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Sax Man

(Previous installment)

His last visit to the Landmark was the previous week, Tuesday. He had a particularly slow day for spare change, despite the usual crowds bursting past. He had riffed on "When Johnny Comes Marching Home", playing the melody straight for eight bars before easing into an extended bop solo, staccato runs up and down the scale, ignoring not only that few of the commuters were familiar with bop - enough so to appreciate the sound and toss a dollar or quarter into his case - but that even fewer were old enough to recognize the old tune which came all the way from World War I. Though the faces flitted past in endless arrays, two things were constant: they were almost exclusively white, and none of them beyond middle age. Old men - which, he did realize, included himself more than the younger commuters - didn't seem to ride the train downtown any more, though from everything he had heard people were working longer than ever, well beyond sixty-five and into their seventies. But wherever these older men were working, it must not have been downtown. Maybe somewhere closer to their suburban homes.

He had played "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" for a good twenty minutes, with half a dozen or more clusters of commuters from the arriving trains coming and going, but gained less than a dollar in change for his effort. He had packed up shortly after, earlier than usual, and despite being short of cash stopped in at the Landmark to spend his time. He nursed a Tanqueray on the rocks, slowly, restraining himself in knowing he had to be fit for work in forty-five minutes. He thought of many things - to himself, not being the type of man who got confessional with his bartender - about work, about his music, about his father, who had taught him the melody to "Johnny" in the first place, slowly tapping it out on the keys of the piano at the corner bar as young Frank squeaked and bleated along on his sax as best he could.

May 4, 2009 in Fiction | Permalink