Jacob's Ladder:Gabe

By: Katie Ashley
With my worn, leather-bound journal balanced on my lap, I uncapped my lucky writing pen. Perched in a chair on the back porch of my sister and brother-in-law’s farm, I couldn’t have asked for a more picturesque place to try to write a song. With its rolling green hills, multicolored leaves adorning the trees, and the rushing waters of the creek in a distance, the scenery around me looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. A gentle breeze rippled through the screens on the back porch while the sun, perched high in the cloudless blue sky, warmed my skin.

Pinching my eyes shut, I focused on the tapestry of vivid images swirling through my mind. Desperately I tried to grasp one of them, hoping against hope it would be the one that would breathe life back into my flat-lining muse, the one that would help pen a top ten single off my next album. Hell, at that point, I’d have pissed my pants with excitement over any song, least of all a hit. After all, it wasn’t like I hadn’t done it before.

Since the inception of my band, Jacob’s Ladder, fifteen years ago, I had been the one in charge of songwriting. While I was a mediocre guitarist and a decent drummer, my gift was my ability to weave words into lyrics—well, it had been my gift up until the last few months when I had found myself unable to do something that had once come so easy to me.

When a dark-haired beauty entered my mind, I bit down on my lip in concentration. I searched for words of affection and admiration, the kind of descriptions people wanted to hear when it came to songs about love, the truly, madly, deeply type professions that captured the sea of churning emotions they experienced. Instead, my vision turned into an X-rated one that probably would have inspired a Motley Crue or Guns N’ Roses video sans the big hair and ’80s spandex.

With a growl of frustration, I threw the notepad and pen to the floor before burying my head in my hands. “I’m fucked. I’m so very, very fucked.”

“Correction, brother dearest. We’re so very, very fucked,” my twin, Eli, replied across from me.

“I’m fully aware of that, asshole,” I snapped. Sometimes I wondered how I’d managed to share a womb with my annoying-as-hell brother without killing him. He had been a pain in my ass since we exited the womb, thriving on giving me shit since day one. For reasons unknown to me, I still managed to not only to tolerate him, but to somehow love the douche with all my heart. I couldn’t have asked for a better brother or best friend.

“Hey man, don’t shoot the messenger,” he replied with a good-natured wink. With our dark hair, blue eyes, and muscular builds, we were practically mirror images of each other on the physical side, but Eli’s reaction was an example of just one of the many personality differences between the two of us. He was always like freaking Little Orphan Annie with The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow bullshit while I was a glass half empty, pit of despair kinda guy. Eli could talk to a celebrity or a homeless man with the same kind of attentiveness and appreciation while I preferred to talk as little as possible to anyone outside of my circle of family and friends.

When we visited the wards of children’s hospitals, Eli was the one going full-on Patch Adams and getting the kids dissolving in giggles while I was much more content to search out one or two kids and give them my full attention.

For most of our childhood, I’d wanted to be more like him. Who wouldn’t want to light up a room and have people rolling with laughter? It was only after becoming immersed in music that I discovered famous introverts like Jimi Hendrix and Prince. I figured if they had the adulation of millions of fans then it was all right to be me.

Of course, with the mood I was in that day, none of Eli’s over-the-top antics or positive thinking mumbo jumbo was going to make me feel better. He’d hit a raw nerve when he’d mentioned the fact that this wasn’t about songs for a solo act, but an entire band—one that was made up of my own flesh and blood.

The awareness that it wasn’t just my career on the line but my brother’s and sister’s as well sent a familiar choking panic through me. It was one I had become all too familiar with in the last several weeks. After fifteen years of songwriting, I’d never experienced the quicksand of writer’s block I currently found myself entrapped in. I’d penned my first song when I was just ten years old. Inspired by my first crush on a girl I’d met in Peru, it would have hardly sold any albums, but it had started me down the songwriting path.

Since my siblings and I had grown up immersed in music, it wasn’t like I’d just gotten the idea out of left field. Our parents were missionaries who raised us off the beaten path until we were teenagers. Without TV or the internet, we’d been forced to amuse ourselves, which had led to learning to play different musical instruments. Even when I’d ditched the guitar to focus on my true love of percussion, I still continued writing songs…until the last few months.

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