Home | Archive | Itineraries | Events | FAQ | Columns/Links
Advertise | Newsletter | About/Subscribe | Submissions | Art Walk | Books | THE2NDHAND Writers Fund

**PRINT: FRIENDS FROM CINCINNATI: Installment 24 features this part coming-of-age short by Chicago's Patrick Somerville, author of the Trouble collection of shorts out in 2006. | PAST BROADSHEETS |

Back to Archive Index

Mike Smith

I played loud music when I was a kid growing up in the 80s. It wasn't normal kid music, though. I played old rock 'n' roll 45s on my Michael Jackson turntable. It had a microphone jack, allowing you to sing along to whatever you were playing. There was a tiny speaker for the microphone on one side of the turntable that didn't compete too well with the record, which blasted through a speaker on the other side. The volume allowed you to go all the way up to notch 10, but I always kept it on notch 4, which was still loud as hell. No one in my family ever complained about the noise, though. They seemed to enjoy it. "We like it when you play music for us," they said. I wondered if it was because they were old and I was playing their kind of music.

I couldn't help but overhear several odd exchanges between my sister and her then boyfriend one night when I was around nine years old. I was sitting in my room with the door open, listening to a Little Richard record and trying to figure out why he sounds so angry in all of his songs. Right after Little Richard hit the final "wop-bob-ba-loo-bob-ba-lob-bam-boom!" and the room was silent, I heard Joseph the boyfriend say "hurry up, hurry up" in a frustrated voice. I heard a series of short, anxious sighs coming from both Joseph and Tara during my transition from one record to another. I didn't think that much of it. I chose "La Bamba" by Ritchie Valens next.

I don't know why, but I decided to stop the record halfway through. I guess I didn't see the point in listening to something in Spanish. When I stopped it, I heard Joseph and Tara having sex. "Shhhhh!!!!" Tara whispered a few seconds after Ritchie stopped singing. "What the fuck?" Joseph asked silently, being interrupted seconds later by another "Shhhhh!!!!" from Tara. Was this the reason everyone in my family liked for me to play music? So they could have sex and not be heard? Was there something special about rock 'n' roll being played on my Michael Jackson turntable?

A few minutes later, my mom came in the front door. I guess Joseph and Tara saw my mom's headlights in the driveway around the time I interrupted Ritchie Valens. I guess my music really didn't have anything to do with the two of them having sex. Every time I hear that song now, though, I wonder if somehow it didn't warn Joseph and Tara that night. I wonder if there's some kind of hidden message in the Spanish lyrics. "Stop having sex now!" Why didn't I ever hear them having sex before that night, though? Maybe it was their first time. Maybe Little Richard put them in the mood.

Mike Smith is a writer, but makes more money at libraries and radio stations (he doesn't write much at these places). His first novel, Tell Christian I'm Sorry, is kind of a harsh critique of public education. Visit www.tellchristian.com to purchase this novel.