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Prisoner of Time – A Masque of Infamy Excerpt


After a few minutes, Dave said, “I think we need to start getting serious.” He reached into a briefcase and placed three spiral notebooks on the table with band names and logos scrawled into the covers.

“Hey, my notebooks!” I’d forgotten them in the rush to get out the door when the social workers picked us up.

Dave spread them out on the table and flipped through the pages. “What were you trying to express in this song, ‘Fade to Black’?”

“That’s a Metallica song.”

“Yes, I see you have that written underneath. You have a whole section devoted to what you call your favorite rockers: ‘Mommy’s Little Monster,’ ‘Suicide’s An Alternative,’ ‘Annihilate This Week.’ What is it about these songs that made you want to write them out in your notebook?”

“I wanna be a songwriter, so I write out lyrics as practice. I study how the verses, bridges and choruses work together. Most of the songs in there I wrote.”

“I see that…” Dave flipped through the pages. “This is one of yours: ‘If telling you would kill you, to realize would be suicide.’ What did you mean by that?”

“It just, you know, sounded cool.”

Dave turned the page. “Here you have, ‘One of these days when I have the guts, I’m gonna jump right in front of a pick-up truck.’ Another one goes, ‘Sometimes I just wanna blow it all away. Light a fuse and watch the world go up in flames.’ That one you titled ‘Hate Bomb’.”

“They’re just songs,” I said with an awkward chuckle. “They aren’t supposed to mean anything.”

“What kind of songwriter would you be if you wrote songs that had no meaning?”

“I mean, yeah, sure… they have some meaning. But you’re reading them all wrong. I’m just trying to come up with songs that rock, you know?”

“You don’t think this subject matter reflects your true feelings?”

“No. I’m not afraid to say what I want.” I laughed to show how good-natured I was. “Look, you’re totally judging these songs based on the words. But that’s only part of it. My songs are about the music as much as the lyrics. These are just words on paper, so you have to imagine the rest of the song… the power of the music.” I reached for one of the notebooks and flipped to a particular page. “Take this song right here, ‘Prisoner of Time.’ This one I just wrote. It starts out real mellow, almost a ballad—but once the verses start, it gets fast, but not too fast. It’s still slowly building up to the bridge. Then it’s like—” I replicated the sounds of the instruments with my mouth, blowing out air rapidly through parsed lips: “Dun dundun! Dun dundun! Dun dundun! Dun dundun! Then it goes back into the verses again. But after the second bridge it keeps building to the chorus where the guitars go, Chuga chuga chuga chuga. Chuga chuga chuga chuga. The double bass kicks in and it’s getting faster…” I tapped my feet rapidly against the floor. “Then the lead guitar starts to wail.” I pantomimed playing a guitar. “Right, and then it’s like, ‘I’m a prisoner! Prisoner! Prisoner of time! And he walls! The walls! They’re all in my mind!’” I covered my mouth to replicate the background vocals. “Then it just goes totally insane, the drumbeat is all over the place as the bass follows the lead guitar: ‘Prisoner! Prisoner! Break free!’” I leaned back in the chair and folded my arms across my chest.


“So you see, that song’s really about freedom, you know? I wasn’t trying to be negative or anything.”

Dave smiled at my performance. “I can see you are very enthusiastic about your music.”

Just when I thought we were getting somewhere and Dave would realize I didn’t need his help, he pushed the notebook with the plain green cover across the table. “What about this one?”

The green notebook was my journal. My mind raced as I tried to remember all the crazy stuff I’d written. I knew there were detailed descriptions of my trysts with Missy, commemorated in case I forgot any of the details. But there were also death fantasies, the pros and cons of suicide

As Dave stared at me, I didn’t know what to say. I just sat there, trying to not look crazy.

“I think we need to start talking about why you’re here,” Dave finally said.

— from A Masque of Infamy

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Gabby The Cutter – A Masque of Infamy Excerpt


“I feel like a bug under somebody’s shoe.” The new girl was spread out on a chair, the scars on her arms like chaotic spider webs. When Ron called her out in group she made no attempt to hide her contempt for him, Hillcrest and the rest of us.

“Why do you feel that way?” Ron asked calmly.

“Why do you think?” She spit the words out, her ferocity like an unhinged shutter in a windstorm.

“Who are you angry with?”

“Everybody! Y’all think you can judge me, but you don’t even know who I am. So, FUCK YOU!” She stood up and kicked a table.

Those nearest moved out of her way.

Ron leapt to his feet. “This behavior is unacceptable.”

“Fuck you!” She screamed as she ran her fingers through her blonde hair, clenched her fists and pulled out two wads.

Rosie ran into the room. She and Ron grabbed the girl’s shoulders. She struggled violently in their grasp, throwing punches at Ron and clawing at Rosie’s face as they carried her down the hallway. She kicked her feet and gnashed her teeth like a feral beast. We listened to her screams until the door of the Time Out room slammed shut. After that her wail was muffled, like the ominous screech of an owl in the distance.

I looked at Alex in awe. This girl was the most exciting thing to hit the ward since Justin, the Bible eater. We were both impressed. Not only was she a total mental case, she was gorgeous.

She’d showed up a two days before. We were coming back from occupational therapy. Alex and I were charging up the stairs doing our usual routine: him growling in his best James Hetfield, “Back to the ward!” while I responded with a guttural snarl, “You will do! What I say!” And then in unison. “Back to the ward!” As we smashed through the door, we stopped in our tracks. There she was, in a Mötley Crüe shirt, standing at the nurses’ station with her head down. When she looked up through matted strands of hair, her face was feline. Alex broke the spell. “Rock and roll,” he said in his bad English accent.

On the ward, she kept to herself. In the common room she sat alone, barely registering anybody’s presence. During group she scowled and refused to participate. She marched along reluctantly through the various daily activities, never smiling or showing any reaction beyond a deathray gaze.


— from A Masque of Infamy

illustration by Dame Darcy

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A Fake Mohawk – A Masque of Infamy excerpt


Back at Hillcrest, I counted down the days until my departure. Sandra said I would be out of the hospital some time before Christmas. To commemorate my inevitable discharge, I requested a trip to Supercuts so I could get a mohawk. “It’ll be my Christmas present,” I told Calvin. “I got the cash. Just need somebody to take me to get it done.”

As I was leaving the Sheltons’s house, Mrs. Shelton slipped a bill into my pocket. “In case you need anything down there…” In Sandra’s van, I unfolded it and smiled at Benjamin Franklin’s smirk. One hundred smackeroos!

“You’ll look like a fool with a haircut like that!” Calvin scoffed when I showed him the picture of the hairstyle I wanted. “I’d let you do it just to see how dumb you’ll look afterwards, but I’m not that cruel.”

“What do you know? It’ll be tough.”

After a few days of persistent cajoling, Calvin went to Julie, who decided that I needed to get permission for such an extreme hairstyle.

“From who?” I asked. “My mother’d let me do it.”

“Your caseworker.”


I was vaguely optimistic when I picked up the phone, but Sandra was ambivalent.

“I don’t know… that sounds a little drastic.”

“It’s not a real mohawk,” I protested. “I just want to shave the sides, that way if I want, most of the time my hair’ll just fall over the side, or I could part it down the middle and nobody would be able tell.”

After she relented, Nina drove me to Supercuts, where the hairstylist wrinkled her brow when I described the haircut I wanted.

“I don’t think that’s gonna look very good.”

I was persistent. But she refused to shave my sides to the skin. Instead she left an inch of hair that she slicked back with gel. So it was almost like a real mohawk.

On my way out of the mall, I stopped by the photo booth and documented my new style.

— from A Masque of Infamy

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Death Is The Ultimate High – A Masque of Infamy Excerpt


The social workers called me into the office. The first one gestured at my clothes. “Can I ask why you’re dressed this way?”

I looked down at what I was wearing that day: a sleeveless white t-shirt with an anarchy symbol scrawled on the front with a red magic marker.

“What? This is just my style.”

She pointed at my hi-tops. I’d written the word “FUCK” on the front tip of my right shoe, and on the left, “OFF.”

“You have ‘death is the ultimate high’ written on the side of your shoes… Are you suicidal?”

“No, that’s from Miami Vice. When Crocket and Tubbs went after these punk rock thugs, that’s what they had spray-painted on the side of their car. I just thought it was a funny expression. It’s not supposed to mean anything.”

— from A Masque of Infamy

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The Flying Crotch Shot – A Masque of Infamy Excerpt

macho_liz 85

“As a kid I used to watch WWF wresting all the time. Everybody was a Hulkamaniac, but I preferred Macho Man. He had the best manager. I was really into it and I’d try out moves on my little brother. I’d put him in chokeholds and leg-locks. I even pile-drived him once. But one day, he wasn’t around, so I set up all the cushions from the couch on the living room floor, had them all laid out like a body resting against the ropes. I was about to do my finishing mve—the Flying Crotch Shot. I ran across the entire length of the apartment and dove ass first into the pile of cushions. But I missed. Landed right on my tail bone. Wipeout! Hurt so bad I saw white flashes and lost my breath. I was at home alone too, rolling around on the floor gasping for breath. I felt like such a dumbass. So now, my ass is broken.” — from A Masque of Infamy

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ONE LAST HURRAH! – A Masque of Infamy Excerpt


That night, after we gave the social workers the stack of Polaroids, which was all the proof they needed to put the old man and Rick in jail, we sat around the house, twiddling our thumbs. Without a single distraction to take our minds off the uncertain future, we could only worry about what would happen next.

“You know what would be really cool right now?” I pondered aloud. “Some Super Mario Brothers.”

“Yeah.” Joey sighed. “Too bad it’s locked up.”

“I mean, if we’re gonna take off anyway,” I said thoughtfully. “I don’t see why we couldn’t have a little fun before we go.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Follow me.” I walked to the bedroom he shared with Rick and pointed at the footlocker where Rick had stored the VCR, the cable boxes, the phone and the Nintendo along with his BB guns and knives. “I wonder what it would take to bust that lock?”

We contemplated the silver braided Master.

“Pick it?” Joey suggested.

“What do I look like, a fucking locksmith? Nah, there’s only one way into that footlocker.”

“Smash it?”

“Now you’re thinking, Johnny! Get the hammer!”

It only took one blow, but I gave the lock another for good measure. We hooked up the Nintendo and put a six-pack of Dr. Pepper in the freezer to get cold fast. We each ripped open our own bags of Doritos and shared a box of Russell Stover.

Once the sugar rush took hold, we grabbed Rick’s BB guns and started taking pot shots at the crap on his dresser. I made a bull’s-eye on the wall and we took turns practicing our aim until we ran out of BBs. Then we switched to the knives. After the bedroom walls were full of holes, we moved on to the rest of the house.

I stood at one end of the hallway and tried to see if I could hit the kitchen wall. I missed, but took out a lamp. Joey was a better shot. On his first throw, the blade pierced a cupboard door.

We howled with delight at the destruction. For hours, we went from one room to the next, leaving our mark. We emptied the kitchen cabinets onto the floor and smashed Rick’s Nintendo into tiny fragments of plastic, wires and shards of motherboard.

I took out Rick’s Polaroid, the very camera he’d used to document his perverted crimes, and snapped some shots of us in the midst of the rubble.

It was a beautiful mess.

As we surveyed our handy work, we laughed until our sides hurt. I got a magic marker and scrawled “FEEL THE WRATH OF THE INNOCENTS!” in giant letters on the living room wall. I knew that would fuck with their heads.

Big time.

— from A Masque of Infamy

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Rehab Star – A Masque of Infamy Excerpt



An excerpt from A Masque of Infamy

It was only a matter of time before the psych techs at the hospital realized I was sneaking outside to smoke, but I quickly found a new way to maintain a steady intake of nicotine… Down the hallway from the RTW was the rehab ward. They had their own common room, a pool table, a bunch of couches, a television and even a piano. I was already sneaking in there occasionally to snag butts out of the ashtrays, so once they said I couldn’t go outside anymore, I began to spend more time with the rehabbers.

(read more)


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