Yardbird Suite (Draft 2)

Posted by on July 24, 2014 
Filed under Fiction

Anonymous

He flew on stage man. The first time I saw him at Birdland he practically tore his sax up. He just moved so fast on it. I’ll never forget that look in his open eye, mad and happy and sharp, just stoned man, but boy did he sound good. He soared higher and louder on that horn than even the cymbals could crash and I just watched, and listened, and felt the cool breeze coming off the stage. It dived and swooped, and finally flew right through me.

 

Charlie

These suckers see music like a lion sees a gazelle. It feeds them. They don’t care what the musician has to do to get it out to them. They just want to devour it. They never see me and Max crying behind the bandstand over not getting enough junk to play without the shakes. They never see me sweating over Baird and Chan going hungry at night because there’s no money until I finish touring. They just want, “More Charlie! More! Rip out another one! Make us feel good because we’re too stupid to know how to do it ourselves.” Man, don’t they know nothing? Don’t they think I’ve already given everything I can? This was never what I wanted. The music is for me, always has been, but life’s complicated and things get in the way and I guess I’m just a selfish son of a bitch in the end anyway.

 

Chan

He said he’d always love me, that he’d never leave. I believed him. For a while he made me so happy and we had some much fun together. And he’d play for me every night and I’d dream we were the only two people left in the world. I’d smile and hold our son, rock him to Charlie’s song. He said he’d never leave, but I began to see that wasn’t true. He couldn’t help but leave. Whether it was the touring, the drugs, or the booze, maybe all three, he was always gone after a while, but I loved that man, his sweet sweet sound, the way he held me in his arms, the way his music made me smile.

 

Diz

That cat taught me so much, like how to really breathe in the music. I used to trade fours with him and think, “My God, this guy is sharp beauty!” I could barely keep up with the soul he put out into the world, looking back. To some he seemed frantic, to others like hot glass, like he was about to break. To me, he was the greatest, a master and the most complete artist I’ve ever known. I’d have killed to be able to play like him. I still would Bird, I still would.

 

Chan

The lines in his face seemed deeper every day. He worked so hard, you know? I know he wanted the best for me in the end. He wanted the best for us. Sometimes he didn’t play for weeks and it didn’t seem to bother him, like he’d never have missed it, like he’d never heard of the sax before. I‘d wait for him to play again, hoping he’d just break it out one day and make everyone smile again. Then I’d realize that, most times when he’d quit playing, that he really had no other choice. He’d sell his sax, you see. Just pawn it and forget about it. In the end, he just wanted to forget when he could and remember when he absolutely had to.

 

Baird

I used to see my Dad as a giant when I was little. He seemed to have always have people following him wherever we went. They wanted to hear everything he had to say, but he never said much. He smiled a lot though. He had a sneaky smile. His eyes were always half open and his lip would constantly be curled in a sneer, like there was a secret joke about to be played on us all that only he knew about. I saw him play a lot, but I didn’t really recognize what he did for music until much later, after I knew about his habits, after it was too late to be proud.

 

Miles

He taught me everything and nothing at the same time. I was clean when I played in his group, except for a little reefer every now again, but he was wild, way over the edge, even back then. Sometimes he’d be so far gone before gigs that he didn’t even know his name and that scared the hell out of me, you know? To think that this guy that I looked up to so much could destroy himself like that regularly really made me question his power. You know, I’d look at him in the dressing room all slumped over and drooling on his self, sweating through his suit coat, and I’d hate him for showing me that side of him. Then I’d hear him play and I’d forget everything I’d seen and I’d just smile in between every note I played alongside him. He’d make me score for him sometimes. I hated every minute of doing that, man. Handing him what wrecked him, his body, his marriage to Chan, his music. That’s something I’ll never forget, or forgive myself for. That dark raven, he made me blue. Sometimes I still hear him tapping at my door late at night, looking for a place to crash, to hide. Sometimes, I imagine I helped him get clean. Mostly I remember helping him die.

 

Baird

Dad’s never around. Mom cries all the time. She misses Pree. I do too. I don’t know if Dad remembers her.

 

Chan

She was his little girl. He used to play to her every night, even after he’d already played a gig. He even went cold turkey after she was born, for a little while anyway. No one ever could live up to how he saw her, especially not me in the end.

 

Diz

The man never talked about his family much. I knew he loved them, but he never mentioned them. When were together, it was all about the music. I was his brother in his musical family. I don’t think it ever really mattered much to him anyway though.

 

Miles

I nearly lost my mind the first time I shot with Bird. We were on tour in the Southeast and he somehow managed to cop a bit, but he didn’t want to do it alone for some reason. It might have been right after Pree died. Maybe he felt lonely or something. All I know is that he’d never asked me to do anything with him before that night. He’d always kept it to hisself. We all knew he did it, and I’m pretty sure Max was doing it a little too, but we never pressed him about it. We just let him do his thing and he was always cool, except for acting a little clumsy every now and again.

Anyway, we shot up. He shot me, then his self and I don’t know what the fuck happened after that. I only remember puking everywhere and then everything going white and tingly, like I was in heaven man. I felt so good. I don’t remember nothing until I saw Max standing over me yelling that I had to get on stage. That son of a bitchin Bird must’ve left me there on the dressing room floor when it was time to go on. He didn’t care if I went on or not I guess. He just wanted someone to get high with.

 

***

 

Charlie steps on stage. The lights hurt his eyes. He squints, even more than usual. He doesn’t look fresh. His skin lays on him, grey like an elephant’s hide. It matches his tie perfectly. His suit, a navy pinstripe, fits well and his sax looks small against his bulging stomach. One of his shoes flops on his foot, unlaced and he kicks it back into place. He tilts his neck slightly to the left and bops his head along to Max’s fast ride cymbal and taps his foot to the drummer’s opposing bass drum. A slight smile breaks up his sluggish attitude. The smoke-filled room seems to sense his  energy. The audience applauds and whistles, screams and bangs on tables. The rhythm section is indiscernible from the crowd, has become one with it, one with the royalty in the room.

He stretches his lips around the reed-tipped mouthpiece of his sax, inhales a sharp breath, and blows pure, crisp, sonic beauty through the tiny woodwind. The sound exploding put of the instrument silences the audience and even the rhythm section seems to decrescendo. Charlie’s cheeks puff out slightly as he pushes wave after wave of thawed amber into the air. The notes, linger in the room like the heat from two spent lovers. Each one equals the next and the next after that. He plays his songs, his birdsongs and no one can answer them.

 

***

 

Charlie

Ornithology one two three four one two three four one two three four They’re tight tonight Max is on two three four e and uh one two Wish I had lit a smoke New reed Tight action in the keys for some reason but here we go Here I come  my old friend C  F# Geeeeeeeeeeee Ze du weeeee I’m going This is right with ‘em Miles sounds a little sharp He got that look He checked it I itch I’m hot Ze du weeeee Look at her looking at me She’s coming back to my room tonight Got to get a little more before then though Go to keep well Can’t let down the boys Can’t let down Chan but I can see her tonight for sure and she’s gonna do me right Don’t get enough blondes Perfect night for one Gonna make her believe in me at last until I get some and I’ll feel it this time too Ze du weeeeeee And it all fits so nicely into a tight little package for them tonight by god I am on it tonight Got to keep up this momentum for the rest of the tour Can’t get tired Not now Not ever Don’t ever let them see you sweat Play it right The only way I can My way Ze du weeeeeeeeeeeee ded lu bi ze doo op za

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