I became a John Mellencamp fan late in life. As a child of the 80s, I tapped my toes to a certain little ditty about Jack and Diane, but I never took the guy seriously until a few years later when he really hit the social-awareness gas with the album Scarecrow. Rain on the Scarecrow is a mainstay on my iPod as are many more of his more socially relevant songs, including Human Wheels.
In 2004, I picked up Mellencamp's box set called Words and Music and found another gem that had escaped me, an homage to pride and grace called Walk Tall. One verse in particular struck me, Mellencamp singing: "No drunkards are allowed in Heaven, no sinners will get in."
That verse from Walk Tall formed the backbone of Chapter 5, Beyond Vak’s Place: Part VI, 1967-1972: The Pre-Golden Years. In Chapter 5, Leysa Henko realizes her marriage to bastard Ed Dargashian will never provide her with the love she desperately wants, and that her only grandchild is afraid of her because of her constant abusive behavior. In short, she's at the crossroads, and has to decide whether to change her alcoholic ways or risk dying alone, embittered, and in shame. For a religious woman like Leysa Henko, the afterlife was always at the forefront of her mind, even if she was in denial. In Chapter 5, that denial is stripped away in dramatic fashion, and Leysa Henko is left to ponder whether drunkards will indeed be allowed in Heaven, and if sinners will get in.
As with the other musical citations, I had to remove this one on my publisher's "advice."
Oh well. At least I get to share it with you all.
Kenneth James Kirsch