Old School

“I need you to cancel my 3 o’clock with the Shepards. I’ll be out of the office the rest of the day.” My fingers gripped my purse so hard the tips turned white.

Marcy nodded, her black ponytail bouncing. “Do you want your calls forwarded?”

“No, please just take a message.” I forced a smile, practiced and perfect after years of working in sales.

Marcy grinned back. “Will do. See you tomorrow.”

I hurried out the ornate door of the offices of Exquisite Haus Realty, my heels echoing on the marbled floors of the extravagant entry way. The air warmed as I approached the revolving doors. I merged into my compartment – the stickiness slamming into me – and walked into the afternoon heat.

I displayed none of my discomfort, my work mask fully in place. I slid my fingers into my purse, fumbling for my keys.

They dropped to the ground.

I stopped, bent, and picked them up.

They fell again, my fingers shaking.

“Let me help you.” The man was impeccably dressed and familiar, but I couldn’t place him. He reached for my keys and handed them to me.

“Th-thank you.” I bit my lip too late, the tiny stutter already loose.

“You are welcome.”

I tilted my head in acknowledgment and moved on before he continued the conversation.

I managed to unlock my car with the remote and slide into the soft exterior.

I twisted the key, the engine roaring to life. I flicked the dials to cool the air, and searched in my purse, pulling out my iPod.

I turned it on, going straight to my playlists.

Clients 1 – Older.

Clients 2 – Yuppie.

Clients 3 – Unknown.



Old School.

I tapped “Old School” and the moans of ecstasy from White Zombie’s “More Human Than Human” blasted from my car’s speakers.

I turned the volume down and I kicked off my heels, tossing them into the passenger seat. I waited until I hit the interstate and cranked the volume; my body vibrated with the beat.

How many times had I faked an orgasm to this song, stoking the flames in John’s eyes until he transformed my cries into real ones?

Marilyn Manson’s “Sweet Dreams” shuffled into play and I screamed, “Some of them want to use you. Some of them want to get used by you.”

We’d used each other and loved every minute. 

I giggled as Adam Sandler’s “Piece of Shit Car” floated to me. The description fit John’s high school junker perfectly. “I can’t see through the windshield, cause it’s got a big fucking crack, and the interior smells real bad, cause my friend puked in the back.”

Guilty. I never touched Goldschläger again.

“Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica was next. I still remembered how to tap the notes out on the piano.

He’d taught me one afternoon, after sneaking into the music practice room to avoid detention.

My grip tightened and my face dampened with tears.

I drove faster as the songs carried me into the suburbs.

Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” – the irony as he sang me to sleep.

Pantera’s “Becoming” – my shoulder dislocated after crowd surfing.

“Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers – his voice stealing the senior talent show.

“Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey – his merciless teasing because I loved the song.

“Thriller” by Michael Jackson – getting busted for pranking our principal on Halloween.

Fields increased as houses vanished, the countryside opening before me. I turned into a state park, the path etched in my memory. The trees barely marked the passage of time since I’d last been here, the six years a tiny blip in their life cycle.

Then it came on: the Jeff Buckley version of “Hallelujah”, replacing the older Cale cover as my favorite.

I barely made it to our old spot before my vision clouded, the tears racing down my cheeks.

“Well there was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show that to me do you?
But remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was hallelujah.”

Distance. Pulling away. The end of us.

The call today from his younger brother.

“John’s dead.”

A Red Dress Club writing prompt


“Take a character from one of your stories and examine his or her iPod playlist. What 10 songs best describe the character?”

This prompt is from Writers Digest.


This is fiction, taking place about a week and a half before “Stood Up.”

Constructive criticism welcomed and much wanted. Please?


About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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19 Responses to Old School

  1. That was good! I loved the way you built it up. Stopping by from the red dress club.

  2. Mel says:

    This is great. If you haven’t already, you really should write a book. Perhaps it was word limit, but as the song titles went forward the thing you shared about them was a bit shorter and left me wanting more. Otherwise, I love how this told the story of these two people and how it illustrated that songs are more than what’s on the face of them.

  3. I loved all the emotions in this….great job!

  4. Random Girl says:

    This is great! How the playlist tells your journey, good and bad, with this person. The last song got me,,, my fave for it’s sadness and irony. Great job!

  5. Nichole says:

    I love the way you listed her different playlists, Kelli…what a cool idea.
    And that Buckley version of “Hallelujah” is one of my favorites.
    I’ll be happily singing it all day now.

    Nicely done, as always.

  6. Carrie says:

    That was a great way to get the songs in the story. Very well done.

    Sorry, no critique from me 🙂

  7. what great songs you picked. I loved how the music became a character in this story. I could hear each song and could feel the emotions they evoked for her (you?). Loved it!
    I thought the intro was strong too. Sorry, no concrit from me.

    • I admit, I chose the character whose musical tastes mirrored my own. I thought of Lily, and realized we have almost nothing in common musically and she’d required more time Googling songs than writing about her.

      I have strong memories of all of these songs, just completely different ones.

  8. Ashley says:

    So sad. This was a really great post for the prompt! I think you nailed it. I loved the songs and how you included humor in the piece. This was really great!

  9. I think it worked well. You really captured her nerves and her memories.

    The italics threw me a bit. They don’t match up; you had her asides in italics, then you made the songs italics, then lyrics.

    LOVE Hallelujah. It is now totally in my head!

  10. tsonoda148 says:

    Very much enjoyed this post. I’ve been reading the other ones with the playlist choice, and this one is a unique, and the ending is powerful. Nicely done!

  11. angela says:

    I think this worked really well! (And the inclusion of Piece of Shit Car? I haven’t thought of that song in years and years.)

    The only thing that broke the flow for me was her interaction with the man picking up her car keys. His words seem forced, and I think you could get rid of his side of the dialogue, having him pick up the keys and hand them to her without speaking. Keep her “Th-thank you.” and the description of their encounter. I know it is such a little thing, but the rest of it flowed so seamlessly! (And of course, it’s just my opinion!)

  12. I could never pull off a playlist post like this! Tremendous job. I, too, loved the different playlists you mentioned, very telling. And Goldschlager, omg! I will never touch that stuff again.

    But this? This left me hungry for more. I think you could take this further. Do you want to?

  13. MamaRobinJ says:

    The opening with the description of her and her office was really visual for me and it set me up for a different sort of vulnerability. I loved driving with her, waiting to see what had happened, and the end was more powerful for it.

    My only comment is that I don’t know what “merging into her compartment” means. (A regional thing?)

    • “The compartment” I’m speaking of is one of the quadrants making up the revolving door leading to the outside. Then kind where if you have more than one person in one, you step on the others heel.

      Thank you for your comments. Most appreciated.

  14. Ironic Mom says:


    I have 4 versions of Hallelujah on my iPod.

    I have the song memorized.

    I swoon.

  15. CDG says:

    Okay, can I just say? The John Cale version is still my favorite, and other than my husband, you’re the only person I’ve ever heard reference it.

    I like that her reminiscences aren’t all nostalgic (faking it, using each other) because it lends authenticity, and when we discover that there’s grief motivating her choice of music, it hits home–there is so much anger in grief.

  16. I teared up at the end when I discovered her reason for needing the day off was because of him dying. He clearly meant something to her. The memories invoked after the song titles were a window into their relationship. The memories got shorter, perhaps as her feelings overwhelmed her. It’s like they got shorter the closer to her destination she got. Rather than getting wrapped up in just one, she had little scatterings of memories to clutch and hold.

    I love it!! SO well done. I think you were on the right track with doing a character that was more like you.

  17. Trish Loye Elliott says:

    Yup… loved this. Sad and it lends well to the next installments. Great work.

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