Origin Story

John Shakespear

Just before the worst blizzard since ’86, knowing full well it was coming, I walked to South Station and took the Number Four bus two hours through the pre-blizzard traffic to the address Pete had given me at the open mic and went up the busted back staircase in the first snow flurries and knocked and knocked on the back door ’til a silhouette appeared at the honey-glow window and the knob turned in my hand and there was Pete, holding a live-ass lobster in his non-door hand, claws and tail waving like it knew what was coming, like maybe it had heard war stories from older lobsters back in the cage or the ocean, I don’t know, but Pete said fuck man it’s really coming down and gave me a side-armed hug even though we’d only just met, and in a single twirling motion he turned around and lobbed the lobster into a pot of water and led me into the living room, which reminded me of my mother’s living room except dirty and full of random shit like a beat-up banjo, a lava lamp, and a dog collar sans dog, plus a young woman on the couch with a toy piano in her lap, drinking chamomile and whiskey from a plastic mug, and even through the haze of marijuana and incense, I recognized her from the open mic, so I knew her name was Janey and that she sang songs about California that were entirely goddamn lovely, even though they had lines like “Los Angeles / brought me to my knees” and “played my final cards / on Sunset Boulevard,” and when I walked in she looked up at me like I was a passing cloud and just kept plinking away at the child-sized piano while the lobsters died silently in the big gray pot and Pete drew a star in the window frost and I investigated the shape of my hands until Janey asked if I wanted to hear a new song she’d been working on and I said sure, though I hoped it wasn’t about California, and while she was singing about the fleeting nature of joy and certain days in springtime, I felt like I’d known her my whole life, like we’d both been born long ago in that living room with the heat pipes whistling, the windows all fogged up, and the smell of melted butter, and I was just happy to be there because I’d been so many places lately that hadn’t meant a thing to me, so I picked up Pete’s banjo and stayed for the blizzard, the worst since ’86 like they’d said, and the Number Four bus didn’t start running again ’til Wednesday, even the 7-11 was closed, and we played Janey’s sweet sad songs until our fingers hurt and the weed was gone and we’d all fallen in love.

John Shakespear (@johnshakespear) is a writer and musician from Massachusetts. His writing and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Boston Review, Grist, BULL Men’s Fiction, and Afro-Hispanic Review, and his music has been featured in Deli Magazine and Sound of Boston. He currently lives in Nashville, where he is an MFA candidate at Vanderbilt University and co-editor-in-chief of the Nashville Review. He bears no known relation to William Shakespeare.