proceed to kiss the stage. The crowd begins to cheer as my guitar regurgitates a wave of feedback into the room. I try to raise my body from the floor, but my muscles don’t want to cooperate. I look up from where I’m lying; reality seems to shimmer for an instant. My mind clears. The music fades. I pass out.
Continue to Chapter I