Bill sat in the sound booth in the near-dark at the back of the crowded room, a fan keeping him cool. He never watched the stage, for to watch it meant he couldn’t manage the sound well. So he watched the room while his fingers diddled the dials.
The club was busy for this Tuesday night’s Jazz Jam. Every seat was taken. To make room, butts crammed together on banquettes lining the walls, elbows jockeyed for space on the two bars. At tiny tables in the center of the room, tiny women sat on boyfriends’ intent laps, their tiny hands making promises their tiny bodies would later keep.
Bill shuddered. He didn’t like people, and of all the people he certainly didn’t like women so tiny they couldn’t put a man’s leg to sleep when they sat on it.
How late he would be there tonight depended on the count. So, he counted the eager musicians waiting their turn to play, holding up the walls, one ear on the music, the other listening for their name to be called. Fifteen. It would be a late night.
Stage lights lit players sweating their passion for the art form, but Bill didn’t care to tweak the lights. Hey, they were pointed in strategic places. It was up to the players and singers to find the lights if they wanted it so badly.
Bill was the best sound/lighting guy in the city, but he couldn’t get the high-paying gigs. The club was happy to have him, and even happier he never came out of his booth because, you see, Bill couldn’t stand people and it showed. Forward-facing customer service was not his forte. But damn, the sound he could get from the worst singer.
On this typical Tuesday night, in his typical meandering fashion, Bill scanned the room. Bill noticed a man, sitting somehow alone in the farthest, deepest, darkest corner. Seats available around him remained empty. How that happened, Bill was not sure at first. A couple of hours into the Jam, Bill had it figured out.
The man’s clothes were black, his vibes and aura, dark. People just naturally didn’t get near. But this man’s darkness was different. It wasn’t the angry angst Jazz sometimes brought to a room.
Anger, yes. Angst, yes. But this man’s was —
Bill sat up straight and stared at the man. Was that a —? No. It couldn’t be. But it is. And he’s putting it up to his temple? Shit.
Unseen by the man in the corner, Bill slid out of the booth, snaked silently through tables, plopped himself down as he held the man’s hand against the gun sliding his finger under the trigger, and lowered it. In other words, they looked like they were getting cozy. The man did not act surprised; he was simply annoyed.
“Look, dude,” Bill said, “I’m all for self-determination and so forth, and please do not misunderstand my actions here. I am not telling you not to kill yourself. It’s your body, your choice. I’m simply asking that you take that anger you have against society to another venue so that we don’t have to clean up the mess.”
The man cocked his head slightly and Bill continued. “See, what we have working here is a bunch of pussies. And I don’t mean just the women. I mean the men, too. And if you’ve been watching the stage, then you know all those sensitive types up there will throw up when they see your brains. And that’s just more messes to clean up. And I’ll have to do it because, not be be redundant or anything, but everybody else that works here is a pussy. They’re all gonna run, screaming and shit like that.”
Bill continued. “Then, you see all them tiny women out there? Their boyfriends won’t get any tonight because they’ll be too traumatized. Now, I agree that their reactions would suit your anti-society narrative, but surely, dude, you can find some place with cement that can be hosed down into a street sewer or something, right?”
The man’s lips curled at their ends. Then he chuckled. Full out laughter followed, and he spoke, “Now, that was funny. Anybody ever tell you you should be a comedian?”
Bill shook his head and did not let go of the gun.
The man spoke again, “I haven’t laughed in years. I didn’t know I still could.”
“Well, dude, what can I say? I don’t know if you’re the praying sort, but if you are and if you did, then maybe your prayer was answered, obviously in a roundabout way because, well I mean, who prays for a comedian to make them laugh, right?”
Bill shook his head. “Now, see, me? I don’t like people and I certainly don’t want you to think that my sitting here holding your hands means I’m looking for a commitment or anything because I’m not. And I don’t want you to get the notion that I want to be besties or anything like that. I’m a loner and happy to be so.”
“What’s your name?”
“Well, Bill, I’m not the praying sort, but I do admit to having a last-minute thought along the lines of, you know, if the Universe cares then give me a sign that I should keep living.”
“Well, here’s yer sign!”