In “Here On Out,” New Voices author Jesse Hassenger introduces us to a post-apocalyptic world in which music is traded like money. This story is humorous, bold, and at times hauntingly familiar. One thing is for sure: you’ll never be able to view pop music the same way again.
Here On Out
by Jesse Hassenger
I check into the hotel late, and the guy at the desk is asleep. When I peek over the counter, I see the gun resting next to his roller chair. I feel bad for waking him, but he should be alert, keeping watch for the Enthusiasts. Otherwise, go empty: an empty desk at least has theoretical menace; who knows what could be lying in wait for a sneak attack. I’d go empty over sleeping old man. To his credit, he wakes quickly. I have already discredited him for being asleep and not stirring at the sound of my footsteps, so this credit brings us back to zero, and frankly a credit of zero would sound good to a lot of people I know.
Or: used to know.
The guy reaches for his gun, sleep and age washing from his face.
Take it easy, I say. I have a reservation.
Where’d you get a reservation? he says, gripping the barrel of the shotgun tighter.
I got a Bluebird Wing reservation from Lyman, I say. Old work buddy, I don’t say, because I don’t want to sound that safe. Used to be, when you asked for something in the nice section of the hotel, you’d get a smile. He doesn’t smile. He doesn’t flinch in disbelief, either. He just says: Cash or charge?
Cash, I say, and I open my backpack.
I hand him Tusk, Amnesiac, Paul’s Boutique, and Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits 1974-78.
I feel the weight of whitechocolatespaceegg in my pocket. I keep that one there, tell myself no one else likes it anyway. When I’d talk about it and how it represents the secret peak of Liz Phair’s career, my wife would say: you should have been a music critic. A generous assessment. I never told her about the music column I wrote for my college paper.
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