Today, the fantastic ‘Fictive Dream’ published my short story, ‘The Day’s First Wisp Of Blue.’ (link above) This was the first piece in a series that led on to my writing a novella-in-flash that was longlisted for the 2017 Bath competition, and it is the last of the seven pieces I reworked to be published, so I’m delighted it’s found its home. The short piece below is the eighth piece, and probably the last, but you never know, as these characters keep on calling.
The photo is by Konstantin Aal.
A Matter Of Priorities
A ripple of cymbal and flurry of saxophone ebb away. Stage-lights dim and the room holds a quiet hum. The quartet of players wait in stillness, empty as shadows.
In the audience, Boots nods his appreciation, and says – though more to himself than anybody else – “Circular breathin’.”
“What’s that you said?” asks Ed.
“Circular breathin’. That’s how he can blow so long without stoppin’. He’s breathin’ in all the while he’s breathin’ out.”
“Man, that’s cool,” says Ed, looking around the room. He elbow pokes Boots’ ribcage, “Hey Boots, there’s a fine looking lady over in the corner keeps checking you out.”
“Yeah, yeah, Ed, I know. I seen her lookin’. She was in here last week too, stood right in that exact same place.”
Stage lights brighten and the bass player counts them in. The tune is familiar – movie theme familiar – though now being interpreted in a whole different light.
“Man, this guy is good, these guys are real good,” says Boots.
“I reckon Jack’s got the chops to match,”
“No way. Least not yet, he ain’t. One day he might, if he keeps puttin’ in the hours.”
“Amen to that!”
“Yeah, gotta practice like crazy if we want to get anything close to this good. S’all a matter of priorities, Ed.”
Boots closes his eyes and sucks it all in; losing himself – though it’s more like finding himself – in a zone that not even a fine young lady can sidetrack.
Ed thinks it’s high time that he should quit talking and start listening.
The tune ends and the porkpie hat wearing pianist leans in close to the microphone. He announces in a voice too deep for his wiry frame and too placid for his feverish playing that their second set will begin at eleven. Chairs begin scraping and legs begin stretching. The barman readies himself for the onslaught, setting down his newspaper, straightening his thick- rimmed spectacles, dusting off the creases.
The room lights up. Boots awakens, blinks eyes wide and looks over to where the lady’s still stood, still looking, still intrigued. Ruby shies away from his gaze, but not before seeing him coming straight towards her through the smoke-hazy crowd, feeling the colour rush into her cheeks and the moisture drain from her lips.