Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cold Comfort (Blogophilia 51.9)

Rain fell harder as Jack approached the exit. Ominous grey clouds in the distance promised more to come. Fitting weather for a memorial, he guessed. Twenty years passed by since he was last in town.
Without thinking, he began to hum Turn! Turn! Turn!, another season passing. It seemed like yesterday Barry, Mark, Sam and him were the Putzietones, at your service for Proms, Weddings and Bars. Fun days, or at least most of them were. They had started in Mark’s garage as an excuse to drink. One thing lead to another and they found they played well together. Never breaking out of the regional club circuit, the gigs paid for gas and some ass. Over time, life intervened. 
About the time the record company came around, Sam’s girl, Mary got pregnant and they decided to get married. Mark got bored and went back to school. That left Barry and him and the sketchy contract they had signed. Soldiering on in a couple of more bands, Jack got the job with the label as an A&R rep and the band with all the dreams was truly over.
That left poor ol’ Barry. Still drumming for local bands, he really never quite finding his niche. Too many cigarettes, too much liquor and not enough love had left him a shell of his former self. Over the years, he’d pissed off family and friends. He was living in a beat up trailer outside of town. At least until someone found him like a lump of laundry in the bathroom. No trauma or needles were found. The family said it was likely a stroke. After the initial pain, Jack had to admit it wasn’t a surprise that it happened that way. That was a couple weeks ago. It had taken that long for the family to get a service together. 
Mason Mortuary sat back off the road to his left, with entrance to the Emergency Room just beyond it. Growing up, he made jokes about them being next door for everyone’s convenience. Now it wasn’t so funny anymore. Barry was the first one them to go. Who would be the last man standing? The thought drifted through his mind as he pulled across the road and into the parking lot.The parking lot only had a couple of cars in it. Was he early? He pulled the rental into a space only three away from the front door and dashed inside without bothering with his umbrella. The long, gray ponytail didn’t even get wet. Brushing moisture from the sleeve of his jacket, he took a minute to get his bearings. The tuxedo coated Concierge behind a Queen Anne desk pointed him toward the chapel.
Outside of the door was a picture of the four of them they had taken for the record that never got issued. Somebody said they should all wear aqua leisure suits. Jack had to admit they were pretty handsome in that hideous get up. The unmistakable sound of Wesleyan hymns being butchered on a Hammond B3 drifted out the opening. Mrs Austin, the organist at Memorial Methodist, was doing her improvisational best. How old was that woman, anyway? She seemed so old when they were kids. And now she’s outliving all of us? Somehow, it didn’t seem fair. 
Sam was already seated on the front row. They shook hands and briefly embraced. They kept up with each other over the years as they moved from place to place. Sam was a big time Chicago D.J. now, divorced and living alone. He said Mark had moved to Florida a couple of years ago, splitting his time between studio sessions and insurance. Sam mentioned that Mark couldn’t come, something about a surgery although he sounded drunk when he talked to him. That wasn’t much of a surprise, either. Jack himself was now working as music program consultant, running focus groups and making the listening decisions for the masses.
In hushed tones, the two of them looked around the room. The building had been designed by a former Jesuit priest who decided architecture was better fit. This building had been one of his first assignments. The plans from a concept of concinnity and harmony the guy had learned on a trip to Europe. Stained glass windows of the Beatitudes splayed out on each side of the altar and above them the seven virtues on the left and seven sins on the right. The reminder of the windmills of your mind. A reminder of the yin and yang of life.
The Concierge came down the aisle and asked every one to rise. The unmistakable strains of “Wish You Were Here” seemed to drift up from the floor and the few family members that cared were led in. Not a surprising choice of hymn, really. When the band was on the road, the four of them would sing the song as a warm up to pass the time. Barry had asked Jack some time ago if it wasn’t cold comfort to exchange a walk on part in the club wars for the cage of a steady job. It was a question he couldn’t answer then and really not even now.
The service was blessedly short. The minister did his best to dress up the failed life, although it was apparent the two had never met. How come that is so often the case? Hell, they could have just dug a hole and threw him in for the level of sincerity shown. I mean, Barry wasn’t perfect, but he was a man. 
Finally it ended. Jack and Sam stopped to pay respects to the sister who had arranged the ceremony. Neither one of them could remember the others’ name. They decided to skip the reception and go find a bar. It was a far more appropriate place to have a wake for their fallen comrade.
As Jack got outside, he noticed the rain had stopped. Maybe the exchange was the best. All he knew was he’d be dead and gone before he knew for sure. Putting on his sunglasses, he turned on the radio. The dulcet bell tones of Stairway to Heaven poured out of the speakers as he did the burnout on to the highway.

Pic Guesses: Windmills of Your Mind(in blog), Stairway to Heaven (in blog), (Will It) Go Around in Circles, (All My Life’s a) Circle, Spinning Wheel, Spiral Staircase, Turn! Turn! Turn! (in blog), Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, Follow the Yellow Brick Road, Long and Winding Road, Turn the Page