All Along The Watchtower

April 18, 2013
My fingers flew past the frets as I strummed through the strings with my pick not thinking about anything other than the music coming out of my amp. The music to the green day song holiday flooded my ears. The beat of Zane’s drum mixing with the blaring rhythm of my guitar complemented with the music coming from Danny’s bass. I like music more than anything in the world there's just something about it that seems magical, the way all the sound blended together and despite the fact that they sounded nothing like each other they seemed to go together perfectly. The way the thrashing of the drums and strumming of the guitar and all the other instruments somehow match to make a controlled chaos that's just right. The way you can just somehow feel the music inside of you. The way it can show emotion with no words just tone and the way a song can just make you feel mad and happy at the exact same time. My favorite thing about music is that one moment in every song where the music just bursts it gets louder the chords get harder to play and faster, the singing turns to borderline screaming the drum explodes into a rhythm better than the last even though you didn't think it was possible, I like to call it the breaking point. Most of the time the breaking point is the chorus but sometimes it can be the last verse first verse anywhere really.

“Nice playing,” Danny exclaimed after we had stopped. Danny and I had been friends for as long as I can remember I don’t even remember how we met. Danny told me once it was in fourth grade when we were partnered up in science to do some project that we ended up handing in a week after it was due. But I remember being friends with him for a long time before that.

Danny plays bass he learned how to play around sixth grade. He used to come over to my house and play my guitar but he could never get the chords down so he just played the songs without any chords like Kryptonite, Last Resort, and songs like that. Then he found out that bass was pretty much guitar without chords. Me and Danny are best friends but we're almost exact opposites he's extremely tall, and one of the smartest people I've ever met, he's extremely buff, and a wrestler for the school and I'm about as skinny as a fat Miley Cyrus, one of the skinniest kids in my grade, borderline antisocial, and as dumb as... Excuse me for repeating myself but as dumb as Miley Cyrus, my long black hair is a wildly thrown around on my head making me look like an animal. I really don't care how I looked unlike Danny who was constantly trying to look as cool as possible.

Zane is Danny's older brother he's awesome at the drums. He learned to play around the same time Danny did. Zane looks like a tall version of Danny he had dirty blonde hair just like Danny except his was spiked up in the middle into a Mohawk while Danny’s laid flat and wavy stretching down his forehead to his bright green eyes.

My name is Jimi Hendrix Schaffer named by my dad Dean after his hero Jimi Hendrix. My dad was obsessed with Jimi Hendrix and guitar he’s the one who taught me to play when I was six. I can still faintly remember him teaching me the chords and me trying to stretch my tiny fingers over the guitar, and my dad trying to be patient when my ADHD started up and my mind shut down. My dad had always been my hero unfortunately he died six years ago when I was seven leaving me nothing but the electric guitar I hold in my hands now.

Together with Danny on Bass, Zane on drums, and me as our guitarist we are the epic rock trio known as X hero, well known by us at least we aren't exactly famous never played any gigs though we did have our own YouTube channel. I didn't always like Danny or Zane I had moments where I hate them but they were the only people I can really laugh with and have fun with. That was how it was for me with most things I'd like them then hate them it's like I go through phases every week I have some new obsession that I'll love and think is the coolest thing ever then the next week I'll forget about it and move onto something else.

“What did you think Jimi?” Zane asked.

"Uh it was good,” I muttered realizing I had just zoned out. For some reason it seemed I always zoned out right when someone was talking to me.

"You even listening?" Danny asked.

"Almost," I admitted, looking down at my old crappy phone to see the dim white numbers on the screen that read six forty, "Damn I gotta get home."

"See ya man," Danny said

"See ya," Zane reiterated. I stood up swinging my guitar onto my back and walking into the kitchen.

"Bye guys," I called to them walking out the door. The cold air pierced my skin as I stepped out into the dark night.

"Where've you been," my mom’s boyfriend Ben asked from the living room almost as soon as I walked through the door.

"At Danny's," I replied walking back to my room.

"I shoulda figured, you're over there more than you are here," Ben exclaimed. Maybe that's because they're a better family I thought to myself walking into my room and closing the door.

"Don't slam my door!" Ben screamed.

"I'll keep that in mind," I hated Ben he's so strict and for some reason everything he said just made me more angry. He was always trying to accuse me for anything he could. I used to like my mom Crystal she used to be like a best friend to me when I was little; but ever since she started dating Ben he’s been trying to turn her against me. Ben hates music that's why I always practice at Danny and Zane's. My mom used to be amazed by my musical abilities now she hates it. She's so desperate to keep Ben she'll agree with anything he says and do anything he says.

I propped my guitar up against my dresser as I plopped down onto my bed. A loud noise emanated from my pocket telling me that I had received a message. I reached into my pocket digging through a pen, a cracked MP3 player, and a crap ton of folded up papers, littered in lyrics and music notes. X hero was mostly a cover band but we did write some of our own songs well actually I should say I wrote some of our own songs.

I pulled my phone out to see a text from Danny, "OMG u no tht old building right up the street?"

"Yeah y," I replied.


"No way really?".

"Yeah its tomorrow at ten,"he texted. This was going to be awesome; there was only one problem, there is a reason we've never done a gig I have a bit of a problem with stage fright, which isn't exactly a good thing for a lead guitarist and singer to have. I'm trying to get over it and this might be the perfect chance to face and overcome my fear. I could picture us on the stage the crowd screaming as my guitar did the same, we might actually get some fans.

I grabbed the guitar pick hanging around my neck and clenched it in my fist it was my lucky pick. It was blue with a red X on it standing for X hero Danny gave it to me when we first started the band. I don't think I've taken it off ever since I had it. Whenever I was sad, mad, or extremely excited I grabbed it. You know how Catholic people do that whole father, son, and the holy spirit thing on their chest sometimes that’s what grabbing my pick is like for me.

"Jimi?" I heard a voice to my left whisper. The beast is awake. I walk out into the hallway quietly Ben was passed out on the couch and mom must have gone downstairs to sleep on the bed. I opened the door to see a red headed six year old sitting up on her bed staring at me with her vibrant blue eyes. "Jimi what are you doing you silly?!?" She shouted, I swear god gave her no volume control whatsoever.

"Shhhhh, you don't want daddy to come in here do you?" I asked kneeling by her bed. She nodded no without speaking. "What's wrong Em?"

"Can you sleep with me? I had a bad dream," she told me pulling her blanket up to her nose and shivering the way a cartoon character would if it was scared.

"Sure," I said climbing into her bed and burrowing under the covers. She giggled loudly. "Shhhhhh,"

"Your funny Jimi," she said a little less loud.

"Shhhh, we've gotta go to bed," I told her turning on my side and closing my eyes, I've learned the best way to get a kid to sleep is to pretend you're sleeping, at night anyway believe me it does not work in the morning. It wasn't long before I heard the breathing behind me soften and slow down I turned around to see her passed out bear hugging her teddy bear using his head as a pillow. This is Emily Ann Miller Ben's daughter. The only thing that makes living here not a living hell. It's weird out of all my family members she is the only one who I have anything in common with, other than my dad, Em reminds me of me when I was little, and sometimes I don't know how my parents lived through raising me. By the way Ben treats her, the way she looks up to me, the way I defend her from Ben, and by how much alike we are we might as well have been brother and sister, I just hope she doesn’t grow up like me I hope she doesn’t have to go through some of the things I had to go through.

I stepped onto the bus said hi to our new bus driver and made my way back to seat fourteen. It seemed we had a new bus driver every day I stopped keeping track around our fourth but I'd say it's somewhere up in the high teens. I blame the little kids in the front of the bus they're so annoying they make me want to stab my eye out with the handle of a knife. Danny and Zane got on at the next stop sitting in front of me in seat twelve.

"You guys ready for our first gig tonight?" I asked tearing one of my headphones out.

"Yeah we're gonna kick ass!" Zane exclaimed, "What song should we play?" I looked down at my mp3 player to see what song I was listening to.

"How 'bout that offspring song, You're Gonna Go Far Kid?" I asked.

"Oh yeah, I love that song," Danny agreed.

"I can't wait," I said though I was terrified of going up on that stage. But I knew if I ever wanted to be the second Jimi Hendrix in the rock and roll hall of fame, which I knew I did, I was gonna have to man up.

"JIMI!" I heard my math teacher Mrs. Smith roar as I zoned back in.

"What?" I asked.

"Would you like to join us?" Mrs. Smith asked with more than a hint of annoyance in her voice.

"Yeah, sorry,"

"Well if you're sorry then why do you keep doing it, what do I have to do to get you to listen?”

"I don't know," I admitted. She looked like she was getting ready to flip out on me but she decided against it and went back to teaching.

I hate my brain, I am fast, I may not be strong or smart but I'm fast at almost everything singing, playing guitar, running, swimming, I'm fast at just about everything, except thinking. So while the rest of my body is accelerating at an unbelievable rate, my brain is lagging behind at two miles per hour. That's why stuff I'm really good at like guitar I've had to teach myself to do almost without thinking, as if it was just instinctive, and that's why I'm not good at much besides playing the guitar and singing.

I also have ADHD which is a disorder where you get super hyper and you can't sit still and you can't pay attention either getting distracted by other things or zoning out. For me zoning out is like sleeping you don't realize it happened until it's over, it's impossible to remember what you were doing before it happens or what you were thinking about during it all you remember is snapping back to reality and thinking what the heck just happened. I also have major anger issues I can remember one time when I was really little I was playing Frisbee with some of my friends one of them made me really mad and I threw the Frisbee right at him, it knocked him out for a couple seconds and he woke up with a black eye I guess that might be why Danny and Zane are my only true friends. Sometimes I really don't understand how they tolerate me I mean if I was someone else I'd probably hate me too.

I also have something that I don't know what it's called, I don't even know if there's a name for it. I call it SAD Smart Ass Disorder because that's what people think it is they think I'm just being a smart ass. Basically for me to understand something it needs to be crystal clear like once I got in trouble at lunch and they told me to go to the back of the line so I went to the back of the line and got yelled at because our cafeteria has two lines and apparently I went to the back of the wrong line. When I tried to explain to them that I didn't know which line they were talking about they threw me in detention. All the teachers just think I'm one of those jokers who doesn't care about anything but I do actually try to do my best in school I'm not one of those kids but every teacher in the school think I am. Ben always yells at me and gets mad at me for my disorders especially my SAD, That's half the reason I hate him because whenever I'm around him he's yelling at me and calling me an idiot.

I've gotten better with all of it though, I used to be a complete psycho. I'll never forget that day in fourth grade I was in the back of the class and I had snapped the day before I figured out how much of a monster Ben was that was the first time he'd ever hit me. I wanted to hit back I wanted revenge but I was too small and weak so I took it out on the one person I knew I could hurt myself. Most people who try to hurt themselves cut their wrists I was too young to know about this so I had a different strategy, I took my fingernails and dug them into my head and pulled back as hard and as fast as I could until my forehead looked like a cat's scratching post. I can't remember much else how they got me to settle down but the one thing that's crystal clear in my mind is when the teacher opened the closet in the back of the room and said, "look at you, you’re a monster." Those words haunt me everyday along with the image of a little boy blood mixing with tears as it rushes from his forehead down past a black eye and a busted lip.

Ever since i knew what dreams were I knew I had two dreams in life: One, for my band to become famous and share our music with the world. I want people to remember the name X Hero, to stand in front of a crowd singing and playing as they chant the words along with us. I wanna prove everyone who said we’d never make it wrong Ben, Mom,and everyone else who ever doubted us. But the main reason I want X Hero to become legendary is to inspire, if our music can change just one persons life and give them hope like music has done for me than my dream has come true.

Two, I want to be a hero, I always have. I don’t know why but I’ve always wanted someone to look up to me, to save someone from something to matter to someone. But that day proved that dream was out of my reach I had already turned into a monster.

"I can't do this, there's no way I can do this," I say pacing back and forth in the poor excuse for a backstage in the huge building, picturing the monstrous crowd waiting me. I looked around the corner and my stomach sank as I saw about a hundred people in the crowd.

"What the hell, I thought this was supposed to be an underground kinda thing why are there so many people here?" I asked once again pacing.

"Dude just relax we'll do fine, at least they're not people we know," Zane said. I looked around the corner again to confirm his statement.

Danny pulled me back, "Just pretend they're not even there pretend it's just us at practice," he advised but nothing they said could make my nervousness go away.

"We're on," Zane announced walking out onto the stage. I was so nervous I thought I was gonna throw up again. I could feel sweat beading on my forehead as I walked around the corner. The crowds cheers filled my ears reminding me how many people were watching. The room was completely dark except for the spotlight shining right on us. My knees weakened and my arms felt like one hundred pound weights. The crowd went quiet which was even worst than before. Zane played me in on the symbol but I didn't move, I couldn't move I was frozen in fear. I could feel everyone in the massive building just staring at me as I stood there like an idiot.

The silence broke not with music, but with angry screams from the crowd as they all yelled, "Choke, choke." I scanned the crowd full of Mohawked punks trying to boo us of the stage. The only person not screaming at us was a girl in the front row I think she was our age but I could barely see her through the darkness. An alarm sounded telling us we had choked. I was never gonna hear the end of this. We walked backstage and out the side door into the alley. I’m never gonna hear the end of this.

"What the hell was that?" Danny asked with disgust.

"Sorry I was just nervous," I explained.

"We all were but that doesn't mean you have to make us look like idiots in front of all of those people!" Zane exclaimed.

"Look you guys wouldn't have known how to play without me," I said.

"We wouldn't have choked either," Zane snapped.

"You're right, because X-Hero wouldn't exist without me," I reminded them.

"Well maybe it shouldn't!" Danny shouted.

"Fine I don't wanna be in a band with a bunch of idiots," I agreed.

"Ironic the kid with the attention span of a squirrel is calling us idiots," Zane remarked. My fists clenched as I tried to overcome the urge to break his jaw with my guitar.

"F*ck you guys," I said ripping the guitar pick from my neck and throwing it to the ground as a tear escaped my eye. I walked away leaving them. I can't believe my two only friends had just turned their backs on me.

I sat on the park table with my guitar in my hands, I can't play at home without Ben throwing a fit and I haven't even talked to Danny or Zane since the fight a week ago. I tried to give up guitar for good but that only lasted about three days I think I've always had at least a strand of hate for Danny and Zane. Mostly Danny even though he was my best friend. I think the reason I hated him was because he is exactly like me, except of course more athletic, better looking, taller, smarter, funnier... He was a constant reminder of everything I couldn't do which is a lot. He always outshined me. He could outshine me at almost everything, everything except music, playing guitar was the one thing I am kick ass at. But still that left it like Jimi one Danny one thousand. I also despised Zane a lot to he was one of the funniest and coolest people I've ever met, but sometimes he could just be a complete jerk. I guess the only reason I've been friends with them all this time is because they were the only people I could really laugh with.

The biggest problem now was gonna be finding some new friends. For some surprising reason not that many people jump at the opportunity to be friends with a kid who's dumb as a rock, with an attention span the same size as his short fuse, who some think is crazy and others think is retarded. I've been sitting at the nerds table for the last couple of days just to avoid being that kid who sits alone at the lunch table.

I played through some chords trying to decide what to play. Then I remembered the first I ever learned how to play, that I could remember at least, Paralyzer by Finger Eleven. I strummed the first chord and heard the drums in my head playing four beats before I continued with my guitar strumming wildly to the beat I heard in my head. I closed my eyes I could hear everything coming together perfectly in my head my guitar complemented by the pounding of the drums and joined by the second guitar no wait I wasn't imagining that last part.

I opened my eyes to see maybe the most amazing girl I've ever seen a guitar in her hands and a smile planted on her beautiful face that made my heart jump in my chest. Her blonde wavy hair flowed down to her shoulders. Her bright blue eyes seemed to shine as they stared into me. She looked like the kind of girl who wouldn't even talk to a kid like me. Somehow I managed to keep playing, though I was completely struck by her. Something inside me was screaming not to mess up, this is my game, I is in my element. This is the only thing I am really good at so I was determined to impress her.

Our timing was perfect as our hands traveled through the frets and music rang out around us. When we got the last chorus I guess I got cocky because my mouth busted open and the lyric flowed off my tongue, "Well I'm not paralyzed but I seem to be struck by you I wanna make you move because you're standing still if your body matches what your eyes can do you'd probably move right through me on my way to you."

She sang the next line repeating the chorus her voice sounded like an angels as she hit the notes perfectly. The song ended and she moved tables sliding next to me.

"Hey," she said in excitement.

"Uhh... hi," I managed to spit out in a small voice.

"Jimi Schaffer, right?" she asked.

"Yeah," I answered in confusion how'd she know my name and why was she talking to me in the first place.

"My name's Caroline most people just call me Car, through," Car announced, "I am like X hero's biggest fan."

"Well there's not that much competition for that roll," I joked.

"I've seen all your videos on YouTube, you guys are awesome, is your middle name really Hendrix" she asked.

"Yeah my dad named me he was obsessed with the guy, he taught me how to play,”

"Wow he must be a great teacher," she said, another word I don't like 'be'.

"Was... he was a great teacher," I corrected. For the first time since I met her, her smile disappeared.

"Jimi is your dad..." she trailed off everyone is afraid to finish that question. It actually gets insulting, I mean people die I've learned to accept that, though I can remember many times when I cried myself to sleep about it.

"Dead yeah," I admitted.

"I'm sorry," she said looking at me with sympathetic eyes.

"Don't be it's not your fault, I'm fine sometimes it sneaks up on me when I least expect it but I'm fine, my last memory with him is when he took me to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, where one day I hope to be on display it was awesome there were a bunch of instruments from famous musicians and then we got to the guitar section, they had all kinds of famous guitars, they even had a double necked one, and that's when I saw my dream guitar Jimi Hendrix's white fender stratocaster, when I saw Jimi Hendrix on the sign I thought it was my guitar," I explained laughing, "They had these instruments, I still have a picture of me and my dad, he let me have the guitar and he was on the bass." Her smile returned to her face as the sunlight danced across her teeth. "Did you see when I..." I started to ask desperate to change the subject as much as I like reminding people how much of a great person my dad was it makes me realize I can't say that without saying the word "was".

"Your stage fright, yeah I was in the front row. That audience was brutal I was the only one not screaming at you,"

"Well you won't have to worry ‘bout that anymore X hero is done,”

"No you guys can't split up, you guys are awesome, you can't give up now," she sounded as if she was giving an inspirational speech.

"What do you expect us to do go back out there? they'll eat us alive,”

"Not when they see how good you are," she argued, maybe she was right we could make a comeback we can't give up just because we messed up once.

"You wanna come to a concert this Friday?" I asked as a wild grin crept over my face.

"Sup guys," I said sitting down at Danny and Zane's table. They looked at me with confused expressions probably wondering why I would sit down with them.

"You ready to apologize yet," Zane asked.

"Look guys this is stupid, we shouldn't let one mistake ruin our dream or our friendship, I signed us up for this Friday what do you say?" I asked them.

They exchanged glances before Danny said, "Alright but you choke again and we're done for good."

"Oh, and you'll never guess who I met yesterday," I exclaimed

"A therapist?" Danny joked.

I ignored his comment as I continued, "We have a fan."

"Yeah I know my mom to," Zane said.

"No seriously she's seen all of our stuff on YouTube, she says she's our biggest fan," I informed them.

"She you say?" Zane asked his one eyebrow lifting and his crazy grin appearing on his face, "Who is it?"

"Oh my god you’re all here, all of X-Hero!" Car said jumping into a chair between me and Zane.

"Hey babe, how'd you like to go out with a drummer," Zane asked in an entirely overconfident voice.

"Not a chance," Car answered quickly.

"Well I tried," Zane said in defeat.

"So what's your name?" Danny questioned

"Caroline, but you can call me Car," she informed them, "How did you guys come up with the name, X hero?"

"We came up with like ten names and voted on them, I'm pretty sure X hero was Jimi's idea," Danny informed her.

"Yeah, when I was a kid before I wanted to be a guitarist I just wanted to be a hero someone who helped people saved people but I found out that I was more of a monster than a hero so I suggested X hero as in used to be a hero," I explained, I gave out a slight laugh so they wouldn't see the emotional battle inside me started by that word: 'monster'.

"I can't wait to see you guys play tonight," Car said changing the subject.

"That's what she said," I remarked, ah that's what she said jokes the lowest and cheapest form of comedy. I liked to laugh making jokes with all the sadness in my life laughing, joking around, playing guitar, and listening to music were the only things that kept me from falling into the black.

They all broke out laughing, even her laugh was amazing it was like music to my ears, a smile crept over my face, maybe I had something else to add to the list.

"These guys are amazing even though I don't care for their music choice," Danny said. They were a rap band "Gangsta Street" they were singing Power by Kanye West. Personally I liked the song as I said I like almost any kind of music but this was war and they were going down our song choice for tonight was Trapt, Headstrong.

"You're on in five," a man in a headset announced walking briskly past us.

"Minutes?" I asked. The man stopped and turned to me.

"No seconds," he said sarcastically mumbling something that resembled, "idiot," under his breath as he walked away. I was counting down the seconds I was once again scared out of my mind. As we walked past Gangsta Street their loose pants dragging on the floor behind them, that feeling of fear swept back into me. I walked up to the mike plugged my guitar in and said, "Hi I'm Jimi Hendrix Schaffer, and we're X hero." I heard some chuckles and whispers when I said my name half of them probably remembering me choking and the other half questioning my middle name. My stage fright came back and I almost thought I was gonna choke again, But as Zane hit the drums I looked down at Car cheering in the front row my hands started strumming and fretting as if I was a machine, and my fear became nonexistent.

"Circling your, circling your, circling your head, contemplating everything you ever said now I see the truth, I got doubt a different motive in your eyes and now I’m out see you later I see your fantasy, you want to make it a reality paved in gold see inside, inside of our heads yeah well now that’s over I see your motives inside, decisions to hide," We were going onto the chorus definitely the breaking point of the song my favorite part.

"Back off I’ll take you on Headstrong to take on anyone I know that you are wrong Headstrong we’re headstrong Back off I’ll take you on Headstrong to take on anyone I know that you are wrong and this is not where you belong I can’t give everything away I won’t give everything away," my words bursted out above the roar of the crowd. I was playing and singing like a man possessed. As we finished the song the crowd lost it applause, whistling, cheering.

"I think we have a winner!" The questionable looking man who ran the battle said walking out on stage and holding my hand into the sky as if I had just won a boxing championship. It was the greatest feeling in the world standing in the spotlight as everyone screamed "X HERO, X HERO!" even, no especially the most amazing girl in the world. I looked backstage to see the “gangstas” storm out into the alley in defeat, Déjà vu, except last time we were the ones leaving in defeat.

"You coming?" Danny asked, as he opened the door.

"No I'm gonna walk Car home," I told them.

"Nice," Zane said nodding his head, "Good luck Romeo," he called as they both walked out the door.

I walked onto the stage most of the crowd had dispersed but she was still there jumped down in front of her, "Hey," I greeted.

A smile lit up on her face the moment she saw me, "You guys rocked!" she screamed wrapping her arms around me and squeezing me as hard as she could. Then I felt something amazing it was like my heart skipped a beat, like we were connected in some way to one another.

"Hey you want me to walk you home?" I asked.

"Sure," she replied. We walked backstage and out the door into alley.

"You guys were really awesome," she told me, turning to face me. We got closer, I wrapped my arms around her and closed my eyes as I leaned into her.

"Am I interrupting something?" a deep voice asked from behind us making me jump. I opened my eyes and looked behind me to see a boy named Henry Reese. Out of the thousands of people that I hate Henry was definitely at the top of the list. He thinks he's the strongest kid in school He's incredibly tall with his red hair shaved, and always dressed in baggy clothes hat pretending he's some kind of thug. To his left stood Ronnie Sanders he was extremely fat and short but somehow still incredibly strong and athletic he had short brown hair and was decked out in camouflage like a wannabe hunter. On his right was a kid I've never seen before he was about my height wearing a white beater tank top almost covered by a black leather jacket.

"Yo that was pretty good Jimi, how long you been playin'?" Henry asked.

"Seven years," I answered. I swallowed hard hoping he didn't notice, I've seen way too many movies to not know what's about to happen.

"Wow I was guessing seven days," Henry said. Anger took me over, guitar is the one thing I'm good at there's no way I'm gonna let him say I'm not.

"Jimi don't!" Car shrieked as I lunged forward and delivered a right hook right into the side of Henry's face. I ripped the guitar from my back and threw it ,cringing when the strings hit the ground, as the kid I didn't know grabbed me forcing my arms behind my back. Car made a run for it and made it to the edge of the alley before Ronny tackled her pinning her to the ground. Henry rose from the ground wiping the blood from under his nose.

"Ya know we came tonight to check out the competition, didn't expect the competition to be three nerds who choked last week," Henry explained. I struggled trying to pull away from what's-his-name, but it was no use. Henry laughed his fist connected with my face a blow that would have surely put me on the ground if I wasn't being held up. His left fist hammered into my chest knocking the wind out of me. As I gasped for air I saw his arm c*** back to deliver a straight right perfect I dodged to the left and his fist collided into what's-his-name's face he released my arms as he fell to the ground. I swung my arm into Henry knocking him to the ground.

"Jimi!" Car screamed as I raced over to her I pulled Robby of her and held him to the ground with my left hand as I threw punch after punch at his pudgy face. I was so mad I couldn't think straight, though I've never really been good at thinking straight.

"Jimi! Stop!" Car yelled but I couldn't it's almost like I wasn't in control. She grabbed my arm as it went down holding me back I looked down in shame at the bloody bruised face I had wrecked it reminded me of that horrible sight in the mirror in fourth grade. It's way more frightening to be the monster than their victim. My face lit up with pain as Henry's fist drilled into it knocking me to the ground.

"Car, run!" I screamed as she bolted from the alley. Ronny got up and the three of them kicked and kicked I felt like I was gonna puke as they dug their shoes into my gut. They all stopped, Henry bent down and turned me over so I could see him.

"Better not see you at the next battle idiot," he informed me, giving me one last kick before he and his boys left. I opened my swollen eyes to see a blue guitar pick, with a bright red X sharpied on it, attached to a chain and laying on the ground, laying on the blacktop beside me. I reached my hand over and grabbed it. I slowly rose from the ground the pick still in my fist the silver chain wrapped around my aching knuckles, Henry has a hard jaw. I picked up my guitar and strapped it on my back. I slid my headphones in my ears and suddenly my life became a music video, an outcasted teenager just beaten by three bullies walking home with his head down all synced up to green day, boulevard of broken dreams. I loved that song, it brought back horrible memories, before I knew Zane and Danny I had absolutely no friends and at recess when everyone was play four square, and football with their friends I would wonder around the playground I would roam the playground alone singing that song completely from memory after hearing it on the radio just once. After a while I found myself singing along as I walked down the dark road, just like old times, "I walk this lonely road, the only one that I will ever know, don't know where it goes but it's home to me and I walk alone."

Walking past Danny's place, I looked towards my house to see every light on, I'm screwed.

“Where’ve you been?” Ben asked, my mind raced as I tried to come up with a good excuse. Luckily he didn’t give me time to explain. “IT IS ELEVEN THIRTY, YOUR MOTHER HAS BEEN WORRIED SICK!” he waited as if he wanted me to say something, but I didn’t know what to say. I just stood there awkwardly as he gave me the death stare. “YOU'RE GROUNDED!” he screamed as his fist struck my face hard making Henry's hits seem weak. I pushed past my mom who was now standing in the doorway staring, she knew Ben hit me all the time but she never did anything, I think she’s too afraid to stand up to him afraid he might leave or worst, I wonder if Ben ever hit her. I walked up the stairs my room. I turned the lights out and got in my bed, but I didn't go to sleep I just l laid awake thinking. I did this almost every night, this is the only time I really have to think it's quiet and easy to focus. I thought about my dad, Car, Ben, everything.

Car and I walk through the door into a huge party filled with thousands of the most popular kids from our school, mostly people that hate me. We walk around, she introduces me to her friends, who are probably wondering the same thing I am: why is she going out with that loser. I know everyone there is staring at me I can feel their eyes and hear their whispers.

"Why is he here?"

"Look at his shirt,"

"What's wrong with that kid?"

The band takes a break from playing. I can't take this anymore, time to show these fags what I'm made of. I step up on the stage and strap the guitar to my chest. If everyone wasn't staring at me before they definitely are now. They were screaming at me.

"Hey nerd, get off the stage!"

"The hell are you doing? Get off the stage!"

My music through the ocean of screams and boos.

"Look, if you had one shot, and one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted, in one moment, would you capture it, or just let it slip? Yo his palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, there's vomit on his sweater already mom's spaghetti, he's nervous but on the surface he looks calm and ready to drop bombs, but he keeps on forgetting what he wrote down the whole crowd grows so loud he opens his mouth but the words won't come out, he's chokin' everybody's jokin' now his clock's run out times up over blough. Snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity, oh there goes rabbit he choked he's so mad but he won't give up that easy nope he won't have it..."

The crowd boos transform into cheers, and before I know the drummer, bass player, and Car were up on stage with me. The song ended and the crowd was screaming my name. Car and I leaned towards each other, and then darkness. I looked to my side to see my alarm clock that read 3:40. It was all a dream the popular kids still hated me and Car and I weren't dating, not yet anyway. I remember when Car and I were walking out of the battle, what was about to happen before Henry interrupted us? Every time I even think about her my heart skips a beat, and I get a feeling of pure joy, but at the same time it makes me sad because I know she'd never go out with someone like me.

"Oh my god what happened to your face?!?" Zane asked as soon as he and Danny sat down. I had some major scars and bruises from my run in with Henry.

"You should see the other guy," I joked thinking about how bruised Ronnie's face was

"Did Ben do that?" Danny asked. Danny, Zane, and Car are my only friends who knew about Ben beating me, actually they’re my only friends.

"Some of it,"

"What happened?" Zane asked.

"It was Henry Reese, apparently he has a band and they were waiting for me after the battle, he warned me not to come on Friday, then Ben busted me for sneaking out,"

"We're still going to the battle though right?" Danny asked.

"Hell ya, nothing's gonna stand in our way," I told him. I wasn’t gonna let anything stop us not Henry, not Ben, all this BS is just gonna make us stronger.

As soon as we stepped into the cafeteria, for breakfast, everyones eyes were on me. I guess I'd be staring to if I saw a guy who looked like he just went a few rounds with Mike Tyson. I'm surprised I even went to school most of the time they made me stay home after an encounter with Ben's bad side (as if he has a good side), so nobody gets suspicious. They usually kept me home at least to the point where I could make the excuse that I fell, and if I told anyone otherwise I would "fall" again. But what am I supposed to say now, "Oh I fell, down two flights of stairs, then had a hammer dropped on my face, bad luck right?" I doubt a lot of people will believe that.

Car looked like her jaw was about to plummet to the ground when she saw my face. She didn't have a scratch on her, if she did that hillbilly Ronnie Sanders would be in a grave right now.

"Oh my god, what did they do to you?!" she asked and I suddenly realized she left before they started really kicking my ass.

"After you left it got pretty bad," I told her.

"I guess I shoulda stayed?"

"No, then we'd both look like this," I said pointing to my face, "I wouldn't them to mess up your beautiful face." She smiled, that smile that I love, it melts me inside her amazing blue eyes seemed to twinkle, her crooked yet perfect seeming, white teeth shinned, her cheeks lifted as her smile grew pushing them up.

An awkward silence rose then my voice, "You ever think there's a reason all this stuff is holding us back?"

There was another brief silence then Zane said possibly the smartest thing that had ever erupted from his loud mouth, "To give us something to rise above." I guess he's right you need to climb out of hell to get to heaven.

Things are extremely tense at home mostly just silence and death stares from Ben. I try to stay in my room most of the night but Ben would probably flip out on me if I so much as asked him if I could eat in my room. So now we're just sitting at the table pretending nothing ever happened, mom and Ben are talking about something I don't know what I'm to busy thinking. That's the weird thing about ADHD sometimes you can't think because someone around you is talking and sometimes you can't hear people over the sound of your own thoughts.

I can't believe mom doesn't do anything about him aren't moms supposed to love their kids more than anything, why doesn't she leave him? She knows he beats me and he probably beats her, the human mind is fascinating sometimes. Sometimes I think I hate her to just because she doesn't leave that monster, but I just can't figure out what I think I mean she's my mom. I remember how she used to be before Ben twisted her into a female version of himself, she was nice, funny, smart, and she always knew just the right thing to say, whenever I was feeling down she could cheer me up, she was my go to person for advice on anything, but now my hero has been replaced by the hollow shell of a person drowning in depression and "stuck" in an abusive relationship. I wonder what it's like to be her, how she thinks, how she justifies all of this.

A whispering voice pulled me out of my thoughts. “Jimi.”

I cracked open my door and peaked to my moms room the lights were off and I could hear Ben snoring loudly I walked over to Em’s room and crept inside.

“Why was daddy yelling?” she asked.

“He’s just mad and worried.”

“I’m scared,”

“Did you have another bad dream?”


“Than what are you afraid of,”

“Daddy,” I didn’t know what to say, it’s her dad she has to love him somehow, just like my mom has to love me somehow. How do you comfort a child who is afraid of her own father.

“Em you shouldn’t be afraid of daddy, he’s just...” my voice trailed off I was completely speechless.

There was a long pause before Em finally asked, “Can you sing me a song?”

“Sure,” Em loved when I sang to her, when most kid’s can’t get to sleep or have bad dreams they go to sleep in their parents bed, but whenever Em couldn’t get to sleep she came and got me to sing for her.

“Hold on to me as we go, as we roll down this unfamiliar road, and all though this wave is stringing us along, just know you're not alone cause I’m gonna make this place your home. Settle down it’ll all be clear, don’t pay no mind to the demons they fill you with fear. The trouble it might drag you down. If you get lost you can always be found. Just know you’re not alone, cause I’m gonna make this place your home.”

By the time I hit the chorus she was out like a light. I felt myself getting ready to fall asleep, but I knew I had to get out of her room before I fall asleep. One time when I was trying to get her to go to sleep I fell asleep and when Ben found me in the morning he threatened to call the police, because he thought I was raping her or something, sorry for trying to comfort your daughter obviously your not so good at it.

Ben’s ear bloodening snoring rang out through the house, that’s my cue after a long week of preparation, receiving dirty looks from Henry, and making up excuses for my bruises it was finally Friday. twenty minutes till the final battle. Butterflies flew through my stomach as I rose out my bed silently and picked up my guitar. I walked past the stairs to my mom’s room slowly, suddenly the snoring stopped I was frozen in fear until the snoring picked back up. I walked down to the kitchen and opened the door as I heard a gravely voice behind me, that is when I realized the snoring upstairs had subsided.

“Where you think you’re going?” I turned back to see Ben decked out in a black sleeveless shirt and striped pajama pants. “You think you can just sneak out whenever you want.”

I looked to the stairs to see Emily staring down at us. I nodded at her to go up to her room but she didn’t. Ben looked back seeing my signal.

“What’s wrong Daddy?”

“Go t’ ya room Emily.”

“Don’t hurt him Daddy.”

“I SAID GO BACK TO BED!” he said as he said running over to her.

“HEY, STAY AWAY FROM HER!” I screamed at him.

“DON’T TELL ME HOW TO RAISE MY DAUGHTER IDIOT,” he shouted as he gripped the neck of my guitar and ripped it off my back and smashed it on the ground again and again until on the fourth smash the base broke off attached only by the four chords that remained unsnapped I kneeled down staring at all I had left from my dad on the floor in pieces. Then I noticed the plate in the back of the base was broken and inside was a crumpled up picture a picture of my dad and me in the rock and roll hall of fame I held a guitar in my hands and he had a bass guitar.On the back of the picture two words were written: “Play On”, written in my dad’s horrible handwriting. I reached up and punched the enraged look right off Ben’s face and ran out the door.

It wasn’t long before I reached the graveyard. I’d already called Car and told her to bring her guitar and an extra one, thank god she has an extra one I didn’t think she did I know Danny does and I would’ve called him but he never answers his damn phone. I had to stop by and talk to my dad. I walked up to his grave and sat on the ground reading the tiny excuse for a grave that read,



MAY I5 2004

“Hey dad, wish me luck, this song is gonna be for you,” I said, I am really at a loss for words it’s hard to talk to someone who doesn’t talk back, this must be how people feel when they pray. I walked away placing the picture by the stone.

“Where the hell is he!?” I heard Zane yell from inside the door we probably had seconds left we were going first this time.

“Right here,” I replied walking in the door.

“Here you go,” Car said handing me a guitar. My eyes grew wide as Jimi Hendrix’s white Fender Strato. filled my hands.

“It was supposed to be a surprise for when you guys win.”

“This is awesome!” I exclaimed.

“What are we playing?” Zane asked.

“All Along The Watchtower,” I answered, my dad’s favorite song.

“do you know how to play that,” I asked turning to Car. It had completely slipped my mind to check if Car knew how to play the song.

“Ya,” She answered, and before another word could be said we were called on to the stage.

“How’s everyone doing tonight?!” I screamed to the crowd. What sounded like a million people screamed back various replies from “Good!” to “Get off the stage!”

“My name is Jimi Hendrix Schaffer and this is Next Hero!” I said pointing back at the rest of the band.

My arm thrashed through the chords as I played the intro with Car.

“There must be some kind of way out of here, said the joker to the thief,

there's too much confusion, I can't get no relief. businessmen they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth none will level on the line, nobody offered his word, hey" I realized there was another voice singing along with me the voice of an angel the voice of Car. I bent the strings wildly my hands going so fast they were starting to feel arthritic.

"No reason to get excited, the thief, he kindly spoke there are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke but you and I, we've been through that and this is not our fate so let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late,” once again me and Car exploded into the finger mutilating solo that came up just about every part of the song I didn’t sing.
“All along the watchtower princess kept the view while all the women came and went barefoot servants, too, outside in the cold distance a wildcat did growl two riders were approaching and the wind began to howl.” I smiled over at Car and she sent me a smile back. After the last chord I dropped my guitar leaving it dangling from my shoulder by the strap I lifted my fist up into the air holding the mic and my lucky pick. I grabbed Car with my other hand and we leaned into each other sharing the best kiss ever. Cheers, Applause, and Oooooos burst out from the crowd and filled the air.

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