By Gregory Shipman.
Note: Some explicit language.
I pulled my London Fog off with one practiced move. The move goes with the territory. It rains a lot here… and especially in November, and for some reason, mostly at night. Baltimore’s just that kind of town. Actually I love the rain. It’s cleansing. Those drops wash away your troubles.
I hand the coat and my dripping hat to Kitty. The counter between us accepts the drops of water like a canvas accepts paint.
“It’s wet out there,” Kitty says. She uses the same voice as the one she used to announce her pregnancy two months ago. She’s not anymore. Pregnant, I mean. I stopped sweating although she hates motherhood as much I do fatherhood.
“Yeah, baby. It’s raining ducks and inner-tubes.”
She smiles but she doesn’t mean it. She thinks we should continue the ‘horizontal push-ups’. I now put a sheath on the pigskin before I throw the bomb. Kitty doesn’t like sheathes. I don’t like diapered surprises.
“You jammin’ tonight, Luther?”
It’s dim in this small lobby of Club Chez but I can still see the daggers in Kitty’s eyes. She’s got a body to die for, a libido to cry for and a mind like a class whore. She’s likely the last hatcheck girl on the planet, this being 1991. Club Chez is a hole-in-the-wall on a block of hole-in-the-walls. It stays crowded because the drinks aren’t watered, the music is live and a smart man or woman can find a prize in this crackerjack box of lonely souls.
“Me, Bones and Nolan are doin’ a coupla sets tonight. Omar got some possible investors coming by and they love straight-up jazz.”
“You got your faults, Luther, but you blow a mean sax. I still remember something else you used to blow mean. I still twitch down there… from that.”
“Memory Lane ain’t all it’s cut out to be, Kitty.”
“It’s still yours when you want it, Jazz-Man.”
“I hear you and Bogard keeping company now.”
“My couch is a fixture, Luther, Bogart ain’t.”
Kitty’s wearing red tonight, and not much of it. Her blonde hair is a tangled nest but I ‘spect she paid a beautician to make it that way. Her lips are red, wet and parted. In that little coat room is just her and enough sex appeal to attract the Sixth Fleet. I slip a ten across the counter.
“What’s this for?” she asks.
“A tip,” I reply.
“I’d rather have the other tip… and the connected shaft.”
“Bad girls get spanked, Kitty.”
“We’ve played that game before, Luther. You up for it again?”
“Let my ‘Fog dry out, baby. It’s all wet.”
She gives me a look that sends blood to an appendage worth having. “It ain’t the only thing that’s wet.”
I remind myself that the last thing I need to be is a screaming baby’s daddy.
“Hey, Omar.” Omar owns this club which is barely holding on. Omar handles money like diabetes handles Krispy Kremes.
“Your boys here yet?”
I do a quick look around. The fifteen foot bar has two bartenders, shoulder to shoulder customers and diffused globe lights in a row. The bar is the meat and greet spot… and I do mean ‘meat’.
“They’re likely in a cab by now. It’s raining out there. That slows down public transport.”
“I need you to impress my ‘money’ guys. I got them on the line and I need you to set the hook and then I’ll reel them in.”
“I can follow that plan, my friend.” Omar got schemes like virgins got dreams.
“Smooth jazz their asses, Brother. And they got lady friends so throw that Luther sex-sax shit at them. I need them dudes to put some cash in this place. So you sex them dames with your sax. If they get happy, them money boys get happy. You feel me?”
Omar and I go way back. “I dig, Bro.” The club is small and intimate. The stage, dimly lit, is two steps off the floor. The tables ‘horseshoe’ the stage with enough room for the waiters to move around freely. The food here is nutritious, the booze is liberating.
“I’m counting on some magic vibes, Luther. I need the bread these cats’ got. I want to get bigger.”
“Most men do, Omar… most men do.”
The sets went well. Bones tickled ivory and Nolan had his upright bass on its hind legs begging. I saxed the hell out of the ‘she’ girls who were hanging with the moneyed ‘he’ boys. Two of the ‘shes’ slipped phone numbers in my pocket. One of them did a ‘field exploration’ while her hand was in there. She didn’t need a map. She played ‘to-be-continued’ on the organ.
“The ‘wallets’ left here happy, Luther. Looks like the cash infusion is going to happen. You dudes did credit to ‘mellow mood’.”
“Our pleasure, Omar. You can put some extra ‘jingle-jangle’ in our pay envelopes to show your appreciation. You know the two things musicians like is money and more money.”
The club is thinning out a bit. Its on the sleepy side of the midnight hour and the rain outside can be a lullaby song when it tip-taps on windowpanes… especially when two bodies have Nirvana-ed their way to ‘higher and higher’.
“See you cats tomorrow night, Luther?”
“Most def, Omar, unless this is the beginning of forty days and forty nights.”
“Get yourself an ark and a boat-mate, Luther. Ain’t nothing like rhythmic waves as inspiration.”
“Well said, Brotherman. My intent exactly.”
We slap five and I head out to retrieve my London Fog and bonnet from Kitty. She’s on her side of the counter, Bogart’s on the customer side. Kitty ain’t exactly thrilled with my timing, but I ain’t getting a tune-up from her.
“Luther,” says the big man. Bogart just stopped growing yesterday. The boy got more North Carolina fat on him than five hogs and a church supper. His hair is steel wool, his nose has its own zip code and his lips could swallow Philadelphia. He wears fashion like a nun wears a g-string, but he’s a likable cuss.
“Bogart,” I reply. This poor dude with Kitty is like a puppy with a she-wolf. She’ll gnaw on him as if he’s a moose femur.
I smile at Kitty. The same smile I used before pistol-whipping Sammy Goodwin for stealing my sister, Valinda’s, Toyota. “May I have my coat and topper, Kitty.”
She glares at me as if it’s my fault God allows Bogart to stand between us. “I’ll see if I can find them… Luther.” Her red lips gnashed my name out from the darkest part of her insides.
“Be careful,” she says as she hands me my outer gear, “It’s still raining out there and you might catch your death…”
I crank up the pistol-whipping smile as I reply, “It’s always raining somewhere, Baby.”
“Fuck you,” she vehemently replies as Bogart registers confusion on his chicken fried face.
“Well there’s that too,” I throw back as I head into the wet, and cleansing, night.
A native East Baltimorean, but now a Fairbanks, Alaska resident, Gregory K. Shipman has a day job which often extends into the evening hours. His passion is writing about the steamy, noir side of life… past, present and future. He has yet to earn a dime from his scribbles but has the satisfaction of knowing it’s all non-taxable. Greg is an active member of the on-line community, Writer’s Carnival, the Community Writer’s Group of Fairbanks, and a board member of The Fairbanks Drama Association. He lives a life of hardly quiet desperation with his pet laptop and unreliable Jeep. He enjoys Jazz, Blues, Theater and the occasional diabetic coma…