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“Let’s do it in one” –

“Let’s do it in one,” says the red-headed man, and Marfisa shrugs. He flips up the tails of his long green coat and perches on a round stool before a keyboard balanced on a couple of sawhorses. She turns to face the soft black bulb of the microphone in a spidery clamp up about her head, a circle of fine black mesh held before it on a twisty plastic arm. “Just like we said,” he says, and crooks his back fingers wiggling over keys a moment before falling. Simple chords march out one by one to lay down the bones of a melody, and when they double back a little more certain she takes a breath and then another and begins to sing.

“You want us to call you what?” says the woman with the short dark hair, curled up in a corner of the couch along the back wall of the dim studio booth.

“The. Blue. Streak.” The kid snaps off each word in its own little bubble of speech. He’s wrapped around a big-bellied acoustic guitar at the other end of the couch.

“I mean for short. Do we call you, I don’t know, ‘The’?”

“Blue’s fine,” says the kid.

“She means it’s stupid,” says the bald man sitting on a stool before the control board. “You want to shut up a minute?” Through the thick glass wall Marfisa’s holding her hands up around either side of her microphone as if to keep a candle from blowing out.

“What’s stupid?” says the kid. “Why do we have to call him John Wharfinger?” The red-headed man’s eyes are closed, his left hand marching still along the keys, his right hand stuttering, hanging above them, sprinkling notes. “Not just John. Always John Wharfinger.”

“There’s a lot of Johns,” says the bald-headed man.

“Not in the band,” says the kid. “And I’m not even gonna get started on your name.”

“What,” says the woman, “Otto?” as the bald man says “It’s a family name. Now would the both a you shut up and listen?” He turns up the volume on the monitors. Marfisa’s voice is pure and clear and cold and she’s singing “There are signs in our sky that the darkness is gone, and tokens in endless array – ” and it takes all she has left just to hold that word aloft, and her wide open eyes aren’t seeing the foam sound baffles on the wall before her as she sways there just her curls the color of clotted cream bound in a thick rope down the length of her back. “For the storm which had seemingly banished the dawn,” her voice hushed now under those implacable chords from the red-headed man’s left hand, “only hastens the advent of day,” and as the chords step over into a new key she lifts her head and lies her heart out: “The good time coming is almost here, oh! It was long, long, long on the way!”

“Jesus,” breathes the woman.

“Wow,” says the kid.

“Now run and tell ’lijah to hurry up Pomp,” sings Marfisa, “and meet us at the gum-tree down in the swamp, for to wake Nicodemus today – ”

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Wake Nicodemus!” written by Henry Clay Work, in the public domain.

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