The American Scholar

I Live for the Night

I can’t remember why I lugged my drum set to The Nit that night. It was probably the club’s shitty reputation, which I knew about without ever having been in the place—long sets, low pay, no kitchen, the audience screaming over the band. The idea of enduring all that while despising my sound might explain why I didn’t just get on the subway with a snare and a cymbal. My memory of that gig has many caved-in places. I know I called for a van before hauling my stuff to the street, and that when it finally came it was just a normal taxi, no hope of holding a whole set of traps. By the time an actual van arrived, showtime had passed.

“Look who decided to make an appearance,” the bartender said when I pushed open the door of The Nit. “The drummer is here!” he announced, applauding.

My bandmates were sitting at a table near the stage. Otherwise the room was empty.

“I didn’t decide to make an appearance. The van for my drums never came.”

“That’s why you kept everybody waiting? We got drums right here.”

“Who’s everybody?” I said, dragging my cases to the bandstand in back.

“The people who left because there wasn’t any music.”

“People were here and left?” I asked Ben, our tenor player.

“No, nobody was here.”

I looked back at the bartender. “So what’s his problem?”

“Change the subject,” said Dev, the pianist.

The rest of my gear was still on the sidewalk. Malcolm, our leader and bassist, got up to help me. On my way out, I stopped at the bar.

“You said people were here and left. The band says nobody was here.”

“I guess it’s my word against theirs.”

“How much is a beer?”

“Six bucks.”

“The band price.”

“Six bucks. Regular price is eight.”

“I’ll have an I.P.A.”

Outside, Malcolm was trying to hang my drum bags over his shoulders. I took them and gave him my rolling traps case.

“How did we get this gig?”

“I played here with a woman singer, and the bartender invited me back with my own group. I suggest not messing with him. He’s a weird guy.”

I dumped my bags on the stage and went to the bar. The glass he had waiting for me was one-third head. “For six bucks I want it poured right.”

He put it back under the tap and let it run until much

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