‘The air so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great….’ – On the Road, Jack Kerouac
This short story is inspired by the American poet and novelist Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), whose writing was so wonderfully descriptive and emotive, called ‘spontaneous prose.’ He was a pioneer for the Beat Generation that included Allen Ginsberg and William S, Burroughs. I personally love his novel On the Road, which is based around his travels across the US and his encounters with jazz, drink, drugs, and poetry.
Brunswick Street is a nod to his literary genius:
The tram rumbles on behind us as we hurry down the street, passing noisy school children, chattering away like monkeys. They have on matching hats and jackets in a deep green, like newly mowed lawns, against the drab grey pavement. Someone bumps my elbow, and I turn around, feeling irritated. It’s a young child, no more than two years old, holding a toy in his arms. He grins up – a toothy grin that ‘s endearing – as he points a chubby finger behind him, to his mother.
‘Sorry,’ she says, a pale, thin young woman wrapped up in a yellow sweater and colored scarf. ‘He’s being a rascal today.’
‘Not at all,’ I say, watching as she hurries down the street, her flowing skirt picking up the gusty wind.
There’s a flash of purple and red as another woman brushes past me. This one has a mass of dark curls that bob in the pale sunshine. Clunky Doc Martin boots in a deep red that my daughter would kill for.
‘Come on, love or we’ll be late,’ says a voice in my ear. ‘He’ll want us to catch him.’
My husband is not the most tolerable of men and I can see by the frown lines across his forehead that he’s not in his comfort zone. I nod in reply, as we reach the corner of the street.
There’s a window on my left, full of musical instruments. All shapes and sizes; gleaming trumpets and oboes, a piano propped up neatly in the corner, a rack filled with guitars. A neon light flashes above us, even though its broad daylight. I can smell years of songsheets and leafed books as we make our way down a set of steps; suddenly we are plunged into darkness.
There’s a burly-looking man stood in front of a door. Its open and I can see tables and chairs set around a stage. Dim lighting coming from the recesses, somewhere.
I’m nudged forward, through the door and past the bouncer who smells of mints and cheap cologne.
I smooth down my dress, pat my hair self consciously. The music, a dull throb a moment ago, hits us, full on.
‘Sit down, I’ll get us a drink.’ I’m alone a moment, allowed to take in the atmosphere.
Then the lights become like candles, giving off an eerie glow. The stage is cloaked in sooty blackness. A spotlight appears, aimed at the figure on the stage. A young man is intent on the guitar he’s holding.
There’s a hush, as my son starts playing.
Suzanne Bowditch, 2019
#shortstoryfiction #writer #brunswickstreet #jackkerouac