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Call Me Your Unbroken
by Chuck Augello

art by Hillary Degani
art by Hillary Degani
So Melissa and I finally hooked up at the hotel last night after Allison's wedding. Yeah, I know: everyone assumed we were a couple during The Lonely Eggshells days but that was just part of the act. I think we wanted to hook up but the music came first, like if we slept together and brought in all that relationship crap the band might fall apart. Which it did anyway, but then she met Zach and I met Deena and well...doesn't everyone have that one mad crazy love that slips away?

I had no idea she would even be at the wedding but after the ceremony I headed to the bar and there was Melissa standing alone in this amazing black dress. We started talking and it's been like three years since we've seen each other but remember how we were always humming the same songs simultaneously, like we were listening to a radio station only the two of us could hear? It was like that at the wedding, we were totally synched, and then Allison asked us to play some of the old songs. I got my Fender out of the car...yeah, I know, I still carry it around, it's crazy. It's been like five years since I quit but part of me never quits.

So that night we played a few originals: "Love and Special K," "Sleeping on the Porch with Geraldine," "Deep in You," a few others. Melissa's voice had all this soul and energy and I just totally shredded on the solo for "Call Me Your Unbroken." So after the reception I asked if she wanted to come up to my room and maybe work on a few songs and we wound up on the bed face-to-face playing around with these different riffs, writing down lyrics on the hotel pad. It was like all that drive and passion we used to put into the band crystallized into a single moment and there was just no way we could not make love that night. Melissa unhooked that amazing black dress and let it drop to the floor. My God, she was beautiful! You know that Van Morrison song where he sings, "And it stoned me to my soul..." That was it, man. Melissa and I made love after all these years and it just stoned me.

So we fell asleep together in this great soft hotel bed and when I woke up we were spooning but something had changed. My arm was draped over Melissa's stomach but it wasn't flat like the night before. She had a belly now, a big one, round and wide, and her hips had grown thick. When Melissa woke up I thought she might freak, and for a second she did, but then she broke into this beatific smile. I rested my face against her stomach and in a few seconds I heard it: a heartbeat. I felt a kick and I knew it was our baby. I know: it's impossible, but it didn't feel impossible, not in that moment. I grabbed my guitar and started strumming some simple chord progressions while Melissa rested her head on my lap. Freeze that moment—Melissa, the music, our baby—and I'd sign on for eternity.

Then her water broke, and Melissa let out this startled scream. She started pushing just like in the movies—push, breathe, push—and I squeezed her hand and caressed her hair and then we heard this cry, our baby's cry, the best song we'd ever written. I moved to the edge of the bed and carried our daughter from the womb to the basket of my arms.

I ran to the bathroom and soaked a washcloth in warm water, catching myself in the mirror. Everything had happened so fast. I couldn't make sense of it but didn't really want to. Maybe this was our destiny. All those years apart had been wrong and this was the correction.

I hurried back to the room and joined them in bed. Melissa held our baby against her breast as she curled her body against mine. We kissed our baby's face and then kissed each other as we drifted into sleep.

When I woke Melissa was standing by the balcony and I knew something was wrong. She was naked, her body slender and taut, her hips small again as if she'd never given birth. She held the baby at her breast as she took a step, then another, toward the edge of the balcony. I could sense what she was going to do, just like on stage I could anticipate her moves, and I jumped from the bed and ran to her.

"She's leaving us," Melissa said, and she held our baby over the balcony ledge.

Then she let go.

For a moment, only a moment, our baby froze in the air just long enough for me to catch a glimpse of her eyes. They were everything we'll ever wonder about for the rest of our lives.

And then she was gone.

There were no words. Melissa and I held each other until our skin grew cold, our hearts grew slow, until our eyes grew dim and blurry.

Then we dressed, Melissa stepping back into that amazing black dress. I slipped my Fender into its case and gave Melissa the pad with the lyrics. We checked out of the hotel and that was it. Who knows? Maybe we'll convince ourselves that it never happened, but it did happen, for a moment at least.

You're right: there should have been something more. We should have checked back into that hotel room and made love again, we should have tried to bring her back. We should have fought for it, but we didn't.

Read the interview.

Chuck Augello lives in New Jersey with his wife, dog, three cats, and several unnamed birds that inhabit the back yard. His work has appeared in Juked, Word Riot, Hobart, decomP, Red Fezjj, and other journals. He spends his days in a large building, slowly plotting his escape.

Hillary Degani is a freelance photographer and designer who lives at Mammoth Mountain year-round so she can snow board, ski, water ski, hike, play softball, ride her bike, and overall, stay out of L.A. traffic.


All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.





Issue Thirty-Eight (December 17, 2012): Call Me Your Unbroken by Chuck Augello «» Slow Dance by Andrea Danowski «» Moms' Advice by Amy Denham «» Crushed Ice by Gary Fincke «» Second Runner-Up by Faith Gardner «» The Fear of Something Happening by Nick Harmon «» Christopher by Annie Hartnett «» Messing with Texas by Anderson Holderness «» Exercise in Translation by Naira Kuzmich «» Boy Cyclops by Helen McClory «» We Were Always Laughing by Mark O'Neil «» The Speed of the Sound by Patty Petelin «» The Earth Drowns Us by Brenda Peynado «» Shit To Do with a Wedding Dress by Angela Readman «» The Invitation by Amy Scharmann «» The Abridged Biography of an American Sniper by Linda Simoni-Wastila «» Dark Times by Matthew Smart «» Parameters of a Kingdom by Laurie Saurborn Young «» Interviews: Chuck Augello «» Andrea Danowski «» Amy Denham «» Gary Fincke «» Faith Gardner «» Nick Harmon «» Annie Hartnett «» Anderson Holderness «» Naira Kuzmich «» Helen McClory «» Mark O'Neil «» Patty Petelin «» Brenda Peynado «» Angela Readman «» Amy Scharmann «» Linda Simoni-Wastila «» Matthew Smart «» Laurie Saurborn Young «» Cover Art by Josh George «» Letter From the Editor
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