Monday, December 22, 2008

Three stories: 2 Men Are Also


There was a time once, Miles Davis met a dog in the street and smiled. I wasn't there, but that doesn't matter. Miles was wearing a black roll-neck jumper and jeans. The dog sniffed at his black leather boots. Resisting the temptation to kick the scraggy mutt, Miles pulled out a trumpet and blew a few bars of Walkin' and the dog looked up at him with respect.

Miles lowered the trumpet to his side and carried on strolling down the street. He stopped at a bar and looked in. It was a dirty old basement bar beneath a cheap chinese restaurant; a fish soup for 25c kind of place.

Inside the bar Charles Bukowski was talking to a little girl dressed in a tight-fitting school uniform, plying her with drinks and slurred words of lust. Her body seemed strange in the clothes, as if she had just discovered her grandmother's wedding dress and was playing some sort of game. Miles looked again and saw that the schoolgirl was older than she first appeared, older than either he or Charlie he thought, not that either of them was that old.

This girl-woman was short, with small breasts and delicate thin arms, although her thighs were white and as solid as tree trunks, and her hair looked like it had been permed but permed some place where permanent spelt three days at most. There were little wrinkles around her eyes and at the corner of her mouth. A thin line of down coated her upper lip. Charlie collapsed from stool to floor and laughed his wild boy laugh, and as she stooped to pick him up he fell against her chest, heaving and smiling.

Miles ordered a whisky with coke and ice and stared into the mirror behind the bar which was hidden between the skittlish rows of bottles and glasses making Miles wonder what it would be like to shoot a bowling ball down the full length of the back counter. However, Miles didn't have his ball. The light was dim but he could just about make out Sonny and Jim jawing in the back room, Sonny lying with his back on the pool table, a cigarette between his slender fingers, the long dark shape of the man stretched out against green felt, looking almost grey in the light and the smoke on the mirror. Miles sat on his stool and did not turn around. The barman asked him about the football and Miles told him he was more of a baseball man himself. The barman shrugged his shoulders, accepting Miles' offer of a cigarette as if he was indulging his own generosity.

Miles finished his drink and left the bar halfway through his third cigarette. he walked down 115th Street practising dance steps, although he was no dancer, and whistling a tune Joe had played him that morning. It was a cool tune, a sweepy jumping melody that reminded him of nothing else, but in his head it was magnificent, and like a million others.

He stopped and crouched down to pick up an envelope which lay on the sidewalk. It was dated May 5th and addressed to a P C Brown. Miles opened it out of curiosity without a second thought. It contained a Court Order for the previous day and a small stash of grass. He put the grass in his pocket and threw the letter away, stopping at the next set of lights to catch his breath. It was a warm night but the air still smelled fresh, although even then he could concentrate on the whiff of petrol fumes from the road and the noise from the apartment blocks three streets away.

It was a melancholy evening and the Blue train cafe was closed for the winter. Miles went next door where he'd arranged to meet with Sal and came down the steps into another dark basement bar, although one with a little more life to it. Herb was strumming a piano in the corner but Sal was nowhere to be seen.

Sal never showed, ever, but it was always worth making the date because Sal knew all the cool bars in the city. Miles had had his fair share of missed dates with Sal and so, by now, he knew enough of his own, but they were all just pockets of loneliness and tonight Miles wanted company. Not the sort of company you had to be anything with, but just the sort you could be with and feel O.K.

Miles ordered a whisky and coke and sat at the bar. he smiled at Herb and Herb raised one hand from the keys to wave in return, solemn and intense, maintaining the rhythm with his other hand, but happy, sweat pouring from his brow. Miles was smiling wide and low, impressed by Herb's dexterity.

Turning back to the bar he hunched up over his glass and took some peanuts. Then Sal walked in...


author: Jon Simmons, © 1990

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