An excerpt from part one: "I'm sure if I could get him to stay home for a time... I know he'd change. I'd could get him back..." I set my jaw and made up my mind; I would chase him to that house in New Orleans. I'd bring him back, I would get back what was hers.
The place was easy enough to find. A simple question asked of a few locals would lead me out of the city to a run down building at the edge of a swamp. This was the gambling house that had such a hold on my father? It was little more than a roadhouse inn. A restaurant & bar, a card room for low stakes poker, some table games, and a dozen rooms for rent. I kicked my way across the sawdust floor, through cigar smoke, avoiding the poor drunken stupefied souls strewn about; heading for the toothless barmaid. She stood wiping down the counter with a rag that threw the smell of whisky and mildew into the already thick air. I asked after my father, the dubious look she gave was telling. Probably more so than she intended. Visions of loan sharks and police flash across my field of view. I explained who I was and her expression relaxed.
"Oh, den he back'air workin' shug." The relaxation in her expression gave way to, what could have been, relief in her voice. It was hard to pick up the nuance in her accent. The completely alien dialect.
I learned that my father worked as a cook and a janitor; anything he could do to make the money that he gambled and drank. He'd rent a room when he could but most nights he spent in his own little place right outside the backdoor of the kitchen. That was where I was told to wait for him. It was a shed, my father lived in a shed. An old plywood structure, barely standing, with a cot and some very rusted tools. It was all probably left over from the construction of the main building, The Rising Sun.
I had been waiting for nearly three hours before he appeared. He smelled strongly of liquor. I wondered how much of my wait he'd spent drinking. I launched into him with all the passion and guilt I could muster. My mother's words and sentiment flowing through me.
"Don't you need us? Can't you be satisfied with your family?"
"Now... The only thing a gambler needs is a suitcase and a trunk. And the only time he's satisfied is when he's on a drunk." He swayed and slurred as he spoke. I could feel my face heating up, my body tensing, the surge of adrenaline that makes your heart beat in your eyeballs.
I lashed out. In an instant of rage and base instinct my fist connected, smack, against his jaw. He fell. He fell for what seemed like hours. Slowly he drifted toward the ground, his booze addled mind too slow to react. He never reached out to break his fall. Maybe I knocked him out. Maybe he never knew he was falling. One of those old tools caught him. Just before the ground, an old rusty lump of metal jagged and angry caught my father just above and behind his right eye. There he hung bleeding from his mouth and nose and the new orifice that lump of metal had made... I had come for redemption but would have to settle for revenge.
Music is central to my writing process. It ranks right up there with booze and candy as creative lubricants. I use it to put myself in the right "head space" for whatever it is I'm writing. I hear this isn't an uncommon phenomenon but, with no explicit knowledge of the practice being exercised elsewhere, I'll assume I'm unique and invented the idea. Sometimes a song will dig it's way into my psyche. I'll start to hear a story behind the melody. The words and music become disconnected and something reveals itself. Sometimes it's a character. Sometimes I hear some dialog. Sometimes a whole narrative will materialize. I'm not talking about those songs that are clearly telling a specific story... that would just be lazy on my part. And again since I have no firsthand knowledge of this happening anywhere else I'll go ahead and take full credit for and ownership of this strange occurrence. It's all mine and you can't have any..
With this in mind I've decided to write some of these stories inspired by songs. I'm going to put them in a serialized format right here on the old C&C blog.... you're welcome. So, for your reading enjoyment (hopefully) I present House of the Rising Sun part 1.
I was twelve when I found out what my father was. Startled awake by yelling. I heard my mother's voice and was vaguely aware of a man's. I only found out later that it was my father. I didn't recognize it, I hadn't had much contact with the man in my short life. The fight breaking up my sleep must have made me restless, I was up before dawn. I found my mother at the kitchen table. The only light coming from a small desk lamp, shinning a spotlight on her hands hard at work. My mother was a tailor, she sat in near darkness sewing my new blue jeans... sewing and weeping. I offered her as much comfort as a child could offer a parent. We started talking and the conversation went in the obvious direction.
"Hmm... There is a house, in New Orleans... They call 'The Rising Sun'..." She told me. She answered all of my questions.
So that was it. My father was a gamblin' man, down in New Orleans.
That house, in New Orleans, they call the Rising Sun. It's been the ruin of many a poor boy. And God, I know I'm one.
I didn't see my father again until several years later. I could hear the yelling from down the hall as I approached our apartment. The scene inside was an unexpected let down. I entered tense, body tight for action, ready to face the anger and violence that I had heard. But there they stood. My mother and father on opposite sides of the kitchen, relaxed and leaning on our cheap plastic counter-tops. Their words and volume disconnected from their body language... The obvious result of having done this dance so many, many times. My little sister sat silent at the kitchen table, staring down at her hands. I moved to put an arm around the nearly catatonic girl. My father offered a glance, his only acknowledgement of my being there. Every muscle in my nineteen year old body screamed to strike the man.
"Alright. I'm leaving." He said, throwing his hands in the air. I'd like to think it was my stare or that he could feel my thoughts, that prompted his sudden departure. He stopped on his way through the door, looking back at mom.
"Oh mother, tell your children not to do what I have done. Spend your lives in sin and misery, in the house of the rising sun." And he was gone. When he'd gone my mother explained why he'd come.
"When he burns out. When he's out of cash and credit, he comes back to town." She cried as she told me. She told me he would borrow or steal anything he could. When he'd finished, just before leaving again, he'd stop by our place to take what he could from us.
"He took our money?" I'd been working at a store in our neighborhood for about a year. I made just enough to cover half of our household bills with a little left over. I was saving for a car. With our own car a while new world of opportunities would open up to us. "He stole my money?!" I deeply regret not beating the soul from his body there in our kitchen.
I set my jaw and made up my mind; I would chase him to that house in New Orleans. I would go get back what was ours.
Mom was quick to disarm me. It's hard to burn with hormonal teen rage while being held by your weeping mother. She told me all the reasons that he was good. All the reasons why she still loved him.
"I'm sure if I could get him to stay home for a time... I know he'd change. I'd could get him back..." I set my jaw and made up my mind; I would chase him to that house in New Orleans. I'd bring him back, I would get back what was hers.