WEP December 2019 "Footprints" challenge piece

The “footprints” theme for this challenge proved more difficult than I originally thought it would be. Initially, I considered writing a narrative focused on the pursuit of a dangerous monster into the ancient woods it calls home. Telling the tale from the perspective of hunter, as he tracks the creature using the impressions left behind in the snow. Which after I wrote the introduction paragraphs, I realized that it wasn’t a feasible option despite how it catered to the theme. Building on that idea, I pondered transforming it into the story of serial killer fleeing the police. Unfortunately, I ran into the same problems as the previous idea.

Erasing the metaphorical idea board, I starred at blank page uninspired. Managing to discover an idea from a place I overlooked without much thought. My imagination channeling my love of Punk Rock, and its ideologies into something I could shape to fit the theme. Taking inspiration from the songs of various bands and musicians including Beans on Toast, Chuck Ragan, Against Me, Frank Turner, and many more. Telling a tale of a musician who lives on the road and on the stage, acting as a pilgrim of music. Along with taking slight lyrical insight from Frank Turner’s song The Road, which can be listened to below. Underneath that, I humbly present the tale I titled, A Pilgrim of Punk.

__________________________________________________________________________

A Pilgrim of Punk

The rain bombarded the bus window, creating a faint melody with each drop that landed against the tinted glass. In silence, I watched from my seat at the passing of the blurred city-scape. Noticing how close we were to the town, I removed my earbuds before casually placing them into my jacket pocket. The screen of my phone brightening as a reaction, allowing me a moment to see it was just past three a.m. Rubbing my thumb and forefinger over my eyes, I glanced around the sparsely full overnight bus. My six fellow passengers strangers following their invisible roads of fate on this gloomy night. All of us would soon depart this bus, leaving behind a ghost of our current selves.

Just before dawn, the Uber pulled into the familiar motel parking lot. The driver popped the trunk before, stepping out to unload the single, worn suitcase that accompanied me when I traveled. In silence, I exited the vehicle with my time-tested guitar bag in hand. I thanked the driver for his assistance in unloading my luggage. I wrapped my hand around the short handle of my duffle bag before, making my way towards the hotel’s front desk after walking through the set of automatic doors. Sitting behind the hotel counter was well-dressed women in a dark red blazer, with the miniaturized version of the hotel logo on the left breast pocket.

She stared up at me through wireframe glasses, asking, “Can I help you, sir?”

I responded, “I’m here to check-in to my room. The reservation is under the name Skibba.”

She nodded and typed the name into the computer that rested in front of her. The blue light from the screen was reflecting into her glasses, casting a brief silence between the two of us. A short ding erupted from unseen speakers, likely built into the monitor.

She said, “I found your reservation, sir,” digging something out from within the desk, handing me an unsealed vanilla envelope, with a few pieces of laminated papers protruding from it. “You are in room number 212. Take the stairs to your left and then turn right. Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?”

I responded, “That should be all for now,” grabbing the envelope and tucking it inside my empty jacket pocket.

The woman nodded, dismissing me with a simple gesture. I walked away before heading up the split-level staircase, following her unneeded directions. I traced the footprints of memory, while I made my way towards my room for some much-needed sleep.

*****

Squashing the dying remains of a cigarette under my boot backstage, a habitual ritual I performed every time before, stepping onto that evening’s stage. I starred out at the audience, aware that I was retracing the footprints of a forgone youth. Grabbing the microphone, I said, “This isn’t the first time I have played this familiar stage,” strumming softly on my guitar. “I see some familiar faces, and some unfamiliar faces here tonight. Hopefully, all you enjoy have enjoyed this evening so far and will continue to,” starting to play the intro for Shackles and putting every fiber of emotion into the song, belting out the lyrics.

I refuse to imprison myself in your shackles.

Instead, I choose to follow my own path traveling the road to unknown places.

Playing overcrowded pubs and undersold stages alike, tracing footsteps that aren’t my own.

Having drinks with strangers in dive bars the world over, understanding that living on the road was the key to my freedom.

Creating new paths in cities familiar and mysterious, traveling the road a pilgrim of music all my own.

Watching the crowd near the stage start to stir, jump, scream, mosh, and dance around, creating a simple, primitive display of musical jubilance. In my several hundred, if not thousands of times playing this song, the meaning of the tune had transformed over time. When I wrote the lyrics for the first time, it was about the horrible terms of the unfair contract and how the legality of it controlled my art and life. Now, it represented something more than that, standing for the roller-coaster, nomadic lifestyle of a musician. I continued to play, moving my fingers about the nickel-plated strings of my guitar without a thought. The individual strings of my guitar acting like an old friend that brought me a constant stream of pleasure and pain. Each chord I played a cathartic release of raw emotion, that metaphorically left me exposed to the world. Yet, I found myself reinvigorated by the relentless energy of the frenzied crowd. That ethereal sustenance a spring of strength I used to perform each night.

Watching the energy of the crowd wax and wane throughout my two-hour set and short encore. My callused fingers playing the last few chords, while the stage lights began to dim, the speakers echoing out the final note of the evening to an exhausted audience. I was carrying my guitar backstage, walking along a well-traveled invisible path. Ready to create more footprints on the endless road that was my lover and life-long friend.

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Word Count: 853 Critique level: Full

57 thoughts on “WEP December 2019 "Footprints" challenge piece

  1. I think what I liked most is being able to get into your head as you were planning what to write. That was fun to see how another went about planning and writing. Thanks for that.
    I did find a misplaced comma… I believe: “I wrapped my hand around the short handle of my duffle bag before, making my way towards the hotel’s front desk after walking through the set of automatic doors. “

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Poetry has this uncanny ability to have a different meaning for everyone. Even the same person at different stages of his life would find different things in the same words. You caught this poetic phenomenon in this story.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed both journeys, the one you took in deciding what to write and the musician moving through his travels. Lonely is that road, but for some, it’s the best of all worlds. No regrets, ever looking forward. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing your first journey in trying to track down the right germ of a story upon which to expand. Songs are the souls of a People. echoing their struggles, dreams, and fears. You caught me up into your bard’s mind and heart. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Getting the right thread to follow is often the hardest part of all this, isn’t it? I liked reading what you considered, and then discarded before going for the musician’s tale. You’ve done a great job in capturing the loneliness of the performer in this piece. I loved the invisible path he shuffles down as he leaves the stage.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You did a great job setting the tone of the story from the beginning with your descriptions. The rainy ride on the nearly empty night bus captured the loneliness that can come from the life he chose for himself. I also loved how he looked back on the song he wrote so long ago and how the meaning changed for him over time. I’ve had a similar experience when revisiting things I wrote years ago. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi,
    First, let me say I loved your story. You can expand this theme into an excellent short story. Since you asked for a full critique, I am going to step out and offer you some of the ideas that I see because of my belief that you can do so much more with it. You have touched on an element in the lives of many musicians that haven’t made it big like others and are continually on the road. My critique is not meant to embarrass you or make you feel bad in any way So I hope you understand what I am trying to say.
    1. Think about starting your story with your last paragraph. That brings strong tension at the beginning
    2. Also in this first paragraph, consider making shorter, sentences. For example, I watched the energy of the crowd wax and wane throughout my two-hour set. My encore was short, and my callused fingers played the last few chords while the stage lights dimmed.
    3. Then began linking the story slowly to his past after writing your second to last paragraph where the people danced frenziedly and connecting it to your story.
    4. Also, be careful with starting your paragraphs with a lot of ing words which are known as present participles.
    These are just a few things I will mention. Again let me say here, that I really like your story.
    All the best.
    Have a Merry Christmas and a great crossover into 2020.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

    Like

  8. Hi Christopher! This is my favourite entry of yours so far. You really took us into the mind of the guitar player. A great entry for FOOTPRINTS.
    For my critique, I think you could have omitted the bus ride. Sure it shows loneliness, but you could have found another way to do that. I think Pat has given a good critique, so I’ll say no more. I’m just really enjoying that you’ve mastered the art of the paragraph!

    Thank you for being a consistent contributor to WEP. It’s been great to have you along on the journey with us.

    Happy holiday season! See you in 2020?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This one really spoke to me. You created the scene using only a very few descriptive words, yet I could see it clearly in my mind. When I was younger, I had dreams of being a musician. Probably, part of the reason was the chaotic, exciting energy hit a chord, so to speak, with my untreated bipolar disorder. I really wanted to live in that world. Sadly, I was bereft of talent, and I sure as hell didn’t want to become a groupie. I ended up abandoning that dream for writing, but sometimes I still wonder what could have been. I know the lifestyle takes its toll on a lot of people.
    My criticism isn’t about the story but about the page’s color scheme. I can hardly read the gray text on the black background. I highlighted the text so I could see it. If I’ve been by sometime in the past and said this before, please forgive me. The story itself was fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is a theme I can relate to – poetry/lyrics and how their meaning changes over time as life is lived. I really liked the sense of gentle melancholia paired with the thrill of audience feedback, the past and the present meeting in the musical performance. Great use of the prompt. Definitely one of your best among the WEP entries. Thank you for sharing it, and very glad to have you back at WEP.

    Also appreciate the video – the ‘horizon is my home’ really encapsulated the character of your musician for me. Thank you also for introducing me to Frank Turner’s music.

    Wish you happy holidays and a wonderful New Year 2020.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Your choice of words is very rich, and I loved how you described strumming the guitar as a love/hate experience. As writers, I think we all get that love/hate experience with the pieces we write and rewrite and throw away. It’s time that some would consider wasted, but it’s actually time spent doing what we love to do. Only artists know what this feels like and appreciate this. Great piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I often wondered what musicians, singers, artists feel when they’re traveling gig to gig, but you gave great description and shared your emotions in your mind’s and career’s journey. Happy Holidays and Happy New Writing Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Often the first (and second) scribblings are best shelved – for another time. Good call, Chistopher. Punk rules, sometimes – even if my knowledge is limited as a hippie. That first paragraph carries so many images and thoughts – tight and masterful. There are a few odd grammar questions in para 2 – one extra comma and an odd verb/noun – but nothing to stop this reader. {There are a few others but again minor.} Memories being retraced are often intriguing. Time tempers and changes things from our past and you seem to have caught that feeling and emotion. Fits the theme like a well-played lyric.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hi Christopher … I too loved the different turn the post took – going off into the forest to be hunted … then no – not a good idea … I’ll just get back on the road and follow my passion … I think that’s the best story. Excellent Frank Turner song to accompany your tale … and yes I too could see the grime, dirty window panes etc and calloused fingers. Great take on the prompt … have a peaceful and blessed run up to 2020 – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you Christopher for your well-travelled story of the artist’s journey. Very vivid and great descriptions of feelings, thoughts and performance emotions. The dialogue with the hotel receptionist was I thought superfluous, it slows down the pace and disrupts the reminiscence somewhat, ‘ I checked in ‘ maybe, then concentrating on the footsteps along the corridor. The words to the song are very heart-felt and authentic, one of your own ? How meaningful language can be at times, thought-provoking and inspiring. I can hear your music. Well done.
    Have a Merry Christmas and wishing you joyful writing for 2020. Looking forward to reading you soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Wow, this is great. I think this might be my favorite so far. I love the way you’ve woven the prompt into the story of a musician looking back and moving forward. Excellent descriptions and imagery. I really felt like I was there watching him.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Great creative take on the prompt, and I enjoyed the comments on your efforts to get to that story. I was at times jarred out of the story by some mis-used words and commas, so I’ll just suggest that a careful proof-reading would improve the reader’s experience 🙂 But those last couple of paragraphs were so very evocative of the life of the musician always on the road. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I enjoyed both your story with its musical metaphors for life and how you arrived at what you ended up writing. It’s lovely to read another writer’s process. Good writing in this story. There’s a lot left unsaid that we can guess at and that definitely adds to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Hi Christopher – congratulations on the Extraordinary Encouragement Award … well deserved. There’s a lot of ‘life’ in your stories … so I’m so pleased for you – cheers and Happy New Year – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

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