Furious_Cool_Richard_Pryor_and_the_World_That_Made_HimThe first time Richard showed up for Miss Juliette Whittaker’s Youth Theater Guild at Peoria’s Carver Community Center, they were in the midst of rehearsing a play based on the fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin. All the parts had been cast, but Richard was so eager and insistent, Miss Whittaker gave him a role as a servant.

He was a “skinny little kid” in his mid-teens, she remembered, although “he looked about nine.”

One day, the boy playing the king was absent and Richard begged her to let him fill in. He knew the king’s lines. He knew everyone’s lines. “The other kids just broke up, he was so funny. When the original king returned, even he had to admit that Richard was better in the part. “So Richard stayed on the throne,” she was fond of saying, “and he hasn’t come down since.”

Listen, dear readers, I want to discuss the records that exist only in my mind. You know, the ones that would be perfect if you added one key component, or the ones that could never exist no matter what, but they should. Like if you poured glue all over the shitty Zeppelin record and then played it at 45 speed while the glue dried. Or if Alice Cooper scatted over Coltrane’s Ascension.

These, then, are those records.

While numbered, this order is contextual only—it can be rearranged by whim.

Proceed.

Rock of Ages

By Gloria Harrison

Notes

I’m three years old. My parents call me outside one day and point at the sky, from which water is falling onto the hard, dirt-packed floor of the Mojave. I can’t imagine where this water is coming from, but it’s everywhere, making the air smell like wet earth. I’m amazed. Later, I’m playing outside, digging earthworms out of the dirt with a spoon, when I spot the biggest earthworm I’ve ever seen. I’m thunderstruck with joy, but as I try to approach, my dog and my best friend, a cockapoo named Gnome, jumps in front of the worm, barking like he’s crazy. I keep approaching when, suddenly, the giant worm lashes out and bites Gnome, who yelps and falls to the ground. The worm rattles off. I run inside to get my mom, to tell her that a worm just bit the dog. She gets to him just in time to take him to the vet and save his life, as he has just done mine. My mom holds me on her lap and we sing my favorite song. “Say, say little playmate – come out and play with me. We’ll climb up my apple tree.” I think about how I wish I had an apple tree with rainbow slides and branches brimming with playmates.

A main character in my upcoming novel* has feeble short-term memory. His pockets spill over with scraps of paper covered in scribbled notes like tattoos on the leathery arms of an aging biker. A minor character fills her study with bound books chock-a-block with the lists of her daily life.

I’m not a list person, although I often write notes to myself. In the car. In the bathroom. But in a way maybe these notes are lists — things to remember, events by which to gauge time, yet not in list form.

My book deals with memory, history, and the chronology of a life whose gaps are filled by the most unlikely sources.