Agent Duck VI
By Lou Blodgett
I’d seen ‘Joe’s’, and had gotten what I thought was a ‘false sniff’ there a few days before. It was late afternoon, and people were gathering outside. Qualification for karaoke seems to work thus:
You go to the door of the venue and open it. There is a chorus of ‘heys’. (A song I’d never heard.) The chorus outside does a call and response, then, a singtalk number- titled: “We’ll pay”. They then proceed indoors, holding a coin toward you and asking: “Can you sing? Can you sing? Are you gonna sing?” Respond in the affirmative, and they give the coin, not to you, but to a beefy guy on a stool just inside the door. (So much for the ‘artist’.) Responding to the chorusmembers with a ‘Yes’, aria-style rates a chuckle, and a coin to the man. Then, the chorus proceeds to the stage individually, taking solos, which is good. One of them could be a ‘star’ someday.
There were tables set up on the dance floor, and I sat with members of the chorus and watched some of them sing solos. Sting, Phantom of the Opera, Bee Gees. One did Paula Abdul like I’d never imagined. The chair I stood on, and the table before me seemed like it was made of something that was the closest to nothing I’d ever seen. Particle board, thin sheets of metal and formica. The lighting in the tavern was eclectic and distracting. There were lit displays all about that advertised drinks, others that seemed to advertise themselves. These neon and florescent lights self-promoted, rather than lit. I’d heard of Las Vegas, and at ‘Joe’s’ they had taken the leavings and put them on the walls. After about seven songs, which were very entertaining, I was invited up on stage. One nice lady, although hesitant, presented me with a book of song titles. I used my bill to point to “Solitary Man”. I didn’t want to burn my bridges with Herman, and “Solitary Man” was the obvious other choice from the Neil Diamond songbook. Besides, I wouldn’t know what to do during the instrumental in “I’m A Believer.” Other than stand there and go “Burm-burm burm-burm…” They offered me a microphone, but I shook my head. They chuckled, realizing that my holding one would be restrictive. I would use my ‘from the middle of the pond to the shore’ volume. After all, you need only go as far as halfway around the world.
When singing “Solitary Man”, you should be humble. Although you are solitary, you are not the only solitary man. There are plenty of others. But, you voice your, and their plight. When you first declare that you are solitary, the head should be slightly down, and you should have an inward expression. Bring the head up when you repeat. Look up at the lights. Declare yourself.
Further into the performance, if you’re enjoying yourself, show it! But always keep the solitary man angst. If some have approached the stage, sing to them a bit. Then how do you show ‘solitary’ while singing to someone, you ask? Use the apron of the stage. That is the physical ‘something’ that keeps you separate. But time the mini-serenade so that it ends with the end of the chorus. Upon reiterating that you are solitary, step back.
During the crucial instrumental, expression is important. Thank God it’s short. Just look intently somewhere other than the audience and ponder your solitariness. Then, take a knee before the final chorus.
You ever see a duck take a knee? Betcha haven’t. During the final chorus, I sold it. The kneel was only obligatory. I came up quickly, sang and waddled, working every bit of the stage. Then, on the fade-out, I hummed along with it like I was humming to a frankenhen. The note of the cheer, the lights, I loved it. Of course, I had to make my way off the stage for other future stars. I hadn’t been sniffing, since I’d been singing, and I was too intent with showing off. That changed. As I made my way to the edge of the stage, I smelled Barry.
“Duet! Doooet! Doooet!”
The crowd thought it would be best if I stayed onstage. About five people approached, tugging Barry toward the stage. He still wore his white lab coat. At least he wasn’t wearing a stethoscope. That would have been too much. Now, I could really smell him, and he didn’t smell too good. Someone held a selection of songs up to me, and I put my bill on “Reunited”. I probably left a scratch in the laminate.
Barry had seen me by then, and didn’t want to sing. He wasn’t kidding. He was very scared of karaoke this time. They rolled him onto the stage with me, and he stood. The introductory music began. I looked at him, and said- “hey.”
He had a wide-eyed, sheepish look for me. Singing he was not. So, I had to begin the show. Barry was able to pick up on the duet, and, although there was some tightness to it, there was also a bizarre element that the audience picked up on, and seemed to like. During the chorus, with every “Hey, hey” part, I sang close to him. Who knows what would happen now. Barry began to sing like something petrified otherwise, and would sometimes have to stop due to coughing fits. We both were so excited. I looked out into the crowd, and, back in the lounge, just saw a row of double teeth smiling. If not a mega gar, they were the teeth of a frankenduck. There was a pulse, a change in the crowd. They pressed forward, and Barry began to break out in spots. The crowd loved it. Well, perhaps not the rash, but the performance overall. I turned at the next chorus to give him another dose of mucus, or dander or whatever he was exposed to through me, and saw that the spots had become larger; pink and purple, and about ten centimeters wide. Like in an old cartoon. My work there was done. I flew off the stage to the lounge, and as I took off, people looked up and clapped. Few ducks experience that.
Francesca was standing on a stool at a table with a few women who stopped their own conversation for us. I hopped up on a stool next to hers. It felt like I floated there. She had armadillo feathers, like me, but to me, each was radiant. And she had the most intriguing bill. Then, I looked down, and found peanuts in a bowl on the table.
“Where did you get the peanuts!”
“They’re at every table!” she said.
I downed a few. When she had opened her mouth to speak, her fangs were like pearls. But there are other things in life. One of the others at the table mentioned that Francesca couldn’t keep her bill off the peanuts.
“How did you get out of the lab?”
“There was a raid after you did the thing with the skylight. They took me to an animal shelter, but I convinced them that I’m wild. I could’ve gotten out by myself, you know… Did you find Barry?”
“I was right next to him onstage!”
“Oh. I was just watching you sing. How’s he doin’?”
“When I left, he wasn’t lookin’ so good. Did you find him.”
“I did. But he’s not the one from the lab I’m looking for, and I’m not sure if I’m looking anymore anyway.”
She said goodbye to her friends, (she’d made many human friends while all I did was do the ‘solitary duck’ thing, sniffing around for Barry) and we hopped off our stools. We walked along the bar, making our way to the exit.
“I was singing right next to Barry. He was turning pink and purple, and you didn’t see him…”
“It wasn’t important.”
She lowered her head as we walked, and looked intent at the door. A group nearby scatted Mendelssohn’s Wedding March.
She chuckled at that, and said, “Not so fast…” She pushed open the door, and I followed.
We paused before waddling down the sidewalk together.
“I’m in no rush.”
“Well, good,” she said. “That’s the way we are, being frankenducks.”
“But,” I asked her, “have you ever had a salted nut roll?”