Sunday, January 25, 2015

A man at the counter, Led Zeppelin, and time on his hands.

    The two AM to five AM shift at the radio station allowed Maxwell the time to think about things. He had put on a long set of tunes and had stepped to the big window to watch the snow falling. The station was empty except for the night cleaning crew.  Actually it was just an old man who swept a bit and cleaned the one toilet. The old man usually was on his way out when Maxwell arrived.  Ralph said he was waiting for his wife to come get him and because of the snow, she was late.
     Watching the snow made Maxwell remember the night he got this job. He had worked other jobs, living modestly and saving money when he could.   He sometimes took time off to take a break and travel. Living at Dreamwood Terrance had made it easy to save money and he had just returned from a trip to Greece when he happened to be in the diner late one evening and the radio was playing a jazz tune.
     After the song was over, the DJ went  through the list of songs, and to Maxwell's surprise, the DJ misnamed 4 of the 5 songs he played.  The last one song was Miles Davis' Milestones, but he said that the song was a Charlie Mingus number, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. The DJ wasn't even close.
      For some reason, Maxwell was irritated with the DJ's complete incompetence and decided right then and there to call in.  The diner, at 2:30 in the morning, was empty except for one other man sitting a couple of seats down at the counter.  Maxwell pulled out his phone, dialed the number.  The radio was now playing a Doors song, he knew that the DJ would have time to talk.
     "Hello, no, I don't want to request anything other than you stating the name of the songs correctly." Maxwell said. "Yes, you did. Knocking on Heaven's Door was not sung by Jimi Hendrix, but, in this version was Bob Dylan, the man who actually wrote the song. Many people think Eric Clapton wrote it, but they are wrong, just as you are right now." Maxwell was getting more irritated at the tone of the DJ voice.  "And the second song--" before Maxwell could finish, the DJ hung-up the phone.  Maxwell jerked the phone from his ear and stared at it.
     "He's an idiot."  The guy at the end of the counter said in a rather tired voice. "But I can't pay very much for the late night shift and he was the best I could do." Maxwell looked down the counter at him. "He's probably halfway through the bottle he stashes in under the records. And the man has scratched half the collection." The guy at the counter sighed, and took another sip of his coffee, then looked at Maxwell and said.  "You want a job, you seem to know something, at least more than the idiot who works for me, about music."
     "Sure." Maxwell surprised himself at his quick response.
      The snow was really coming down now.  The phone started ringing.  "Hello? Do you have a request?"
       "Yes, yes I do.  It is 3:21 in the morning and I cannot sleep because I have a song stuck in my mind that Guitar Red was singing rather poorly today and I cannot get the song or his voice from my mind."
      "Well, do you want to hear the song or something else?"
      "The song, please, A Stairway to Heaven by--"
      "Zeppelin, yes, Led Zeppelin, no problem."
      "Could you play it at 3:30.  I shall be back in bed by that time and I am hoping that once the song is played, I will be able to sleep.  I must get-up early to get to my job at the retirement home."
       "Of course, 3:30, no problem,  thanks for calling in."
       "You are welcome.  Thank you for playing the song. Remember, 3:30."
       "Got it" Maxwell looked at his phone.  3:27. He quickly moved to the collections, carefully removed the the record, placed it on the player. He turned the volume up on the house speakers. As the flutes followed the sole guitar, Maxwell returned to the window to watch the falling snow. The white blanketed the empty streets covering cars, light polls, curbs. The snow really started coming down as he watched. It was so stark, so beautiful.  He hoped the woman had fallen back to sleep and wished that he could sleep, too. He looked at his phone, 3:36.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Mr. Phelps, Vincent, and all that glitters is gold

He stood looking at his floor that now looked like the night sky.  A small pile of silver glitter lay near the window and trailed back toward the door.  As Maxwell stood gazing in the morning light that filtered through his one, large living room window, he felt like the night sky had miraculously transposed itself onto his floor. Somehow, the night before, the window became slightly ajar and the glitter had gently drifted and spread.  He blamed it on the cat. 

“The Pleiades,” he thought as he wandered around the room looking at the glitter. It caught the morning sun and sparkled onto the walls. He was careful to avoid stepping in it.  “Seven sisters, and… well…” He paused. Stepping over the line that trailed to the door, he decided he needed a tune to inspire the morning’s star gazing.  He carefully put the needle down on Don Mclean’s “Vincent.”  Piano rifts followed him around as he tried to figure out what the line looked like.  “Orion’s Belt, maybe?” He startled himself because he didn’t think he was talking out loud.  “Three kings, seven sisters, seems to fit.” He said, to no one in particular.

His cat, Mr. Phelps, lifted his head when Maxwell spoke.   The music didn't bother him and he could sleep through most of it, but he wasn’t use to Maxwell talking, so he opened his blue, Siamese eyes.  He had just retired to the chair in the sun after the startling events from the previous night.  She came in so quickly and quietly that Mr. Phelps didn’t notice her until she bumped into the corner of the table. He moved with equal silence to the upper shelves of the record collection to watch the intruder.

Maxwell looked up at the cat and said, “Well, Mr. Phelps, all my star gazing on the rooftop has paid off.” He loved the night sky. Most nights, before work, he was up on the roof gazing through the cheap telescope someone had long forgotten.  Today, he was disappointed that the telescope had plunge, inexplicably to it's death.  Maxwell wanted it back. 

As he dozed on the couch, he remembered watching the meteor shower from the night before.  He smiled.  “A starry, starry night, Mr. Phelps, a starry night, Vincent.” Before slipping off to sleep, he looked at the thick swirls from the Van Gogh print hanging from the wall.