Wednesday, January 24, 2007

In front of me at Le Gourmand for a Friday croissant.

Caucasian male, early 40s, with receding brown hair, full beard and round glasses, wearing a brown jacket and leather gloves. His bookmark is a locket bearing the image of a young girl with curly blonde hair wearing a sombrero.

Stanley Park, Timothy Taylor (Vintage)

Page 89:

Onward to Crosstown. Dinner service was accelerating towards him as he plunged through downtown. Past the Inferno Granville with its smell of burnt coffee and its canned jazz.

In the late 80s, my mother arrived home from two weeks in New Orleans. I imagine she came in late, out the sliding door of the van that carried her and a half dozen other travelers home late evening. Dragging her suitcase, before the days of wheels, up the brick walkway, over the crab apples it was my job to sweep, onto the front stoop, I surprised her as she jiggled her keys in the front door. A handmade card waited for her on the kitchen table along with phone messages and mail organized by urgency.

You look so tired, she said. You should be in bed.

She dragged her suitcase four tha-thumps up to her bedroom. She unzipped her bag and told me to wait in the living room. She changed into her lounge robe and slippers, took off her make up and came down the stairs with bags of trinkets. She pulled out a vinyl record, taking it gently from the sleeve and placing it on the turntable. The needled scratched across the grooves until it stuck. A muffled introduction, then clapping. A heel counted down the beat and a bar full of instruments launched into a synchronous plunka-plunka-plunka-plunka. My mother unwrapped the other gifts.

You can have some taffy but only a small piece.

Then the voice rang in. And my mother watched my reaction.

Can you imagine what that was like? she said. We had a tiny table in the back, right by the washroom. We kept trying to leave but they told us we wouldn't be sorry. Can you even imagine?

The woman rawled through the lyrics like an animal in heat or a sob.

How old is she?

At least ninety, maybe older.

We continued to listen well into the night, taffy dissolving in our teeth, our tongues keeping time against the roofs of our mouths, our heels counting out the plunka-plunka-plunka-plunka.

2 comments:

ms peacock said...

lovely.

one of the most amazing new orleans/jazz stories i've read recently is "coming through slaughter"... have i mentioned this here already? it astounded me, i keep thinking i was born in the wrong place and time. :)

Julie Wilson said...

I wonder...maybe? It sounds familiar.

After seeing "Dangerous Liasons" I urgently wanted to be a man who tied his hair back with ribbons and wrote missives on the pale buttocks of...Wait, that's just straight fantasy. Ne'ermind!

:D