CRASH! Louie’s cymbal exploded with sound, destroying whatever mercantile spell Jimmy was casting. All eyes were on Louie, who stood up and shook his fist at a young couple seated alone in the balcony. Then he threw a shoe at them; they ducked, laughing, and it bounced off the back wall, landing at their side. The shoe wasn’t Louie’s; it belonged to the young man. He had apparently dropped it on Louie’s cymbal as a comment on the ongoing idiocy.
Now none of us knew what to do, and no leadership was emerging. There was an uncomfortable, frozen moment, then the remaining customers started moving for the exit, eyes averted. There was no point in our continuing to play, but we quietly stayed on the bandstand, waiting for a sign. Jimmy moved first, shaken by the reality of what had happened, his dream of a career comeback shattered. “I was just trying to help you man, you know that, right?” He desperately grabbed my arm. “I really want to play here, I just really like it here. You all are so cool, and you play your butts off. I want to keep working here.” He was pleading with me, tugging on my sleeve, visibly upset.
I had no immediate response, because looking over his shoulder I could see Louie heading my way. He was walking quickly and purposefully with a determined expression on his face. I didn’t expect physical violence, but I knew it was a possibility. So was gunfire. The frightening reality was that Louie was capable of doing just about anything, to Jimmy or to me. I hunched defensively as he drew near, adrenalin flowing.
“Come here, man,” he said, grabbing my arm and pulling me off the stage. “I want to tell you something.” He reached his arm around my neck, and pulled my head in toward him. He leaned over to speak directly into my ear, breath smelling of whiskey. He was red-faced and agitated. I closed my eyes and prepared for the worst. He spoke in a quiet guttural tone, spitting on me with each consonant.
“Did you see that chick in the balcony, man? She didn’t have nothing on under that dress, man! I was looking up at her and I was in God’s Country, man, I swear it. Yah-he-yah-he-yah-he-he...”
I nearly fell to the floor in relief. For a minute, Louie was my hero. I felt like I should explain, apologize, be his buddy, punch his arm, make my own comment about some other chick wearing some other dress somewhere else. But I just didn’t have it in me; I was too tired and too confused. At the same time, I wasn’t about to betray the fact that I—despite all my unapologetic football-watching, meat-eating, and occasional politically incorrect jokes—didn’t find his macho shit all that funny. Now, more than ever, it just wasn’t worth it. So I got my coat off the piano bench and headed off to my sleeping quarters.
The rain had stopped, and Thomaston’s deserted streets gleamed with reflected light. Everything was silent and I walked quickly, past the outdoor market, past all the bars, past the urine-soaked parking lot where the horse-drawn carriages paused during the day. I turned onto Louie’s street, where he and Bonnie subletted the back portion of one of the city’s beautiful old mansions.
Not surprisingly, the iron gate was locked shut. As usual, pulling myself up and over the top, I nearly lost my manhood on one of the wrought iron spears. I fell to the ground on the other side, landing in a small puddle, cursing tomorrow’s dry cleaning bill that would eat away at my minimal wage. The landlord’s dog, small and loud, woke from its coddled poodle dreams and smelled another of Louie’s jazz musicians, scourges of the neighborhood. He followed me all the way to Louie’s door, loudly venting his disapproval.
Inside Louie’s house I slowly climbed the stairs, stopped briefly in the unkempt bathroom, crossed the hall to my closet-sized bedroom, threw off my clothes, and sank exhausted into the sagging half-mattress that was my bed. I fell asleep before I could even relive the evening’s trauma. The next thing I knew it was morning, the sun shining through the blinds into my eyes, my back aching, my breath rancid with last night’s beer. And I knew it before I even thought it: for some demented reason, unfathomable as always, more disturbing than ever, I was eager for more.
Jimmy didn’t get paid but still dreams of returning.
Mike hasn’t taken THE SOLO yet, but continues to desperately prepare for it.
Frank remains safely ensconced in his hotel gig.
The Whore hasn’t been tuned in months and is starting to smell bad.
Louie’s playing hasn’t improved. He still drives with Bonnie to Columbia every Tuesday, and has yet to join a sensitivity group.
Bonnie remains a great mystery. She may or may not really believe that someone in Columbia actually would pay Louie to play drums. She prays a lot.
Copyright © 2001 by Bill Anschell ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Used here by permission.
|< Previous Page||Searching for Glory at the Cookin’ Cadenza
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6