Author’s Note: “Creating music is an act of vulnerability laying bare the soul. In The Gig, an aging jazz singer moves through the winter of his life. The intertwined relationship of the band, the audience and the music offers him a moment of transcendence, even though he knows every gig might be his last.”
I FEEL THE CROWD…you know? Close. Breathing. Talking. Ice tinkling in glasses. Drummer tapping a rim with his stick. The mic, cold in my aching hand. Fucking arthritis. Through squinty eyes, I try to make out a face under these stage lights. Damn cataracts. It’s a golden yellow blur of dark movement. Jax has my chart. His fingers already shadowing the keys. The song’s about death. My own, I guess. Wrote it on the train, biding my time, riding to…I don’t know. Just wanna make the next stop.
Small talk fills the club. Nervous energy before something begins. Then Jax moves into the song, crystal notes breaking through darkness. A string bass sends low vibrations through the crowd, Dom—dom—da da dom—dom—a rhythm forming. Tish—tish—bada tish—tish—brushes sweeping a snare, the drummer takin’ up the cause. Music moves through me, resonates in my gut, my head, my heart. I gaze up, lifting the mic to my lips. A jagged tone slips out…
My little girl used to smile late at night when I sang to her, eyes seeing more than I could ever be. Now her gaze haunts me when the cold creeps up with choking memories. Yeah, used to be I had a damn good voice. Killer. No shit. Weed and whiskey and suckin’ city fumes day in and day out left the edges in tatters. The bottom and top, long since a memory, I’m left with a mid-range and gravel. I suppose it sounds like life. Least I’ve been told so by a friend, hand on my shoulder, searching for words, eyes afraid I’ll read her mind. I’m thinking, ragged edges and full of potholes. She’s thinking, Jesus, you sound like shit.
We’re in the groove now, riffing off each other, wrapping ourselves in harmony and beat. I still can’t see the crowd through the lights, but energy vibrates all around like I’m on one of those thousand-finger vibrating beds getting my quarter’s worth. The talk has slowed, and it’s as if we’re all floating a wave on the sea together. We rise and we fall, and we rise again. Inevitable. Eyes closed, I reach inside. Let me get away, please let me get away tonight. An exhale pushes the ache out my throat, the note fraying. I turn to Jax, and the band takes over, me to the side. They’re on it tonight. Damn. Even the drummer has it going on, which is unusual since he’s mostly cranked full of shit and half out of his mind. Don’t know how he keeps getting these gigs. It’s like the beat lives in his bones. Deep, deep in his bones.
I join my voice with the rising band, tones weaving together, intertwined like lovers, enveloped in the heat of it, the swinging beat of it. My chest tears open, ribs separating to a deeper place, a hidden space behind my soul. The dark corners exposed, the sound echoing off my life as the aching bleeds out. I wrap myself in the harmonious rapture of solitude, separate and apart from everything and everyone. No crowd, no light, only sound. In the darkness, emptied out, I inhale life, the band breaking through, a hand reaching out to me, coaxing me away from my abyss. Claiming me. Together we spiral up, one sound, the clatter and chatter of the club in the background.
Eyes opening through a dazzling prism of light, the amorphous crowd resolves into individual faces, line and shadow mapping each unique life with painjoynumbfuckingdruggedshitlaughingsorrow. Yeah. We’re all riding the train now. Applause rolls over me, a shout here and there, then dies away like a wave reaching fingers onto the beach and slipping back to sea. A soft murmur of voices flares up to meet the void. I turn to Jax, mic shaking in my hand. Our eyes meet, and for a flash, it all makes sense, then implodes, a glass house shattering into a million shards. I lift my eyes to the crowd.
I feel them…you know?
Richard Hacker lives and writes in Seattle, Washington. His work has won best novel in the SFF category at the Texas Writers’ League and has been a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers’ League. Of his six published novels, the last three, Die Back, The Vengeance of Grimbaldand, and The Bifurcation of Dungsten Crease, have been published by Del Sol Press. Website: www.richardhacker.com
Delmarva Review publishes the most compelling new short stories, poetry, and nonfiction from thousands of submissions annually. Based in Talbot County, Maryland, the literary journal has featured the new writing of more than 500 authors worldwide during its 15-year history. Almost half are from the Chesapeake and Delmarva region. The journal is available in paperback and digital editions from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Support comes from tax-deductible contributions and a grant from Talbot Arts with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. Website: www.DelmarvaReview.org