Inspired by the lyrics of “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry
Robert parted his lips and let a wave of smoke come out. He was lying in bed, exhausted after playing with his rock band for three nights in a row. Sunday night was over, and the early hours of Monday had begun. There wouldn’t be another gig until Friday night, so Robert could finally rest.
But he couldn’t sleep. His mind crawled back to the show his band played Sunday night.
The club was “The Cherry,” not a great name in Robert’s opinion, but what did he care? The money was right, and the crowd had been consistent the two nights before. Sunday had been no exception. They warmed up with a few solid beats until head bobbing became hip-shaking. Robert let the rhythm wash over him, waiting to lose himself in song… until someone broke his concentration.
They were reaching the climax of one of Robert’s favorite songs. The kind Robert wanted to sing instead of what people wanted to hear. A guitar solo allowed Robert to rest his voice. He glanced out at the crowd to admire the work his band was doing. He watched the audience dancing to his band’s music and assured himself that the hellish hours of this life were worth it.
“Where’s the funk?” Somebody shouted.
Robert’s head snapped towards the voice. A tall man wearing a crazy outfit, the kind that had somehow become fashionable, had his hands cupped around his mouth.
“I say, really. Where is the funk?”
The gentleman spoke the last four words in a terse, clipped manner. Stomping his foot down with each word. Robert was so aghast he almost missed his cue to start singing again. He made a mental note to keep an eye on the troublemaker. But by the time the song finished, the man was gone.
The rest of the set went by without incident, but the mood had shifted. The audience applauded, but it sounded insincere. As if the outcry made them doubt how good the band was. Backstage, Robert’s band-mates packed up in silence. They were dead-tired, and getting heckled had put no one in a talkative mood. The Sunday ritual was to go out and celebrate the end of another round of shows. But Robert didn’t feel like it. He let the rest of the boys leave and went out on his own.
On the way back to his car, Robert tried not to let his anger get the best of him. What gave that guy the right to shoot his mouth off like that? What did he know about music? And then he realized that there was footsteps close behind him. Turning, Robert stood in front of the same man he had been thinking about.
There was more light to look at him now. Robert noticed the outfit the man wore was a vibrant red suit. His jacket was leather. Beneath the jacket, a white-collared shirt with orange stripes. The jeans and ratty tee shirt Robert wore seemed shoddy in comparison.
“Can I help you?” Robert managed to say after staring for some time.
The man grinned and stretched out his hand. “Rob, my man. It’s nice to finally meet you.”
“It’s Robert,” Robert said stiffening. “How did you know my name?”
“Robby. Don’t worry about a thing. I’m here to help you find your funk.”
“Listen, I’m tired. I didn’t appreciate your criticism earlier, so if you’ll excuse me.” He turned to his car, hand outstretched toward the door.
“It’s a shame, man. I thought you’d really dig the fame.”
At this, Robert’s hovering hand stopped. He turned around again. “What?”
“So, you are listening.” The red man said, still grinning. “Maybe some people might want to listen to you. If you listen to me.” He pulled out a card from inside his jacket. Instead of handing it to Robert, he placed it on the ground. Robert looked down at the simple white rectangle. When he looked up, the man in red was walking away.
“Wear something nice!” He laughed, waving his hand. A gust of wind started up, and the card began to fly away. Robert stomped his foot down, stopping it. He picked it up and read, “Electrical Fire.” An address was below the name. “It must be a club or something,” Robert thought. He let out a low laugh, “Stupid.” Nonetheless, he placed the card in his jeans.
The cigarette Robert held was almost done. He sat up and smashed it down on the table next to the bed where the “Electrical Fire” card now lay. “Something nice,” Robert said to the darkness and sank back down to try and sleep.