It was a Thursday in which I decided to pay Michael Yarrington a long overdue visit. I had stayed away for several years and was beginning to feel something akin to guilt over my absence. Emotionally prepared for the destination, I set off down the twisting, winding road.
The scenery along the way was familiar, similar to going home again. Almost immediately I passed a dirt road with a devilish name. Just a bit further on was an old cemetery of forgotten headstones. Lots of recent memories swirled warmly around me at these sights, still so fresh in my mind.
Suddenly, a concert stadium loomed ahead, like an ancient monument randomly placed in the middle of nowhere. A reminder of a different time and place, making me blush from whispered words. I hurried by the massive structure, with the echo of bubblegum pop music in my ears and the lingering taste of powdered doughnuts in my grinning mouth.
A flume of dark smoke billowing from behind an impressive hill caught my eye. I stopped for a second as four individuals reached the summit. Not wanting to leer at the commencing romance amongst the destruction, I continued on with my Thursday excursion.
For a moment I thought I missed a turn or was hopelessly lost, until I spotted a gazebo surrounded by neatly trimmed shrubbery. The beautiful structure took me back to a flood of creativity, and then I saw the axe protruding from the gazebo's floor. Its sharpness glinting in the sunlight reminded me of the editing I should have been doing instead of visiting Michael, but I had forsaken him long enough. Editing words could wait.
I reached a business district of sorts. There stood an intimidating sanitarium, or a mental hospital. The specific designation was a bit confusing. To my right was a coffee shop, but I couldn't tell if it was long since abandoned. The ghostly sound of alternative music drifted in the air combined with a flat clanking of a rusty bell. The duality of the businesses hinted that I was drawing nearer to my destination, and the remains of a radio station confirmed it.
A neon sign of call letters lay shattered on the ground. Two brick walls were partially standing among piles upon piles of rubble. I couldn't believe that this was all that was left of KSMY, but I knew Michael would know something about what happened. I imagined him being quite devastated over his loss.
Putting aside the shock and dismay over the tragic sight, I pushed on, soon finding myself in a sparsely populated residential area. Four houses were situated close together, with last names clearly marked on signs. Names that Michael had shared with me in a creative frenzy of answering machines, addiction, charcoal, and deceptive stability. Names which predominately inspired this Thursday visit.
Richardson. Wright. Mitchell. Foster.
Soon after passing the quartet of homes, I reached the end of the twisting, winding road and laid eyes on the house of Yarrington. Two, maybe three stories high, with a forgotten look, it is an intimidating and slightly creepy dwelling, especially for one man. I took a deep breath, walked up the crooked sidewalk, and rang the doorbell. The door creaked open and I was greeted by severe disappointment, dressed only in a robe.
"Oh, it's you."
"Were you expecting someone else?"
"The liquor lady," Michael answered and then rolled his bloodshot eyes, fully opening the door, "but since you're here."
I stepped inside and paused as my eyes adjusted to the changing light. A few low wattage bulbs gave off a murky illumination, casting the surroundings in a sepia tone hue. Claustrophobic and depressing, the sight provided insight into Michael's current mental state.
"Be it ever so humble..." Michael uttered with bored sarcasm as he shut out any remaining natural light. "Let us retire to the kitchen. It is the best room for friendly chit chat, plus I need a refill." He clinked the ice in his empty glass and proceeded to lead the way.
The kitchen seemed a bit brighter, possibly from the white appliances reflecting the low watts. I took a seat as he refilled his glass with something brown, offering me water, which I accepted. Being a gracious host, he brought our drinks to the table, along with a bottle for his refills, and for several minutes we sat in uncomfortable silence, sipping our respective drinks, until I just couldn't take it any longer.
"How are things, Michael?"
"I take it you've seen what's left of KSMY."
His wry smile, plus dry delivery, equaled only one conclusion in my mind. "What did you do?"
"I blew it up," he answered with the same look and manner. "Well, I only meant to burn it down, but Bernie forgot to disconnect the gas."
"Where is Bernie? Is he okay?"
"Don't worry. My ex-manager is fine and doing whatever the hell it is he does when he's not being my manager." Michael poured himself another and rolled his eyes, "Probably off somewhere obsessively playing his Barry Manilow records over and over."
The professional relationship between Michael Yarrington and Bernie Cartwright is a long and complicated affair. Why Bernie has tolerated Michael's crap for all these years is beyond me, and probably something only they can understand. Relieved to hear Bernie was okay, I asked the next logical question.
"No one was listening anymore, so I was done," he shrugged his shoulders and downed his drink, "but enough about me. How is your e-book serial doing? I haven't noticed your name on any bestseller lists."
This was Michael Yarrington in all his vicious glory. He knew exactly how to casually plunge a verbal dagger and then give it a twist, but he also knew his words were driving the point home, this time. I completely understood his feeling of being done and the temptation of tearing down all that was built, though I would never take it to such literal, physical extremes.
"It's fine," I gave my pat answer and then used the moment to direct the conversation to the topic that inspired this visit. "Speaking of my writing, I need to ask you a favor."
"Of course you require something from me," Michael remarked as he refilled his drink. "What can I possibly do for you now?"
Purposely ignoring his passive aggressiveness, I expressed my desire, "I want your permission to write a novelization of P.I."
"P.I. Is that what the cool kids are calling it these days?"
"That is what I'm calling it, because I'm not even sure if I can use the title since you borrowed it from a song."
"That I did..." For a moment his expression softened, undoubtedly lost in fond memories of the 79 episodes of his audio soap opera parody. Then his current bored, sarcastic look returned with a vengeance, "Why ask for my permission to adapt P.I. when you freely bastardized it four years ago?"
"Well, that short story was just for select family and friends," I explained my earlier transgression, "but now I want to reimagine the first season as a serial for my blog."
He stared at me with inscrutable eyes. Uncertain what his response would be, I attempted to alleviate any concerns by elaborating on a few of my ideas. Michael needed to know that I wasn't planning to alter P.I. so much as to leave it unrecognizable.
"Completely. Maybe it's time for the world to meet David, Sara, Larry, and Buffy."
"Don't forget Zack, because you know I can't resist writing emotionally damaged characters."
A moment of silence seeped in as Michael Yarrington, nearly smiling, stared proudly into my soul, understanding my essence. "Now, get out of here before I change my mind or before the liquor lady arrives. Whichever comes first."
We stood up and he escorted me through the dimness to the front door. As I opened it, momentarily blinding us with sunlight, he stopped me.
"John, if I were you, I would throw caution to the wind and call P.I. by its full name. If someone raises a stink, it could draw attention to your other writings."
I nodded, appreciating his input. It reminded me of how he used to be. A blitzkrieg in his personal and professional choices, and a steamroller should anyone get in his way. Looking at the intoxicated, robe-clad man before me, I offered my own advice.
"Michael, if I were you, I would look into podcasts."
There it was. A spark igniting a fire in his bloodshot eyes, burning through him. He nodded and I took my leave. As I walked down the crooked sidewalk, I imagined him on the phone with Bernie, apologizing for nearly blowing him up, and then plotting to resurrect KSMY with new technology.
Yes, Michael Yarrington would be back to his typical arrogant, insufferable, jerky, take-no-prisoners self in no time. I found this notion strangely comforting as I started on my journey home. Passing the houses of Foster, Mitchell, Wright, and Richardson, I imagined the many chapters waiting to be written, while visions of corn popped in my head.
Be well and Freak Out,