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It Wasn’t the Avon Lady

The light from the studio shone through the windows of the control booth and onto the four musicians gathered at the control console.

“So how was that one?” asked Dave. He folded his arms and looked at Jimmy.

Jimmy leaned over his guitar and flipped off the tape machine. “The guitar solo’s lame.”

“I actually thought it was quite…adequate,” said Rob.

“Lame.”

Dave slipped off his stool and stood. “How about an organ solo instead?”

“No, man. It’s gotta be right. It’s gotta be guitar. I just feel it that way. Rest. It’s coming along.”

“So’s my social security check,” said Arnie. He tapped a drumstick on the console and moved to the door.

“One day the bubble’s gonna burst on ‘bubble gum’ music,” said Dave.

“Hey, it’s my tune, you know?”

The four band members had been working in the small recording studio most of the day—a studio that Jimmy shared with his partner, Benny—trying to create a suitable arrangement for one of Jimmy’s rock songs that maybe had a chance of getting some air play. If it came together, Benny could quickly cut a master and have records pressed at the plant next door.

It wasn’t coming together enough to satisfy Jimmy. He restarted the tape, fiddled with the controls on the board, leaned back on his stool and began plucking on his guitar. The other three wandered back into the studio to their instruments—Dave to the Hammond, Rob to his bass and Arnie to his drums—and waited for a signal from the booth that Jimmy was ready to give it another shot.

The front door chime sounded. Jimmy casually reached over to the side of the control panel, buzzed the person in and went back to his plucking. A slim, red-eyed disheveled, unshaven man in western clothes walked in the booth and stood next to Jimmy.

Jimmy did a mild double take and clicked off the volume. “Can I help you, man?”

“I wanna hear my song,” said the man. He smelled of alcohol and stale tobacco.

“Yeah.” Jimmy grinned. “What song?”

“My song. The one I gave sonovabitch Benny $200 to record. Where is he?”

Jimmy shrugged his shoulders.

The man took a step closer and leaned into Jimmy. “I said, where is he?”

“Hey, man, take it easy. I haven’t seen him in a few days.”

Out in the studio, the three focused on the scene in the window. The sound was on between the booth to the studio and they could tell by the conversation the visitor wasn’t a local Jehovah’s Witness.

“Sonovabitch was gonna record my song and press it in a week,” the man said. “That was three months ago. Every time I called he had an excuse. Now…where is he?”

Rob looked to Arnie and Dave, then to the booth. “Is something amiss, James?” called Rob.

Jimmy turned toward Rob and made a “forget it” gesture. As he did, the man reached into his jacket and pulled out a handgun. He pointed it at Jimmy’s head.

The startled expressions on the three faces in the studio caused Jimmy to look to the man. “Whoa!” He drew back, took his hands away from the guitar and raised them.

“I wanna hear my song,” the man said, and backed up to a counter next to the console, where there were small stacks of demo records. He pushed the stacks over with his free hand, fishing through them, keeping one eye and the gun on Jimmy.

He didn’t find his, and angrily knocked all the demos off the counter with a swipe of his arm.

Jimmy was getting nervous. “It might still be on a tape. He may not have cut—”

“Shuddup!” The man moved to another part of the counter and rifled through some papers there. He found a single piece of handwritten sheet music and pulled it out. “Here it is. ‘Kitty of Mine.’ Probably right where he left it three months ago.” He held the sheet out to Jimmy. “I want to hear it. Play it.”

“I…um…can’t read music.”

“Dumb sonovabitch.” He turned toward the studio and squinted through the glass. “Can any of you sonovabitches read music? Or are you all dumb too?”

Silence.

The man raised the gun to Jimmy’s head. “Maybe you’re all deaf?”

Dave hesitantly raised his hand. “Ah…I can.”

“Play this.” The man waved the sheet at the window.

Dave walked into the booth and took the music. He glanced at it on his way back to the organ, set it on the organ’s music stand, then sat on the bench and began to play.

After about four bars, the man began to hum along with the simple tune, every so often singing the words. Dave stumbled a couple of times, and when he finished, looked to the booth. The man had tears in his eyes. “That sounded like shit. Gimme.” He held out his hand.

Dave went to the booth and returned the music. The man motioned toward the studio with his gun. Dave went back and sat behind the organ. Rob and Arnie were motionless.

“I could’ve gotten that recorded and aired by now. I don’t give a damn about the money. Eartha Kitt even took a look at it. I went backstage and showed it to her. She threw me out of her dressing room…but at least she looked at it! I maybe coulda talked her into…” His voice trailed off and he slightly lowered his gun. Then suddenly, “But now she’s gone and because of that sonovabitch Benny I got nothin’.” The man’s anger crescendoed as he spoke. He cocked the pistol. “Nothin’. Nothin’!”

He turned and fired a shot into the tape recorder. The bullet hit a reel and it popped off, the tape streaming after it. Jimmy dropped down and crawled under the console. Rob ducked behind his amp. Dave and Arnie crouched behind their instruments.

The man staggered and fired aimlessly into different pieces of electronics, shouting “Nothin’” with each shot. One bullet shattered the glass window between the studio and the control booth and thudded into a soundproof tile on the studio wall near the organ. Dave scrunched himself farther underneath, grabbed a bench leg and dragged it over him.

The empty gun clicked a few more times and it was over. The man started to lightly sob. Head down, he shuffled slowly out of the studio with the gun dangling from his hand. The front door closed and clicked behind him.

Dave, Rob and Arnie cautiously stood. Jimmy crawled out from his hiding place and surveyed the damage. He grimaced. “I don’t need this now,” he said and rubbed his forehead.

“Oh, James,” called Rob. “Far be it from me to be presumptuous… but did you ever think about possibly determining what type of maniac is outside before you buzz open the goddamn door?”

Recommended1 Simily SnapPublished in All Stories, Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Humor

Responses

  1. Well done! Years and years ago, my “Old Man” (as it was common back then to call one’s father) wrote a couple of songs and had them set to music. They never went anywhere and he never pulled the trigger on his gun. Both were horrid songs, but I’ve never forgotten the first line in one of them, “My gal Mabel, she’s always willing and able.”