July Bloom: "Music on Tap"

Many thanks to Kurt R. for submitting a good deeds experience that inspired me to write this month’s Blooming Good flash fiction story entitled “Music On Tap.” Below is an excerpt from his submission.

In the summer of 1972, I boarded a plane from L. A. to Oakland. I was traveling to start my summer training with the UC Berkeley Gymnastic Team. I was nervous and not very confident. On the flight, I sat next to Dick, a UC Berkeley graduate student. Dick knew of the winning record of the team and its famous coach from Japan. He gave me his address and phone number and offered me a place to stay. I declined his offer and was sure the team would put me up.

During the afternoon practice, I was feeling intimidated. Everyone was very competitive and serious. I could not wait for the practice to end. I needed space away from my teammates. I walked blocks to find a working payphone. Dick did not ask what happened with my teammates. I think he sensed I was down. I stayed with Dick and his roommate for over two weeks until I found a small studio in Oakland. I did not have much money, but I gave them something. I did some housework for them.”   – Kurt R.

"Music on Tap"

 

During the flight from Ohio to California, Jeff conversed and commiserated with his seatmate in row 23. They exchanged facts about their past lives and future desires – for Jeff, a fresh start in a new city, for Marlin a return to his home in Oakland. The serendipitous exchange became Jeff’s lifeline the next day, when he discovered he was stranded with no place to stay.

Before escaping Akron, Jeff had offered Music-on-Tap cleaning in exchange for reduced rent at a mediocre rooming house he’d found online. Although Marlin had told him that that part of Oakland was iffy, Jeff figured nothing could be worse than his hovel in Akron. In time, his new engineering job would pay enough for a better option. But when he arrived at the house, its five occupants showed him his space: a cot in the corner of the living room behind a sagging drape. Then they pointed out a half-bath without a sink. “Toilet works well but when pipes clog, fill that bucket with water to flush. You can wash up in the kitchen.”

The next morning, Jeff couldn’t jettison himself from this living arrangement fast enough. After reaching Marlin at the number he’d airdropped before they disembarked, Jeff took a train and walked three blocks to his new refuge. Marlin introduced his smiling spouse, Janet, and their four-year-old twins. “Welcome, Jeff, stay as long as you need. We’ll discount your room by 20% in exchange for your weekly Music-on-Tap cleaning.”

Jeff settled into the mother-in-law suite, empty now because a stealth heart attack had stolen Janet’s mother last winter. That first Saturday living in the couple’s home, Jeff got to work as agreed. He turned on the faucet at the kitchen sink and released a rush of hot water along with a Mozart symphony that he wafted across the room with a wave of his hand. The free-range music soon calmed the barking dog, who wagged her tail as if she were conducting the orchestra herself. Jeff finished detailing the kitchen, and the Mozart played on as he took the bucket upstairs. He stepped around the twins, tackling each other over a toy in the hall. As water poured into his bucket from the bathtub faucet, he conjured up “The Wheels on the Bus” to go with the flow. Within seconds, the twins morphed their spat into grins, spins, and twirls as they shouted along to every “wah, wah, beep, beep” and “round, round” refrain.

Next, Jeff slipped into the home office, where he found Martin tethered to a ZOOM meeting and Janet hunched over an ergonomic keyboard. In the small bathroom adjoining the office, he filled the bucket at the sink and summoned the Talking Heads’ “Love—Building on Fire” to flood the room. Marlin shut off his camera as Janet sprang out of her chair. Reveling in 1970s memories, they kissed and danced away the afternoon to the renewed beat in their lives.

“Hey Jeff, thanks for bringing back the music, man.”