Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer Employment

After that last adventure in Mississippi I was ready to head back home and finish out a good summer of hard work. That is, if I could find a job. I mean, the whole Textbook Game gig was pretty good, but it wasn’t giving me quite the hours I had hoped for. They only wanted so much Gonga accordion playing each day. Without flyers and the rush of students to keep him busy, Gonga was getting bored. Gonga needed more work.

Gonga strolled casually down 8th street in downtown Columbia. The lunch crowd bustled about him making it’s way along the sidewalks to various restaurants. Gonga paused in front of Starbucks. What would it be like to serve coffee? he wondered. He ventured in and stood in line behind a short man with glasses. The air conditioning seeped through his fur as the line inched along.

Finally Gonga stood at the counter.

“What can I get you?” the barista asked, peering down at her register.

“A job,” Gonga grunted.

She looked up and laughed. “We’re not hiring right now, we have more people than we can use at the moment. I haven’t gotten the hours I was promised in three weeks.”

Gonga rubbed his fingers through his hair. Sand left over from the beech sprinkled out on the floor.

“Ugh,” the girl said. “Besides, you’d get sand and fur in the coffee! We can’t hire you.”

Gonga turned and shuffled mournfully out of the shop. He tried a few more restaurants along the street, but even at Lakota’s they told him the same thing. Too many employees. Not enough hours. And please move away, you’re getting sand in the coffee.

So that’s why people don’t go to the beach. Sand. Everywhere. Gonga paused on the street corner, waiting for the cross-walk to turn white. And I thought people would appreciate a little texture in their coffee.

Oh well, not much time left in the day for looking for jobs. The Textbook Game wanted Gonga and accordion to roam the streets of Columbia that night. Bright red t-shirt with white lettering, accordion pumping Russian like themes into the streets; Gonga would publicize his company for the world to see. Or at least, those parts of Columbia where people abstained from mixing sand with coffee.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mississippi Salt

Sand crunched under Gonga’s fingernails as he scratched his head. The breeze skipped along the beach, spraying salty air into his face and making him sneeze. He took another couple steps and launched into a new accordion song.

Last night I called my buddy, asking him which apartment was his, then asking him to come out and show me where to park. I was hiding on the other side of the door when he came out of the house. I couldn’t resist. I knew it was stupid. I knew I would get pummeled. I simply underestimated the fear factor associated with my Gonga costume.

He must have jumped two feet in the air when I did my Gonga howl. He was six inches from vaulting over the railing before I stopped him from a concrete death. I hit him pretty hard. I mean, I had to save him from jumping!

I got knee to the mouth. Good thing Gonga didn’t try to add singing to his accordion act.

A group of children scuttled past as a distance, looking at Gonga curiously and then pausing to listen to the music. I nudged the big straw hat lying at my feet. A few stray dollars and random change lay on the inside.

“Can you play ‘Happy Birthday’?” a little girl in a bright pink swimsuit asked, pushing wispy black hair out of her face.

Gonga nodded, doing his best to smile. I winced, better let the mask do the smiling for today, I thought. That salt air was stinging.

The girl jumped up and down and clapped her hands as Gonga switched over to a raucous gypsy rendition of ‘Happy Birthday.’

“It’s my birthday!” she cried, capering around on the beach.

“Here honey,” a somewhat pink looking man came up and handed her a paper bill. “Give the gorilla something for playing your song for you.”

I watched appreciatively as she dropped the five into my hat. That was nice! If only more people understood how the traveling musician gig worked.

It took at least five minutes of explaining from a chokehold last night before my buddy finally realized who I was. He was pretty mad. When he finally let me in and I got my mask off, he calmed down some. The blood streaming out mouth and nose was pretty convincing. He gave me a cold pack and we sat up late talking.

Now we were both at work.

Him, in the office.

Me, on the beach.

I think I got the better end of the deal. Even if the Mississippi salt air did sting.