My posts during April form part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. My theme this year is Jazz and I've selected a variety of classics from across the board. I've mixed up the performers a bit though ...
For the past couple of weeks, he'd seen her sitting there, on the bridge, come evening. She'd stay there till darkness started to fall, when she'd slowly, oh so slowly, unwind stiffly and pull herself up. Leaning on her stick, she'd stroll back towards town.
The first time he'd noticed her, he'd gone down there to throw himself over. But she'd been there and he just couldn't, not in front of a nice old lady. Now he'd calmed down, and had changed his mind. Now he found watching the river soothing. Maybe that's why she sat there too. He'd ask, the next time.
He arrived late the next day, but there was no sign of her, even though he stayed well into darkness. There was no sign of her in the days that followed either. His heart in his mouth, he went to the local Sheriff's office to ask. The Sheriff confirmed "Yes, we found a body. She was known locally. Her neighbours went out of town for a wedding a few days ago. It'll be sad news for 'em to come home to."
He asked for the neighbours' address and - much to his surprise - the Sheriff scribbed it down for him. He stopped by, one early evening and expressed his sorrow. Said she'd saved him, without even knowing. They invited him in and the story slowly unfolded. "Beth was the eldest and because she didn't nab herself a man real quick, she ended up caring first for her Mama and then her Papa. When they'd both passed on, she went away for a while. Met someone and fell in love. But he was married she said. So they'd just meet up, for one week, every year. But this year, he didn't turn up."
"You say, the day you were late, she wasn't there?" "Yes ma'am." "She was probably waiting for that day. Just like you, she didn't want to do anything upsetting in front of a nice young man like yourself. She was thoughtful like that. And she knew we'd be gone for a fortnight." They talked a little more about this 'n that, till he said he'd better be going. "We found this on our porch when we got back. She'd been listened to it every evening lately. I guess she decided she'd done with living and it was time for dying. Would you like it? I can't bear to hear it again."
Later that night, he recognised those words from the record he'd been given. He'd never really listened to Ol' Man River before ...
© 2017 Debra Carey
There'll be so many people upset that I didn't play Paul Robeson - and indeed, he is the man. But, as a great fan of opera singers doing good musicals, I simply couldn't resist Sir Willard White.
Written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein for the 1927 musical show boat, this is firmly from the negro spiritual side of the jazz tracks.
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