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Blintzes in Birdland

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by newsmanfan, Jun 4, 2011.

  1. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    AUTHOR'S PREFACE: I wrote this last night strictly to try and cheer up an MC member who's been under the weather...no other reason.
    Any errors in canon are unintentional and should be overlooked. : >)
    The Count likes this.
  2. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

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    Admittedly, the sax player wasn’t the most observant person when it came to his surroundings. His life was his music. Everything else, he’d either learned to let slide by without troubling him, or simply felt wasn’t necessary to deal with unless it directly affected him. Dr Teeth had praised his coolness once, remarking that Zoot just let life “slide off him like water over a turtle in the bayou.” It wasn’t a bad analogy: turtle-like, Zoot typically only stuck his head out of the fog to see what his bandmates were doing. He was attentive to the rest of the Electric Mayhem, in his own, laid-back way, and they all accepted his quiet nature after so many comfortable years performing and living in close quarters. Even so, he did sometimes become aware of changes to his environment, particularly if said change became a repetitive thing…and the girl who started hanging around the back loading dock did draw his attention. Especially on the night he came out back after a show and heard the sweet sounds of someone doing a fairly good rendition of “Charlie Parker’s Blues.”

    The sax sounded soft and true as the girl played, alone and unaware of anyone else around in the alley behind the Muppet Theatre. Zoot stopped, listening, nodding to himself. If he’d had his own instrument on him he’d have joined in, but it was safe in its case inside the theatre right then. Instead, he merely studied the player, until she hit a false note, stopped, took a deep breath and tried again from the last bar. She reached the same note and again was just slightly off; most people wouldn’t have been able to even tell the difference, but Zoot knew the note was a touch too high, and so did the girl. She sighed, lowering the reed from her lips, and Zoot spoke up, surprising both of them: “I hate those sharp notes too. Just adjust your fingering a little.”

    “Oh!” the girl exclaimed, clutching her alto sax tightly, eyes widening as she saw the musician standing on the loading dock stairs a few feet away. “I didn’t know anyone was out here.”

    Zoot just nodded, unsure what to say. He squinted at her from behind his shades; the lone light by the stairs wasn’t bright enough for him to make her features out clearly. He could tell she was young, with short light brown hair (or maybe blonde) and cherubic cheeks (a good shape for any kind of woodwind player). Also, she had on strangely familiar clothes: a short navy blue peacoat, matching soft slouch hat and pants, and a tan-colored loose shirt. He frowned lightly, not sure why that outfit seemed right. The girl, nearly short enough to be a Muppet, nervously nodded at him. “Ah…thank you. Have a good night,” she said, her voice accented but her words clear. Then she hurried down the alley and around the corner.

    The saxman stared after her, puzzled. Why had she run off? Eh, whatever, he thought, shrugging, and started down the steps to head for home. As he walked, it suddenly hit him why her appearance had seemed familiar. She was dressed just like he usually was.

    Startled, Zoot’s head jerked up, and he stared down the alley the way the girl had gone, but she was long since vanished.

    She was back two nights later; this time the image was fresh in his mind, and he spotted her in the audience, watching the show, not far from the orchestra pit. Her view of the stage was only fair, but she didn’t seem to watch the show anytime the band was playing. Several times during songs, Zoot noticed the same girl sneaking looks at him, always when his head was turned so that it appeared he wasn’t looking into the audience, though of course his shades never came off while he played, and so the girl couldn’t tell he noticed her quite well. When the house lights came up at the end of the show, she lingered all the way to his last honk on the sax. Only then did she reluctantly turn and walk up the aisle. He noticed she didn’t seem to be with anyone, and he wondered how old she was; she seemed a bit young to be unaccompanied.

    Sudden, unexpected worry made him call out: “Hey…uh…young lady! You, with the horn!”

    Although she wasn’t carrying her instrument tonight, she turned around, startled. “Ah…me?”

    “Yeah. C’mere,” Zoot said, then beckoned when she seemed hesitant. He didn’t feel like yelling across the theatre. Slowly the girl walked back to the orchestra pit. Rowlf was closing the lid on the piano, and watched curiously; Floyd and Janice were discussing something off to one side, and didn’t notice, Animal was chomping on his high-hat cymbal, and the others had already left the pit. Zoot looked the girl up and down once. Tonight she wore a golden-hued button-down shirt, with a wide paisley tie, and once more the peacoat, dark pants, and slouch hat pulled down to partially cover her face. “You come here by yourself?” he asked her.

    She blushed and fidgeted. “I’m allowed to, as long as I do all my school work,” she said. He couldn’t identify her accent; it wasn’t quite Germanic.

    “Where you from?” Zoot inquired, lowering his voice; she seemed nervous.

    “From the Netherlands,” she said, and he nodded, the accent placed. “My…my family just moved here. My Dad got a new job at a tiddlywinks factory, as a budget controller.”

    “Well I guess they know what jazz is in the Netherlands, then. You play pretty good,” he told her, and she turned bright red and couldn’t meet his gaze.

    “Thank you. I, uh, I have to go. I promised my parents I would be home right after the show. Um…nice talking to you,” the girl said, flashed a smile, then turned and nearly bolted up the aisle. Zoot stared after her again, puzzled by her behavior.

    Rowlf nudged his shoulder. “She’s cute. Looks a little young, though.”

    “Eh,” Zoot said, shrugging. He carefully took out the well-used reed from the mouth of the sax and inserted a fresh one for next time before packing the instrument away in its lined case.

    “I think she likes you,” Rowlf said, heading out of the theatre with him.

    “Nah, man. She likes my music. She plays sax too,” Zoot told the dog.

    “Oh sure, sure,” Rowlf said, nodding, but as they split up to go their separate ways, the dog murmured, “Pound bait…”

    Zoot scowled at him, but said nothing, and slouched toward home. The dog’s remarks nagged at him, though, and it was hours later before he could soothe his mind by listening to a CD of old standards, trying to pick one to play later in the coming week for his featured spot onstage during the Muppet show.
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  3. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    2.

    During the Sunday matinee, he found himself having trouble concentrating on the tunes. He didn’t have much of a part that day, certainly nothing artistically challenging, and it was easy to let his mind wander. His eyes drifted as much as his thoughts, until both were arrested by the same brownhaired girl staring at him. When she saw his head turned her direction, she flushed pink and looked down quickly. Holy Ella Fitzgerald, what if the dog had it right? Zoot couldn’t imagine anyone having a crush on him, particularly some cute young immigrant. How had she even found out about this place? Although shows had been going on (off and on) at the Muppet Theatre for decades now, it wasn’t as though they were easy to find; most tour guides of the city didn’t even list the historic theatre.

    When the performance ended for the night, he saw the girl hesitating, as if she wanted to approach but was unsure how to go about it. With a firm set of his light blue jaw, the saxman nodded at her. Uncertainly, she nodded back. Zoot stood, waiting, at the edge of the orchestra pit, moving around the piano so it hid him from the other musicians as they packed their things and left, chatting among themselves. He hated being ribbed about anything, and a young admirer was sure to draw more comments. When the others had gone, the girl finally came closer. “So, what’s your name?” Zoot asked, hating how lame it sounded.

    “You can call me Effie,” the girl answered, her voice shy.

    “Why you keep comin’ back here? There’s other clubs around where you can get a sweet sound,” Zoot wondered.

    Effie brushed down her hair, which was threatening to pouf out in the dry air of the theatre. “Um…I can’t go into those clubs. I’m not old enough yet.”

    Zoot nodded slowly. So she was still pretty young. “You been playin’ long?”

    “Most of my life, for sax. I started with piano lessons,” she said, brightening a little.

    “That’s good,” Zoot nodded. “You as tight on the keys as you are with that horn?”

    Effie cast down her gaze, smiling. “About the same, I guess. I like the saxophone much better, though.”

    “Who’s your favorite player?”

    “Ummm…” She turned bright pink again.

    Frowning, Zoot tried listing his own influences. “What about Charlie Parker? You like him, right?”

    “Greatest player ever,” she agreed immediately. “Um…I noticed you didn’t have a big part today. Do you get a song of your own this week?”

    “Oh, yeah, I gotta duet comin’ up with the dog. We’re gonna play ‘All of Me,’” the saxman said. He shrugged. “It’s kinda old, but…”

    “I know that one!” Effie said. “I heard it in the movie first, but then I got a recording of the original. It’s a fun song.”

    “Yeah, yeah,” Zoot said. “So…they have a lot of jazz where you’re from?”

    “Not much at all,” Effie laughed. “My classmates used to think I was weird for listening to music they thought was not cool.”

    “What!” Zoot scowled, fuming a moment. “Man, that is so uncool to think jazz is uncool! I hope you didn’t listen to ‘em!”

    “No,” she assured him, smiling. “They, um…they also used to call me a freak for liking Muppets…”

    Zoot blinked at that, though she didn’t see it beneath his ever-present dark shades. “What’s wrong with liking us? Man, sometimes some of us are a little freaky…but who doesn’t like a little freaky in their lives?”

    Effie giggled. “Right!”

    Realizing this was the longest conversation he’d had with anyone since the time he spent in jail, Zoot shut up, feeling awkward. They stood there a minute longer, silent. Dr Teeth poked his head around the proscenium from backstage.

    “Hey, there you are! Come on, man, let’s split! There’s a tap down at Rudy’s with my name on it!” the grinning keyboardist yelled over.

    Zoot nodded at him, then turned to say goodbye to the girl, but she was already hurrying out of the theatre through the house. Bewildered, he watched her go. “Dude, come on! Shake a reed! Ha, ha, ha!” his bandmate shouted, disappearing backstage again. Zoot sighed, shrugged, and packed his horn safely away before trudging after the others. He was rarely in the mood for drinking, but at least Rudy’s had a cool jukebox. Maybe if he could get to it before Animal did, he could hear some rockin’ R&B all night instead of the weepy ballads the drummer, oddly, preferred when he had a frosty mug in his hand…
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  4. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    3.

    Monday was their off day. Zoot spent it in Central Park, sitting on a bench, feeding pigeons birdseed. He knew the birds could be a nuisance, but all the same, the sound of them fluttering around, graceless but determined, always calmed him…inspired him. That such goofy-looking birds could soar always made him feel like one day he might be remembered as a solid musician. Those birds stuck to their pursuit of food, of space to fly and nest and breathe and live…if he stuck to his music, stuck to his roots, maybe he could persevere as they did.

    Roots…now that was a subject which made him squirm on his bench. All his family was either gone or far, far away, and he hadn’t spoken to them in years. The band, the theatre group, those were his family now. He felt grateful for them, to be sure, but all the same…he knew Shavuot was coming up soon sometime, and it was never the same. No one else among the Muppets celebrated his childhood holidays. He didn’t have anything against Christmas, or Easter, or St Paddy’s Day…but sometimes, particularly when one of his own culture’s festivals or observance days was right upon him, he’d be reminded of that fact, and feel alone. Very alone. Shavuot, he thought, absently tossing out more seed for the pigeons, the feast of latter firstfruits. Like Thanksgiving in spring…with the Torah. He had no idea why it had even popped into his head. He frowned. No one around him had brought it up; he assumed most of them didn’t even know about it. It wasn’t one of the big, broadly-observed holy days like Hanukkah, or Yom Kippur. A day to be thankful, and to share one’s food and drink with family and community. The remembered taste of figs and grapes and sweet new-wheat bread swirled over his tongue briefly; memories of being forced to stay up all night studying, but followed by wonderful blintzes in the morning…

    Zoot sighed. Sure, he had things to be thankful for. He felt like a part of the band, like one of the Muppets, most of the time now, whereas not so very long ago, he’d always had a sense of isolation. All the same, would any of them want to hold a feast? He pictured them at a long table, everyone laughing and talking and probably throwing food. The idea of Miss Piggy stuffing her face at a Jewish feast made him smile a little, then shake his head with another sigh. It wasn’t like he kept strict Kosher, but still…no. Where had this remembrance even come from?

    That girl. Startled, Zoot pictured the look on the young musician’s face while he’d been talking with her. When she got over her shyness a little, she’d looked at him warmly…like a friend…like someone who understood him. Like his little sister used to look at him, when he was playing music for her. Could…could Effie be like that? Frowning again, he dismissed the thought from his head. Man, don’t be stupid. You start thinkin’ things like that and you’ll just wind up draggin’ yourself down. Better forget her; she’s just a kid, anyway.

    He felt something moving oddly on his arm, and refocused on his present surroundings. A very fat pigeon was perched on him, its head dipping repeatedly into his sack of birdfeed. Annoyed, Zoot waved his arms, and the pigeon fluttered off. “Whadda I look like, a statue?” he growled. The pigeons milled around, eyeing the sack of seed. He glared at them. “And whadda you want?”

    The pigeons looked at one another. Then back at him.

    As one, twenty fat, fluttering, pecking city birds hopped onto the thin Muppet, fighting over the birdseed. “Auugh!” the saxman cried, waving his arms. By the time the sack was empty and he’d fought off the ones still poking him over for any stray bits, some of his hair had been pulled out too. Disgustedly he brushed the feathers from his coat and hat, stood, and trudged home, his head down, scowling darkly. It was the first time the birds had ruined his peace.

    When Effie didn’t show up Tuesday night, Zoot caught himself wondering why. Eh, probably nothing. Maybe she had homework to do, he thought, not realizing what month it was; school was already out for the local kids, public and private alike. However, on Wednesday, there was no sign of his junior admirer again, and Zoot found himself unable to focus even more than usual. Had he scared her off? Had he been rude? He didn’t think so, but kids today, who could tell?

    As he was packing up his horn, Rowlf gave him a curious look. “Hey, what happened to your little admirer?”

    Zoot’s mouth went into a frump. “Man, how should I know? What am I, her uncle?”

    “Great-uncle, more like,” Rowlf chortled, and Zoot scowled.

    “It ain’t like that. She’s an appreciator of good music. More than I can say for most of them,” he muttered darkly, gesturing out at the emptying audience seats.

    “Oh, an appreciator! Yeah, looked pretty appreciative to me!” Rowlf continued, undaunted by the saxman’s deepening glare.

    “What’s all this?” Dr Teeth asked, ambling over.

    “Zoot’s got a fan,” Rowlf said.

    “Right on, man! She heard your wailin’ horn, and just lost all sense of everythin’, hey?” Dr Teeth said, laughing.

    Zoot shook his head. “No, no! She plays sax, man! I heard her out back one night practicin’. She was good. You know what? Maybe if she comes back, I’ll ask her to do a duet and you’ll see this is totally a professional interest!”

    “Sounds like she plays the saxman, indeed,” Floyd Pepper cackled.

    “I think she looks rully sweet,” Janice spoke up, tossing her hair. “You could be, like, a mentor to her, Zootie!”

    Uncomfortable, Zoot nodded. “Always good to pass along our accumulated wisdom to the younger generation,” Dr Teeth said, grinning widely. “Now who’s up for a little eight-ball?”

    “EIGHT-BALL! EIGHT-BALL!” Animal shouted, leaping up and down.

    “Cool it, Animal! You can come along only if you promise not to eat the cueball again!” Floyd admonished.

    A chastened drummer hung his head, nodding. “Eat ball,” he muttered.

    “No! No eat ball!” Floyd corrected, dragging him off.

    “No eat ball,” Animal repeated, apparently agreeing. His eyes widened as he trotted offstage. “Eat stick?”

    Janice shook her head. Rowlf laughed, following the others. Lips held back a moment, touching Zoot’s shoulder gently. “Hey, uh, you shouldn’t take any of their jokes seriously, man. They’re just playin’ with you,” the trumpet guru said.

    Zoot nodded, head down, but didn’t reply. Lips gave him a concerned look, but let it drop, going after his bandmates. With a heavy sigh, Zoot put his sax back to his mouth, fiddled with the finger-keys a bit, and blew a long, low, mournful note. Man, best not to read anything into any of it. She’s a kid. She’s off doing whatever kids do, probably… But she always went home by herself. What if something happened? It occurred to him he should’ve found out how she was getting home, and how far away home was; guiltily he stood there, head down, his scraggly blue hair falling over his cheeks. Trying to shake off the feeling of obligation, he raised the sax once more, and began playing the low, wistful tune he planned to debut onstage tomorrow night, the words slipping through his head as the music slowly lifted him out of the funk.

    All of me…why not take all of me…take my hands, I’ll never use them… Kicking the pace up, Zoot closed his eyes, losing himself in the playing of it, telling himself the feeling of something missing was all from the music, man.

    Just the song. That’s all.
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  5. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    4.

    “Hey, man, we gonna practice or what?” Zoot asked Rowlf, feeling a little irritated. The dog had been laying on the cool floor of the green room for the past half-hour, periodically groaning, with a cold compress on his head and a bandage on his nose. Rowlf had come in late, too; it would be curtain-time very shortly.

    “Haven’t you practiced already?” the dog muttered.

    The sax player shook his head. “Eh, I know that thing forwards, backwards and upside-down! I’m askin’ if you’re gonna be ready to play!”

    Rowlf only groaned in reply. Floyd, seeing the exchange, stepped in. “Hey, man, cut him some slack. Someone tried to jump a ball on the felt last night, and Animal thought it was a volleyball game! Poor dog never saw it comin’…”

    “Owwwwwoooooo,” Rowlf agreed painfully.

    “Why even show up if you can’t play?” Zoot grumbled.

    “’Cause I didn’t want Kermit to throw me in the doghouse…heh,” Rowlf tried to joke, then winced. “Ooowwwwwoooo…”

    “Hey guys, places! Curtain in five!” Scooter called out, hurrying through, clipboard in hand. Zoot was willing to bet it was actually grown onto the young man’s hand, and not a separate object at all. As the rest of the musicians and punctual Nigel stirred, stretched, or trotted their way up the green room stairs to get out to the orchestra pit, Zoot shook his head in frustration. Dr Teeth had called in sick as well, though no one seemed to know if he was truly ill or had imbibed a few too many Hurricanes at the bar last night… Now Zoot would have to tell the mop-haired production assistant to cancel his number! It wouldn’t work as a solo…he really needed a piano player!

    “Man, this blows,” he muttered. Someone taller and yellow was standing in front of him. Not really wanting to talk to anyone right now, Zoot looked up only grudgingly. The wide smile on the long face of the Newsman took him by surprise. “What?” Zoot asked, edging back.

    “You could always ask your young lady admirer to play. She’s in the audience, with her family, I believe,” the Newsman suggested. When Zoot stared at him, mouth open, Newsie shrugged, frowning briefly. “What? I pay attention!”

    “Effie’s here?” Zoot felt relieved. So she’s okay… Her family? She brought her whole family? Oh, man. The thought of an entire clan of people watching him made him uneasy. He’d always preferred to be in the background; even spotlight numbers like the one he’d wanted to do were all about the music, not him!

    “I’m not doing anything right now,” Newsie said, checking his shirtcuffs, looking very pleased with himself. “I’ll go get her. Come down here when you’re through with the opening theme, and perhaps you two can practice.” With a nod at Zoot, he trotted off. Zoot stood there, frozen, still agape.

    Scooter passed back through, frowning when he saw Zoot standing there like a dummy. “Hey, Zoot! Earth to Zoot!”

    “Yeah…I heard ya,” the saxman grunted, moving his feet finally. Bring her down here? Is that a good idea? Won’t her parents think she’s in bad company, once they see the show…once they see ME? Swallowing thickly, he went out to the pit and took his place, fumbling with his sax, looking out into the audience with quick, surreptitious glances. He didn’t see Effie, and had no way of knowing which of the crowd her family might be…assuming the Newsman hadn’t been yanking his chain. That square’s been acting weird since he got a girlfriend, Zoot thought; Guess that’s what happens when a girl finally latches onto a goyim alter bokher. Then again, the journalist wasn’t known for a prankish sense of humor, ever. Trying to scan the crowd in the dimming lights of the house and start playing the theme at the same time, he actually blew a wrong note. Man! Hear that! Some musical role model you are! Disgusted with himself, he dragged his attention back to the stupid theme, that dotty song Kermit liked so much but which the Mayhem members only grudgingly played. Zoot had thought he could play the thing in his sleep after this many years – indeed, he’d done so a time or two – but apparently some things could distract him enough to slip up even now.

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  6. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    5.

    When the action onstage allowed for him to slip away quietly, Zoot gingerly moved through the backstage area. As he started slowly down the stairs for the green room, he heard laughter and chatter below, but none of it seemed to be in a Dutch accent. Frowning, he continued down, and saw Effie was indeed there, surrounded by Muppets, smiling although she looked pale, and was sitting in a chair while everyone stood around her. As Zoot’s approach was masked by Sweetums standing next to the staircase, the girl didn’t see him. He heard the conversation:

    “I had turkey flu once for six weeks! Lemme tell ya, when you get a chance like this, Effie, you should really enjoy it while you can!” Gonzo urged her.

    Zoot couldn’t hear what her response was, but everyone laughed. He saw that Newsie was standing arm-in-arm with his girlfriend, the redheaded techie from some other theatre. She leaned forward a bit and said, “Sweetie, just don’t push it. Your voice will come back naturally. Don’t try to play your sax for a while yet.”

    “Yeah, as much as that sucks, just let it slide a while. It’ll all come back to ya,” Floyd encouraged.

    Zoot came all the way into the room and wandered over, puzzled. When Effie saw him, she smiled, frowned, pushed her hair back, and slumped. As Zoot wondered if he should say hello, or thank you, or anything, Sweetums poked his shoulder. “Careful. She’s getting’ over new-monny-um!”

    “Pneumonia,” Effie said hoarsely. She bit her lip, looking again at Zoot. “I’m sorry I missed the last couple shows.”

    Zoot nodded, beginning to understand. “It’s cool,” he muttered.

    A loud ticker-tape noise came from near the staircase. “Have to run,” the Newsman said, weaving out of the small crowd and grabbing a sheet of paper from a printer as it popped up. “Excuse me! Uh…break a leg, Effie!” He ran upstairs.

    Gina sighed. “I should go make sure he doesn’t get stomped on. It was a herd of elephants last week. Have fun, Effie!” She took off after her unlucky Muppet.

    The gathering began to drift apart, leaving Zoot and the young girl avoiding looking directly at one another. “So, uh…you know the song?” Zoot asked.

    “I think so,” Effie said, frowning, her nose scrunching up as well as any Muppet’s. Her voice was barely over a whisper, but he could hear her. “Let’s play it first a bit?”

    Nodding, Zoot helped her up when she wobbled a little. “Uh, you know, maybe you shouldn’t be here. You look like some rest would do you good,” Zoot suggested.

    She gave him an unhappy look. “I wanted to hear you play!”

    Zoot looked her over once. Well, he’d been like that, too, hadn’t he? He remembered sneaking out of the house as a teenager, to see amazing concerts down in the Village, at the Vanguard, or Birdland…at least, those nights he could afford to get in or didn’t get busted hanging out back and listening through the walls. Nothing could keep him away from his music! With a nod, he helped the girl onto the bench of the old upright piano they kept down here when not in use. She settled in, tickled the keys a bit, shook her head at the ones out of tune, then looked back at him, ready.

    Zoot shrugged, picked up his sax, and began the opening notes. Without music in front of her, or him having to cue her, Effie played along; first the single notes in reply to his long, sad lines, then the lively scales which launched the piece into full melody, keeping up with him. They ran it through once all the way with no mishaps, and Zoot smiled, nodding, as she brought it to a close with a bang. She looked breathless when she turned to see his expression, then blushed.

    “That was tight,” Zoot complimented. “Straight on. You can really play!”

    “Thanks,” she managed.

    “Hey, Chef! We need a bottle of water!” Gonzo called out, having listened to the last few lines of the song and seen Effie looking winded.

    She thanked the blue whatever as he handed her the water, taking a long gulp of it. When she sat still, eyes down, Zoot asked tentatively, “So…you brought your parents?”

    “My parents, and my brother and sister,” the young girl said. “I threw such a fuss when the doctor said I couldn’t play my sax for a while! I said if I couldn’t play, I wanted to hear you play, at least. After much fussing my Mom told my Dad we would all go to the theatre.” She smiled, proud of this small victory.

    “But why me?” He was touched, but still couldn’t understand the girl’s focus on him.

    She shrugged, embarrassed. “Uhm…because…because you’re my hero?”

    “Me?” He couldn’t believe his ears. “I’m your hero? W-why?”

    “I don’t know any other Jewish sax players…and you’re really good, too,” Effie confessed, and suddenly he realized why she’d reminded him of his sister. That same humility, that same shy intelligence…came from the same background. He stood there a minute with his mouth open, realized he looked like a total schlemiel, and shut it. Then he realized he’d begun thinking in Yiddish again for the first time in who knows how many decades. This whole business was just too far out. He had no idea how to respond to her compliment, so he simply shrugged, looking at his feet.

    “Hey, Zoot? You still doing your number tonight?” Scooter called down from the top of the stairs.

    “Uh…yeah,” Zoot said, looking at Effie. She beamed. “Yeah, man. Why?”

    “Well, you’re up!”
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  7. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    6.

    They got upstairs somehow, though Effie seemed tired and Zoot had never been one to hustle. Scooter had the stagepigs move the baby grand out onto the stage. A simple, starry background covered the area behind the piano, and soft lights shone down on the two musicians, old and young, as they took their places. The audience quieted, and just before Zoot was about to begin, a child in the third row yelled, “Yeah Effie!”

    The audience laughed. Zoot looked at Effie, who was pink again under her hat. “That your brother?” the saxman asked.

    The girl nodded, wordless. Zoot felt a smile on his face. “Don’t worry. Just get into the music all the way. Follow my lead,” he told her quietly. She nodded again, took a deep breath, and poised her hands over the keyboard. Feeling unaccountably nervous himself, Zoot blew the first long phrase. All of me…

    Effie played one small note in reply.

    Back to the sax: why not take all of me…

    Another timid-sounding single piano note.

    You took my heart, why not take all of me? And right at the end of his wistful line, the girl at the piano kicked in with perfect timing, a jazzy run of tripping descending scales, and they both launched into the main part of the song together, sometimes in sync, sometimes playing off one another. He even heard her throw in a little improv under his longest phrase toward the end. As they wound it down, he glanced into the house, and felt a pang of happiness to see people swaying and clapping and smiling.

    The tune finished with a loud, long sustained upbeat note from the sax and a banging-on-the-keys finale. The audience clapped wildly, cheered, whistled. Even those two old khokhem atticks in the balcony clapped. Zoot smiled, nodding in satisfaction. “Take a bow, kid!” he told Effie. Blushing, she did so, and waved shyly to the group cheering the loudest in the third row, her family.

    “I should go sit with them,” she told Zoot. He nodded, relieved they seemed to like the duet. “Thank you so much!” she whispered, then with a smile ran offstage and hopped down into the audience, where her family welcomed her with hugs and proud words. Feeling amazingly good, Zoot ambled off into the wing, fingers tapping his sax, the tune still playing in his head. What a sweet kid…what a boichika! And she thinks I’M the cat in the hat! Shaking his head in complete wonder, he went down to the green room and simply sat down, silent, lost in the unusual feeling of self-worth.

    “Hey, where’s Effie?” Gonzo asked him, disturbing his cloud-sitting.

    “Huh?”

    “That sounded fantastic,” Gina told him. Zoot looked around; Gonzo was standing nearby, eyes wide, grinning. Gina had her Newsman’s head in her lap on a sofa; clearly something else had fallen on him, but he managed a smile at Zoot.

    “Heard it from here. Nice job,” he said, then closed his eyes once more.

    “She’s not coming back down?” Gonzo asked.

    “Huh?...Oh. She went to sit with her family. She’s tired out, man,” Zoot told him.

    “Okay, good. She looked a little worn out. That was some playing, though! Did you say she plays sax too?” Zoot nodded, and Gonzo threw his arms wide. “Fan-TASTIC! I need two sax players for this number I was thinking about. See, I’ll be balanced on a board on top of a giant mozzarella cheese ball, with a chair on my nose, and you guys can play some Big Band stuff – I’ll need the whole band, and Lips, natch – and then…”

    Shaking his head, Zoot walked away.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
  8. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    7.

    The next afternoon, Zoot had only just arrived when a man in a green suit with a darker green tie stopped him by the back door to the theatre. “You’re Mr Zoot? Did I pronounce that right?”

    Wary, Zoot stepped back, looking the much taller man up and down. “That’s me.” What did they think he’d done this time? Then again, he wasn’t sure lawyers wore green suits. Suits, yeah; but that was an odd color.

    “Oh, the coat. My employer has me wearing it. Something about the color of tiddle-winkers. Whatever. Listen, I just wanted to see the man my daughter thinks is the greatest saxophone player ever,” the man said, and held out his hand. “I’m Effie’s father. You can call me Hans.” His accent sounded a little stronger than Effie’s.

    “Oh,” Zoot said, taken aback and not a little anxious. “I, uh, I’m not the greatest by a long shot. But I get by.” Tentatively he shook the man’s large hand. He was relieved when the strong fingers didn’t crush his own skinny blue ones.

    “Well, look, that was a mitzvah, what you did last night, letting that child perform onstage. She won’t stop smiling! At least she’s mostly staying in bed. She’s not over this thing in her lungs yet, but already she can’t wait to pick up her saxophone. I’ve had to take it away from her three times!” He smiled; Zoot nodded, uncertain what to say.

    “Well, she’s good. I hope she gets well soon.”

    Hans looked up at the theatre, frowning, as Scooter bustled out and back in, making marks on his checklist. “You’re working on Shabbat?”

    Embarrassed, Zoot shrugged, his fingers wanting to fidget. “Hey, you know, I haven’t been real observant in years…”

    “But it’s Shavuot!” Hans seemed upset; Zoot didn’t know what excuse to make. Suddenly the man gave a sharp nod, and said, “Well, then, let me formally invite you to observe the night with my family.”

    Zoot’s jaw dropped. “W-with…your family?”

    “It’ll be starting in an hour,” Hans said firmly, checking his watch and looking up at the tranquil sky. “You read Hebrew, yes?”

    “I can read a little,” Zoot said, flustered. “Never was much for books.”

    “These books, you should read!” Hans proclaimed. “Come, tell your boss. This is a holy night! All night we read Torah, and in the morning…”

    “…Blintzes?” Zoot mumbled, thinking of his own family, his grandmother who used to make the most amazing, fluffy blintzes, especially for Shavuot…

    “Exactly! And is it not the night we welcome the stranger and the unmarried man into our house, and he may feast with us the next day?” Hans asked, very serious. Zoot wasn’t sure what to do; this was quite an invitation, and he didn’t want to offend, but really, he wasn’t big on ceremony normally, and he didn’t know when the last time he’d even opened the Torah was... Seeing the saxman actually beginning to tremble, the tall man’s gaze softened. “Look. Come join us. We haven’t picked a Temple yet to go to, and we don’t know anyone in the city yet…it would be nice to have with us someone who knows the day, and who was kind to my daughter.”

    “That wasn’t kindness, that was music!” Zoot argued.

    Hans gave him a surprised look. “So you think she is that good?”

    “Man, are you kidding? Your daughter is hip! She’s got the beat, she’s got the melody, she knows how to sit in, man!”

    “I have no idea what you just said, but it must be good,” Hans sighed. He held out a hand. “Please, come. I want her to make friends in this country. She…she didn’t have many, back home. You tell her what you just told me, all right? Tell her and make her confident so she can do well here.”

    Zoot considered that. It might be nice to be a mentor, to teach another musician. He’d never thought about being a teacher, but…maybe he’d be good at it, just this once. He thought of the ritual of the oncoming night, the books open, the prayers, soft voices in candlelit rooms awaiting the dawn and the celebration of life on the morrow…and fruit, when did he last eat fresh fruit? Come to think of it, when did he last eat anything good for him? …And there would be blintzes…

    He thought of a shy young girl who reminded him so much of his own little sis, that adoring little gooteh neshumeh, full of peace and belief in the good side of life.

    Zoot looked up at Hans, and slowly took off his shades, blinking in the late-afternoon light. The man smiled at him. “Hang on,” Zoot said. “I’ll go tell my boss.”

    Finis!
    fictionalnice likes this.
  9. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

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    (AUTHOR’S NOTE: No, I am not Jewish, although I have a couple of friends who are. I borrowed some reference books from one of them to complete this story, and I hope I have done so properly; I apologize if I have made errors in any detail regarding Jewish custom and law.

    A small glossary, for those –like me—who know only a shtick of Yiddish or Hebrew:
    Shavuot: the holiday some Christian churches celebrate as the Pentecost. The Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of Latter Firstfruits, when the fruits of the harvest such as wheat, grapes, figs, dates, etc are all brought forth and a big feast of thanks is held, celebrating the giving of the Torah (the law) to the Jewish people. Typically occurs in late May or early June.
    Goyim: the Gentiles. Any non-Jew.
    Alter Bokher: bachelor; literally, “old schoolboy.”
    Schlemiel: fool, simpleton, dolt.
    Khokhem attic: wise guy, smart-aleck.
    Boichika: sweetheart; sweet kid.
    Mitzvah: good deed, kind act.
    Shabbat: the Sabbath (Friday sundown through Saturday sundown).
    Gooteh neshumeh: literally, a “good soul.” A person unable to hate.
  10. Muppetfity888

    Muppetfity888 New Member

  11. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

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    Thank you! As I said, just a gift for a friend to cheer her up.

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  12. ilovemusic

    ilovemusic Active Member

    O__o I can't explain how much I love this.....
  13. ElectricMayhem1

    ElectricMayhem1 Active Member

  14. LinkiePie<3

    LinkiePie<3 Well-Known Member

    Aw, Effie. :cool:

    That's really sweet of you, Newise. <3
  15. AlittleMayhem

    AlittleMayhem Well-Known Member

    Just discovered this fic and I loved it! You wrote Zoot's character just perfectly! Totally jealous of your skill with grammar and storytelling. Wish I was that good!
  16. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

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    Thanks! He's not a character I normally delve into. Glad I got it right. :)

    As to skills...practice, grasshoppah. Just practice. Now pick up your chopsticks and do some flycatching yourself!
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    AlittleMayhem and The Count like this.
  17. Fragglemuppet

    Fragglemuppet Well-Known Member

    Ooh, I loved this! It seems Zoot's become a popular subject for stories recently!
  18. charlietheowl

    charlietheowl Well-Known Member

    I read this a while back and now that it's been bumped I can share my thoughts. Excellent story! I really like how you wrote Zoot's character here and this is a very sweet story.
  19. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

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    Thanks guys! Yeah, I honestly don't get into the heads of any of the Mayhem much, but this was a favor for a friend. :) Glad you liked.

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  20. TheWeirdoGirl

    TheWeirdoGirl Well-Known Member

    Ooh, this is good! I've always identified with Zoot, being a sax player and quiet person myself, and I think you captured his character very nicely. Good job!


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