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.
The Days That Matter
"Where RU?" Read the text on Kim's phone. She was running late to the Monday night meeting of Political Music Club at the Starbucks on 4th. She had just pulled into a parking spot on the street and was walking toward the entrance when the text had come through, so since she was that close she didn't reply to Jenny's text.
She entered the Starbucks and headed straight for the counter to order an espresso. Work had gone late and she had barely managed to shake out of there in time to speed over to the meeting. And after the work day she had just experienced she needed a good shot of espresso if she was going to make it through the evening.
After she had ordered, the cashier asked, "Are you a member of Political Music Club?"
Kim, a little startled, said, "Yes… Why are you asking me that?"
"Coffees for the club are going onto one tab."
Kim momentarily panicked, "I didn't… Who's paying for this?"
The cashier pointed to a 50ish-looking man who was seated near the window and staring out at the street. "I don't know that man. Why would he pay for my coffee?"
"He told our manager that he wants to pay for all of your people. As much as they want to drink."
"All of my people?" said Kim, and for the first time she looked up to see that there were quite a few more people than usual here tonight. "How many of these are 'my people?'"
As Kim said this the Starbucks manager came up to her. "You're the leader of this group, right? I remember you from before. Look, we're thrilled that you're bringing the business here for us, but could you give us a heads-up next time?"
"We put your group in the side room, but it's got a posted capacity of 65. If you get over 50 let me know and we'll open up the patio. We're glad you're here, but we absolutely cannot violate Fire Codes."
"No, of course not," said Kim though she had still not adjusted to the idea that there were enough of 'her people' to potentially violate a Fire Code, "We'd never… you know… Fire Codes are good."
"Fire Codes are good. Welcome back."
As Kim moved to the pickup area she saw Jenny's mom coming over toward her. "I found her!" shouted Jenny's mom.
"Sheila, what in the world is going on here?"
"You've got a whole lot more members to your club," and Jenny's mom waved to get her daughter's attention in the side room, "I found her!" she repeated.
"Okay," said Kim, "I guess that Nathaniel's posters did the trick, huh?"
"It's awesome!" said Jenny's mom. "I guess a few people actually brought instruments, but Jenny told them that you got in trouble for that last time, so they're not playing them."
"Well, there's still Thursday."
"Yeah, she told them that. That you're gonna jam on Thursday," she said, "You need to check all of this out. Like there's these two girls with bongos, and one has a shirt that says "IMP" and the other one has a shirt that says "EACH." But when I first saw them they were standing backward, so their shirts said 'EACH IMP,' so I was totally confused until they switched around. Kinda funny"
"Do you think that'll happen? Maybe when the Mueller report comes out. Maybe it'll happen then?"
"I don't know, but that reminds me of something that I didn't tell you when we were talking the other day. I know that it's obvious that I don't like Trump. I've never liked him since the 80s."
"I could tell that."
"But when he was elected I told myself to give him a chance. Maybe now he'll act like a grownup. Maybe instead of acting like the spoiled rich kid that he's always acted like, maybe he'll realize 'hey, I'm the President, maybe I should act like one.'"
"I haven't seen that yet," said Kim.
"Me neither. And he's had lots of opportunities. My God, all these shootings and Charlottesville and on and on. He's had the chance to be Presidential, but instead he just tweets like an pouty teenager. And I'm thinking, 'you're the President, act like it, man!' But I wanted to tell you that."
"Why?" asked Kim.
"Because, like you said in your song, I'm an optimist. I did hope that he would learn and grow up and I did want to give him a chance. But… now I'm definitely with the bongo girls."
Above the noise of the room they could hear Jenny shout, "Look at this!" as she ran up to Kim. "Would you look at this! Now this is much better for a start."
"Yeah. We're gonna go nationwide, Kim. Your club is gonna go nationwide. But first you've gotta get in there and get control of that room. They're raring to go."
"All right. First I wanted to talk to this guy who's buying the coffee and thank him."
"Oh don't worry about that. Mom's on it. You've got other stuff to do. Nate did a bunch of stuff — Nate! Come over here! — He did a bunch of stuff on the website so you don't have to. Turns out he's pretty organized for a hippie. And it was supposed to be a surprise and all."
"Hi Kim," said Nathaniel. And was it Kim's imagination or had his hair been cut a little shorter and neater? She said, "So, I haven't seen this website yet, but I loved what you did with those posters. And obviously they worked."
"Oh thanks. Yeah, I did a website. It's still a work in progress, but I did a few things to be ready for this meeting. I set up a database so that each person can enter their info so we can share things like Soundcloud, Facebook, websites, things like that. But mostly for what we're doing I figured that Soundcloud should be the first priority. So that we can all hear what we're all doing." He pulled out his phone, "So what you do…"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," said Jenny, "You can explain to everybody how that all works. Right now we need to get our founder here to get going. Everybody's caffeinated and ready to go!"
"What else would we call you? You started this fuckin' thing."
"Just one night," said Nathaniel, "Just one night without the F word."
"That night is not tonight. Now come on Kim, let's take advantage of that caffeine high that's got everybody motivated."« previous next »