Buttoned Up Man

If it’s Tuesday, it must be time for a prompt inspired post. Well . . it should have been posted last night but that’s neither here nor there, soooo . . . Tuesday morning it is homies!

The prompt for today’s post is “Buttoned Up”.  That trouble making lovely from Montreal way, Dale of A Dalectable Life and the Irish Mafia wild child from Chi town, Karen Craven, of Table For One were culprits in this here mayhem, so go blame them. But I warn you, stepping foot in their digs is habit forming. 

And now, as Ed Sullivan used to say . . let’s get on with this mofo! 

When you do a job, it’s quite straightforward.

You are presented with a biography, and you are asked to still its advent. There is no emotional presentation to be culled from the transaction of personal information, only the rubric of habits and patterns . . as well as any current fascinations which might prove either problematic or expeditious to the task at hand.

It’s like closing a real estate deal; you are transferring the deed from one realm to the next. It’s not your business to think about the next realm since it’s just a job; you simply refer to the calculations . . mathematical . . cold and straightforward with no mystery or intrigue attached to the equation.

So here I am, studying a person’s life out of a manila folder. Fifty eight years, seven months and thirteen days . . . presented in quadrants, which makes me think of that Godfather song about birth, school, work and death. Every parcel of information is important so I read it thoroughly. And then I peruse it again as I sit in my apartment and crank up some Verdi and open a bottle of Merlot in order to catch a buzz. I like to prosper the information from various states of mental acuity. Dulling the senses is simply a matter of slowing down the thought processes. The byproduct of such a strategy is to introduce another vantage point. I call it recon sourcing.

The wine is doing its unpretentious best to dismiss all serious thought, which is why I chose Verdi for my musical carpet ride. Depressing compositions allow me to remain linear when my brain is ready to salsa dance.

I call them numbers. He will be Number 28. A semi-retired contractor who is busy living the American dream. He owns three homes, a couple of successful businesses, a trophy wife almost half his age and a creamy side dish he keeps hidden in a posh condo in town.

The sonofabitch has no idea it’s all coming to an end.

It’s ten minutes to midnight, and in a little more than nine hours I’ll be waiting for him in the parking lot of the Silver Leaf Construction Company. He’ll make the scene a couple minutes before nine because he is never, ever late . . even when he should be. On Thursday mornings, he usually sleeps at the office- which happens to be located downtown, in that posh condo with the creamy side dish. So he’ll bring his candy crush- a cardinal red metallic Mercedes-Benz SL roadster. It percolates on a twin-turbo V12 whose drip is 621 horses. He opened this bad ass up on the Autobahn before having it shipped to the states. On this side of the pond, it opens up everything else so to his way of thinking it’s worth the price of admission.

So he’ll swing into the parking space two spots to the left of the double doors. There’s no nameplate on the parking space, but it’s understood who parks there, simple as that. And that’s when I’ll remove myself from a nondescript late model and make my way to the double doors, meeting him somewhere in between.

I practice my preach in front of the mirror, bringing my best Clint Eastwood out to play. The words I know by heart, it’s the tone I want to cleave into something sinister sounding. Because we’ll only share the space of a moment together before I end things, so I want to fetch the best possible reaction. It’s the little things.

Isn’t it amazing how three little words can change your life for the best and the worst? I chuckle at the thought as the clock strikes midnight before delivering the words that will end the life he knew.

“You’ve been served . . .” 

 

Taking the Reboot to Godfather III

Having grown up in John Gotti’s neighborhood, I am admittedly a fan of the wiseguys. And as such, mob movies have a special place in my cold, dark heart. Specifically, the Godfather franchise. Based on the Puzo novel, Francis Ford Coppola created a genre which helped set the standard for mob movies. Until his rush job with the third installment effectively killed what should have been the triumphant conclusion to a hall of fame collection.

Many would argue that Godfather III wasn’t horrible, and they are completely missing the point. No, it wasn’t horrible. In fact, as a stand alone mob flick, it was fine. But here’s the thing, fine isn’t what made the first two pictures all timers. Fine is what Casino is. And that, is just not good enough.

I blame Coppola, who took the money and ran. He had resisted a third go round for more than a decade before finally agreeing to it in the late ’80’s. I wish he would have left plenty well enough alone. To those of you out there who remember the great Willie Mays, Godfather III was the New York Mets version of the Hall of Famer. Not the same.

For one thing, the story line was hard to swallow. Michael Corleone wanting to go legitimate by getting in bed with the Catholic Church? So . . he stops doing dirty by doing business with more dirty? Come on! And the poison canoli scene . . how do you subject sister Connie to that kind of Murder She Wrote ridiculousness?!

The casting was another miss. Not bringing back Duvall because of the money is just plain dumb. Made all the dumber when they switched him out with George Hamilton. And Sofia Coppola, bless her pretty little heart, was no substitute for Winona Ryder. The first two movies were packed with Academy award winners, and so will this reboot.

A quick summary . . .

The year is 1986 and the Italian mafia finds itself at a crossroads. The Corleone family, while still prominent, is no longer the most feared crime syndicate. Their power structure has eroded for a variety of reasons- no legitimate ‘heir’ to the empire, the rise of other crime organizations and an Attorney General who is banking his political future on taking down the mob.

The other players are intent on taking their time with Corleone, who is more negotiator than enforcer now, out of necessity. The Barzini family rules the original five families, led by John Sangiovese, who takes command after assassinating the Boss outside a Manhattan restaurant on Christmas Eve.

Edgar Donovan is the new face of organized crime. Rising from the tenements in the Bronx, he has gained a foothold in the drug trade. But it is his control of the political machinery that once belonged to the Corleone family that proves most troubling to Michael. Donovan is the voice of reason, the bridge to how organized crime bosses do business in the present day. He doesn’t fly off the handle, he simply gets shit done. He is perfectly content to join forces with certain of his enemies in order to gain traction in the ever expanding world of crime syndicates.

Add to this an Attorney General hell bent on bringing down the mob, a former consiglieri (Tom Hagen) who turns state’s evidence, an estranged nephew out for revenge and a rising news anchor who happens to be in bed- literally- with the enemy, and things are looking grim for Michael Corleone.

Enter John Sangiovese. He is a fashion plate gangster every bit as ruthless and cunning as a young Michael Corleone. If he bears a remarkable resemblance to the late John Gotti, that’s because he is that guy- in fictional splendor. He belongs to the Barzini crime family- the new king of the five original families. And he’s coming for Michael Corleone.

Sangiovese has a button man who also serves as his second in command. And here’s where things get spicy. His right hand man- Salvatore Corleone- is the illegitimate son of one Fredo Corleone. So yeah, there might be a Hail Mary or several in Michael Corleone’s future.

And if you’re looking for the Luca Brasi character in all of this, that would be Nicolo Stassi. He is on Michael’s speed dial for a reason.

Here then, the cast of Godfather III. 

Al Pacino

Michael Corleone- I won’t be standing for the crew cut look Pacino sported in the original 3. No, in mine he goes with the parted, longer locks. He’s a more studious looking individual, but he’s still a python.

Leo

John Sangiovese- Leo is the guy. Reason being, he’s got the Al Pacino effect. You understand he is a monster, but he is so fucking cool about it that you can’t help but appreciate his blood lust.

Denzel

Edgar Donovan- Denzel made his bones in the mob movie genre with his turn in American Gangster. He is the face of the modern day gangster in that he will take your ass out before finishing his breakfast. But he would rather do business, seeing as how blood is a really big expense.

Robert Duval

Tom Hagen- Robert Duval’s character- Tom Hagen- is the character who goes legit. He turns state’s evidence and quickly becomes a media darling. He scores a show on cable as a talking head and retires to Connecticut to write his mob memoirs.

Sandra Bullock

Victoria Sangiovese- Sandra Bullock as Mafia Milf. What’s not to love? She will be the wife of the new Boss; a tough, great looking mob mom who doesn’t meddle in the family business unless it concerns her children. In which case, hell ain’t hath no kind of fury like hers.

Michael Shannon

Nicolo Stassi- Michael Shannon is a fucking crazy man. Like him or loathe him, you can’t say he doesn’t bring it to every single role. He is the perfect modern day Luca Brasi. As the Corleone button man who replaces Brasi in the late seventies, Shannon’s character will go rogue after Michael is taken out. He will lurk in the shadows . . waiting for his opportunity.

Daniel Day

Peter Greco- Daniel Day as the fictional Rudy Guiliani. He looks quite comfortable dressed in sharp suits and political ambition. It’s easy to see him in the role of Mob Slayer with dreams of a Mayoral run in the offing.

San Sebastian Film Festival: Steve Buscemi

Salvatore Corleone- Steve Buscemi as button man in Leo’s rise to the top? Hells yeah. He may not be the imposing figure that Sammy Gravano was (Believe me, I know first hand), but he is a reckoning in his own right. As my pal Dale remarked when we chatted about Buscemi, God was in a bad mood when he created him. Oh yeah, this guy is plenty capable of making peeps disappear.

Anne Hathaway

Savannah Kelly- What self respecting mob flick doesn’t feature a hot side dish? Which is what Anne will be to Denzel. Theirs is the tightly sealed affair that is borne out of a subcommittee hearing in which the two meet. She, the fiery upstart representative from Manhattan and he, the bullet proof gangster. They use each other to get to the top, because in the eighties . . if it ain’t greed, it doesn’t lead.

My Godfather III is set in the ’80’s and as such, it will have a killer soundtrack. Blondie, Phil Collins, Prince, Billy Joel, Falco, Laid Back, Talking Heads, The Sugarhill Gang, John Lennon. I could go on and on.

When the original came out in 1990, it was quickly trounced at the box office by Goodfellas, which boasted a better cast, story line and soundtrack. Well guess what? The Godfather is taking it back. And so, let’s start with this tune, to open things up.

 

The Truth about Rubber and Glue

The following prompt is working in the vein of the old “I’m rubber, you’re glue . .” riposte. This chummy challenge was created by those two mistresses of mayhem- Dale of A Dalectable Life and Karen of Table for One

Do not ask me how these ladies come up with the craziness. But I’ll try ‘me best to keep up with ’em. This here is ALL dialogue, because I’m tinkering some. So welcome, to my warped mind . . .

“She’s great,”

“But . . ”

“Nothing. Rachel is really great. No addendum . . ” Billy said, as he put his phone on speaker so he could grab a beer from the fridge.

“If you say so. Where’d you guys go?” Andrea asked while doing her nails and sipping on Shiraz.

“Luca,”

“Oh, the new place downtown, cool! Whatcha have?”

“Octopus, and a pie . . the Palermo. Rustic, tasty and pricey as all fuck,”

“Smart, first date, communal dishes . . I taught you well. What was her drink?”

“Iced tea,”

“With?”

“Lemon, she doesn’t drink alcohol,”

“Oh no, no . . no . . no . . no . .no!”

“It’s fine, I don’t need a drinking partner. I have you,”

“She doesn’t drink because she has a medical condition, I hope,”

“Andy, slow your roll to the fiery pits girl!”

“So her not drinking alcohol is a personal preference? Like . . for funzies?

“Yeah, and I dig that,”

“Oh please Billy! Do I have to remind you of your theory on women who smoke cigarettes?”

“Because that happens to be true, Andy. A woman who smokes possesses a natural oral fixation . . hence, there is a greater likelihood she’s got the freak gene. It’s a scientific fact, don’t mess with the science . .”

“Far be it from me to dispute your One Eye Science Guy thesis . . .”

“Alcohol is different. And besides, she doesn’t care if I drink . .”

“Yet,”

“What are you saying?”

“She’s a woman, and these things are subject to change. Like, the minute things get serious,”

“Anyway . .”

What?! You guys had sex on the first date? Really?!” Andrea squealed.

“How did you jump there?”

“Your tone, it was measured. And you segued much too easily . . you chose a stand alone qualifier, which is a dead giveaway,”

“It’s amazing how a penis stunts our thought processes . . but a vagina, it comes with a library . . ” Billy laughed.

“Don’t be bitter. Sooo, how was it?”

“Good,”

“Oh my God, I’m sorry hon,”

“What?”

“Good sex is like a spork . . it’ll get the job done but you’re not going to invest in place settings . .”

“She has an allergy to rubbers,”

“Oh, girl ain’t down with the latex delivery method, huh?”

“It’s not funny, Andy . . .”

“No you’re right . . it’s hilarious!”

“You’re a bitch, you know that?”

“That’s what my mother says, every day in fact,”

“The worst part is, she referred to her allergic reaction to condoms as a rubber allergy.”

“Well that’s silly . . I mean, not all condoms are created equal,” Andrea said.

“I know . . ”

“So she’s either ditzy or depraved . . which means there is a chance for you two after all!”

“I really don’t think she knew . . .”

“How old is this Rachel chick?”

“Old enough,”

“Hmmm,”

“You think I should cut my losses . . .” Billy said.

“I didn’t say anything,”

“You sure as hell did. Your hmmmm is equivalent to the nuclear option . .”

“Oh hell no, I won’t be the judge and jury to this love gone wrong. It’s all you Billy boy!” Andrea giggled as she poured herself a second glass of Shiraz and checked her Netflix queue for romantic comedies and horror flicks. It was same difference as far as her jaded self was concerned.

“Well, thank you for your pennies on the dollar romantic advice, Andy . .”

“De nada, homie. Oh way, way . . WAIT! So . . what did, you guys end up doing?”

“Instead of sex we went out and robbed a liquor store. Had to take out the owner, but we got away with a shopping cart full of shit and sixty seven dollars,”

“You’re such a child,” Andrea snorted.

“We umm . . ”

“No you didn’t. Billy tell me you didn’t!”

“What?”

“You did the pulling out thing?

“And so what if I did? . . .”

“Pulling out is not an exit strategy unless you’re a soldier in the middle east . . that’s what,” 

“What was I supposed to do? Go to the twenty four hour vasectomy clinic?”

“You could’ve knocked over a liquor store for reals . . that would’ve been smarter . . .”

“You’re being dramatic,” Billy laughed.

“Okay, pro tip. Don’t call a woman dramatic when she’s drinking wine. It’s never a good idea, but even less so in my present state. Because these happy grapes turn quick-a-lee when their mellow is harshed in the slightest . . .”

“Withdrawal is not my preferred method, but when in Rome, yanno?”

“Listen Caligula, I’m just saying. If you two plan on moving this thing forward, you gotta tighten things up.”

“Entiendo,”

“Slam, bam . . I’d like to make a withdrawal ‘maam!” Andrea giggled.

“Haha,”

“Oh Bill . . I don’t mean to be a nudge, baby . . daddy!” She laughed.

“Very funny,”

“When are you seeing her again? In nine months?”

“It’s amazing you’re still single, woman . .”

“Do you think I’d get a reaction from her if I told her I was rubber and she was glue?” Andrea guffawed.

“G’night Andy,”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not my Circus, Not my Monkeys- A Prompt Post

The following post is the result of a writing prompt that was concocted by Dale Rogerson and Karen Craven. These two ladies are nothing but trouble, so it’s a good thing I was raised Catholic and can appreciate this kind of company.

Seriously, these gals represent when it comes to the written word. I’m just honored to be in their club. As for the post, it went longer than expected, so apologies ahead of time. The good news is that a lot of it is dialogue, and thus . . easily traversed.

Monday Afternoon 3:15

Liam McLeary had been exposed to the disease.

In his twenty years state side, the Irish emigre had become accustomed to the thankless savagery of Washington D.C.. He had come to America seeking refuge and had been hired as a special liaison to the CIA by a high level US official who was quite familiar with his work. The deal with McLeary was a simple one- take the job or get extradited back to Ireland, which would have been akin to a death sentence.

Everything in America was a deal, even the legislative morass that elected representatives got rich on. The shit McLeary had witnessed in his time here made his previous existence as a button man for the IRA seem like a fucking James Joyce novel in comparison.

At least the Catholics and the Protestants had no dispute as far as God was concerned. Those who fought in that decades long war knew their catechisms and believed in epiphanies. The same couldn’t be said of American politicians. They had no morals . . they had no souls.

There was no winning a fight against a man with no soul. And now Liam McLeary was learning that lesson all over again. The one Sister Elena had instilled in him after his many scuffles outside St. Vincent’s Day School in Dublin. The one his father had beaten into him on many a drunken night when Liam came to his mum’s defense. The one he learned as an apprentice to the legendary Tom “Lucky” Halloran, back when killing in the name of a united Ireland meant something.

That time in his life felt like a million years ago as Liam took his seat on a park bench, and waited for the suit to get on with it.

“Liam,”

“Mr. Dunphy . .”

“Please . . no need for formalities . . call me Richard,”

“Alright Dick . . . I’m out. I made it clear after the last job that I was done with this fucking cesspool.”

“Where will you go?”

“To that cafe across the street . . ”

“After that,”

“Fucking Disney World.”

Dunphy laughed dimly as he pulled out a pack of Camels and lit one up. His smile was a horror show and his black pearl eyes a bottomless pit.

“You’ve been a valuable asset to the agency, I . . ”

“Cut the shit, Dick . . you know I’m serious. Just have the fucking decency to tell me what happens next.”

“Hey . . not my circus . . not my monkeys,” Dunphy said before removing himself from the park bench. He made no eye contact with Liam as he strolled away and disappeared into the back seat of a black Ford Lincoln.

Liam jogged across the street to the cafe and ordered a double espresso and two flans. Then he waited for the end to come to him.

Monday night . . 11:55

 “What . . the fuck?”

Richard Dunphy awoke from a drug induced sleep to find himself dangling over a wall upside down, tethered to a nylon rope and dressed in just his skivvies. When his location became familiar to him, that’s when the screaming commenced. He was hanging precariously over the side of the Primates Exhibit at the Smithsonian National Zoo.

“Yo Dick! . . . up here,”

Dunphy raised his head up to find Liam McLeary smoking one of his Camels and wearing a Cheshire Cat grin.

“How?!”

“Well, your boy was easier to spot than a virgin in a whorehouse. I get it . . times are tough, Uncle Sam can’t afford the bill . . but Jesus,”

“Where is he?”

“Dead. He’s dead. I spotted him while I was talking to you, after which I jogged across the street, ordered up a sugar rush and then waited for him in the loo.”

“You can’t fucking DO THIS!!”

“Pipe down or I’ll cut this fucking rope, I swear to God!”

“Okay, okay . . what do you want?”

“Let’s start with who ordered my hit,”

“I don’t know,”

Liam began splaying the nylon rope with a hunter’s knife as a couple of gorillas looked on with great interest.

“OKAY!”

“These micks . . they’re western lowland gorillas . . quite tame in comparison to some of their compadres. Shit of it is, a few of the gals in this pen are in . . shall we say, the come hither stage of horizontal negotiations, and as such the fellas are feeling rather . . . possessive.”

Dunphy told him everything, most of which Liam already knew. And then his captor lit up another Camel from Dick’s suit jacket.

“You’re letting me go now, right?” Dunphy said, almost crying. Funny how it took certain death to get this cocksucker to show any emotion.

“Absolutely,”

Liam began cutting at the rope with his hunter’s knife once again and Dunphy let him know this wasn’t the response he was looking for.

“What?!” Liam shrieked.

“You . . you . . you can’t . . you can’t fucking . . do THIS!”

“Listen you stuttering putz, you’re in no position to tell me what I can and cannot do,”

“I’m sorry, alright? I’m . . I’m sorry!”

“Apology accepted,” Liam said as he began cutting at the rope once again.

“WAIT! Okay . .  OKAY GODDAMMIT! I’ll give you whatever the fuck you want if you just stop cutting that rope!”

“Like what?” Liam smiled, as he tugged at his Camel.

“Ten million dollars . . . cash.”

“Is that what you’re worth? Fuck if you don’t have a high opinion of yourself!”

“Twenty . . . twenty five!”

“Dick . . with all respect, how do you think I was able to arrange this visit tonight? See . . . it cost me three million dollars . . in cash, divided between three individuals in the employ of this fine zoo. For that sum, they killed the camera feed. After which they will gather your remains and dispose of them all neat like. It will be like you . . and I . . were never here,”

“You can’t fucking do this!” Dunphy spit.

“It’s done. And I must say, if not for the sterling treatment accorded me by the US government, I would never have been able to afford a night such as this one. But hey . . you give a mick a cushy government job and then staple a tax free bonus to that for every clean up job . . shit adds up.”

“They’re going to fucking find you and barbecue your balls for dinner!”

“I’m already dead. And my dead self is partial to South America . . the place has character,”

“Those gorillas are going to fucking kill me . . you motherfucker!”

“Hey . . not my circus . . . not my monkeys,”

Liam cut deeply into rope until it went slack. The screams were glorious sounding things, while they lasted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunflower

Monica Roget took to the lectern and spoke of the complicated nature of history. It was a spell of words whose curlicued resonance spoke of strength through tragedy. It wasn’t a speech so much as it was evidence of a torch’s ability to light up the darkest night. Monica’s words possessed savvy and pluck, passion and fire; they were hard earned and honest ones whose relevance was not heightened or mitigated by a big stage and a large crowd and network coverage. Those in attendance simply felt honored to be there with her, sharing in a moment. They listened intently, in awe of the speaker and the history she had constructed out of memories and loss and rebirth.

The junior Senator from Louisiana was making national headlines as the leading voice in the push for nationwide gun laws; regulations whose intent wasn’t to take away guns, but to save lives. After decades of watching others avoid powerful lobbies such as the NRA in their quest for common sense standards, Monica decided to just go right through them. She took them on full swing and she won. It was in her bill to implement national standards for firearms and the outright ban of assault weapons- with punitive measures for anyone found in possession of one- that she said hello to a nation, at the tender age of thirty one.

There were parts of her speech that would soon become the literary equivalent of stealing home. Picked and prospered by national publications and bloggers, late night and morning show hosts, radio dicks and Hollywood chicks . . . writers and poets. And there was a passage in which the dreamers all met- a simple and destined place whose words shook the ground and charted the stars above.

“We are not taking away guns, we are taking back our lives. Because while it’s too late for those victims of gun violence, we must not be too late to our future. Because our future is the here and now, it is the future those victims never got to see, the one we must see through . . for them. We are the eyes to their souls, the fruition of their dreams. Our diligence, our cooperation, our best efforts . . they are simply the wishes of a yesterday that is gone but not forgotten. We are their sunrise. Because a sunrise holds answers . . a sunrise never lies . . it simply welcomes all who cross its path, it bathes us, it forgives our darkest moments. Ladies and gentlemen? Morning . . . has arrived,”

The Savoy Bill was passed into law on the twenty ninth anniversary of the musician Jasmine Savoy’s tragic death. Progress had been painfully slow in coming, but it was here, finally. Thanks to a young woman whose talents were busy making the world a better place. Monica Roget was living proof that the angels didn’t get all the best company after all.

Senator Roget had grown up listening to Jasmine’s music. She cried herself to sleep on many a night, wishing she had been able to meet her . . to know her. So she turned that heartache inward, and she dreamed of a day when she might be able to do just that. An orphan, she was raised by her great Aunt to believe in music, prayer and the value of hard work.

She married a musician, Kurt Roget, who wrote songs and recited poetry about star crossed lovers and the wicked world and the cosmos brilliant message. In closing, Monica read a passage from her husband’s poem Lost Girl, as the crowd erupted and the great big world felt young and boundless.

I hold to the memory of you in those lost moments,
My mind a never ending book to which my soul heeds . .
The keeping of stars in my back pocket,
to tranquil my restlessness and parse my cunning needs.

She bid adieu and then moved into the crowd to greet her many adoring fans. And then it was, that a shadow made its way through the cheers and laughter of forever. This shadow, it was small of stature and it moved clumsily, but with great earnestness. Until this lovely young girl in a turquoise dress appeared from out of that shadow, and she held up her hand.

Those people surrounding Monica Roget went silent as they watched, in awe, a moment that would become iconic. The young girl held out a sunflower and Monica, with tears in her eyes, accepted her hand and the gift inside of it. And the young girl let Monica know she was a big fan of her late mother’s music, and then she said simply,

She would be proud. 

 

 

Re-purposing the ‘stragglers’ in my draft folder- A Writing Challenge

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!

Ghost Story

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.

Until now.

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.

 

 

Last

Death Rose

Each moment is a certain truth whose definition is free of the apocryphal elements of everyday business, where efficacy for masks prevails. Masks are for strong hands and weak souls and I’ve no use for that now.

My lungs weep silently, with the patina in my eyes its only evidence. Old photographs visit my diminished brain, dressing it with scenes that flutter and perish like June bugs in summer. Mortality becomes leaven as the chill in my bones becomes more ambitious and the silhouettes of the living give way to the company of spirits.

The dark is my last breath.

A big thank you very much goes out to Tara Roberts at Thin Spiral Notebook. Her 100 word prompts have become a favorite writers task of mine and I am much obliged to the multi-talented task mistress for her rhymes and reasons. Go check out her blog, it’s wonderful.