It’s been a Long Time since I’ve Rock and Rolled by Al Kratz

It’s been a Long Time since I’ve Rock and Rolled

I do the little things wrong. I put extra rubber bands around newspapers I deliver. I leave two papers at my favorite houses and throw the others into random backyards. The thought of doing things wrong lingers with me long after the act. It physically haunts the back of my throat. It sticks there like black licorice or the bored energy of an older brother.

Gene and I get to the pool early and wait by the bike racks. A girl, let’s call her Joan Jett, tries all the entrances. It seems like she doesn’t know the pool’s not open yet. A boy, let’s call him me, says something sarcastic. All Gene has done is laugh. Joan Jett knows this, but she would like him to tell her what his problem is. She taps into his chest, backs him up against the bikes, knocks him on his ass, but does absolutely nothing to me.

I play the guitar like Jimmy Page. I’ve finally broken the code. My fingers move up and down across all the frets, and I write complex songs. Everyone agrees that it’s really great. Maybe the best thing they’ve ever heard. Not necessarily the song or even the notes—just the fact that I can finally do it.

Gene says something offhand to me about Steve, and Steve says something offhand to me about Gene, so I tell each of them about this, and so what if I extend my hand a bit. They’ll settle it in the field behind the bank. Like an aspiring Don King, I produce a crowd hungry for a fight, but my fighters aren’t that mad at each other. It’s possible they can’t even remember why they’re there. They dance around, and the crowd grows surly. Gene is bored and turns his head. Steve is bored and throws a punch. It lands squarely in the middle of Gene’s unexpecting throat with a Splat!

I think about witnessing plane crashes all the time. Excitement builds until one crashes just like I always knew it would. But I catch myself. Watching one plane crash isn’t that fulfilling. It doesn’t take me long to solve that problem, though. Multiple planes have to crash. Planes fly up and down like helicopters. They drop down right on top of me. I lay alone in an open field, seat-belted to my chair, coughing blood into the chemical smoke and I think yes—yes, this is what it must be like.

Shannon sucks at kickball. He kicks like Charlie Brown even though Lucy is nowhere to be seen. Shannon always misses the damn ball. This is too much to ask of a boy like me, and eventually, he doesn’t approve of my humor. Even though he’s clearly out, he runs to second base and tackles me. This makes me laugh too, until the hands around my neck take my breath. Gene’s older brother waits for an uncomfortable amount of time before he pulls Shannon off of me.

Sometimes, I can’t walk. My legs are down there, but they don’t work. They weigh and hurt. I think let me get it back, let me get it back, let me get it back—but, nope, they won’t let me. I’ve got a long way to go to get there. I have to keep trying. It’s going to take forever, and it’s going to hurt like hell, but I don’t stop. I never stop. I push one floppy foot out in front of the other. I drag defective knee over reluctant knee. I’ll use my hands to the ground if I have to. Anything to keep moving. Anything to get back to where I’ve come from.




Al Kratz is a writer from Des Moines, Iowa. He reads for Wyvern Lit and writes fiction reviews for Alternating Current. He can be found on Twitter @silverbackedG.


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