Smells like…

“That’s not where I put you.” I plucked my Marilyn Manson CD off my desk and returned it to its place in my collection.  Actually, it was one of my Marilyn Manson CDs, Smells Like Children. I had two, and I kept them stored together at the back of a shelf. It was 1998, YouTube was still seven years in the future, and that shelf was stacked three deep.

Two hours later, Manson was back on the desk, where, once again, I had not put him. “Stop it,” I told the CD. The other Marilyn Manson saw no need to jump out and get in my way all the time. Smells Like Children, though? It wanted to be played constantly. I was supposed to be writing a twenty page essay called “Textual variations between  Battle of Angels and Orpheus Descending: Tennessee Williams’ Versioning Game”.  I absolutely needed Gustav Holst, Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and AC/DC to get me through. Manson tended to break out in talking instead of just singing, and he should have understood that his music wasn’t conducive to my graduate studies. I put the disc back on the shelf and went to bed.

By the next morning, the case had made its way up to sit on the CD changer. I got out of bed, and Manson’s face glowed lurid green at me from the top of the stereo. He wanted to chant the damned boat song. “Fine.” I put the disc on while I ate my bagel, and I ran late to class so I could sing along to the cover of “Sweet Dreams”. I also let him sit in the player all day while I was at school.  Even though it was turned off, maybe that compromise would mollify him.

Monday was my long day, and I didn’t get home until close to seven. I walked in my apartment, and the stereo clicked on. “Oh no you don’t.” I ejected the CD, returned it to its case, and replaced it in the stand. “Look at all these other guys I’m not playing right now,” I told it. I pointed especially to its counterpart, Portrait of an American Family, but also to Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral, and Kiss’s Psycho Circus (which was still in its cellophane wrapper). “They aren’t acting like a bunch of assholes. Stay put.”

I woke up at 3AM. Every light in the apartment was on, and Manson was singing lewd suggestions at volumes sure to wake my neighbors. I hit ‘off’ on the remote, but nothing happened. I got up and hit ‘off’ on the machine, but Manson went on accusing me of being white trash. “Damn it!” I unplugged the radio. It finally went quiet. The apartment lights turned off on their own.

In the morning, when I plugged the player back in, Manson fired right back up in the middle of the song. “This is starting to get on my nerves,” I told him. I hit ‘eject’, but the CD kept playing. Finally, I unplugged the machine again and went after it with a screwdriver. It took two hours, and I missed breakfast, but I finally got the disc out without damaging my equipment.

I considered throwing it away, but I thought it might just crawl out of the dumpster and come back to me. And I could manage a CD that played itself and turned on all the lights. But I was pretty sure I couldn’t handle one that slipped under the door with some rotten bananas.

I tucked it in my backpack. “I’m keeping an eye on you today.”

I waved to my downstairs neighbor as we both got into our cars. She sang a few lines of “Sweet Dreams” at me. I drove to school. In the parking lot, some undergrad was blaring the boat song. I hiked to my office. My officemate Michelle sang a verse of “Cake and Sodomy”.

“I love that song,” I told her.

“Yeah! I haven’t heard it in about a year, but I’ve had it stuck in my head all morning.”

“Hey, listen, I’ve got two CDs with it. You want one of them?”

“Sure! That would be awesome!”

I smiled and gave her a thumbs up. “As it happens, I threw one in my bag this morning.” I drew out the offending object and handed it over.

“Talk about coincidence!” She was thrilled. She popped on headphones and put it in her portable CD player.

I smiled at Michelle’s desk drawer as I sat down at my computer.  “Let’s see you try to get home from the other side of town.”



About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


Smells like… — 52 Comments

  1. I bet Tennessee Williams would have totally dug Marilyn Manson. He didn’t mind writing about the fringes of human experience… Sometimes stuff like that gets caught in your est for a reason.
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    • This is very true. Now that you’ve made me think of it that way, I can totally see Streetcar. Not Glass Menagerie, though. That one is a bit more … subdued. Though maybe in the films that play in the background…

  2. Awesome!I loved this! I wonder if the studio where Marilyn Manson recorded “Smells Like Children” was built on an ancient Indian burial ground…

    • Giggle. It’s actually a remix album, so I doubt it. He took things he had recorded elsewhere and redubbed them for this one. There are even two different versions of the album, one with slightly more disturbing titles on it than the other.

  3. I was looking forward to the interesting solution to your problem. Nicely finished. I liked the balance between a bit unnerving and relaxed jocularity. Posts about music always make me think I’m missing something that I listen to so little of it… but my brain doesn’t really work that way. I enjoyed it anyway!
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    • Twenty pages is like the bare minimum for a grad school paper. Once you get into the minutia of anything it’s not that hard to reach the full length. That particular paper was fascinating, but it was K-I-L-L-E-R to write because it was so nitpicky.

  4. I was always just a little scared of Marilyn Manson. I remember when I was younger my friends and I used to look at pictures of him to freak ourselves out. Now that I’m thinking back, I’m remembering all those crazy rumors that went around about him. I wonder how many of them were true?
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    • Actually, he seems like a really nice guy. After the Columbine shootings were blamed unfairly on him (the shooters didn’t even listen to his stuff) he wrote an extremely intelligent article about scapegoats and the American Press. His groupies sound a little sex crazed, but then, that’s the very definition of groupies. But his public persona is the version of himself that he can present to the best (and most profitable) effect.

  5. Clever, and well written. My music gene is definitely missing. I never became fixated like most college and grad students do. Even my 10 year old niece has begun her obsession with a couple of bands. That was not me as a kid or an adult. Nevertheless I enjoyed your post for the writing. I loved that you gave the CD a life of its own! Nicely done.
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    • My husband doesn’t get music either. I have to go to concerts alone, because he just doesn’t grock it. But that’s OK. If I ever need to know who the losing party’s vice presidential candidate was the year he was born, I can be guaranteed of the answer “which losing party” which is its own form of entertainment.

  6. When I saw your title at SITS, I immediately thought of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, so I was surprised when your post actually WAS about music! Too funny! I’m not a big fan of Marilyn, and much prefer the Eurythmics version. 😉 But I loved your post!
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    • I agree about the Eurythmics’ being the better version for sure!! I didn’t want Cake and Sodomy hanging out in my blog links corrupting all my other (not-so) innocent posts though 😛

  7. Years and years ago, I threw my boyfriend’s- now my husband- MM cd out of the truck after we got in an argument. If that bastard makes its way back home, you’ll be the first to know.
    Great writing.

    • It’s a combination of things. Definitely, it’s about earworms, which will plague me until the day I die. Lodge a song – any song – in my head, and it stays for weeks. Some of it really happened, but I’m bipolar, and in grad school I was unmedicated. I don’t hallucinate, but I’m good at delusions. The story didn’t play out exactly like this, and I am (and was) reasonably certain that the whole problem was in my head, but I felt so much better when I gave that thing away. And I still have the other CD, and I’ve actually added a couple of others of his over the years.

  8. Ha, a portable CD player. Have not thought of those in years. Remember the Walkman? OK, but did the Manson CD make it’s way home? God, he always scared me….
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  9. I FRIGGIN love his rendition of Sweet Dreams! Love it to shreds… This was a totally cool story. I can see where you got your inspiration for Divorce (oh yeah, I started it and love it, Jamie is my new BFF). You love music. Of course you do. And it’s such a part of who you are… this post made me smile in a frightening kind of way, because if I had a CD that did that, *creepers*.
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    • I like it a lot, but I have to confess that nothing can top Annie Lennox for me. This is the rare cover that I do enjoy enormously, so it gets full marks. Mostly, I used it because Cake and Sodomy is just a little toooooo creepy for a linkup, even for me.

    • Happily, he was happy with Michelle. She still had the disc six months later when she introduced me to my now husband, so the tradeoff worked for Mr. Manson as well, I suppose.

  10. You’re so good at this – great pacing and just the right amount of detail! A creative, just eerie enough story with a strong ending. Loved it! And congrats on a well-earned Yeah Write win!
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  12. Ha! That’s great. I feel like I should be disturbed by a CD being so forward, particularly a Marilyn Manson CD, but actually it comes off kind of sassy and charming. Fun.
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