Fiction | April 28, 2014

My son, the drug addict, is about to tell a story. I know this because he’s closed his eyes and lifted his chin. I can tell because he’s laid his hands palms down on the table, like a shaman feeling the energy of the tree spirit still in the wood. I can tell because he’s drawing a shuddering breath, as if what he has to say will take all he’s got. He’s putting on the full show because he has a new audience—he’d streamline the theatrics if it were only me. We’re having dinner in Levi Lambright’s recording compound, Chautauqua, in remote Appalachian Tennessee. I’m a songwriter—a lyricist—and I’m here to work on a new album with Levi, our first in fifteen years. Dee was not invited. The only other person who should be here is Lucinda, Levi’s cook. But Dee just showed up, the way drug-addicted sons sometimes do.

Right as he’s about to speak, I reach for the wine bottle and refill my glass, placing the bottle back down in front of me, providing a bit of a visual shield between us. He’s sitting across from me, next to Levi. The kid looks good, I’ll give him that. He’s clean shaven, and his dun-colored hair appears professionally cut. His eyes, where the cresting chaos can most often be seen, are clear and still. They still don’t track exactly right, though. Like his mother, he looks at you out of one eye at a time, like a quizzical parrot. If you look at him straight on, his thin face seems to wobble and shake like a coin spun on end before it flips back into profile, his mother’s aquiline nose and sharp chin etched in the center of his round boy’s head. On his forearm, his old self-mutilation scars have been scribbled over, I see, with a new homemade tattoo: Trust. I don’t see myself in him at all.

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