gigbook2GIG, an epic historical fiction garage band’s walk through the turbulent sixties is coming soon. Here’s a teaser first chapter for your enjoyment:


Chapter One


This gig meant more to me than just music.

I sang “We are Friends” from a place deep in my heart. Mary Ellen and I co-wrote that song like all the others—via long distance. Now that she was pursuing her dreams at Oxford and gone for good, I choked on the irony of her closing lyrics, “You can know I’ll be there in the end, I’m your friend.”  When I finished the last piano arpeggio, there would be no lighters lit for encores, for adoring fans weren’t here to see Cory Wallace, nor his band Cornerstone. This momentous gig, Saturday, June 27, 1970, was the memorial service for Winnie DeClark Rockwell, my grandmother, known to all of my friends as Nana.

To acknowledge death, a Christian Scientist practitioner–one who has demonstrated a consistent ability to heal–delivers readings from Science and Health and the King James Bible, with services normally held in a funeral parlor. Ma and I couldn’t reconcile a final farewell to our family’s matriarch in the Brickton Funeral Home. Ma had issues with the décor: industrial camel carpet and a laminate lectern flanked by gaudy Italian vases. As for me, I couldn’t tolerate the musical option: a Lowrey organ noted for incredibly cheesy sounds. And neither of us wanted the church practitioner present. Obviously he hadn’t demonstrated much in his abilities to heal–Nana was dead.

So we decided to honor Nana in the white-steeple Community Church—anchor of downtown Brickton and my life as well.  But Ma envisioned a morning memorial featuring Nana’s favorite hymns in a purely classical venue. I had campaigned for a rock and roll bash that evening in Eminence Hall, the church’s high-raftered multi-purpose room, the nerve center for Sunday school, choir practices and special events like an opera. Since Nana loved both my kind of music and Ma’s, we had decided to organize both events.

And it was divine providence that we did so. Friends and family had flocked in droves to the morning service, filling the pews to capacity, even though many of my pals were still in bed. As the minister concluded a brilliant homily entitled “Live Life in Crescendo”, a mantra for our family, I spotted several senior citizens who had dozed off.  I was certainly old enough to know now that an evening bash wouldn’t have been their cup of tea, although the rock and roll would have kept them awake.

When the morning service concluded, attendees scattered in short order to enjoy a sunny Saturday. Ma and I were the last two standing, and we both recoiled at packing the displayed memories of Nana’s life into a plastic bin, which would ultimately be stacked on older plastic bins in the bowels of our basement. Ma sighed, “Cory, I can’t do this. Could you finish up for me?”  The strains of home hospice care couldn’t be masked by the tea-rose-pink make-up that Ma wore. Even her blonde bouffant was tattered.

I gave her a devoted hug. “You’ve had a long day, Ma. But I have to give you credit. Nana would have loved this service.”

She sniffled. “Knowing mother as I do, I’m sure she was right here among us.”

Dad peeked in from the vestibule. If you overlooked the slight paunch, he had regained his handsome stature—high cheekbones, chiseled features, jet-black pompadour, and piercing eyes behind the wire rims. “That was a memorable memorial, you two.” He hesitated, “Joanie, there must be two hundred people coming to the reception tonight. Will you be ready for round two?”

gigbook2“Richard, right now I’d like to go home and sleep for about a week. Can you play my little concert for me instead?”

Dad countered, “I think your fans would be much happier if you were the one performing while I was the one serving refreshments.”

Their conversation stalled, and I volunteered, “Why don’t you two enjoy a nice leisurely walk back home? I’m supposed to be here in a few hours for the band to do sound checks. I’ll pack up and move everything to Eminence Hall and wait for them.

Dad jumped on the idea. “A walk through town would do both of us some good. So would a nap. Thanks Son.”

Ma cast a kind, measured look. “But for now, I still prefer to sleep alone.” It brought a hopeful smile to Dad’s face.

He opened the door for Ma and they meandered toward the town square. It was good to see them together again, if only for a moment.  I pulled a non-descript black bin from the coatroom and dropped it by the display tables in the narthex. Its “thud” created a diminishing series of echoes dissipating to an eerie silence. The heavenly ambiance of an intimate house of God was now a shadowy, vacant church. It would have given me the creeps, except I remember Nana promising me many times that even when we are alone, we still walk with our Lord.

How I longed for just one more walk with her.

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