A Matter of When – Excerpt 1

September 15, 2014

Although A Matter of When centers around a lead singer’s search to redefine himself and his music, there are a few scenes that embrace his performance onstage. Like this excerpt from the first chapter:

“I’VE GOT a date with a bullet, got a date with a gun….”

Every word ripped out of Henri Lafontaine, taking pieces of his soul. He pleaded with the audience, tuning out the pinch of tight leather against his knees, and knelt on the edge of the stage. Pain meant he lived, he breathed, he felt.

“No matter what I do, one day it’s gonna come.”

Frenzied fans reached for him, too far away to ease his cloying loneliness. A vise gripped Henri’s innards—more than sweat poured from him with the fatalistic lyrics. One misstep, one leap from the stage, one dive into the pit of sycophants, and the arms reaching for him, the clutching, grasping hands, would hold him close. But not close enough to melt the numbness inside.

“You say that you love me, but you only speak in lies.”

He raised his voice, keeping the tempo pounded out by the quartet of musicians behind him. Not the kind of folks he wanted at his back. Hookers and Cocaine. A stellar name for a group. Most of the members lived up to the title.

“But I do love you, Henri! I do! I do!” A young woman with a tomato-red faux hawk shoved her way closer. Henri beckoned. Security would rip him a new one for violating protocol. Oh well, better to ask forgiveness than permission.

He crammed his whole heart and soul into belting out:

“Put me down every minute, and I gotta say good-bye.”

Images of his manager, his bandmates, critics, and certain members of his entourage flashed behind his closed eyelids. Pressure built in the back of his throat, sending his voice out wavering. Dampness trailed down his cheeks, accompanying a desperate plea for help, which the masses likely understood as merely the lyrics to a top-forty hit.

Aching, longing, isolation, fear—his constant companions.

He panted for a moment, letting the guitar solo wash over him, and swept a sweaty curtain of ebony out of his eyes with one hand. Damn but Ricky played like a maniac. Too bad about the “unmitigated asshole” thing. The guitar for hire coaxing ethereal melodies from a six-string bordered on miraculous, but could be better if he played from the heart and not for the money, the groupies, and the fame. Ditto the drummer, Giles, whose cocaine habit stifled true talent, and doubly so for Vince on the keyboards, “reducing his art” for the paycheck, when he’d bragged often enough of contemporary rock and roll lying far beneath his master’s degree in music.

While the rest of the band wanted the trappings of rock stardom, Henri wanted one more breath. One more inhale, one more exhale. And a little less pain.

A bass beat throbbed, charmed to life by a traitor who’d sold out his brothers to a tabloid. Tomorrow’s headlines would rip the band apart—if they managed to last until dawn. Serpents. He’d surrounded himself with serpents. Or rather, his manager had, someone else with dollar signs in her eyes, blinding her to the golden goose’s swan song.

The fan fought her way forward through a sea of writhing bodies, and Henri extended his hand, signaling “come hither” with wriggling fingers, animating the image etched on his wrist. Fanciful creatures entwined with ivy trailed up his arm, disappearing under his T-shirt sleeve. Before the girl answered the call, the mob closed in, grabbing, clinging, tugging Henri half off the stage. The world turned upside down. He hung over the platform’s edge. Oh shit! He grabbed at an amp and missed. Falling, falling.

“I’ve got you.” Arms around him, but not in the way he needed. A scowling security guard clamped on tight. Great. Just what he needed.

As though he’d not been denied his greatest wish of human contact, Henri started in on the chorus while the guard shoved him back on stage.

“’Cause I’ve got a date with a bullet, got a date with a gun.”

Rising to his feet, head bowed, he cried out for rescue, from thousands who heard the words but not the message.

“And every day that I stay with you, the closer that day comes….”

The band wound down, the drummer dropping back, the bass and keyboards quieting. The lead guitar softened to allow Henri to deliver the final words in what passed for a whisper during a live show.

“It’s just a matter of when.”

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5 Responses to “A Matter of When – Excerpt 1”

  1. H.B. says:

    Interesting excerpt. I have to say the lyrics to his song does catch the attention.

    I’ve never cried over a song before. The song that kind of makes me a bit emotional is called Butterfly(also known as don’t let my sun go down) by FAKE? and Anna Tsuchiya.

  2. edenwinters says:

    I’ll have to look up that song! I love any music that evokes strong emotions.

    I wrote all Henri’s lyrics, and they’re included at the end of the book. “A Matter of When” was written long before this book was conceived, as well as “Ice Inside.”

  3. H.B. says:

    If you don’t mind ne asking. How did you.come.up with the lyrics? Were you a song or a tv jingle?

  4. Sula says:

    Some music makes me sad, some from the power of the music itself and sometimes from the words. Off the top of my head maybe Jeff Buckley or Rufus Wainwright singing the haunting song Hallelujah & Eve Cassidy singing Fields of Barley.

    This is quite a powerful excerpt from the book and it feels like a cry for help.

  5. edenwinters says:

    H.B., I have several songs that I penned over the years, and that one wasn’t quite so dark originally. I scuffed it up a bit more to capture Henri’s frame of mind. And yes, Sula, it is Henri’s cry for help. No one seems to hear him.

    During the story he rewrites that song and makes the “A Matter of When” into something far more beautiful.

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