Stories is a new feature for RoundLetters. Stories was born out of the tiredness I’ve been feeling towards reviewing albums these days, mixed with the fact that I’ve been yearning to get back into creative writing. The idea behind Stories is that instead of doing the typical blog album review, I’ll write a short story that comes from what I think about while listening to the album and possibly taking from the lyrics. I’m aware other blogs have their own takes on this kind of writing, but this was something I want to do, and have been planning for a while.
So please, be brutally honest with what you think about it, and if you think this could work for RoundLetters.
As a wonderful start to this series, I’ve selected Olenka and the Autumn Lovers‘ new album, And Now We Sing. The album could likely end up on my top 10 list of this year. Olenka has a wonderful voice, in its folk and country shine; it’s like it’s been taken out of the past. Her songwriting is meticulous and deep, like it’s been rooted. Olenka’s album is the perfect start for this series because she already has her own stories looping through and through. Her space becomes this quilt of memories, nostalgia, knowledge of the earth. She also has surrounded herself with equally fantastic musicians, giving the Autumn Lovers sound this lush, all-knowing warmth. There’s a lot to digest in And Now We Sing, from bittersweet gestures to rise ups to the settle, so let it sink in.
“Clean” is my stand-out favourite track, so I chose to base this story on it. I can’t tell you whether to listen to the song before, during or after you read this, so, here’s the link and you decide.
Olenka will play the Horseshoe on November 25 with the Wilderness of Manitoba and Leif Vollebekk.
So, here you go, here’s my version of “Clean.” Please let me know what you think!
Dust moved across the floor, first from the push of the broom, second from the wind it had created. But it just moved farther along the wooden panels.
Do brooms really work? thought Cassie. No, they really don’t. She sighed.
Cassie had been told, nay, forced to go sweep the kitchen earlier that morning. Andrew, who works ungodly amounts of hours every day, likes to come home and have the satisfaction that Cassie had been productive as well. Plus, his friends were coming into town for another 48-hour boozefest.
“Sweep; take out the garbage; go to the Beer Store and get some 12 packs of Molson; immediately put them in the fridge; order a pizza, XL, the usual, with wings; take the dog for a walk; eat dinner; make sure to get to Lisa’s by 8 (you are still going there, right?)”
Another sigh erupted from Cassie as she glanced at the list on the kitchen counter over her shoulder, stooping down to the floor with the dust pan. And of course, some of those particles just won’t make it into that pan, no matter how hard Cassie tries.
Not even a ‘thanks, love.’ she thought. But then again, I don’t remember the last time he said that.
Cassie and Andrew used to be such a sweet couple, as their friends would say with glazed over eyes and rosy cheeks, faces tilted to the side and half-empty wine glasses in their hands. The pair met in their university days. She had been walking home from her violin lesson one evening, and her shoe stuck in a grate. (She’d caught herself in a subtle dance move as she listened to old folk tunes on her headphones.) Andrew had been passing by, admiring her blonde locks shining under the street lamps from a distance, then closer, and closer, until he realized he could be her helping hands. It was a blooming love from there. And it was pure.
Somewhere along their time, their shared life turned sour. It could have been when Cassie started going on tours with her acclaimed orchestra, or when Andrew got a job at a big corporate engineering company and started hanging out with legalized bros. Time kept ticking on, just not in their favour anymore, years and years later. It was the soft touches in the night when one would slip into bed, the short but cute emails during a ‘take five’ and the chores around their by then-shared apartment they would do for one another to make the other feel more comfortable and clean.
Cassie lost her position with the orchestra a few months ago. Her time around the house was nice at first, but she grew restless, even though Andrew assured her that they would be alright, with a sly smile. She had more time to spend with Laker, their black Labrador, but even the dog seemed cooped up. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to quickly dive back into the musical world again, and didn’t know what other career path she could look towards, but she always had a tender goal, deep down, to become a songwriter.
She wasn’t very confident about it, but it gave her a door out in the only way she knew. But somehow, once she discovered this passion, Andrew’s interest in chore lists became more frequent. The idea of tidying for another, the comfort and the cleanliness, had taken another path, but he didn’t fully realize where that was headed.
Laker barked, bringing Cassie out of her recollection and into the dust. As Cassie stood up, a decision was made.
Andrew returned home, at 7:30, to find a note on the counter next to his to-do list. Laker hadn’t been there to greet him at the door, so he assumed Cassie was late on her chores.
The note was addressed to him. Underneath, it said, “not at Lisa’s, or the Beer Store.”
Andrew opened the note.
If I broke into your heart
With a paperclip and pin
And a tiny violin,
Would you let me stay?
I would keep the place so clean.
I’d come with curtains and a rug,
A box of records and a glass of wine.
Would you let me stay?
Just a couch, a night and day,
I would not get in the way.
I would keep the place so clean.