I needed a little break from the bit of a funk I have found myself in– a little goal oriented writing never hurt anyone. Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge of the week was to open whatever program you use to listen to music and use the firsst song that comes up’s song title as the title of the short story. Tried to stay to 1000 words, but whatever. Without further ado, I give you, Metric’s “Soft Rock Star.”
The Wichita Marriott looked like every other hotel by that brand name. In the cold light of that February Kansas day, it all seemed the same; every day seemed the same. When things reached this same level of sameness, Mick, aka Malcolm “Mick” McGuiness, knew he had been on the road touring for too long.
Having spent every night over the last three and a half weeks quartered with his back up band at one economy hotel after another, in one featureless city after another throughout Middle America, he finally had convinced Phil to put him up at some place away from the hired help. Phil had put together this tour, having reached a career plateau of low to middle executive status at one record label or another. Mick no longer knew nor cared which.
Together they had formed the band Breeze back in the musically bland middle 1980’s. Fresh out of high school, they had a great vision of the future; of where the path would lead twenty years down the road. Breeze had experienced a faint amount of success in the later part of that decade, with two singles: This Love is on Fire and Breeze By cracking the top 50 in the US Adult Contemporary Music Chart, with the former peeking at number 22 for a few weeks.
After the poorly attended first tour it was clear that they would never have any repeat success. Phil left the band to work as a sound engineer in New York City. Mick never gave up on the dream, even though he knew deep down inside it had been a rather pathetic dream. He was and always would be a failed soft rock star; not the rock icon he always had always pictured himself being. That dream had begun on his thirtieth birthday when he received the Eagles album One of these Nights.
He walked up to the front desk and made eye contact with the deskman, “The room should be under Malcolm McGuiness.” The deskman looked him over and began typing something into his work station. It was never, The Malcolm McGuiness, of Breeze? No sign of recognition that he had broken the top 25 singles in his genre in 1988. He had been just another anonymous, fifty plus year old guy checking into the hotel.
“You guys have a bar, right?” Mick faintly mumbled. He knew they did.
He had thrown his one suitcase in his room and immediately made his way down to the bar. “I need a shot of whiskey and a beer,” Mick begged of the bartender. He pulled a hundred dollar bill from his wallet to pay for his order. He turned it over in his hands, staring at the image of Ben Franklin looking back at him reproachfully.
His attempt to bed a groupie after last night’s show in Oklahoma City had failed on several levels. Gone were the days where the fans were young and fresh, eager. She had been in her late forties and had that look about her that only drinking a bottle of gin a day could explain. As he left the back stage area of the venue with this haggard, very inebriated fan, into the parking lot in the back where she claimed she had parked, there was a car waiting for them right by the exit.
Upon getting into the back seat with her, she quickly moved to the zipper of his pants. Mick’s looked into the rear view mirror, his eyes now locked with the driver’s.
“Who the in the hell are you?” Mick demanded from the driver.
“I’m her husband.” That had hung in the air, wife’s head now in his lap. He reached for the door handle to get the hell out of there.
“Wait,” the man said, and Mick complied. “A hundred dollars.” This had Mick’s attention. He needed some pocket money. “But I get to watch,” the man added. Mick sighed heavily. The idea of some cash in his pocket, hopefully a few more drinks, sex for the first time in a year, muted the adult voice in his head that was telling him that this was ridiculous; even by his standards.
“Here on business?” said a voice far in the periphery. He had been staring into the pint glass of his beer for lord knows how long. He had quit his job selling cars in order to go on this tour, this self indulgence.
He looked down at the white tee-shirt, leather vest, tight jeans, and cowboy boots that he donned. He looked up and around, searching for the voice that had knocked him out of his trance. A couple stools down, sat a rather bland looking twenty something year old woman; business suit and all. Though she has been rather unremarkable at first glance, there had been a fire in those deep, blue eyes; something that rekindled an urge to live, to live for the moment.
“Does it look like I’m here on business, honey?” he observed with a tired smile. “I’m here to get good and drunk.” She looked down at her drink. He was afraid that he had totally put her off. “You?” he added in an attempt to re-engage her.
“I’m here on business,” she said flatly.
“What sort of business are you in?” he needed to keep this conversation going. This was the first woman under the age of forty that had shown even a glimmer of interest in these old bones.
“I’m a blogger for HuffPost,” she said as if name dropping; in the same dismissive manner he was all too familiar with, something from the past. “I’ve already been with Don Henley,” said the groupie dismissively, two decades in the past.
“I think I’ve heard of that,” Mick commented. “That is one of those internet news pages.”
She looked at him like he was an alien. “Yes, kind of like that,” she said as she took a sip from her drink. “I’m here to cover Jean Howell’s announcement that she might run for Governor.”
“He’s that tranny, right?” Mick asked, smirking. He saw that she didn’t find this remark remotely entertaining. “I have several friends who are transsexual;” he attempted to recover. “People are people, right?” he offered his nearly empty pint glass up to toast. She hesitantly toasted glasses with him.
“And what bring you into town?” she inquired.
“I have no fucking idea, really,” he said as he finished his pint. “A month ago I was selling cars in Erie, Pennsylvania.” He paused. He wanted to say more, but opted instead to keep it short and sweet. “I guess you can say I’m here chasing a dream.”
She laughed slightly nervously, motioning the bartender to refill his drink. “What sort of dream are you chasing, Mister….” here she faltered.
“McGuiness,” he said offering his hand. “Malcolm McGuiness.” She took his hand. For once, he was happy that someone hadn’t recognized the name.
“…and this dream??” she said with a more relaxed smile.
“To be adored by my loving fans,” he said sarcastically.
“Yeah?” she laughed. “A car salesmen from Erie, PA in Wichita looking for adoration?” Why should she picture him to be the rock star he envisioned in his mind’s eye? Even he could no longer maintain this pretense.
“Someone bought a car online from our dealership and I’m just here delivering the goods.” He looked into the drink that had now appeared in front of him.
She looked at her watch, laid down some cash on the bar. “Well, it was good meeting you, Mr. McGuiness. The press conference is in an hour.”
“Good meeting you, too;” he realized he never got her name. He reached to shake hands with her and came away with a room key card in his hand.
“Room 2203,” she said. “I should be back by eight.”
The car sales man from Erie was living the dream that the aged soft rock star could no longer maintain. It was time to stop pretending.