Rock and Roll Fantasy
by Randy Foster
Halfway through “That Old Time Rock and Roll” I spotted her. It wasn’t hard; there were only twenty people in the bar. From the stage, I could have spit on her, and actually I think Jimmy, our lead singer, did a little. I play rhythm guitar in a “Bob Seger Tribute Band.” Which means that I’m in a wedding/bar mitzvah band that got really good at imitating Bob Seger’s music so we could actually get gigs at cheesy bars like this one.
Tribute bands, unfortunately, attract “tribute” groupies. I suppose these ladies think, “What the hell, I’ll never sleep with the original, so why not the copy?” One can imagine that the selection from that crowd would be rather repulsive, especially for rhythm guitar players. For the most part that was true, but Jimmy usually had better luck. He only sounds like Bob Seger, but is actually much better-looking.
The lady in question was hot and Jimmy was singing just to her. She had long brown hair parted down the middle, seventies-style, which I’m sure was the way she wore it when she was in high school. On most forty-something women it looked a little pathetic, but it was working on her. And then there was her body. What sprang to mind was Bob’s line in “Night Moves” saying “...points of her own, way up firm and high.” Her “points” had some help from a push-up bra, but I didn’t think that gravity had been all that cruel. Her bare legs stuck out from the edge of the small table.
It seemed obvious that she wasn’t that enthralled with Jimmy. That happens occasionally. If a person isn’t a Bob Seger fan, our act gets old fast. People don’t usually come to this kind of bar to see band imitators. They come to drink alcohol. She had two empty margarita glasses on her table and was sipping her third. I assumed her lack of interest in Jimmy was due to the fact she was getting a little blitzed. However, more than once it seemed that she was actually looking at me.
At 48 years old, I have grown accustomed to being invisible, especially to beautiful women. I’m bald and have a slight gut from too much beer. I’d switched to low-carb beer, and begun walking regularly, but I still had a gut. My wife and I divorced three years ago, and though I had gone out with other women, I hadn’t been out with anyone I’d met at the bar. The ladies that wanted me, I didn’t want, and the ladies I wanted, wanted Jimmy.
We had four more songs in the set and one of those was the aforementioned “Night Moves.” I liked “Night Moves,” not only because it brought back old memories of high school sex, but also because I got to do the intro on my Martin. It was the closest to a solo I ever came, and though they didn’t put the spot on me, I was the only one playing for those first few bars. When I played my intro that night, margarita lady actually clapped. That had never happened before, and I was certain she wasn’t into three-chord progressions. She wanted me.
Never the ladies’ man, I panicked. I didn’t know what I was going to do. We would finish our set soon, and I would unplug my Martin and put it in its case. We were not on tour. We played this same bar every night, and I usually would have a couple of low-carb beers and go home to bed.
As I saw it I had two choices: I could just step off stage, smile, and say “Hi” to the lady and walk past her to the bar for my beer, or I could ask her if I could buy her another margarita. If she said yes, then I’d have to convince Julie the bartender to let her have another since three was usually the cutoff. Julie would let her have another if I promised to drive her home, but that was a commitment I wasn’t sure I wanted to make, or one the lady would agree to.
Our set ended, and as I put away my guitar, I noticed my heart pounding and my hands were shaking. I decided to go for it. What did I have to lose? Its not like I’d never crashed and burned before. If she turned me down, I’d go get my beer and carry on with my miserable existence the same way I had for the last 48 years.
I clasped the guitar case shut, then turned to look at the lady. Jimmy was leaning on the edge of her table, and putting on all his charm.
“May I buy you a drink?” he asked.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “But I’m with someone.”
I nodded and smiled. Of course she had a man, and thankfully Jimmy took the bullet for me.
“You’ve been here all night,” he replied. “If there was someone else, wouldn’t have I seen him by now?”
“You have seen him,” she said. “Or you would have if you’d ever bothered to turn around and look at your rhythm guitar player. However, all I’ve seen you look at is me and your own reflection in the mirror over the bar.”
All my life, I’ve read the expression “my heart leaped,” but I’d never really experienced it before. Not once in my nearly half-century of life had I experienced excitement to the degree I was feeling it at that moment. I’m not sure I liked the feeling. It made me feel vulnerable.
How I got from the stage to the chair at her table, I don’t recall, but I’m sure it was clumsily. Several wisecracks to Jimmy came to my mind, but never exited my mouth. Jimmy stood there and stared down at me bemused for a few seconds then slapped me on the back, smiled, and walked over to the bar. He loudly told the bartender that he wanted to pay for our drinks, and Julie brought me a beer and the lady another margarita.
As I sat there and smiled, gazing into her green eyes, I knew instantly that I wasn’t looking at a groupie. Whatever she wanted from me had nothing to do with my being a member of a band. She had an agenda though.
“I’m Allie,” I said, finally.
“I know who you are,” she said. “I’ve been looking for you.”
I didn’t question it. I didn’t see any need to. I took her words to mean something metaphorical along the lines of “where have you been all my life?” I didn’t take her literally.
She didn’t let me drive her home, but insisted we go to a motel. We smoked a doobie, then we had sex. To say it was the best I ever had would be an understatement, but since I’d not had any in three years, any sex would have felt superlative.
Good sex, marijuana, and low-carb beer were enough to help me sleep hard - when the banging on my door woke me. Before I could get fully awake, the door burst open and a skinny man with long blond hair burst in. “What the hell have you been doing, Allie?” He shouted in a English accent.
“W-who are you?” I asked.
“God, you must’ve really partied hard last night,” he said and walked over to the lady’s side of the bed. She was lying there, uncovered to the waist, and perfectly still. “Not as hard as this lass, I suspect.”
The blond man reached down and placed his fingers on her carotid artery. I was surprised to see that the lady looked younger than she did last night. Usually, that is reversed. “This isn’t good, Allie,” he said. “Get dressed and go get on the bus.”
“W-what?” I gasped. “Is she dead? What bus? What the hell are you talking about?”
“She’s fine, just really out of it. Do you know what she took? Gonna take a while to get this bird to the cab. You’ve got a gig in Scranton in six hours. We have to pay back eight thousand people if you and the rest of the band don’t get there. So get dressed and get on the bus.”
“What are you going to do?” I asked.
“What all good road managers do,” he said. “I’m going to clean up this mess. I don’t think she’s going to come around soon. Soon as she’s conscious I’ll pay her off and send her packing. Same as always. Do you know her name?”
“Fine. Better if I don’t know. She’s got really nice tits though.”
I reached over and pulled the sheet up to cover her body.
“Wot?” Blondie asked. “You getting all sentimental now, Allie? Never seen you do that before.”
“A little respect, if you don’t mind,” I said.
He laughed and said, “Fine. Go get on the bus.”
I got dressed and walked outside into the sun. Squinting, I could see the tour bus the blond man was talking about. A young man with bushy brown hair and muttonchops was standing in the door of the bus. “Where you been this time, Allie?” he asked.
“Don’t know,” I said. “Don’t know where I am now.”
Muttonchops laughed and stepped off the bus, then walked over to me and took me by the arm. “You’re in Des Moines, Iowa, dude,” he said. “Where were you last night? Or should I ask you ‘when’ were you?”
“I’m getting too old for this,” I said, as I staggered on to the bus.
“Well,” Muttonchops said, “some people wouldn’t consider 28 old, but if you keep living like this, you won’t see thirty.”
I turned and glared at my reflection in the bus’ large rear view mirror and saw a young man’s face staring back at me — a young face, but a face admittedly of one that had been ridden hard and put away wet.
“Bob’s going to fire your ass if you don’t start taking care of yourself.”
“Nah,” said a voice behind me. “I was young once. I won’t fire you, but he’s right. You better slow down, Allie. Those fantasy drugs are going to kill you. Just because they are legal doesn’t mean they are safe.”
The voice was too familiar to be mistaken. I fell into a seat behind the driver’s captain chair, turned and saw Bob Seger sitting at a table playing solitaire. The driver closed the door and we were moving.
“What was it this time, Allie?” Bob said. “Did you go back to playing rhythm guitar in a tribute band again?”
The drugs were beginning to wear off. I was beginning to remember.
“It’s a nice fantasy,” I said. “It was so real. I’m almost beginning to believe it. Where did I get the girl?”
“You picked her up at the concert. Was she part of the fantasy?”
“Just in my mind,” I said. “Fantasy drugs are too expensive to share.”
“I don’t get it,” Bob said. “You play lead guitar with the real deal, pick up beautiful young babes, and then you like to fantasize about being an old fart in a tribute band picking up an old hooker?”
“She wasn’t a hooker, just mature. Anyway, it’s where I’m headed. It’s like time traveling to the future.”
Bob laughed and said, “Well, keep dreaming, Allie. But listen to someone who is already there. The future ain’t that great.”
Copyright © 2007 by Randy Foster