"You’ve just been to the worst concert of your life. Afterward, you head to a bar with friends and start drowning your disgust. Moments later, the musician (or musicians) shows up. You decide to confront the musician about the lousy performance and ask for your money back. The musician suggests a different approach to repaying you. Write what happens."
Here is what I came up with:
My buddy Chad hit my arm, causing me to spill a good bit of cold beer onto my shirt.
“Watch out man.”
“Dude,” Chad says with big eyes. He nods his head toward the front door of McDonough’s and continues, “it’s them.”
“Who’s them?” I begin to ask, but I notice Adam and Harry have looked that way as well. All in stunned wonder.
“It’s Arnel,” I barely hear Harry whisper over the raspy karaoke rendition of some horrible country song about two black Cadillacs. Karaoke at McDonough’s was in full swing. And much like the crappy concert we had just attended, I had no idea what song was being sung.
I turned to see if Harry was completely hammered, and was caught in that star struck awe when your idols step out of the realm of greatness and glory and transcend into the lower bastions of us mortal men. Journey. They had just walked into McDonough’s, all five members, led by those Philippine pipes. Journey.
The momentary shock I felt quickly vanished as I remembered how pissed I was at the concert I had just shelled out a few hundred dollars for.
“The nerve,” I shouted to Chad.
“Dude, let it go.”
That just made me more upset. Let it go? Not this time, not in my city, not on my dime. I stormed toward the band, whom were making their way from the front of the bar to the karaoke area.
“That sucked,” I said to Arnel directly. He was a small guy. I wasn’t scared of him.
“I’m sorry,” he said in his kind voice. “Do I know you?”
“No,” I said and almost laughed. “You should, I own every one of your albums, well the band’s albums. And you go and fill this concert with the entire set list of Eclipse, Revelations, and Generations, and close it out with ‘Don’t Stop Believing!’ I mean, what the crap man? Nobody likes those songs, and of all your classics, the only one you give us is that one? I want my money back!”
Arnel let out a big sigh. He opened his mouth to speak but the rest of the band pushed him around me. I threw my hands up in protest. He had no answer. I watched him head toward the back bar closest to the stage. A large hand fell on my shoulder. I spun around. Neal Schon was looking at me with those thick eyebrows and curly hair.
“Go easy on him,” Schon said. “Today’s the day his mother died. He likes doing the newer stuff because it doesn’t remind him of his mother as much.”
I shut my mouth and felt as tall as a thimble. I knew Arnel’s story.
“How bout we make it up to you?”
“No, forget it.”
“No, really,” Schon said. “Let me buy you a drink.” He pushed me toward the band members and the big eyed bartender who recognized the royalty at her bar. I licked my lips and prepared my apology. Then I heard Schon speak next.
“Bartender, get this man a drink, any way he wants it.”
“Any way he wants it?” The bartender asked back.
“That’s the way he needs it,” Arnel’s voice hit me and the whole bar fell silent. The DJ had cut the music.
“Any way you want it,” the bartender sang to me in a sweet, but off key voice, and winked.
And then what happened next transcended time and reason. Whatever painful memories Arnel had harbored from the death of his mother long ago had subsided as he climbed up on the bar, pointed to bartender and sang.
“She loves to laugh, she loves to sing.”
He had no music, no jamming guitars or pounding bass drums. But he had his voice. And before he said the next line “she does everything,” Arnel and the rest of the guys had the whole bar singing in perfect harmony, Any Way You Want It.
The wheel in the sky had finally turned. My worst Journey concert had, faithfully, just become my most indispensable Journey moment and memory. I never stopped believing, well, save for that brief moment when Arnel went separate ways from me. But who’s crying now? Not this guy, not after I got greeted with open arms and one killer impromptu song. And I got it just the way I wanted it.