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#124 It’s in the Contract


#124 It’s in the Contract

I knew I’d hit bottom as my face scraped across the cement, and my guitar ricocheted off my back when the bouncer tossed me and it out the back door.

The muscular guy wearing a black tee-shirt said, “Don’t even think about coming back.”

“Damn, you’ve ruined my Gucci Shirt,” I said as blood dripped from my damaged face to the shirt I bought at the thrift Store yesterday. “Don’t you know my brain is in pain from pharmaceuticals I take to add meaning to life?”

“That my friend is your problem,” the bouncer said.

“But after I swallow a few pretty pink pills, I’m not myself. Like a lycanthrope changing when the moon is full, I turn into a monster that nobody likes or wants to be around.”

“You’ve got that right, Asshole. Nobody wants you around here.” He pulled the door shut.

Alone in a dark alley my mind wandered, and I wondered if I’d rather die than go through life with a mind that’s not really mine? I sensed movement in the dark, picked up my guitar and held it in a batting stance ready to hit whatever was moving through the dark towards me.

“Did I hear you say, ‘lycanthrope?’” A sweet feminine voice asked.

“Who’s there?” Her voice sounded safe, but I would not put my guitar down until I was sure.

“I can dispel your curse if that’s your problem.”

She came close, and I saw her glowing golden eyes set in a nicely formed face.

“That’s not it. Like a slug in a whiskey jug, I don’t remember much.”

“I can help you with that,” she said and her eyes seemed to brighten the closer she got.

Set my guitar by my side and buried my face in my hands. “No one can understand what I’m going through. I can’t remember when I’ve had my last meal, my last piece, or even my last love. I’m unsure where my memory of past delights during the silent nights has gone. I’ve forgotten how to wonder where I’ve been or where I’m going.”

She took my hand in hers. I felt her knife like fingernails dig into my flesh.

“I remember when in November,” she said. “You had a rock and roll record on top of the charts.”

“I did, but it took a precarious drop and now I’ve forgotten that time when people desired me, and I became tired of the acclaim and told security to keep my admirers away.”

“Fame is an illusion. If you love your music and play what you want is what’ll make your life worth living.”

“Of all the tunes I loved, Cocaine was the one I always sang and while I rocked and rolled, cocaine took a heavy toll on my soul. Now with a face that’s out of place wherever I go, it shows how I’ve lived my life. Though I’m never quite sure, I figure I’m only forty-four, yet when my image reflects in a window or mirror, I think I look like I’m a hundred and four.”

“I can change that, for a price.”

When she uttered those words, a burst of bright light surrounded her, and the alley became illuminated. I raised my guitar in a defensive stance when I saw her minions standing on two feet like humans. Covered with brown fur, they had long sharp looking teeth that snapped together like wild animals’ fangs.

“I don’t really mind looking 104. Nice meeting you.” I attempted to run, but hairy arms wrapped around me and lifted me from the ground.

“I need you to sign on the dotted line. Then I’ll fix everything.”

“I’m not signing anything,” I said and struggled to free myself from the vise-like arms that held me.

She came close, put her hand to her lips and blew softly. Powdered cocaine floated from her hand to my nose and mouth. I tried to resist, but out of long habit, I couldn’t and sucked it in. A kaleidoscope of colors filled the alley. I floated on a cloud.

A sunbeam shining in my eyes awoke me. I had my arm around my guitar, and it took a while before I remembered being thrown out of the bar. Then I remembered the woman. That must have been a dream. I banged on the door I had been thrown out of. The owner opened it.

“Wha . . .” he stared hard at me.

“I just want to wash the blood off of my face,” I said.

He stared, intently.

“Come on; let me clean up a bit?”

He held the door open for me without saying a word.

I went into the John and washed my face. While drying it, I looked into the mirror and dropped the paper towel. Staring at my reflection I couldn’t believe I was looking at a young Jimmy Hendricks. I grabbed my guitar and played, “Hey Joe.” My fingers flew over the strings, and I sounded better than Jimmy ever did.

“I heard you play in there and it sounded great. Will you play here tonight?” The owner asked.

I hesitated because my head was in a whirl. How did this happen? The woman in the alley said she’d fix my face so I wouldn’t look 104. She never said anything about changing my color or giving me a musical gift. The owner took my silence to mean I wanted more than he usually paid.

“Okay.” “I’ll give you a hundred bucks to play for three hours tonight.”

This from the guy who had me bounced last night. “No,” I said.

“Make it $200 then.” He pulled two bills from his pocket.

I reached for them because to me; that was a lot of money. Turns out $200 was chicken-feed because after playing at that dive for a few nights word got around that a Jimmy look alike sang there and played as good as Jimmy ever did. A few nights later I recorded an album that shot to the top in a week. Rolling in money, I bought plenty of cocaine and brought home different girls every night.

One night I played in the club where I started as a Jimmy lookalike, I floated through misty air from snorting coke, and I saw her, the lady from the alley. Was I imagining her again? She held a paper in her hand that she shoved in front of my face.

“Contract,” it said in large print. The rest was too small to read. “I need your signature.”


She laughed. I felt a hairy arm around my neck, and my face scraped the ground as I was thrown out the back door into the dark alley again. “You can’t do this, I’m famous now,” I shouted.

“You now look 144.” She held up a mirror and light emanated from her so I could see.

I peered into the mirror and saw a bald head with a dried, wrinkled face so ugly I cried.

“I can fix that for a price,” she said. “All you need to do is sign on the dotted line.”

“I’m not signing anything,” I said.

“You’re a slow learner,” she blew cocaine in my direction.

Unable to resist I sucked it in and reality became unreal. I floated through space and came to a place where a raucous chorus filled the sky with voices and instruments that clashed like a pink and purple suit.

She was there holding the contract for me to sign and beside her stood Dinah Washington, who sang, All because of You.

I’ve always loved Dinah, so I put an arm around her and sang, “Black and Blue is how I feel.”

“Sign here so you can have Secobarbital and amobarbital to share with Dinah,” the alley lady said and shoved the contract toward me.

“I told you, I’m not signing anything.” She looked at me with disbelief written all over her face. Then I saw Rudy from the Drifters. “Hey man, how’s it going?” I said.

“You holding?” he asked.

“Sign here, sign here,” she said. “If you do it’ll rain heroin for you and Rudy.” She put a pen in my hand. Rudy nodded his head, and he salivated like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

 Before I made a move, a song broke out behind me, Why Do Fools Fall in Love? Frankie Lymon sang and looked to the sky to see if it rained heroin yet. Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison looked to the sky too and then looked at me as though asking why I didn’t sign to start the rain.

“Sorry guys,” I said. “Cocaine’s my bag.”

“Right on,” Ike Turner said and put his arm around my shoulders. “Sign the damn thing and make it rain cocaine.”

“My Man.” I high-fived Ike. He gazed at the contract, the pen in my hand and turned his blazing eyes on me.

“Whatcha waiting for? Make it rain cocaine.”

“But you’re all dead,” I said. “I’m not ready for that yet. I want a wife and kids before I go.”

Trumpets blew, and laughter filled the air as I fell through space and once again woke up in the alley behind the bar. How old was I now? Would I ever have a wife and kids? What was in the contract that woman wanted me to sign? Laughter filled the alley, and her glowing persona floated down from above.

“Sign here and you can have a wife and kids,” she said.

“That’s what I want more than living in the heaven of fame with musicians like me who loved their drugs until they died.” I signed the contract. She laughed and laughed. “What’s so funny?” I asked.

“I offered you fame and fortune, but you just sold your soul for something any man can have.” She settled on the ground took my arm to help me stand. “I’ll be your wife and they’ll,” she pointed to her hairy minions, “will be your kids.”

I wasn’t to upset until her metamorphism showed me she had long teeth, was hairy, and now I knew why her eyes were yellow and glowed in the dark like a wolf’s. Her hairy minions were really her pups. The full moon lit the alley and at that instant I howled with her and our cubs because it was in the contract.






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Alto Saxophone


Alto Saxophone

            In a little town in Illinois, in a bar near the Wisconsin border, I heard one man blowing his horn with honey-dripping sounds and watched a woman dance to the high alto saxophones drawn out cries. Her body swayed in time with the beat like melodic notes moving up and down the scale. I imagined blowing a song 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 sensuous dance. Things couldn’t have been any better until I got knocked out cold.

When I came around I could hardly open my eyes and my head hurt so bad I thought it would explode. Music played, but it was different now. Chanting came from the speakers in a language that I thought was Creole. I smelled incense burning. My eyes began to focus about the time I realized I was tied spread eagle to her bed wearing nothing at all.

Then I saw the black man from the bar playing his saxophone, filling the room with mellow and foreboding music, as he and six black women danced in a circle around the bed. The women accompanying him chanted to mystifying sounds emanating from the speakers.

Addressing the lady I had danced with, I croaked, “Brown Sugar,” but I couldn’t speak loud enough to be heard over the chanting. God, I’d give anything for a dozen aspirins to relieve the headache from the blow and all the noise. What the hell was going on?

Brown Sugar pulled back a curtain exposing an altar. The altar stood on four black marble pedestals, topped with an oblong piece of the same black marble. A large crucifix with Jesus on it turned upside down sat on top.

I’ve been captured by Satanists. What were they going to do to me? I struggled to free myself, but the ropes holding me were tied tight. I couldn’t move. Maybe they were only going to do a ceremonial ritual, and would set me free when it was over.

The sax player stood to one side of the altar and his instrument emitted a gruesome sound I never imagined a horn could make.

Brown Sugar, wore a blood red robe, and stood in front of the altar. She raised her voice and said,

I hereby invoke the Prince of Darkness,

The great Dragon of the bottomless pit

Who is the Bringer of Light

And Lord of the Earth.

Hear me, o mighty God of Hell!

Come forth from the black Abyss,”


The chanting and music drowned out most of her prayer, but I did hear her conclusion,

“My Lord and Master, come forth from Hell

And greet me as your servant and friend.

Join me as I conduct this service in your honor

Out of love and thankfulness for you.


She turned with her arms raised and for the first time I saw the gleaming, jeweled dagger that she held with two hands. Her eyes lit with passion as she walked toward me, followed by the others who continued with their chanting.

I had been taught that goodness always overcame evil, so I prayed, “Saint Michael the Archangel, defend me, be my protection against these wicked people and the Devil.”

A bright light filled the room. A man dressed in flowing white robes and wielding a shining sword appeared in front of the altar. One swipe of his sword severed the marble base. The altar crumbled to the floor, but not before he grabbed the crucifix, held it in front of him right side up and advanced toward the Satanists. The sax hit the floor as the man playing it ran out the door and all the others followed with screams of fear.

I waited for him to release me, but he set his sword and the crucifix on a table, picked up the saxophone thrown onto the floor, put it to his lips and started to blow into the horn. I expected to hear heavenly music from a horn played by an angel. Instead, the piercing notes that rolled out made me shrivel up inside.

A brighter light almost blinded me. A man dressed in regal red robes appeared in the center of the room. He too carried a saxophone. He stood in front of Saint Michael and said, “I’ll challenge you to a duel.” He pointed at me. “Whoever plays the best gets his soul.”

The man in red must be the Devil if he wanted to gamble for my soul. “Don’t do it,” I yelled to Saint Michael. “I know you want to save me, but I heard you play.”

“Ye of little faith, don’t you know if God wants your soul, I’ll play better than Satan.”

I didn’t have an answer for that. The Devil strode triumphantly around the room, bowed to Saint Michael and to me before he began to play. The sounds that came from his saxophone warmed my soul. I traveled through the beautiful universe on waves of heavenly music, until from the pleasurable sound, I began to cry. He finished and pointed to Saint Michael and said, “Your turn.”

St. Michael began to play. I didn’t believe that any music could top what Satan had played, but because it would be heaven sent, I expected it to be far superior. I prayed it would be. St. Michael fidgeted and fussed, put the sax to his lips, took a breath and blew into his instrument. The shrieking sound that came out sounded like it must have come straight from hell.

I knew then whose music I’d be hearing for eternity