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Columns > Jesse Jarnow - Brain Tuba

Published: 2008/04/23
by Jesse Jarnow

Morgan the Lion, no. 1

BRAIN TUBA: Morgan the Lion, no. 1
He exhaled the last of his weed and leaned back on the couch to discover that it was raining in his living room, water falling from the ceiling that he and his ex-girlfriend had painted to look like a sky. Flakes of blue came with the condensation, and Morgan just chilled there for a second. Pieces collected on his hoodie. One paint chip landed on his cheek. He brushed it lightly away and felt it rub against his stubble. The droplets felt kind of nice.
He could now see through to the plaster in a few places above him. His first instinct was to bang on the ceiling with the broom, but he realized it might not be wise, structurally speaking. He brushed himself off and went upstairs.
"Gotta flood?" Morgan asked his neighbor, scratching his blonde crew cut.
Valdez was in a towel. "Na," he grunted. "Was just in the shower. What do you want?" His paunch had grown.
"It’s leaking in my room."
"Shit. Call the landlord. Sorry."
"Right," Morgan said. He didn’t know why he expected Valdez to have a better answer than that.
He returned to the living room, the tan couch flecked with blue. Kicking off his shoes, he shuffled through the mail and left a message on the landlord’s answering machine. When that was done, he drank some milk and realized he was still high. He might as well do something with it.
Morgan picked up his guitar. Crossing the almost-soft brown carpet, he sat in the easy chair. First, he held the guitar neck at an unnatural angle in order to clear the armrest, but eventually settled for the edge of the seat. He usually played on the couch.
Morgan ran his fingers over the strings, which could stand changing. He counted off with his foot and tried to play a reggae groove, hitting the strings on the upstroke. It didn’t sound right. The only difference, Morgan knew, was in the slightest muscular movement. He tried a few more sets of chords and gave up, returning to the circle strumming patterns of his natural rhythmic inclinations. He sang "St. Judy’s Comet" by Paul Simon twice, practicing the fingerpicking.

He would tell her at the supermarket, after work, during one of their accidental meetings. He saw them looking at the cheeses, turning them over in their hands, or in the vegetable aisle, their elbows cooled with the spray of a mist-sprinkler over the broccoli, and he would just say it, about being His son.
That was as far as he usually got with the fantasy, never envisioning what might come next, how he’d back it up. There was no way to. He’d made calls, but nobody would talk to him. It was at this point that Morgan would usually decide on a block of smoked cheddar, or maybe some lettuce, pay, and go home. That day, it was interrupted by Ian, who texted him about the Bonnaroo lineup. He gave up on shopping and went to meet Ian at the Mexican place two strip-malls over.
It was early spring and Morgan walked briskly through the parking lots with his hands in his pockets to keep warm. He took them out briefly to keep balance as he skidded down an embankment that was steeper than it looked, created when the hillside between shopping centers was sliced into layers to accommodate parking. He wiped the dirt on the curb outside Senor Sancho’s. He was still cold when he got inside, mad he’d left his coat in the car. Ian sat at a corner table with his laptop.

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