“Aphrodite,” a short story by Mark Bruce

January 13th, 2023



“Aphrodite,” a short story by Mark Bruce, was a short-listed entry in our recently concluded 61st Short Fiction Contest, and is published with the consent of the author.






rrawpixel.com/C0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)

rawpixel.com/C0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)



by Mark Bruce


…..      She was sweet. She was kind.  She cooked me good food and loved me all night long.  She cooed in my ear about how strong and handsome I was.  She had money.  She believed in my music.  She attended all of my gigs.  She was gorgeous—curly dark hair, glowing dark eyes, high cheekbones. She was built like the Goddess of Love.  People would see her listen adoringly to me and would go crazy for everything I sang.  She brought in crowds that otherwise would never have flocked to see this broken down blues singer. If I had stayed with her, I would have been a superstar.

…..  Which is why I left her.

…..  If I had stayed with her I would have had it all:  Love, sex, money, even an assortment of interesting drugs.  Did I mention that her father was a pharmacist?

…..    I left her.  I had to.

…..     She would strip naked and dance like Salome.  She inflamed my loins.  Making love to her was like being in bed with Aphrodite.  There was nothing she wouldn’t try, and she was superb at every naked callisthenic I could think of.

…..       In fact, her name was Aphrodite. Her father had named her after the Greek goddess of love. But I was more interested in Cleo, the muse of music. And Cleo is a stern, stingy goddess.

…..    Aphrodite loved me. Consoled me. Inspired me. But every song she inspired was sugar and caramel and whipped cream. The audience loved it and some record company executives even began sniffing around the little café where I worked.

…..          So I had to let her go.  To save myself.

…..       She murmured to me, while we were deep in bed on a Saturday morning, that she had friends, underwear models, who would love to join us sometime under the covers.  Or who would come to my bed alone so she could talk about it with them later.  Or who would let her watch.  Or who would let her videotape us.  It would make us closer, she said, if she knew I was desirable to other women.  She said that watching me make love to another would give her ideas for what we could do together when we were alone.

…..       Isn’t it clear?  This woman was nothing but trouble.

…..      How could you sing the Blues if you’re fat and happy?  How can you rage against life and fate if you had a gorgeous lover who paid for everything?  How could you sing about your deepest anguish if there was a sated smile in your heart? I sang songs of sugar and caramel and whipped cream but they tasted sickly sweet on my tongue.

…..       So I left her.  I might have loved her.  I loved the Blues more.

…..      But that was not my sin. My sin was what I did to Bernie.

…..       Bernie was my rival, a scrawny no-talent who spread ugly rumors about me to bar owners—saying I was a drunkard, a drug user, a drug dealer, a convicted criminal with a prison record.  Bernie was an idiot.  He didn’t realize that those things—none of which I was—are all selling points for a bluesman.  If you’ve done hard time you can sing the hard blues.  If you drink too much you know the whiskey songs from the inside.  If you’re addicted to drugs, you know where rock bottom is and you sing from there.

…..      Bernie hated me and I knew why:  His version of the blues was a pale pasty-faced lie.  He’d learned his chops listening to the watered-down blues of dumb heavy metal bands. He’d never dipped his toes in the real stuff—he was deathly afraid of Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King and John Lee Hooker.  He never got past the 12 bar blues via David Coverdale.  When he growled the blues it sounded like a Chihuahua barking at your feet.

…..         Bernie came to my gigs and tried to disrupt the show.  He booed, made raspberry noises. Aphrodite froze him with a glare and the management, getting the hint, escorted him out by the seat of his pants.

…..     Bernie swore he’d get me.  One night he came at me with a knife.  He almost got me, too—but only because I was laughing so hard I almost didn’t duck in time.  Fortunately, Aphrodite kicked him in the shins. He dropped the knife and ran.

…..       Bernie was a pretender.  I didn’t hate him, I despised him.  He was a talentless fool.  He sang macaroni and cheese blues.  I had to destroy him before he destroyed the music I loved.

…..      So I contrived to put Bernie together with Aphrodite.  I dropped a few little hints to my girl that Bernie was a sad and lonely guy who would never make it. Isn’t it a shame, I’d say, that a good woman didn’t come along to straighten him out?  Wow, I’d say, it would take a really incredible girl to make that fool into something worthwhile.  Then I’d go out and play a set and not look at Aphrodite once.   Instead I’d find some mousey girl and flirt with her. Bernie would sit in the corner mooning over Aphrodite and glaring at me.  It was too easy.

…..       So yeah, I’m singing in a dirty little bar in the belly of the city.  About six people show up when I play, but the owner of the bar is an old friend and he gives me a twenty and all I can drink.  And I can drink a lot.  Turns out, Bernie was right about me turning into a drunk.

…..        I saw Aphrodite on TV yesterday.  She was with Bernie, who is now a pop singer with million-selling albums filled with sugary songs of love.  Aphrodite looked like a cat lapping up cream.

…..        And Bernie?  He smiled weakly to the cameras.

…..     Only I saw the desperation in his eyes.






Mark  Bruce  works as a solo practitioner in San Bernardino, California. He has worked in various Public Defender offices across the state and has tried nearly 150 jury trials as well as thousands of court trials. He won the 2018 Black Orchid Novella Award  for his story “Minerva James and the Goddess of Justice.” Ten Minerva James short stories have been published in magazines such as Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine and in three Dandelion Revolution Press anthologies. He lives in Barstow with a stuffed mermaid named Mariah and his writing support dragon Ferdinand. His only son lives in Michigan with a wife ,a child, and a Ph.D in Aerospace Engineering. That’s right. His son is a rocket scientist.



Listen to the 1954 recording of Ray Charles performing “I’ve Got a Woman” [Rhino/Atlantic]






Click here  to read “Equal,” Chris Simpson’s winning story in the 61st Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest

Click here  for details about the upcoming 62nd  Jerry Jazz Musician  Short Fiction Contest

Click here  to subscribe to the Jerry Jazz Musician  quarterly newsletter

Click here  to help support the continuing publication of  Jerry Jazz Musician






Share this:

One comments on ““Aphrodite,” a short story by Mark Bruce”

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

"Nina" by Marsha Hammel
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2024 Edition...One-third of the Winter, 2024 collection of jazz poetry is made up of poets who have only come to my attention since the publication of the Summer, 2023 collection. What this says about jazz music and jazz poetry – and this community – is that the connection between the two art forms is inspirational and enduring, and that poets are finding a place for their voice within the pages of this website. (Featuring the art of Marsha Hammel)

The Sunday Poem

photo by Mel Levine/pinelife, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
“Lady Day and Prez” by Henry Wolstat

Click here to read previous editions of The Sunday Poem


Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood...A relaxed, familiar comfort emerges from the poet Terrance Underwood’s language of intellectual acuity, wit, and space – a feeling similar to one gets while listening to Monk, or Jamal, or Miles. I have long wanted to share his gifts as a poet on an expanded platform, and this 33-poem collection – woven among his audio readings, music he considers significant to his story, and brief personal comments – fulfills my desire to do so.

Publisher’s Notes

photo by Rhonda Dorsett
A very brief three-dot update…Where I’ve been, and an update on what is coming up on Jerry Jazz Musician


Photographer uncredited, but the photo was almost certainly taken by Chuck Stewart. Published by ABC/Impulse! Records.. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
“And I’m Not Even Here” – a poem by Connie Johnson

Click here to read more poetry published on Jerry Jazz Musician


"Lester Leaps In" by Tad Richards
"Jazz and American Poetry," an essay by Tad Richards...In an essay that first appeared in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poetry in 2005, Tad Richards - a prolific visual artist, poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer who has been active for over four decades – writes about the history of the connection of jazz and American poetry.


photo of Pepper Adams/courtesy of Pepper Adams Estate
Interview with Gary Carner, author of Pepper Adams: Saxophone Trailblazer...The author speaks with Bob Hecht about his book and his decades-long dedication to the genius of Pepper Adams, the stellar baritone saxophonist whose hard-swinging bebop style inspired many of the top-tier modern baritone players.

Click here to read more interviews published on Jerry Jazz Musician


Three poets and Sketches of Spain


IISG, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Interview with Judith Tick, author of Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song...The author discusses her book, a rich, emotionally stirring, exceptional work that explores every element of Ella’s legacy in great depth, reminding readers that she was not only a great singing artist, but also a musical visionary and social activist.

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

The cover of Wayne Shorter's 2018 Blue Note album "Emanon"
Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 20: “Notes on Genius...This edition of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film is written in response to the music of Wayne Shorter.

Click here to read previous editions of Trading Fours with Douglas Cole


Jason Innocent, on “3”, Abdullah Ibrahim’s latest album... Album reviews are rarely published on Jerry Jazz Musician, but Jason Innocent’s experience with the pianist Abdullah Ibrahim’s new recording captures the essence of this artist’s creative brilliance.

Short Fiction

Christerajet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #64 — “The Old Casino” by J.B. Marlow...The author's award-winning story takes place over the course of a young man's life, looking at all the women he's loved and how the presence of a derelict building informs those relationships.

Click here to read more short fiction published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Jazz with a Beat: Small Group Swing 1940 – 1960, by Tad Richards

Click here to read more book excerpts published on Jerry Jazz Musician


"Jazz Trio" by Samuel Dixon
A collection of jazz haiku, Vol. 2...The 19 poets included in this collection effectively share their reverence for jazz music and its culture with passion and brevity.

Jazz History Quiz #171

Dick Cavett/via Wikimedia Commons
In addition to being one of the greatest musicians of his generation, this Ohio native was an activist, leading “Jazz and People’s Movement,” a group formed in the late 1960’s who “adopted the tactic of interrupting tapings and broadcasts of television and radio programs (i.e. the shows of Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett [pictured] and Merv Griffin) in protest of the small number of Black musicians employed by networks and recording studios.” Who was he?

Click here to visit the Jazz History Quiz archive


photo via Picryl.com
.“Community Bookshelf, #2"...a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share news about their recently authored books. This edition includes information about books published within the last six months or so…

Contributing Writers

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Coming Soon

An interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 - 1960;  an interview with Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, authors of But Will You Love Me Tomorrow? An Oral History of the 60's Girl Groups;  a new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Eubie Blake
Click to view the complete 22 year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake (pictured); Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

Site Archive