Story Review: Unhappy Endings and Trainwreck by Michael James Calder

In writing Unhappy Endings, Mr. Calder has written a finely crafted work. He has a clear talent for dialogue and in this story we see this on display. Michael makes us feel the sounds of battle and consequently, the sounds of death. You are left wondering if the hill eventually does fall to the barbarians. I see this story as a preface to a larger work that focuses on that very battle.

Trainwreck is a different kind of story that centers on a young man who has known such great loss that he attempts to take his life in horrific fashion. Trainwreck is equally as well written with great dialogue. The last scene is his girlfriend trying to save his life. This could also be a preface to a larger scope of novel that focuses on his redemption and the journey he takes.

Michael James Calder is a unique and talented writer and I see great things for him. He is currently working on his first novel while attending university in the Uk. He is also working on another short story called Odyssey and the Dragon.

His website is here: https://michaelcalderwriter.com

Short Story: 1970

The year was 1970 and it was a time of music, of new friends and a new California home. We moved from Columbia Heights Minnesota to Van Nuys California a year before. Fourth grade was a year of not fitting in and being that weird kid from Minnesota. I had just discovered the local record store.

The record store was on Vanowen Street and halfway from the house my parents rented to the junior high school I was to attend in 1971. As I entered the store, “After the Gold Rush” was playing by Neil Young. The smell of the store and the sound of the speakers is forever imprinted on my mind as the cherry incense that permeated the store. The front counter with the small manual cash register was next to the turntable. I remember the turntable had a glass cover and a serious weighted tone arm. Even the most gentle placing of the needle in the groove of the record made a deep thump noise. I can still remember the chorus “Don’t let it bring you down, It’s only castles burning. Find someone who is turning, And you will come around.”

I don’t remember my first album I bought from there but for years you could show me a record I had and I could recite for you exactly where and how much I had bought it for. Music had a great impact on my life. Sounds had a great impact on me. I was 80% deaf in both ears and so the hearing aids I wore had an important job; to help me hear Neil Young, Don McLean, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Simon and Garfunkel, John Lennon, Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, The Who and later on, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.

I remember the albums cost 3.99 each for a single album and maybe 2.99 if it had a hole in the cover. I never really knew why some albums had those holes only that they were cheaper because of it. Double albums cost a dollar more and like a big book, were coveted. Double albums such as “All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison had 23 songs on the album!

Many of the albums for sale could be listened to on the store turntable but the record store girl was the only one allowed to touch it. It was understood that I needed the volume louder but she didn’t mind. I would browse the stores various other items; patches for your jeans such as peace signs and ecology signs (a variation on the peace sign except it was green,) rock and roll tour t shirts, and the items that I had no idea what they were in a glass case on velvet. Glass and wood things that looked like pipes and leather straps with feathers and a small silver clip on it. All I knew is it was cool.

The album that was currently playing was in a picture frame on the wall so you could tell what you were listening to. I always got great pleasure from knowing the album in the frame was my choice. Oftentimes I would spend the whole afternoon in the store and end up buying only one album. The record store girl never nagged me and usually knew what I wanted to listen to.

Because my hearing loss was in the high frequency range, the best sounds I could hear well were low bass sounds. One day I went into the store and she says I have a new album for you to listen to. The album was dark and had an old timey picture on the cover titled Deja Vu. She placed the record on the turntable and the needle jumped as she put it on the record. One of the prettiest songs I had ever heard played. “Four and twenty years ago, I came into this life.” I remember thinking, wow, the bass is excellent.

The bags that the record store girl put my new record in was a flat paper bag. I carried the bag home and closed the door to my bedroom. I had a new record! Opening the record was a delicate balance. I slit the end of the record album cover taking care to leave the shrink wrap in place. This would protect my purchase. I slid the record out with the edges of my fingers, taking care to not touch the grooves. Fingerprints sometimes caused the record to skip during a song. Then i carefully placed the new record on the turntable. My record player with the MM initials scratched into the cover was second hand from my parents but it had great bass. “Live At Leeds” starts out with “Young Man Blues.” The lyrics start with “Oh well a young man ain’t got nothing in the world these days.” The Who Live at Leeds and “Young Man Blues” was amazing and rebellious and all of a sudden I could hear a banging on the wall, “Turn that shit down!” My dad worked nights as a letter sorter at the Van Nuys US Post Office and needed his rest more than I needed The Who.