Jack Coey, no matter how long he lives, is still touched by the innocence of children: their spontaneity, curiosity, & innocence makes him laugh out loud every time.
One Sour Note
She was a small woman with a low center of gravity, a surprising nimbleness, and a playful creative nature that both thrilled and delighted her occasional bed partners, that is, until she gave up whiskey. She went to Harlow’s Emporium just about every night and spent a lot of time talking to Chico who had a cynical view of people, and they made fun of the other patrons, and when she had a sexual encounter she told him all the quirks of her partner: toe sucking, cross-dressing, and domination, and that left Chico to keep a straight face when serving the partner about whom Chico thought if you only knew what I know about you. She was a good sexual partner; her low center of gravity gave her a thrust that delighted men. That and she could change positions quicker than a blink which dazzled her partners especially if they were drunk, they would go to hug her, only to be hugging a pillow. She cackled and slapped her knee in delight. She reached for the bottle on the bedside table, and took a swig, and there was a night when Lennie tried to force her to do an act, and the bottle was cracked over his head, and he woke up on the sidewalk.
“Lennie?” exclaimed Chico, “you’re shittin’ me, no?”
The booze was hard on her; she found herself in the middle of the room not knowing what she was doing or wanted. Blackout, she thought. In the morning she thought about her life, she felt sad. Sad; that was it – not empty, sad. She liked feeling lust and drunkenness, but there was something else now; that sad feeling. What am I going to do about that? she wondered. She watched T.V. and the woman talked about finding God, and she thought: That doesn’t sound like anything I want to do. She decided to take a couple of nights off from the Emporium to see how that changed things. Boredom bad. She speculated on what Chico was thinking when she didn’t show up. She tried to read, she tried to knit, and she tried to draw. In exasperation, she took a walk to the park. (This is where I do my famous park bench scene for which I’m so well known.) And yes, she sat on a park bench (go ahead, Chase.) and looked at the white clouds in the sky. A woman about thirty-five years old, shabby, dirty, wearing cheap jewelry with a guitar around her neck came along, and when she saw her, she stopped, and started singing Kumbaya. She was a sweet soprano and she enjoyed listening to her.
“You have a lovely voice,” she praised.
“Sing with me,” she answered.
“What? Me? I can’t sing,” she protested.
She started This Land is Your Land, and she tried to keep up, but didn’t know the words.
“No, no, that’s good. That’s a good sound,” said the street singer.
“Golly. I’m no singer,” she said.
“Learn the words, and we’ll rehearse, and we can make money right here in the park.”
“Oh no, I couldn’t do that. I can’t perform in front of others.”
“Sure you can. You rehearse until you can do it without even thinking about it.”
“Who are you anyway?”
She took a moment to figure if she heard right.
“Hi,” she said.
“Go to the library and find a songbook with folk songs, and memorize the words, and I’ll met you back here tomorrow same place, same time. What’s your name?”
“Hi. Here? Tomorrow?”
“Yes, of course.”
Jasmine walked away, and Alicia sat looking at the sky. She thought she would blow it off – she was no entertainer, but then, she was titillated by the thrill of performing. She decided, she decided to do it. It took a dime to copy the lyrics on the copy machine at the library, and she went back to her room, and concentrated really hard on learning the lyrics. She learned it verse by verse, but then, she would forget the verse she learned before memorizing the one she was working on. It about drove her crazy; her head was swirling with Gulf Stream waters and ribbon of highways and diamond deserts. She wanted a drink bad, and almost went to see Chico before she talked herself out of it. After twenty minutes or so, she went back to the song, and made good progress. She learned two verses solid, and the third somewhat shaky. She met Jasmine like she was told. She brought the lyrics with her, and they sang the first verse, and Jasmine said,
“Okay, again.” and they sang it over, and it sounded good. Alicia got a rush; she was thrilled with the experience.
“Okay, here’s what we’re going to do,” said Jasmine, “I’ll sing the lyric, and you echo the last word, get it? So when I sing, ‘This land is your land, this land is my land’ you come in and echo land. When I sing, ‘From California to the New York island,’ you echo island, see? Then we both sing, ‘This land was made for you and me.’”
Why the fuck did I bust my ass to learn the song for if she only wants me to sing one word? thought Alicia.
“Okay…a one, two, one, two, three, four...”
They sang, and a couple walking by stopped, and listened with smiles, and clapped at the end.
“People like us!” exclaimed Alicia. She had that rush again. Jasmine did the song over and over; Alicia was amazed at how hard she worked. Before she knew it, there were five or six people listening to them sing, and even better, they dropped dollar bills into an open guitar case. She felt an excitement she never felt before, and before she knew it, Jasmine was handing her a joint. She took a hit and passed it back. They sat on the grass, and Alicia looked at the blue sky and felt contentment, and didn’t mind that Jasmine had her hand between her legs. Jasmine leaned over to kiss her and that was all right. She didn’t reciprocate and at last Jasmine got the hint.
“You know we can make a lot of money,” Jasmine said.
“Whatever you say.”
“You don’t care?”
“Sure, I care.”
“We’ll keep it just about the music.”
“And you’re willing to rehearse to sound as good as we can?”
“We’ll make up a set list.”
“The order of the songs we play.”
They saw a figure coming on the walkway. They lifted their faces to the sun, and when Alicia looked, she saw Chico.
“Hey, how you doin’?” he said.
“You don’t like me no more?”
Alicia felt Jasmine watching her.
“Oh no, I've been around.”
“No come see me?”
“I'm being a good girl.”
“That sucks,” said Jasmine.
Chico looked at Jasmine with annoyance.
“You come see me?” he asked.
“Maybe after some time. I'll drink water.”
“I'll come see you too,” offered Jasmine.
“Come see me, OK.?” he spoke to Alicia.
“Sure...sure thing, Chico.”
He walked off, and Jasmine spoke.
“Do you know Merchant Street?” she asked, “the corner of Crofton and Merchant streets there's a garage, and the guy is going to let me use it on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons between three and six. I can even keep equipment there. I just ball him every so often, and if I close my eyes and hold my nose, I can get through it. Jesus, what we do for Art, huh?”
“My shift at the restaurant starts at five.”
“Three to four-thirty, then.”
Alicia took a moment to think about it, and had misgivings, but agreed to it anyway.
There was a theater on Main Street called The Regal Theater which in order to draw an audience on Friday night had a program called Home Grown which was made up of performers from the county who had to audition to get a spot on stage. There were magic acts and dancers and singers, and actors, and musicians. Jasmine had ambitions to play, but knew they weren't ready yet. The show got good audiences, and was a real test for any performer, and the quality went from exhilarating to embarrassing. Jasmine decided to work on three songs, and get them performance-ready and go audition. At their first rehearsal, Jasmine told Alicia her plans and Alicia agreed. They worked hard. Jasmine had a tape recorder, and they listened to themselves over and over, polishing the slightest blemish. Every so often, Jasmine would grope Alicia's ass or touch her breast, and Alicia, caught up in the work, would ignore it. She didn't like it, but was discovering her ability to make music was a consuming passion. Jasmine gave her one of her guitars, and told her to work with it. She thought about asking Jasmine to stop touching her, but realized she used her body to get what she wanted, so there was a high probability her request would not be appreciated. That and Alicia was having the most thrilling experience of her life, and why risk it? She was aware that at some point Jasmine was going to want to have sex, but she couldn't think about that now, she would confront it when it came up. After a month and a half, Jasmine asked,
Jasmine put her hand on the back of Alicia's neck, and pulled her face toward her, and stuck her tongue in her mouth, and Alicia froze until she pulled out, and said,
“That's what I wanted you to say.”
Alicia was having feelings that wouldn't go away. It was a combination of sadness and anger, and she said over and over to herself,
“This is a chance to change my life.”
So she showed up, and did everything Jasmine asked her, and when she wanted sex, Alicia gave in. Jasmine told her they had an audition the following Tuesday at 2:00 pm. Alicia was confused; one part of her life was truly exciting, and another part sad.
This is what it's like to be an artist, she thought, how they suffer, and it makes them better. The more sadness she felt, the harder she worked.
“Do we want to rehearse the day of the audition or do the audition cold?” asked Jasmine.
“Cold,” answered Alicia.
The day of the audition, Alicia was depressed and nervous. She couldn't stand it, and went to see Chico when he opened at eleven. The bar was empty, and Chico was curious about Alicia, and before she knew it, she told the story of her and Jasmine. Chico looked at her for a long moment before he said,
Alicia thought about having a drink to help her calm down, but decided against it.
“Is bad, no?”repeated Chico.
A man came to the bar and sat, and Chico went to serve him. Alicia waved to Chico as she walked towards the door. In the middle of the second song, she hit a bad note, and couldn't keep herself from laughing.