black soap opera

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At least one of Bruno’s nine lives is in danger



Keith was going to kill Bruno. The next time that cat woke him up at the crack of dawn, yowling his butt off, begging for breakfast, Keith was going to put him in a sack and drop him in the East River. Then, quietly come back to bed. When Lesli asked where her beloved buddy went, he’d say, “Out for a walk.” Then, roll over back to sleep. Bruno never knew how close he’d come to a watery grave. Continue Reading →

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Persistent thoughts of Lesli got scary for Keith



Lola’s pad truly was tripped out. Not surprising, since she, herself, was a trip without luggage. In a warehouse district, tiny joint, studio-like apartment decked out in retro-activist aesthetic — posters of Angela Davis, H. Rap Brown, Malcolm X.

In all corners loomed some of the strangest sculpture he’d ever seen, concrete renderings of melted wax faces and figures. The place was black as night. Day-glo lit. Continue Reading →

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Thoughts of Leslie kept Keith out of jail



Lesli. Maybe the best thing, beyond her good looks and bangin’ body, was that she had a wonderful sense of humor. He would call her up, mad enough to chew nails and spit thumbtacks, and wind up laughing his hind parts off. He sure could’ve used some of that sitting in the pit back then, holding onto his temper by a thread. A guitar string had snapped in the middle of a number. Keith naturally had kept playing, unavoidably missing notes, hanging in as best he reasonably could. The musical director, at intermission, began bitching him out: “Where, Mr. Jackson, were my high notes on your instrument?!” As everyone else started to file out into the set-up room, he sat there staring at Gustav, not saying a word, and went about replacing the damned string. It’s common knowledge high-e strings tend to break if you so much as look at them the wrong way, let alone after prolonged use. Which is why Keith changed his on a regular basis and kept a good supply on hand. It’s a pain in the behind when they break on the job, but hey, stuff happens. He’d thought of trying to translate that to this over-paid jerk who, despite connections and a big name, a few folk thought would be more useful directing traffic than music. He had been directly inclined to cuss Gustav out and give him the guitar for a neck-tie. The music director, pulling his short, thin frame to full height, fluffing a mane of sandy-blond hair off his neck, went on: “When I ask you a question, I expect an answer. Or is English your second language?”

Keith saw out of the corner of his eye that his friends had gathered around. Luis was rubbing his congas, smirking, just waiting to see how this would turn out. Lola had her head down, tuning her timbales. Gerry, cradling his bass guitar, leaned back with an analytical gaze. All of them looked dispassionate but, knowing Keith since they were kids, were curious to see just how far Gustav could go without landing in the middle of next Tuesday. In an emergency ward. Continue Reading →

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Lesli grew under Keith’s skin and into his brain



A long week. Spent in good spirits, but it was long. After leaving Lesli off at the airport, Keith had ridden back to the hotel and gotten his regular routine in gear — looking over the sheets, running fingering scales. Then he’d punched in and, throughout the show, guitaring in the orchestra pit for The Lion King, his mind was on her. The leading lady, portraying Nala, sang “Showlands” with rich, earthen intensity. Reminding him how Lesli made love. Luis, second chair to first percussionist Lola, once in awhile — when not staring at Lola’s Amazon physique — shot Keith a sharp, smirking glance. Luis, Keith thought, could go pee up a rope. As much as Luis loved riding his buddies who fell for one of these broads on the road, Keith knew the guy was himself holding out for a new lady love. Continue Reading →

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Black & Single Blues — Lesli flew back to L.A. but never left his thoughts




Love. Just like that. Well, he’d wondered, is there really any other way for it to happen except all of a sudden? He’d stepped out of the cab. “Luis,” he said, “since you got so much mouth about other folk bidniz, you can pay the tip.” And went to the stage door. Continue Reading →

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A phone call interrupts Keith’s lonely night in Vegas



Keith was resigned to a lonely Sunday night in his Vegas hotel room without time to hook up with Lesli. He rang room service, placed a breakfast order — surprise, no grits — and turned on the stereo, looking for a station that played some good old-fashioned Chicago blues. Good luck. He got half a dozen country stations, some gospel, what passed these days for rock music, and gave up. The phone rang, startling him half out of his skin: “Who the hell…?!” Then, he realized it had to be one of the guys — or both — having opted to visit the watering hole after all. Continue Reading →

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Black & Single Blues: Keith worries he might — god forbid! — have found his soul mate


Lesli threatened to — hell, had done it — make a lie of Keith’s conviction that soul mates do not come along in real life. For one, she understood his concerns about identity in relation to her own. That night of their first “date” so long ago, hanging at her crib, he’d listened close as she went on and on about novelists Zora Neale Hurston and Ann Petry (whoever Petry had been). And plays like Dutchman and No Place to Be Somebody. He was blown away by her hipping him to legitimate authors. Continue Reading →

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Keith had given up on the long-term relationship thing — ‘til Lesli came along



Fear is a funny thing. Not that he was anywhere near laughing. It was just queer. Lesli was the best woman to have happened to him — and scared him to within an inch of his life. Someone, somewhere, might’ve been his mother or an aunt, had said, “Never lose your head over some tail.” Whoever it was had never met Lesli. Beyond question, no one else had been in, as they say, the same league. There’d been Laura, a saintly, tall, broad-hipped, blue-eyed blonde. Could’ve stepped off an ad for suntan lotion. Continue Reading →

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Their inauspicious start ended well enough…until now



Keith recalled how Lesli had thoroughly cussed him out for stepping on her foot the very first time they’d ever set eyes on each other at an L.A. party. Midway through a loud exclamation about what he did with mothers in general, she stopped and looked around the room. In pin-dropping silence, the guests, well-to-do, mostly White, gawked. It dawned on her, on him, too, as they looked around, that they were acting out age-old stereotypes that Black women basically were loud, uncouth hellcats, and Black men, especially after enough to drink, beat them as a matter of course. Never all that impressed by upscale trappings, Keith didn’t give a flying figure-8 what these lames thought. He hadn’t liked, though, that she looked bad, swearing like a sailor, clearly than in less than full control of herself. He held out his hand to help her up. She gave him a glare that would scare Medusa. He waited. Continue Reading →

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