Short Fiction Contest-winning story 47: “The Happy Thing of Bayou de Manque” by Erin Larson

     “Repeat after me: I will not hunt alligators while Désirée runs deliveries.”

     Léon blinks at me, rich hickory eyes peering up from a face darker than any glancing touch of the sun could produce. He wriggles in a barely-perceptible fashion, bare heels grinding ringlets into the muddy deck, a creature of obstinacy and faux innocence whose smile mystically exiles all suspicion from my mind.

     “’course, Dezzy,” he says. “There aren’t any alligators around right now, you know—they ain’t come out ‘til nighttime.”

      “They don’t come out ‘til nighttime,” I correct him, swiping a hand over the top of his

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March 15th, 2018

“Alto Saxophone” — a short story by Joe DiBuduo

      In a little town in Illinois, in a bar near the Wisconsin border, one man blew honey-dripping sounds from his saxophone. A woman’s body swayed in time with the sweetness emitting from that horn. She kept time with the beat and moved like melodic notes going up and down the scale. I imagined blowing musical sounds into her ear.

      I crossed the wooden dance floor where she whirled, grabbed her hand and began to spin. Like musical notes, one black, one white, we danced all night. I softly sang into her ear, “Imagine how we’d dance in bed.”

      She laughed in a low contralto voice, and changed it to a soprano when the high notes flowed.

      Later when we were in bed and music played on her expensive speakers we continued our

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February 25th, 2018

“Cipher” — a short story by Colleen Anderson

     It had been warm all day, the type of day where the heavy air presses into you and makes it hard to move. It didn’t help that her shift had been spent calling customers and listening to endless streams of why they couldn’t make their hydro payments. And they would yell, swear at her as if she had caused their loss of job, their alcoholism, their way of life. She absorbed it all, the words sinking through the membrane in her ear and resonating within the membrane of her mind long after the calls had stopped.

     If there’d been a breeze, or a slight coolness to the air, then those words could have lifted from her. They heated her, churning and boiling within so that by the time she got the apartment door open

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February 11th, 2018

“Coloring Outside the Lines” — a short story by Debora Ewing

     I like the jazz because it plays in different colors: deep green and blue, translucent purple, ivory black; city storefronts, magenta sunsets; watercolor splashes here and there like a yellow crocus on snow or an orange goldfish tail — sudden, surprising, but always carefully placed.

     …Like the way people come in different colors — they just don’t know it. People walk along in darkness daily, ignorant of the color that’s surrounding them or the beat their music plays. That’s what I’m lying here thinking about, in my dark bedroom between the folds of cotton sheets. Africans, Asians, Seminoles…they all come in different colors — not their skins, but their insides. Each person glows from deep within, from a well that springs out of

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February 2nd, 2018

“Icarus” — a short story by Ian MacAgy

     Near the end of high school I thought myself sophisticated, a fan of Pink Floyd and King Crimson and Kevin Ayers, but at a Weather Report Concert in 1972 I had a nearly religious conversion.  It was as though a stranger had run up to me and said, “hold this for minute” and ran off. Then the music exploded. I had never heard anything like this. Everything changed. 

      It was as though I grew hair in secret places and a new appendage.  I became a different creature.  After that night few of my suburban DC white friends’ guitar and lyrics-oriented ears could hear what mine could; the joy and heartbreak in this unfamiliar and ebonic timbre, this canvas painted in horn, acoustic bass, and polyrhythm; this blues, this brokenness, this homesickness.   

     There it was, though, for anyone who had ears for it—there, in the absence of verse, in the uncertainty and unpredictability of lengthy solos, in the timelessness of power beyond the moment from which

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December 1st, 2017

“Improv” — a short story by Lorna Wood

     This was all her fault, Sarah thought, as she watched the Victory Lounge clear out. She should have known Branchville wasn’t ready for improv jazz. But the bass player, Tommy Williams, had been so supportive after the workshop with the graduate wind students. Sarah had gotten so interested in the group’s ideas about jazz and improvising that she had gone straight to the practice room after the workshop and found their website. Earbuds in both ears, she was improvising to one of the rhythmic bass tracks there when she happened to raise the bell of her clarinet on a long high note the way she’d seen the quartet’s wind players do, and there was Tommy knocking on the door.

            He had been so just what a jazz bass player from Chicago should be, Sarah thought, with his dusky skin and his smoky voice, and his rakish fedora tipped over one eye. And at the same time he had been so genuinely

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November 18th, 2017

“One Suitcase” — a short story by Wayne Cresser

     Henry Bell wished the actress on the TV interview show wouldn’t smile so much. Most show folk, he thought, were not memorable. They were things, as he had written in one of his songs, made on the cheap from neon and crepe. Sometimes he believed it too. Then he’d remind himself that human beings wrote all kinds of wonderful tunes, like “The Wind” — the number that had made his mind reel when he was very young and made him think he could write songs.

     “The Wind” was eight, maybe nine, minutes of continuous jamming colored in with jazzy chords, an understated vocal and poetry. As a kid, listening to Dick Summer’s Subway show late at night on his transistor radio, stuck under the pillow to muzzle its volume, he thought he could trek into “The Wind” and the journey through its changes would be endless.

     Now, nearly forty, he wasn’t a kid anymore, and jazz-inflected rock music wasn’t his thing. At some point too, he’d decided that Circus Maximus was a pretty dumb name for a

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November 11th, 2017

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #46 — “Cotton Candy on Alto Sax,” by Julie Parks

At first, I simply sit on the front steps of my building, letting the summer sun bake my knees while I’m planning my getaway, trying to decide which subway to take to get to Caroline’s place faster. I know nobody will miss me. Nobody will even notice. Not like the first time I ran away.

The first time I ran away – OK, maybe I didn’t exactly run away, as the only thing I did was leave my house in the morning to go down to New Utrecht Avenue to sit in a subway station. But I didn’t come back. I wasn’t going to. I sat there all day, until it got late and dark, and eventually even darker and so late that it was time for my mom to come home. And when she did and saw that I’m gone, she called the cops and they found me instantly. Picture a pink haired girl sitting on a bench in an all Hasidic neighborhood. Not a rocket science to spot my cotton candy stack of hair even in the middle of a dark subway station. So I was brought home that same night, safe and sound, and feeling like an

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November 5th, 2017

Short Fiction Contest winning story #45 — “Last Stop with Louis Armstrong,” by Laura Hawbaker

            Wade missed the sweat. The sticky air that hugged you like a fat friend. The languid, dirty stench of swampy gutters. Of Bourbon street piss and puke. Of Dat Dogs at three in the morning, and the street mutts that cawed at the Mississippi. The rats and cockroaches scuttling around your shoes. The humidity. The heat.           

            He missed all of it.

            New York was cold. Not just the weather, but the people, too. Hardened pedestrians crushed the MTA platforms like stone statues, eyes glazed onto their phones or the wall or the floor. No smiles. No inward space given away to strangers. They hugged into their

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July 18th, 2017

Update on the Short Fiction Contest

I just returned from a wonderful three week vacation in London, Ireland, and Scotland, so we have fallen a bit behind on determining the winner of the Short Fiction Contest.  For those of you who entered your story (a record number of entrants this year!), I appreciate your patience.  I hope to have the winning story published by July 20.

Meanwhile…you may enjoy this clip of

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July 7th, 2017

“As good as it will ever get” — a short story by Julie Parks

Swoosh! Shhh. Shhhhh! I hear the ear numbing screech and the train finally stops moving. Nine seconds and the loud beep will announce the door opening. Heels clack against the icy early morning pavement. The mass of cigarette smoke hazes my sense of direction until we finally reach the end of the Binario 12 and my ears welcome the familiar sound of strings.

It’s distant and quite mellow but I can still make out the song. It’s a new one. He’s only played it a few times. I know it. Everyone loves it because it’s from that movie. The one with

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June 15th, 2017

An excerpt from “A Moment of Fireflies” — a novella by John McCluskey

     Michael continued down the darkening street.  A gust of wind blew off the Lake.  His eyes watered.  He turned his back to the wind, and the wind blew hard, unfurling his coat and his pant legs. He bent into it to soften its assault, but he soon turned his back to protect his face against the onslaught.   A man and a woman hurried across the street, almost bumping into him, holding hands as if one would fly away.  The lid blew off of a trashcan and crashed wildly into the street; a car rattled by up ahead at the intersection.  When at last the street was empty with no more cars and no more men or women about, Michael found himself alone but for a few

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May 24th, 2017

In This Issue

This issue features a roundtable discussion about how the world of religion may have impacted the creative lives of Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. Also, previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning story; three new podcasts from Bob Hecht; new collection of poetry; recommendations of recently released jazz recordings, and lots more.

Short Fiction

"The Wailing Wall" -- a short story by Justin Short

Interviews

Three prominent religious scholars -- Wallace Best, Tracy Fessenden and M. Cooper Harriss -- join us in a conversation about how the world of religion during the life and times of Langston Hughes (pictured), Billie Holiday and Ralph Ellison helps us better comprehend the meaning of their work.

Poetry

Nine poets contribute ten poems celebrating jazz in poems as unique as the music itself

Short Fiction

In celebration of our upcoming 50th Short Fiction Contest, previous contest winners (dating to 2002) reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

The Joys of Jazz

In this edition, award winning radio producer Bob Hecht tells three stories; 1) on Charlie Christian, the first superstar of jazz guitar; 2) the poet Langston Hughes’ love of jazz music, and 3) a profile of the song “Strange Fruit”

On the Turntable

25 recently released jazz tunes that are worth listening to…including Bobo Stenson; Medeski, Martin and Wood; Muriel Grossman and Rudy Royston

Features

Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Randy Brecker and Tom Piazza are among those responding to our question, "What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940's?"

Poetry

"Billie Holiday" -- a poem (with collage) by Steve Dalachinsky

Coming Soon

Thomas Brothers, Duke University professor of music and author of two essential biographies of Louis Armstrong, is interviewed about his new book, HELP! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration; also, Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell, author of An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden, in a conversation about the brilliant 20th Century artist

In the previous issue

This issue features an interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins; a collection of poetry devoted to the World War II era; and a new edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo,” in which the question “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940’s” is posed to Rickie Lee Jones, Chick Corea, Tom Piazza and others.

Contributing writers

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