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VISITING ACT: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

All That Heaven Will Allow : A story for the Boss

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Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Sat. Aug. 16
7:30 p.m.
$95, $65, $29 (plus applicable fees)
N. Charleston Coliseum
5001 Coliseum Drive
(843) 529-5050
www.coliseumpac.com
www.brucespringsteen.net

"All That Heaven Will Allow" from the album Tunnel of Love
Audio File

""Your Own Worst Enemy" from the album Magic
Audio File

Bruce Springsteen is a natural storyteller. His lyrics often read like memories; the characters in those songs like forgotten people. Working class folk. Easy to overlook. But Springsteen has shown them to us: getting by, making it up as they go along, trying to catch a break. Over the years, we've come to feel a deep affection for Springsteen's people. So, for telling their stories, for not allowing them to be entirely overlooked, we thank the Boss. Here's a little story for him.


Thursday, I let Danny work the nail gun. Which I did mostly because there wasn't much left on the punch list but that gaudy custom accent moulding and because I figured even Danny couldn't kill himself with finishing nails.

He still managed to shoot one through the web of his left hand.

Got himself in a lather over it, too — even though when I yanked the nail free with my Leatherman, barely a few drops of blood plumped out of the hole in him.

"Aw, shit!"

Danny started pumping his fingers in and out of a white-knuckled fist: only making it bleed worse. "Aw, man! Shit! — They ain't gonna hold me back for this — they won't make me stay, will they, Sergeant?"

I was looking down at that narrow strip of extravagant moulding he'd nailed himself to: still intact, thankfully. Just a candy-red smear where one badly-timed move got popped by one careless countermove.

"No one's leaving without you, Danny. Army needs every lunkhead it can get."

I tossed him a rag.

"Get yourself some disinfectant and a band-aid. And make sure you wipe that moulding clean. Nobody wants to see blood in their living room."

Until that morning, winding things down on the Humphrey's 3,600 square foot McMansion, I really hadn't thought about it — what it is with Danny. With me, the Army is that one weekend a month: a few extra bucks gone straight to Grace for child support. But Danny?

Story goes, he kept telling the recruiter, "I'm a good shot." Over and over again. And he really is, in fact. But once the Army's brain trust kicks into gear, anything can happen. Danny wound up, not in a combat unit, but with us, in resupply.

We fancy ourselves the "Four-oh-seven-seventh." An outfit nobody would call the sharpest tool in the arsenal of democracy.

They called us up anyway.

Which demonstrates that while fortune may favor the bold, it genuinely enjoys chomping down on the unwary. In a week, Danny and all the rest of us benchwarmers were headed to the show.

Six months back, I brought Danny on as day-labor. Whatever you ask, he'll do, or at least try. Some ways, he's fairly worthless on the job site, but one thing he does — I don't know how — he knows exactly what I'm going to need next, even before I do, and he'll be at my elbow, saying —"Here you go, Boss," — just when I'm about to go looking for it.

Danny won't call me Red like everybody else does. Before I broke him of it, he used to call me Sergeant all the time. Like he couldn't hold two ideas — Army and civilian life — separate in his head. Now it's "Boss," unless he's freaking out over something.

He got his hand patched up. Things settled down. Just the pop-pop of Danny's nail gun, the compressor rumbling on the bare floor and oldies rock on my radio.

The Stones came on, shouting, "Get offa my cloud!" — young guns, all brazen and full of themselves.

"Think we'll get shot at, Boss?"

Gee-zus.

"Danny, chances are it's already all over. Else they wouldn't be looking to send your sorry ass over to the cradle of civilization. Bet on it. Anyway, I thought you wanted your shot at being a hero."

"Naw. That ain't me, anymore. Guess... well — I wouldn't wanna see any of the guys get hurt, is what. Hey Boss, can you put on the news? Maybe they're saying something."

Danny knows better than to mess with my DeWalt radio. I got it, one year and two months ago, a surprise from Grace. She made a special order at Tractor Supply in North Platte but it went on back-order and one thing or another later, she showed up to the house with a box that day, a week after our divorce.

"This a parting gift?" I had to laugh. She did, too.

"Knew you'd say that. But it took so long — hell, I'm not driving it all the way back to North Platte. So here it is, Red." She looked around me into the house. "Kids ready?"

Grace stopped talking to me last week, when she heard our unit got activated.

News radio had nothing to say. Some tornado setting up, I didn't hear how many miles east of us. Danny was talking over the announcer, asking if he could get paid that day.

"Sure, Danny."

"I did it — you know? Asked Rita on a date. We finish up here, I'm gonna buy some new jeans. My brother's lending me his U2 T-shirt."

"U2!" I'd never heard anything coming out of the kid's car stereo but jackhammering headbanger noise.

"I know, Boss. But I figure Rita'd like it. She's smart. And — kinda worldly. She thinks about things."

I thumbed the preset back to oldies radio, just in time for a good one: one of those songs you know right where it's coming from.

"Who's that singing, Boss?"

"That is the Boss, Daniel. Bruce Springsteen."

"Huh."

He sat listening to the lyrics, the nail gun idle, cradled on his knee.

I listened too, staring at that radio, picturing Grace, the kids, thinking how the damnedest things really do bite us sometimes, but maybe if every risky move in this life came packaged with a date-stamp, hell — at least we'd know when it's time to go for it, when to push it away.

"What's that mean?" Danny said. "All that heaven will allow?"

"Means…" I began, and stopped myself. Danny really wanted to know.

"It means," I said, "hoping for more."

"Yeah," said Danny. "Guess that's what I want, too."

---


"All That Heaven Will Allow"
— from Bruce Springsteen's 1987 album Tunnel of Love

I got a dollar in my pocket/There ain't a cloud up above
I got a picture in a locket/That says baby I love you
Well if you didn't look then boys/Then fellas don't go lookin' now
Well here she comes a-walkin'/All that heaven will allow

Say hey there mister bouncer/Now all I wanna do is dance
But I swear I left my wallet/Back home in my workin' pants
C'mon, Slim, slip me in, man/I'll make it up to you somehow
I can't be late I got a date/With all that heaven will allow

Rain and storm and dark skies/Well now they don't mean a thing
If you got a girl that loves you/And who wants to wear your ring
So c'mon mister trouble/We'll make it through you somehow
We'll fill this house with all the love/All that heaven will allow

Now some may wanna die young man/Young and gloriously
Get it straight now mister/Hey buddy that ain't me
'Cause I got something on my mind
That sets me straight and walkin' proud
And I want all the time/All that heaven will allow

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