Music Lesson

Anthony D’Aries

Don’t tell your four-year-old son how Marvin Gaye died. Unless you want to answer questions about fathers and guns and hearts. 

Why did the father shoot that man?

Why did the father have a gun?

How’s he singing if he’s dead?

I wade through half-truths before sinking chest-deep into lies. Santa-Claus-Mall-Helper kind of lies. But Death is everywhere. The baby lion dangling from its mother’s jaws on TV. The flashing ambulance idling beside an overturned car on the highway. Or the exterminator’s visit, the placing of black boxes filled with poison along the perimeter of our home, my son within earshot when the guy said it takes three days to kill the mice, that the poison is slow-acting. You don’t want them dying in your house. Best-case scenario, they take the poison out to the yard and die in their nests.

I scan the radio for the living. Artists whose hearts still beat.

Are these people still alive?


He thinks for a moment.

But they’ll die soon.

He’s right. They will die soon. And that picture of me, that photo some press photographer took from the rafters, my arm reaching out of the crowd, the singer’s sweaty hand holding mine, so much smaller than I expected – that photo will age into a painting. The edges will curl, the colors will turn. And the echo of songs about fathers and sons will fade to a whisper.

Anthony D’Aries is the author of The Language of Men: A Memoir (Hudson Whitman Press, 2012), which received the PEN Discovery Prize and Foreword’s Memoir-of-the-Year Award. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s, Boston Magazine, Solstice, The Literary Review, Memoir Magazine, Sport Literate, Flash Fiction Magazine, and elsewhere. He was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his essay, “No Man’s Land,” was listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2021. He currently directs the low-residency MFA in Creative and Professional Writing at Western Connecticut State University.