Working on a Dream

I work for the county out on 95
All day I hold a red flag and watch the traffic pass me by
In my head I keep a picture of a pretty little miss
Someday, mister, I’m gonna lead a better life than this

 Bruce Springsteen,  Working on the Highway.

It’s just before midnight when he comes into the store. He parks his guitar case in the staff bathroom and makes his way to the counter. His co-worker looks at him with relief in his eyes.

“Did you play tonight? he asks


“Any good?

“Yeah, good” he replies and takes up the stool behind the counter

“Pretty quiet in here tonight so you’ll probably have an easy shift, there’s a few boxes of stuff to go out and the newspaper returns to do”

“Sorry, what?” he mumbles a reply while fishing a notebook and a Walkman out of his backpack.

“Never mind, see you tomorrow”.

No reply, his mind is already elsewhere

He sits behind the counter, eyes shut, swaying in time to the tinny music coming from his headphones. Every now and then he grabs up his pencil and scribbles into his little notebook, then scratches something out, then earnestly writes something else. A big guy in a black leather jacket comes in, he gives them a pack of cigarettes, takes their money and doesn’t even make eye contact.

“I asked for Luckies” the customer says,

“What’s the difference” he says, lifting the headphones off one ear “they’re all smoke flavour”

The big guy shakes his head and goes back out into the night. Our hero goes back to listening and scribbling and providing pretty insubstantial customer service. His boss has spoken to him about this but they both know he’s the only guy who’ll do the graveyard shift.

He actually likes it, he plays with his band at a club in town, then comes here and works on the songs, well his words. He’s got their demo in his Walkman and a pencil and he just spends the night scribbling, listening and perfecting. He’ll try it out tomorrow with the rest of the boys at practice then play somewhere else tomorrow night before coming here and selling cigarettes to drunks at four in morning.


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