Locked and Loaded
by Alex S. Johnson
I am an insect. A worm. Something gross. Gratuitous, a phantom limb.
That is how you see me, right? But that perception is incorrect. You must come to terms with the fact that I exist, and my existence is not dependent on your acknowledgement of it. Mister Rock Star. Mister Spin Magazine. Mister Rolling Stone. Mister Self-Destruct/Burnout/Fallout, every misstep greedily devoured by the press and vomited out for public consumption. You stare down from rock and roll Valhalla, never wondering about the speck in your eye. A plank, really.
Even though I’ve been with you every step of the way. And have helped, at times profoundly.
Remember your first record deal? When everybody in the industry who counted said you’d lost an engine on the runway. Your shenanigans with gangsters, drawing attention to yourself on the most negative level. As if you were hardcore, growing up in the suburbs with all the rights and privileges pertaining. And that girl, the redhead, the junkie–she didn’t do you any favors either. What was her name, Katrina? A real piece of work. If you didn’t realize that those track marks weren’t from insulin shots, you’re either a bigger fool than I ever suspected, or steeped in denial up to your eyeballs.
That was when I stepped in. I had to work hard behind the scenes, believe me. Hard out there for a ghost. Well, not a ghost so much as one of the host. Hey, that rhymes. Rhymes one hell of a lot better than most of your lyrics.
Are you paying attention now?
Apparently not. But that’s okay. I can be extremely patient.
You have no idea how patient I am capable of being.
Which is why it doesn’t really bother me that you refuse to accept, have historically blinded yourself to me, my reality, the care and concern I have for you.
Your future, your career.
If I wanted to, and trust me, I have the skills, I could MAKE you see me. Work some serious Tim Burton mojo. Make Beetlejuice look like Bambi. Bloodshot eyes on springs, oh yes; sloppy jaws spewing all kinds of rubbish, banging on your closet door when you’re shacked up with the conquest du jour.
But I’m not about the big bad noise. More of a creeper.
Like about now, for example. As you stuff the Bolivian Gross National Product up your nose, handlers and roadies all nervous, your agent trying to reach you on your cell which you won’t answer because he’ll probably want to lecture you like your mom always used to do. And you left that scene behind you long ago. I know. I was there too.
So what are you waiting for? The crowd is screaming your name. Two hundred and fifty thousand fans jammed into the biggest venue you’ve ever played. The Daulton Amphitheater, that’s a serious showcase. And the sooner you get your pampered ass out on that stage, the quicker you can run through your set. Yeah, all those songs.
But maybe you’re stalling because, at some level, you know what I say is true.
Lots of time. Oceans. I’ll let you process that.
Feel that numbness creeping up your left foot? Knock knock knocking on heaven’s empty bone. Whatever that means–you insisted on those lines. But if the shoe fits…
Trying to provide a little humor here. But you’re beyond that, obviously.
It’s not me, man. I know it’s hard to swivel your leatherclad hips and shake your tubesnake when you can’t feel your leg. Naturally you’ve collapsed on your side and your guitarist jumped in front of you, make it look like part of the show. To tell the truth, I don’t know what in Hell is wrong with you. Embolism? Lack of blood circulation due to the Bolivian, maybe. But I didn’t do it. I might have warned you that you needed to slow down, I mean in a general way. But specifically, the dead hand spreading its fingers across your belly? That’s a medical crisis, not a spiritual condition.
Of course, I can’t let you fall on your face now. Not with all these people paying good money to see you not make a total ass of yourself. Career suicide is simply not an option. You’ll have to save that for when you’re Old Elvis-sized and playing county fairs. Never mind the Fluffy Bunnies, here’s the Doom Hippies.
Shouldn’t have locked me out, dude. Unwise. Should have locked me in and loaded me into your chamber. But then you wouldn’t stumble and hurt yourself, and who cares about a rock star who isn’t damaged? Playing the world’s fool has been a real boost for your sales. Up until the fool became a drooling idiot. Half the audience is simply here for the sake of curiosity. Bunch of ghouls, if you ask me. Looky-loo’s at the three-lane pileup. But they’re OUR ghouls.
The good news is that now I have a port of entry. You wouldn’t give me one of your own will, but I’m not embarrassed to take a little advantage of a sick man. Especially when it’s for his own good.
So here’s Black Daniels, lead singer of the heaviest and slowest band in the history of metal, back on his feet. Maybe staggering a little bit. But he’s moving, and his eyes are open, responding to external stimuli.
Please don’t worry. I know exactly what I’m doing. And you have a better than front row seat. Hell, you’re so close to the action, you practically are the action.
I lean into the mike, and the peeps go nuts. Wipe my mouth–tastes like the last funeral of rubbish. (You really need to stop smoking, dude.) Count down the intro one more time. Savor the moment, the adrenaline rush, the band crunching behind me, infinite sustain, one chord per minute. The drummer nodding out between beats. The bassist taking a smoke break.
The ones that actually pay attention to the lyrics look a little shocked. Yeah, it’s not the words they heard on the album. These are of a superior class.
“And when you made your sacrifice to me
you offered up your soul to steal
such gives me bliss, I can’t resist
wolfed down quick, a starving man’s meal…”
But no, not so fast. You’re still not paying attention.
I’m not Lucifer.
I’m the one who came next.