The Gold Watch

The cigarette hung between Marcus’ ring finger and pinkie, dropping ash onto his shirt with each touch on the trumpet’s third valve. A glance over the bell rewarded him with the manager’s scowl. No smoking the Blue Note. Company policy…enforced all over the Mouse’s property. “Shit,” the old jazzman thought, “what he gon’ do? Fire me?”

The band, all fresh young faces with saccharine smiles, was all gone for the night, except for Dexter and himself. The two old session men liked to hang back awhile, off the clock, to share the music whose difficult road deposited them here. Brubeck, Bird, even Miles was their vintage. That all came after eleven. Before then, it was strictly jumped up numbers from The Aristocats, The Jungle Book, even that Uncle Remus thing that got yanked a couple years back. Keepin' the tourists happy, in the happiest place on Earth.

But tomorrow was another world. He’d leave Orlando’s humidity to take a room in Loretta’s house. Never been to KC. Knew a song about “crazy little women there,” but those days were long past. Now he’d be Grandpa, watch his daughter’s kids grow, and try not to notice the dust settling on his horn.

The piano fell silent beneath Dexter’s fingers. “Last song, Fly,” he regarded Marcus through his coke bottle glasses. “You got the gold watch. Your choice.”

He checked the time. “Eleven fifty-eight. How ‘bout Monk?”

With a silent nod, the pianist bent toward his keys. The club around them had gone to work lighting. Somewhere beneath the rattle and clink of the staff's cleanup, ‘Round Midnight' offered up a melancholy farewell.

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