Freddy sat alone with his fiddle, alone because his girlfriend had dumped him the day before. He thought about the good job where, up until last week, he sold men’s clothing, the good job he couldn’t stand but the one that used to pay the bills. Hobbies prevented him from losing his mind during the five years he worked there: he grew various vegetables and played cards and wrote songs on his fiddle. Now, the girlfriend gone and the job a thing of the past, the hobbies were all he had. Figuratively, that is. Literally, he had the hobbies and a bottle of scotch and a futon that alternated between his couch and his bed and a very small kitchen where he stocked Ramen noodles, Apple Jacks, and 2% milk. He had a Panasonic three disc changer with double tape deck too; he’d found it on the sidewalk. One man’s trash was another man’s entertainment center. He bought random CDs and old tapes from the discount rack. The vegetables grew in a small garden he kept on his very small back porch.
He decided to wait a while before looking for a new job, his plan to do as close to nothing as possible for as long as possible. America much underrated doing absolutely nothing, he thought.
After a while doing nothing gave way to doing nothing in between long sessions on his fiddle. He played Earl Johnson and Charlie Bowman and Doc Roberts but mostly he just messed around and made up his own stuff.
One night he’d had a couple of glasses of scotch and thought about his girlfriend, their break up. He told her he’d lost his job and she asked about his plan. He didn’t pretend to have a plan, just shrugged his shoulders and their relationship didn’t last much longer. Another scotch and the bottle was empty.
He didn’t think about it, just grabbed his fiddle and walked to the pub down the street where he’d been a regular when he used to have a paycheck. He told the owner he was broke and asked if he’d let him play his fiddle on the little stage in the corner. The owner told him he couldn’t pay him, but Freddy said all he wanted in return was one glass of cheap scotch. It was a deal.
He jammed and jammed and jammed without saying a word. People were into it, but he preferred to pretend they weren’t there. He wasn’t nervous, just focused. For some reason it was the first time in his life that he felt truly free.
Suddenly he held the strings still and stomped his feet and tucked the fiddle between his arm and the side of his body. Clapping his hands, he sang:
“She said ‘Play that fiddle, fiddle-diddle-dee!
Play it for pay or play it for free.
Dance in a circle or dance in a square,
Play your life away, see if I care!’”
He took up the fiddle again and jammed again and could hear some shouts and cheers from the crowd. Still he paid them no mind.
He tucked the fiddle again and sang one more time:
“And I said, ‘Oh I’ll play this fiddle, fiddle-diddle-dee!
I’ll play it all day and I’ll play it for free.
I’ll dance in a circle or I’ll dance in a square.
I’ll play and play and won’t have a care!’”
This time the crowd cheered louder. Freddy looked around, took a bow, and everyone watched him walk to the bar, his scotch waiting for him. He drank it down, nodded to the owner, and walked home.