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(A short story of 3298 words)

Jazz Cafe


by Kathleen Jones

Kate is a jazz singer, living happily with her musician husband. That is, until Maggi comes to stay.

The pianist is behind the beat. It annoys me that he can’t keep time, but I can’t get anyone else to play for the money – a straight fifty each and a few free drinks. And no-one listens anyway. The smart set come to meet each other and observe the weird and exotic who drift in off the Soho street. It’s really a high class pick-up joint, full of post-yuppie girls in deliberately tatty designer clothes, chatting up men with wind-blown hairstyles in over-large jackets. You can smell the Porsche’s and BMW’s illegally parked on the pavement outside.

One of the girls has draped herself over the corner of Henry’s piano, dogging him up with her eyes. No joy there. Henry’s one of what Simon always sarcastically refers to as the V.H.M.s – the Very Happily Marrieds. Musicians with wives and mortgages and small offspring who divide their spare time between IKEA and the garden centre.

Nine o’clock on a summer evening in the Café Lafayette. Just coming to the end of the first set. I turn to take a sip of mineral water to soothe my smoke-roughened throat and catch sight of myself in the mirrored surface of the wall opposite. A slim girl on a high stool with a long bony face and long reddish-brownish hair I only just recognise as me; above her, the golden holograms of the brass ceiling fans rotating at full speed; behind her, the circles and squares of an art-deco window frame. A yellow raincoat is walking past with a black and white umbrella.

After a while the yellow coat edges into my view of the bar. It’s Maggi, shaking the damp from her bobbed black hair. The sight of her paralyses my throat just for a moment...

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