"One Hit Wonder" by Dan A. Cardoza



Way back in Tommy Tutone's childhood Chicago, the word on the street is that Tommy was conceived under a dead hickory tree, on top of a burned-out patch of grass in Harrison Park. The same run-down park near the East Garfield projects, by the rail yards, where he'd played as a child. That is a damned lie.

The truth is, Tommy was created on the green banks of Lily Pond, in Washington Park, by his dead mother and father.

Tone's daddy was white. He'd claimed he wasn't the birth father, child support and all. He'd died from an overdose, the year Tutone was inching up on the age of five. His mama, Asantewaa, was a beautiful black magic woman, a woman who'd saved herself up some perfectly bad luck. Tommy Tutone had gotten most of his soul from his mama.

Asantewaa had been murdered and turned into a Jane Doe. That is until a coffee shop manager saw the Al Grene tattoo on her shoulder. The Chicago Police had photographed it for the newscast. Al Green's name had been misspelled.

Tone Leaves Chicago

Tutone was nineteen when he'd taken a windy bus west out of Chicago. To Tutone, that seemed like such a long time ago, the other place, the other planet, since he’d landed in L.A. for a minute. Just a few years along the bus route had turned him into a twenty-one-year-old man, the time it had taken him to get to the left coast, now much warmer in La-La Land, much warmer than he'd thought possible.

Soon after he'd arrived, the locals ferreted out his story, as well as how he'd caught his street name back in Chicago, how he'd been named after this funky rock duo, Tommy Tutone, the one-hit-wonder boys who’d made a living off a single hit song, 867-5309/Jenny. The song had climbed the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982. It had reached number four. Ever since, the Tommy Tutone duo had hit the county fair circuit and had become an opening act for other more well-known, forgotten rockers.

"Boy, come over here. I got something you might want?" said Liz, the attractive girl in the brand new Mercedes Benz.

"What's up?"

"What's your name, boy?"

"It's Tommy Tutone, Ms.," he'd said. There would be plenty of time to discuss the roots of his unique moniker later.

Tommy hopped off the curb and froze in place, once he could see Liz clearly. He crashed his eyes into her natural beauty. After pausing, he'd walked closer to her fancy car until their eyes paired. It's then he discovered some kind of magical frequency. He'd entered some exotic electromagnet field. Hot pavement cinders cracked under the heels of his shiny shoes until he'd ended up next to the open passenger window.

Tutone had nothing to lose and everything to gain. He'd left carcasses of years strewn behind him, along Interstate 80, on his journey away from his past in Chicago.

Since leaving, he'd created stories that he'd share with his grandchildren one day, tales about his travels and sojourns through the thrums of cities and small towns along Interstate 80.

Though he hadn't met with much success on his journey, Tone was confident that his luck was about to change. It already had, as he basked in the hoarded California sunshine they'd stored up in L.A. And, he was about to make a new acquaintance.

"Sup?" He'd said to the girl in the pretty window.

"Hi, handsome," Liz had said, using her smile to light up a pheromone lantern. "You're as cool on the eyes as mint candy," she'd said.

Then, she'd looked at Tone, first north then south. She'd been purposeful as she conducted her physical inventory, careful not to misplace any of his parts in her mind.

"Ok?" He asked the way young people do, using the carefully crafted inflection of his generational voice.

"My name is Liz…Elizabeth. You can call me Lizzy, Liza, Beth, Lazy Beth, Liza, take your pick, been called them all and worse.

The truth is, any name would sound good coming from her crooked, gorgeous smile.

"Ok, then Liz, it is. What can I do for you?"

"I need some rooms painted, Mr. Tone. My painter stood me up. He thinks he's a damned Rembrandt or something. Said he found a better gig. It's easy, a few rooms. I have the rollers, tarp, and brushes, paint. Come on, please?"

“It’s Tutone, Liz.”