AUTHOR’S NOTE: Here’s another foray into the wonderful world of flash fiction. Up at Flash Fiction Friday, this week’s theme was: You arrange for a weekend getaway at a friend’s cabin in the country, but Mother Nature decides to extend your stay with a blizzard. You’re trapped. Tell us what happens.
So, without further ado… enjoy!
Birth of a Cool Love
‘Wow, it is coming down hard.’
Tina stood in the dining room looking out at the large backyard. The entire field, which was emerald green the last time I’d been here, was now covered with snow. Same for the frozen lake. The mountain beyond it hid behind a white veil of large snow flakes. Tall, majestic fir trees adorning its flank swayed in the wind.
Wayne and I sat in the den, facing the fire. I ran through the keys to a song which Wayne had written earlier. I couldn’t get it to where I wanted it to be, and we’d been trying to fix it for the past hour.
‘Well, it better stop soon.’ Wayne stood and went to join his woman. ‘We can’t have them shutting down the airport. London awaits.’
He wrapped Tina in his arms, kissed her neck. I closed my eyes and blew into my trumpet.
We’d arrived at Wayne’s Palace on Friday morning. His palace – that’s what he called the mansion by the lake he’d bought with the money from our first record. Wayne insisted that we come out here to work on our next album, even if we were set to fly to London on Sunday.
He had insisted, he said, because he was feeling it. He was in a good place.
I wish I shared that feeling.
‘Ben, you want another beer?’ Wayne called from the kitchen.
‘Sure,’ I said and opened my eyes. Tina looked at me, embarrassed. She broke the eye contact and scurried away.
We kept hammering at the song for hours. Wayne played with the lyrics and the music, and I tried them out, in vain. Our frustration grew with every note change.
‘Why don’t you guys call it a night,’ Tina suggested. ‘It’s late.’
I looked at the clock. Half past two.
‘Good idea,’ I said, rising from the couch. ‘I’m beat. See you in the morning.’
I looked back to the den as I climbed the stairs. Wayne was trying to pull Tina down onto his lap. She resisted, insisting it was time to go to bed.
‘I like that idea,’ he said with a wide grin.
I couldn’t get to bed fast enough.
Daylight found its way through a slit in the window drapes and onto my face a little before noon.
The house was quiet. The only sound came from the howling wind outside. I could see enough of what was going on outside to tell that the snow was still coming down hard.
Please, don’t let the airport shut down. I need to get out of here.
After slipping out of bed, I put on a pair of pants and an old t-shirt.
Outside the room, the air was frigid. My feet froze at the touch of the bare hardwood.
Down the hall, the door to Wayne’s room was closed.
I took my time going down the wooden steps, careful not to wake the lovebirds.
In the fireplace, the fire was dead. The cold had settled in. In the kitchen, I found a quart of orange juice in the fridge and poured myself a glass.
As I walked over to the den, intent on reviving the fire, I heard light footsteps over my head.
Tina stepped out of her room, closed the door behind her, and went into the bathroom.
I poked the hot coals to get the going, then set a new log on top. The fire caught just as Tina stumped down the stairs.
‘Good morning,’ she whispered from behind the couch.
I turned to her and offered a weak smile. As beautiful as she was when she dressed up for an awards show or a stroll down the red carpet, she looked even better au naturel. Her eyelids still glued together. Her hair all messed up.
All she had on was one of Wayne’s t-shirts. Maybe a pair of panties.
‘What’s so good about it?’
She smiled and joined me in front of the fire. We let its warmth heat us.
I let her scent invade my nostrils. It was mesmerizing. Titillating. When we were this close, I did not need a fire to warm me.
Tina touched my arm and turned me to face her. She smiled. Our mouths were inches apart. I felt her hot breath on my face.
‘I’m so sorry, Ben,’ she said. ‘I hate this just as much as you do.’
‘Don’t, Tina,’ I whispered without so much as an ounce of conviction.
Ignoring me, she tilted her head and brought her lips to mine.
‘Tina,’ I pleaded, and stepped back.
Her hand reached out and brushed my crotch. ‘I miss you, Ben.’
Our eyes met again as a loud thud coming from upstairs broke the silence.
‘Fuck!’ Wayne yelled out.
Tina sighed. She let her hand linger on my hand before shuffling off to the kitchen. I could feel her eyes on me as I returned my attention to the fire. It was fading fast, so I fed it a couple of newspaper balls.
Wayne stumbled loudly down the stairs. ‘Did you see all that snow? There must be, like, three feet of it, man! Let’s have a snow fight!’
I looked over my shoulder at him. He was smiling like a kid given a bottomless bowl of candy.
‘Where’s Tina?’ he asked.
I nodded. ‘Kitchen.’
My eyes followed Wayne as he stepped gingerly to the kitchen. His girlfriend was at the coffee maker, watching the water drip into a bright mug with a hand-painted heart on its side.
‘There you are, my love.’
Wayne walked up to Tina and playfully smacked her behind. He spun her around and pulled her into a prolonged hug.
An enraged Tina glared at me.
I cleared my throat. ‘I’ll get us some more firewood.’
There’s something about snow falling that puts me at ease. Unlike a heavy rain storm, or a thunderstorm, a snow storm is usually calm. Growing up in Quebec, I had my share of chances to sit by the window all day long watching the flakes dance in the sky. It does wonders for your soul.
This storm, however, was anything but calm.
The wind was howling, twisting the fluffy flakes in tornado-like cyclones. My thin jacket didn’t have a chance against this cold.
I looked off in the distance to the shed where the firewood was stored. It was all the way at the end of the yard, right next to the path which led down to the lake shore. Maybe 200 feet away.
Any other day, this wouldn’t have been a problem. But today, there was the small matter of the three feet of snow on the ground.
I tried running through it, lifting my knees way up so I wouldn’t sink. But it didn’t work.
So I walked to the shack. What should have taken a minute or two took at least ten. But I finally made it.
I piled some logs on a plastic sled which we kept for that purpose and began the trek back to the house.
I heard the yelling before I opened the door.
Wayne stood in the entrance to the kitchen with his back to me. I couldn’t see Tina, but I heard her crying. Shards of her shattered coffee cup littered the floor.
I shut the door, and Wayne turned toward me. His blood shot eyes were wet. A coffee stain the size of Rhode Island decorated the front of his shirt.
‘Is it true?’ he asked me, shaking his head.
Holy fuck! Had she? Had she told him?
‘What?’ I asked. ‘Is what true, Wayne?’
Tina appeared from the dining room. Tears ran down her red cheeks. She glanced at me, then quickly looked away.
‘You fucking prick,’ Wayne said. ‘You ungrateful, traitorous, backstabbing son-of-a-bitch. After everything I did for you.’
I held up both hands. ‘Let me explain, Wayne.’
His smile dripped with fierce hatred. ‘Oh, spare me the soap opera lines, Ben.’ He looked from me to her, then back to me. ‘Fucking rat.’
Wayne darted toward me. I balled my fists and planted my feet, ready for him. This wouldn’t be our first fight.
Turns out he only wanted to reach the stairs.
I relaxed as Wayne ran upstairs to his room.
Tina hadn’t moved. She sobbed quietly. I went to her and whispered her name, but she wouldn’t budge. She reacted when I nudged her softly.
‘Did he hurt you?’
Tina shook her head. ‘I had to tell him, Ben. His hands on me,’ she sobbed, ‘I can’t take it anymore.’
When I pulled her into my arms, she rested her head on my shoulder. ‘It’s okay, Tina.’
A million thoughts raced through my head.
This whole thing was so sudden, so unexpected, that I couldn’t quite believe it was happened.
I’d finally gotten the girl. After all these years of watching her walk into his hotel suite instead of mine. All those nights I’d tossed and turned wondering if she was making love to him. If she enjoyed it. If she would enjoy it better with me.
There would be no more of that.
The sound of Wayne’s crazy laugh snapped me out of my reverie.
He was standing at the bottom of the stairs, watching us with a huge grin on his face. He’d gotten dressed and his duffel bag was slung over his shoulder.
‘How cute,’ he said. ‘The proverbial fucking knight in shining armor rescues the princess.’ Wayne scoffed as he shrugged on his coat. ‘I hope you’re happy.’
Wayne turned to leave, then stopped and looked over his shoulder at me.
‘Do you know a good trumpeter? A spot just opened up.’
This story’s title was inspired by the title of a classic record by one of the greatest trumpet players ever, Mr. Miles Davis.
Birth of the cool was released in 1957 on Capitol Records.
It features such legendary musicians as Lee Konitz (alto sax), Gerry Mulligan (barytone sax), and Max Roach on drums.
To read more about this record, go here.