The Paino Man

From the crack of noon, my day started on the wrong foot. The sound of a new text bled chaos into calm silence.

Digital service is the last remaining present from the pre-war era. Our father’s father couldn’t see fit to give us a inhabitable world but gift wrapped all their toys.

Someday, the satellites will fall back to Earth on wax wings and the world will be thrown into savage darkness; yet as Janis says “I’d trade all of my tomorrows, for a single yesterday.”

I read the new text over breakfast, two fried eggs and Au Gratin potatoes. My most recent transgression, she goes by “Hollywood”, never wants to talk to me, and I quote, “ever again.” She included instructions to ether masturbate or rack up massive gambling debt. There are many ways to decipher “Go screw Yourself!”.

Once upon a time, Hollywood told me “she was a lady”. She must have meant a lady with a mouth like a sailor and temperament of a rabid monkey. Her whole kink hinged on the under meanings. I wouldn’t give up tobacco, ergo I was destine to die young, like James Dean, Jimmy Hendrex, and millions of other people who weren’t lucky enough to be cast in society’s lime light or digital glamour.

My apartment is a closet but you can’t beat the location. I live in a cramped apartment above the bar where I work. My neighbors are a pack of hookers and whores but the evening commute is short.

I open one door, walk down a set of steps, push the saloon doors, and I’m there.

Behind the saloon doors I find a half packed night at O’Tool’s “Tavern of Tomorrow”. Outside, O’Tool’s looks like a decrepit shanty across from the ocean but, inside, it is a puzzle of cogs, gears, and toy train tracks. The whole joint is powered by steam and fully automated.

Only a handful of actual humans are employed and Thomas O’Tool, the owner, inventor, and proprietor likes it that way. He adds CEO to the title, if the listener fane interest past proprietor.

Most of the employees work in the back on cycle mills. Cycle mills power the heating plates. Heating plates boil water, boiled water creates steam, steam creates pressure, and pressure creates powers, ergo the Tavern of Tomorrow comes to life.

The operation is more eco-friendly than any found pre-War but the scheme is all the same; automate jobs that require skill and pay nothing for the leftover unskilled positions. O’Tool has ambition to become this centuries Ray Crook.

Only two jobs remained on the floor. A cocktail waitress, who’s job description goes far beyond the realm of binary code, and the house band, who’s job doesn’t. Old man O’Tool would opt for a jukebox but feels the band gives his maelstrom of living metal a human heart.

“A drink for you, Lou?” The A.I. Bartender said.

I sat at the piano, my feet on the pedals and my eyes on a terminal screen. I had new mail as the A.I.’s plastic smile appeared in the upper left corner of the screen. The Artificial Intelligence Bartenders are upgraded with doctorate programs in psychology, sociology, and liberal arts. They also never over pour or give away free drinks.

“Rum and caramel spiced sugar water.” I said.

I close his application and go back to my e-mail. Hollywood has sent another note. She, still, never wants to talk to me and I quote “ever again”.

Sweetums, the band’s singer, is a lumbering giant of a human being. He gained his name from a likeness of the monster on “the Muppet Show”, only with neon green hair and a chain around his waist, 3 inches thick. Sweetums and I were childhood friends and, after years of travailing, I found him washed upon the shores of this city of port. Kind years left him genital as feather and reckless as ton of bricks. His 6’5” form is a sight to watch on stage and subtly recalls videos of Meatloaf.

About the time my drink arrives on the alcoholic express, Sweetums cues the drummer and mounts the center stage. Our set list is an infusion of emotional outpouring cast in the limitations of an upscale bar. Thomas has a sweet tooth for Elton John and Billy Joel, a constraint we thought would be a hinderance became an art from.

We start with a upbeat shock to the audience with “Honkie Cat”, a song which mirrors the band’s journey from our small farm town to the big neon lit city. A free wheeling rhythm rouses Sweetums’ voice to strong arm the crowd’s attention. His ability to sound on the verge of shambles and keep his shit together enough to make it sound fantastic will always amaze me.

Next “Only The Good Die Young” keeps the tempo upbeat. Young, dumb, and sinners have much more fun, Billy says it all. “Crocodile Rock”, Sir Elton John’s tribute to the discovery of music, stirs the head and taps the toes. The room begins to sway.

Merry shouts from the peanut gallery become the closest thing to a mosh pit but the vibes is ever present. “Benny and The Jets” paints a picture of a pre-war musical concert and mixes a steady beat to cool the room down.

The tempo slows and “She’s Always a Woman to Me” lulls alcohol fueled beasts. Hell hath no furry on the scorned lover. No pair of eyes are more rose colored than a fool in love.

“She can take you or leave you.” Sweetum sang.

Everyone has had this lover, their first torrid love affair. Twisted and bent, they are a masochist by heart and fame. Their beauty is only skin deep but their core is full of crazy shades of darkness. A master of manipulation, they hold the heart by puppets stings. A wicked drug for which there is no cure.

We keep the mood low with “Captain Jack”. Cold turkey for the wicked drug. Depression sets in and life becomes a empty void. Young drinkers, fighters, and the shallowness of youthful 20’s. The song is a cruel explanation of the emptiness. We lose the audience as the mirror behind the bar is always angled at the ceiling.

“The Stranger” brings back the audience with it’s promise of a new love. A song about the changes we make along our path.

“Don’t be afraid to try again.” Sweetum’s voice hooks the audience’s attention and the funky flair of electric guitar reels them in. Sometimes we all need to be reminded love, as life, shall go on.

We close with “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”, a song of remembrance. The intro comes in slow and works into a vigor of joyous feelings. Mr. Joel’s words and Sweetums voice jump with joy at the picture of a great life and the roads that lead there.

A tale as old as time unfolds, two overly romantic fools crash on the roller coaster of love and find friendship in a future time at an old keep sake location, not unlike this wharf side bar.

The band takes five and I bring up Hollywood’s e-mail. After further review, the two notes have become a movie slash book situation. I saw the text and got the point, but the email version displayed the full scope of her anger.

From the text version, I figured she never wanted to speak to me. From the email version, I understood how little she values me as carbon based life form. On her scale, I was the lowest rung.

She took careful time to touch upon all my inadequacies. Every bit of personal information is exploited and thrown into my face. Yet, she wondered why I never opened up to her. She unleashes her violent nonphysical anger with every keystroke and I fear for her space bar by the letter’s end.

All and all, I rate the split as a clean break. Nipped in the bud before we could achieve longing. We where heading down a one way track towards friendship, which underlines a intent on my part to play a friend, while the other guy, she hopes to bed, makes up his mind.

It’s a torrid triangle you have to live through once. Twice is shame on you. Remember, and I quote, “ever again” can be salvation or damnation. The choice is yours.

I might have thought she was a tiny dancer but saying good bye to Hollywood is easy. The band does it every show, two shows a night, 7 nights a week.

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