“Can I have a double Martini no ice, please?”
“We’re actually out of Martini, I’m very sorry. Can I offer you the house scotch instead alright?”
“We brew it ourselves, it’s been aged backstage for the last couple of years, this batch just came out, alright. We get good feedback from it.”
“Yeah, I mean, is it the same..”
“…Price? Half-price this week only, alright, during weekdays.”
“Alright, let’s do it.”
Martha then staggers off in the darkness, towards the kitchen.
Her limping resonates in the club. Especially now with the gig over, most patrons gone, and the background jazz absent.
As background jazz, they usually play that Bill Evans record with the yellow cover, placing the LP cover on top of the whiskey bottles, beneath a sculpture of the words “Now Playing Sculpture”.
Apparently, “Sculpture” was the name of a properly obscure and 1980s fusion jazz trio, whose drummer was friends with Eddy, the owner. That drummer missed a few beats during a gig here in 1987, and hung himself backstage shortly afterwards. It was his family who gave Eddy that “Now Playing Sculpture” sculpture, now perched 1 meter above the whiskeys, gathering piles of dust and uneasy looks from the patrons of the Baby Seal Jazz Club.
There we go. Two tables to the left of mine, I hear Eddy has invited a question about the origin of his club’s name. “Why did I call it the Baby Seal? Because I want this place to offer the most rewarding clubbing in this town”. Now he explodes in laughter, tilting his head diagonally backwards, all the fingers of his right hand spread out on a terrified patron’s table.
“Here’s that gleamin’ house scotch, alright?”
What’s gleaming are the traces of lips on the tumbler’s rim. Martha said she’d fix the dishwasher, evidently hasn’t. Low light always has a hidden agenda. Low expectations too.
She limps back two tables to the left, they’re asking for the bill.
One of her footsteps doesn’t make the usual woody sound. It has been muffled by something laying on the floor that she instantly kicks back. It slides beneath the tables. I feel a poke on my left foot. It’s the yellow Bill Evans record. Bill has spent the whole evening getting stepped on and drizzled with warm beer.
Bill… His pensive, resigned gaze is now directed towards the staircase leading to the Baby Seal’s exit. He wants to leave.
I’ll pick him up, but I need a sip of scotch first.
It smells like a mouldy week-old Hawaiian pizza someone sprayed perfume on, and the liquid is already sliding down the tumbler towards my tongue and lip. I think of Bill.
The burning sensation shoots up through my spine and I feel it in my eyes. I cough. At the fourth cough, Mingus starts playing in the background.
I hate free jazz. It’s the sound of obscurantism.
So Bill here needs a hand. I lean towards the floor and pick him up. The cardboard is wet and sticky, and I lay him to rest and dry on my table.
“Is that How My Heart Sings?”, asks a man who appeared during my time in the depths of the Baby Seal. He exposes calculated enthusiasm and a missing row of teeth.
“1962” is my answer. “Been a while”, I add.
“Mingus is my man”, he charges.
“Mingus is not my man”, I differ, sliding my hips even further away from him.
I caress the letters spelling Evans on the record cover. His cheeks and chest inflate as I watch him contain a burp. He rises and shrieks:
“Hey Eddy! Raise up that volume on Mingus, wontcha?”. He rotates his head, gives me a vindictive look, inhales, and storms off to prepare a court case against the Tooth Fairy.
Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus. What he should have presented instead are his condolences to good taste.
I sip another portion of house scotch. The ceiling lamps above the stage go off and the inside of the Baby Seal gets darker.
My ears burn as they get lacerated by Mingus from the outside and the house scotch from the inside. I should have stayed home. An aftertaste of dishwasher tab is doing a crescendo.
“Martha. I need the bill.”
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