“So guys, I’ve been thinking,” Len said, leaning his guitar against an amp.
“Uh-oh,” Tyrone said from his drum kit. “Did you hurt yourself?” He executed a ba-dump-bump with his drums.
“When you’re thinking, you’re stinking,” Bill said from his keyboard.
“No, seriously,” Len said. “I’ve been doing some hard thinking lately.”
An awkward silence followed. Bill looked at Tyrone and shrugged. Finally Sam, restringing his bass in the corner said, “Here we go.”
“It’s just, we’ve been playing together for three years now,” Len said, stepping into the middle of the garage converted into a rehearsal space. “We don’t play anywhere but the same old bar once a month. And they don’t even pay us.”
“What are you getting at? Sam asked.
“Yeah, what are you getting at?” added Tyrone, punctuating his question with the snare.
“Look, I love you guys,” Len said. “I’m not quitting the band or suggesting we break up or anything like that. It’s only…”
“Spit it out,” Bill said.
Len took a deep breath. “We’re not good song writers,” he blurted. “There, I said it.”
The band members looked at each other with puzzled faces. Sam cursed under his breath.
“We’re not just bad. We’re terrible songwriters,” Len said. “Not one of us can write a song worth a lick. Country. Rock. Blues. Funk. They all stink.”
“C’mon, get out,” Tyrone said. “What about the new one we just wrote last week? About the garbage disposal. It’s killer.”
“No,” Len countered. “It’s not. It’s garbage.”
“What about our best jam?” Tyrone contended. “Cold pizza.”
“I’ll tell you what about it,” Len said. “It’s a song about cold pizza.”
Sam finished restringing his bass and snapped the string aggressively.
“What about ‘Turd on the Run’?” Bill suggested. “Didn’t you write that Len?”
“Seriously? It’s a Stones cover,” Len said. “Exile on Main Street. Ever heard of it?”
“Yeah, I’ve been meaning to listen to that album,” Bill said. “What about the one Sam wrote the other day, ‘You Wreck Me?'”
“Right,” Len said. “You mean you-wreck-me-written-by-Tom-Petty? Do you even listen to music?”
Bill frowned and tickled a minor chord. Sam was shaking his head and cursing.
“Guys,” Ken said. “Listen, we’re good musicians. We just write terrible songs. Sam, no offense, but your David Bowie thing of cutting random words out of the newspaper…it, well, it’s not working.”
“Whatever,” Sam said. “You wouldn’t know art if it bit you in the ass.”
“So what do you suggest?” Bill said.
“Unbelievable,” Sam said to the floor. “That you are guys are even listening to this.”
“Well,” Len said. “The other day I was learning ‘Golden’ by My Morning Jacket—cool tune, in open e minor tuning, I’ll show it to you— and I had an idea. We already play a couple of their tunes, so…”
“Call me a terrible songwriter,” Sam said, “when you bring in the worst sappy hogwash.”
“So my idea,” Len said, ignoring Sam, “is that we become a My Morning Jacket cover band. And I’ve already picked out a name. My Mid-Afternoon Backup Fleece.”
“Interesting,” Bill said.
“It is nice to have a backup,” Tyrone said. “When your regular fleece is in the wash.”
“What?” Sam shouted. “My Mid-Afternoon Backup Fleece? You can’t be serious. We’re a backup fleece? We’re not even a good enough cover band to be the regular fleece?”
“We could start out as backups,” Bill said. “And work our way up to being the top fleece.”
“Are you even hearing yourself?” Sam said, incredulous. “And why mid-afternoon? Can’t it just be afternoon?”
“I kinda like mid-afternoon,” Tyrone said. “It’s specific, but not too specific. You know, it’s not right at noon, when people are eating lunch, but it’s not too late, you know like 4:30 when everyone is tired and just wants to leave work.”
“Exactly,” Len said.
“You know what?” Sam said. “I’m out of here. I quit.” He shoved his bass into his case and stormed out of the garage.
The other band members looked around at each other. Finally Bill said, “Hey Tyrone, doesn’t your neighbor Barry play bass?”
“He does,” Tyrone said. “And he has lots of fleeces.”
Len picked up his guitar and played the opening riff to “Off The Record.” Tyrone and Bill looked at each other and smiled.