top of page

"Rocket Queen" • Guns n' Roses (by arwyn sherman)

I was convinced that if I could buy the Guns N’ Roses t-shirt, it would cure me of the remarkable and fathomless despair in my chest when I tried to look like Duff McKagan and could not.

It had to be my dad who took me because he lived far away from all my friends and I couldn’t risk being seen in 1. A mall and 2. A Hot Topic. One was bad, the other would ruin me socially. 

The world quiets as I enter, the music muffled like the time I used duct tape on my chest and everything pinpointed and became a whooshing ocean. 

My dad waits outside, wearing the bored look all dads do when their kid is up to something. The my daughter is doing a dumb thing but I’m trying to relate to her, especially after the divorce, so I’m letting her but I also have standards and won’t go in that store look.

The man at the counter doesn’t look like the normal teenagers they had working there the times I had craned my neck and tried to look in (because I couldn’t actually go in, you see, I was with my mom and therefore my local strip mall and at risk of being spotted and labeled a poser). 

He’s older, like way older, with slicked back graying dark hair. Plain nose, too long face. Skin that was both weathered and without wrinkles.

The clerk man regards me as I tap my way to the wall of shirts.

Sir I say quietly, Can you get down a t-shirt for me?

The man smiles, like he’d caught something delightful and walks over to me. He has a loping gait I can only describe as goat-like. When he gets to me I notice his teeth are slightly too large for his mouth.  

Ah yes, which one? He grins.

I point to the Guns N’ Roses shirt.

Size medium please, I say. 

You want something else though, no?

I look at the man. The stubble made me jealous and I am too nervous to respond.

Something this shirt cannot give you.

I nod. Because even though the man hasn’t said it, I knew he knew even if I didn’t know how.

Come, I have just the thing for boys like you.

And I follow him. Into the small stairwell and down the rickety steps to a smoothed out basement that was nothing but concrete emptiness. Red symbols paint the floor and normally I would think that was cool but right now it’s making me think I’m going to get murdered. And it will be worse than normalmurdered because they’ll say I was a murdered girl and get it all wrong in the papers and I want to scream so loud my insides rip out but instead I try to figure out where the stairs are but there’s nothing but darkness and fuck I’m actually gonna get murdered—

I grant wishes the man’s voice echoes. He’s illuminated in the middle of the room. At least I did before I was trapped here. 

The adrenaline of thinking my death was imminent still synapses inside me. 

Can you grant my wish? 

Of course. And you will grant my wish in return.

Which is?

The wish man smiled. Every curse has a loophole. Mine is if I can grant one wish, I am free.

I feel like there’s a catch.

The ones who trapped me think wishes are dangerous.

Are they?

Sometimes. Yours isn’t.

Despite being in a dark room with a stranger, I am reassured. 

What do I have to do?

The man steps aside and behind him is a whirling vortex of colors. It is both everything and nothing–my eyes feel both calm and strained beholding it. 

Just jump he says and maybe I should have thought about it for a second but I don’t.

Suddenly I’m outside the store, the light a little too bright, the birds sweeping the skylights a little too loud. I squint and see my dad checking his phone and run up to him.

Hey kiddo my dad said, grabbing me and touseling my blonde hair. Got so excited you put it right on?

I look down and realize I’m wearing the Guns N’ Roses shirt. 

It’s everything I wanted.

Arwyn Sherman lives in the woods of Maine. Their work has appeared in anthologies, on a few stages, and is probably tucked away in a chapbook you forgot you bought at a late night poetry show. For more about them, go to https//


bottom of page