Rough, rough, rough…
This descends down from the Heavens and through the prism of a billion hard-wired souls. These are souls of the uninitiated and a story with no qualms for things otherworldly, with no regard for walking dead, no reference to fantastical misanthropes or super heroes or magical monsters with unicorn horns or anything else beyond this realm. This story is about the every day, the every man and woman, every dream and every failure. This is about every life forging forward through the never ending ebb and flow of mountain top highs and alleyway lows. This is you, me, them and everyone else therein between, a story in which connects the unlikely, unites the wary, sparks the uninspired and separates the similar. It comes at a time of great flux, when a world of old was pushed aside for the new and the great moral compass of humanity became archaic in progressive minds for to those who pushed for change, but not all change can be good.
In Detroit, Michigan, a city that they said was on the rise, but a city in which was actually falling off due to various reasons, most likely of which was unemployment, poverty, racism and corruption of the city government, there lived a man named Sherman Silverberry. Sherman was many things for many years, none of which really stuck and at thirty five years of age he was still looking for his place in this world. He wrote books, he worked construction, he put roofs on houses, he went back to school, and he worked the cash registers of many retail and convenience stores. He had also courted many women, which was always exciting at first, but somewhere along the line Sherman would lose interest in not only the woman who he was to spend the rest of his life with, but also the job of the very same nature. For Sherman, the notion of knowing where his life was going and having his entire existence mapped out before him was a little suffocating and predictable. There was something magnetic in not knowing where it would all lead and yet he began to question this more and more as he grew older. Maybe he had it all wrong he thought, maybe one woman and one job for a lifetime was the American Dream? He began to question everything, his books, all five of them including the lackluster trilogy that hardly sold but a few copies and his substitute teaching gig, which was becoming quite stressful, as well as his constant revolving door of women, but he always came back to his original philosophy…If that was The American Dream, then you can have the white picket fence. It all sounded so wretchedly boring to him.
He was happy though for the time being with Linda Bugler. She was older and didn’t flaunt any airs or BS, which was what Sherman liked most about her. She was also loyal, which seemed out of character, especially for someone who drank like she did.
He was on his way to her house, but his car had been impounded so his buddy Frank was driving. Frank was a strange character. He was one of those guys that seemed charming and charismatic at first, but what he really wanted was your money or whatever else you may have. He would drink and do whatever dumb things he could do and then wait for that right buzzed up moment to ask you for it. His car needed work. His kid needed an XBOX game, yada, yada, etc., etc. Frank did many things for his friends, but this was not so much out of kindness as it was something to get back later for the favor, but Frank knew that Sherman realized this, so there was a mutual unsaid understanding between them. That was just how things worked in Detroit, circa 2017. Detroit then had a way of lulling you into a state of depravity or gritty lower expectations, so much so that you wouldn’t even realize you were knee deep in the muck until it was too late. The trick Sherman thought was to keep your head above water, no matter how much the dead heads threw at you. Most would rather keep you down than bring themselves back up.
They pulled into Linda’s duplex on Woodward Avenue. There were nicer neighborhoods. Most locked their car doors in Detroit, but here that wouldn’t make much difference. If someone wanted your stereo, they’d just take it, locked doors or not.
“There’s my man!” Linda wailed running out.
“Hey you, what’s good?” Sherman asked.
“You. You’re good. You’re my rock in a fast moving world.”
“You always had a way with words.”
“What took you so long? The reading is about to start,” she snapped.
“Big time here had some issues.”
“And by that he means I’m not doing too well. Food poisoning. La Bonita had bad Carnitas. I’ve been in and out of the Porcelain Palace all day long.”
“Thanks for that info Frank,” Linda snapped.
“Yep! And got to run, see you two on the flip,” and with that Frank squealed out with Tupac blaring at an extremely high level.
Inside Linda’s duplex were five women, Marcy, Terry, Liz, Rochelle and Sara. There was also a young man there Sherman had never met before. His name was Tyler and he held onto his beer can with a certain frat boy intensity that said he’d been to a few parties before. Sherman figured he was there for the older women. To him though, Tyler was seemingly smooth and together, cock sure and confident, not really the poet type at all, more like a Rugby player. Marcy had invited him, so there was no telling what was going on there. Marcy was recently divorced and now “living the life she had always wanted to live, instead of being tied down by a controlling asshole.” Those were her word, but Sherman knew her ex-husband and to him he wasn’t that bad of a guy. Marcy’s ex-husband worked hard and then at least according to Sherman had to put up with Marcy when he got home. According to Sherman if you asked him, he’d tell you that it was amazing he lasted as long as he did.
“Here you go,” Linda said giving Sherman his usual weekend beverage, Jim Beam and water. She was always looking out and taking care of him despite him telling her not to.
Linda, in her 5 foot 8 thin frame turned the lights low and played soft jazz in the background. Some candles were lit. Her apartment had been transformed into a poetry reading renaissance fair.
“Ok first up we have, oh who wants to go first?” Linda howled into microphone that was not really necessary, because her apartment wasn’t that big.
“I will! I will!” Marcy shrieked with vigor and excitement. She stepped up to the front of the living room. Brown and purple velvet drapes were behind her. Linda was really into this reading. She had recently fell into this group of fledgling beatnik types and realized she fit right in. Marcy stepped up to the microphone smiling.
“Testing, testing. 1, 2, 3…I always wanted to say that,” Marcy said and laughed.
My Sweet God, Sherman thought. This will be good.
“This is called. Free,” she said.
Here we go! Let it rip you old bat.
“Free…He didn’t see me. He didn’t feel me. He held me back, when I needed to be free. I knew it early on that things needed a change. I felt it early on that I needed to flee. His mouth caused stress. His loins sired our child. He was wild. His mind was a mess. He never wanted to hear what I had to confess…He would say, you are with me, I am with you and that’s how it will be. But I didn’t want that. All I wanted was to be FREE!…His eyes…”
Sherman tuned out at this point and focused more on the soft jazz. Marcy did not disappoint. This might have been the worst poem in existence and yet the others were supportive and even phony with their whoops and hollers. Good, supportive people, he thought, even if they were wrong. She was going on and on and Sherman thought, so this is what rock bottom looks like?…all these people trying in vain to restart their lives…These middle-aged survivors, who had gone down a rough road and wanted to share their past and prospective brighter futures with the planet. These people who were trying desperately to straighten out their lives in a righteous manner by venting and releasing their vitriol out into the atmosphere through the stylings of some extremely bad poetry. Sherman couldn’t help but think that these people were just like him.
That’s when there was a knock and Sherman got up to answer. Standing at the door were three men. One of them had a gun. Sherman stood his ground and when they began to force their way in, he had no choice but to let them.