Oldies

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A tired and sick DJ may have discovered a time warp.

“The warden threw a party in the county jail.

The prison band was there. They began to wail.”

Johnny leaned his chair back against the wall, propped his feet on the rungs and closed his eyes. How many times had he heard Elvis sing this song? Five hundred? Five thousand? Not enough! He smiled despite the nagging pain in his head. The song sounded as good now as it did when he first heard the King sing it back in ’57. Back when you could stack a load of 45’s on your record player and play it until it burnt up like he did that summer when he was ten.

 His government job given up long ago, he was fast approaching the big 5-0 and had spent the past twenty years  spinning tunes in joints that were progressively on a downward spiral. Like this one. A dirty, dimly lit dive on the proverbial bad side of town. A dump of a place at the end of an alley facing a polluted river and tired bridge. No matter. The joints had changed over the years but the music he played never did. Solid gold. Blasts from the past. Oldies.

“Yeah, my music is the healing music. It makes the blind see, the lame walk, the dumb and deaf hear and talk. Wherever you are I’ve been there. Wherever you’re going, I’ve gone. I’m back. The jeeter with the heater. The gator from the equator. The big boss with the hot sauce. I start ‘em, others chart ‘em. Not another like the others. So settle back and tell your mother and watch this rockin’ bird fly!”

The crowds usually loved his “dj jive talk.” It saddened him to think that radio jocks didn’t sound like that anymore. Too smooth, too FM. Yeah, he had weathered all the crazes, the British invasion, acid rock, disco, new wave, rap. You name it. He took it all in stride and kept cranking out the only tunes that mattered. Oldies.

He plopped “My Way” on the turntable and listened as Elvis sang about “…regrets, I’ve had a few…”. Regrets. Yeah, he had a few himself. A failed marriage. A good woman who put up with him as long as she could. So many nights alone while he worked for peanuts playing oldies. So she left. He hoped she was better off now. He was sure of it. After her, he hadn’t found anyone else because he hadn’t looked. It simply wasn’t worth the trouble. The music was his life and he didn’t want to wreck anyone else’s.

 But the biggest regret, the one that always haunted him, the one that he could do absolutely nothing about, was his age. Born too late. Too young for his own set of wheels when it counted, the drive-ins, cruisin’. When he finally got a car, that era had passed him by and existed only in his dreams.

His head continued to throb as it had for nearly a month, the pain like a sledgehammer driving a spike inside his skull. The emergency room doctor last week  said he needed more testing which meant more money that he didn’t have. So he started gulping Tylenol like gumdrops.

He got his first request of the night as Eddie Cochran belted out “Summertime Blues”. For the first time Johnny noticed just how thick the cigarette smoke was in this joint. And what about the couple who requested the song! The guy had greased hair with a ducktail cut in the back, a white t-shirt with a pack of Camels peaking out of his rolled-up sleeve, faded jeans, white sox and black loafers. His date was right with him, what with a blond pony tail, cherry red lipstick, oversized white shirt outside her skin-tight jeans and scuffed saddle shoes. Did this joint forget to tell him that there was a contest tonight for best-dressed greaser couple? It took some nerve for this couple, and now he noticed a few others similarly dressed, to look like that and chance the flak they would certainly get from the preppies that had started hanging out in this dive. But it seemed that none of the preppies had arrived so far.

He blasted Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day” and Johnny knew that the day he stopped playing oldies would be the day that he died. Period. He popped two more Tylenol and washed them down with yet another cold beer. The pain was still there, steady but not worse.

He played Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe” loud enough to make his beer bottle dance on the tabletop. What a life. Another night like the last one and the one before that. His life’s saving grace was the music. He knew it would always get him through. Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and Little Richard would never let him down. The closest thing to friends that he had. He shut his eyes and tried to ignore the pain. The pain seemed to lessen as the music got louder.

The roar outside startled him. He pushed back the window curtain just in time to catch a glimpse of the candy apple red ‘57 Chevy burning rubber as it flew by in the street. Wow! Somebody had the bucks. Those babies were bringing twenty grand at the custom shows.

He looked back at the dance floor as the Platters sang about smoke in your eyes. No kidding! The smoke was so thick he seemed to have trouble breathing. He squinted and stared at the crowd in the bar. Greased hair, poodle skirts, white bucks and even a pair of blue suede shoes on a big dude at the end of the bar. How could Johnny have missed the promotion for this “oldies” night? He’d seen nothing in the paper and there were no signs in the bar.

He reached for one of his favorites, “Tallahasse Lassie” by Freddie Cannon. Cheap needles over the years had worn a groove in the record leaving a hissing noise that he was able to remove with the help of his equalizer. Johnny knew he wouldn’t need the equalizer this time.

The record looked new!

What was going on here? He glanced out the window and noticed a white ‘55 Buick Special convertible parked in the space by the front door. He turned back toward the bar as someone bumped into the table on which his equipment sat. Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” spun evenly, round and round on the turntable. The guitar sounded better than ever. One problem. The turntable was a like-new BSR, not the well-worn Technics model that he had bought a year earlier. He hadn’t seen a BSR turntable in years, until now. What was happening?

Sweat broke out on his forehead. He shut his eyes, stood up and opened them to look down. Chuck was still “playing his guitar like ringing a bell” but his record and the turntable were gone. So was the rest of his equipment. No amp, equalizer or even speakers. Even the table was gone. He looked to his right and found himself standing next to a vintage Wurlitzer jukebox, the kind with the bubbles circulating endlessly around the edge. It looked new. Chuck’s voice rang deep and clear from the speakers within the jukebox as the song ended. Johnny stared wide-eyed at the list of selections on the jukebox. Nothing but oldies.

 Jerry Lee Lewis started pumping his piano and screamed the opening words to “Great Balls of Fire.” Johnny choked back a scream himself and took several steps back from the jukebox. Suddenly, a beautiful blonde with shoulder-length hair, a smile to die for and a pink poodle skirt walked up to him.

“Johnny, I’m ready to go if you are. Let’s hurry or everyone else will beat us to Ernie’s. Remember, the last car there tonight has to buy burgers and fries for the gang,” she said softly. Johnny rubbed his forehead and could only stare at this beautiful girl talking to him. He focused on the ring she wore around her neck. Like in that Elvis song. The high school ring that he recognized as his. The same one he had lost swimming in Smith Mountain Lake back in 1981. The same year Ernie’s was torn down to make way for a high-rise. He continued to stare without speaking as she grabbed his hand and said, “What’s wrong silly? C’mon or we’ll be last!”

They walked out the door and down the steps. The as-yet-unnamed beauty walking beside Johnny stopped next to the white Buick and waited for Johnny to open the passenger door. He did and she bounced in. Johnny shut the door and walked slowly around the back of the big Buick convertible and opened the door on the driver’s side. As he got in, he could see his reflection in the shiny surface, a smile beginning to creep across his face, his hair looking darker and thicker than before.

The blonde slid across the front seat next to him and kissed him on the cheek. “I love you, Johnny,” she laughed. He turned and gazed deep into her clear blue eyes and whispered that he loved her more than she could ever know. He reached into his jacket pocket and, of course, found the key to the Buick ignition. The massive V-8 rumbled to life. He turned on the radio and took off into the night, his headache a forgotten memory.

Had you been standing there as they drove off toward Ernie’s you would have heard “Jailhouse Rock” cranked up loud as the white Buick with “JOHNNY” on the license plate disappeared into the night.

The siren blared. The preppies filed out of the bar and gaped at the scene unfolding on the street. “Man! Did you see him just hit the floor like that? And that look on his face! Was that a smile?” The siren was silent as the ambulance pulled away. Johnny was in no hurry. The crowd faded away.

In the distance a gleaming white ’55 Buick Special convertible barely visible crossed the bridge on the way to the north side of town where Ernie’s used to be.

Go, Johnny, Go.


Submitted: November 20, 2014

© Copyright 2021 CHHoward. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Freckles81

Great story with good twists. Reminds me of the old twilight shows.

Tue, March 31st, 2015 6:07pm

Author
Reply

Hope you meant Twilight Zone shows. Thanks for reading and glad you liked. 4-5 more stories coming soon.

Tue, March 31st, 2015 11:14am

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