After eight bottles of beer, one slice of cold pizza and three and a half hours of drumming, Todd Griffith had finally expelled six months of accrued tension. He was stripped down to his boxers (all his other clothes having been taken off an item at a time in syncopated frenzy) and still he perspired as he tapered down his long improvisation with a gentle glissando on the bells. Kali’s race condition was finally exorcized. The demon was no more. Todd stood, gloriously alone.
Upon leaving the Mill he had taken a long route home, making what was normally a fifteen minute stroll into a one-hour hike through deepening whiteness. He hadn’t noticed when the snow started, but by the time he started his walk home four inches were already on the ground. Along the way he had drummed on his legs a rhythm from Chunga’s Revenge and tried to guess what would happen next. But before arriving at an answer he had found himself here, home, at the massive Tudor house on Edgell street. Without bothering to remove his boots or shake the snow from his jacket, he walked directly through the mud room at the back door and into the kitchen. There he found his house mates John and Richard finishing the night’s dishes. He grunted hello, took a cold slice of pizza and two sixpacks of Bass Ale from the refrigerator and headed for the basement.
“Looks like it’s one of those nights,” Richard had said, and they had followed him downstairs. As Todd had sat down on the stool behind the massive drum kit, John and Richard took seats on the couch in front of it and placed plugs in their ears. Todd picked up his sticks and kicked the bass pedal, twice.
As he reached over with the drumstick in his left hand to flick the switch to the Fender twin reverb, he invoked the spirit of Zappa by quoting from sacred scripture, the Uncle Meat album. Using the words FZ spoke before playing “Louie Louie” on the Royal Albert Hall pipe organ, Todd intoned, in mock solemnity, “They like it loud, you know,” and began to play. . .
But that had been hours ago; John and Richard were long gone now, and snow now filled the window wells. After noodling on a guitar for a little while Todd realized that he was, at last, sleepy. He was, in fact, utterly exhausted. He put the guitar down and staggered up the stairs to his first-floor bedroom. The window was open and there was a pile of snow on the floor. He went over and lifted the sash another inch or two. A gust pushed the curtains up and snow blew into the room. Perfect, he thought. The only thing missing was a beautiful woman, but if one had been there he would have been too tired to notice her. He sat on the edge of his mattress and jotted a few notes in his work diary, then toppled over and pulled the rumpled quilt over his sweaty body.
Some time later, while it was still pitch dark outside and the snow was still coming down hard, the window was pulled up by two gloved hands reaching in from outside. Todd didn’t hear a thing. He never noticed the person stepping through the window into the small pile of snow on his bedroom floor, and he stayed oblivious even when the person switched on his bedroom light.
Todd was in REM sleep—dreaming of a little Ansley Dunbar riff from Zappa’s white Fillmore album (seven counts on the snare drum racing against four on the high-hat while the bass drum did something totally random) that was somehow associated, in his dream, with the sensation of reading a Weekly Reader with his back against the warm barn wall in the summer of 1959—when the bullet pierced his skull.
©1999-2010 John Sundman.