Word Count 491
Like a Natural Wolf Man
By Mike Cecconi
So much of my writing starts by mishearing something and then the misunderstanding turns out to be more interesting than the original intent. I’ve written more than four hundred parody songs, sitting in a Microsoft Word file on my computer somewhere, because I mishear song lyrics all the time, doing other things distractedly, using split-attention as my excuse for muse.
I always hear the phrase “in the sky” as “in disguise”, for example. I don’t hear country bands growling about “ghost riders in the sky” I hear them sing about “ghost riders in disguise” and Norman Greenbaum doesn’t strum out a tune about “the spirit in the sky” he’s “going on up to the spirit in disguise”. I think it’s better that way, more dramatically interesting, anyway.
You have no idea how many parody songs I’ve wrenched out of mishearing the word “woman” as “wolfman”. American Wolfman or Girl You’ll Be A Wolfman Soon, Pretty Wolfman, You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Wolfman, reams of werewolf love songs cast to the wind like a wish made on a dandelion gone to seed.
My dad taught me that. My dad taught me to hear like that, think like that, to listen for the twist. Pretend to take a word with a double meaning as the meaning that obviously was not intended and see how that alternate interpretation plays out anyway. I’m just old enough where my first album was literally an album, a disc pressed in vinyl, a Weird Al record my dad bought me.
“Writers write” my dad told me, and God help me I’ve stuck to it. Even if it’s just ten bad jokes on twitter or two poems to be thrown out, I write every day. I take the things I willfully mishear, or I willfully misinterpret, and I put them down on electronic paper, into the social media cloud, so that I can look at them again a week later and see if they planted any seeds. One out of every eight or nine of them turns into something. One of every eight or nine of those things turns into something I’d hang my hat on. Writers write, writers write every little thing they think of down, then writers sort and writers rewrite rewrite rewrite. Some of those other lessons I learned from other mentors but without that first one, that my dad taught me, there’s nothing.
My dad’s gone now but the eyes he gave me are still in my head and the lessons are still in there too. This is what I can take on from him, the process he gave me to write with, whether he even knew he gave it to me or not, even though now he too is on up with the spirit in the sky.
On up with the spirit in disguise, rather. He’d like that better and, anyway, the spirit in disguise is a far more interesting concept, dramatically.