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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 coiled brass.
“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 disbelief.
“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.
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