Barbara didn’t return. I had enough conversation for the time being. I bid the boys adieu. I walked to the wharf. Before I found the bistro where I’d been the night I saw the beautiful brown woman standing by me in the doorway, I heard the music: the horn man and the drummer, sax and bass to boot. I pulled back a chair and sat by the open door. Leaning back and up against the wall, I drank too much. The music kept going and reached its peak after I was in my cups, chair square on the floor now. These guys were talking too, a language I loved back home on the front porch in the summer and next to the stove in the winter. I could sing, and did. I thought of Blanche and walked to her hotel. The desk clerk informed me she’d been gone a few days, had left no forwarding address. He added, She was working, decided to find a place of her own, she said. I was too drunk to thank him and left in a huff. In the momentarily empty street I roared, Fuck it! at the top of my voice, thinking that’ll empty the street for sure, but still it was not empty enough: this guy comes around the corner and a guy comes the other way. The corner man had something that felt like a gun when he pressed it against my ribs. The other guy wore brass knuckles and didn’t hesitate to show me. Give us what you got! muttered the corner man. Empty those pockets inside out!. Brass knuckles hovered. When that was over, I was done: I made my way back to The Saloon and asked Ray for work. He poured two cups of coffee and said, Sure, J. C., I’ll give you a job opening up and closing the place and sweeping and mopping the floor, washing the glasses, a full-time job, when I’m here you’re here, long hours, J. C., and plenty of time that you can learn to tend bar and wait tables, the more valuable you are the more money I’ll pay you. He said, Any friend of Big John’s is a friend of mine.
(5 November 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander