Balling, Rich. Revolution on Canvas. Orange, CA: Ad Astra Books, 2004.
The short fiction, "I'll Kill You If You Don't Come Back," is found in the poetry book, Revolution on Canvas, and highlights poems, art, and short stories from musicians of the contemporary indie music scene. This book put out by Ad Astra Books, a subsidiary of We The People Records, features voices from indie rocks most influential artists. These voices give an insight into what writing and art is surfacing from this underground genre, which includes the prose piece by Christopher Zerby.
Although the title seems a little unnerving, Christopher Zerby, the former lead singer of the band Helicopter Helicopter, writes an evocative short story about a shirtless man named Howland. In this story, Howland is on his way to the liquor store as he encounters the people who live in his neighborhood. Howland has been separated from his wife and daughter and on his walk thinks about how his life has ended up with him alone, overweight, and drinking away his loneliness. The story also runs parallel with the liquor store owner, Sandeep, who encounters the same people Howland does, but from inside the liquor store.
The story is told in the 3rd person, while also shifting focus from Howland to Sandeep. The story takes place in Boston where Zerby is also from, but does not exclude its readers. The tone is somber throughout the entire story. Howland is alone, and although he finds interest in his across the street neighbor, Mrs. Tilson, he still ends up alone. Sandeep is just trying to do his job and finish his crossword puzzle. However, it is when he encounters a teen from the neighborhood who attempts to illegally buy alcohol that he is forced into an unpleasant situation. When the teen attacks Sandeep with a gun and assaults him with it, all Sandeep wants to do by the end of the story is finish his crossword. These characters are desolate and live their lives solely to get on to the next day.
Zerby uses his musical talents in the pacing of the story. Each section breaks and flows smoothly and melodically at a progressive speed. Although the actual real time of the story would be barely fifteen minutes, the story’s pacing lengthens the piece to allow the reader to experience everything. The language is welcoming and personal, and it gives the reader a clear visual of what it is for Howland to walk the few blocks to the liquor store and for Sandeep to run his store.
This piece was enjoyable and, yet, saddening to read, because in the end the characters are never completed. As in real life, Zerby chose to leave the characters of the story unfinished while also letting the reader know that life peaks and falls on somber notes and failures. Zerby, a musician who has more than likely seen his fair share of trials and failures, writes this piece with the angst and letdown that comes with being a travelling musician. Life in the everyday does not always have a happy ending.