“Even One Note Can Swing”


I’m looking at my CDs, thinking about playing a little jazz or blues when suddenly, God damn! It’s my birthday. Gotta celebrate before it ends.

Happybirthdaytome. Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday, dear Ja-ack (uh oh, fell off that high note a little)… dum di dum dum to me. I wonder who composed the song, with its bit of drama. There’s that minor note in the chord at the end of the first bar. And in the third bar too, like there’s some doubt you’re going to make it. But major notes at the end. You do!

I’ve had good birthdays all the way. Lonely, my foot. I’ve got both feet kicking to great boogie woogie—it’s Pete Johnson, “Climbing and Screaming.” Lonely is holding hands with yourself, someone said, but my hands are waving, beating up that beat I love. And blues I called happies, always, for the way I used to dance with Sukie those years we were together. She should have stuck around to see me turn 80 now. Not to mention 70, or 60. We would have had that great cake she liked, what was it called? Black velvet? Red?

Well, I don’t blame her. She gave up. Even wiped out the married name and went back to the maiden (not that there was anything maidenly about Sukie when we met). She disliked Pettigrew—said it fit me when I grew picky and petty as we aged. I don’t blame her, maybe don’t even miss her that much. Would have been nice though tonight, the music. Bouncing to it after the cake. Bouncing around too, and cuddling, in bed. I remember every fine time there. Every inch of it we covered, from the head to the foot. It was designed for the best relaxation and security as well as the fun. The whole house seemed that way. What do they call that kind of arrangement of space. Kung Fu? (ha, Jack). Never could pronounce the name, something Chinese, I think.

Now I just sleep at the edge of the bed, on the same side always. Like the edge of a continent it seems. Should I call her, I wonder? Would love to hear her voice, mellow, with chuckles at my jokes—sweet like pecan pie, if you could taste it. I know what she’d say to me. Seize the day, Jack, don’t just poke it a little. I could play Pete Johnson for Sukie over the phone. We shared our days for almost 30 years.

Here’s something I know about us. Bygones, even with mistakes, are never gone and it’s a good thing. Without them to entertain and show us, we’d just stand in place. Keep going then, okay? With Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons… Slow down maybe, but not that much, Jack. Not that much.

Terese Robison, a Barnard College alumna, has been an editor, translator, interpreter, and tutor/mentor for youth on probation. She taught writing at Gateway Community College in New Haven before moving to Brooklyn, where she works as a writing consultant at Touro College. Her poetry has appeared in Hiram Review, Bitterroot, and three anthologies compiled from contest awards. Her short fiction has appeared in Tahoma Literary Review, Life in 10 Minutes, Monkeybicycle, Mexico This Month, and elsewhere. A collection of her stories was developed in postgraduate study with Janet Burroway at FSU, as well as at UCLA and SCSU. She is also writing a book on idioms and metaphors in English speech.