Step in another direction
“Is that David? It’s Kaz. Happy New year to you!”
“Wow, what a surprise, I’m so glad to hear from you. You too, Happy New Year and, most importantly, good health. And let’s start two thousand and two with the right foot.”
“I was just thinking about how we all first met. It was New Year’s, too. So I thought I’d give you a call.”
“That was a great idea. It’s been so long since we got together, that’s a shame. You still driving the bus?”
“I ended there shortly after you. We’re trouble-makers,” Kaz was laughing into the phone, “I drove forty in a school-zone. Thirty. So they rewarded me as the fastest driver, by giving me the opportunity to support the police with a hundred and fifty-dollar contribution. And they added a letter, saying they can’t afford to keep such a fast driver, so they bid me goodbye.”
“Kaz, when you put it that way, it sounds fantastic.”
“You know how it is. It sounds fantastic, but I wasn’t too excited. For some time I sold some goods door-to-door, but it didn’t go too well. So I started at a sport stadium as a janitor. I don’t know much about it, but so far it hasn’t shown so it’s alright.”
“And are you playing? Are you teasing the keyboard a little somewhere?”
“That’s also why I’m calling. I’m in touch with music still; they asked me from Warsaw – as a respected piano virtuoso, so they say – to write descriptive texts for CDs of classical piano. I’m really excited about it, they wanted me to send some recent photo, too, but I denied them that. They were hoping for someone good-looking and in tails, I’m sure.”
“That’s amazing! Kaz, that’s wonderful news. So they haven’t forgotten about you!”
“Looks like they haven’t. Now I’m cited in some catalogue, or maybe a digest, but what am I going on about here. I want to wish you a Happy New Year and also propose something to you.”
“Spill it. What do you have? The crazier, the better,” egged him on David.
“So I’m at the right address then. So listen up; you can punch me later, when we see each other. There’s an association or an organization of sorts that brings together magicians, occasional actors for kids and such….”
“You want to hire a magician for me!”
“You’re not that far off. Individual members can be hired by groups and private individuals for parties and so on. When they’re celebrating something, they ask for a magician or a comic, for instance.”
“But what does that have to do with us? Maybe if someone wanted a stripper.”
“David, even they have an organization. You have a shot, I’m sure,” laughed kaz, “but you’ll have to buy a whip and suspenders.”
“Thanks for the offer. I’ll take it only if you come see my performance.”
“Can’t do that then, I’m afraid. But I’ve got a better idea. Sven found a trumpet player and I might have a percussionist. It’s not for sure yet. I would need a portable keyboard, but we can get one for cheap at a pawn shop to start. I saw some good ones.”
“You think we would play?” David got excited.
“Of course. Gibson guitar, keyboard, saxophone, trumpet and maybe percussion. People could hire us through the association. Online, you see? We would have to give them some percentage of our earnings, but if nothing else, we’d be playing again. What do you say?”
“I’m in, I love it. We should have a name, too, and probably wear some specific outfit, to define ourselves a bit. It’s a fantastic idea.”
“I knew you’d be interested.” Kaz was just as thrilled as David, “I’d like it if you came with me to find that keyboard. I can’t be carrying a piano with me.”
“I’ve got an idea. Yes, we’ll find a keyboard. But in addition we can have our own website. So that we can have a bit of publicity.”
“You’re already getting in gear. I like it.”
“And another thing. Alice is working in the nursing home. Imagine if we could have a regular gig there.”
“David, you’re on a roll! The Principal of our band.” Kaz had played with the idea for a while, but didn’t dare suggesting it yet. Now he was a little sorry he didn’t mention it sooner. They should’ve done it a long time ago. But better late than never. They discussed a few more details, suggested the possible and the impossible, and then hung up.
“Alice, Alice,” David was calling out ecstatically, “it’s here.”
“What is it?” She was in the basement sorting laundry.
“Today at five Kaz is going to come over and we’ll go buy a keyboard. We’ll play. We’ll become members of the association and play for hire. It’s fantastic.”
“I was just thinking how lucky it was that your saxophone was a carry-on luggage and didn’t travel in the box. It would’ve been a rusty pipe now.”
“That’s a sign. We’re lucky,” David described their reality simply.
“I’ll hire you guys then,” laughed Alice.
“We’re counting on it.” David was glad that he could once again wake up the full voice of his saxophone, lift its eyelids a little. Immediately he went for his black case padded with red velvet and took out his instrument. He licked the reed and started. Carefully hanging the saxophone around his neck, David stood up straight with eyes almost closed, and began playing ‘Blueberry Hill’. The heavy, full tone filled the house. David was moving in rhythm, his cheeks welling and his eyes closed, and felt jazzy wonderful as he let himself be caressed by jazz’s balm. Alice sat down on the stairs to the basement, put the laundry basket beside her and listened.
In a few moments, Kazimierz rang the door-bell. He was the first guest in their house, not counting administrative visitors. He brought a bottle of wine and with it he’d brought a piece of Europe.
“But if we drink all this, we can’t go looking for a keyboard today. And also…, wait a moment…” David ran off to the basement, only to bring a second bottle a moment later, “…and if we get rid of this one too, we won’t even find the door.”
The house was modestly furnished, walls were still bare. They all sat down around their new kitchen table, Alice prepared some cheese and said: “Maybe if I help you with it. Some glasses survived – we’ll surely find three of them.”
“Make a note of this, Kaz, corkscrew is always unbreakable. That’s the wisdom of ages. Even if everything ends up in pieces, the corkscrew will make it through anything.”
“So let’s hang on to the corkscrew and we’ll be fine.”
They were laughing, drinking wine, telling stories and it was only that evening that they found out Kaz’s wife had left him after four years, when she’d had too much of their struggle. He was alone, and it seemed that the Říha family meant more to Kaz than just new acquaintances.
“But now tell me more about that association,” remembered David.
“What’s there to tell! Do you have a computer? Let’s have a look.”
“Kaz, we can’t look. We have wine, that’s true, but not yet a computer. It’s all in order of importance,” they were in a merry mood and could feel the effects of the wine. “…let’s do this. I’ll trap a live mouse somewhere and I’ll click it and you’ll start talking about the association. Better than the web!”
“Let’s pour another, then,” concluded Kaz, “you’ll blow into your sax…, you know, like a fanfare. An overture. Then we’ll go down two streets. Down, not up. There’s a café and in there we can click on the association. They have a computer there.” They were beginning to slur a little, “my friend, blow into that pipe.”
“Alright then, Kaz, but we have to keep it bent, that saxophone…let’s not try and straighten it, ok?”
They were excited about the idea of a new opportunity ahead of them and about moving forward. David reached for his sax, squinted a little, awkwardly licked his reed and began ‘Rock My Soul’. Perfect, crisp, without making a single mistake. Kaz went into the kitchen to find some spoons to accompany David. They felt elated and happy. Neither of was alone. They formed a team.
“Let’s go to the café. It’s time.”
“Alright, go on, but be careful. You know they’d arrest you without humor,” alerted them Alice.
“Straight like an arrow, Alice. Like an arrow!”
They headed out, attempting to walk as straight as they could. They almost burst out laughing but nevertheless tried to hold it together.
“You have to walk in front of me, Kaz, because…, because you’ve got beautiful legs.” Kazimierz cackled.
“Ok, maybe I can roll up my pants and show my magnificent calves, then.”
“No no, stop, watch out over there, the police. They’d put us away forever,” noticed the looming threat David. They instinctively stopped, well aware that it was less risky. Kaz pretended to be giving David directions. The police cruiser passed them and disappeared around the corner. Both of them broke into a jovial laughter and continued towards the internet café. David grabbed Kaz around the shoulder and declared: “I’m an electrical robot, programmed. I’m leading you. Leading you towards good.” They chuckled at every word, as the wine fully hit them now. Their step was uncertain, but they managed to close the door of the café just as the police car reappeared around the bend. They’d escaped by a hair.
“Look here, David,” invited him Kaz when they sat down in front of the keyboard, “let’s type it into the search here, momento, momento!” They were talking loudly, causing others to turn heads. David was sitting next to Kaz and intently stared at the monitor.
“Here it is. See? Entertainment right to your door, artists in your own living room. There.” Kazimierz browsed hyperlinks and surfed back and forth through the site, “here’s a list of activities…, and here…we have to register.”
“Let’s do it right away, then,” advised David.
“Why not? Of course, why not! We’ll see right away if they’ve got something for us.” As he clicked, they were welcomed by a request for initial payment, “I could’ve expected that. But it’s not that bad. I’ve got a credit card on me,” offered immediately Kaz.
“I’ll give you half in cash. Here it is,” David pulled out a fifty and gave it to Kaz. They registered, paid and became legitimate members of the Association. Easy.
“What’s this?” David was reading on, “we’re supposed to describe our group somehow. Who we are and where we belong. So click here. Music productions. Style, select Jazz. What else. And now…type…,” the wine had lent them a carefree attitude and jovial audacity. David was dictating, …hot pulse of live music by professional musicians…yeah that sounds good. Professional musicians with experience on European stages. Wait a sec….Europe’s most prestigious stages. Instrumental composition with piano that firmly sets course…sure, leave that there…saxophone with its characteristically rich color, percussion keeping solid beat….”
“David, you’re a poet!”
“I know…, let’s keep going…solid beat, Gibson guitar softens the rhythm…with penetrating trumpet…it is the optimal composition ensuring colorful sound and extensive range of repertoire.” Kaz finished writing, leaned back and proudly turned to David.
“We’ve got that part down. Except we forgot to tell Sven.”
“He’ll love it….Kaz, have a look, something came up here. Another. What is it? Those are offers!” Their concentrated work at the computer cleared their heads, but their enthusiasm remained, “…so it works. Look, these are matches with customers’ requests.”
“So click on one. What is it?”
The screen revealed the name of a client interested in a two-hour performance of traditional jazz. David, amazed, leaned back in his chair, throwing up his hands. He looked at Kazimierz and again at the monitor.
“Are you reading what I’m reading?” asked David, “maybe I need to sober up or have another glass. Take a look at who wants us! So let’s play for them. They want two hours of traditional jazz. Kaz, click on it, to confirm we’ll do it.”
“Hang on a minute, we don’t have the trumpet and percussion yet. We can’t accept it. We don’t even know how we sound together. Two hours! It has to work, or the Association will kick us out.”
“But it’s in three weeks. If they’re musicians with jazz in their heart, they won’t need much practice. You know what I mean, Kaz. The player’s hands are but a…vehicle. But we’re playing here!” and tapped his chest, “if the other two are the same, it’ll jive just fine.”
“You think so? Are we doing it? Do we dare to play for this client?”
“More than for anyone else. Click on it, Kaz.”
One more time he glanced at David, then at the monitor and clicked. The order was confirmed.