Secret Origins: Miss Music: 1959: Muskrat Creek Confidential, Epilogue: Payback

by Dan Swanson

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The high school dance could have been anticlimactic, but it wasn’t. Harvey Taylor wasn’t there; Tammi Paige heard a rumor that he’d roared out of town in his hot rod, as angry as an army ant, when Claire Whitman decided she wasn’t going to give him any more chances to tell stories about her. Claire was in a rotten mood, so the rumor might have been true. And it didn’t get any better for Claire as the night went on.

All the girls wanted to talk to Tammi — even the girls in Claire’s clique. And all the boys wanted to dance with her, even boys she’d never spoken to before. She actually liked it when kids she didn’t know introduced themselves; she liked audacity, and she loved attention.

But Claire became madder and madder. She had to swing the spotlight back her way. She should have brought her demo tape with her. Then she had a great idea. She sneaked out of the gym and down to the A.V. lab and found a copy of the demo tape. Then she headed back to the dance. She stopped in the ladies’ room to make a few adjustments to her clothes, and then she was ready.


The band was just getting back from a break when Claire walked up to the lead singer. “Say, can you play something for me?” she asked coyly. “I love your voice — I’d really love to hear you sing All Shook Up by Elvis. It’s my favorite song; I really like the message.” She winked. “My name’s Claire. What’s yours?”

He’d noticed her before; she was really stacked, but her outfit hadn’t seemed to be so revealing before, and she hadn’t seemed very happy. But he wasn’t all that surprised that she’d come up to him; a lot of girls were attracted to the lead singer of the band at any dance. He played along, and by the third song of the set, they’d arranged to meet up after the dance. He was looking forward to another notch on his guitar. She disappeared for a few minutes, and then she was back with an interesting request.

“Can you do me a big favor? I cut a demo tape for some record companies yesterday, and the D.J.’s agreed to play it during your next break. Can you tell everyone? I’d be ever so grateful if you could announce it when your set is over, and introduce me to everyone.”

Well, sure he would; it would be interesting to see how she’d show her gratitude. He was sure he was going to have one heck of a story for the rest of the band tomorrow.


Scotty Dillard cut through the crowd around Tammi, a big smile on his face. She was surprised when he asked her to dance; he was usually a wallflower at a dance, standing around with the other boys and looking longingly at the girls dancing with each other, but never getting up the nerve to ask a girl for a dance. And then, during the breaks, he’d spin records. What was he thinking? The girls weren’t here to dance with each other, they were just waiting for a guy to dance with them. Couldn’t the boys see that? But no, many guys just never did see that.

Anyway, when they got out on the floor and started twisting, Scotty was talking to her excitedly. “You’ll never guess what just happened! Claire brought me her tape and asked me to play it the next time the band took a break.”

“And you’re going to?” she asked. “That’s really nice of you, considering the awful things she tried to do to us today.”

“That’s what’s so cool!” he gushed. “She gave me the original — you know, the one before I fixed it up for her? She must have got it from the lab, and she thinks it’s a copy of the final version!” He busted a move. Very impressive, Tammi thought; he could be a good dancer if he wanted to be. “She wants me to play that awful thing for everybody! She’ll be the laughing stock; it sounds like a car wreck! What perfect payback, and we don’t have to do anything; she’s doing it all to herself!” He laughed.

“I asked her several times if she was really sure she really wanted me to play that tape, and she actually got mad at me. Serves her right, the witch! I did my best!” He spun away and twisted so hard he almost lost his balance. “This is their last song. I have to get back to my table and get ready!” He rushed away. Tammi followed him, more slowly, digging something out of her purse.


“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sure you all know the boss, talented, and very sexy Claire Whitman.” The lead singer pointed to Claire, who had just stepped up on the bandstand with the band. Claire’s clique cheered for her, and the rest of the audience applauded politely. She preened in the limelight. “What you may not know is that this boss babe is also a talented singer. She’s cut a demo tape at the request of several record companies, and she’s going to let us hear it tonight; we’ll always be able to boast that we knew her before she was famous!” He was laying it on thick, and expected she’d return the favor later. He’d played games like this before.

“I give you… Claire Whitman!”

With a gleeful smile, Scotty turned on the tape recorder. Tammi pushed between him and the recorder and pushed the record button. The reels kept spinning, but the recorder wasn’t playing anything. She then used her newly discovered power to play back the best cut from the tape Scotty had modified.

There was a lot of muttering and whispering; Scotty always played the newest hit records during breaks, and nobody wanted to hear Claire wailing like a wounded alleycat. But the background noise died out almost instantly when Claire’s voice started singing.

“Stars shining bright above you,
Night breezes whispering ‘I love you,’
Birds singing in the old willow tree,
Dream your little dream of me…”

“Somebody’s full of crap,” Tammi heard a boy nearby whisper to his date. “That sounds just like Doris May!”

“Say nighty night and kiss me,
Squeeze me tight so I’ll know you’ll miss me,
I’ll be alone and as blue as can be,
Dream your little dream of me…”

“No, it’s not Doris. I have this record, and she changed the words. It really is Claire!” A rustle ran around the gym as the crowd got the word. When the song was over, the gym erupted into a roar of applause. And Tammi cut the tape with the little pocketknife she’d pulled from her purse.

As almost everyone in the gym crowded around Claire, Scotty confronted Tammi.

“Why’d you do that? She was about to make a fool of herself, and she couldn’t have blamed anyone else. She tried to do the same thing to you, after all! And she used me like a tool!” He was angry; he figured he’d deserved a little payback.

“I’m sorry, Scotty, but I just couldn’t stand to see anyone, even Claire, humiliated like that. And you know she would have blamed you, and she’d have found some way to make you miserable for the rest of the school year. Besides, whatever her motive, she really did me a favor. I gave the best performance of my life today, and I discovered my nifty new power.” The future Miss Music smiled at him.

“You know, you’re a pretty swell gal yourself!” Scotty sighed. “Maybe you’ll end up being a super-heroine after all!”

The End

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