Short Story in a Song — “Touch Me I’m Sick”

Grunge. If you lived through it, listening to the genre’s ubiquitous mega-hits might be a chore these days. Don’t get me wrong, songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Black Hole Sun” and “Even Flow” are as undeniably great as they are stylistically diverse. If anything, it’s a testament to their cultural significance and broad appeal that bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam remain in heavy rotation almost thirty years after Seattle blew up. But for every legendary grunge act there are hundreds of mostly forgotten peers from Seattle and elsewhere—bands like Tad, 7 Year Bitch, Gumball, and Overwhelming Colorfast. Somewhere in the middle is Mudhoney, a garage-soaked powerhouse that helped define the “Seattle Sound” and continues to record and tour three decades later. “Touch Me I’m Sick” is probably one of their best-known songs, and it would make a great short story.

Our narrator is alienated as a result of some kind of affliction. It might be physical, emotional or both, but whatever it is doesn’t keep him from expressing a strong desire for human interaction. Whether it’s real or imagined—a terminal disease, an STD, drug addiction or an anti-social state of mind—he believes himself to be contaminated by something contagious. The rot that infects his body and mind seeps into his actions and words, making him confrontational as he tries to lure a woman home to share in his misery. She seems reluctant, and who could blame her since it’s obvious that he’s the one most likely to die alone.

Read the full lyrics for Mudhoney’s “Touch Me I’m Sick” right HERE.

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

 

Interrogation—Warren Moore

Who: Warren Moore

What: His short fiction has been published in venues ranging from Spinetingler to The American Culture, and Out of the Gutter, as well as in three print anthologies edited by Lawrence Block. His 2013 novel, BROKEN GLASS WALTZES, has just been republished by Down & Out Books. Moore lives in Newberry with his wife and daughter.

Where: South Carolina

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Congrats on the (re)release of BROKEN GLASS WALTZES. What was the inspiration for this story?

One rainy night in November of 1990, I was driving around Lexington, KY, listening to the Misfits. Suddenly, a scene popped into my head—it would become the first four pages of Chapter 10 of BGW. I knew I could build a book around it, and saved the scene under the title “Die, Die My Darling,” which was the song I was listening to when inspiration hit. The next day, I went to the University of KY library and found that the Misfits had lifted the title from a 1965 Tallulah Bankhead movie.

I put the title on hold, and started reverse-engineering my way from that scene. “Who are these people? How did they get there?” So I got hold of Kenny (the narrator)’s voice, and mainly tried to get out of the way. After a while, the new title showed up and resonated in my head, because it felt both literary and pulpy. I finished it a couple of years later, as I was working as a magazine editor in Cincinnati; I lived over the river in Kentucky, not far from Jean’s apartment in the book.

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