“Don’t call me son.”

“Put your drawers back on,” a TSA official said, reaching for me with blue latex gloves. I knocked his hand away.

“Fuck off.”

It was just a matter of time before they arrested me now. With my jeans around my ankles, I couldn’t run anywhere if I’d wanted to, and I was too aggressively hungover to want to.

“Take a picture, it’ll fucking last longer,” I snarled to a woman nearby who was wearing a scandalized expression and covering her toddler’s eyes. I was, after all, standing in the security line at the Denver airport wearing nothing but a pair of sunglasses. Anybody who wasn’t busy covering their kids’ eyes was taking a picture on their ubiquitous camera phones. No way it wasn’t ending up on Facebook.

I wondered how I must look to the soft, normal eyes of the soft, normal people around me, six foot two and every inch looking like the aging punk wannabe I was: blue-haired, covered in tattoos, wiry and feral and three years past his expiration date.

I was getting too old for this shit. Thirty years old was too old for this shit, and I’d been thirty for a good four (… five?) days now. It was all pretty much the same day repeated over and over: I’d wake up, remember I was thirty, and spend the rest of the day trying to forget it. I should have gone into legend tragically young at twenty-seven, cutting short my own potential with drugs and alcohol and, if necessary, a shotgun. But it was too late for that now; now I was thirty. Suicide wasn’t going to turn me into a legend; it would just make me another loser who died trying.

My cell phone rang. I could hear it somewhere in the depths of the tub beneath my shoes and my jacket and my belt and everything else I’d obediently handed over. I reached for it and pressed it to my ear.


“Hey—is this Damen? Damen Warner?” a voice on the far end of the line asked.

“Yeah, it’s me.”

“This is Houston with C3 Presents.”

Did I know a Houston? I couldn’t remember.

“Cool. Talk fast, I’m about to get arrested,” I told him.

“You wanna play Lollapalooza?”

“Sorry dude, what? Say again. I thought you just asked if I wanted to play Lollapalooza.”

“I did.”

“You’re funny.” I wasn’t in the mood for this. “Fucking hiLAIRious, Houston. I’m being Punk’d, right?” I glanced around for Ashton Kutcher’s asshole face. “You know we just got kicked off our own tour, right?” It was why we were in the airport in the first place: flying home in disgrace, me and my four bad-mannered bandmates slinking back to Los Angeles to lick our wounds.

“I’m serious,” the voice managed to sound serious. “We have an opening.”

“What day?”

“Saturday. In the afternoon.”

“What stage?”

“Does it matter?”

“Yes, it fucking matters,” I snapped, dodging the groping hands of TSA agents and the uncompromising eyes of disapproving bystanders. “You banish us to Perry tent, and they’ll laugh us off the stage: we’re a metal band, not some sixteen-year-old playing dubstep from a MacBook.”

“It’s not Perry stage. Trust me; I’m aware of your sound. We have an artist that’s threatening to walk, and we need someone… local.” I could hear him mentally cross out the word desperate. We were desperate, alright, and Houston knew it: everybody knew it. Our label had dropped us, our manager had gone missing, and our agent wasn’t returning my calls. We were deader than rock and roll.

“Yeah, well, Houston we got a problem: we’re not local. We’re in Denver right now.”

“But you’re all from Chicago, right? Got people there? Family? Pay ‘em a visit for a few weeks.”

“Hard pass.”

“Look, you wanna play Lollapalooza or not?” Houston sounded annoyed; like he hadn’t expected this to be a hard sell.

“Of course I fucking want it,” I said.

“Then get to Chicago. Have your people call me when you get there—”

The officers jerked the phone out of my hand, killing the call. They flanked me on both sides, grabbing a hold of my arms in a firm grip. They let me pull up my pants before putting the handcuffs on, then marched me out of the terminal into the brilliant Colorado sunshine. Depression settled over me like the haze of smoke hanging in the air from the distant wildfires: I was finally going to have to give up and go home like the prodigal fucking son.


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5 Comments on “CHAPTER 1: OVERTURE”

  1. An interesting start; it feels like A Catcher in the Rye with the sassy dialogue.

    One quick minor fix suggestion; take off the “now” at the end of the line about being arrested. If it’s a matter of time, yet to happen, it’s not happening NOW.

    I see other small fixes that could be made but don’t want to go into all of them here.

    Scandalous expression, not scandalized.

    A rather short chapter. Even I’ve been trying to write more per chapter than this.

    I did like some of the snappy and educated bits; you seem to know your stuff about the concert venue.

    • Thanks so much for reading! I like to think of this chapter as an appetizer: an “Amuse-bouche” if you will, to give people a taste of the style and content.

      Scandalized is correct in this context, as the woman is the one on the receiving end of the scandal, not the one causing it. 🙂

      • I was afraid my critical thinking might sour your passion for writing or put us at odds. 😛

        This was not the sort of story I expected. I was anticipating a graphic erotica about a dysfunctional marriage. You have a surprising amount of wit in your writing…but a tad heavy hand on the foul and rampant dialogue.

        Yes, but a very small French appetizer, like a drizzle of dressing on a white plate and nothing else. It needs to be meatier. A first chapter has to hook the reader within its first 10-15 pages. If the first chapter is only 1-3 pages long, it had better be extra spicy, maybe even a lil twisty. This was just a lick of an ice-cream cone. Build it up.

        Ooh, fancy language. I am not familiar with “amuse-bouche.”

        MM, no. I still say its scandalous. Scandalized is the past tense of a verb. Ask my English teachers. I got red marks for using past-tense verbs as adjectives. A character might be scandalized, subject to scandal. But, an expression is scandalous, described as scandalous, when it exudes mischief and secretive behavior (behind the scenes).

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