A down-and-out band, a girl searching for her father, and Jerry’s guitar. Below is an excerpt from Uncle Joe’s Muse by Micah Thorp.
John’s Joe’s Band
Times are hard, Times are great
That knock on your door
Your future can’t wait
—UJB, “The Future was Yesterday”
Uncle Joe’s Band was awful. The kind of awful that plays well in crowded, noisy bars where the din of the patrons hides the sounds of untuned guitars and pitchless vocals, leaving only the distant
beat of bass and drums. The band entertained in places where people go who do not want to be seen or heard, with dimly lit booths, roughshod barstools and floors sticky with the residue of drink and sweat. Unfortunately, for those seeking the shroud of dive bar ambiance, these were the venues where the band would perform, preferring a drunken, disorderly crowd to the attentive audiences in more upscale establishments.
The group’s affinity for a distracted inebriated crowd was due, at least in part, to the nature of the band members. Were they not on stage, they were likely to blend seamlessly with the patronage to
which they played. Set alone, for example in a studio, Uncle Joe’s Band would seem misplaced, owing to over-the-top guitar solos, shrieking lyrics and untoward melodies. At the apex of their harmonistic powers their music might best be compared to sounds emanating from a wildebeest being devoured by lions on the Serengeti.
Like the band’s sound, the band members were a complex morass of anti-intellectual, unsocial and unhealthy personage, notable for their nodular livers, honeycombed lungs and never-ending break ups. Relationships were particularly difficult for the individual musicians. The emotional intelligence of the band mates could best be approximated by watching the verbal interplay between professional wrestlers, or the behavior of feral cats. A dozen or so marriages had ended among the foursome, matched only by the number of breakups and reunions the band itself had endured.
As it was, for an entity whose purpose was to harmonize sound, Uncle Joe’s Band was the very definition of discord, both as a musical group and as individuals. However, that which may have been lacking in consonance was made up in volume. Loud was the principal hallmark of Uncle Joe’s sound, the fingerprint that identified their group, the essence of the band’s unique identity. Many a night they would start to play, often in venues well acquitted to handle excessively loud noise, only to be asked to decrease the volume lest the establishment risk a lawsuit over a ruptured eardrum. On occasion the band would grudgingly comply.
A knock on the door woke Rod Nelson. He pulled on a shirt and sweatpants, stumbled across the hallway and opened the front door, squinting in the midday sun. Standing on the porch was a preteen girl, wearing a pink jacket, light blue skirt and matching socks. Her brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She didn’t look up from her phone.
The band didn’t get many visitors, so Rob’s expectation whenever he opened the door was a solicitor; either the Mormons, Jehovah’s witnesses, local politicians or kids selling things. Given the
preteen girl standing on the porch, he assumed the latter.
“I’ll take three boxes of Thin Mints and a box of the Samoas.”
The girl looked up from her phone. “What?”
Rob noticed a black roller bag sitting next to the girl. He realized this wasn’t a Girl Scout selling cookies. “Sorry. Uh, what can I do for you?”
The girl rolled her eyes. “I’m Allison.”
Rod shook his head. “Who?”
“Allison. Allison Jones. I’m staying here this summer?” Allison sounded annoyed. She rolled her eyes again, grabbed her bag and pushed past Rod into the house.
“What. Wait. Who are you? Staying here? The summer?” Rod thought for a moment. He couldn’t remember anyone telling him about a preteen girl staying in the house for the summer.
“Yes. For the summer.” Allison looked around the living room.
Rod noticed her make a face as she assessed the band’s decor, which consisted of a dilapidated couch, equally dilapidated chairs, some framed concert posters and a television with a cracked screen.
Allison walked into the kitchen as Steve stumbled out of the hallway into the living room, his tattooed biceps exposed by his sleeveless shirt. “Who’s that?”
“Allison Jones.” Rod waited to see a flash of recognition.
“No idea. But apparently she’s staying here for the summer.”
“Uh okay. Just make sure she doesn’t leave her dishes in the sink.”
Steve cocked his head to one side. “Where’s she staying?”
“Here. With us. In the house.”
Rod could hear the refrigerator door open. Entering the kitchen they found Allison staring at a half eaten pizza, a Big Mac and several cans of beer. “Earth killers! Climate polluters!” She turned
and looked with disdain at Rod and Steve. The men looked at the contents of the refrigerator, each other and back at Allison.
“What’s going on?” Rick stretched as he sauntered into the kitchen, rubbing his eyes. His grey bathrobe partially covered a dirty concert T-shirt and his boxers.
“I can’t eat any of this. I am vegan, organic, locally sourced and GMO free. Which one of you is taking me to the store?” The three men looked at each other. Finally Rod spoke. “This is Allison. She’s staying here this summer.”
When no one responded, Allison pointed at Rod. “Get dressed. You’re taking me to the store.” She turned and walked back into the living room. Rod looked at the others wondering if he had done
Steve and Rod followed Allison, who had seated herself on the couch and was staring diligently at her phone.
“So Allison. What can you tell us about yourself ?” Rod asked.
She looked up. “Like what?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Um, where are you from? How did you get here? Who sent you? Do you know anyone here? What grade are you in school? How long are you staying? Where do you live?” Rod
paused and scratched his chin. “Just a few questions.”
Allison rolled her eyes. “My mom sent me. She said it was time I stayed with my dad. I’m here for the next twelve weeks, which is going to be SUCH a long time.” She looked at her phone again. “I