36. Unguarded Minute

It didn’t take long to get our first gig as a threesome–in early summer I sent out the demo tapes and had booked the gig within a week. So it was that a few weeks later we had our debut at this hole in the wall place in Jamaica Plain, one of those places whose legend is larger than the dance floor. It was a weeknight, maybe fifty people scattered themselves around the place. I barely noticed them. It was almost as if there were just the three of us, and yet it was nothing like a rehearsal. Ziggy came to life, howling and leaping off the low stage, then climbing back up like a four-legged spider, and never missed a note. I got so caught up in watching him that I almost missed hitting my footpedal before the solo in our third song. I closed my eyes, then, letting the solo carry me through to the other side where I passed the strand of melody back to his voice. I opened my eyes. He was lying on the floor between my legs, making like the microphone was an ice cream cone. Or something else. I felt my breath go ragged as I closed my eyes again, felt him brush my calf as he crawled away.

“Love’s never what it seems to be,” he sang. At that moment I couldn’t remember if I’d written that lyric or if he had. He might’ve. But at that moment my brain was so full of noise and music and lust I couldn’t think straight. I felt like my arms and fingers were part of some perfect machine, creating and recreating the music from the set list without my being involved. My eyes followed Ziggy around Bart, down into the crowd, back to center stage. If charisma was a magic spell, Ziggy was casting it far and wide. I could see a woman on the dance floor, swaying, her eyes on him like she was hypnotized. Other people nodded their heads in time and were caught up in it. I wasn’t the only one, I told myself.

Bart came as close as his cord would allow and I realized he had been trying to get my attention. His eyebrows pointed toward the clock on the wall. He mouthed something I couldn’t make out, but I saw his meaning, we were going to come up short. A set that had always taken us an hour in rehearsal was about to expire at 50 minutes.

We finished the last song on the list, a fast, hard bang of a song called “Desire.” People were clapping like they meant it. Ziggy turned to face us. “More?” he said, his eyes glassy and his face shining with sweat.

Both their eyes turned to me. “No, that’s enough. They liked it, let’s not give them some half-assed unrehearsed bullshit.”

“Okay.” Bart unplugged his bass.

“Why?” Ziggy frowned at me.

“I just said, we’ve done enough, alright? They’re impressed, let’s get while the getting is good.” I unplugged the guitar, turning away from his dark, intent eyes.

He spoke into the microphone. “Thank you folks, we’re Moondog Three,” but the life had gone out of his voice. I rolled up my cord, took a step toward him, but he turned away, toward the edge of the stage. He jumped down into the arms of a blond woman I’d never seen before. That was the last I saw of him that night and as I went through the motions of packing up I felt like there was an empty space next to me where he had been. I kept looking for him, hoping he’d come back, thinking we could grab a bite at Charlie’s, maybe, but he was gone.

(This guy isn’t great on guitar, and his tuning ear is… not great either… but it’s a good song and he nails the vocals. -dm)


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