Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Jazz It Up

Lonnye Sue Sims Pearson

Veda slouched alone in the dingy booth way back in the darkest part of the room. Her rum and coke had run out along with her money. Nothing going on again tonight, she thought sadly. Smoke from her unfiltered Lucky Strike wound in blue-gray rings around her ebony curls and skittered into her eyes. She squinted and turned her head to exhale. This place is purely dead alright.

Big Sam wiped the bar as he kept one eye on the two young men shooting eight ball across the room. They were not regulars. The boys were loud, and Big Sam hated loud drunks. One of the boys' eyes darted around the smoky room as if he were watching for someone. They came in carrying beat up leather cases and headed directly to the pool table. Wonder what they're up to, Big Sam thought.

A few every-nighters sat at the bar lamenting the hot weather and lack of rain. Two couples plied the Wurlitzer with nickels but continued to sit by the open window and fan themselves, too hot to dance. Mostly, folks came to Big Sam's to get away from the drudgery of a mundane life, hoping to find Mr. or Miss Right or Mr. or Miss Right Now. Sometimes folks got lucky; sometimes they didn't. Usually they just got drunk and went home.

Suddenly, the door swung open and every head in the place turned at the squeak of the hinges on the old screen. The fine young man removed his felt hat and looked around arrogantly.

Here it comes, Big Sam thought as he eased down the length of the bar toward his .410 shotgun hidden under the counter. He glanced at the newcomers by the pool table and noticed the grins on their faces. Uh-huh! Got me some live ones tonight, sho'nuff! Big Sam rested his hand on the gun.

"Fingers" Thompson sauntered up to the overused and badly tuned upright piano. He eyed the keys lovingly and struck one note. Not too bad, he thought as he pulled the stool toward him with his foot. Let's see what this baby can do. As he sat down, he was joined by his cohorts - one carrying an alto sax, the other a trombone. They huddled a moment waiting for the Wurlitzer to stop.

"Fingers" Thompson's digits splayed over the keys as he practiced a few runs. Then a plaintive note by the sax introduced "Summertime," and the whole world started spinning for the first time right there in Big Sam's joint.

Veda sat up; the two couples by the window scraped their chairs around to get a better view. The every-nighters stopped complaining about the weather, and Big Sam's eyes widened. Now what have we here? By the time the trio jumped into "Gut Stomp," everyone was on their feet...the heat of the summer forgotten.

Tonight, Big Sam's was hoppin'!


Lonnye Sue Sims Pearson hails from the Mississippi Delta and currently teaches English in Wayne County, North Carolina. Writing has only recently become an obsession of hers; she finds that every little event has the potential of becoming immortalized through the written word. She has been published on the website of USA Deep South, where she is Associate Editor, and in the Mississippi magazine TomBigbee Country.

© Lonnye Sue Sims Pearson

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012