Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fiction Excerpt, "Music and Friends"

In the chapter "Music and Friends," from the proposed novel A Stranger on Earth, a chapter focused on two old men, both musicians, Thomas and Mark: one is dying, and the other is his caregiver, and they prepare for death and its aftermath, including a possible inheritance for the dying man’s niece, Sarah. The chapter includes remembrance of the men's earlier days...

“One of the interesting things about jazz is that every phrase, every moment, can be delectable,” said Thomas, standing and rubbing a cloth over his saxophone and looking down into the face of an admiring woman.

“The music is that—it’s delicious,” she answered.

She had stopped him when he was returning from the rest room, during the band’s break. The club was half-empty, but the audience seemed to be with the band. It was a relaxed night. The men had things they were worried about—paying the rent, the next gig, but they were in a good mood.

Mark passed Thomas and the woman as he made his way out of the club. He wanted a few minutes away from everyone—he wanted to be outside. Mark wondered how Thomas had the energy for playing when he was so busy running his mouth, filling words with all that hot air. He wondered if Thomas would be having breakfast with the woman the next morning. He did not seem to have much discrimination about where he set his instrument down.

“Is the music just for a small group of people, or is it for everybody?” asked Thomas.

“It’s for whoever is willing to put the time into understanding it,” said Fred, a gregarious, and plump trumpet player.

“That’s right, that’s right,” said Nathan, the drummer.

Nathan’s affirmation was not one that Mark thought much of. Nathan was one of those people who agreed with whatever half-intelligent thing anybody said, even if it conflicted with what he had just agreed with five minutes before.

“Only some people are going to know what the music comes out of—the way of life, the relationships, the values, out of which the music comes,” said Kent, the trombonist, a lean and professorial man.

“Do I need to know that to enjoy Mozart? Do I really need to know that to enjoy Coltrane?” asked Mark.

“I’m surprised at you,” said Kent. “You’re always reading history.”

“It interests me—and it does give me a deeper understanding, but I would still like Mozart and Coltrane if I knew nothing about their lives and circumstances,” said Mark.

“You’ve got contradictions,” said Kent, disapproving.

Mark looked worried for a moment, then laughed. “Don’t we all,” he said. “Don’t we all.”

It seemed to Mark as if there was an attempt at some kind of artificial purity in Kent. He recognized it in him as he recognized it in himself. Was it fair to call it artificial, just because they had not been able to fulfill their ideals yet?

“People like what we do,” said Nathan.

“Now they do. What if we decide to do something else?” asked Kent. “Are they going to try to deal with it for what it is; or are they going to act like what don’t know what we’re doing?”

“You planning changes Kent?” asked Fred.

“Changes will happen. If we’re deep into the music,” said Kent.

“Why do they have to be difficult?” asked Fred.

“They don’t have to be, but if they’re really original they might be,” said Kent.

(c) DG