Tag: jazz club

shortfiction24 – our last downhill run

What I’m Writing This Week

Jared Clark is a teacher, a man of his word. He promised a student he would drop off a gift she handed him for her long-distance boyfriend while Jared attended an out-of-town conference in New York City. It cost him.

Our Last Downhill Run

Bob Gillen

Jared Clark high-fived his buddy Larry. “It’s over!”

The two men huddled in a corner of the hotel lobby as conference participants streamed out of the ballroom. 

“Yup. Continuing ed credits done, and on the school district’s dime.” Larry stuffed his course notes into his briefcase. “And now, a night out in New York before we fly home.”

Jared fumbled in his own briefcase.

Larry said, “A guy in my discussion group told me about a cool jazz club. Only a few blocks from here. We can walk it easy.”

“Yeah?”

“It’s called Reedy’s. All kinds of musicians jam there. This guy swears he saw Sonny Rollins sit in on one set last week.”

“Food?”

“Yeah. Steaks and burgers.”

“I’m in.” Jared cocked his head. “But I have to meet you there later.”

“The conference is over.” Larry brushed his hands together. “We’re free.”

“I have to drop something off. It’s about 20 minutes from here.”

Larry grinned. “Jared, get real. You can’t afford a New York hooker.”

Jared grew red in the face. “No, no. Seriously.”

“Spill,” Larry said. 

“Okay. One of my students asked me to drop off a gift for some guy she met while skiing last winter break.” He pulled a small package out of his briefcase.

“You can’t be serious. Winter break was three months ago. We’re a thousand miles away from our school.”

Jared shrugged. “I said I would try.”

“They couldn’t mail it?”

“Personal touch…I guess.”

Larry lifted his chin. “Who asked you to do this?”

“Ashley Peters.”

“Yeah, she can be persistent.”

Jared repeated, “I said I’d try.”

“Does the guy know you’re coming?”

“Nope. I don’t have a number. Just an address.”

“You’re crazy, you know that, right?”

“Yeah. But I don’t want to let her down.”

Larry shrugged on his jacket. “I don’t want to go to Reedy’s alone. Come on, let’s hail a cab.”

“You don’t have to do this, Larry.”

“No worries. Let’s double-team this guy, then go party.”

They hustled out of the hotel lobby and grabbed a cab.

“Friday night, mister. Traffic will be bad.”

An hour later, the cab pulled up in front of a modest home on a quiet street. Larry pointed to the meter. “I said I’d ride with you, but the fare is on you.”

Jared nodded. He told the cab driver to wait. “I’ll only be a minute.” 

A young man in jeans and a black hoodie answered the bell.

“Hi. I’m a teacher. My name is Jared. I’m looking for Wayne.”

The young man stared at Jared.

“Ashley Peters is a student of mine. She asked me to drop off a package for Wayne while I was in New York.”

Jared held out the package.

The young man didn’t move. “I’m Wayne.”

“Oh good. Then this is for you, and I’ll be on my way.”

Wayne did not extend his hand. “She broke up with me.”

“Wait, what?”

“She broke up with me, man. Yesterday. I got a text. She’s seeing another guy.”

Jared stood frozen, hand holding the package out.

The cab driver honked the horn.

You got played.

“I gotta go,” Jared said. “Do you want this?”

Wayne shook his head again. “No way. You got played…we both got played.”

He closed the door.

The horn honked again.

Jared climbed back in the cab. “Back to the hotel, please.”

“How did it go?” Larry asked.

Jared held out the package. “He didn’t want it. She broke up with him.”

“No way. You got played.”

“No shit. That’s what he just said.”

Larry grabbed the package, tore the tissue wrapping off to reveal a book. Magic on the Lifts. Inside, the inscription: I’ll never forget our last downhill run.

Larry laughed. “Okay, you tried. Let’s go party.”

Back at the hotel, Jared paid the driver.

“You need to send Ashley a delivery bill for the cab.”

“Right? Come on. The club is my treat!”

“Now you’re talking!”

Jared crumbled the tissue wrapping into a tight ball and tossed it in a trash can on the sidewalk.

“Should I return the book?” Jared asked. Larry shrugged.

Jared said, “I tried.” He flipped the book sideways under a passing crosstown bus.

***

shortfiction24 – Milo in Paris

Maurice and Milo are thrilled to perform at a club in Paris. They dream of becoming a global act. Alas…

What I’m Writing

In February 2020 I posted a story titled “Sawdust” about my quirky characters, Maurice and Milo, a ventriloquist and his dummy. A second story followed in August 2021. Today’s story is about them again, this time a prequel to Maurice’s sudden death onstage one night. POV is once again Milo’s. Here they are, excited to be performing at a club in Paris.

Milo in Paris

Bob Gillen

The club’s green room sat in the basement, under the stage. Dark, poorly lit. A tiny closet to the side. A locked door that led somewhere unknown. Maurice sat at the dressing table in front of the mirror. 

I watched him work through his makeup routine. He darkened his eyebrows, combed his moustache. Pulled on his fedora, positioning it carefully. He liked to frame himself as a film noir character.

Maurice turned to me. The dummy in the next chair. “You look good tonight, Milo.”

“Thank you. And I must say, you are looking quite well yourself, Maurice.”

Maurice smiled. “Thank you, my friend.”

Maurice smoothed my shirt, white with blue stripes. Pinched the crease in my dark slacks. He reached for a navy blue beret, positioned it carefully on my head. 

“I think we’re ready.”

A knock on the door. “Five minutes.”

“Thank you, five minutes.” Maurice stood. Smoothed his own outfit. 

“Our first gig in Paris, Milo. This is a big night. We’ll be here for a week, if tonight works. The first step in becoming a global act.”

“One show at a time,” I said.

“You’re right. You’ve heard me say that many times.”

Maurice picked me up and opened the door. As we mounted the stairs, I heard the applause from the act preceding us. Two dancers, their shoes tapping on the floor, dashed past us as we reached the wings.

“You’re on,” the club manager said.

Maurice took a deep breath, adjusted my beret, and stepped out on stage.

Credit: The Guardian

In the green room after our performance, Maurice said, “I hope you don’t feel badly when they call you sawdust, Milo.”

I shook my wooden head.

“The drunk in the Hawaiian print shirt was obnoxious. Obviously an American tourist speaking bad French.”

“We’ve seen worse,” I said, softly. “But it sounded classy in French. Sciure. Sawdust.”

“Funny…the word sawdust,” Maurice said. “Tonight it reminds me of my first job as a kid, right out of eighth grade. A summer job as a delivery boy for the local butcher shop. There was always sawdust on the floor of the shop. It was my job to sweep it up every night at closing time, and spread new sawdust on the floor. I did that while the butcher used a wire brush to scrub the blood and scraps off his carving block.”

I had never heard him talk of that before.

“That was a lot of years ago, Milo. A lot of years.”

Maurice folded my outfit carefully, placed it in the suitcase with his own jacket and fedora. 

“We’ve come a long way,” Maurice said. “A long way from doing sock puppets in my bedroom. Trying to drown out my mom and dad screaming at each other.”

It was always me.

He looked at the me. Me, Milo. It was always me, even as a sock puppet. Always French. Always there at his side. Somewhere at home he still had the sock. Rolled up in a drawer somewhere. Or in a box in the closet. If his ex-wife Darla hasn’t thrown it out. She hated me. Not at first. But it didn’t take long for her to realize I came first. I was more real than anyone else to Maurice.

I understood him like no one else did. An odd thing to say. A wooden dummy understands you better than any person. Odd, maybe, but real. Real for us.

“Tomorrow night will be even better,” Maurice said. “We open for a jazz trio. It will be an audience that appreciates the finer things in life.”

Oui,” I said.

Maurice smiled. “There’s always a tomorrow night.”

***

© 2022 Bob Gillen

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑