Waiting For Satchmo
By: Antwan Crump
“We, the emotionally discontent; of sound mind and able bodies…”
Victor yelled into the microphone, with hopes of sounding grand -if only to himself.
“No! No! That’s not it.” – repudiated by his practiced speech, he once more started from the top.
“We! Of sound-full minds, and joyous bodies!” – he’d hoped the louder pitch would seem more confident.
“No, No! Damn!”
Dropping to his knees, he pleaded to his god, for the right words to say. –
“For god, thou dost not forsake me! Lord please -if you could- deliver unto me the words! The words that will save me from damnation!”- he closed his eyes. Spreading his able arms, in an act of open surrender, he convulsed, and tried once again-
“We, of sound mind! And able bodies.”
“Would you please, shut the hell up!” – Ester screamed, returning from the relief of his ailing bladder.
“All that hootin’ and hollerin’ is good, for is cashing in on this ass whoopin’- I’m about to give you. Now get the hell off of the stage!”
All at once, Victor went silent, dropped his arms, and leered at Ester with the kind of hate, that one would have for an imminent victim of a ‘good ol’ fashion throttling’-
“You just watch!” – Victor dictated – “When he get’s here, and he hears what I have to say to the world; I’ll be at the big time, and you’ll still be sitting there- drinking your moonshine, and wetting your pants like some broken negro faucet”.
Unamused, by yet another jab- from a man young enough to be his son- Ester poured himself a shot of whiskey and concluded-
“Well, until then, would you please get your dumb-ass off the microphone? It’s bad enough I gotta’ see you; I’d rather not burden any other of my senses, lest I lose my ‘sound mind’ or my ‘able body’.” – Ester mocked.
Victor, reluctantly, stomped off of the stage – rambling on about the big time as Ester drank his shot, and poured another.
A while later, the two sat across from each other, more humble than before – they engaged in some friendly conversation, until Victor became restless, ‘for the umpteenth time’. Ester did all he could to ignore him – but upon returning from the bathroom – Victor had found yet another obstacle to gripe with.
Ester watched from across the room for some time as he watched Victor struggle with his self-proclaimed ‘hand me down’ shoes.
Victor tied the lace, then untied them. Then tried to tie them ‘single loop’ style – to no avail- he untied them again. He fiddled with the tongue of the shoe: pulling and yanking it, again to little success. The obsessive action finally grew too tedious for Ester to ignore-
“Would you knock it off!”
“Knock what?”, Victor asked – still struggling with his maladjusted shoe.
“All that moving around! It’s making me nervous!”
“Well then, stop being nervous. I’m just fixing my shoe.” – Victor answered – now pulling at the rim of his footwear.
He sat on the floor and continued to tug at the leather and the laces. Widening and tightening, grunting loudly as he seemed to make no progress. Ester poured himself another drink, as he watched Victor for minutes longer.
“Okay! Enough!” Ester screamed – while he slammed his old pistol on the table. “If you don’t quit all that damn racket, I swear to Jesus -I’ll put a hole through your head, and use your shoes as target practice, while they stay uncomfortably fitted, on your cold, dead, feet!”
Victor let go of his shoe.
“Now, sit your ass down, pour yourself a drink, and stay still like a damn man! What if Satchmo came in and saw you doing that? I ain’t about to lose all my years of playing to get to this moment, to lose it all because of some rowdy ass nigga’”.
Victor tied his shoe, and sat, quiet at the table. Ester left in a huff to urinate. Victor stared at the gun -but dared not to touch it.
Ester returned moments later. Realizing he left the gun, he dragged it across the table and placed it back in his waistband. Pouring another shot of whiskey, he looked over at Victor -who sat terrified in his seat. Attempting to ‘smooth over the moment’, he offered Victor some whiskey as well. Though hesitant, Victor nodded in acceptance.
Feeling guilt over his outburst, Ester broke the tense silence by theorizing-
“Look, maybe it’s not the boot.”
“It’s not a boot it’s a shoe” – Victor answered in a mousy quiver.
Ester held back the impulse to scream, and instead continued, “Look, boot, shoe, slipper – whatever! The point that I’m trying to make to you is that -it’s not the problem. It’s your feet.”
Ester pointed at Victor’s shoes while pouring another drink.
“My feet?” Victor answered.
“Yes. your feet.”
Victor rushed to remove his shoes and placed them beside the chair.
The two sat back in their chairs then stared at the stage.
“So, do you think he’s really gonna come? Take away all these problems?” -Victor asked.
“He should. I don’t know him to be a liar.”
“Have you met him before?”
“Some time ago. I figure we’ll recognize each other.”- Ester said, with false confidence. -“We have been here a while. Shouldn’t be much longer.”
“Have we?” – Victor said dismayed.
Ester removed the gun from his waistband, and returned it to the center of the table-
“If it comforts you, we don’t have to be here anymore?”
Ester took a deep breath. Victor stared at the gun, and asked-
“Do you mind terribly?”
Ester shook his head, and retreated to the bathroom. Victor returned to the stage-
“We, the emotionally discontent; of sound minds and able bodies…”
“No! No! That’s not it.” – he yelled at himself.
“Would you please, get the hell off of the stage!” – Ester screamed.
“It helps me ignore the hunger.” – Victor answered.
“Then eat something!”
“What’ve you got?”
Ester reached into his pocket, in search of some of the treats that he had kept on him – in case he ever felt light-headed. All he could find were empty shells of eaten nuts, shredded wrappings, and some loose tobacco.
“I think someone may have gotten into my pockets. Damn gypsies!”
Victor sighed. “But, I’m still hungry. Do you think Satchmo will have any food?”
“Boy, if you ask that man for anything other than a handshake, I’ll beat you with-” Ester paused his rantings, and looked around the table. “Where in the hell are your shoes?”
“I took them off. Remember?”
“Boy, that was yesterday. Wasn’t it?”
The two men sat confused for a moment. Looking around the bar, their ponderance, turned to fear.
“Well if he’s not gonna’ come, then I’m leaving!” Victor shouted. Ester nodded in agreement. Neither of them moved the slightest from their seat.
“I’m hungry” – Victor continued.
“Check behind the bar!” Ester shouted. Victor put his shoes back on, tied the laces, and hobbled over to the bar, where he’d hoped there would be some nuts to quell his growing appetite.
“Success!” – he screamed, with a mouthful of aged raisins.
“How are they?” – Ester asked.
The men shared a disingenuous smile. Victor returned to the table, where Ester had been pouring another drink.
“My feet still hurt.” -Victor complained.
“Well, it may be those damn shoes. Take them off!” – Ester demanded. “I’m going to take a leak”.
Ester departed to the bathroom. Victor sucked the remnants of raisins from his teeth. And re-tied his laces.
Sneaking back onto the stage he proceeded with his practiced jargon.
“We, the emotionally discontent! Of sound minds! Able Bodies!… No. No.”
Returning, sooner than expected, Ester proclaimed “I’m leaving!”
The men bantered-
“But we can’t”
“Why the hell not?”
“It’s been days!”
“We just got here!”
The two men, paused -perplexed.
“Are you sure?” Ester asked.
“Certain.” Victor concluded.
The two men sat beside other once more. Ester poured himself a drink. Victor fiddled with his shoes.
Ester awoke from a nap at the table – and rushed to the bathroom to urinate. Victor remained asleep as the door to the bar opened, and himself awoke to the sound of it slamming back shut. A boy, with an old man’s face, approached a frazzled Victor, wielding a newspaper, and a grimace.
“What the hell happened to your face young man?” – Victor staggered.
The boy ignored the remark and lowly said, “I’ve come with news of Satchmo.”
To Victor, the boy’s pitch was eerily similar, yet painful. He politely conversed- through the deafening ring in his ears.
“What news is that, boy?”
Before the boy had a chance to respond, Ester returned from the bathroom-
“He’s come with news of Satchmo!” – Victor urged.
“What the hell happened to his face?” – Ester angrily asked.
The two ignored Ester’s remark and listened as the boy placed the newspaper on the table, and proceeded-
“I’ve been told to inform you, that he will be unable to meet with the two of you tomorrow.”
“What?” – the two exclaimed in near unison.
They looked at each other disappointed, then back toward the boy – who’d seemed to long disappear. The two bickered for what seemed like hours.
“This is absurd! I’m leaving” – Ester said.
“I concur! But what of Satchmo?” Victor answered.
“Satchmo! He’s kept us waiting for hours!”
“What’s the date?
The two stared at the newspaper. Neither touched it. Ester poured himself a drink. Victor fiddled with his shoes.
“That was some wretched face.”
“Indeed, it was.”
“We, the emotionally discontent; of sound-mind and able bodies! No, no.” Victor’s proclamation now contained a hint of desperation. Ester sat at the table, spinning his gun by the barrel.
“What if he doesn’t show?” – Ester asked.
Stunned by the possibility, Victor argued – “He must!”
“And if not?” – Ester continued. Victor joined him in the adjacent chair, and watched the barrel speed, and slow as Ester spun it with burgeoning intent.
“We could always stop waiting.”- Ester said, picking the gun up off the table, and placing the shooting end, in his ear.
“May I join you?” -Victor begged.
“Well, of course, my dear boy.” – Ester answered with pure elation. “But, first I must relieve myself.”
Ester placed the gun back on the table, and spun it. Victor smiled and removed his shoes.
Ester returned, a bit more relaxed from the restroom. He watched Victor toil around on the floor – this time, he decided not to speak- instead, allowing his attention to drift to the still spinning gun and the rolled up newspaper beside it.
“A good way.” – he said to Victor, as he retrieved his trumpet, and approached the stage. “A good way, indeed”. He called to Victor, who’d finally seemed content to leave his shoes untied.
Ester played a soulful tune.
Instinctively, Victor joined in, with his over practiced speech. As he came upon the stage, he looked over to a blissful Ester, whose eyes had welcomed him to the pulpit.
Victor paused for some time before somberly proceeding.
“We, the emotionally discontent, of sound mind and able body, do accept the things we can not change. For on the eve of our requisition we chose to remain – in the hands of a giving life. With our demise comes the rebirth of our campaign to be delivered.”
Ester’s horn blared at the interim of Victor’s speech.
“No..No!” – Victor screamed as the gun spun endlessly on the table.