The door swung behind Sasha, pushing a cloud of cold air into the muggy afternoon. That had to be the worst thing about rejection–returning to the heat. She pushed a hank of hair out of her eyes and started walking towards the river.
She needed to drown her sorrows at Maspero’s with a platter of fried alligator and an Abita Amber. Three months in New Orleans and she ate like a native.
Sasha had come seeking inspiration from the city; it was the birthplace of jazz, after all. She sought out auditions in the nightclubs and bars that peppered the French Quarter. She should have known better after her new friends had laughed her off the stage during a performance at The Cat’s Meow. Shamed, she had slunk back among the neon lights of Bourbon Street, the smell of soured alcohol fresh in her nostrils. However, she possessed a remarkable perseverance and was back to begging for auditions the very next day.
Usually when she had a bad day such as this, Sasha would mope around her apartment, eating triple chocolate oatmeal cookies and watching trash tv. Unfortunately, inspiration does not come in the form of DNA tests and love triangles. What Sasha really wanted was to talk to some of the greats of music: Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington… But all of them were dead; not a one had a gravesite she could visit in New Orleans. This revelation usually caused Sasha to add ice cream to her menu. Pralines ‘n’ cream was a personal favorite.
During her meal at Maspero’s, something in Sasha snapped. She was tired of wallowing in self pity. She decided to call her friend Brandy, another dejected musician. The two of them made plans to go out that night. Sasha had been wanting to go on a ghost tour for months and Brandy was more than happy to join her.
After the tour was over, Sasha and Brandy wandered around the French Quarter. Their spirits were jolly, partially due to the drinks they had been bought at the haunted bar. Stumbling down St. Philip, they noticed a small shop not far from the corner. Brandy pulled Sasha towards it by her sleeve.
“Come on! They do readings… it’ll be fun!”
Ten minutes later, Sasha was seated across from an older woman in a gray dress. She pointed at the last card on the table.
“Usually the chariot here means you are moving forward…”
Sasha grinned. “Does this mean I’ll be getting my big break?” She reached for the card.
The woman pushed Sasha’s hand away. “But dis here card’s blocked. It means you have no idea what you are doing.”
Sasha slumped in her chair. She rummaged in her pocket, pulling out a couple of worn twenties to give to the woman.
“I guess I’m going nowhere then. Maybe I should just give up.”
The woman patted Sasha’s hand and nodded to herself. “You wait here, child.”
The woman darted in the back room and came out holding a white candle.
“You take dis candle to Cemetery Number One and light it by Marie’s grave. She’ll help you.”
Sasha and Brandy caught a cab down to the cemetery. Their cab driver had an unidentifiable accent; a native of New Orleans would of warned them of the danger of wandering cemeteries at night. They paid him and quickly searched for the grave the woman mentioned so they could light the candle. Sasha didn’t believe it would really do anything, but every little bit helped. The sooner they lit the candle, the sooner they could get out of the creepy graveyard.
Sasha and Brandy found the grave, laughing a bit over the offerings and drawings covering it. They lit the candle, then looked at each other. Sasha shrugged her shoulders and blew out the candle. She walked with Brandy down to Congo Square where her friend caught a cab. She walked the rest of the way to her apartment on Royal Street.
Unlocking her door, she could swear she hear her piano playing. Great, the neighbors are going to complain. As she walked through the door, a woman began to sing. Her voice sounded familiar, but it was only when the scatting began that Sasha knew who she was. Ella. Her heart quickened and she practically ran to the dinette where her piano sat in a corner. Duke Ellington sat at its keys, his fingers finding the notes effortlessly. Ella Fitzgerald sat at the table where Benny Goodman prepared to carve a standing rib roast.
“Welcome, Sasha. We were just about to eat. We’d love for you to join us. Come on, sit.”
Duke stopped playing and took a seat at the table.
“Sit next to me,” he said, patting the wicker chair next to him.
Benny began serving everyone as he talked to Sasha.
“You have great potential, Sasha. I think you are going to be quite the star.”
Sasha blushed. She wasn’t quite used to someone talking positively about her music.
“But there is always some sacrifice in success. There is something you must do first,” he said, a peculiar glint in his eye.
Something wasn’t right. The look of their eyes was off, their mannerisms stilted. Not to mention the knife in Benny’s hand. Then Sasha noticed Ella’s legs.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, challenged me with “Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and you sit down to dinner together. ” and I challenged Mediocre Wayne with “Find one of your oldest and worst poems; rewrite it as a well-developed piece of prose.”Did you enjoy reading Birth and Death and Jazz? Maybe not? I love constructive criticism. Tell me what you liked and what parts I can improve on. You can also subscribe to The Ant Colony by email