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Jacob's Ladder:Gabe

By:Katie Ashley

Jacob's Ladder:Gabe
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.                       


The door of the porch screeched opened, and my baby sister, Abby, cautiously poked her blonde head out. Her blue eyes peered intently at me as she nibbled on her bottom lip. "How's it coming?"

"It's not," I grumbled.

"Maybe you need a break?" she suggested. Before I could argue that nothing short of a lobotomy was going to help me, Abby disappeared back into the house. When she returned, she came out with a pitcher of lemonade and some fresh pound cake.

Eli snorted. "Feeling domestic?"

Abby narrowed her blue eyes at him. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I am, smartass. Whenever we're off the road, I try to hone my Martha Stewart skills."

"Hey, I'm not knocking it. You know I love your cooking-reminds me of Mom's."

Eli's compliment smoothed Abby's somewhat ruffled feathers. At twenty-five, my baby sister was a pint-sized powerhouse of talent. She wasn't just the lead singer and guitarist of our band, Jacob's Ladder; she was also the wife of Runaway Train rock star, Jake Slater. She was also an extremely hands-on mother to four-and-a-half-year-old twins, Jackson and Julia, AKA Jax and Jules, who she insisted come along on the road with us in the tricked-out, kid-friendly tour bus she and Jake owned. I'd seen her backstage with a kid on each hip, singing lullabies before she handed them off to the nanny for bedtime. With everything on her plate, I couldn't imagine how she managed to keep her shit together, least of all be a wife and mom. I was so very proud that she was my sister.

Abby sat the lemonade and the slices of cake down on the table in front of me and Eli. "Come on, take a break. Get some sugar in you to get the juices flowing."

With a ragged sigh, I handed Abby my now empty glass of vodka to pour some lemonade. "I might as well. It's not like I'm getting a damn thing done."

Abby's face shrouded with worry. "It's really bad, isn't it?"

"Honestly, it's never been this bad. Ever."

"Do you think it's the pressure from the label that's blocking you?"

"It shouldn't be. It's not like I haven't had them on my back before."

"I don't mind having a little talk with them and telling them to get off our back."

Eli and I chuckled. "Easy, killer," I warned.

"No offense, little sis, but I hardly think we would choose you if we were going to turn the dogs on the suits at the label. You're way more Chihuahua than pit bull," Eli said.

Abby swept her hands to her hips. "I can be intimidating when I want to be."

"Riiight," Eli and I replied in unison.

Rolling her eyes, Abby huffed, "Whatever." When she started to pour my lemonade, she sniffed and then recoiled slightly. "Do I smell vodka?"

"Yes, Mother, you do."

"It's barely noon, Gabe."

"I needed a little pick-me-up this morning."

"More than a pick-me-up, you need to take a shower," Eli quipped.

"Bite me."

"Did you even sleep last night?" Abby questioned softly as she handed me back my glass.

"Christ, by the way you two talk, I must look like I could get a job on as a walker on The Walking Dead."

Abby shook her head, sending her blonde ponytail swishing back and forth. The sight of her swinging hair reminded me of when she was a kid. What are you playing, Gabe? Will you teach me how to play it? When she peered up at me with her big blue eyes, I could never tell her no. She was spoiled endlessly by all of us, but I always had a special place in Abby's heart.

Although she had initially started college to become a nurse, there was never any doubt as to the musical talent Abby possessed. She was belting out tunes with an impressive vocal range before she started school. "I never said you looked bad."

"You alluded to it."

Eli grinned. "I stand by my shower comment. You stink, not to mention you look like some of the fans we see at those all-weekend rock fests."

As I shot Eli the bird, Abby said, "I'm seriously concerned about how you slept."

"Fine. I slept here and there." Whatever sleep I'd gotten hadn't been very restful. Although I'd been set up in the very lavish converted barn, I'd ended up sleeping in the hammock out in the yard. For some reason, I thought it would be romantic to sleep out under the stars, thus enabling me to pen a love song. I'd done the same thing back at home on my apartment balcony, but the only thing I'd achieved by the end of both nights was a host of mosquito bites.