Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Protocol: A Death Down by the River

"There’s a raccoon in my
foundation - glares out at me
With anger or maybe fear –
I can’t quite tell the difference.
And I can’t quite get near
Enough to really tell.

"It may be having babies.
The animal hunter came by
And crawled under the house.
The critter seemed to be gone.
So we got new, sturdier
Grates. The old ones were clawed

"Through, discarded raccoon
portals. I wonder if someone
Can crawl through the basement
In my brain, the foundation
Holding my heart, the tunnel
To my soul, to find the

"Raccoon with the x-ray eyes
Hiding inside me, the
Joker in my dark hour
Shrieking for my ancestors,
The lurking space cowboy,
Bet you weren't ready for that."
(photo by Donna Copeland-Fuller)

This is true.

Danny Hughes had been a musician since his early teens - playing drums, guitar, and almost any other instrument in rock bands, some eventually becoming famous (always after he had left, like The Steve Miller Band) and some not. When he wasn't playing in a band, he was playing by himself, whatever he could do to feel the joy of the music and try to make some money at it. He'd had his ups and downs but thru the forty years of false starts, high hopes and low collapses, he
had been more successful than not. He'd paid off his house, not a fancy place by any means, but it was his, free and clear. He had a studio in the back and he was happy to record and mentor other, younger musicians. His house was the last on a block that stopped at a levee, over which was a bike trail, some industrial business, and the river.

Danny was one of those poor souls who discovered he had diabetes later in life. Of course, it didn't help that he'd had his share of booze and drugs, mostly meth, thru his years in the biz. But most of that was in the past and nowadays it was a rare occasion indeed when he would give in to that temptation. At 56 he looked 66, with long gray hair and an even longer gray beard, but his soul was that of a youngster and he was generous, some might say, to a fault. Not far from his house, and also over the levee, lived a fair number of homeless people, but Danny was always kind to them and recognized that but for a few lucky twists and turns, he could very well be one of them.

Maybe it was the August heat on that afternoon in 2007 that caused Tommy Duke to become more and more belligerent as he kept drinking, the godawful Sacramento heat and the booze. Danny was starting to get worried. He had accepted Tommy's request for music lessons but didn't realize what kind of young man he would be teaching. They were acquaintances from several prior meetings, but no one told Danny that Tommy had a mean streak that showed up and got worse in fairly unpredictable ways.

Danny had two drum kits on his property - one in his detached studio out back and one in his kitchen. He usually gave lessons in his kitchen and recorded in his studio. His kitchen was at the front of the house, facing Basler Street. Tommy had showed up a coupla hours earlier, red shirt, shorts, goatee and shaved head in the current manner of the hard-assed hipster. He was a stocky 30-something with a swagger and an attitude. Danny had accepted him as a possible student based on mutual friends and Danny's belief in the basic goodness of all people. But things were getting ugly.

To Be Continued

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