The Rumor That Reached West Virginia
There are heavier things to carry than the moon alone: Like bricks. And there are things lighter to be dropped than a fistful of feathers: Like a note of music sound. Your average red brick is as heavy, as a disciplined note of music is light. Ever hauled bricks? Well, trust me and try not to. But moons, satellites and all that, they're nothing; welcomed easy overtime, and weightless, to boot. Try cinderblocks, two of'em under each arm, with some hick Ohian boss with a Kentucked bend on his tongue to egg you through it, "Truck to yard, Truck to yard, Hurry, you shit, Truck to yard." It was my father who learned me to lift with my legs and not my spine, and that is one piece of advice I dare not disregard. Not when carrying cement, or true heaviness in any form, do you keep straight legs. When fucking, my father said, feel free to use all of your back you can. But when lifting other than a woman's ass closer to your crotch, be smart and use your legs. This was my father's last bit of lesson before he fled from the only thing the rest of us knew. That town, I mean by that. Dad had met a jazzman at the bar one night, made good with him real natural, fast and all, and drunkenly agreed to carry this stranger's horn and keep him from troubles through upcoming tour. Getting a wage for this, a fine one, he said. Our father was a man to be trusted, and it was no surprise he had landed this sort of luck/work. I was not surprised, my mother wasn't surprised, and everyone else in town couldn't have cared less. So he followed the jazzman across the embarkment plank and onto a ship for France. I, myself, had just begun hauling blocks at regular wage for the local masons, and at first thought I might do wrong somehow and snap my back. With my father gone, I thought I may just forget during a daydream or during a glance at the passing cars outside the fence. But once you're told, you're told. To carry something correct is one of the Lord's most vigorous demands. And if you failed, well, you've been told. Plain and simple: You'd been told.
We were sure, Mom and all of us, that dad was gone for good. We all thought, Bye. But instead, for just two months he stayed gone. At the time, us kids and Mom knew little about music, listeners of music, or musicians themselves. We reckoned it strange religion, and so kept it at bay. You couldn't blame us. No one could nor can. None of us ever danced or even tried to do anything but walk with our legs, besides carry. Aside from screeching tunes between Sunday skits on the radio set, music had yet to make any of us alive. Ten years later, flipping through my collection of black circles, I began to get why dad would leave to carry another man's swolled golden whistle. It wasn't cinderblocks, I'll give you that, but I bet you all, and I bet you now, that that slobbery bronze conch was heavier on the mind in tote than balancing four cinders on a left lifted calf.
Mr. Chet Baker (the man's name who hired him) had taken our dad from us, and off with him to Europe to blow 10 or 12 shows in the then-friendly countries before falling to his death, at forty years of age, as dad watched. Story goes, in mid-laugh, so hard it wheezed, Mr. Chet Baker tumbled backwards, from pure accident, from and out of a tenth floor hotel window in the Netherlands. My father was there and my father he saw. He told us he was saddling a kitchen chair backwards, two feet from Mr. Chet Baker's face, getting him to shine those teeth he rarely shone. At just that second, my father says. Just that second. (He kept saying that before he got to the facts.) In fact, it was my father who had mouthed the word (a mimic of a French female fan at the concert the night before that sounded as if she were screaming, "Shit!" rather than, "Chet!"), my dad had mouthed the word that sent Mr. Chet Baker's head back laughing, that sent Mr. Chet Baker to grab at his gut, that sent him to lose his balance of ass on that all-too-thin window ledge, and delivered Mr. Chet Baker into a fall to fly a slow backwards swan at the rained on street below. He died on landing. No blood seeped, said dad. A quick death, as it should be, looking as handsome as he ever had looked but would never look again. His body curled and shaped a white note of music on the black paper street below. My father says they all sat around the window for five minutes before Mr. Chet Baker's wife looked out to see whether he had really fallen or just flown away as he always promised her he would someday do. So: there was no suicide. The musical man, that took our dad across the ocean, was brimming with a love spawned from jazz, the only thing that let him walk the way he wished to walk. Anything ugly to be done on purpose was years, miles, and many women away for the jazzman. My father told me all this. And, yes, I believe every damn word. Know why? Because he told us he too looked out from the window to see the broken man. And he said that the entire history of broken glass embedded in the cement by pedestrian heavy feet, all those glassy slivers surrounding the jazzman's body, they shined brilliant to his eyes ten floors above. A distant thing, made of light and light only, had come and had carried the music man safely away. There wasn't sadness, says dad. Just silence. Plus an emotion yet unnamed.
With Mr. Baker dead, dad came home. He quit work altogether, and spent his last lazy years buying jazz records with the money I earned from six in the a.m. to six in the p.m. He spun those black circles all through the night, knowing I couldn't sleep but laid awake listening with all ears from my bed just up the stairs. I figure it a tale that most would call beautiful. Or do they say rare these days instead? But now, much later, with my arms thick from lugging stones those years, I swing those same arms and spread those records out like a pretty bird's tail. And I, on bended knee, and I, on the dark pine floor, dare each and every one of you to beat a sweet brown beauty of a story like the one my dad brought home from Europe to us. Oh, I guess it's Beautiful. Or do they say rare these days? Rare as the moon, and easy as light of the sun. Come across a dead young man to know the dead man won.
About the author:
Gian-Carlo DiTrapano lives in New York, but he misses Rome very much. Since July, he is always obsessing over the 4 words MORS TUA VITA MEA. If they (the 4 words) do not stop rolling over and over behind his eyes by the time he turns 29, he will make something of it (the rolling).