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Metalhead’s Guitar Lessons

Story by W. Todd Kaneko (Read author interview) September 19, 2016

Art by Katelin Kinney

Teacher asks if he practices. Metalhead says yes, but he means that the opposite of a bullet is a bird, that a beautiful web comes naturally to spiders. Metalhead plays his scales and teacher asks how often he practices. He says all the time. It’s not a lie—Metalhead spends hours in his room, slopping his way through “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath, rewinding the cassette over and over until the riff has seeped into his bedcovers, into the paint on his walls. As he falls asleep, the demons chant for him, hooves and pitchforks thrust into the night for each syllable of his name. Metalhead leaves his mark on each of them, a lash of beauty, a lick of pain before launching into a solo for harpies circling overhead, for serpents squirming under his feet. Teacher tells him to practice, and Metalhead says, I promise. He means you can’t control the wind’s direction, the flame’s desire to consume flesh. He means when he gets home, no one else will be in the house. He will strip down to his briefs and stand in front of the mirror, one hand stretching strings violently across the neck while the other mashes his whammy bar. He blows a kiss to his reflection, to the posters on the wall behind him. He closes his eyes, plays for other kids who do homework and pass tests, for his parents who roll their eyes when he says he wants to be a rock star, for that girl he wishes was his girlfriend, for those people who ask him what he wants to do when he grows up. A minimum wage job is just another name for a pink slip, an alarm clock just another name for a time bomb. He practices unleashing Hell on Earth.

About the Author

W. Todd Kaneko is the author of The Dead Wrestler Elegies (Curbside Splendor 2014). His prose and poems can be seen in Bellingham Review, the Los Angeles Review, [PANK], the Normal School, the Collagist, Barrelhouse, and elsewhere. A recipient of fellowships from Kundiman and the Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop, he co-edits Waxwing magazine and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he teaches at Grand Valley State University.

About the Artist

Katelin Kinney is from the hills and fields of Southern Indiana. She attained two BFAs from the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis, IN. Her portfolio consists of fine art and commercial freelance work.

This story appeared in Issue Fifty-Three of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Fifty-Three

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