By April it got warm enough that I started convincing Bart to come out and busk with me, to relieve some of the itch to play and boredom. But he was afraid to bring any of his good basses outside, so he bought a set of bongos and beat on them sometimes, and he had a second hand Takamine I liked to play that was nice but not too-nice-to-play-outdoors. We rigged it with a microphone just inside the soundhole and I blew a small chunk of my salary on a little battery-powered amp (and a warmer trenchcoat, one that wasn’t almost gray from age and worn-thinness) and we started getting better tips after that. We played everything we could fake, from Dylan to Boiled in Lead to The Cure. Neither of us sang, though.
One day, we were in the park outside the subway station, on one of those sunny days that tell you summer is about to arrive. A roasted nut vendor was somewhere downwind of us making the afternoon smell marijuana sweet. The sky was blue with just a slight nip in the wind. A semi-circle of people had gathered around us to listen. If I’m remembering it right, we were playing something upbeat, “Just Like Heaven,” I think. I wasn’t paying much attention at that moment, just kind of grooving on the afternoon and looking at Bart without really making eye contact with him.
Then someone jumped out of the crowd, dancing, an orphan vampire child, dressed in layer upon layer of ancient clothing straight from the rummage bins at Salvation Army and his eyes ringed with heavy black liner. He had on at least three different patterns of plaid. His fingers pointing from fingerless gloves, he waved his hands over our eyes. He struck cat-like poses, sprang into the air, and laughed. He danced around passers-by, miming undecipherable stories, and then, sometimes, singing.
He jigged over to Bart and said something in his ear. I couldn’t hear what, but I saw Bart shrug. The stranger pointed to the amp on the ground and said something more, a wicked smile on his face, and Bart looked bemused. Bart shared a look with me then and started the chorus again.
The stranger dropped to his knees in front of me, cupped his hands to his mouth and began singing into the soundhole of the guitar. Bart watched, incredulous, but never missed a beat, and I never missed a note–not then, not ever. The hollow body picked up his voice, gave it an eerie wooden tone, and pumped it through the amp. He bounced on his knees, keeping his mouth trained on the hole. I wondered when he would stop. We did the whole song like that, with him hollering into my crotch, until his knees gave out.
I stopped playing and gave him a hand up, my eyes on him and not the dispersing crowd. I had made up my mind. We shook hands.
“I’m Daron,” I said, “and this is Bart.”
“Ziggy. Hi, Bart.” He smiled. “You don’t remember me.”
Bart did a double-take. “No, I don’t.”
“The party at Susanna’s. My hair was blond, then. At the end of the summer? At the loft by The Channel. And this must be the guy you were talking about.” Ziggy turned his dark eyes on me, appraising something, I wasn’t sure what. “The bigshot guy from Nomad.” He smiled at me from under his mop of jet black hair. “I thought you’d be taller.” We saw eye to eye.
I smiled back. “Well, I’m not.”
Bart shook his head. “I still don’t remember you, sorry. There were a lot of people at that party.”
“Do you sing a lot?” I put in, trying to keep the subject on him.
“In the shower,” he said. He had to be underexaggerating. He’d known all the words and hadn’t flubbed any.
Bart was looking at me like he wanted my attention, but I kept my eyes fixed on Ziggy. “I mention it for a reason.”
“Daron,” Bart began.
“We’re looking for a singer,” I went ahead, “And I think you’re it.”
Ziggy’s smile never wavered. “So call it a cosmic coincidence, huh? Do you want me to audition,” he spat the word out, “or something like that?”
“I think you just did.” I locked eyes with Bart now, and he nodded.
Ziggy clapped his hands. “Cool. What do you call this band, anyway, Short Guy Trio?” He laughed, and we laughed and I set my mind on getting the particulars straight. Someday, if things happened the way I wanted them to, I’d be telling this story like it was part of some legend, and I wanted to remember it right. I’ve of course botched it by now, but that’s the gist of it, anyway.