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A Good Pick
by Andrew Dunn
The act at Luige’s wasn’t half bad. Wasn’t half good
either. What can you expect on a Tuesday night though? The
bigger names aren’t into Tuesdays. Or Luige’s. While all the
other places in the Stingaree had cleaned up and brought in
some new clientele, Luige’s never did.
Why would Luige’s? So some fancy light show could pulse
while a bunch of people let a thump-thump techno beat wash over
them? “Youz can keep that o’er there buddy,” one of the lounge
lizards hissed when someone asked the bartender about the music.
“Hush up will ya,” another said. The barstool chatter was
interfering with the act.
Under a lone white light, sinewy and smooth the act worked
the slide trombone elegantly. Perfectly. It was mesmerizing to
watch. Almost hypnotic. That soft, sparse rhythm drummed on a
bongo and those yearning tones the act brought to life through
“Why don’t you come over,” s simple invite to draw the
chatter away from the lizards at the bar. “I go by Duke.”
“I’m Gerald.” He seemed skeptical as he settled down on the
opposite side of the booth.
“Look, I ain’t here to try and get you time with a good
time girl or sell you that crazy stuff that goes up your nose
and your mind it blows, know what I mean? Just cut the old dudes
there at the bar some slack, alright?”
“Cut them some slack?” Okay, poor choice of words on my part.
He was mad, or trying to get there. Maybe that was his
goal from the get go. To get mad. Be mad. Make somebody else
mad. “Cut them some slack? I just asked if there was anything
better than that.” Gerald swiveled and nodded at the act.
Young guy. Like one of those you see running on the beach
when the girls are out there pretending they don’t want him
looking at, well, all their possibilities. He reminded me of me
but I’d never been that pretty. Gerald had that chiseled face
going on. And strategically preserved facial hair. If I hadn’t
been straight I’d have gone home with Gerald. Geez, the
possibilities. Yeah, Gerald would make a good pick.
“They aren’t in here every night,” almost true. Luige’s was
closed Sundays and most Mondays. “And c’mon. They’re old guys
that get off on that trombone stuff.”
“All I asked the bartender was what other kinds of music
they played here,” he was spoiling for an argument.
“I get that,” if there was a way to cut this off before it
turned ugly I wasn’t seeing it, “but the act on stage right now
isn’t half bad. If you give it a chance.”
“That?” Gerald was caught somewhere between dubious and
“That. To each his own right?”
Looking back on it, grabbing Gerald’s wrist probably wasn’t
the best move. When he jerked it away he knocked over his drink.
His sickly sweet - really now really is that a - drink. That was
enough to cause the act to pause. For the trombonist to affix
his gaze upon Gerald. I called it like I seen it when I said
Gerald would make a good pick.
“Let me help you out.” Marty hadn’t stocked napkins in our
booth so my idea to dab the spillage off his almost surely brand
new suit was shot.
“Get off me will you?” Gerald was about a notch and a half shy
from hitting full beast mode.
“Hey Marty,” I called out to the bartender, “can we get
Gerald one of whatever he’s having on me?”
“Let’s not!” Gerald yelled. “I don’t want your stupid
drinks or your stupid music or any of this stupid stuff!”
In the handful of seconds it had taken Gerald to go off
the deep end, he hadn’t noticed the transformation that had
taken place on stage. The bongo player had resumed the rhythm
while the trombonist politely went down on all fours. A seasoned
lycanthrope, the normally grizzly transformation from man into
something else came easy. Aside from the bones snapping and low
guttural sounds forced when the lungs shifted around within the
torso, the change had been inconspicuous.
Except for the whole dude on the stage turning into an exceptionally
violent carnivore ready to devour any and every warm-blooded thing that
stood in its path.
Gerald was a good pick. An exceptional one. Long and lean
with a six-pack and light tan. Gerald was just what the trombone
player needed. Even still, it was hard to watch well, the
feeding process. Feeding process. That’s what one of the lounge
lizards had come up with to describe this part of the act.
Really, what bothered me most wasn’t the carnage itself or the
mess we’d have to help clean up afterwards. It was the flyer.
The flyer that flew out of Gerald’s front pocket was one
of the one’s I’d handed out the day before at the beach. Some
cool looking stuff on the front with hot graphics and sexy
colors. And on the back “Invictus”:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be,
For my unconquerable soul,
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Putting Invictus on the back of the flyer had been my idea.
I thought it was just a cool poem. There was no way I, Gerald –
or anyone else – would've known the poem didn’t pertain to them.
That it was all about the act.
Later on, I’d have to talk to Marty about Tuesday
nights. The whole trombone and bongo thing didn’t seem like a
good pick anymore. Assuming any of us were still
the masters of our fates and captains of our souls.
micheledutcher - Cool! I like the use of the classic poem too. Nice details like: they aren't in here every night: Sundays and Mondays they're closed...Funny. Way to set a mood.
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