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Blue Note

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The Blue Note


Spring 07

Even in its heyday, the Blue Note had been dingy. Too far from the main drag to be fashionable it had remained a shadowed nook of a place for decades. Until the day Viggo bought it. And even then, it stayed quietly in the background, a wood paneled, smoky place where jazz musicians went to jam and the lost went to cry.

Fully a decade after he filed the papers Viggo still worked the bar. He had a little weekend help, mostly so he could have something resembling a life though he was never far. Or at least, not too far to come to the place's rescue should that be required.

There were regulars, both patrons and performers. Some famous, the performers that is, and some who just stumbled in of their own accord. Some, like Lionel, never left. Most nights, Lionel started the place off with tripping soft jazz pieces. All his own compositions, none very remarkable and Viggo loved the sense of familiarity it lent to the place. Round about seven or dusk, which ever came first, Lionel would push through the swinging door, shuffle towards the bathroom and disappear for a good ten minutes.

When he emerged, he'd've shed a few layers of street dirt, combed his hair and buttoned up his shirt. He'd collect his drink, wave to Viggo or whomever was tending bar and make his way to the piano bench. And as soon as his fingers hit the keys, he'd transform, his limbs melting into a smooth roll, his shoulders rising and falling with the tipple of his fingers over the keys, every emotion he played, playing beautifully out through his too slim frame.

Sometime after nine, Lionel well on his way through his playbook, other musicians would begin rolling in, variously taking seats, doffing hats and sidling up to the bar. Viggo knew some by name, others remained nameless and all played sometime during the night, wordlessly changing positions or instruments, chattering softly between themselves, sometimes laughing.

Sean never showed up before ten. Ever.

February of Viggo's fourth year in the bar, Sean had come in, hung his hat on the hat tree and sat at the end of the bar drinking beer after beer and staring at this hands. For months, two or three nights a week, Sean would come in, hang his hat and drink till closing. Took him nearly a year to say hello to Viggo. And another to use his name. By the third year, Viggo's seventh in the bar, Sean was comfortable enough to chat. Just a few phrases.

February of the fifth year, on the anniversary of his first night at the Blue Note, Sean stayed till after closing. Viggo cleaned the varnished wood of the bar and loaded the glass washer while Elijah, his summer help, swept up the floor and put away the equipment.

Elijah put a little hustle in his step, casting quick scared glances at Sean, finally meeting Viggo's eye and cocking an eyebrow in question. Viggo shook his head and smiled, made a shooing motion with his hand and Elijah put the broom away and scampered off.

The doors clicked shut leaving Viggo and Sean alone in the semi-gloom of the place, Sean still on his stool, Viggo leaning his hips on the counter behind the bar.

That was the beginning.

After that, Sean would come in, drink his beers while Viggo worked and stayed till after closing. Neither said a word to anyone nor looked any different than before. They were the only two who knew, even Elijah wouldn't have guessed, and they liked it that way.

Elijah stayed on every summer after that while he was at school. Viggo liked him. He was quiet and self effacing but he could swear like a sailor and he loved the music. Sometimes, he would stand in one place, frozen by a trill of piano or the deep rumble of the sax, and just stare beatifically at the musicians until Viggo called his name. He'd smile sheepishly and go back to work.

In the fall of year ten, a young man came in about eleven, long after the musicians had been playing, and shrugged out of his coat and hat. He waited patiently for their song to end and then rolled up the sleeves of his shirt and walked to the mike, nodding to them in turn.

“What'll ya' have, beautiful?” Denver Smalls asked. The beefy sax player smiled from under the fall of his hair and winked playfully at the slim singer.

“Uh...Lush Life, please. Low and slow, boys.” The man said and turned to the mike, one hand resting on top, the other limp at his side.

“Low and slow it is.” Denver counted out the opening beat began to play the intro as Billy Strayhorn intended it, like a heartbeat breaking in two.

The singer's eyes closed, his face tilted up and he began to sing.

“I used to visit all the very gay places...”

Denver smiled at Viggo.

“Those come what may places...”

As the song rolled through the bar, the patrons slowed, turning to watch as the song flowed out of the slim brunette, low and slow. Viggo stops polishing the bar and rests on his hands, for once struck still by the beautiful boy singing.

“Then you came along with your siren of song.” He closed his eyes, the note clear and true.

Elijah came in through the basement door.

“To tempt me to madness!” The singer opened his eyes and looked out at the crowd.