The Music Marauder
Life in the cut-out bin.
From the back of the store, They would stare out the window day after day at the brown hellscape of the desert. They are always holding out for hope.
And then, one day, hope arrived.
In the distance, they saw a man walking toward them through the front window. And the high-pitched, muffled whispers began: “Maybe this is one of them.”
Their eyes were kind of shitty after all of those years being incarcerated in cellophane, but they saw enough to know that the steps were preceded by a little puff of dust, which said maybe there was urgency in those steps.
Could it be this person was running towards them?
No such luck.
This person was a walker.
They had heard stories of these legendary people. Like characters out of some Sergio Leone western, they’d wander around the world looking for things just like them.
As this person got closer, they noticed the dusty and worn black leather jacket over the iconic white London Calling t-shirt, dusty beat-up white Chuck Taylors, surprisingly in-tact but faded non-descript jeans, and a silver skull wallet chain, and what can only be described as cheap black sunglasses.
When this person got right outside the window, they noticed the stubble. It was a man, and he was one of them. They didn’t know much, but they knew that some of them were getting released that day.
The question was, which ones and how many?
The man removed his shades, pulled a red bandana from his back pocket, and wiped his forehead. He reached inside his jacket, removed a dented silver flask, unscrewed it, and took a pull from it before dumping some on the bandana and wiping his face.
He pocketed the bandana and walked in. The little tinker bell above the door jangled, and Liza came out from the back room, wiping the wing sauce from her mouth. Her purple hair, form-fitting white Siouxsie Sioux tour shirt (Peepshow era), and tight black leather mini-skirt accentuated Liza’s physical attributes, and the Doc Martens brought it all together. It was always the ear-to-nose chain that turned most people off.
But those in the know knew Liza was as cool as she was hot.
She was also kind.
Liza would take them out from time to time, look at them, and shuffle them around, always thinking that the right one up front might make it easier to find them a home.
More than once, she would mumble: “I’d take you all if I could.”
The man walked to the back as Liza walked to the front, and nodded to each other as they passed. She walked to take her position on the 18-inch elevated perch at the front of the store. And he positioned himself in the back, ignoring the vomit of noise and color around him.
She studied him as he planted himself right in front of the beat-up faux wooden bin Mark had hammered together from an old Ikea bookcase.
Resting inside were the foot soldiers of song. The war-weary artists that were long ago shrink-wrapped into silence and then sold for pennies on the dollar out of the ass end of some warehouse in Weehawken before being marked with a punch hole through the UPC.
These relics of a forgotten era knew that all they had was hope.
And now hope stood before them.
Liza felt the store shake before she looked out the window to notice the giant plume of dust making its way to the store. The window began to rattle as the ridiculously loud truck raced towards them before turning sharply, stopping, so the truck's bed was facing the door.
A kid wearing jorts, no shirt, checkered Vans, and covered with tattoos hopped out and whistled.
Liza said: “Your ride’s here.”
The man grunted, placed his right hand on the stack, and positioned his index finger to begin sifting through the titles at lightning speed. It was time for roll call:
The Jeff Healey Band
Cop Shoot Cop
Morris Day and The Time
The legend was that the man would buy everything if you had this one album. And Liza knew what the album was, so she stepped down from her stage and walked back. She stood next to him, reached into the column he had not yet gotten to, and pulled out the album with the black cover, the band's frontman, almost silhouetted, staring out at you.
She placed it on top: “This what you're looking for?”
He glanced over: “Mm-hmm.” Then looked at her: “How much for all of it?”
Liza crossed her arms: “Can't say for certain. Mark’s not here and makes all those sorts of decisions.”
“Mm. Too bad.”
The man stared at her and then looked back at the two columns of these forgotten artifacts that he, and others like him, knew still had more life and power than anything with the 1s and 0’s that were released today. He picked up the album she had set on top, turned it over several times, and put it back down. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a roll of money and held it up to her: “I’ll give you all of this, for all of these.”
Liza shifted uneasily: “I dunno.”
He took the money roll and pointed outside: “And I’ll give you a ride out of here. You can ride with us.”
“Does it matter?”
“You could be a killer.”
The man laughed: “You know who I am. And I’m not a killer.”
Liza blushed and looked down at her Docs.
He lifted her chin with one hand while pinching the money roll in the other: “Tell you what, this is about 5k, give or take. I’ll leave it on the counter for you. Little man outside will come in and load all this vinyl up, and we’ll be off. You can leave the roll for this Mark fellow and come with us, you can keep it for yourself and perpetuate this bandit/robber myth that seems to follow me around, or you can take the dough and come with us anyway. We’ll drop you wherever you wanna go.”
He tapped the albums: “Well, I do.” He patted the two rows of vinyl: “And these are coming with me. Now, I’d say you got about three or four minutes to figure it out….”
“That’s a pretty name. Liza.”
He nodded again at her, walked towards the front, placed the money roll next to the register, walked outside, and said what he needed to say to get the shirtless kid moving. The kid grabbed six milk crates and a dolly from the truck bed and went into the store.
Liza walked back to the front, and she and the man stared at each other for a moment. He leaned on the tailgate and nodded in the direction of the money before pulling out his flask and taking another pull.
The kid loaded up all the vinyl and wheeled the milk crates towards the door. He stopped before Liza: “You should come with us.”
“Why? Raiding and ripping off record stores is fun?”
“You know that’s not what we do, Siouxsie Sioux.” The kid reached into the top crate and pulled out LeVert’s 1986 album Bloodline: “You think this album was gonna have much of a chance here? No. Eventually, Mark would’ve thrown it away or,” he pointed to the vinyl clocks for sale on the wall, “melted it into some kitschy tchotchke.”
Liza looked outside at the man as the kid rolled the dolly out. He held up his wrist and tapped his watch as the kid began loading the milk crates onto the truck's bed.
The kid slammed the tailgate to the truck, walked to the driver’s side, and got in. The man held open the passenger door and looked at Liza one last time. He shrugged and got in.
The truck started to rumble as the store shook a little.
The kid asked: “Where we off to next?”
”Home for now.” There was a knock on the window, and the man rolled it down: “Yes? Liza.”
”Offer still stand?”
”We’re still here.”
Liza dropped the money roll in his lap: “Good, move over then.”
The man opened the door and slid over: “What about Mark?”
Liza smiled and climbed in: “Fuck Mark.”
The kid laughed, and the man smiled: “Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with us.” He picked up the roll of money and put it in his jacket. “We won’t tell a soul.”