By Nicole Woolaston
An Our Lady of Righteous Rage Side Story
Every time my alarm clock goes off, I just wanna throw a shoe at it. Sure, I know it’s not the clock’s fault I have to wake up and go to school, but it pisses me off just the same. It’s Friday morning. I can think of so many other places I’d rather go today, but no. School will be my destination.
I slowly sat up and swung my feet over the side of my bed. I paused and started at the alarm clock on the night stand next to my bed. As if staring at it was going to shut it off. I groaned as I reached over and silenced the alarm, and stood up. Friday at school. At least there’s the weekend to look forward to.
I strolled over to my closet, and slid the door open. As I dug around inside, in search of a pair of jeans, there was a knock at my bedroom door. “Come in,” I said. My voice sounded like crap: froggy from sleep.
The door opened, and Mom entered my room. “Hey, honey,” she said. “Looking for Narnia?”
I chuckled and shook my head. “Yeah, Mom,” I said. “I think I just saw Mr. Tumnus in here. What’s up?”
“I just wanted to make sure you were up,” Mom said. “Did you sleep okay?”
“I guess,” I said. I pulled out a hanger with a pair of black jeans on it, and slid the jeans off. “How about you?”
“I slept pretty well,” Mom said. She shoved her hands into the back pockets of her navy blue skinny-leg jeans. She was wearing one of her favorite T-shirts: black, with Green Day’s logo and heart-shaped hand grenade. And Chuck Taylor’s. She’s twenty-six, but she looks like she should be heading to high school with me.
“Nervous about this weekend?” I asked.
Mom shrugged her shoulders. “I think I am,” she said.
“Why?” I asked. I continued to look through my closet for a T-shirt to wear with the jeans. “It’s going to be like any other show, right?”
“No,” Mom said. “This show is going to be different. You’re going to be there. You, and your friends. So I have to bring my a-game.”
I grabbed my gray David Bowie shirt, and looked over at her with a raised eyebrow. “That’s why you’re nervous?”
Mom gave me a little half of a smile. “You’ve never been to one of my shows before,” she said. “And I just want to make sure you get to see me at my best.”
I smiled, and walked over and gave her a hug. “Don’t worry, Mom!” I said. “You’re going to be great. I know you will.” Down the hall, I could hear the door to the master bedroom open. “Your drummer, on the other hand,” I shouted. “That’s who you should be worried about!”
Rob, my stepfather, appeared behind Mom and leaned his head into my room. “You talking smack about me again, Jon?” he asked.
Mom giggled, and I nodded my head. “Just keeping you on your toes, Rob,” I said.
Rob gave Mom a quick kiss on her cheek. “I’m going to head over to Nick’s place. Coming?”
Mom nodded. “Yeah, I’m coming,” she said. She looked at me and asked, “So, you have your tickets, right?”
I nodded. “Yep,” I said.
“Good,” Mom said. “Okay. Have a good day, honey. I’ll see you later this evening, okay? We’ll get Chipotle or something.”
“Cool,” I said.
What had made my mother so nervous, was the upcoming show her band was doing at Webster Hall in the city tomorrow night. She, my stepfather Rob, and their friends Nick and Aidan were members of a band known as Our Lady of Righteous Rage. They were semi-punk and semi-metal. They had opened for several other bands over the past year or so, but now they were stepping up from being the opening act. Now, they were becoming headliners. They had played a few small clubs around the city, but playing at Webster Hall was a first for them. I had never been to an Our Lady show, but this weekend, Mom gave me tickets for myself and my two best friends, Phillip and Olivia. We were going to be in the mosh pit. I was trying to imagine moshing to my mother’s band.
Mom started out as the bass player for Our Lady, until Nick, the lead singer, pulled their friend Aidan in. Nick heard Mom sing, and said she was being wasted on bass. So, Our Lady had two lead singers. Aidan was on bass, and Rob was the drummer.
At school, and in public, my family managed to keep a pretty low profile. Nobody knew my parents were in a band. If they did know, they never said a word to me about it. Plus, Mom, Rob and I all have different last names. Rob’s last name is Zickye, Mom’s is Edwards and mine is Sarconi. The truth is, I’m adopted. Mom used to be married to my older cousin, David. They adopted me while they were still married. Then David turned into an asshole, and Mom divorced him. She fought him for custody of me, and eventually won (thank God).
I showered and got dressed, and had two Pop Tarts for breakfast. Mom had already left the house. If she had seen me eating just the pop tarts she would have scolded me and made me eat a bowl of cereal instead. She once suggested I eat some fruit instead.
“Pop Tarts have fruit filling, Mom,” I said. “See? It says so on the box.”
“That’s not the same thing,” Mom said.
But, this morning, she’s not around, and I can eat whatever the hell I want. This morning, it’s frosted strawberry.
When I arrived at school, there were kids in the hallway, at their lockers, talking about their weekend plans. Some were going to hang out at each other’s houses. Some would go to the movies. Others were talking about a party at some girl’s house (her parents were going to be away all weekend). But, there were little clusters of kids here and there, talking about an upcoming show at Webster Hall this weekend. A girl and two guys were standing near my locker. As I twisted the knob on my lock and opened my locker, I listened to their conversation.
“It’s Our Lady of Righteous Rage,” the girl said. “It’s gonna be so fucking awesome.”
“Hey, that girl guitarist is hot,” one of the guys said.
I felt a muscle in my neck grow tight. I wanted to say, “That’s my mother you’re talking about!”, but I can’t. We live a low profile life. But I guess that will probably change after this weekend.
“Hey, Jon,” a voice said. I glanced over my shoulder, and found Olivia and Phillip standing behind me. The girl and the two guys walked away, and my friends took their place.
“Hey, Liv,” I said. “Phillip.”
Phillip nodded to me. His long brown hair was hanging in his face and covered one of his eyes. When he wears it like that he reminds me of that lady from that movie, The Grudge.
“Ready for this weekend?” Olivia asked. “I’m so excited!” She leaned in and whispered, “I can’t believe your Mom gave us tickets for the mosh pit!”
“Shhhh!” I said. “Not in public, remember?”
Olivia grinned and cupped her hand over her mouth. “Sorry,” she said.
“Everyone’s gonna know who your parents are after this weekend, bro,” Phillip said. “I mean, everyone I’ve talked to is going to Webster Hall tomorrow. And anybody who’s not going will find out on Monday.”
“Monday?” I asked.
Phillip and Olivia exchanged worried glances. “Tell me you didn’t forget,” Olivia said.
“Our assignment for Mrs. Nicholson’s class?” Phillip said. “Write a paper about one of your parents’ careers?”
“Oh, Christ,” I said. “Oh, Christ no!”
“It doesn’t matter which one of your parents you write about, either,” Olivia chimed in. “Everyone’s gonna find out they’re part of Our Lady of—”
“Shhh!” I said. “Shit. I’m screwed either way. There’s no way I can get out of turning in a paper, either. Mrs. Nicholson will want to know why. Then some ass in our class will get up and yell, ‘I know why! He doesn’t want anybody to know his mom is famous!’ This sucks.”
“Sucks to be you, bro,” Phillip said. “Oh well. Maybe it’s time for this to come out, you know what I mean? The pressure must be killing you. I know I can barely stand it sometimes.”
Olivia nodded her head in agreement. “Me too. I’m friends with a guy who’s parents are badass rock stars and I can’t tell anyone!”
I sighed, and retrieved my algebra textbook from my locker. I opened my backpack and shoved the book inside. I slammed my locker shut and locked it. “Oh well,” I said. “I guess I should enjoy the show tomorrow, since my funeral is on Monday.”
After school I went straight home. I went into my room, where I paced back and forth with my hands behind my back, for several minutes, the way people do in those old black and white movies, when they have to think about something. Kids would see me at Webster Hall tomorrow, in the mosh pit, and wonder how I scored such awesome tickets. Or, they would hear my presentation on Monday (oh yeah: we couldn’t just write the paper, we had to read it to the class!). I didn’t have a choice. I had to write the paper. And I couldn’t lie about what my parents did for a living. Mom wanted to see every paper and every assignment. She had a copy of my syllabus from Mrs. Nicholson’s class, along with all of my other classes. She would ask to see my paper.
I didn’t have a choice. I had to write the paper. Should I write about my stepfather the famous drummer, or my mother the famous singer/guitarist? Rob would tell me to write about Mom. Mrs. Nicholson was a feminist; she’d want to hear about a woman in the music industry. Fuck. I’d better get started on this damn paper. I sighed, and planted myself in front of my laptop, which I kept on a desk in my room. If I can just get the rough draft started, I should be okay. I mean, I’m writing about my mother. How hard could that be?
I heard the front door open and close a few seconds later. I could hear Rob’s voice, followed by Mom’s. Mom called down the hall. “Jon? Are you home?”
“I’m back here, Mom!” I called.
She appeared at my side a few seconds later. She placed her hand on my shoulder. “How was school?” she asked.
“Good,” I said. “Some kid tried to start a food fight in the cafeteria and got suspended.”
“I didn’t think kids still did that,” Mom said. “So, what are you working on? Homework?”
“Yeah, it’s an essay,” I said. “Don’t worry: I’ll have it finished by Sunday night.”
“Okay,” Mom said. “Do you need any help?”
“I think I’ve got it,” I said.
“Okay,” Mom said. “Are you hungry?”
I paused. “Actually, yeah, I am,” I said. “Are we still going to Chipotle?”
“Sure,” Mom said. “Let’s go.”
The closest Chipotle was inside Queens Center Mall. My parents each donned a pair of sunglasses, and Mom pulled her blond hair back into a ponytail. We approached the counter, ordered our food, and found an empty table. We looked like a regular family. We ate our food, talked about our day, and enjoyed one another’s company. Regular. I guess this is why Mom tries so hard to keep a low profile. Despite the fact she and Rob, and the band itself, were becoming more and more famous, she still wants to be normal. She still wants me to grow up normal.
I hated to spoil the happy mood, but I figured I should tell her about the paper I was writing.
“I have to write a paper for one of my classes,” I said, taking a bite of my burrito.
Mom looked at me in surprise. “Oh?” she said. “What about?”
Here goes nothing. “One of my parents,” I replied. “Who they are; what they do for a living.”
Both Mom and Rob stared at me in silence.
Finally, Rob sighed, and broke the silence. “Well, it was going to come out, sooner or later,” he said. “Oh, I’m just assuming you’re writing about your mother. I mean, your father is a nice guy and all, but—”
“He’s a douche,” I said, quickly. “I’m writing about Mom.”
Rob smiled and nodded approvingly.
“Me?” Mom said. “Are you sure?”
“Well, yes, of course,” I said. “I mean, if you don’t mind.”
Mom looked back and forth, between me and Rob. “I guess it’s okay,” she said. “The real question is, are you going to be okay with it? Everything is going to change for you, once people find out who we are.”
I had sort of thought about that, but not really. But it didn’t matter anymore. We were never going to be normal or regular, anyway. My parents are rock stars. My friends and I have a band (we call ourselves “Sons of War and Peace”) and we’d like to follow in Our Lady’s footsteps. So, it’s just time to let the proverbial cat out of the bag.
“I’ll be okay,” I said. “Don’t worry.”
On Saturday night, Phillip, Olivia and I stood in front of the stage at Webster Hall, waiting for the concert to begin. There was a mass of kids and a few adults behind us. Only a few of my kids in the mosh pit went to my school. Looking around, I could see a few more kids I knew, sitting towards the back. I heard someone yell, “Hey Sarconi! How’d you get in the mosh pit?!” I looked back to see who it was. Jeremy Baker. I hated that guy. He was a junior at my school. One of those guys who enjoyed shoving nerds into lockers and freshmen into the wrong restrooms. One of those guys who wouldn’t grow up to be worth half a shit after he graduated. I simply smiled and gave him the finger. When Olivia saw this, she grabbed my arm and pulled my hand down.
The show finally started. Some band called “The New Arrivals” was the opening act. They sounded pretty good. They played three songs, then cleared the stage. Everything went black. The audience started clapping. Suddenly, everything was quiet. I could hear movement on the stage, but I couldn’t make out who was there. And then, I heard my mother’s voice, sing the opening line to an Our Lady song, “Come For the Wake, Stay For the Funeral”:
All you spectators, please gather ‘round
The dearly beloved is barely in the ground…
The audience knew the words, and started singing along with her. When she reached the chorus, the entire stage lit up, and the audience lost their minds. Security kept me and my friends, along with the other twenty-something people in the mosh pit from being pushed and shoved by the people who had made their way from the back to the front.
It was hypnotic. Mom on guitar. Rob on drums. Aidan on bass. Nick on guitar as well. My mother, stepfather, and the two guys who were practically family. On stage. In a punk rock band. Commanding so much attention and authority. Mom singing lead; the guys backing her up and singing the lines of the chorus with her. She was wearing a black t-shirt and skinny jeans. Her hair was pulled back. She was playing Jack, her Fender strat. She was on stage, in front of I don’t know how many people, doing a sold-out show, and she was fucking fearless. Since the day she adopted me, she had always been just Mom. Tonight, on that stage, I saw her for the first time, in a completely different light. Tonight, she wasn’t just Mom. She was a badass.
If Billie Joe Armstrong had been born a catgirl, he’d have been my mother.
Mom leaned forward during her guitar solo, and the crowd in the mosh pit tried to get a little closer to the stage. Mom laughed and backed up, and finished her solo. The band ended the song, and the audience cheered. I found myself screaming at the top of my lungs right along with them.
“How are you guys doing tonight?” Nick asked. The crowd yelled. “No, no,” Nick continued. “This is Webster Hall, you can do better than that! I said how are you doing tonight?!” The crowd screamed even louder.
“That’s more like it!” Aidan said.
“Thank you guys for coming out!” Mom said. “We’re gonna do ‘Wish You Well”, and I want all of you to sing along, okay?”
The audience cheered. Mom looked down at me and winked, and I winked back. Phillip nudged me. A guy behind me leaned in close to me and said, “Lucky!” I thought, I am lucky. Very lucky.
They did three more songs after that, including one Mom and Nick had written together, in honor of kids who didn’t fit in at school. It’s called “I’ll Never Be Special”. I’d heard Mom and her band rehearse it before, but this time, tonight, I actually listened to the lyrics. I looked over at Olivia, and the two girls who were standing next to her. They were all singing along, and crying. I looked up at Mom, and closed my eyes. She and Nick were taking turns with the lines. I felt my eyes growing watery.
So please forgive me,
Just want to be honest
Just want to be myself
I’ll never be perfect,
I’ll never be special
I’ll never be special….
I thought about a day when I came home from middle school, in my black clothes and chains. A couple of kids had teased me because of the way I was dressed. When I told Mom I wasn’t going to wear black anymore, she’d said I shouldn’t let other people change me. I should be who I wanted to be. I wondered, if she had been thinking of me when she helped Nick write this song.
There was an encore: Mom sang the lead for Our Lady’s rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep”. To hear a female sing it is spectacular. Especially when that female, happens to be my mother.
After the show, my friends and I waited around back stage, while the band packed up their equipment and instruments. Then, they signed autographs. Mom asked if I wanted to take pictures with her and the fans, but I declined. After Monday I will.
Rob gave Olivia and Phillip rides home. Then we headed home. Nick and Aidan came over for a while. While the adults hung out in the living room, I retreated to my room to write my paper. I had so much I wanted to say.
I had done so much typing, without realizing it, I had written six single-lined pages. There was a knock at my door. “Yes?”
Mom entered my room. “Hey there,” she said. “Aidan is going to make a run to Taco Bell. Do you want anything?”
I looked at my wrist watch. “It’s almost two in the morning?”
Mom smiled. “Yeah, I know,” she said. “But we’re all so wired!”
I laughed. “Okay,” I said. “I’ll take three tacos and a churro. By the way, you guys were really awesome tonight.”
“Thank you!” Mom said. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.” She nodded towards my computer screen. “Is that your paper you’re working on?”
“Yep,” I said. “I’m almost done.”
“Okay,” Mom said. “I’ll come get you when the tacos get here.”
Eating with Our Lady is just as entertaining as listening to them. We sat around the living room, stuffing ourselves with tacos. Nick reached over, and grabbed a taco that was in front of Aidan. Aidan’s green eyes grew wide with amazement. “Dude, seriously?” he said. “You’re going to eat one of my tacos?”
“You just ate six!” Nick protested. “Sharing is caring, man.”
“Never come between a man and his taco,” Aidan said. He reached over, and grabbed one of Nick’s tacos, and stood up from the couch. Nick stood up and chased him around the room. Aidan laughed and began shoving the taco into his mouth. “It’s gone now!” he said, his mouth full of food. “You can have it back in about an hour, but you ain’t gonna want it!”
Rob applauded, and Mom just shook her head. I snickered and ate another taco.
Mom grabbed a napkin and wiped the side of her mouth. “Hey, guys,” she began, “Jon is writing a paper about me.”
“Aw,” Nick said,
“Is it a juicy exposé?” Aidan asked, taking a sip of his soda. “Do you wanna hear about all the crazy stuff she did when she was a kid? The stuff you’re too young to remember?”
“There was no crazy stuff,” Mom said.
“She used to sneak out to see bands play at clubs when she was thirteen,” Nick said, as-a-matter-of-factly. Mom balled up her napkin and threw it at him. It hit him on the side of his head. He chuckled, picked it up and threw it back at her.
“Is that true, Mom?” I asked.
Mom turned to me with a nervous smile. “Jeez,” she said. “Yes, once or twice, I did go to see a band play at a club. But what Nick isn’t telling you, is that it was his band I was going to see.”
I turned to Nick. “Nick?”
“Okay, that part is true,” Nick replied. “But she was thirteen, though.”
“Don’t worry, Mom,” I said. “I’m not putting anything like that in my essay.” I stood up, yawned, and stretched. “Speaking of the essay, I should go and re-read it one more time. I’ll catch you guys later. Good night.”
“Good night, honey,” Mom said.
“Night, Jon,” Aidan said. Rob and Nick gave me the old “guy nod”, and I headed towards my room.
Sitting in my desk that Monday morning in Mrs. Nicholson’s class, I felt sick to my stomach. I guess the reality of my situation was finally kicking in. I looked around the classroom, and found Olivia and Phillip in their seats. Phillip nodded to me, while Olivia gave me a thumbs up. I smiled at her, then looked down at the essay on my desk. Why did I have to read this damn thing out loud? Why couldn’t I just turn it in and get it over with?
When the bell rang, Mrs. Nicholson wasted no time taking attendance so she could get right to the oral reports. We went in the order of our seating arrangements, so I was number thirteen on the list. And then it began. The humiliation of standing in front of the class, one by one, talking about your parents. So far, I learned about a foreman, a doctor, a dentist, and a ballet instructor. I thought, we’re in New York. Isn’t anyone’s mother a stripper? Isn’t anyone’s father a pimp? Some of these kids are lying. Then, I thought, maybe I should request to read my essay last, since I’m pretty sure mine will top everyone else’s.
“Jon? It’s your turn.”
Mrs. Nicholson’s voice brought me back from the little dialogue I was having in my head. I nodded and stood up, and walked to the front of the room. I thought, here goes nothing.
My title was, “My Mother Is A Rock Star”. I heard a few people snicker. I didn’t give a damn. I read it anyway. I told the class about the young woman who had adopted me and raised me, when she was practically a kid herself. I told the class about the night I had pneumonia and Mom rushed me to the hospital and had to help the doctors submerge me in ice water. I told them about how she helped me, Olivia and Phillip work on music for our band. Best of all, I told them about Our Lady of Righteous Rage. Oh, there was no snickering when I got to that part of the essay.
I told the class about how no one wanted to teach Mom to play guitar because she was a girl, and how Nick was the only one willing to give her a chance. I told them about the way she sings, and about the way she writes such killer lyrics. But, what I really enjoyed telling them, was how proud I was of her, and how she helped me believe in just being myself.
“Mom always tells me you have to own who you are,” I said. “Who you are on the inside. You’re not your clothes, or the way you wear your hair, or the people you hang out with. It’s how you treat people, and how you make other people around you feel. When I’m around my mom, I feel invincible. I feel like there’s nothing I can’t do. No matter what she does, succeed or fail, she always gives one hundred percent of herself to her music, and to the people she loves. That’s what makes her a rock star.”
The class actually gave me a standing ovation. I hadn’t expected that.
Mrs. Nicholson asked everyone to settle down, and we listened to the rest of the essays. At the end of class, everyone crowded around me, asking me a million questions about Our Lady. Even the kids who never speak to me. I quietly waved them on and joined Phillip and Olivia in the hallway. Phillip patted me on the back, and Olivia gave me a hug. As we walked down the hall, I noticed a blond catwoman with sunglasses and a visitor’s pass clipped to her shirt, walking towards me. I smiled, and told Olivia and Phillip I’d catch up to them. I walked a little faster to meet the blond face to face. “Hey, Mom,” I said.
“Hey, you,” she said, smiling. Her voice was a little shaky. “I heard you read your essay.”
“You did?” I asked.
Mom nodded. “I stood in the hallway outside your class and listened,” she said. “What you said was really beautiful. Thank you.”
“I should be thanking you,” I said. “Not to sound mushy or anything, but, Mom, you really are a rock star.”
She sniffled. “Is it okay if I hug you?” she asked. “I don’t want to embarrass you.”
A hug from Amy Edwards? Embarrassing? I reached out and hugged her. “It’s not embarrassing, Mom,” I said. “If anything, my status in this place just went up about fifty points.”
Mom laughed, and returned my hug. “Okay,” she said. “I’m gonna go, so you can get to class. I’ll see you later, okay?”
“Okay,” I said.
She turned, and I watched her walk away. A few heads turned in the hallway, then quickly looked away out of uncertainty.
I wouldn’t find out what my grade was for the essay until Wednesday. As I walked to my next class, I realized, I didn’t really care.
Nicole is an author and artist from New York. She has been writing and creating since early childhood, and is the author of four different series. Most of her work is a reflection of her interests in Japanese anime, manga, and punk rock. You can check out her website, find her on Facebook or Twitter, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org