Inspired by three (real) albums of protest music released in 2018 -- "Retake the Middle Ground," "Unfollow," and "World Almost Over?" -- the novel follows the travails of three (fictional) songwriters as they deal with issues from writer's block to physical intimidation, from trolls to the seemingly endless social media feeds devoted to politics.

Chapter 2:
Retake the Middle Ground (pt. 2)

The tattered young woman made her way over to the table, where Nathaniel held out his hand and said, "Hi, I'm Nathaniel and this is Kim"

The young woman simply looked at him and said, "You're kidding, right?"

"Kidding about?"

"About being named Nathaniel. I did not expect to be meeting a 50-year-old hippie with a Bible name here tonight."

"I'm not…" Nathaniel began but was cut off by the young woman who, as she pulled her phone from her pocket said, "Hold that thought. I've gotta tweet this. 'First protest singer met: 50-year-old hippie. Not a good start. Tweet.' Okay, now what were you saying?"

"I'm not 50," said Nathaniel, "I'm 33."

"Really?" the young woman replied, "Well you should shave off that gray beard because it makes you look my dad's age. And cut that long-assed hair while you're at it. The Jesus look went out with the 90s."

Nathaniel shyly said nothing.

Kim smiled and said in a friendly voice, "So did ripped-up jeans. They've made a comeback, maybe Jesus hair will too." She smiled and held out her hand to the young woman, "I'm Kim."

The spiky-haired young woman put her phone back in her pocket and looked at Kim. "Kim? That's kind of a boring name. What do you go by on Twitter?"

Kim looked back at her completely unfazed. "Well, I don't go by anything on Twitter."

The tattered young woman looked stunned. "What?" she said, a bit too loudly, "You're not on Twitter? I would expect that from this middle-aged hippie here.."

"33 isn't middle…"

"But from a young musician who wants to write protest songs? She's not onTwitter? And she goes by 'Kim?'"

"What's wrong with going by 'Kim?'"

"It's boring."

"Well what do you go by?" asked Kim.

Without a pause or a hint of irony the tattered young woman said, "I'm Jenny."

Kim and Nathaniel looked at one another. After a brief, awkward pause, Nathaniel began, "Um, so how is 'Kim' more boring than…"

"So this is it?" interrupted Jenny, "I figured there would've been a ton of people here. You've gotta run that Craigslist ad again because I know for a fact that there are a ton of people in this town writing protest songs about all the BS that's going on with that orange prick and his crew. Do you wanna hear one of mine?"

"One of your songs? Yes. I'd love to," said Kim as she moved to pull her phone from her backpack, "That's what we're here for. Can you email me a link?"

"I've got a guitar right here. I'm not gonna send you a fuckin' link."

Jenny slung the guitar around her neck, stood up on her chair and said, "Okay, so you've gotta imagine this guitar plugged in and distorted and you've gotta imagine drums and bass." Then she began fiercely strumming — pounding really — a fast, punkish riff on the unplugged guitar. A few folks in the Starbucks looked up from their laptops.

Jenny stopped playing for a moment and again pulled out her phone. She handed it to Nathaniel and said, "Here, video me while I do this."

Kim said, "I'm not sure that we're supposed to perform here."

Ignoring Kim, Jenny shouted out, "This one's about all the racists who have crawled out of the woodwork since 2016. And it's dedicated to the people who want nothing to do with those assholes. It's called 'Don't Wanna Dance with the Nazis."

Don't Wanna Dance

I don't wanna dance with the Nazis
I don't wanna dance with the Klan
And all the narrow-minded bigots
And the Builders of Walls
They don't turn my head
They don't tempt me at all

I don't wanna dance
I don't wanna dance with them
Don't make me dance
'Cause I don't wanna dance with them
I don't wanna dance
Please don't ask me to dance with them
I don't wanna dance
That particular dance

Then she abruptly stopped playing and said, "And so on like that."

A few people in the coffee shop clapped a bit, while others simply returned to their cappuccinos and espressos. A few seemed annoyed.

Kim looked around the coffee shop and, seeing that no one seemed poised to kick them out, held out her hands for the guitar.

"May I?" She asked.

"Yeah. Definitely," said Jenny as she handed over the battered Telecaster. All the while Nathaniel kept pointing the phone at the two young women.

Kim draped the guitar strap over her shoulders while reaching for one of the Telecaster's tuning pegs, "Your G is a little out of tune. It was kind of bugging me," she said with a laugh. Then she strummed a few chords — much more gently than Jenny had pounded out her chords. Her tempo was a bit slower, but not slow enough to really be considered a slow song — more just a mellow groove.

"Well, my approach is quite a bit less punk than yours. And I'll say right off the bat that I think that anger is not the way. I mean, I respect your right to your approach, but mine's different,"said Kim, "So this song's about how maybe there's too much shouting going on. Too much 'us and them.' Maybe too much of a punk attitude on both sides of things."

Jenny laughed and said, "Aw man, we're getting into it already?"

Nathaniel jumped in and said, "She let you do yours, let her do hers."

"Hey," said Jenny, "when I say we're getting into it, I'm not offended. I think it's fuckin' great! Let's hear it!"

"Before that," said Nathaniel, "could we maybe hear a bit less of the 'F word?'"

Jenny shrugged and rolled her eyes. She then said, "Doth I offend? Pardon. Dear sir, may we please hear, perchance, a bit of this young lady's delightful melody?"

Kim, who had continued her soft strumming, shook her head and started right into her song, 'Retake the Middle Ground.'

Retake the Middle Ground

There are things that you want
There are things that I want
Often mine and yours are not the same
But if it's ONLY things that you want
Or ONLY things that I want
One of us is gonna feel crushed today

My mother told me this
Your mother told you too
'Play nice with others and
They'll play nice with you'
You don't build too much with matches
You build much more with glue
Give a bit to someone and they'll give to you

Retake the Middle Ground

People scream on this side and
People scream on that side
My ears are fairly ringing out
With pain
While the people in the middle
Talking just a little
Get rid of all the shouting
Just seems the way

Retake the Middle Ground

You know my mother told me this
Your mother told you too
'Play nice with others and
They'll play nice with you'
You don't build too much with matches
You build much more with glue
Give a bit to someone and they'll give to you

Retake the Middle Ground

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A Quick Request...

Hi, it's the author, Neal, here. If you're enjoying reading Political Music Club, I would love for you to consider downloading the audiobook from Audible or through Amazon.

Not only would it help me out (I would, frankly, love to get on the audiobook charts!) but you get the full book read by its author, and within the read I perform acoustic versions of all of the songs which inspired the book. I think it makes for a fun listen and I hope you consider giving it a download.

Or if audiobooks aren't your thing, please consider grabbing one of my other books or musical projects...

Also by the Author:

The 33rd Year

A search for meaning

Sometimes things change slowly and sometimes things change quickly. Sometimes success is enough and sometimes, well, sometimes success has to be simply thrown away so you can find something else.

Biblical characters would roam the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. Nietzsche's Zarathurstra lived in a cave. Buddha shed all of his possessions. But how in the world would this kind of thing work now, in a time when deserts have sprouted into cities, caves are all in national parks and any child who can walk carries a cell phone?

You can purchase The 33rd Year: a search for meaning from Amazon and other online booksellers.

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