We all have them. Stragglers. Those loose thoughts we jot down and store in our draft folders for future reference. It could be a word, a line, a paragraph that just hits us in a given moment.
Problem with yours truly, is that I oftentimes forget what in the hell I was thinking in that given moment when I go back later and read it. Sooo . . . Karen Craven had this pretty cool idea about how we, as writers might find some value in the stragglers-her term. And then I came up with a method for my madness, and it goes something like this.
I’ve created a short story using a straggler from my draft folder. And since I forgot what its original intent was, I re-purposed it. And so for this post, my straggler is the will abides to its ransom demands. I hope you enjoy, and thank you Karen for the idea!
Jasmine Savoy was looking right into the eyes of a real life ghost . . and it was calling to her.
Savoy had become a national phenomenon in quicksilver fashion. But she was still that little girl from Porter Street. Her friends called her Jazz because she always had a song in her voice and a shimmy to her walk. She was born to a drug addicted mother who, she was told, died before she was old enough to walk. Her Aunt Tere stole her away from that death sentence in Fort Wayne Indiana; she moved her to New Orleans where Jazz learned to read and write by memorizing the songs of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday, Sara Vaughn and Nat King Cole. She learned math by helping out her Uncle Desmond at his bakery on Magazine Street. She was reading Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath when her friends were learning Dr. Seuss. Aunt Tere taught her Spanish, French and Italian while showing her how to cook dishes from around the world without need for recipes. Her cousin George taught her how to play poker, and she knew how to spot a sucker when she was still in elementary school.
The French painters who peddled their talents in the French Quarter taught Jazz painting and poetry. The lovely ladies who worked in the brothel on Oliver Street taught her all about fashion and etiquette and the mysteries of the opposite sex. The musicians who played the Maple Leaf Bar on Oak Street taught her how to play piano, guitar, violin, harmonica, drums and the saxophone. The gift of song . . . well, that was something she brought with her from the cosmos. She was a crazy diamond who spun lyrics borne from the Godless places. Her voice was like a velvet rainstorm, bathing every soul within its reach in the ethereal cradle of Higgs boson. It was a purr delivered from the ancients, a roar proclaimed by kingdoms . . it was moonshine in the blessed middle of the brightest day.
And all that talent, it swirled into a full out bloom whose fingertips painted moments, inspired the hopeless and provided heavenly testimonials to all her many teachers in a life whose schooling was equal parts textbook and street savvy. At the tender age of twenty one, Jasmine Savoy was saying hello to the great big world.
She attended Juilliard School for two years, after which she scored a record deal that put her on the map, officially. Everyone who knew her understood it was only a matter of time for Jazz. Some lights shine on a patch of grass, and then there are the ones that light up a sky. That was Jazz.
Her record deal was only the beginning. Within months she was performing at Radio City Music Hall. She had bookings at the Hollywood Bowl, Madison Square Garden, The Kennedy Center and the Royal Albert Hall in London, among others. She was a natural in her guest appearances on the Jimmy Fallon Show and SNL. So much so that she was rumored to be close to signing on to appear in a romantic comedy starring Bradley Cooper. Jasmine Savoy no longer pondered the future, she was the future.
And then the shadows spoke. And the one shadow, it came thanklessly and specifically and dead center with Jasmine Savoy now. This shadow became less blurry with each relentless step, until finally . . it became known. In a much too late kind of way, because the clock was busy striking midnight before Jazz realized what was happening.
Jasmine had been receiving hand written letters for months, from a woman who insisted she was her mother and that Tere had stolen her away and had been feeding her lies all along. These correspondences were dismissed outright by Jazz, who never even bothered her Aunt with the details because it was all just too ridiculous.
Now, she was learning, how the will abides to its ransom demands. She was learning it firsthand. Jazz watched the world go small, slow and black and white. Small to the touchstone of Hemingway’s writ. Slow to the pace of a Peter Paul Rubens brushstroke. Black and white to a world that was losing its color inside the horrible moment.
The shadow was standing in front of her when a revolver appeared.
‘Quaint shit’ Jazz thought to herself. Funny, the things that flood your brain at the end. Funny like sunflowers in winter. Funny like knowing what comes next before the lights go out.
This shadow had broken free of the paparazzi and all her many adoring fans and was standing right in front of Jasmine Savoy as she was being interviewed outside Rockefeller Center for a morning show segment. And that’s when Jasmine knew. Everything.
That face, it was her face . . twenty years older but her face in every single way. And now that gun . . quaint shit as it was, showing up and doing its business for all the world to see. Delivering Jasmine Savoy back to the cosmos from whence she had been delivered. Savaging a lazy Wednesday morning into a mercurial tale of heartbreak and loss. Winning the angels another round.
Jasmine Savoy was buried on her twenty second birthday. Musical dignitaries from around the world came. The Governor of Louisiana too. A billion fans from around the world mourned for a talent whose legs were full of marathons, but whose victories would never come.
Gloria Savoy was charged with first degree murder. The breaking news pursued the entrails of this story like locusts, feasting on every detail. How Gloria had gotten clean after more than a decade of addiction. How she divorced herself from her previous life for another decade, until the need to reconcile with her estranged daughter became too much to bear. They told the story of Tere Savoy, who had rescued her niece from the depths of hell, only to return to that very place twenty years later.
It was a tragic ending to a brilliant ribbon of times and people, places and things. All those many wishes, gone to the ashes. All those many dreams, stolen away.
At the end of the service for Jasmine Savoy, a Monarch butterfly nestled on her casket. Its wings burned bright colors into the gray afternoon sky.
And then it flew away.