WHY I LOVE SHORT STORIES: RE: PERSON I KNEW

 



James Morrow woke at three in the afternoon. A late night, booze and unwise food decisions had left him feeling more than a little off. He walked to the bathroom, filled up the sink with water, and placed his face in. He couldn't quite remember if he had said or done anything which he would come to regret. Not a complete blackout, but a general hazy fog lingered in his mind, and details were hard to pin down. He dressed, slowly and cautiously, afraid that any sudden movement would cause him to lose balance or violently expel his late night/early morning meal of kebabs and whiskey. He sat on the bed, wondering how to occupy himself until he was required to play his first set at the club. James decided on a little music. John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, the latter of which James had pegged as perhaps the greatest underappreciated Jazz vocalist of the last hundred years. He sat and enjoyed the sounds, reverberating around the room, and closed his eyes.

It was a standard set, nothing too fancy, nothing too ambitious. The patrons wouldn't know or care if Morrow and his trio were on top form or just blandly expelling standards that one could hum along to. James was accustomed to the crowd jawing along to each other as they played, something that no longer bothered him. Jamal, on bass, and Caroline on percussion, were similarly inured. The pay was decent, and to be able to play live music for a living - even if it was compromised, unambitious music - was a privilege. As they started into Autumn Leaves, Bill Evans' work firmly in James' mind, a strange hush came across the room. Something was different. They were paying attention. Eyes fixed on the stage, with rapt attention. As his fingers blazed across the keys, improvising deftly and with passion, he felt somehow that it was outside of his control. They went into their second number, We'll Be Together Again, the trio following and playing off him in a way that he had never experienced before. A standing ovation, and suddenly James felt that he was back in the mid 1950s, when people appreciated the artistry of the thing. James stepped down from the stage, mobbed by people patting him on the back and asking for his autograph. He could hardly believe what was happening. In the corner of the club, at the end of the bar, he saw a face. A face that he had definitely seen before. He couldn't quite place when and where.

"All I'm saying is that, if I was able to, for one night feel what it was like back in the Village Vanguard or at the goddamn Montreux Jazz Festival, to be someone of note... someone of importance and to have these shitheels appreciate what the hell I am trying to do here, I'd give anything... anything!" "Strong words. How much is anything, exactly?" "You name it." "Are you a believer, Mr. Morrow?" "In what?" "In the immortality of the soul." James laughed, deep down low, in a mocking fashion. "Sure..." "What if I said I could give you what you wanted?" "If you could do that, I'd sign over my soul, right here tonight, if I'm lying, I'm flying."

James rationalized: This isn't a crossroads and I am not Robert Johnson. As James tried to push his way through the crowd, the man moved away from the bar and out through the back door. After much pushing and pulling, James escaped from the pawing digits of a crowd that now was deeply reverent of good Jazz. He was drunk as all hell the night before. This was obviously a sick joke, probably played on him by Mal, the guy who ran the place, obviously tired of James' constant bemoaning of the level of intelligence of a crowd raised on on demand music for pennies. As James walked out through the back door of the club, he saw the strange man standing, his back turned, a few feet away from him. "Hey! What's your deal?" No response. "Come on, whatever you're doing, it's not funny!" James walked closer, reaching his hand out to touch the shoulder of the man. He turned, his face pulsating as the unmistakable opening of Miles Davis' So What filled the air. "Listen, Mr. Morrow, listen to the sounds, for which you gave your soul. One night, this was the deal. Are you ready to begin?"

He was surrounded by walls that stretched up to the sky, no top in sight. The room was at once cramped and endlessly spacious. In front of him, a piano and a worn out stool. Feeling the need to rest his legs and his mind, he took a seat. It was then his eyes caught a small neon display on the wall, dead ahead. The display read: "Taylor Swift - We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." His hands started to move along the keys, before he knew what he was doing. It felt strange, not exactly like someone else was controlling him, but that he had decided a long, long time ago to do what he was now doing. He played all the way through, and he stopped. In front of him the sign flashed again. The display read: "Taylor Swift - We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." His hands started to move along the keys, before he knew what he was doing. It felt strange, not exactly like someone else was controlling him, but that he had decided a long, long time ago to do what he was now doing. He played all the way through, and he stopped. In front of him the sign flashed again. The display read: "Taylor Swift - We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." His hands started to move along the keys, before he knew what he was doing. It felt strange, not exactly like someone else was controlling him, but that he had decided a long, long time ago to do what he was now doing..

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