Powerful Ballad 
by Michael A. Van Kerckhove

Hands trembling, the twelve-year-old tears apart the room he shares with his little brother, searching for his Slippery When Wet cassette cos he needs to hear “Never Say Goodbye”—Like Right Now. He finds it between brown bedroom carpet and old math homework, wrenches open its cracked plastic case, and plunges it into his Star Studio tape deck. Push play; wrong song. Fast forward a little. Rewind a bit. Find that spot where salutatory drum beats and extended-play guitar notes fill him with sappy love scenarios, balming whatever crushed madness has taken over his entire soul.

They carry him to a (metaphorically) smoke-filled Catholic school ex-classroom where at the 7th and 8th grade dance he slow-dances with Angie three times even though she doesn’t like him like him like that—their teachers said that if anyone asks you to dance, you can’t say No, and he swears he’ll never let her go. Jon Bon Jovi’s past romance and heartache is our boy’s own near future. Right? Fights, prom, lost keys, and whatever it was she lost in his backseat, baby. Busting out, favorite songs. Too many said goodbyes. Kindling for the love songs he swears he’ll write himself someday.

Van Kerckhove - air guitar
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Before there was coffee to fiend for, there was “Never Say Goodbye.”

PHOTO: “Air Guitar” – Future wannabe rock star, Spring 1988

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Michael A. Van Kerckhove
is a Chicago writer originally from Detroit. He is a 2013 graduate of DePaul University’s Master of Arts in Writing & Publishing. His nonfiction and interviews have appeared in Off the Rocks, The Everyday Gay, Midwestern Gothic, Consequence of Sound, Belt Magazine, Story Club Magazine, How Long Will I Cry?: Voices of Youth Violence, and TYA Today. He is active in Chicago’s vibrant live lit scene, and has told stories as part of Guts & Glory, Is This a Thing?, Mortified, You’re Being Ridiculous, and many others. He serves as Executive Director of Theatre for Young Audiences/USA. Much more at

AUTHOR PHOTO: “Mort” – Michael performing at Mortified Chicago, Valentine’s Day 2015 (Photo: Jill Howe Photography)