I didn’t run away. Temptation was mine to behold at age sixteen, but rather than engage with the racy eyes of a public figure eight with poorly skimmed private parts I could only stare dumbly towards the past. Back when I thought I knew everything there was to know about being a rock star.
Then came my first seventh period hunch that Mrs. Antsy couldn’t wait to hold me long and tight like a younger brother closing in on a “famished” size box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch at MilksOnUs.
* * *
Ashburn-McHenry Cemetery was certainly no Red Rocks, but Geoffrey Rush had received no formal complaints about his given state of retroactive dress from the living or dead. A cozy concert pavilion was located a short drunken stumble away from active burial grounds, and unlike his given last name Rush had willfully inherited David Lee Roth’s signature 80s style back in high school. He had done so with a well-placed bet, one in favor of a track-splitting devil that didn’t just make his faithful legions leave their feet on command; when he said “jump!” they actually cried for the beginning of Van Halen’s inevitable retirement tour to come and not its tearful end.
Forget their own soulless ends in a place like “McHeavy Cemetery”; Geoffrey was ending his latest North American tour with a hometown show, only there was no idling tour bus in sight to shelter his Tommy Lee-esque “Wild Side” until the morning. The rain had lasted through much of the night, but Geoffrey managed to pass out underneath a bushy flannel jacket, one most likely gifted to him by an adoring fan. Or maybe he had shared shared three liquor-laced choruses with the only hell-bound lumberjack in town willing to give him the shirt off his back. In exchange, Geoffrey would provide operating directions regarding the nearest screw-free jugs on latex-free ground.
Geoffrey had woken up beside a shallow creek in the middle of a 200-year-old Kickapoo fable. One that couldn’t possibly be rated as “under construction” like the speaking voice of the man-sized mud thing now standing before him in a seamless a burgundy sweat suit.
Actually, Geoffrey had no idea whether the man before him was fully clothed or not. He just knew he had made one heck of an honest living pretending to be out of his mind; nothing the broad-shouldered swamp thing before him could say would change that.
“You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Geoffrey had heard this familiar societal refrain before, but what was that crinkling noise at his surprisingly warm hip? A funeral program? He didn’t recognize the name of the recently deceased, nor would he had been surprised if the brief private publication had survived a total downpour relatively unscathed. He had seen plenty of unpaid bar tabs come through stormy nights just as strong. Freak show formulas cast in bold magic marker too, but rather than check his bare forearm for a new set of overlapping female digits he took a good look at the man on the front cover. The same man now accusing him of having an affair with his wife, as a minor no less.
Apparently, this information hadn’t been easy to come by, not until the man’s wife, a school teacher he referred to lovingly as “My Precious Pearle”, had attended his thrash and graveyard smash concert the previous night.
The mud man probably didn’t realize that committing any act of vandalization on the premises was not just rare but highly stigmatized by the local population. He had, however, come to find out that Rush was kind of a big deal around town; he just didn’t get the big hair/bank robber look, at least until he did some digging. Not around his own fresh grave site but the same trendy periodicals Geoffrey had fraternized in his youth. Naturally, Geoffrey went on to speak of David Lee Roth’s influence to every major media outlet since MTV’s Kurt Loder averted his first on-air fatality.
He had never auctioned off a $600 scarf to the elusive JFK-bound winds on top of Radio City Music Hall, but the mud man before him now did look dead-set on convincing Geoffrey that he was an accessory to murder.
“I nearly killed my wife because of you.”
Geoffrey didn’t bother to stick around to get the whole story. He began to back away from Bigfoot’s more athletically equipped half-brother. Hopefully, he’d be able to escape the death throes of yet another jealous man who believed that revenge was a rock anthem best covered by Earth, Wind, and Fire.
Before the top of Geoffrey’s magnificent head ignited in direct defiance of an even greater demonic power, he decided that he was ready to make a change in both his personal and professional life. Rather than alert the local authorities that he was in imminent danger by no conscious doing of his own he called his sister, Marianne. She lived a few blocks away and would be delighted to hear from him.
Chugging across the blackened landscape at fifty pounds above his ideal stage-diving weight, Geoffrey told his “by the book” big sis that he was ready to go to rehab. Immediately. He just said nothing about his latest drug-induced hallucination.
Marianne agreed to come pick him up; she just failed to mention anything about bringing some friends and family along with her. Mainly, her eight-year-old son and best friend, Izzy. Not only was Izzy Geoffrey’s most notorious ex; she had even starred in his band’s first music video.
When they arrived, Geoffrey didn’t have much time to explain the situation before the swamp man reappeared. Unlike Marianne, Izzy kept her cool. In a rainbow rain coat and loose sweats no less. Snatching the signature bandana from around Geoffrey’s neck, she began choking the bejesus out of his most disgruntled stagehand since his last white-out stay in frosty Edmonton, Alberta.
Surely, Geoffrey would be able to get out of the thrill-pill FernGully of the American Great Lakes States much more quickly, but why had Marianne brought her son? To scare him straight? Surely, seeing his rock star uncle in the flesh at least once before he headed back to The Hills or Paris or Ibiza or wherever the hell Eddie Van Party Maven was calling home these days could wait until the weather was no longer getting the best of the star-gazing locals.
Geoffrey was too busy chastising Marianne, formerly the most sought-after nerd in history of hallway heckling, about her bad parenting choices to realize that a man was about to lose his life. A rabid one that certainly wasn’t dead or aphonic Optimus Prime diabolical, just completely unidentifiable until the coroner arrived.
The murder weapon Geoffrey may or may not have used as a handkerchief and/or emergency contraceptive the night before remained within Izzy’s grasp. That was until Marianne began contributing to her first sibling tug-a-war with an evangelical dirt mound for a dividing line.
The almighty mud man had softened up at the edges quite a bit before going slack altogether. Right on top of a stack of a few misplaced RV parking permit papers.
Geoffrey took this opportunity to take inventory of the moving parts of his fakest family intervention to date. That left Izzy alone to her own unassailable devices, each one getting hotter by the second given how rough she was willing to play with Geoffrey’s makeshift friends still. Unfortunately for her and Geoffrey both, Marianna’s son had gone missing.
* * *
I had only seen my mother once since that night. I had also lost my zest to redefine “death metal” as an honest family man long before I learned why Uncle Geoffrey covered “Hot for Teacher” as often as he did.
“So, you said he was your uncle?”
Once Mrs. Antsy learned why I had sworn under oath that I had no idea what had come of the mud man in the end, she started thinking of what would come of her own raised hands if she provided me the adult means of getting exactly what I had wanted for a very long time. The chance to ride an indoor rollercoaster with my last name on it without losing all my feigned innocence in the process.