Richard Fulco

Three Chords and the Truth

you’re sitting at the kitchen table with your mother who’s trying to help you with your algebra homework, but you can’t concentrate because the Rolling Stones’ “Shattered” is stuck in your head. Shoo-doo-bee. Algebra is not your favorite subject, Language Arts is, but your mother wants you to be an engineer, so you’ve been trying to raise your grade to appease her. According to your mother, “B” stands for “Blemish,” and she’ll not accept anything less than a pristine report card. Ever since she learned that Staten Island Technical High School has an engineering program, she’s been preparing you to take the entrance exam; it will be your stepping stone to an Ivy League University. School had always been your first priority. That was until you became obsessed with the electric guitar your Aunt Betty gave you on your twelfth birthday, and now even that has been challenged by your most recent obsession with girls.

You like the way their hips swell and would like to put your arm around a cute girl’s waist, but you don’t even have the courage to ask out Lucy Daggers, your next-door neighbor whom you’re positive likes you. The other girls in your seventh grade class have a crush on your best friend, Greg Murphy, an eighth grader, but you don’t mind because the attention he receives has boosted your credibility, and that makes you feel pretty good about yourself.

You take a break from your homework, and while you’re in the kitchen devouring your mother’s chocolate chip cookies, the doorbell rings. You can’t imagine who it could be. Up the block, the neighborhood boys are playing hockey; you never join them because you don’t know how to roller skate. Greg is at football practice. Lucy is at dance class. John, a girl is at the door. You raise the curtain just enough to sneak a peek at the dirty blonde in the tight designer jeans, Cheryl Fishman, the foxiest girl in the seventh grade who hasn’t said a word to you all year. She wears low cut tops so when she bends down to pick up the pens the boys strategically drop they get a cheap thrill and her confidence gets a lift.

You stand before the closet mirror, straighten your eyeglasses and remove a crumb from your braces. Your mother watches you tug your hair behind your ears. We have to get you a haircut. You think it’s too curly and not really long enough to be anything but out-of-style. You take a long look at the made-up faces on your T-shirt—Paul Stanley is puckering as if he’s blowing you a kiss, and Gene Simmons’ tongue is hanging down to his chin—then tuck it in and take a deep breath before opening the door. You force a smile, one that you hope will hide your insecurities and surprise by her unexpected drop-in. Hey, what are you doing? Want to hang out? Cheryl is wearing your favorite pair of Jordache with the fancy designs on the back pockets, her hairbrush sticking out, and even though it’s November, her coat is wide open; her low-cut purple sweater reveals the top of her black bra.

You’ve never touched a bra, but you’ve seen plenty of them in your mother’s JC Penney’s catalogue. Just last week you had it with you in the bathroom the first time you masturbated. Your father was getting ready for work when he barged in: Keep to your bedroom. You don’t want your mother to know what you’ve been doing with her catalogue. Your father has been working the midnight shift, six days a week, for the past fifteen years. He says that his work schedule makes for a tolerable marriage and a decent home-life, but you don’t really know what he means. You don’t see him that often; he has never attended a school play, parent-teacher conference or little league game, yet his presence is felt throughout the house: the basement, where he watches football, is off-limits; the garage, where he keeps his workbench, is off-limits; the backyard, where he keeps automobile parts, is also off-limits. Your father works a million hours, but in the future he will catch you sneaking out of the house with your guitar on a weeknight to play an open mike at the local coffee shop.

Standing next to Cheryl turns you on. You try to conceal your hard-on by leaning against the doorframe. Trying to look cool, you slip into your Keith Richards’ impersonation, rub your hand through your hair and mumble something. What did you say? You grab your dungaree jacket, the one with ACDC’s logo painted on the back, tell your mother that you’ll be back for dinner and close the door before Cheryl can decipher her contemptuous words. You walk up the block, sit on a fence and watch the boys play hockey. Cheryl asks, Where’s Greg? You lie, telling her that you don’t know. She wants to know if he has a girlfriend, and you tell her that his father won’t tolerate any interference with football, especially from girls.

The next day in third period Language Arts, a note is passed to you from Lucy Daggers who’s trying to crawl into a paperback of Romeo and Juliet, dying of embarrassment. When you remove the note from the pink envelope, covered in hearts and sprayed with sweet perfume, Mr. Grimstone reaches over your shoulder and yanks it from your grip. You wonder if he gets a thrill from reading the note aloud to the entire class. Lucy turns beet red and storms out of the classroom. You sit upright, feeling pretty good about yourself. You wonder if this will increase your popularity with the girls. Maybe word will reach Cheryl Fishman.

After class, you bump into Greg who’s surrounded by a gaggle of giggling girls. The girls say hello, but you know they’re only being nice because you’re friends with Greg. He wants to talk to you about something important during lunch. You tell him that you’ll be sitting in the usual seat, sandwiched between the student government kids and the potheads. You don’t belong to a particular clique, but most seventh graders would classify you as a nerd even though you consider yourself a punk rocker just because you’ve been rockin’ out in your bedroom to “I Wanna Be Sedated,” and you think you’ve gotten pretty good on guitar.

In the cafeteria, while you’re waiting for Greg to arrive, Cheryl plops down next to you. She wants to know if you’ve seen the hottest guy on the planet. You lie, telling her that Greg is home, sick with the flu. She scribbles her telephone number on the cover of your algebra textbook and tells you to give it to him. Cheryl invites you to her party and urges you to bring Greg along. My parents are out of town. Tell Greg I’ll make it worth his while. When Cheryl stands up, you stare at her ass. Lucy, who is sitting by herself, catches you. The potheads are snickering behind Lucy’s back. You’d like to apologize, but you don’t want them to laugh at you, too, so you put your head down and pretend you don’t see her. After you’ve finished your Tater Tots, you sneak a peek at Lucy who is now sitting with Greg. He has his arm around her shoulder; her head is resting on his chest. The potheads have stopped their snickering, and you think it’s because Greg is with her.


When you get home your mother whisks you out the door before you can start your homework and have your cookies. Your Uncle Merv was drunk again and slapped your obese aunt so hard that she fell down the front stoop. Some of the neighborhood kids have a nickname for Aunt Betty—“Two-Ton Betty.” You always laugh along with them, making offensive cracks at her expense. At these conciliatory moments, you hope that they've forgotten that she’s your aunt. You tell them an embellished story about the time she was at your birthday party, strumming your brand new Squire electric guitar, when the folding chair collapsed beneath her, sending her into a pile of dog shit that you had strategically placed there. This story kills them. High fives all around.

You find it hard to believe that your mother and aunt are sisters. Your fastidious mother keeps a clean home and never leaves it unless she’s made-up, her hair is done, and skirt is pressed. Aunt Betty rarely leaves her feral home; she doesn’t wish to entice any snickering from the neighbors. You’re looking out the hospital window, watching a group of boys throw eggs at three old women sitting on a park bench, but you really wish that you were home learning songs from the new Clash record you bought. Soon you hope to put a band together, and then you’ll get all the girls you could ever dream of.

The sisters are talking about the first time they saw Merv on the boardwalk at Coney Island, and how they both thought that he had a nice full head of black hair and that his eyebrows were so furrowed that even when he smiled he looked like he was pissed off at the world. While your mother is in the cafeteria getting snacks for you and Betty, your aunt asks you about school. You tell her that you made honor roll again, but algebra is giving you trouble. She asks if you have a girlfriend, and you tell her that you’re going out with Cheryl Fishman. Your mother is angry with me for giving you the guitar. You tell her that it’s the best gift you ever received. She tells you that you’re a special boy: smart, sensitive, kind, and talented. You don’t know why she’s singing your praises. Perhaps she knows that you've been making fun of her behind her back, and this is a clever attempt to make you feel guilty for such reprehensible behavior. Nevertheless, her compliments make you feel good about yourself. Your mother never tells you such things. Aunt Betty offers to give you proper guitar lessons, but you’re not interested in learning the religious stuff she sings every Sunday morning at church, so you tell her that you’re busy after school, tutoring sixth graders.

When you get home from the hospital, your father, who’s late for work, is pacing the kitchen floor, waiting for your mother to cook his dinner. You could have at least fed me before rushing off to see your sister. Your mother ties her apron on, cracks a few eggs into a bowl and asks, Feta cheese omelet okay? You order an American cheese omelet, and take a seat next to your father; he reads the local newspaper; you begin your homework. He asks you about school, and you tell him that you’re struggling with algebra. You’ll get it. Just keep at it. These are the first words he has said to you all week.

Greg shows up at school the next day with a black eye. He tells you that he has quit the football team and that his father is outraged. Mr. Murphy played linebacker in high school, but after his father died, he had to drop out and go to work. Do your best to encourage your friend. Don’t talk about his father being a jerk. Listen to him complain about his old man. Listen to him talk about how much he really wants to play guitar. Tell Greg that you’ll teach him the two songs you know. Tell him about Cheryl’s party. That might cheer him up.

Your mother thinks Greg’s father is a jackass. You think he’s no different from the other men in the neighborhood. That boy can’t breathe unless his father gives him the okay. Mr. Murphy used to work with your father at the plant; two years ago, he was fired. Mrs. Murphy has been waiting tables at the diner, but Mr. Murphy finds this to be a personal affront to his manhood; his pride prevents him from even perusing the want ads. Dad doesn’t want you to work, either. Your mother tells you that she’s too busy raising a family and doesn’t have time for a job. Your father is nothing like Mr. Murphy. Your father is good to you. Who registered you to play little league? Your father.

Your mother is on the phone with Aunt Betty who has been discharged from the hospital. They talk about hair coloring and the price of chopped meat. The Beatles’ “Getting Better” is stuck in your head. I used to be cruel to my woman. I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved. It would be a good idea to give Lucy a call and set things straight, but you know that your mother isn’t getting off the telephone any time soon. You want to get your homework out of the way, so you can go to your room and listen to your stereo. John Bonham has died and WNEW is paying tribute to Led Zeppelin. Your aunt wishes to speak to you. Ask her how she’s doing. Tell her that you hope she feels better. Don’t talk about Uncle Merv being a jerk. When she asks if you’d like to begin your guitar lessons, don’t tell her that you haven’t an interest in learning church songs. In the end, you don’t want to hurt her feelings, so you relent and schedule your first lesson.


Aunt Betty doesn’t have children. She tried for a few years; eventually Merv grew impatient with her serial miscarriages. She wanted to adopt, but Merv said that he didn’t want no gook baby. Your mother said that God had plans for her younger sister and that didn’t include motherhood. You wonder why God would be so cruel to your aunt, punishing her with obesity, infertility, and enslavement to Uncle Merv. As for your being an only child, your mother claims that she had two miscarriages before you were born and that your birth was a blessing, an immaculate conception. Your father maintains that one was enough.

Instead of tutoring the sixth graders after school like you told your mother you’d be doing you go to Greg’s house. She only wants you to pursue extracurricular activities that will look good on your résumé, like tutoring the sixth graders in grammar and volunteering at the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving. She doesn’t understand your love of rock music; she was a young bride and missed out on the Sixties.

You and Greg jam to “I Want You to Want Me” for three straight hours, until your fingers bleed, arriving late to Cheryl’s party. With your guitar slung over your shoulder, you enter the side door where Cheryl greets you. I didn’t know that you played guitar. That’s so cool. She’s wearing brand new Sergio Valente’s that look as if they’d been painted on. When she turns around to escort you inside, you can’t help but stare at her ass. She introduces you and Greg to her friends, then drags Greg into in the kitchen where the keg is, past the sloppy drunks who are dancing to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”

You put on your sunglasses, your Keith Richards’ persona, lean against the wall, and examine your surroundings. A plush, red carpet. Black and red wallpaper. A gaudy gold chandelier. A red velour sofa where Lucy Daggers is sitting with kids from your Language Arts class. They’re laughing at something Lucy told them; they’re laughing at you. You ask them what’s so funny, but they can’t stop laughing to answer your question. A boy falls off the sofa. Lucy gets up, clicks her gum, bumps into you and says, “You’ll need more than a guitar to make you cool,” then walks into the kitchen. Lucy told them that you two were once alone in her basement when her parents weren’t home, and that you didn’t know what to do with her bra once you got her shirt off, that you fumbled around for what seemed an eternity, and when you finally figured out there were hooks, she had fallen asleep. Why would she make up a bogus story like that? You are outraged by such lies, realizing that Lucy is getting her revenge, so you defend yourself: It’s not true. Lucy’s a liar. The laughter has yet to cease, so you try a different tactic. She’s so flat-chested that she doesn’t even need a bra. You laugh along with them. High fives all around. You think that you’ve won the war. A girl calls you an “asshole.”

Later that evening, you play Seven Minutes in Heaven. When you spin the bottle, it lands on Cheryl and the two of you head into the bathroom, closing the door behind you. It’s so dark that you can’t even see her. If it weren’t for her perfume, you’d have thought that you were alone. When you reach out for her waist, you’re left swatting air. You’ve never made out with a girl, and while you’re frightened that it might finally happen, she informs you that you’ll only be pretending to be making out. You remind her that this is not how the game is played. But I’ve liked Greg since like the third grade. Greg has already been to the bathroom with several girls including Lucy (twice). You and Cheryl open the door to overwhelming applause, “Oohs,” “Ahhs,” whistles, and assorted wisecracks. Like a prizefighter, you raise your arms above your head in victory, but all the while you’re thinking that you must be the only boy in the seventh grade who hasn’t kissed a girl.

When you get home late from the party, your mother is waiting for you at the front door. Mr. Grimstone has notified her that you haven’t been to tutoring in a couple of weeks. She grabs you by the shoulders, smells beer on your breath, and slaps you so hard you think she has knocked your braces loose. Convinced that your interest in rock music will only lead to a life of drugs and alcohol, she takes away your guitar and stereo and threatens to tell your father.

You think about the one time your father whipped you. You were kicking a football around in the living room and it hit your mother’s new lamp, sending it crashing to the floor. He held his belt in his shaking hands, your bare ass over his knee, while he struck your flesh with the cracked leather. You were thinking that you’d never walk again, but after the second whipping, he stood you up, picked up your pants, kissed your forehead, and told you to go to your room.

The following afternoon, your mother thinks that you’re going to tutor the sixth graders, but you’re really going to your Aunt Betty’s house for your guitar lesson. It’s a short walk, but you’re taking your sweet time. You never liked your aunt’s house because it smells of cat urine and Camel cigarettes. You stop at the corner deli to get a Coke and a bag of Dipsy Doodles. Across the street is the Frederick Douglass Cemetery. The cemetery for white people is just next door, Oceanview, protected by a twelve-foot wrought iron, black fence. You’ve been preparing yourself to play tunes like “Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore” and “Kumbaya,” so you’re surprised to hear your aunt jamming to Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” She’s pretty good, too, broken leg and all. In fact, she is so proficient you fear that you may embarrass yourself. She’s sprawled out on a tattered red sofa, black Fender Stratocaster in hand, a burning cigarette in a red ashtray on top of a beaten-up Moog amplifier by her feet, and a wire hanger sticking out of her cast. She hands you a brand new yellow Telecaster. You sweep the mound of newspapers onto the floor and sit next to her. She teaches you the chords to Dylan’s anthem, stopping between the verse and chorus to take a few drags of her cigarette. Soon you’re playing rhythm, while she solos. You’re singing, harmonizing even, and when your aunt takes out her harmonica you’re so impressed you ask her to join your band.

Over soda breaks you talk about the early history of rock and roll, occasionally sticking the wire hanger into your aunt’s cast to satisfy her itch. You take a deep breath and wonder why you don’t smell cat urine. Maybe Fifi died. After a couple of hours, Aunt Betty thinks you should leave before Uncle Merv gets home. We don’t want your mother to think that I have been interfering with your studies, teaching you the devil’s music. You don’t tell your aunt that you’ve been lying to your mother, and that she thinks you’re tutoring sixth graders. You make plans to jam again, then Aunt Betty hands you a cassette tape of “Bringing it all Back Home.” This is genius. Give the whole thing a listen. Study it the way you study your algebra. Dylan is the most important poet of the twentieth century so consider this part of your education. When you complain that your mother has taken away your stereo, she gives you a hand-held cassette player. Don’t let your mother know that I gave this to you. She’s already mad that I gave you the guitar.


You give Cheryl a call. Her mother answers, tells you that she’s not home, and that she’ll give her your message. There is a knock at the door. You hope that it’s Cheryl. You tuck in your T-shirt and fix your hair, but it’s only Lucy who’s holding an empty measuring cup. Now that Greg and Lucy are seeing each other, you think that its time to set things straight. While your mother is filling the cup with flour, Lucy uses this moment to eviscerate you. You like being with Greg ’cause all the girls like him. He’s popular and that makes you feel better about yourself. Greg is a real good guy; you’re just a jerk. When your mother hands her the cup of flour, she tosses it in your face and storms out. She has a flair for dramatic exits.

You go to your room where your mother thinks you’re doing your homework, but you’re really hiding in your bedroom closet, writing down the lyrics to “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” While your mother is in the bathroom, you call your aunt who sings to you the verse that you’ve been trying to figure out: Maggie comes fleet foot/Face full of black soot/Talkin’ that the heat put/Plants in the bed but/The phone’s tapped anyway/Maggie says that many say/They must bust in early May/Orders from the D. A. It’s dinnertime and your mother calls you, but you don’t hear her; you’re so engrossed in the music. Look out kid! She yanks the cassette player from your hands and threatens to smash it to pieces. Instead, she prohibits you from seeing your aunt, takes the cassette player to the garage where your guitar and stereo are, and threatens to tell your father.

The next day, you smuggle your guitar and amplifier to Greg’s house. He’s holding his wrist. His father caught him sneaking into the house after Cheryl’s party. He says that he can still strum then tells you that Lucy is planning to humiliate you in front of the whole school. You ask him to talk her out of it. Tell her I didn’t mean it. He promises to take care of everything.

Mr. Murphy is at OTB, while his wife is working a ten-hour shift at the diner, so you and Greg have the house all to yourselves. Greg thinks that you’ll play better if you drink a few of Mr. Murphy’s Rheingolds. You talk about the best looking girls at school before you start jamming. Greg keeps drinking, while the two beers you’ve had are making it difficult for you to figure out your fingering. The guitars are out of tune because you’ve both been pounding the whammy bar. You have forgotten your tuner at home, and when you show him a C chord, its dissonance is like a screeching cat. Greg is having difficulty pushing down the A string with his pinky finger, so you instruct him to leave it off until he acquires more flexibility. Greg starts strumming, and you think it would be cool to turn the amplifier up to ten, and that’s when Mr. Murphy, who has had more than a few drinks as he watched his horse lose every race, comes home. He is a tall, burly man with a red face; his gut begins up around his neck and ends somewhere near his ankles. Why aren’t you at practice, he asks, and whacks Greg in the head with a rolled-up newspaper. Greg suggests that you leave before it gets really ugly. He’ll see you tomorrow in school. Mr. Murphy takes a few more whacks and chases Greg upstairs to his bedroom. You pack up your guitar, unplug the amplifier, and slam the door behind you. Mr. Murphy opens the bedroom window, and tells you that he had better not see you with Greg ever again. My son is going to play football. Football is his way out of this shithole, not no fucking rock music.


You receive a 78% on your algebra exam. Your mother finds the crumpled paper in your backpack. Although your low grade infuriates her, it’s your deceit that sends her into a rage. She demands that you put an end to your involvement with girls. There will be plenty of time for girls in college. Besides, she thinks that you should wait for Lucy who’s going to be a ‘classic beauty’ once she grows out of her awkward stage.

Your mother rambles on about Margaret, a neighborhood girl who got pregnant last summer. That poor girl’s life is ruined. She had to drop out of school. Margaret’s mother had a nervous breakdown, and there’s no man to help out. You remind your mother that you can’t get pregnant, but she tells you that you’re old enough to father a child. You tell her what she wants to hear: From now on school comes first, before music and girls.

The next day, Greg is in the hallway, alone. Where is the gaggle of giggling girls? He has a cut on his forehead. He says that his father thinks rock music died when Elvis entered the army. You’re not sure what that means. You’re not even sure that Greg knows what that means. You tell him that from now on you can play in the auditorium after school, but Greg says that he can’t because of football practice. It’s my ticket out of this shithole.

Aunt Betty shows you an alternate tuning for “Honky Tonk Women.” You aren’t sure what Mick Jagger means by “she tried to take me upstairs for a ride,” but she says that she wouldn’t mind taking a ride with Mick. You’re taking a soda break, talking about late sixties rock and roll, when Fifi jumps into your lap. You’ve never seen her, only smelled her, but there she is in your lap on her back pleading with you to rub her belly. Betty tells you that you’re ready to play a gig, but you tell her that Greg quit the band. You ask her if she’d be interested playing as a duo. She stubs out her cigarette and touches your shoulder. Thanks, but nobody wants to hear Two-Ton Betty play rock and roll.

Uncle Merv comes home early from work drunk. You reach for Aunt Betty’s guitar that is leaning against the amplifier, but he beats you to it. I told you to stop playing this shit in my house. He opens the closet door and throws the Stratocaster inside. He pushes you aside and tells you to stop coming around. Aunt Betty is crying. She kisses you goodbye—That’ll be all for today—hobbles into the kitchen and starts dinner. Uncle Merv sits in the recliner, takes hold of the remote, and puts on the local news. On your way out, he shouts: You and your aunt are just wasting your time with that guitar.

Wednesday morning, Lucy and her friends are waiting for you. They’re holding water balloons. One in each hand. Lucy steps forward. You’re a real dick wad. Before you can shield your face with your backpack, they pelt you with balloons. At first you think it’s water, but by the stench you know that you’re covered in urine. You think about running home, but you just stand there before them dripping, lift your head to the sky, and sing Bob Dylan’s “Outlaw Blues.” Well, I might look like Robert Ford, but I feel just like a Jesse James. This confuses everyone, and by the time you reach the next verse, they disperse.

Mr. Grimstone stops you on your way inside. You made a commitment, young man, to tutor the sixth graders and you are in jeopardy of not fulfilling your service credit. What on earth happened to you? You look him directly in the eyes, hold back the bile in your throat, and say, I ain’t gonna work on your farm no more, Mr. Grimstone. While walking down the hall, you hear him say that with such bad grammar perhaps it’s for the best that you resign from your position.


The doctor has removed Aunt Betty’s cast. She is on the front porch playing the harmonica, tapping her foot, waiting for your arrival. It’s Thanksgiving Day and you’re both going to work in the soup kitchen. On your walk, she tells you that she can’t give you lessons anymore, but you must keep playing even though your mother prohibits it. She puts her harmonica in your jacket pocket. Hold onto this for me. Will ya?

You’re in the church basement. Hungry men and women are holding utensils and plates. The line is out the door. You’re in charge of mashed potatoes, while Betty carves the turkey. The plopping sound of the mashed potatoes makes you feel like you’re doing something really good. Betty breaks out into song. At first you think it’s going to be something religious, but when you discover that’s it’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” you join in, playing the harmonica: Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me. I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to. Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me. In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.


You’re at the kitchen table doing your algebra homework. Your mother is pleased by how well you’ve grasped the new material. You’re in such a groove that you don’t even take a cookie break. You rub your tongue across your teeth that feel kind of funny ever since the orthodontist took off your braces. You’ll no longer have little rubber bands snapping inside your mouth. And now you can eat corn on the cob!

You’re holding the pencil the way you hold the guitar pick, between your pointer and thumb with the other three fingers flailing outward. Your hair is touching your collar, and when your mother places her hand on your head, she says, We need to get you that haircut. The telephone rings. It’s Aunt Betty. Little does she know that she has spared you from a twenty-minute conversation about the way in which a young man should present himself. Your mother rushes her off the phone without letting her speak to you, but she gives you her message: Your aunt said to tell you that you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. Although you’re not entirely sure you know what she means you find it amusing. Your mother says, I think she’s finally lost it. You find this even more amusing.


You’ve made honor roll again, and as a reward, your mother gives you back your guitar, amplifier, stereo, and cassette player. She says that your father thinks music is an important part of a child’s education. After you’ve finished your homework, you go to your room and play along to Elvis Costello’s “Radio, Radio.” While you’re trying to figure out the chorus, Cheryl Fishman rings the bell, but you don’t hear it until your mother calls up to you. Cheryl asks you to give Greg a call, but you tell her that you’re busy. She pleads with you, but you gently close the door in her face.

After dinner, you tell your mother that you and Lucy have to work on your science project. Even though it’s nine o’clock and nearly time for bed, you’re surprised that she gives you permission to go next door. You sling your guitar over your shoulder, slip out the side door, and as you’re about to close the gate and head over to the local coffee shop where there is an open mike every Monday night, your father catches you: Where do you think you’re going?

Richard Fulco’s plays have been presented and developed at The New York International Fringe Festival, The Playwrights’ Center, The Flea, Here Arts Center, and the Dramatists Guild. His play Swedish Fish was published by Heuer Publishing. He received his MFA and was the recipient of a MacArthur Scholarship in playwriting from Brooklyn College. His stories, poetry and reviews have appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Failbetter, Dark Sky Magazine, Nth Position, Poetz, Thirdrail, Serpentine, and Propaganda. He is an editor at Coral Press and teaches at Pace University. He also blogs about music at

“Growing up in Staten Island in a semi-detached home, I didn’t have a front porch; I had a stoop. I didn’t spend much time on the stoop, but I do remember one rainy afternoon, lying on my back with my feet above my head, against the red brick, playing astronaut. At ten years old, I didn’t know where I was going; I just knew that I wanted to go.”


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