For three years, I worked on a novel that began as a reflection of my life in the music industry as well as everything else in my tailspun world. I was fortunate to befriend literary agent Elizabeth Kracht who took the time more than once to review and coach me through this manuscript that has now evolved into a 68,000 word rock 'n roll romantic thriller.
"Saved by Zero" is my baby and she'll see the light of day soon. These characters are my children, extensions of who I am and what I stand for. They're fallible, sometimes ugly yet often beautiful. For the turmoil my lead Randy "Old School" Schofield will face on his journey towards happiness, his catharsis is realized by a new hope, new opportunity and a new love. The police records where he came from lie. He killed his wife, and before he can embrace all that is good in his life now, he must purge his demons in a recorded confessional.
I'd like to share a little bit of "Saved by Zero" with you readers over the next couple days and hope you enjoy it.
Thank you, Liz, for bringing the best out of me.
Saved by Zero Chapter 1
Send me a postcard from the revolution. Or better yet, Tweet me.
Maybe you can hear that whoosh in the background if you’re listening to this tape. That whoosh has become my therapy. This is what God wants from us in our time on Earth, I believe, to get out of ourselves a moment and draw in His majesty. Let me pause a second so you can soak it up.
Officially, that’s the sound of the Atlantic on a routine autumn night. Where I used to live, it’s already in the low sixties. Here in Nag’s Head the misty night is temperate and I’m well comfortable in a short sleeve Deep Purple t-shirt, even with the moisture slicked upon my forearms. I’ve grown used to the damp evening film as part and parcel of coastal living.
My Deep Purple shirt is a bit of a rarity since it has the Come Taste the Band wine glass album cover pressed upon the chest. It was a special order gift from one of my listeners.
Bobby G. (his last name, for the record, is Grain and he hates it) sent me the shirt after I’d played “You Keep On Moving” from the MKIV Purple era during my broadcast slot as a special deep cut. Coverdale, Hughes, Bolin…come on, man, underrated.
Bobby’s a well-liked fisherman from Blackbeard’s end of Ocrocoke Island and when the sea is healthy, he stocks many of the Banks’ eateries with scallops. He also fills the locals and tourists’ ears with a bounty of maritime lore and eyewitness hurricane accounts. He worships the latter as much as the local surfers do.
Bobby tunes in to me every weekday afternoon from his boat and I frequently kick him out some Rush during the request hour. Often he brings up some scallops because he knows our situation—well, a good bit of it, anyway. Consider the fact Ocracoke’s a fair hour away with part of the trek being made on a ferry boat. Bobby’s come up with those scrumptious scallops even on days when he’s not in Nag’s Head delivering delicacies. I usually split a case of Rolling Rock longnecks (nobody cares about ponies these days) with him and my fiancée Allana as a way of thanks. We perch on the edge of the tide, talking about everything and nothing with suds in our throats and suds at our bare toes. Our three kids think Bobby’s the bomb and I find no fault with their appraisal. I love the guy. He’s down to earth, he’s real. There are not enough cats like Bobby G. in the world. He’s quickly become a brother to me.
It’s been awhile since I’ve had a dude to chum around with on a regular basis even if I have the privilege of sleeping with my best friend every night these days. It’s only a few more days until Allana and I are official. Though nobody could’ve predicted I’d be in league with a beard-braided salty dog only two years my junior, Bobby G. fits my new life like everything else in the Outer Banks.
God may have spanked me hard a year ago, but now He has blessed me in countless ways.
This recording comes from the upper deck of a two-story split rental unit we have no business affording. I’m about to give my trusty Talkman IV a workout tonight, but we’ve been through much together, haven’t we, pal? This thing’s archaic, but it’s recorded conversations with more than three hundred musicians and it’s showing no signs of quit, just like the Brew Thru up the way, which I don’t believe ever closes.
Our empathetic Dutch landlord, Mr. Jansen knows much of our story, but not all of it. He’d migrated here from the Netherlands almost a decade ago after his wife died and I think therein lies our unspoken bond. I’m positive he’s stowing a few dark secrets of his own. Floating on the same wavelength ourselves, we don’t pry. At least it explains why Mr. Jansen knocked three hundred off the monthly rent for fellow refugees from a marred past. Had we tried our luck a few knots northward into the close-quartered vacationer sector, I doubt I’d be delivering this confession ocean side.
I hardly deserve the break Mr. Jansen gives us, even though there are regular weekly renters beneath our unit, predictable partyheads who forget they have others overtop when the sand clogs their ears and the booze loosens their tongues and their privates. I wouldn’t take offense to the cussing, caterwauling and copulating if we didn’t have a handful of kids looking at us with stunned wonderment all the time. There are times I feel irresponsible, but on those excessive nights of muffled debauchery in the lower tiers, I let everyone sleep next to me on the foldout and I put the Clash or some Dead on the stereo loud enough to drown out the action until we nod off together.
Aside from the recurring vulgarity downstairs, this isolated abode is paradise.
Since the bottom unit isn’t being rented out this week, the only people who can hear me in this secluded dune are all sacked out in bed. I’m drinking a still-warm cup of PG Tips for courage instead of something harsher. It takes a less brave man to get slobbered up and confess than it does for a man to confront his sins sober.
Take another listen to that peaceful, clapping tide. I want you to understand where I’m at now before you understand where I’ve come from. Some people think the ocean is louder during the morning, particularly at sunrise. A good point if you’re hung over and sexed out, which I’m sure my raucous fleeting neighbors can testify to. There’s something about the night air, though, that lends itself acoustically. Only The Beatles wah-oooing inside The Cavern probably sounded more perfect than this.
A year ago, peace was an abstract in my world. Peace, the ideal of my once-a-hippie-died-a-pauper banker mother. From what she told me, my father was a peacenik too. I took her word for it since I’ve never met the guy.
Used to be I heard the word “Daddy” more than my own name and I cringed. Partially it was because I was scared of the responsibility for my adopted daughter, Caitlin, and partially because I’ve never had a daddy to call my own. Funny, when you consider I now have three children and a bride-to-be under my roof.
My late wife Donna once had choicer names for me and she was entitled to many of them. “Childish old fogy” was on the nicer side, describing my elder-hoser rocker wannabe life. “Selfish prick” was on the nastier end of the spectrum and somewhat accurate if you were to peek in on Randy “Old School” Schofield a year ago.
That guy could be a fuck-up sometimes, one who interpreted a passing glance from the other sex as a sign she was interested in some peccadillo. Most men fantasize about sex within seconds of catching a woman’s eye. Nanoseconds, in my case. More likely, those remote glances were expressions of silent pity because I know how I looked back then and Christ, was I a sight. Gaunt, depressed and lonesome would be one way to describe me. Doomed is a more melodramatic embellishment, but well within bounds, considering my future fate with Donna.
Would that I could atone for everything that happened in Stafford Hills, Maryland, a money-idolizing suburb I’m thankful to have at my back. I’ve left behind enough gruesome drama to fill a pulp paperback. How things have turned out so favorably for me now is an anomaly.
Like Caitlin and the rest of my expanded family unto me, I’m now an adopted child of coastal Carolina and I get to jabber to it five days a week from 10:00 to 3:00 and fill people’s ears with cyclic ghosts of the past: Golden Earring to the Doobies to Boston, all refusing to die out. Never thought I’d find solace in repeat spins of Zeppelin, Floyd and Steely Dan, but the saline air and the sighing ocean whips seem to mate kindly with those old dino ditties—along with Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze.” There’s a strange comfort in repetition as there is excitement when I have Joan Jett or Mick Fleetwood on the air at the Outer Banks’ home of claaaaaaasic rawwwwwwk, WKRU. On those days, I still feel like I’m dreaming.
Donna threatened to bail on me many times for my one-time neurotic rock journalist’s life. I’m convinced she had a secretly-filled suitcase stashed at her mother’s as often as she threatened to leave me. As much as my enemy-in-law Eleanor loathed the very sight of me, I’m sure she encouraged Donna to leave every chance she could. As a six-year annual tradition each Father’s Day, Eleanor never missed the opportunity to tell me I had no right to it...through Donna, of course. I think the number of words exchanged between Eleanor and I total the same amount of wins the lethargic New York Mets of 1962 scraped out.
Today I feel a weird comeuppance. Had the price of my newly-rewarding life not come at Donna’s expense, I’d feel the temptation to bite my thumb at her. Yet the detrimental skirmishing between us still haunts me even with my bright horizons. Those awful days of chawing at one another aren’t as tough to digest. It’s the subsequent consequences which conjure dark clouds in my mind similar to a tropical storm bashing the limitless sea plane constituting my home.
When Donna imposed her belief I should quit the rock life and step up to the plate with my obligations, I took it as betrayal. Playing guitar used to define me. Later, that became writing. I spent hours each night holed up in my office writing epic articles and detailed reviews of some groups you’d know but many you’ll never hear of. Brevity is not my gospel, but it is liturgical in the digital world since users prefer to assimilate instead of excavate. They also like to tomahawk rock journalists with cowardly insults they don’t have to stand accountable for behind an anonymous computer. Donna had no problem tomahawking me to my face, and she wasn’t far off when she’d venomously said in the middle of a spat I was more than “old school,” I was a fossil.
By day, I shadowed my mother's unavailing footsteps in a bank that would put me on the street, the prelude to a destructive chain of events, but we’ll get to all of that soon enough.
Despite it all, I was living the rock life gloriously part-time and I had much to fight for. A fight to the bitter end is what I ended up getting from my departed wife, but if you could see me now, you might agree it was all worth the unavoidable heartache. I used to sing the choruses of old Britpunk anthems of despair inside my head. No future for me, not until I met Allana. Her love for me has instigated a profound love for my daughter I might never have realized to its fullest potency had we never crossed paths as elder hanger-ons at the rock show. Allana has since been there to mend my heart and having her children, Keara and Jared alongside me and Caitlin has patched my wounds—most of them, anyway. I'm honored to have the entire lot.
Mr. Jansen and Bobby G. only know that my wife died and I relocated here to the Outer Banks to start a new life with a new family. I’ve never gone into detail with either of them about Donna’s death, but I will right here and right now for whomever finds this tape. The police records in Maryland exonerate me, but I did it. I don’t care about the circumstances. I know it would’ve been me if not her. The records lie. I killed my wife.
Excuse the sighing, this is painful.
Go on and enjoy the waves a moment while I summon the stones to keep talking to this thing.
(c) 2009 - 2013 Ray Van Horn, Jr.