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 3:
Judged by the Future

Thursday at work at her Customer Service job Kim had, between phone calls, been jotting down notes for the direction that things might go with her new Political Music Club. She had felt energized by the get together on Wednesday night.

True, only two people had shown up, and true, one of those people was a little more extreme than what she'd had in mind and the other didn't play an instrument, but still the mood, the energy the… purpose had seemed right on point.

She had found two of the people she had been looking for, two people who fit what she had said in the Craigslist ad that she was looking for: people who weren't happy with what was currently happening in the government and who wanted to write some songs about it.

She had already known that she was not alone in her dislike of Trump — she was pretty sure that most Americans shared that opinion — but to find people who also wanted to write songs about it was exhilarating.

That part of things seemed on track. The Political Music Club might actually work. And if not, then at least she had made a couple of like-minded friends.

She already felt a lot less alone than she had in her conservative hometown.

Her notes had covered a long list of ideas — or actually mainly questions such as: "Website?," "Co-writing?," "Anyone 'in charge'? (me?),""Membership Requirements?, "Official Positions / Endorsements?," "Protest songs only?," and so on. She was careful to slide the notes under some other papers whenever the owner of the company came through the room.

Near the end of the work day and as she had been mulling over the 'The' issue — should it be Political Music Club or The Political Music Club? — her phone began to chime out its default ringtone (U2's 'Pride In the Name of Love'). Looking at the number she answered, "Hi Nathaniel."

There was a pause and then a "hello?" from Nathaniel.

"Hello," Kim repeated.

"Hi, this is Nathaniel. Is this Kim?"

"Yes, this is Kim."

"Oh great. Yes, this is Nathaniel. From last night. At Starbucks."

"Yes, I know. Hi Nathaniel."

"Hi. Um, yeah. I'm sorry I'm always thrown off when people answer the phone because most of the time they don't."

"People don't answer when you call?" Kim asked.

"Well… I mean… Do they answer you?"

"Usually. Yeah."

"Oh," said Nathaniel, "Oh."

"What can I do for you Nathaniel?"

"Oh, um, I really enjoyed last night and I know we're supposed to do it again next week but I was wondering, because I really enjoyed it, if maybe we could get together sooner?"

"Like when?"

"Well, like maybe tonight? I have more poems that I would like to go over to see if you think they could be songs?"

"Sure," Kim said, then she told him that she and her roommates had a garage, then she told him her address and then she told him when to meet her there after work.

It was only after hanging up that she thought about the fact that she had just given her home address to a man she didn't really know. Because Nathaniel came across as such a nice, gentle and harmless guy it had just slipped out of her without a thought. As she thought about it now, while she still felt 99% sure that her impression of him was correct, she had to recognize that in this world of ours there certainly were bad men who were very good at appearing nice, gentle and harmless even though they're not.

So even though she was 99% sure, she took the 1% into consideration and texted him back asking him to come an hour later (when one of her roommates would be home) and vowing to herself that for now she would make sure that the garage door remained wide open.

Later, as the two of them settled down into some old chairs in Kim's garage (with the door wide open) Nathaniel pulled out his notebook and began flipping through it. Kim asked, "So, the one from last night, what was it called?"

"'The Flow'"

"Right, 'The Flow.' Now, here's something that I've been wondering. When we met, you said that you had poems that you thought might work as songs."

"Yes."

"But then you sang that poem," she said, "That surprised me because if you sang it, then you had a melody for it. Which, you know, basically means that you already had written it as a song. Doesn't that follow?"

Nathaniel appeared surprised, "Oh no. I was just… I kind of had that in my mind, but that… No, I wouldn't consider it a song."

"No? Okay." Kim shrugged, "Do you have any others that you could sing but aren't songs?"

"A few," he said.

"Could I hear one?"

"Um, sure," he said, rubbing his fluffy gray beard, "Let me find one."

"Great," said Kim as he started thumbing through his notebook. As he did so Kim got up and walked over to the mini-fridge which sat next to her small "studio" setup. "Would you like something to drink, Nathaniel?"

"Do you have any bottled water?"

"Yeah. And I've also got Cokes and Sprites if you want one."

"Oh no," he said, "The sugar in those things is… No. No thanks."

"Okay," said Kim as she grabbed a water for him and a Coke for herself. "I guess I should have figured that a guy who works at a vegetarian restaurant tries to keep it healthy."

"I try," he said with a shy smile, "But I do have to admit that I sometimes have a cookie. I know that it's bad. I mean, sugar is so, so bad for you. But sometimes…."

"Sometimes you're human," said Kim as she walked back across the room and handed him a bottle of water, "So what have you got?"

Well, I've got this one called 'We Are Colors.' It's also not a political song. And I know we're the Political Music Club, so I will get there. It's just that this is one I can imagine a singing part for and that's what you said just now that you wanted."

Kim glanced down at Nathaniel's notebook. Long blocks of handwritten text, with crossed-out sections and arrows pointing every which way, indicating a lot of edits. And in the margins there were little pieces of artwork that caught her eye. The drawings were very elaborate pen and ink drawings. "Did you draw those?"

"Yeah, I like to doodle while I write."

"Those are not doodles. Those are much too elaborate to be called 'doodles.' They're beautiful."

"Oh, thank you."

Kim grabbed her acoustic guitar — the very 90s-looking round-backed Ovation Legend — and checked the tuning. As she was doing this, her phone made the dinging sound signaling a text message.

J: Hey Kimbo. Jenny. Let's get 2gether and JAM! My place?

K: Here with N now. Going over songs

J: WTF??? R you 2 BANGIN already? WTF???

K: Going over tunes ONLY

J: Gimme ur address. Im coming OVER

So Kim gave Jenny her address and wondered to herself why she hadn't invited Jenny over in the first place.

"Okay," she said to Nathaniel, "go on and sing it for me."

Nathaniel cleared his throat and began, "She said…"

"Stop!" said Kim, "Sing those two words again."

"She said…"

Kim echoed on the guitar the two notes he was singing. "Okay, looks like you're starting off singing a D and an A… So the most obvious chord choice would be D… Okay, do the 'she said' again."

Nathaniel sang the two words and Kim tried out a few D chord variations which seemed to go with his singing.

"Okay," said Kim, "Now I know where to start. You sing it and I'm gonna try out chords as you go. So you just sing and ignore what I'm doing. Go ahead."

So he went ahead with 'We Are Colors.'

Colors


She said:
'There are things surrounding us.
I see colors mixing
Day and night will bleed together
It's all I can take'

She said:
'This is all that's left of us
When we die we fade
We turn, turn to colors
It's all I can take'

We turn to colors
We turn to colors
We turn to colors
We turn to colors

She said:
'Touch this skin that covers me.
Your skin paints me ove
I'm bluing anyway
It's all I can take'

She said:
'If you look inside of me
You'll see nothing there
But silver indigos
It's all I can take'

We turn to colors
We turn to colors
We turn to colors
We turn to colors

She said:
'Let your canvas cover me.
Very soon I'll go.
I'll fade, I'll turn to colors
It's all I can take'

She said:
'Let the dirt fall on my brow
Let the grave come swallow
This thing that's gone to colors
It's all I can take

We turn to colors
We turn to colors
We turn to colors' she said

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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...

3 Albums that inspired the book:

Casual Rebels' Political Trilogy

Retake the Middle Ground, Unfollow, World Almost Over?

The music that you can hear throughout the pages of Political Music Club is from three albums of protest music written and recorded by the band Casual Rebels in 2018.

You can download any or all of the albums Retake the Middle Ground, Unfollow, World Almost Over? from iTunes or either download or stream from Bandcamp.com. You can also take a listen on any of the major streaming services.

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