The steady drone of Ruzahn’s voice seeped into the walls and flowed downward into the wooden floor beneath Danny Blue’s feet at the same time that it soaked and traveled through the ceiling. For a moment, it caused him to lose his balance. He regained it with the poise of a relaxed surfer gliding on a wave of sound through the doorway to the kitchen, just off to the right of the couch and across from the closed door to the single bedroom and the open door of a bathroom. In the kitchen, there beside an old gas range stove, stood a woman dressed in a gold-cloth business pants suit with her hair twisted like a roll of French bread. Danny Blue felt that this was Valerie before his eyes could confirm that it was her, or at least some gold-bright representation of her.
“You look different lover.”
I am different. Are you ready?
No. To make the tea for Della Mae, Gran-Gran.
“Can I hold you?”
Not in this form Danny.
“You’re standing in another world, aren’t you, talking to me in this one?”
Danny, we’re not here for us. The great work has started we can’t fail.
Instead of arguing that the only great work he cared about was being with her, he looked at the flower with its closed emerald-green buds, spear-shaped leaves, and bulbous root. It was strange to hold in his hands such a beautiful thing while struggling against the putrid smell that filled the house and stranger still to notice that despite the smell and despite the raggedness of the furniture, the home itself was clean. As the sound of Ruzahn’s droning chant had permeated the walls and floor of the living room, it now did the same in this kitchen. Danny Blue’s eyes began to close as he deeply inhaled the voice swirling gently all around him.
He did as she instructed, cutting off the bulb root of the flower and splitting it in half, then washing one half and placing it to steam in a covered pot and leaving the other half unwashed while placing it to boil in a second uncovered pot. For the covered pot, he also threw in half a vanilla bean, found at the bottom of the refrigerator, that looked like a withered black string bean, what was left of a bottle of strawberry syrup, and half a teaspoon of nutmeg, letting the mixture heat to a slow steady simmer. It was easy to do as she said because her voice sounded in the very center of his heart and presented itself as his own undeniable soul. The trouble came, now that she stood before him wrapped in radiance, from his need to leave this peculiar house and go with her someplace where they could sit with arms entwined and, together, force the last few weeks to make sense.
Watching the uncovered pot begin to slowly simmer and the covered pot begin to softly rattle as steam escaped from beneath the lid, he wondered if he should apologize for letting Ruzahn see the DVD of their last moments together. He wanted to say how sorry he was that Peter Westman had misunderstood her Non-Manifesto and used it as a reason to annihilate himself. He wanted to say, This girl Devoshona Danielle Azure has a web site with our pictures and stories on it I don’t think she understands us. Jimmy Redfyre gon throw down at Lucky Door Number Five on Christmas Eve and nobody can figure that out just like I can’t figure out what I’m doing in this house with Ruzahn in the next room and I like you better the way you used to be Valerie without the angel glow and angel voice with paint stains on your hands and face, your arms wrapped around my back and me gliding over the waves inside you like prayers, like somebody’s prayers, floating out over the ocean and stirring up hurricanes.
He couldn’t tell if the line that appeared upon her face was a tear or the beginnings of a crack through which light was seeping. Knowing she had heard all of his thoughts made him feel ashamed but seeing her dissolve into nothingness right in front of him made him feel helpless. When her voice spoke through his heart again, he forced himself to concentrate on the directions it communicated and to ignore his feelings. How long the pots containing the spices and halved roots of the flower had been boiling he was not sure but the steaming fragrant cloud they created made him lick and nibble at the air to escape the oppressive swamp funk he‘d been breathing since entering the house. He removed the lid from the covered pot and dipped a heavy glass pitcher inside it, filled a mug with the fervid amber liquid, then refilled the pitcher.
The drone of Ruzahn’s voice steadied his arms and legs and the soothing bell of Valerie’s voice steered him out of the kitchen, holding the glass pitcher in one hand and the mug in the other. To his left, he saw several people who had not been there before, and Ruzahn still sitting on the floor in the corner against the wall, his face tilted slightly upward as the voltage of his voice shot through his entire torso and balls of sweat rolled down his face and neck and arms. The man and woman standing off to Ruzahn’s right held on to each other as if to keep from falling off the earth while another man kneeled beside the couch lightly bumping his head against the floor.
At the front door, Kendrena leaned toward her son, wrapped a fold of money inside a sheet of note paper and watched him put it in his pocket. The boy, Mar-quee, and Danny Blue looked at each other at the same time and Danny Blue could have been looking in a mirror to his past when he saw the angry scowl of the boy’s mouth twisted below the eyes pleading, Mister I am the only man in this house, eight years old or not, please don’t fuck with my family. Not until Danny Blue certified Mar-quee’s request with a nod of his head did the boy allow his mother to push him out the door, on his way through the nighttime streets to a store.
Danny Blue tapped the bottom of the bedroom door with his foot, pushed it open with his knee, and stepped inside. The stench hit him like a ten-foot wave of rotten meat and he whispered, Oh Val, oh my God. He was glad he had not eaten in what he guessed must have been days or else his stomach would have emptied just then. He blinked to drive the heated stinging out of his eyes. Nobody can live in something smell this bad, he thought, and started to back out the door. At that point, the sonic flood of Ruzahn’s voice suddenly stopped. The silence was so immediate and flesh-like that it froze Danny Blue where he stood. What came next was the sound of Ruzahn’s foot––Whump! Whump! Whump! Thumping the wooden floor so hard that it rattled the house and pushed Danny Blue inside the room, slamming the door behind him. Ruzahn added to the sound of his foot thumping the floor, that of his thumb beating the flat of his guitar, Whump, pop-pow! Whump, pop-pow! Whump, pop-pow! The rhythmic stomp and guitar-slapping shot a tingle of vibrations up through Danny Blue’s legs into his stomach and arms and face until he experienced the ludicrous sensation that sunlight was breaking through the pores of his skin.
“I ain’t heard no...music like that...in a long time.”
The woman lying on the bed looked neither happy nor disappointed to see Danny Blue standing in her room. More than anything else, she looked like she had been trying her best to die for a very long time. Rather than look directly at her, Danny Blue looked around through the soft citrus-colored light that filled the room, at the queen-sized bed on which she lie, the round night table on one side of the bed and the portable toilet with the lid turned down on the other. Leaning in a corner near the foot of the bed was a folded wheelchair and beside it against the wall was a chest of drawers. On the wall above the chest of drawers was something that nearly made Danny Blue drop the pitcher of tea in his hands and the flower still tucked beneath his arms. It was a painting of a black skylark in full flight surrounded by a swirl of stars, something he was sure he had seen only two places before: in a dream and on his body.
“You like that picture?” asked the woman. In her voice he heard wind brushing wind and leaves. “One of those art students gave me that last year for letting her take some pictures of me. First time I seen her, she was flesh and blood just like you.”
“Like me?” he repeated, still staring at the painting.
“Next time I seen her, she was a spirit. Kind’a like the first time I seen you, when you was in my dream. My name Della Mae.”
This reference to him as a dream made Danny Blue look directly at Della Mae and he wished immediately that he had not. A large woman of some 250 pounds or more, she lay without clothing, propped up on a pile of pillows, only a sheet draped loosely across the middle region of her body. Scattered from her dry brown feet to the patches of fuzz on her scalp were the swellings of blisters and sinkholes of scabs. She appeared about to fall asleep as she slowly blinked then halfway opened her eyes again. On the skin between the blisters and sores covering her body were smears of blood and pus that Danny Blue imagined must be as lethal as acid. A war between revulsion and compassion rattled his chest.
He ignored his need to ask the woman what she meant about having first seen him in a dream and tried to remember why he was standing there. He looked around for Valerie and when he did not see her waited for the sound of her voice to coo inside his heart. But it was Ruzahn’s voice that came blasting like a cannonball through the walls of the house, singing “Good Brother Blues,” a song he had recorded first but was now on Redfyre’s new CD.
“...Well now this world spins alright
but I’ve seen it turn wrong.
I’m sure this world spins alright
but looks to me/ like somethin’ goin’ wrong.
Dogs and bitches pampered forever
but a good man burned for being strong..."
Listening to Ruzahn’s voice on the radio or stereo had always affected Danny Blue in a thousand different ways, from filling his chest with inspiration and his pants with erotic heat to weighing his shoulders down with guilt and lifting his depression with addictive anarchy. Hearing him inside this otherworldly house destroyed the previous spectrum of his experiences listening to Ruzahn and created something entirely new. More than a matter of hearing the music more deeply or appreciating the artistry more profoundly, it became one of evolving beyond the notion of perception and becoming something he did not fully understand, something that he sensed was the source of Ruzahn’s creative power, and then the channel through which it was expressed, and finally the expression itself. The idea was so discombobulating that he struggled against it even while he reveled in the sensation that he was breath flowing into Ruzahn’s lungs mingling with words firing through his blood exploding as song out of his mouth and baptizing everything within radiance of his voice with new comprehensions of itself. He didn’t try to understand what it meant to feel this way: that inside the swirl of Ruzahn’s voice, the molecules and cells of his own being became like the letters of a molten alphabet, dissolving the flesh and spirit of his old self while making solid something he had never been before.
Excerpt from Christmas When Music Almost Killed the World
Causes Aberjhani * Supports
I make contributions to a number of charities through my lenses on Squidoo but the following are a few that interest me the most: