Friday 5 September 2014

Tom & The Strange - 30 days #5

I was only seventeen, when that rusted beat up old Dodge pulled on my driveway, inside the man that I loved and a trunk with my name on it.

In the house I could hear the cries of my family, too busy cursing at one another to notice the creeping absence of their daughter.

I grabbed anything I could see before me, some clothes, some money, and on a whim a bottle of Jack I'd stolen from my Father's forgotten evenings, asleep with a still-lit cigarette dangling from his crooked fingers.

My feet touched the lawn before their yells graced my ears, and before they could even reach the door handle, the car was screeching round the corner in a trail of smoke. 

Exhilaration flooded my bones, and my eyes ignited as the slumbering sun's fingertips began to curl around the day. I looked over at him, then, but his face was stoic, an unyielding, unreadable expression that had filled a thousand nights dreams of my own.

Then in a lumbering, lethargic drawl, he began to hum.

The notes began low with the texture of gravel, and with each new note on a tumbling, swelling scale I felt myself fall deeper and deeper. The air itself was made of the fabric of his melodies, as the young heat rose from the dust in a shimmering optical haze, and a lone bird of prey wheeled above.

We hit the highway, the sun chasing our dawn shadows, the empty asphalt stretching endlessly into our eternal oblivion.

I didn't even know where we were headed, but truth be told, there wasn't a part of me that cared.

His eyes didn't leave the road as he reached over and took the bottle from my hands. With a swift movement he flicked off the cap, drained a third of the bottle without so much of a flicker crossing his steely gaze.

The bottle was thrust into my chest and without a moments hesitation I followed suit, the infernal liquid setting fire to my every nerve and synapse.

We sped into the day as he lit a smoke, a slight furrow beginning to settle on his brow, the cause of which escaped me.

And with every mile we ate, the expression on his face hardened and tangled in response to an unknown provocateur.

Finally the tension cracked, and suddenly the car screeched to a skidding halt in a shower of stones.Before I could utter a sound or even catch my breath, he was out of the car, his outstretched hands to the sky.

"Can't you see I'm trying to drive?" He bellowed to the heavens as I watched, agape.

"If you want me, take me, 'cause I'm all ears. But if you want to be, come back to me when I can do you good!"

His chest rose and fell rhythmically and his hands dropped to his side.

He turned to face me then, and I saw it.

That sickening creeping spectre which lay heavy on his shoulders, whispering into his ear with a menacing rasp. It caught my eye and I felt it penetrate my mind, before it took off into the smoke, dropping him to his knees on the gravel.

I ran to him, placing a shaking hand on his ashen cheek.

He met my eyes and I gasped as in them, I saw this desperate, maddened deprivation, a vulnerability the likes of which I'd never seen in him before.

And then as quick as it came, it passed, he pushed me aside, brushed down his jeans and climbed back into the car, near emptying the remaining black liquid in the glass. Silently, I joined him and we were on the highway once more, the first reams of sunlight now breaking along the horizon.

And with a tiny, near lost whisper, I heard utter from his mouth;

"You come back when I can do you good." intended for no ears but the strange.

And as that low, lunging hum rose to his lips once more, I became aware of a depth of understanding I'd be so blissfully ignorant of, innocent to, before. 

The curse of a man plagued by talent, the long-eroding ailment of being chosen to birth into the world the creations of a distant deity. 

That's when I saw him then, him and his shadow. 

That, I saw, was Tom and the Strange. 

-  T h e   -   E n d   -


This story was inspired by a TED Talk in which Elizabeth Gilbert describes the notion of a 'genius' not as a person, but as this divine being which whispers it's ideas into the ears of creators. She speaks of interviewing Tom Waits, in which he was driving down the highway one day when he heard the whispers calling

I later turned this story into a song which I recorded with my band, which you can find under the same name here.


To find out more about what the 30 Day Writing Challenge is click here. Got an idea for something you want me to write about? Get your entries in now by emailing me with your prompt, your name and your twitter handle!