Metallage (me-tal’-la-gee): When a word or phrase is treated as an object within another expression.
Bert: If you say “stairway to heaven” again, I don’t know what I am going to do. Every other thing you see is a stairway to heaven. How can a used car lot be a stairway to heaven, or the CVS parking lot, or the two trash cans in my garage, or my fishing pole—I can sort of see it as a stairway to heaven, but not the rest of the stuff. Some people say “like” or “man” or “far out” a lot, but they’re just stuck in the sixties with bell-bottoms and platform shoes—creatures of an epoch carrying their pot-infused culture into the 21st century, trying to preserve “the dream.”
You, on the other hand are tangled up alone in a Led Zepplin wonderland borne on your junior prom, when your first dance ever in your life—a dance with Valletta Berge—was to Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” You’re 28 years old now—28 for Christ’s sake. Valletta is a single mom with 8 kids. Just like you and me, she never left town. I know you know, but I’ll tell you again anyway: Valletta lives with her 8 kids out by the railroad tracks in the derelict train station that was abandoned when the new one was built 5 years ago. She runs a day care center called “Ticket to Ride” at the station. The kids love it—riding their trikes around and playing “Choo Choo” on the railroad tracks while Valletta talks on her cell phone. Maybe if you go and see her and dance again to “Stairway to Heaven” on Spotify, it will purge you of you hellish repetitive use of “Stairway to Heaven” to label just about everything you see and experience.
Earnie: I knew at least four of Valletta’s kids were mine: Spike, Ricky, Chester, and Chrissy. Bert was wrong about them living at the train station. They had been put up for adoption at birth, but I had named them anyway. Three of the remaining kids had the same fate. Only “Queen Helene” (named after the organic stick deodorant), was kept and raised by Valletta.
Valletta knew I was coming to the station—Bert had warned her. When I saw her, we could’ve been back at the junior prom. She was so beautiful. She was wearing a white goddess gown. Queen Helene held its train as Valletta moved slowly toward me. All the day care kids came inside and lined up in two parallel rows, with their hands raised above their heads. We met halfway between the children. I booted up “Stairway to Heaven” on my cell phone. We embraced and slowly danced, and the children made a circle, and we danced, slowly, passionately. Valletta yelled “Kiss me before I melt.” I kissed her and suddenly we were standing together on a jewel-encrusted golden staircase that reached through the train station’s roof. “This is the staircase to heaven!” I yelled over the music, which had become very very loud: “Let’s climb it!” Valletta said, “I can’t. After all the babies I’ve had, I’m in really shitty shape. You’ll have to go alone.” I was disappointed, but I started climbing anyway. Queen Helene swooped in out of nowhere and pushed me down the stairs. She yelled, “Fuck all of you!” as she ran up the Stairway to Heaven. She disappeared through the train station’s roof. I had a mild concussion, two broken ribs and a broken ankle. Valletta came to visit me in the hospital and now she’s pregnant again.
After the horror of my accident, and the definite insanity of everything else that happened, “Stairway to Heaven” is no longer my go-to phrase of praise. I replaced it with “Under the Boardwalk.” Now, if I see or hear something I like I say, “That’s under the boardwalk.” Thanks to The Drifters 1964 recording, there will always be a romantic magical refuge, a place get away from it all, and maybe find some loose change with a metal detector. Bert has threatened to terminate our friendship over my latest phrase of praise, saying it is stupid. I responded: “Hey Bert! That’s under the boardwalk!” We both laughed and hugged. Bert started humping my leg, just like the old days, and I knew our friendship would never end.
Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).
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