An Ode to Joy by
(166 Stories)

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A new year. The Troupe began to gear up for the coming season. Life would resume its frenetic pace. Driving back and forth over the Bay Bridge was impossible. I needed a place in the city. Erroll told me there was room in a Digger household above Market and Castro. That suited me fine. The room was on the third floor of an old frame house built room by room up the hillside. I borrowed my cousin’s crooked VW bus, grabbed my clothes, guitar, and the pinewood trunk that held my personal belongings, and set out to build a home base.

Sometimes, feathering your own nest nearly thrusts you into the next nest over.

I unpacked everything I could hang in the closet. I set up a lamp on an upright orange crate by the box spring and mattress. I tacked up political posters from antiwar demos and a portrait of Che Guevara with a quote: “At the risk of sounding ridiculous, the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.”

I made the bed with sheets and a quilt my cousin gave me and unzipped my down bag. I closed the door and settled onto the bed feeling lonely but relaxed. The lamp cast a low, warm light on the room, largely bare but clean. The upper floors lay quiet, the traffic whooshed blocks below at 18th and Castro. Muffled by the fog, a trolley rang on Market Street.

Murmurs and muffled laughter wafted upstairs from a small group of people including Erroll and his girlfriend. I’d passed them coming in. Erroll had introduced me with grins, friendly nods, and a “Hey, brother” but nobody rose. He helped me haul the trunk up the stairs, opened the door to the room. “All yours, man,” he said. “Knock yourself out.”

Two floors down, the front door opened and slammed shut several times. Lively words interspersed with laughter, loud chatter, and a final slam. Heavy shoes clumped up the stairs. I recognized Erroll’s clear voice and bawdy laugh. He and Rebecca talked for a while. Rebecca’s soft laughter cooed around his declaratives, a woodwind to his French horn.

They grew quiet and I dozed off. I woke to the sound of heavy breathing and a groan, followed by a breathy oh! The groan morphed into a moan and a second, lighter breath joined the first. The sounds built in speed and intensity, their rhythm punctuated by growls as they ascended their erotic massif. After a cadenza of bed squeaks and pounding, the two love doves bellowed in coordinated climax and fell back into murmured coos, syllables, and low laughter.

I woke to a second movement. They built to a crescendo that prompted me to consider intervening to save a life, but I wasn’t sure whose life I would be saving. The wave subsided and I slipped back into sleep. At dawn, they began the third movement of their duet, complete with its own ode to joy. Maybe I’ ll get used to it, I thought.

#  #  #

Close enough for jazz or reality. Excerpted from Rocked in Time, Vol III of a new resistance trilogy. Out October 18…

Profile photo of Charles Degelman Charles Degelman
Writer, editor, and educator based in Los Angeles. He's also played a lot of music. Degelman teaches writing at California State University, Los Angeles. 

Degelman lives in the hills of Hollywood with his companion on the road of life, four cats, assorted dogs, and a coterie of communard brothers and sisters.

Visit Author's Website

Characterizations: funny, right on!, well written


  1. Love the post-coital cooing of the love birds in their nest!
    Thanx Charles for spicing up our prompt!

  2. Suzy says:

    Hmm, I thought as I read it, why does this seem so familiar? Then I got to the end. Ah yes, Rocked in Time. And I am lucky enough to have already read the whole book!

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    In your room, did you continue to feel lonely with the dynamic duo on the other side? You had your safe haven, but your neighbors had their love nest. I enjoyed the way you described their erotic waves, rising into a crescendo. Did you get used to it?

    • Definitely lonely, Betsy, and definitely awake. Or maybe a slept through more than I knew. Soon after that, the Digger companions moved out to Olema, north of the city, and I moved in with other thespians from the Mime Troupe. Disclaimer: altho Rocked in Time is based on real times in a real company, I have lied, exaggerated, and invented my way through the novel, taking a fiction writer’s liberties more often than not!

  4. Marian says:

    We’ve all probably been there, Charles, on different sides of the wall at different times. Love the photo, by the way, and now I need to read your book.

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    Ah yes, all this does have a familiar ring. Love the picture (pipe or pencil in the mouth?) and I can imagine the rest of the room clearly. The description of the erotic massif was brilliant.

  6. John Shutkin says:

    The event — or events, if you will — you describe of hearing the adjacent “lovebirds” are almost a cliche by now, but you describe them wonderfully, especially all the delightful musical metaphors. A magnificant performance by all!

    That said, as others have noted, these performances are always more enjoyable for the musicians than the audience. As such, I assume you were relieved that they were playing a concerto (three movements) rather than a symphony (four). And no coda.

    p.s. Just ordered your book, Charles. I’m hoping for a “happy ending.”

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