Got me a hankering for some beatnik fever.

It was within the revolution of three, that’s in the A.M., you dig, when I left the arms of a sleeping fox to steal away into the night. I wasn’t even quail hunting when this shape in a drape stumbled in to me.
‘Want to get Dixie Fried?’ she asked nodding to two bottles of bourbon hanging low in the pockets of my drinking mac. When she said she was jungled up with a pad of her own close by, well baby I was there. I was planning to gift a bottle to Pony (he’s an angel) but I knew he’d understand. She was everything plus.
Man, her hair was honey, her limbs were liquid, and she had golden skin to cry for. She was as radiant as the sun can get after the witching hour. But I wasn’t crestfallen leaving her pad. No. I strutted a peacock’s strut. You see, her warmth stayed with me like a fine wine as I hit the streets. And I, I was going to meet my faith.
Since Pony told me about the cats laying it thick off fifty-first and second, my blood bubbled over with giddy anticipation to hear their crazy horns. He said the rhythm section came straight off the boat from Tunis after tripping with Dizzy G. If Pony said it, it was true. That cat’s claws were sharper than any other hipster I knew; and I knew a lot of them.
You should have seen his eyes light up. They were so wild they caused me to sweat.
‘Fever, baby. They is pure FEVER,’ he said before slumping in his reincarnated zoot suit. ‘Baby, pure fever.’ He grew wistful and out there, the way he gets sometimes before something gigantic unfolds. When he’s that way, man, you gotta ride the wave. Ain’t noting like those waves he sends rippling about him.
I took a Benny and a couple of blues. I washed them down with a slug or three from a bottle of bourbon. I had to smile. My fox’s lipstick was still fresh on the neck. Man, I felt good. The night felt good. The traffic buzz felt good. The catcalls from the whores, the bawling and brawling from the Beat gangs, the city lights and the solid pavement, damn, they all felt good.
I watched some cats snake the kerb up ahead of me. As edgy as vipers, they too knew it was going down, down, Downtown. With their hefty lids rolling, ecstatic filled and moist, they could taste the echoing swing of the gig.
The one they called “Horse” blocked the entry. He could emit a look which didn’t need words for his meaning to be understood. Standing six-foot five, he was as silent as they come. He looked straight at me with those big angel blue eyes which seemed out-of-place glaring out from his slab of a face.
When he saw me coming he stood to one side. Behind me a desperate hiss snapped through the air from those huddled in line like bums at the soup kitchen. They weren’t really hip. It was not cool to queue.
I passed Horse the remains of my bottle as I stepped through the door. He finished it in one long gulp of appreciation before saying the only thing I ever heard him say, ‘You’re alright, baby.’
His baritone voice reverberated in my wake. ‘Yeh, Daddy O, I’m feeling it.’ Then the corridor sucked me into its shadows before spurting me into the womb of the club.
The Charlie Thumb Trio was finishing a set. Decanter Nash frantically walked the double bass as his solo reached its pinnacle 3/5, 5/8 and triple 4/4 beat before slackening off and repeating a 2/4 loop, and shuffling lazily to an A-flat minor riff.
I missed Connie Mykel’s run by about five minutes. I championed the drummer from the early days. I could tell by the sheen glistening upon his brow that he pulled something mighty out of the skins. Man, could he jazz it up.
Sitting with his eyes half closed and swaying ever so slightly was Charlie Thumb. His upright piano was topped with a crown of empty shot glasses like the wafer thin candle holders in church when the wick is all that remains. This was his alter and many paid tribute to the dude.
A sassy hipster was rolling her bountiful appendages right under his nose, but he didn’t look. He didn’t even flinch. Charlie Thumb was lost, too swallowed up by Nash’s hook. With a timing only known to the best of them, Charlie gave a nod. The number and the set ended abruptly in two notes.
The applause was good and just, and welcomed by Charlie’s classic half bow and stumble. We were ready for it. He did it most nights he played, and damn it, we loved him all the more for it. He was one of our own, was Charlie.
‘You broke it out, baby. Man, you cracked her right open tonight,’ a voice called from the crowd. ‘You broke it real good,’ others muttered. If he heard the accolade or not, I don’t know. Either way it didn’t matter to Charlie Thumb. He played it all for himself.
I saw Pony kneeling in front of the now empty stage. Pleading for the headline to roll on, he was as close to frantic as I had ever seen him. ‘Bring the Fever,’ he called towards the wings. A lone voice heard above the call of more alcohol. His cry was infectious. Others soon echoed his mantra. I too found myself joining in with the crowd as I managed to cut through to Pony’s table. It was right up front as usual, almost an extension of the stage.
Charlie Thumb was slumped next to Rio and Delray. Those two cats were floating between line-ups and joined in whenever a group allowed. Mediocre, at best, but as committed as they come. They gave me a nod before also focusing on the side curtains. Pony had regained something touching sobriety and reclaimed his toppled chair when he saw me.
‘You’re here, you hear?’ he referred to the crowds’ savage chant.
‘I hear,’ I said while taken the empty seat reserved for me. I helped myself to the bottle of schnapps waiting for my arrival. Even when wildness destroyed his sanity, that baby, Pony, always remembered me. An angel, you dig? Man, I tell you there’s never been a better cat to call an amigo.
The hush fell like Thor’s hammer as they slowly filled the stage. Trombone, trumpet, tanner sax, drums, double bass, guitar and piano, it was a big line-up for the venue. They each picked up their instruments and broke the wax as they fine-tuned and warmed up. As expectations boarded on climatic desperation, he entered. Clinging to his alto-sax as if it was an extension of his arm, he smiled favourably to the crowd. Cool as they come, he didn’t walk, he didn’t stroll, no, he swaggered right up to the edge of the stage. Man, if I wanted to touch him all I had to do was reach out.
Then,
NOTHING.
No applause, no heckling, no announcements of love, no shuffling, no glasses or bottles clinking, no breathing, no squeaking leather shoes, no second-hand ticking, no motion, no emotion, no pin dropping, nothing except eager eyes urging and hankering for him to bring the fever. Then I noticed it: his foot rose. Then we could all hear the soft sole of his shoe gently tap upon the wooden flooring of the stage. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. He placed his lips to the sax,
Then
IT
Happened.
Fever erupted…
When it ended, I must have aged a thousand lifetimes. Each note twisted paths to places my soul thought were too crazy to reveal. Fever, baby. Pure FEVER. I wept sweet, sweet tons. Even the silent voice within remained silent. Oh, Daddy O, it was real, but all too quickly it slipped away.
Years later, those that were there and still alive, always brought it up in conversation. We couldn’t help ourselves. It was like reassuring ourselves that the fever really happened.
I swear to you it happened. Better than any hootenanny. I saw a man walk on the moon; I held my breath when world war three was close to erupting, I was there for Woodstock, but I tell you, this out did them all. It was the gas, it was the end, it was PURE FEVER, baby, and its likes will never happen again.

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About Penlateral

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This entry was posted in Creative writing, humour, original fiction, short stories. Bookmark the permalink.

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