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For All Nails #137: Hey Mister, That's Me Up On the Jukebox

Empire Falls [1], Maine, NC, CNA
30 November 1974


Adam LaDuke was a man swelling with pride as he entered
the Kendall Arms Tavern.  The chalked sign on the slate by 
the door said "Tonight: Abby and Billy -- Ten Shillings cover" [2]
And they'd attracted a good crowd.  Plenty of lokes and wheels 
lining the nearby streets, more people walking up from the 
train station.  His girlfriend was starting to make a name 
for herself.

He automatically sized up the crowd as he paid his two crowns
and headed for the main hall.  The place was meant to look like
a Tory pub, but the bulk of the patrons were Yanks like himself.
There were a few Froggies, including some wheelers.  There hadn't
been any trouble with the Awn-ges Dawn Fair [3] in months, but Adam
was happy to see that Johnny Esquivel and five reliable boys from
Hazard County were also in the hall.  He thought back to the series
of coordinated robberies back in July [4] -- he now understood that
they had been meant to show the Awn-ges and anyone else how easily
The General could extend his reach anywhere in the North Woods.
Apparently everyone in sight had been anxious to cut a deal then
to split the levies from business owners all across Maine and beyond.

The crowd buzz suddenly stopped.  Abby was singing the Froggie song.

"Un quebecois errant, banni de ses foyers..." [5]

One old Froggie was drying his eye already.  The song sure was wicked
beautiful, even if he didn't understand a word of it.  Abby knew a
little French from school, and said the beginning was about a guy
who'd been kicked out of his parlor and was now wandering around.
Apparently the whole song had been written by one of the Froggies
who'd revolted against the Tories in 1839, so it was wicked good
politically too.  Stupid Froggies, if they'd only listened to General
Arnold in 1775...

Adam got himself a cider and sat down as the song ended to a good round
of applause.  Billy at the piano quickly picked up the pace, and Abby
was into a Tania song, "I Can't Hold On".

"Baby, this time it's goodbye,
And you can be sure that I won't cry..." [6]

It wasn't one of Tania's sexier songs, which was just fine with Adam.
It was fine for a bunch of men to watch her dance, he supposed, it
was an honest way to make a living, but the thought of _his_ woman
singing about what she'd do when she got the boy alone -- that just 
wasn't right.  That part of Abby should be for _him_ alone.

It was wicked funny, how soon Abby had gone from being a secretary in
Millinocket to a big singer here in Maine.  As usual, it had been The
General who'd made it happen.  Back in August, when he'd first taken 
Abby to the secret camp, and she'd met the man she'd heard so much about,
he'd wanted to hear her sing.  She did some wicked foreign Bulgonian [7]
song she'd learned back in school, then a Tania song she'd learned off
the radio.  The General had set her up with Billy, and then given her
a part-time job in Empire Falls keeping the books for some of his businesses.

The timing on that had been wicked good, because it turned out that Abby's
boss back in Millinocket was cooking the books somehow, something to do 
with the dirty water from the paper mill.  Hordes of Lobsters had come 
down on him all at once in September and taken him in, he'd heard.  Abby's
friend Peggy Maxwell, who she'd gotten to replace her when she moved -- 
she'd been in and out of court all fall, testifying.  Thank God Abby was
out of that situation -- who knew what the millies might've asked her 
about _him_, and their Yank friends.  But they seemed content to have 
just Peggy, not that either Abby or him had been showing their faces in
Nova Scotia much lately.

Ah, wicked, Abby had started into a classic song by El Rey:

"You ain't nada but a perro, cryin' all the time,
You ain't nada but a perro, cryin' all the time,
You ain't a-never caught a lizard and you ain't no amigo o'mine."

Every Negro Adam had ever met played the piano, except maybe that
Froggie one in Quebec.  James Billington Preston, though, was a 
wicked good piano player -- he could make it sound just like Juan
Bailleres' guitar.  Billy was a nice enough guy, Adam supposed, but you
had to worry about another man being so close to Abby all the time,
talking about music and making music.  Just the other day he'd been
disrespecting El Rey, even, saying that he was only now starting to
be a serious musician, and Abby had agreed with him!  As if El Rey 
wasn't the biggest star in all of Mexico! [8].  Billy wasn't even 
right on politics (you had to wonder how he knew The General) -- the
one time Adam'd started talking about the Rebellion Billy had cut him
off with something about how Washington and Jefferson had owned slaves.
Well everybody down there owned slaves, then, right?  If the rebels 
had won they would've straightened it out eventually, just like the
Tories have.  It didn't much matter if you were supposed to be slave
or free, anyway, as long as you were subject to a King.

Hey, now Abby was doing that wicked song off the radio, by that Hawley
Hardin guy [9]:

"I can see her now with her caminador [10],
Boppin' up and down right across the floor
You should have seen her party, you should have seen her go
I knew the bride when she used to buckaroe [11]"

The bride.  The image of Abby in a wedding dress came to Adam's mind.
Yep, that was where they were heading, as soon as Abby figured it out
in her head.  For all she was a few years older than him and had actually
finished high school, sometimes Abby just needed a man to do her thinking
for her, to straighten her out and let her know who she really was.  She
knew who she was now, he thought, up on the stage, but she kept saying
lately that she didn't know if she was his girl or not.  _He_ thought it
made perfect sense for them to sleep together all the time, Abby being
on La Pildora and all, but she kept saying she wasn't ready and wasn't
sure who she was.  Well, _Adam_ knew who she was -- she was never more 
herself that when she was on top of him like a cat in heat, the three
times they'd gone all the way.  You didn't have to be a wicked genius
to figure that out.

Notes:

[1] Empire Falls is a industrial city on the Kendall (OTL Kennebec)
    River, on the site of OTL Skowhegan.  It has hydro power, paper,
    and wood turning, and is also regional market town.  At 20,000 
    population it is over twice as big as in OTL -- CNA rural 
    development tends to center on small to medium-sized cities
    with rail connections.

[2] The CNA pound was decimalized into 100 cents in the nineteenth 
    century, but vestiges of the pound-shilling-pence system remain.
    Prices are sometimes given in shillings, especially in conservative
    New England, and the twenty-five cent and five-cent pieces are 
    called "crowns" and "shillings" respectively.  (The ten-cent piece
    is called a "dime" rather than a "florin", though.)  The cent is
    further divided into hapennies and farthings.  It is difficult to
    compare purchasing power across timelines, of course, but a rough
    guide is to think of a 1974 CNA pound as about ten 2002 USA dollars.

[3] _Les Anges D'Enfer_, a Quebec-based Francophone organization
    of motowheelers (bikers) heavily involved in organized crime.
    A "levy" is the prevalent name for what we'd call a "protection
    payment".

[4] Described in FAN #89, "The Yanks are Revolting".  Other posts
    involving Abby and Adam are #105 and #109.

[5] This is the FANTL's version of "Un Canadien Errant", already
    used as the title of Randy's FAN #44a.  Like OTL's song, it was
    written in 1839 and tells the story of an exile from the failed
    _Patriote_ rebellion.  The FANTL had a larger and bloodier version
    of this rebellion, and a verse of its song quotes Papineau's dying
    words (mentioned by Sobel) about "a wall of lead and iron".

    If I had the talent I would write original music for the FANTL --
    it is absurd to posit the same tune occurring decades or centuries
    after the PoD.  But if we are to hear this world's music, I claim,
    we can best do so by borrowing OTL songs with suitable alterations.
    I thus beg your indulgence for some dramatic license in this regard.

[6] I have stolen this song from Karla Bonoff's 1977 self-titled album.
    Tania's repertoire varies from the rather straightforward rock-beat
    pop songs (the ones she can get onto Tory radio) to very raunchy
    things with melodies that Noel compares to the OTL Mexican artists 
    Paulina Rubio or Thalia.  The subject matter of even sweet-sounding 
    songs like "In My Loke" or "When I Get You Alone" makes Tania Monroy 
    extremely offensive to respectable middle-class Tory sensibilities.

[7] Despite the best efforts of the Hazard County public schools, Adam's
    grasp of European geography is rather weak.  Abby's audition song
    for The General was "Polegnala E Todora", a folk song that in OTL
    is on the Bulgarian Women's Choir's 1993 Grammy-nominated album.
    Abby actually learned it as a member (under another name) of the 
    Yale Women's Slavic Chorus, but her story that she picked it up in a 
    high-school or church choir is perfectly plausible in the choral-mad 
    CNA.  She has since removed anything Slavic from her repertoire, lest
    anyone connect her with Yale and her true identity.  By the way, FANTL
    Bulgaria includes OTL Macedonia (a/k/a Skopje or FYRM) as well as 
    much of Kosovo.  We already know how the Serbs feel about this, as
    did the late German Chancellor Markstein among others (cf. FAN #18 and 
    #57a-57c).

[8] For all his love of Mexico, Adam's grasp of its popular culture is
    no better than his grasp of geography.  Juan Bailleres is a household
    name in Mexico, respected for his role in pioneering the _diablo_ style,
    but no more famous than, say, Johnny Cash in OTL.  Only in the CNA 
    is he called El Rey de la Musica del Diablo, and there only because 
    of a shrewd marketing campaign by his handlers.

    We learned in FAN #118 that Bailleres has recently begun sporting a
    goatee, part of a general change in his image in the USM.  He has taken
    to writing more music, influenced by the Mexican analog of jazz (see 
    FAN #27) and the accordion-and-horn style called _conjunto_ in OTL.  
    (Since this name is a reference to "joining" across a Texas/Mexico 
    border that doesn't exist in the FANTL, the USM calls it _cuadra_ or
    _Jeffizona_ (with an English "J").)  Musical sophisticates (among them 
    Abby and Billy)  welcome this transition, while Adam and the rest of 
    the core of Bailleres' CNA fan base is suspicious of it.

    By the way, in the USM's 1950's _no_ cultural icon could have had the
    national impact of Elvis in OTL, given the serious social unrest and
    the fragmentation of the media arising from the earlier development of
    cable vitavision.  Part of why Mercator spends so much time promoting
    and appearing on _Sabado Gigante_, for example, is to help provide a
    unifyng touchstone for the culture.

[9] Vandalian singer/songwriter Hawley Hardin was apparently channeling [12]
    OTL's Nick Lowe when he wrote "I Knew the Bride", a song showing the
    road musician's influences from Mexican _diablo_ and earlier _ranchero_
    music.  (Classic _diablo_ sounds a lot like OTL 1950's rockabilly.
    Lowe's OTL 1980 song was deliberately retro.)  The two versions of the 
    song differ chiefly in references to the names of specific dance forms.

    Hawley Hardin and his white trash buddies in Bishop's Landing, SV (OTL
    Arkansas City, KS) had a dream that like OTL's Bruce Springsteen, they
    "could make something of their own with these drums and these guitars".
    In spite of the disdain of their classically inclined black neighbors
    and "road music" traditionalists, the Hawleyhoppers recorded several
    numbers in their garage in 1968 and took an unusual marketing strategy 
    with them.  Taking advantage of a temporary lull in international
    relations, they drove to Amarillo, Jefferson and convinced a small
    radio station there to play their stuff.  They never sold many disks west
    of the border, of course, but that wasn't the point -- they sold enough
    to market themselves in the CNA as established artists and the rest,
    as they say, was history.

[10] A caminador is a portable radio receiver with headphones, much
    like OTL's Walkman.  Mexico is rapidly becoming the world leader
    in consumer electronics.  The FANTL is a ways from having the 
    micorelectronics (particularly analog/digital conversion and vice
    versa) to exploit anything resembling the OTL compact disc.

[11] A dance form originating among cowhands (_vaqueros_) and now
    popular in the Vandalias.

[12] An aside (as opposed to my usual entirely relevant footnotes): Johnny
    has explained how iron laws of history guarantee, for example, that in
    all timelines where professional law enforcers exist they will be drawn
    to coffee and doughnuts, or the nearest available substitute.  In the
    same way, certain karmic attributes of California guarantee that it will
    be a hotbed of unusual religious ideas.  I am thus confident that FANTL
    California contains some version of Shirley MacLaine's OTL spiritualism,
    probably calling itself a branch of Roman Catholicism.  But I also think 
    that the FAN authors want to rule out any _actual_ contact between 
    timelines -- we intend this to be a straightforward alternate history
    with as few fantasy elements as possible.

Dave MB (with particular thanks to Noel in re: Mexican music and to Dan
         ir re: consumer electronics)