• J. Jamal

What You Preach

Updated: Jul 7

"Ladies...gentlemen...I am prepared to change your life, right this minute."

I’ve said this line plenty of nights in my life, and I’ve always known it to be true. My voice echoes through the darkness as I pace back and forth. “I know it. You know it. Your life will never be the same. I just need a...” a single spotlight hits me as a sea of humanity finishes the statement for me. “A few minutes of your time!” Pyrotechnics blast, lasers flash, the waiting congregation howls in approval, cheers and claps echoing through this hallowed hall, telling me all that I need to know. I’m the best. I’m the best in the world. I’m the best in the world at what I do. On this microphone, nobody can touch me. “I know, I know. Do you feel that? Do you feel that joy pumping through your veins? Do you feel that adrenaline rush?! That rush that your life will never be the same again!” I work them into a frenzy, as I have every crowd that I’ve addressed. I am Lex Lyon, and I want YOU to take your place at the top of the food chain and become the roaring lion that you’re meant to be. I’ll show you how. Just like I showed them. I’ve changed more lives, created more millionaires and businessmen than the richest men in the world. And I’m just getting started.

“Fear isn’t welcome in the lions’ den. Weakness isn’t welcome in the lions’ den! Failure isn’t welcome in the lions’ den!” I exclaim as I make my way through my spiel, and they’re hanging on my every word. “We don’t lack anything around here. We get up and hunt!” The chants. The cheers. The adulation. I love it. “I’m not here to make a man out of you, no, men have weaknesses. I’m here to make a lion out of you!” This high is unmatched. Five, ten, twenty, forty thousand people screaming your name on any given day. I want stadiums next, one hundred thousand people, coming to see me. Coming to be saved. “And that, my friends, is how you live the life of a Lyon.” I close out the night the same way I end them all, on top of the world, with everyone looking up at me. Leaving the stage, I head back into the arena’s locker room to catch my breath. Recalling the reaction I got tonight brings a smile to my face and it feels so good. “Amazing show as expected, Mr. Lyon. We owe you so much more than your honorarium dictates”, I hear, looking in the mirror to see a kid half my age walking up behind me with an envelope. He’s smiling, but I’m not. This envelope is too flat to possibly have all of my money in it. I turn around in the chair, facing him so he knows how seriously he screwed up.

“Who did you speak with to set up this appearance?”

“Your assistant....Brandy, I think that’s what she said her name was.”

“Brandy’s been with me a looooong time,” I smile, before my face turns up into a frown again. “So I know she told you to pay me in cash.”

“Yes sir! But I wasn’t able to get clearance for cash payments in time, we don’t do business like that.” I’d have accepted this, had he not cowered in fear once he finished speaking. Amateur. I’m about to wreck his night.

“I do business like that, son. And when you enter the Lyon’s den, you come correct, I don’t think you’re coming correct right now, boy!” I stand in front of him, snatching the envelope. “Y’all talk about doing next level business here, clearly the finance department didn’t get the memo,” I continue, as smug as possible. “Fix that next time you call my phone.” I sit back down, dismissing him to return to his bosses. Kids.

The worst part of all these Midwest events is the drive back home. Traveling through all these abandoned cities and fields just puts you to sleep if you let it. Really makes me miss even the latest red eye flights. Driving cross country, you run into so many weak minded men, ‘tis ridiculous. I was coming out of the bathroom after washing up a little, and the kid at the register recognized me. “It’s a pleasure to meet you sir, and thank you for trusting us with your business,” he smiled and I nearly rolled my eyes out of their sockets. I’m in the middle of nowhere, there’s not another gas station for 85 miles, I drove all night, OF COURSE I had to stop here. It wasn’t some divine intervention, my truck needed gas. I nod and give a half smile, walking towards the door. “Any advice for a young lion wanting to be like you?” I shutter at the question, in part because now I have to answer it. TMZ would love to run a story of Lex Lyon disrespecting a fan, I bet they’ve already got the article written. Not this time, boys. “Son, if you wanna be like me, the first thing to know is I would never, EVER work at a gas station.” I make my way back to the counter, reaching for one of the spare pamphlets I bring with me everywhere I go. “I’d own it.” I smirk and hand it to him, and the look on his face doesn’t even do justice to the excitement he feels. Another young lion on the right path. I get back into my truck, making my way back to the highway, listening to my longest talk to date.

18 hours later, I finally arrive at my building. I packed light, so I don’t have to carry much, other than my suit bag and duffle. It’s good to be home, I sigh in relief once I get inside, lighting a candle I left near the door. The stairs creak with every step, and the size of this house makes it echo a bit. I hang the suit bag back in the closet, right next to the black one. Making my way back downstairs, I open the freezer door and water spills to the floor. Okay, I need three bags of ice next time, two still melts too quickly. I’ll deal with that in the morning, all I need is a beer. I walk into the living room, plopping down on the mattress I’d left down here so I could get earlier starts in the morning. The best part of the long trips? I get to charge all my electronics in the car, so I have nothing to worry about til the next day. I fire up one of my videos (thank God for unlimited data), and lean my phone against the beer can I’ll be drinking from once I finish this one. My voice echoing through this abandoned building helps to drown out the footsteps of the mice who’ve called this place home longer than I have. Lucky bastards, they can live wherever they want rent free. But if the cops show up here, I’m toast. “Welcome to the Lyon’s Den. I’m about to change your life.” I smile on cue with my video counterpart. Changed my life indeed.


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Monday is always a great day. Monday is Money day.

The worst part about these relics paying by check is having to wait until Monday to get them cashed. Not to mention any delays if I choose to put my money in a bank account. These days I don’t fool with banks, since the last time my money was spent up before I could even get to it or move it. But I make out okay. 5 to 10 thousand per event, even more to travel out of state, only a 5% fee with my check cashing guy. Pay a couple of bills, cut down on some debts, buy a few things for the house, then I make due with the rest. Since I’ve started living the simple life, I’ve learned I don’t need much to get by. A peanut butter sandwich here, TV dinner there, beer, running water, and you’ll be surprised how far you can get. I’m not one to brag, but I can make a TV dinner taste like a chef’s special. I’ve had lots of practice after all. I’ve found that a life of excess brings about undue stress, distractions, and problems. When you look like you’ve got a lot, it seems everyone wants some of it, for their own treacherous reasons. Hangers on, abusers, leaches, seems like they show up with every paycheck. Now, I get to spend my life seeing who loves me for me. So far, I’m still looking. Yea...still looking.

“How’d we do this weekend?” Frank asks from behind the register as I pull out the check. “What can I say? I’m the best in the business for a reason,” I smile and hand it to him, looking around the joint check cashing stand and liquor store. “Which beer did you say had the special on the 24 packs?” He grabs 2 cases and gives me the remaining cash. “Only the best for you big time. Got any more gigs coming up? When are you gonna let me come on the road with you? I know you need a wingman,” he says, as he has on multiple visits. I doubt he seriously means it, but who knows? I’ve spent a lot of nights up and down those highways, so some company could be a nice change of pace. “You’ll give up your lavish lifestyle here to come slum it in a pickup truck with me? I think you’ve had one too many, my brother,” I laugh and grab my things. “2 weeks. Kansas City.” What’s the worst that can happen?

“Hey Mr. Lyon, wait up!” A young voice calls out from behind my truck. “I’m reading your book now. Into the Lyon’s Den. It’s...it’s so great.” His kind words make me smile. If only he knew where I was when I wrote it. In and out of divorce court, fighting with my former pastor, $120 thousand in debt, talking to about 20 people, three times a year. I hadn’t discovered the pills or the escape they bring yet, but hard liquor definitely kept me numb. I guess it just allowed me to feel and live as naively as this kid does. It’s hard to be hurt by what you don’t know is going on. “Appreciate the love, young man, but isn’t this book a bit advanced for your taste?” I ask as I sign and return the book to him. “You’re never too young to get your life on the right track. Young lions gotta hunt too,” he replies, and it sounds like he’s reading directly from a script of my life story that I haven’t even written yet. “Young lion’s definitely gotta hunt too, young man. You’re on your way kid.” I shake his hand and head back to my side of town. I hope he didn’t see those cases of bear in the front seat.

When I need some inspiration, or just to recharge my batteries awhile, I like to sit at the beach. The fresh air, the views, the wide open spaces, all so relaxing and calm. I like to look out at the vastness of the shore and imagine life with that amount of peace, that amount of freedom. Someday, that’ll be my life. Nobody to answer to. No big public appearances. No more debt and bills. Just peace, calm, quiet. I know it’s not possible here, or anytime soon, but a man can dream. If nothing else, it gives me something to work for, rather than laying in this black hole of a situation every night. The breeze is really keeping me company today. I don’t know, it’s like there’s something intimate about it. Reminds me of one convention where I gathered all the lions around me and they linked arms and fed off each other’s strength and energy. The rush of greatness coursing through all of their veins. There’s something about the human touch that is irreplaceable. But I guess this’ll do for now.

The stillness of the sunset gives way to the rattle of my empty stomach. I carry jugs of water with me, giving my body the illusion of fullness. But that can only last for so long. My body says it’s dinner time, and time to shut it down. Luckily, I’ve got a couple dollars to spare this time around, maybe tonight, I’ll go splurge a little bit. I don’t eat out much these days. Partly because I don’t like sitting out in public places by myself. You don’t know awkward until you run into a fan in a restaurant bathroom. That was a handshake I wanted no parts of. But again, it’s Monday. Monday is Money day. I order my dinner to go and head home to watch another sermon. Tonight’s gonna be a good one. Two McChickens, two apple pies, and two large cups of ice. Hopefully this ice lasts me a couple days, til I can get to the store for another bag or two. Either that or I’ll go through 40+ beers in the next week or so. Who knows? It’s Money day.

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Life wasn’t always like this, you know. No, no, quite the contrary. Once upon a time, I had the life I thought I always dreamt of. Only thing missing was the puppy, or the apple pies every Sunday night after dinner. Life was rich, and so were we, with no sign of that changing anytime soon. I had a life you’d expect to hear about in a movie, on one of those Hollywood exposé shows, or in a magazine. On top of all that, I had her.

She was the girl of my dreams, and then some. It’s not often that your high school crush approaches you and tells you every little thing you could never work up the courage to tell her. The only woman I’ve ever had was the only woman I’ve ever wanted, and the older we got, the finer she got. If I was dreaming, thank God nobody else was around to pinch me. More than her looks, she was the brains and backbone of this entire empire, booking me anywhere that’d have me, getting me there and back home, as if I was cruising on autopilot. Life was so much easier with her in it, and so much better. I think she knew that more than I thought.

She found my voice before I even knew how to use it. She’d tell me “you have no idea how inspiring you are, even on the simplest things. You could bring out the fight in so many people, if you brought it out of yourself.” My lioness had me ready to hunt in no time, getting me “minor” speaking engagements that’d shake most of these guys to the core. In those days, she sat front and center, keeping me grounded and making sure I had a familiar face to settle on when things got tricky. We started growing, the venues kept filling and started growing, the checks started growing, and I could see we had something. The bigger things got, the more she was willing to stay in the background and just manage. I think once she stopped coming out on these trips with me was when it started to be all about the money, for the both of us. It wasn’t about motivation or inspiration, it was about account stimulation.

I remember the first hundred thousand dollar payday we got. The check went home with her right after the event, and I went back to the hotel, getting ready for the next one. I couldn’t tell if the pride in her eyes was for her or me. I have yet to tell her how sad the fact that we didn’t even celebrate that night together makes me to this day. At that point, no matter how much I tried to deny it, this could only go one way moving forward. I don’t think she ever sat up front anymore. She moved further and further back, and it wasn’t much longer after that that she stopped coming with me to my engagements at all.

Nights on the road went from dinner dates and catching a midnight movie to hotel rooms, six packs of beer, and SportsCenter reruns. I realized quickly that I had to fill that void, I had to replace her with something else, or I’d someday look for “her” in someone else. Of all the mistakes waiting to be made in this life on the road, cheating on my wife would never be an option. It could never be. Soon, rather than nights on the town, looking for whatever trouble we could get into, I’d return to my hotel room, avoiding any and all trouble at all. A beer turned into two turned into six turned into a case. Hard liquor became a necessity, rather than a luxury.

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