Fretted and Moaning is the first book of fiction by legendary Police guitarist Andy Summers. Paste has an exclusive preview of one of the 45 short stories in the collection, “Come Together.” Read our interview with Summers about the book here.
Out August 19th via Rocket 88 Books, Fretted and Moaning is available in three editions—hardcover (£35/$45), signed hardcover (£125/$175) and “ultimate hardcover” (£350/$450), which includes an exclusive, signed, numbered/limited-run Giclée art print of a Telecaster photographed by Summers.
Floyd’s career was finally winding down, after almost thirty years of it—the gypsy life, the deathly tarmac, the ceaseless and self-perpetuating freeway, the graffiti, the drugs, the sex, the rock ’n’ roll, well, not really rock ’n’ roll, more like his own version of country rock. Floyd Perkins style, he called it. But anyway, he was sick of it all and needed a rest, repose and time to mellow out, kick back and be with his wife. He made the decision. It was a big one. “Ain’t doin’ this no more,” he said one Thursday night to the filthy mirror in his dressing room. Of course, his interest and enthusiasm for music would never die—that’s who he was and who he always would be. No denying it, and for that reason even after all these years he kept his guitar playing up, worked at it and made sure that didn’t slip away. But he was a singer with a good voice, even if a little raspy these days, and a pretty decent songwriter. But still he played his guitar every day, listened to some of the latest hits, although they weren’t much to his taste, and checked out what the younger guys were doing. Things were changing for sure, and Floyd was not going to just fade away and disappear after all this time. No sir, he would keep the edge. Maybe he would just write songs for other people now and then, play guitar on a track here and there. It would be enough. So, despite his general tendency toward the dissolute, Floyd did impose a little discipline upon himself with various little practices, like putting a small drum machine in his dressing rooms and jamming along with it—he didn’t want to lose his chops, even if he didn’t intend to go out there anymore. He practised improvising over unfamiliar non-country chord changes in an effort to sound more modern, just to see if he could do it, played the blues and even tried some Bach once, but always returned to his own country rock, which was his musical home. He had a lot of guitars, too many really, but they were all catalogued and he knew that they would be worth something one day, as he had purchased them way before they all became a big deal—the vintage thing and all that. So, he now had enough to retire on and stop for a while. Maybe write an autobiography. And then there was the other thing. He was married. That was another deal altogether. His wife Rita was emphatically stating that she was fed up with the endless road life and by implication the benefits that went along with it and had been urging him to quit for a while or else. And the truth was that Floyd, despite all the guitars and women, liked having someone to come home to after all that travel in the company of men. Someone to get back with, someone familiar, someone warm who knew his needs. They were a family of sorts even if they had no kids. She took care of him, they shared a gentle humour and she was sexy with it, still a looker. He didn’t see bustin’ it up, so he agreed—he’d open a guitar shop or something and drink beer on the porch. It was like giving up a drug but what the hell, he reckoned, I had a great run. Time to git down and mow the lawn, take the dog for a walk or whatever people do, I guess. Rita worked a lot and was often out in the afternoon and sometimes at night. Private clients, she said, portfolio advice. She was trained in all that financial stuff, had a mind for it. Her career had always been in banking, and she talked about things like fiduciary responsibilities, but that stuff was beyond him, and he just took it for granted that she was an expert. They were an odd couple, alright. She had a brain, no question, but deep down in there somewhere she had the heart of a country girl. Floyd often thought she could have been anything, could have got anyone. So … why me? Some sort of roots connection maybe, or the music, I guess. She brought in a substantial amount of money on a regular basis, so between the two of them they lived a comfortable existence. Floyd wondered how she did it, working so hard and still in great physical, not to mention, sexy shape. I’ve got it better than most of those suckers out there, he thought, so who am I to argue? I’m gonna ride this train out. He thought about writing a lyric that went, ‘You’ve got the beauty and I’ve got the brains,’ but the brains and the beauty belonged to her. So, what am I? Floyd wondered … A lucky S-O-B, you dumbass, just keep playin’ that guitar and mind your manners. Out she went on business, and if it was not business, it was a yoga class or some sort of workout session, which left Floyd noodling away on his guitar while he was watching a football match or some old TV series re-run. One thing that had seemed to dry up, though, was their sex life. It drove Floyd a little bit crazy. She still had a sexy body, and with all the yoga and workouts she was in serious sporting shape. But she didn’t seem interested in him in that way anymore. Maybe she sensed all the infidelity, the scent of other women still lingering on him, but Floyd just thought, well, that shit ain’t happening no more, and she ain’t left me. Lucky. So, he plugged in his famous Gibson Melody Maker and hacked away at a blues, thinking of all the chicks he had bedded, the tight jeans peeling off, the skimpy tank tops unfurling, the lips, the mouths, the eyes. Oh my God, he thought, I lived a man’s life, or am I just an undeserving swine after all? He had always been able to get them. He and Rita never spoke about this sort of thing, as he kept up the pretence of an innocent musician who never strayed from the fold, he was in it purely for the music, he said, that was his contribution, that was why he was here on the planet, money be damned. Feeling sex-starved and a tad morose, along with a tingling sensation and an urge to get back out there again, Floyd stared at the TV screen. “I guess we have been living a lie all these years,” he said to a player in the Red Sox as the player raced across a small TV screen. “Shit!” said Floyd as he stroked an F chord. He felt a brief moment of compassion for his old lady. He had been a lying sack of shit the whole time—the cheater of Rita. But as he meditated and saw it as a possible song title his mind drifted back over all the nubile bodies that had bounced underneath him. Had, had, had … He groaned, sure will miss that, maybe I should get back out there and get me some more of that poontang, Goddammit! Probably need a load of Viagra now, but whatever. He worked himself up into a fever pitch thinking about all those good old days and then a neon sign went on in his head, blinking rapidly, saying “Floyd Perkins ain’t getting none,” over and over. Floyd strummed his guitar furiously and growled, “Ain’t getting none—ain’t right.” And he stood there for a minute with his guitar around his neck like a hangman’s noose. He could set up some shows and it would happen right away, he knew it for sure. But how about all the promises he’d made to Rita? It was difficult. He couldn’t say they needed the money, really, because of Rita and her earning power. He couldn’t pull a line like my fans need me—that would be the road to divorce. And then it popped into his head. It was so simple. How about I get one of those escort girls and fix this little problem? Can’t hurt, can it? A little help on the side, she ain’t never gonna know. He looked through an ancient Yellow Pages phone book and saw the name of a local escort service. That’s it, he said to himself, I’m calling them. But it has to be somewhere private she don’t know about. There was a motel on the edge of town close to the I-45. That’s the place, he thought—not too romantic, but I’m paying so it will be where I want it to be. Later that night as usual, Rita drove him crazy as she stripped down to her underwear in the bathroom and made ready for bed. He casually asked her about her plans for the coming week.
“Out on Thursday night and Friday night,” she replied, before pulling a dowdy nightgown over her hot body. They went to bed and Rita went straight to sleep. Floyd lay there wide awake going over his plan. It would have to be a Thursday night, that would give him time and space to do the deed. If he layed it right it would all be over and done with before he was at home with Rita, just another notch on the belt, forgotten already. He drifted off to sleep with a smile on his face.
Thursday afternoon came and after some anxiety and a slug of Jack he called the Come Together Escort Agency. A brief minute of The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ floated down the line and then a sexy girl’s voice said huskily, “Come Together,” and then a pause, finally adding the word “Agency,” and “Betsy speaking.”
“Hi!” said Floyd, trying to sound like it was just another day, and this was mere routine. “I, um, I wanted, um, would like to, um, hire an escort tonight to, um, take to dinner.”
“Where would you like to meet your personal angel?” asked Betsy.
“I, um, the Six Stars Motel,” breathed Floyd.
“We have Anastasia available,” said the girl. “She is one of our best escorts, very beautiful. I think you will get all you want.”
Floyd gulped. “Okay, Anastasia,” he said, aware that he had just crossed a line.
“That will be two hundred dollars now,” said Betsy. “Which credit card will you be using?”
“Does it have to be on credit card?” gasped Floyd, thinking about the shit he would get if Rita saw the card statement.
“Yes, it’s a down payment,” said Betsy. “There will be another two hundred at the end of the service.”
“Anastasia will call us after you are finished and don’t worry, we don’t put escort service on the bill. It will be something quite neutral.”
“Okay, okay,” said Floyd, his erotic impulse now rapidly diminishing on account of this business transaction and feeling an overwhelming urge to call the whole thing off, not to mention the bleeding wallet price. Later that afternoon, and a little freaked out that he was actually doing this, he drove out to the motel at the edge of the freeway and checked in for one night. Not wanting any more suspicious charges on his credit card bill he paid cash up front, went to the room and chucked his small bag and guitar on the bed. He didn’t know why he had brought the bag with its change of clothes and all, but there it was. It seemed to make him more substantial, like some sort of travelling salesman or something. And he brought his guitar because he had a few ideas for his next album, The Lyin’ Years. He sat on the bed for a while with his guitar, almost feeling like he was in the confession box as he tried out lines like, ‘Here comes little Suzy and here comes Carol Jane / here I am a blind man, between the sheets again’. Simple chords G D C with the ending line over an E minor. Sounds like a hit, he thought. And then these ideas and songs began to depress him, so he stopped and watched the motel TV for a while and the bad shit happening all over the world and knew that there was a song in there somewhere, something that rhymed with chump. Around 6:30pm he took a shower, shaved and patted some Old Spice on his cheeks, beneath his underarms and below decks and said to the mirror, “You are going to get it big time, baby, seriously big time.” He picked up his guitar and played a couple of his own songs, ‘Draggin’ My Ass’, which had been a local hit, and ‘Short and Curly’, which made it to number three on a Birmingham, Alabama station. The songs reinforced his sense of self, why not take a ride, it didn’t mean anything, where’s the harm? He took another slug of Jack and started into ‘You Callin’ Me a Liar’ when there was a knock at the door. He took one last look in the mirror, undid one more button on his shirt and walked over to the door. Before he opened it he cooed out in his famous singing voice, “Who’s there?”
“Anastasia,” a low, sexy voice replied.
He pulled the door open.