Thursday, September 23, 2010


Please click play for some mood music

He played amid the smoke-filled room.

The rumor was that Sam got his job because he looked like Bogart. Distractingly so. In fact, he usually told the dolls in Toot's Shor's Place that he was once Bogie's stand-in on the Warner Bros. lot. And they ate it up. As usual.

This new one, though, -- Virginia -- was different. She didn't buy Sam's cock-and-bull act and, on occasion, even went out of her way to give him the icy shoulder. A girl has her reputation after all.

From the tiny coat check closet, she'd stare at him every night and after a few months of googly eyes, Sam mustered enough nerve to ask Virginia to accompany him after hours and watch him play. At first she refused but eventually she felt comfortable. Especially with those sad eyes.

She'd sit on the piano, like a siren who sang for the torches, and he'd lay it on extra thick. And it wasn't long before they became bonafide friends.

They'd talk about gossip of the day -- everything from the death of Fletcher Henderson and some new book called "Seven Years in Tibet" to the merits of leading men like Gregory Peck and Cary Grant. It all jived.

One night, they dented a bourbon bottle pretty good and the boozy piano banter got somewhat heavy.

"I have something to tell you," Virginia said, eyes watery. "I haven't been completely honest."

He stopped playing.

She told Sam that she finally heard from her fiance after too many silent months in Korea. Victoria said that she expected the worst and knew of too many men who never walked through their front doors ever again. She told Sam that she was sorry but she just needed someone to be close to. Just in case.

Sam lit another cigarette and began playing "Autumn in New York."

# # #

About a week later, the soldier showed up at the bar in uniform. He had flowers under one arm and a box of chocolates under the other. Sam watched Virginia hug him for what seemed to be five minutes.

Sam wasn't a tough guy so he just kept playing. He stared at the soldier and his stripes. That's the measure of a man, he thought. He deserved her. The soldier probably had a life plan that didn't include smoky after-hours chit-chat in dimly-lit big piano bars. Virginia and her soldier eventually left.

He went on for an hour or so, tickling those ivories in the dark, thinking of Virginia and her own ivories that he'd never have the opportunity to tickle. Sam went on, watching the janitor sweep and bartender wash glasses -- all the while writing Virginia symphonies that she'd never hear.

He played amid the smoke-filled room. And when he wrote the perfect arrangement, he went home, almost happy that he didn't even write it down.

Art: The incredible Robert McGinnis. Music: "Autumn in New York" by Jonah Dempcy. Download it HERE.

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  1. One of my favorite movies. If only I ever got hired because I reminded somebody of Bogart - I'd either be flattered or insufferable.

    At the end there - did you mean he was "so" happy that he almost didn't write it down?

  2. Yes, John, his way of dealing with that pain...

  3. I know when I come to see you, you're going to have something tinted black and white and fine tune to boot. This was fine like good wine Ant. Pleasure.

  4. Another great story, Anthony, accompanied by some great mood music. You write this era really well and I'm wondering when you're going to do something longer??

    Have a great weekend, my friend.

  5. Anthony, another fine tale from a bygone era. Love the line "...thinking of Victoria and her own ivories that he'd never have the opportunity to tickle."
    Fine work, as always!

  6. Great music to accompany this gem. No one creates mood like you do.

  7. great mood, voice and just a hint of remorse from the faux Bogey. nice one ant.

  8. About halfway thought this I started to hear Tom Waits 'Invitation To The Blues'.

    Wonderful work.

  9. Picture, music, words - all work together to make this marvelous.

  10. I visualized it in black and white as I read it. Well done Ant - the mood, the flow of the story, the characters and descriptions. Excellent story.

  11. wonderful, simply wonderful. I think this may just be my favourite thing of yours I've read. A real soft & tender side to it.

    Marc Nash

  12. The ol' story of the one that got away. The last line summed the whole thing up so well. This was a terrific read.

  13. I love the way this flows and feels-- excellent tone you've got here!

  14. Every time I think I've seen my favorite piece of yours, you create another, more spectacular one.

    This is completely sublime. Love it.

    When are you putting these together in a book? (With a musical compilation, of course, to preserve the magnificent effect.)

    I adore this story.

  15. I wish there was something original and clever I could say that hasn't already been said in these comments. Like the rest of your many fans, I never get tired of your stylish little story gems.

    Oh, and they're always *real* stories. Nice.

  16. Nailed it again, Anthony -- the feel, the grit, the smoke-choked atmosphere... all brilliantly captured. Amazing work you do, man. Amazing.

  17. Good story, and a great bittersweet ending. Sometimes all you can do is play it out.

  18. Damn...that's all i can. a damned fine story.

  19. You are really mastering the mood music. That was perfect. Loved the whole thing, but especially the last line which you just knocked out of the park. Some things are better left in the mind.

  20. Mr. Smooth strikes again. That was perfect Ant, all the way around. But what would Uncle Buck say if he saw you classing up the joint like that?

    Who cares? I loved it! :)

  21. Awe... so smooth, you paint that era well. you even that noir touch upfront, then mellow into a lyrical ending. Nice stuff, Mister A! Peace...

  22. What a tale of heartbreak, Ant. Just when things were looking up for the guy. "...went out of her way to give him the icy shoulder." Loved that line. BTW, you must have changed her name when writing this because it jumped from Virginia to Victoria a couple of times.

  23. Love it Ant! You always paint the perfect mood, and this one, though poignant, was really quite relaxing. I literally felt my "too keyed up" muscles relaxing.

    Add me to the list of "gimme the book"!

  24. Really like the last two sentences, they leave the reader with a powerful feeling of aching.

  25. You always manage to show the emotions that your characters are feeling so clearly that you can feel their pain. It's like being there and watching the scene unfold. Wonderful.


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