- Glued to a plastic plaque, Billy flopped and sang. Thousands came to see Billy perform “Take Me to the River” and “Don’t Worry Be Happy” over and over. Back then, it never got old. Back then, nothing got old. That’s why we call it back then. Billy was a cover artist. His songs belong to Al Green and Bobby McFerrin, respectively. Billy didn’t even own himself. He belonged to Gemmy Industries, a novelty manufacturing company. As Billy sang, the audience sang along, making them cover artists, too.
- Billy’s agent stopped returning his calls. Billy was washed up, was a fish gasping for air on the beach of ex-superstardom. Gemmy Industries had terminated his contract only a few years after fishing him out of the lake. To a largemouth bass, that’s a good chunk of life. There was no time to switch careers, to develop new skills. Things got old, so Billy hung over a bowling alley’s pool table, where he flopped and sang whenever someone took a shot. If they missed, they said, “Remember this thing?” If they sank the ball, they said, “Remember this thing?” Billy was now just a bunch of people saying, “Remember this thing?”
- Billy’s batteries died. He stopped singing. The bowling alley manager told him he couldn’t stay if he wouldn’t sing, so Billy got an apartment on the south side of town with a few other remember-this-things. A Furby ran Billy a bath. A Tamagotchi dropped Billy in the tub. Then the other remember-this-things left to look for new jobs. Billy was still a cover artist. All remember-this-things are cover artists if you remember them. Lukewarm bath water flowed in and out of Billy’s gills. Despite being a cover artist, he thought, life wasn’t so bad. Bubbles tumbled out of Billy’s lips and floated to the surface, where they popped in different notes, forming a beautiful song. The bubbles didn’t belong to Al Green or Bobby McFerrin or Gemmy Industries or the bowling alley manager. That was okay because no one would ever remember them but Billy, who’s still humming the song to this day.
Will Musgrove is a writer and journalist from Northwest Iowa. He received an MFA from Minnesota State University, Mankato. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Penn Review, X-R-A-Y, Sundog Lit, Tampa Review, and elsewhere. Connect on Twitter at @Will_Musgrove or at williammusgrove.com.