Six Days on the Road and I’m Gonna Make It Home Tonight

by Kek


Story Copyright (C) 2010, Kek.
Images Copyright (C) 2010, Rudy Rucker.
5,200 Words.




I found Gram Parsons outside, puking on the sidewalk in front of the Troub.

He lost balance and lurched backwards into the club’s plate-glass window. I thought he was going to fall right through it, but the glass held, the wooden frame rattling as he bounced off the window and sat down in a puddle of his own puke. A cute-looking canyon cowgirl in the queue grimaced and said, “Ew.”

The tour had been a complete fucking disaster. An endless, soul-destroying orbit of L.A. enlivened only by one needless, self-created calamity after another. Gram too drunk to remember the words to his own songs. Gram maced by cops in Long Beach, brawling with shitkickers at the Aces club in City of Industry. Gram so out of his skull on Seconals that we had to push him to the airport in a wheelchair.

Now Gram was sitting in his puke outside The Troubadour. In the twilight, the white of his suit seemed to pulse with an eerie, semi-electrical glow, as if it had been stitched from radium thread. The suit—which had once been talismanic—was now just a jinx, a hex; a trouble-magnet that soaked up bad vibes from the aether. Bad vibes and vomit.

Gram squinted up at me, trying to recognise my face through a haze of downers, his once-cherubic features puffy and bloated from the booze. “Chris? Is that you, man?” he said, in that soft, smacked-out, Southern Gentleman’s drawl of his, “I’m dead, ain’t I? I’m dead and this is fucking Honky Honk Hell.”

It was pitiful-yet-funny, but it also freaked me out. For a second I thought that Gram might have acquired some intuitive understanding of his situation, that he’d gained some limited sense of self-awareness.

I tried to pull him to his feet, but the haptics were pretty basic: my sense of touch was muted and Gram felt like he only weighed a few ounces. It was like trying to grab hold of a ghost.

A biggish-looking fella ambled across Santa Monica Boulevard towards us, his shoulders hunched into a semi-circle. He stopped, peered down into my face and smiled at some private joke. “Hey, are you—?”

“No, no.” I shook my head, dismissively. I didn’t have time to sign a fucking autograph. Gram’s arm kept eluding me; holding him up was like wrestling with ectoplasm or some weird boneless eel. His arm lacked any mass or pivot-points; it felt floppy and disconnected from the rest of him, as if some basic law of physics or biology had been temporarily negated.

I tried to ignore the guy, but he kept staring at me, moving his head up and down slightly, as if he were scanning me to map my face. As he did this his own features became increasingly familiar—a composite, early-70’s TV-movie hippy-cowboy, part Dennis Hopper, part McCloud, with a side-order of David Crosby: tasselled suede buckskin jacket, wispy hair and a Sam Elliot moustache. I guessed my gaze-reflexes were being measured to add new, preference-based details to the Extra.

“Give me a hand here, man,” I said, sighing. The guy nodded and gamely grabbed Gram’s other shoulder.

We bundled Gram through the doors and back inside the club. He seemed to gain weight as he shuffled forward, as if our combined effort—our focus of intent—was creating some sort of local gravity-well. I could feel the creases in Gram’s jacket now; the embroidered dope-leaves, pills and poppy-flowers. Every moment I held onto him, he accrued more layers of texture and detail.

The HOOT NIGHT EVERY MONDAY sign on the window had started to glow with a strange, preternatural intensity. I could see every crinkle and fold in the paper, the toner grain in the photocopied lettering; even the streetlight outside was a softer shade of yellow now. It was as if the Package was learning. Well, maybe not learning, but realigning its resources in some way. I felt the presence of the algorithmic clockwork that underpinned this world; imagined it churning away, hidden beneath the floorboards. Mathematics was present in the motion of every dust mote.

We dumped Gram in front of the stage. His eyeballs were rolling around in their sockets like a pair of joke spectacles. “Stay there,” I told him—as if he might, y’know, actually run off. I sounded like an impatient parent scolding a wayward child, which is exactly what he was: a spoilt, wayward trust-fund kid who always had to get his own way in life.

“I’m dead, aren’t I?” he said—again—and I wondered if the Package had fallen into some sort of recursive loop. I assumed it was too sophisticated to repeat itself, but people actually do that sometimes, don’t they? They say the same thing over and over again until they finally get the reaction they want. They become children again, badgering an adult for information or attention or just checking for consistency of response. Maybe that was it: maybe the Package was prompting me for cues. It was sending out verbal probes, trying to goad me into responding so that it could build up a more coherent profile of my likes and dislikes.

“Yeah, you’re dead,” I told him and there was a sullen cruelty in my voice I didn’t much like, but the truth is I was all Grammed out.

I was sick of the selfishness and the self-entitlement. I was sick of L.A. and all the lazy flakes and the poseurs—sick of people who treated the world like it was their own private luxury hotel and all they had to do was ring room-service and whatever they wanted in this world would be delivered to them. They didn’t even have to pretend to try.

And when they didn’t get what they wanted, then they just bellyached or sulked and got high until you eventually caved in and gave it to them, just to shut them up.

Yeah, I was sick to my guts of them all. But, mostly, I was just sick of being me.

I scanned the room for someone who might be holding. I needed some uppers to get Gram back on his feet in time for the show, but Phil Kaufman had confiscated all our drugs. He had consolidated them into an enormous meta-stash from which he would drip-feed ‘rewards’ contingent on how late Gram or Michael Clarke turned up for shows, how wasted we were during rehearsals, et cetera.

He had even evolved an elaborate points-based system—“treats”, he called them—in order to keep the tour limping onward from one shit-hole to the next. I knew he meant well and had Gram’s best interests at heart, but he was a control-freak too. He got off on that whole man-management thing. It was a power-trip for him.

But Phil had gone AWOL two nights earlier at a party in some creepy-looking, gothic pile in Historical West Adams and had taken all our narcotics with him. He was almost certainly holed up at Peter Tork’s pad on Willow Glen, humping some runaway or a wannabe model in the pool-house. He would probably show up during our final number, rate the performance and then dispense whatever pharmaceuticals were needed to get us back on the bus. But it would be too late by then. I figured I’d have to prop Gram up on a stool and de-string his guitar. Again.



A group of people clustered around the compact, nine-stool bar began to jeer and for a moment I thought it was directed at me, but then Nixon’s face appeared on the small CRT behind the bar. He flashed a V-for-Victory sign, mouthed “Four More Years” and forced his jowls into a smile so fake that his jaw threatened to crack and slide off his skull. At the bottom of the screen a banner proclaimed: “The President vows to continue his policies of Practical Liberalism and Ping-Pong Diplomacy.”

I caught sight of Leadon leaning against the bar, deep in conversation with J D Souther and that asshole David Geffen. Bernie had been a real trouper, keeping it together while the rest of the group spun off out of control, but he’d obviously had enough. Now he didn’t even bother to hide the fact that he was preparing to jump ship.

I turned and caught sight of Gram still slumped against the stage—too wasted to even sit up—and a wave of weariness and defeat broke over me. A dark, sucking undertow of pointlessness that threatened to pull the sand out from under my feet and sweep me off out to sea.

I reached up, pulled down the toolbar and paused the scene. The club fell silent.

Behind the bar, Nixon’s face was stuck between two frames, endlessly flicker-oscillating back and forth between almost-smile and stony grimace.

I caught sight of my reflection in the Jack Daniels mirror: the mop of pale, curly hair, half-hearted moustache and long, unsmiling, exhausted-looking expression. Chris Hillman’s face stared back at me.

I shifted from side to side—mimicked the tilted head; that 5° lean-to-the-left thing Hillman did when he sang and played bass simultaneously—but the Hillmangänger remained frozen in the mirror, its pixels locked in place. It seemed like a metaphor for something.

“So, what d’you think, then? Pretty cool, huh?” The voice made me jump. I looked round as the quasi-Crosby cowboy-guy popped his head out from behind Joni Mitchell. He laughed and made a pair of bunny-ears behind her head with his fingers, then stuck his teeth out over his bottom lip, mocking her sour expression.

“All this, I mean…” His arm made a broad, expressive gesture and the tassels on his jacket flapped like the plumage of some prehistoric proto-bird. “Not her.” He stuck his tongue out at Joni and walked past a table where Elliott Roberts sat, open-mouthed, in mid-haggle. Next to Roberts, David Briggs was lighting a cigarette, but his match had frozen in mid-flare. A tiny super-nova blossoming in liminal space.

The entire club was paused; nothing moved except me, him and Nixon. The Extras—“extrapolations” they called them these days, not avatars like when I was a kid—looked like wax mannequins on display in some weird Folk and Country-Rock Hall of Fame.

I watched him approach, trying to figure it out. Now that I thought about it, there was something familiar about his walk. “…Bauler? Is that you?”

He slapped me on the shoulder, but I hardly felt it. “Trust you to pick Chris Hillman,” he laughed, “that’s so fucking awesome. Anybody else would’ve chosen someone, y’know, more obviously cool...” He tilted his head back towards Gram.

I misinterpreted what he said. “Hillman is cool,” I said, feeling a twinge of irritation, as if my taste was somehow being questioned. “Uh, was cool. And who the hell are you supposed to be?”

He chuckled. “It’s my NBC Mystery Movie Look. I’m trying to validate the Inauthentic.” His face lengthened. “I guess you haven’t heard, then? Things’re getting extremely shitty in East Portland. It’s like a fucking siege down there: helicopters, roadblocks…they’ve cut off the power, locked-down the local Cloud. There’s no access to independent media, nothing. The Governor’s threatening to send National Guardsmen in with the bulldozers.”

“What, and you want me to do something about it?”

“Yeah, help out, basically. You’re a smart fella, plus you know people with some local juice…”

“Jesus, Bauler, I dunno. I…” I glanced at Gram and guilt seemed to spread through me like a stain. “So this isn’t some sort of...” I could barely bring myself to say it out loud. “ intervention?”

“No.” It was his turn to look a little hurt. “But you have been spending more time in here getting high than it’s healthy to.”



“They’re crowdsourcing a new President,” said Kristen. “No one likes the old one any more.”

I picked at my salad. It was fresh, locally-sourced produce, but the food looked fraudulent somehow. It was too…nice. Everything looked too nice: the food, the restaurant, Kristen’s hair. It was all so fucking nice.

I chased some weird-looking purple leaf around the plate and tried not drink my beer too fast. The Engelmann Oak behind her seemed bogus; the more I stared at it, the more I noticed that the tree possessed areas of repetitive structure. There was something unconvincing about the way its leaves moved in the wind. It was as if the tree was mechanical.

Kristen did something with her mouth—tilted it down to the left for a second so that it made her look like an old-school Anime cel or something. “Well, they did at first, but now they don’t any more. No one knows what he stands for, apart from Hollow Governance. Plus, they couldn’t find a way to successfully monetize him.”

I couldn’t think of a thing to say, apart from, “Oh.” The lettuce was starting to look like some sort of alien sex-organ now.

“So we’re trying to get everyone we know to Nudge their Friends, start a grassroots campaign that’ll peak a few days before the election. If we can just swing the vote—just one teensy percent—introduce a couple of radical memes into the President’s StyleSheet…”

The anger seemed to pour into me from out of nowhere. “Why? What’s the fucking point? No one’s got the attention-span for politics any more, Open Source or otherwise. No one gives a shit. It doesn’t matter what kind of President we design—within four months he’ll just be another ineffectual sack of crap like all the others.” I stabbed at the salad. “Fuck it, Kristen, if you’re serious about changing things then buy a scram-gun off some Kentucky Successionists and shoot down Server-Farm One. If not, then go and find yourself another hobby.”

She looked at me over the rim of her glasses. “Amy got your letter, by the way.”

I winced. “Oh.” Shit.

“Yeah, and she…” Kristen exhaled loudly, pursed her lips. I braced myself. “She made a big deal out of tearing it up. It really upset her, y’know. Jesus, Chris…” She leaned forward, lowered her voice. “She really…liked you. But the way you treated her, well, she just got pissed off with it all in the end. She said…she said you’re a nice guy, but you turn into an asshole when you’re drunk…”

A weird, clammy coldness—a form of bio-existential panic—ran down through my face and travelled into my arms, as if I was about to faint. I couldn’t tolerate it one second longer. I couldn’t bear listening to her, couldn’t stomach being stuck inside my own skin.

I stood up and reached for the toolbar—anything to shut her up or change the script—but it wasn’t there any more. I waved my arms around, trying to pull it down. I couldn’t work out where it had gone. A bored-looking waiter watched me, trying to figure out if I was ordering dessert or had just dumped my date and wanted the bill.

“Chris,” she said in a loud whisper, “What the fuck are you doing, man?”

I sat down again and drained my beer.

“Christ, Chris. When did you last get some sleep?”



Bauler used a hack to stream some cam-footage of Portland into the TV-set behind the bar. People ran round, waving stuff and shouting; an armoured CAT-D10 and a Greater Boston PD prowl-car rumbled past. Something caught fire, but I couldn’t work out what; some idiot holding a hand-painted Captain America shield got knocked on his ass by rubber buckshot. An Active Denial Dish was pulled down from the roof of the University of Southern Maine.

It didn’t look real. It was like some lo-res edition of Ninsega Rii-ot Squad (“Wii riot, so you don’t have to!”) All this for a few blocks of fourth-generation bohemian real-estate. What was the point in fighting back? Why prolong the agony? The fuckers always won in the end. Everyone knew that: it was like a law of physics or something.

I wandered off, back to where Gram sat, still frozen in an endless Tuinal fugue. The Extras were exactly where I left them, awaiting fresh input, eager to resume their imaginary deals and schemes. I felt a pang of something that couldn’t be assigned an emoticon—an almost-envy. None of them were real, yet they seemed oddly alive somehow; they were genuinely passionate about their petty dreams and their power-struggles. You could see it in their body-language—the way they leaned into a conversation, their jaws taut as they argued about this and that, laughing as their dreams inched closer to becoming real. All except Gram.

“Why are you even here?” I asked Bauler. “What do you want from me? I can’t even…see all this? This was supposed to be a showcase gig for some execs, right? But it’s turned into shit, just like everything else in my life. I can’t even play this…this fucking game or whatever it is.” I flapped my arms in exasperation. It was my turn to behave like a child now.

“It’s not a game. The Package is an experiential immersion-set; a learning-curve.” He sounded like an infomercial. “It’s not about winning. Or conflict. You just…play.”

“I just need to win something. Anything. Just once, y’know…” I felt like crying. It was pitiful.

“Win? Ohhh, right, I see: you want to win. You think you’ve earned the right to win, do you? You think that all you have to do to win is to show up.” I didn’t like the tone of his voice. It reminded me of the way I spoke to Gram. Or the way Phil Kaufman dished out his ‘rewards’ after a show. Bauler stabbed a finger towards the door to the john. “There’s an Easter Egg hidden in a cubicle in the Men’s Restroom. A small stash of cocaine in the toilet cistern. Enough to get him through the show.” He nodded at Gram. “Phone Kaufman and get him down here, then the two of you can lobby Geffen on Gram’s behalf. Sell him on the idea of doing a low-budget LP. Do it in front of Bernie, then he’ll play on the fucking album, just because he’s a nice guy and it’s easy to make him feel guilty. That’s how you win.”

“Fuck you,” I said.

Bauler shrugged. “It’s time you stopped being a side-man in your own life.”

I looked at Gram—funny, infuriating, fucked-up, talented Gram. The real Chris Hillman had fistfights with him. I could see why. But I wasn’t the real Chris Hillman. Or the false one, either. I was stuck at some imaginary mid-point between Hillman and Parsons. Trapped in a digital impasse.

I started the Package running again. As the bar-room sprung back into life I was sandbagged by a sudden surge of anger. I kicked Gram Parsons in the head as hard as I could. “You useless fucking piece of shit!”

But it was like kicking a blancmange, a phantom punch-bag. There was no substance, no satisfaction in the act.

The crowd went quiet as Gram fell on his side and started bawling. Sneaky Pete looked up from tuning his pedal-steel and grinned. A middle-aged hippy-chick shouted out in protest: “Hey! Leave him alone, Hillman, you big bully!”

She ran over, crouched down and put her arm round Gram to comfort him. “You okay, sweetie?”

“See? That won’t work, either,” said Bauler, “History always favours the loser.”



I was more fucked-up than I realised, so Bauler drove the hearse out to Joshua Tree Monument while I sweated some of the shit out of my system. The desert rolled past us—flat, unremarkable and repetitive—an endless loop of stock footage sourced from the Smithsonian Archive of Non-Copyrighted Landscapes. The sunset seemed to last forever, pixelating and collapsing into Pantone splinters, then auto-correcting itself whenever I looked directly at it.

“How big is this damn thing?”

“The Package? Smaller than you’d think,” said Bauler. “It uses ARVS self-compression.” That wasn’t what I meant, but I was too spaced out to correct him. He jammed a Henry Flynt 8-track into the player. Bluegrass raga-drones spiralled out of the speakers and started to sync with the sound of the engine. I was impressed: B had imported the artwork and the music himself; had created an imaginary new artefact. “It was supposed to be a…y’know, an ironic gesture—a conceptual art-joke based on one of those old vintage Rock Tour games. The ME-262 Collective grew the first code-layers in Munich and then kept adding more. Now there are zillions of clusters of self-referencing code that continually rewrite one other. The Package is pseudo-fractal—it presents the illusion of unlimited detail or depth. It keeps changing emphasis, rebuilds itself depending on what it thinks the player wants to do. Any resources it needs, it pulls down from the Cloud.”

“So it wouldn’t work in Portland?”

“Not right now, no. But you could run it off the old fibre-optic network. The fuckers aren’t policing that anymore.”

Random shadows and shapes flashed into view outside and vanished again. Twisted yuccas and soft, melon-shaped boulders. Something that resembled a giant ground sloth scuttled behind the pumps of an abandoned gas-station.

I had a sudden flash of paranoia. What if it was me who was somehow making things happen or appear outside? What if my subconscious was able to shape the landscape—summon up Monsters From The Id, like that dude from Forbidden Planet? I was coming down pretty heavily now, so the idea had both credence and a certain sinister allure.

Then some sort of weird megalomania took hold and the ceiling seemed to lift off my thoughts. Maybe I’d been wrong: it seemed like pretty much anything was possible in here, providing you didn’t chase your tail round in circles like I had. Maybe the only limits were imagination and self-belief.

I riffed on this for a few minutes, each idea more ridiculous than the last: hadn’t George Van Tassel been telepathically contacted by Venusians out at Giant Rock, near Joshua Tree? And wasn’t Tassel’s so-called rejuvenation-machine, The Integratron, sat somewhere nearby in the desert? Would it actually...y’know, work here inside the Package? Could I use it to fix myself—transform myself into a stronger, better person? An even crazier thought occurred: would the Package create ‘Venusians’ if Bauler or I prompted it to?

The thought made me freak, so I hit reset. Instead, I ran a fantasy number in which I made Bauler stop at a call-box and got Phil Dick’s phone-number from the operator. If I rang it, who would answer? Some Package-created analogue of Dick? A speed-fried simulacrum? And what would he do if I pranked him—rang up and said my name was VALIS?

It was childish stuff, but it made me think: did small events inside the Package trigger a cascade of increasingly bigger ones, like they did in the real world?

I asked Bauler, “What would happen if you networked a bunch of Packages together?”

Behind me, inside his coffin, Gram began singing Further Along, harmonising with Flynt’s hillbilly tone-clusters as if they were Emmylou Harris.


I had decided to take Gram’s body out into the desert and burn it. I thought the gesture came pre-loaded with enough symbolism to give me some closure.

But in the end I didn’t have the heart to do it.

History had repeated itself enough already, without me getting in on the act. Plus: I was scared that killing Gram might provide the part of me that resembled him with enough anger and guilt to start the whole cycle all over again.

A new paradigm was needed. I had to reconcile myself with Gram in some way; forgive myself enough to disarm the self-destructive side of my own ego.

So we checked into the Joshua Tree Inn instead. We carried Gram into his old room—number 8 with the wooden, peach-coloured door—and laid him out on the bed in his soiled Nudie Cohn suit. I sat beside him for a while and when I was sure his breathing wasn’t too shallow I turned on the radio.

As I twisted the dial I heard snatches of the Louvin Brothers, Leon Russell, ZZ Top’s Rio Grande Mud, Spiro Agnew’s voice and some anonymous Okie stomp that crackled and hissed as it rode in from the other side of the desert on a 50 kilowatt wind. I marvelled at the richness and variety that was so casually on display here and wondered why I’d had to travel to somewhere so blatantly fake in order to find it again. We had allowed ourselves become insulated—separated from one another by spectral distances. We had swapped effort for instant gratification, yet we whined when it was too easy and whined when it was too hard.

We had let all the good shit slide through our fingers and leech into the soil.

I wrote Kaufman’s phone number on a piece of paper for Gram and left him to sleep it off.

As I stepped outside I immediately started shivering. I wondered if Gram’s code had already been overwritten. Was he still there, asleep on the bed behind me, or was his existence purely contingent on my presence?

Was he Schrödinger’s own singer now?

I found Bauler squatting down by the swimming-pool, watching the breeze blow across its surface. He looked up and said, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could swim in this stuff?”

“Why did you send me a copy of the Package?”

Did I? Says who?” He smirked. “Maybe the Package sent itself to you. Y’know, some Ultimate Next-Level version from the future...”

“I’m ready to go home now,” I told him.


I Nudged Kristen. “Listen, I’ve been thinking. This new President, he needs to be into music...”

“Huh? Yeah, right...what, like Clinton?”

“No, no. He needs to really like it...he has to have tastes, preferences. You need to crowdvote the right musical tastes into his Design Subschema...”

“I don’t follow.”

“Musical tastes are like tiny opinions. These days, most folks don’t even have any, but those who do…” I let the phrase hang for a second. “Tastes: they’re like a precursor to passion. A portal. The President needs to have lots of little opinions—preferences that he’ll stand up for and which we could maybe subtly weight in our favour. Nothing too, you know, obvious or even cool. It’s only a little thing, I know—and I’m probably crazy for even mentioning it—but maybe it might make a difference. Maybe you could get your Nudge Campaign to swing it—you know, vote-in the right balance of, I dunno, Hillbilly and Rock n Roll...”

I expected Kristen to laugh at me, but she didn’t.

“Holy fuck,” she said and I could almost hear the tiny light-bulbs coming on inside her head. “Okaay...”


Someone projected a live stream of the Inauguration onto the side of Pat’s Bakery. The new President looked real nice; Industrial Light & Magic had done a great job actualising him. If you didn’t know otherwise, then you would’ve definitely thought he was real.

The Toastmaster looked like Walter Cronkite, but sounded like Casey Kasem. “Ladieeees and gentlemen! I give you the 137 th President of The Consolidated States of America!” And then President Ernesto Garcia walked down a line of his predecessors and shook hands with every one of them. It was like the Oscars ceremony or the final scene in Episode IV of Star Wars.

I tried to look past all the hokum and the hollow soundbites, studied the way Garcia spoke, his body-language, his choice of words. I searched them for clues, a signpost to what might lay ahead. I hoped he wouldn’t just be another Four Month Wonder—that his memome carried the right balance of Country and Rock. But if our Campaign had failed, then we would just saddle up and start all over.

We would add more Nudge-Friends, build another new set of memes and preferences. Like the Package, we would keep learning and readjusting, keep changing the landscape around us. We would inch our dreams closer to becoming real. Like Chris Hillman, we were in it for the long haul.

Bauler had been talking to the Germans about making our own President. They seemed to like the idea; it ticked all the right art-prank boxes. If the Package could generate a Nixon, then perhaps it could also be coerced into creating an Anti-Nixon. Maybe we could harvest its best attributes or something, put it up against an IL&M candidate.

“We.” Wow, just listen to me there, using the we-word.

Sure, there were still bulldozers lurking around Portland, but they had pulled back a few blocks. A contact in the Police Union Local said the cops’ overtime bucket was almost empty. Everyone was waiting to see what happened next, waiting to see what signals Garcia might send out. Maybe all we had to do was hold the line and sit it out.

Kristen’s group had retained a lawyer to challenge the zoning-law changes. They had applied for Artistic Heritage Status and were busy passing round the hat at bake-outs and benefit-shows. I was too embarrassed to tell her that he also handled my uncle’s real-estate deals and I’d arm-twisted him into taking a charity-rate.

I sat and sweated it out while some local drone-band finished their set. My suit looked fucking cool, though: I’d got a local clothsmith to print a few metres of a repeating motif on some hemp: a screen-grab of Chris Hillman, head tilted in a half-smirk, singing “Six Days on The Road” on some TV show in 1971. Part of me might still be a vain, attention-seeking motherfucker, but at least I’d inverted my vanity into something absurd and self-mocking.

The suit was also a lucky-charm, a mascot that reminded me that—even if there was no such thing as an outright victory in this life—then there was at least the promise of a righteous reward at the end of a difficult journey and that there were pleasures to be found in outwitting the pettiest of foes. Hillman had lived, Gram hadn’t. It might not be the most glamorous or glorious of outcomes, but it was the right one.

As I climbed onto the stage, someone shouted, “Whooo! Cosmic cowboy!” The audience laughed and that broke the ice. I had built a weird-looking dobro out of a wooden-box, some salvaged tin and a contact-mic, then strung it with 0.044 gauge bronze-wound strings. It wasn’t tuned to any scale that I recognized, but it had a rich, atonal quality that I dug.

“This one’s called Four More Months,” I said. I’d picked the title because it reminded me of Hillman. It suggested stubbornness and perseverance, but also held the promise of a finite struggle.

Someone whooped in the crowd and hollered, “Yeaah—four more glorious months!” It sounded like Bauler.

My hands and my voice shook a little during the first verse, but I was okay after that.

It wasn’t much, but it was a start, I guess.



About the Author


Kek-w lives in Yeovil, deep in the heart of England’s rural West Country. He is a fiction-writer, journalist, artist and electronic musician. His stories “Blue Raspberries” and “Cone Zero” have been nominated for Best Short Story awards by the BSFA and the BFS. He blogs at

The character “Bauler” is a hyperfictional extrapolation (very) loosely based on Darren Bauler, a musician from Waterloo, Iowa, who records as Melusine and Medroxy Progesterone Acetate. The two have never actually met.

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