Theme and Variation

by | Jan 28, 2014 | Poetry

Mom called for me as if I couldn’t hear the doorbell.

I walked out of my bedroom, leaving behind

walls of Anthrax and Slayer for a guitar lesson

with a guy who made his living writing

jingles for real estate companies, though

his goal was to flourish like his brother,

a co-writer of Mister Belvedere’s theme song.

Mom chatted about her garden

while walking my teacher to our lesson area

then left us alone and made way toward the window.

He sat on the bench facing our piano, an upright

model made of oak with a burgundy finish.

I sat on a kitchen stool with my guitar, a generic

model made of poplar with a black finish

accented by pink lightning bolts.

His albino face bleached in the sunlight

after mom opened the curtains. I could see

only a beard and a set of crooked pupils beneath dark eyebrows.

Instead of continuing our study on speed metal,

he suggested we work on sight-reading and placed

a handwritten sheet of music on the edge of the piano bench.

Once I finished playing the melody, I smelled bourbon

with hints of chewing tobacco. He asked how I felt about the tune.

I must have done something wrong

by keeping quiet. His arthritic fingers played

a diminished chord on the piano as he turned and told me

it was the tone of Satan’s alarm clock.

He stood up and left with his hand scratching his neck.

The front door shut and I watched him walk to his minivan

through the window. I noticed he forgot his sheet music,

so I hurried outside and found him sitting in his van

pouring a tube of powder into an oversized chrome bullet.

When I asked about the bullet, he said, whatever your siblings do

when they get older, make sure you can do it better.

Then he sneezed and his face darkened,

a lattice of red covered the whites of his eyes.





Photo By: J├ęssica Passos

About The Author

J. Scott Bugher

J. Scott Bugher is a writer and musician living in Indianapolis. His work has appeared in a variety of journals and his professional world can be summed up at