Photo: David Slotto
Couldn’t resist posting this short story in response to Gay’s Jazz prompt. Please don’t feel you need to read or comment…it’s just for fun.
Concert on the Green (1400 Words)
His words toss me back into reality. Worries about my Kenny slip back beneath the surface.
I hate that fairway, he says. Mess it up as much as you can. They’ll have to do it over.
Yeah, that bunker’s a bitch, his buddy responds.
The disgruntled golfers sit a few rows ahead of us in the idling shuttle to the seventh hole at a local golf course, the concert venue. Close air stifles me. Trickles of sweat snake down my back, saturate my blouse. Body odor hangs in the aisle of the bus.
Jeff, my husband, shakes his head. I hope they fill this thing up soon. It’s hot.
The guy in front of us turns and scowls, as though we’re responsible for the weather.
Finally a couple of old duffs saunter down the aisle and take the last two seats. The vehicle shudders as the driver shifts into gear. Diesel vapors flood in. Conversation becomes animated–people speak of jazz.
We arrive and disembark. The unloading process is tedious as concertgoers heave duffle bags, lawn chairs, umbrellas and blankets onto their shoulders. A guard herds us into a long line where security officers rummage through our bundles and collect tickets. Our cabernet makes it through the checkpoint, camouflaged in Gatorade bottles.
We survey the lush expanse of grass, settle on a spot in the rough snuggled up against that sand trap the golfer hated.
Here, try this spot out. Can you see? Jeff asks.
I sink into a woven plastic chair. Perfect, I answer before a mammoth hunk of humanity takes his seat in front of me.
No, I’m fine. I can hear. I plant a kiss on his sweaty brow. Do you miss him, Jeff?
He nods. This is our first year . . . His voice trails off.
We embed ourselves in our niche. It’s almost four o’clock – three hours to kill till the headliners arrive. KJZS, 92.1, plays in the background. The sun glares, daring us to chill out. Jeff sets up a beach umbrella in defiance.
I’m gonna get a beer, he says. Want one?
Go for it, I’m fine. I got water. My eyes follow him as he disappears into the crowd.
We’ll be okay, I decide, determined to enjoy myself at this first concert since our son, Kenny, went to Iraq.
Fans arrive in droves. They erect their camps and join the party. I people-watch and listen.
Behind me a couple argues.
You should have let her be, Ruth. She’s pissed and she’ll ruin the whole evening for us.
We couldn’t just leave her alone. That moron boyfriend of hers would come over. You know what happened last time.
She’s almost eighteen. She’s got to take responsibility for herself.
Not on my time, she doesn’t. And not on our money. As long as she’s under our roof she does what we say.
My son enlisted at eighteen, I think.
Well, she’ll spoil our date. We never have time by ourselves anymore. Why’d we even come?
I tune them out at the sight of a woman-girl sulking across the grass headed in our direction. She wears low-riding jeans and a flimsy magenta tank top. Her lower lip protrudes – a pout that looks like a collagen injection gone bad. She crashes into the grass behind me – as far away from her parents as possible – and stares out at nothing.
A group of gypsies blows in beside me. A woman fills the landscape. Five anklets on one leg – a silver one catches the sun, blinds me. She lights a cigarette. I choke. As she comes in for a landing, I view a gallery of tattoos – dolphins, daggers, a swan and Mickey Mouse. A voluminous kaftan strains to cover her girth. Yellow teeth and fingernails accent a sallow complexion. Long black hair, streaked with silver, hangs loosely.
Freedom of expression, it comes at a cost, I realize.
Jeff returns, eases himself into his nest. The plastic glass of beer he carries breaks out into a sweat. Chilled amber liquid glistens in the sun.
Take a look, I say, bobbing my head to the left.
You should let your hair go its natural color.
So you’d have an excuse for a girlfriend? No way, baby.
Go check out the vendors, Jeff suggests.
I spring up, stretching out my tightened hamstrings.
Can’t sit on the ground like we used to, Jeff says.
So it seems. I limp away.
A wisp of breeze licks my body as I wander through the vendor’s booths. Paintings in bold colors, beaded shawls, hand carved wood pieces catch my eye. Wine, beer, Thai food, Mexican and Italian aromas assail my senses and jerk my appetite into action.Scents of potpourri draw me to a merchant whose homemade candles are softened by the swelter of the summer day. I touch smooth tumbled stones she sells to conquer worry.
Hot out here, she says to me.
Yeah, I answer and remember my Kenny and his buddies in another desert.
I browse a few more minutes then retreat to our nook.
The smoke shifts, beckoned by the wind, which gusts from the east. It picks up momentum and storm clouds gather over Fallon.
I’m gonna go get something to eat, Jeff says.
Get me something, too, I ask. Anything, but not too much. He leaves in search of spoils. My hunter-gatherer husband.
While he stalks our prey I follow the activity on-stage. Sound system and lighting techs scurry about like ants, setting the scene for the performers. The collagen queen behind me—still sullen—hasn’t said a word to her parents. They’re not speaking to one another either.
The Bohemian gal reigns from her throne. Her assistants – three younger men – bring her food and drink and light her smokes. She doesn’t budge, other than to lift a glass of wine to full-bodied lips.
A waft of garlic proclaims Jeff’s return. He hands me a plate of pasta with meatballs and garlic bread. I grab a fork and shovel it in to the beat of a local group that has a chance to strut its stuff. A redheaded, freckled fiddler from Ireland, some other mother’s son, zings his tune across the fairway.
It begins to rain. Droplets pound the crowd but fail to dampen moods. My warrior pulls out an immense royal blue painter’s tarp. We snuggle in, cuddling together in comfort.
The performance starts, right on time. The crowd engages as David Sanborn emerges from the audience playing a sustained B flat on his sax. When he reaches the stage, cacophonous applause greets him. The crescendo of noise intensifies as percussion, keyboard and guitars join the mix. Earth vibrates. Resonance soothes the sun and it begins to sink in the west. Menacing clouds amass: billowing black bunches of grapes. My protector says, We’ll be okay. The wind is blowing east again. The darkening sky is backlit with periodic bursts of diffuse light.
Tattoo Woman sways and shakes and twirls her way through our space. Jeff ogles her as I listen to Rick Braun’s trumpet wailing Kisses in the Rain. I soak in sounds and sight and think of my son and squeeze his father’s hand. Time rolls by, undulating like the cloud formations above.
Lightning moves closer. Dave Koz announces, You don’t mind if we skip intermission, do you? We didn’t. The fear-filled begin their exodus. We’re not gonna to get the whole concert, Jeff tells me.
Okay by me.
Three pieces later Koz yells: One more song.
Listeners clamor, More, more!
He begins Lullaby for a Rainy Night. The entire ensemble blends in. The mob mellows and listens intently. Braun says goodnight for the group, but they return for an encore, encouraged by persistent applause and shrill whistling.
Wayman Tisdale steps up to the mike. He gives the crew a sign and they begin to play as he belts out Rainy Day Woman.
Tattoo Woman arises from her stuporous state and begins to gyrate. She arches toward the footlights as though Wayman’s singing to her alone. A cigarette hangs from the corner of her mouth, red wine swings in her left hand, reflecting shafts of light from the stage.
It’s then I see the piercings. Skylight flashes on silver, glistening through the sheer fabric.
Oh my God, her nipples! I poke Jeff and motion with my eyes. He scrounges in his back pocket for his camera, and then scores his subject, aiming from the hip.
The camera flashes.
Her nipples flash.
The concert’s over.
The war goes on.
This is a short story I wrote almost ten years ago during an Smooth Jazz concert that used to be held on a golf course here in Reno each year. I people-watched and wrote notes, so that the characters and the concert were real. The fiction part is the interjection about having a son in Iraq and the lightning strike hitting the woman’s nipples. The piercings were the real thing, though!
Photo: David Slotto