Nap Lapkin turns down a mission
(originally posted 5/7/2020)
“So, let me get this straight” said Nap Lapkin, trying to get things straight, “You want me to track down a tall, middle-aged man with brown hair that you both met when you were in your early teens?”
Both Billy Joel and James Taylor, sitting across from him in his living room, nodded their agreement. Eagerly at that.
Perhaps some catching up is in order.
Years ago after some awards show or other Billy and James got to talking. Talking and drinking. After many hours of discussing the ups and downs of celebrity, Billy happened to mention an incident that took place shortly after his first piano lesson. Made quite an impression on him. He couldn’t have been much more than twelve. Real sixth-drink type of sharing.
“I don’t expect you to believe me, but I swear to god its true…” and then he went on to describe the encounter. Not the entire encounter because after a few sentences James’ jaw fell open and he finished the story for him.
“I had the same damn thing happen only hours after picking up a guitar for the first time. I never told anyone because I didn’t think they’d believe me.”
Nap stood up and, after pouring himself another drink (an Irish Car Bomb – 3/4 pint Guinness Stout, 1/2 shot Bailey’s Irish Cream, 1/2 shot Jameson Irish Whiskey… in case you ever want to drink like a spy), sat back down. Where else are you going to get this kind of action?
“Even if I was to bring in a sketch artist and have you two describe him down to a mole on his neck, that was decades ago. He’d look nothing like you remember him.” Nap remained seated, content that he’d made an air-tight case against continuing the conversation.
The real problem Nap was having was that he was enjoying having two of the biggest musical icons on the planet in his home asking him for his help. It was embarrassing.
You know why people pay boatloads of money for floor seats at a basketball game or front row seats to a concert when there are obviously better places to be if you want a good view? The reason is that they hope to overhear an interaction between people who are famous. That simple. They want a little glimpse into that world.
Nap wanted to be above such things, but when he opened his front door and saw the two of them standing outside he felt a rush of whatever it is that makes people act like idiots in front of other people. “Billy Joel poops. He poops. He farts and then poop comes out of his very normal and average Piano Man rectum” he found himself muttering under his breath as they walked into the house.
He was embarrassed… and an embarrassed Nap is a dangerous Nap.
“But Nap” James Taylor said/plead, “We were told you were the best at this kind of stuff. It’s not just the two of us either. Same thing happened to Pete Townshend and Willie Nelson.”
“Willie Nelson huh?” snorted Nap, clearly showing that he did not put much stock in any recollection had by someone who’d spent his entire life high as a kite. “Although Always on My Mind is a pretty amazing song.”
“Ok, forget Willie” piped up Billy, “But this might be some time-traveling mystery man. Certainly you have to be curious.” My apologies for including both a Willie and a Billy in the same sentence. Way too much illy. You wouldn’t catch Steinbeck doing that sort of thing.
“Curious? Curious about what?” said a clearly annoyed Nap.
“The same guy, years apart, visits famous musicians long before they are famous to discuss their lives, influences and motivations and you don’t find that odd? How did he know who would become famous?” inquired a clearly annoyed Billy.
James, annoyed but more adept at hiding it, piled on; “He actually told me he’d have no interest in talking to me once I’d achieved notoriety. He said that success ruins everything and the only conversations that matter are the ones that take place beforehand. How could he possibly know I’d go on to become a big, famous musician? I’d just literally picked up a guitar.”
“Clearly fellas, I don’t consider this a matter of national security” replied a still-embarrassed Nap.
Clearly it had been awhile since either Billy Joel or James Taylor had been called a fella.
“I have to be honest, I haven’t liked any of your songs since Allentown Bill. And James… what has it been…about a hundred and thirty years since Fire and Rain? Maybe that guy was on to something.”
The recently-dubbed fellas turned on their heels and stormed out of Nap’s abode.
I wrestled with whether I should call them ‘recently-dubbed’ or ‘freshly-minted’ fellas, I just thought you should know. Some people believe that I just plop down any damn words that come into my head, but I feel it’s important to set the record straight from time to time. I lovingly craft each and every sentence.
Well… some of them.
Like the sentence “James, annoyed but more adept at hiding it, piled on” that appeared earlier in the story. The two proceeding sentences had described the speakers as clearly annoyed. I had planned on saying “James, clearly annoyed but more adept at hiding it, piled on”, which would have cemented the fact that I am at the height of my literary powers (flashing a casual yet dazzling burst of meter and rhythm), but I couldn’t bring myself to do it because I couldn’t reconcile how something could be clearly hidden. I know it would have come off as awkward and I just couldn’t do that to you.
The point being, you’ve read about all the crazy missions Nap has been on and I thought it was time you read about one that he turned down. A shame really, I could have really made something wonderful out of this strange figure who had visited Billy and James. Probably 300 pages or more of wonderful. Maybe even a feature-length film. But I couldn’t do that to Nap.
He’d spend the whole adventure being embarrassed.
So fuck Billy Joel and James Taylor (flashing a casual yet dazzling burst of profanity).