Past the Point
A Short Story by Jude Joseph Lovell
Early Saturday, around 6:20 or so, we busted out onto Fletcher St. from my basement. We were drained. Metal zombies limping along, like that skeletal thing with red eyes in The Terminator.
We had just put the final guitar tracks to bed. Jeremy had shredded all night. His fingers were bleeding, literally. But none of us even had to say it. The record was done, and it rocked! Three straight all-nighters, just as we’d planned. Not that we’d had a choice. On Monday morning those of us who still had jobs would return to them. Maybe.
What the fuck were we doing? It made no sense. The guys hadn’t put in nearly enough work. And none of their lives were built for it. To a man, each was burdened with responsibilities. Not just day jobs—well, Jeremy had just lost his—but encumbrances. Fatherhood, spousehood. They have ten children between the three of them, for God’s sake.
Not to mention their average age of forty-eight. The twins were fifty. Drew was forty-seven. Ridiculous.
They didn’t care. That was the thing. It was the guiding principle going into the sessions. No consideration of the plausibility, the sensibility. Go in there, get what you have down. Work it hard while somebody—me—presses Record.
Joe and Jeremy man-hugged on the cracked sidewalk. We all high-fived. Turtledoves serenaded us.
I told Drew to get between his big brothers and pulled out my phone. “Huddle up,” I cried. They lined up on the curb next to the minivan they’d hauled their crappy gear in. I took a shot with the sky just blushing pink over the row homes and a streetlight still burning over Drew’s shoulder.
Drew looked pissed in the pic, like he was going to hit somebody. He could have gone in and hammered out four more hours of drum tracks on his eighth-grade graduation kit. Don’t laugh, he got a lot out of those five pieces.
Jeremy’s chin is up, like he was daring the world: Gimme your best! But his eyes were burned-out coals. He was done.
Joe? He was mellow, donning his cap. He handled double duty on bass and vocals, but we staggered the vocal tracks over the three nights. He had to yell a lot. And there might be a gig, so voice preservation was key. I was waiting to hear from a guy in Connecticut.
I showed the bros the pic. They seemed pleased. We agreed it should go on the back of the sleeve with the track list.
“Speaking of which,” I said, tapping the app. “I’ve got the final version right here. I think we all agreed to it, but just to review.”
“Read it,” Jeremy ordered.
“Right,” I nodded. “Here we go: ‘Past the Point,’ ‘Mom Says You Gotta Come Home,’ ‘Up the Middle (On Third Down),’ ‘The Nuclear Option/Day After The Day After,’ ‘Sarlacc Pit,’ ‘Six-Pound Sloppy Joe,’ ‘Broken-Bat HR,’ ‘Daily & Sunday,’ ‘Fishtown Gumbo,’ ‘Simple Reaganomics.’ ”
“That’s it!” Joe exclaimed.
“Awesome,” Jeremy added.
“How many is that?” asked Drew.
“Ten. Unless you count ‘The Nuclear Option’ as its own track,” I explained.
“No,” insisted Jeremy, shaking his head. “It’s meant as a prelude.”
“Re: ‘Fishtown Gumbo,’ why the hell isn’t Loco Pez open is what I want to know?” said Joe. “We need tacos.”
Everyone agreed, but it was indeed closed.
My phone rang. I thought it would be the guy from the club in Hartford. But even better, it was my boy D.J. from Metal Sword.
“Holy shit! Let me take this. Yo, D.J.! It’s six-thirty in the morning.”
“Well, you guys are working, I trust. I hope.”
“Damn right. It’s done.”
“That’s what I needed to hear. How fast can you get me a demo?”
After a screaming fusillade of joyful expletives, I sent the guys to a diner on foot. Having done the grunt work, they had one job: return with a title.
It was down to two finalists: Brothers, self-titled, or Past the Point, the leadoff track. They also needed to come up with a pithy description of what had spawned the whole enterprise.
I hoped they could handle that basic but crucial matter. They’d spent a lot of time together in the preceding days and hours. But they were as their band name said. It was a name and a creed. And this was a kind of last stand.
Anyway, there was plenty to do in the interim. I had maybe three hours to produce some kind of mix and was trading calls between D.J., another distribution guy at Metal Sword, and the booking dude at Headhunters, the club up in Hartford. If we landed the gig, the “Brothers” would have to be in transit by 1 p.m. to make a 4:30 p.m. soundcheck. What they might tell their wives, that was on them.
They had no shot. That was a given. But they’d made a pact: We’re going to try this. And we’re sticking together. Life is just too damn short, and we want a taste of this. For however long it lasts.
Drew was in the best position, but that made it harder for him to get on board. His kids were still relatively young. His wife was a rising star in city politics. Financially safe and established in his community, Drew had lots of friends. I was one of them. And he was a charmer with a gift for networking. But he was not a frontman by temperament. He just wanted to hammer the nails behind the curtain.
Joe had been spinning his wheels in a corporate job for twenty-plus years. But he was tired of it and felt he had been set out to graze. He claimed there was maybe a three-week window in his thirties he never saw open when he might have pivoted towards middle management. Now he could expect another fifteen years of the same work and a cake on his last day. If he was lucky. He also had four children, mainly teenagers.
I was younger than these men, and my road had been different. At eighteen I was touring half the world myself with a metal band. I blew off college completely. After we disbanded, I produced on the side for a while. I installed a two-room studio in my basement: one rehearsal space, one control room.
But I understood what they’re doing. They wanted self-expression, a creative and emotional outlet. Men need that, but we are wired against pursuing it.
It wasn’t about bitterness. It was about honesty—one part truth-telling and one part exorcism. Most of what was in their hearts had gone into a pot on the back burner while they lived out what they thought was their duty and responsibility. They had taken up the yoke so that they could provide for those they loved and had done so without regret.
But their father had faced nothing close to what they had. Internet, social media, nonfunctional government, global pandemic, K-pop. No one could steer their family vessel through all of that and have everyone emerge untouched.
Meanwhile they had been noodling around with used instruments and punk-poetry off and on all along. When they hung out, they would joke that if they just locked themselves into a basement somewhere, they could cut a record.
The twins were the writerly ones. They worked up the core material over years. Then, a few months before, the three of them got together at the same taco joint around the corner from Drew’s house here in gentrifying Fishtown. Jeremy had just been let go. Fuck it, they said. It’s now or never.
There was no crew to speak of. And so far the “tour” consisted of one booked show. I could get them a couple of gigs here in Philly, but that was it. If Metal Sword signed them, however, they’d have band managers, marketing resources.
Was Joe going to quit his job to start playing occasional shows at one in the morning on the east coast? What was Drew telling his wife, with whom he’d reached an understanding years ago regarding family and careers? What was Jeremy going to do—about anything?
The brothers came back from breakfast with their decision: Past the Point.
“It’s where we are,” was how Jeremy explained it when we spoke later. “By the way, any chance I could take another run at my solo on ‘Day After’? I played that sucker thirty times, but I don’t feel like I nailed it.”
“None,” I laughed. “The demo’s already on its way. Plus, you guys open for Brain Damage tonight at Headhunters. I suggest you nail it onstage. Load up the van, it’s on.”
On the way to the show we worked on “press material.” I asked Joe for a statement. Here’s what he said:
“Past the Point is about our youth, what we thought we learned, and how we got to here. We can’t say the future is ours. It isn’t. We can’t say the world is our oyster. It never was. But it is what’s in front of us. And whether it’s a veil of shadows, a bejeweled gate, or a stone wall, we’re driving right through it to whatever waits for us on the other side.”
Photo credit by Josh Sorenson (Southwest Florida) joshsorenson.com
Jude Joseph Lovell writes on books and popular culture for Silver Sage and is the author of four novels, three short story collections, and four works of nonfiction. His newest book is Door In The Air: New and Selected Stories, 1999-2020. He lives with his wife and four growing children in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. For more information visit his website at judejosephlovell.com.