2007-09-06 / Sam Bari

You can't beat a system you can't understand

The Hornsickle Stubfester Soggy Mountain Band (Part II of II)
By Sam Bari

"The Hornsickle Stubfester Soggy Mountain Band" was now an official entity.

The day after we decided on the name of our newly-formed musical ensemble, Louie the Lip announced that he had written an original song for us. The Lip knew absolutely nothing about music, so he didn't really write any notes, he just wrote some lyrics and sang them to us.

The melody sounded suspiciously like "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It's Flavor on the Bedpost During the Night?" However, he altered the piece just enough to the left of plagiarism to keep from being arrested, but that was because the melody had to be adjusted to fit the lyrics, which didn't scan well to the chewing gum song.

Within a few minutes, we were all singing in unison:

We're the Hornsickle Stubfester Soggy Mountain Band.

We like to think - we're the best band in the land.

We'll play and sing for you all day.

We work for very little pay.

The Hornsickle Stubfester Soggy Mountain Band.

Tank Mueller figured out an oompah tuba part, and Pookie sorted out the melody on his violin. By the end of the afternoon, we had all learned the song, and played and sang the Soggy Mountain Band theme with confidence. Playing and singing at the same time however, was a new experience, and the concentration required to do both at the same time distracted us from realizing how bad we really sounded.

Nevertheless, we continued to practice and hoped for the best. A couple of days later, the Lip came to rehearsal with an exciting announcement. He got us a job. The Lip, being the aggressive little schemer with an overdeveloped entrepreneurial spirit that he was, read that Elmer Fuzzle, the mayor, was holding a political rally and fund-raiser for charity. The event was to be held at Greenhaven Park, a gathering place for outdoor events such as this one.

The Lip convinced Elmer that all the big politicians had a band at their rallies, and if he wanted to impress voters, he would do much better if he hired us to play. Elmer said he'd let us perform, but the only way we would get paid was by putting a pot on the stage for donations. He said he'd split the pot with us. Half the money was to go to charity and the other half would go to us.

We suspected that a good portion of the charity half would be used to fill the ever-present flask that resided in Elmer's coat pocket. The mayor was well known for taking a nip or two with little provocation. The Lip said he'd agree to the business arrangement if Elmer would run off some flyers we could pass out announcing the event and that "The Hornsickle Stubfester Soggy Mountain Band" would be the featured entertainment.

Elmer came through with his end of the deal and we delivered a flyer to every house in town. The results of our promotional efforts gave support to the adage, "Be careful of what you wish for." On the day of the rally, everybody in town showed up. A sea of faces looked up at us on the little makeshift stage at the center of the park. We weren't prepared for such a turnout.

The mayor said a few words, which was unusual, because he was generally long-winded when talking to even a small crowd. He gave us an enthusiastic introduction and we nervously launched into our theme, the only song we knew well enough to play in front of an audience. At first, everybody looked at us with stunned expressions as we played and sang our hearts out. The mayor encouraged his supporters to be generous and put something in the pot that Muffin Duffy placed on the edge of the stage.

A man asked the mayor if we would stop playing if he put money in the pot. The mayor responded by getting on the microphone and saying that the band wouldn't stop playing until the pot was full. People immediately stormed the stage and all but emptied their pockets. The pot was overflowing within minutes.

The mayor was ecstatic. He thought making people pay to make us stop playing was better than extortion. He couldn't have been happier. Louie the Lip thought it was a great business move. "Whatever it takes," was the Lip's attitude toward any fortuitous earnings. The rest of the band was too busy playing and singing to see or hear exactly what happened. After the event was over, the Lip gave each of us eight dollars and we were too thrilled to ask why everyone was so generous.

After the success of our debut performance, the band voted to enter the school talent contest, hoping we'd be asked to play at a dance. Louie the Lip tried to discourage us, saying we had to learn more songs, but nothing could hold us back.

On the night of the talent show, Muffin Duffy placed a freshly painted sign on the stage with the band's name on it, and we sang and played the only song we knew. When we finished, nobody clapped. Nobody booed either. The audience was as silent as a grave. Without a word being said, we realized what happened at the political rally and fundraiser. We filed off the stage, our dreams of stardom shattered.

"The Hornsickle Stubfester Soggy Mountain Band" had experienced their moment of fame, made eight dollars each, and faded into the history books of a system we can't understand.

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