Short Fiction Contest-winning story #62 — “Mr. P.C.” by Jacob Schrodt

March 13th, 2023

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New Short Fiction Award

Three times a year, we award a writer who submits, in our opinion, the best original, previously unpublished work.

Jacob Schrodt of Nashville, Tennessee is the winner of the 62nd Jerry Jazz Musician New Short Fiction Award, announced and published for the first time on March 13, 2023.

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photo via PxHere

photo via PxHere

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Mr. P.C.

by Jacob Schrodt

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…..On Thursdays my teenage daughter, Michaela, eats dinner at my place. This arrangement, by which she is also encouraged to stay over every other weekend, was authored by a Dallas County judge when Mic was only three. Back then, her mother, Faye, had become extramaritally involved—to put it graciously—with the chrome-domed idiot who pastored our church. I had stopped attending Sunday services because, well, I no longer believed any of it—the sermons, the Good Book, the notion that God was on the line whenever I called, that my petitions were ever being heard. “The Lord is speaking constantly,” Faye argued at the time, adding snidely that I should be able to relate. “Perhaps you’re the one not listening.” I wasn’t convinced. And so, Faye, believing I was no longer the man she had married—a person of faith, a true believer—sought the pastor’s council. She found it, I suppose, by getting to know the baldheaded Bible thumper in more of the biblical sense.

…..Mic, as far as I know, knows nothing of the affair. She has never asked about the divorce, and I have no desire for drumming up such dated gossip. I no longer blame her mother for any of it. Those were confusing times. My own mother, after suffering miserably from a three-year battle with cancer, had just passed. And, to be completely transparent about it, I too had committed my fair share of the marital sins (which need no examination here).

…..I look forward to our Thursday night visits—cherish them, in fact—and often abandon my work early at the office to tidy up my townhome. Mic is sixteen, the same age her older brother, Charlie, stopped coming over.

…..“He just wants to be with his friends,” Faye said when I called to express my disappointment. “Don’t take it so personally. It makes them feel bad when you get pouty. Also, Charlie says your place is pure filth—smells like dick. His words, not mine.”

…..So now, on this particular Thursday, when the low beams from Mic’s car cut through my living room window, sweeping light along the ceiling and down the walls, I’m pleased to see the carpet retains the zigzagged lines from where I’ve vacuumed. I turn over the record I’ve been spinning, Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil, and step out onto the small concrete square that is my front patio.

…..Mic remains in her car, engine idling. Her music reaches my ears muffled, a faint but assertive trumpet buzzing over recurrent chords and steady time. I presume Miles Davis with his first great quintet, Mic’s favorite as of late.

…..You wouldn’t be foolish to think she’s inherited her love of jazz from me—I was at one time an accomplished saxophonist, and my bachelor’s degree in Jazz Studies still hangs on my wall above four wooden crates full of jazz vinyl—but you would be wrong. A few years after the divorce, Faye remarried. The stepdad, an okay (if mildly priggish) yawn named Holland, is of all things a jazz pianist. Faye has a type, I suppose. For Mic’s ninth birthday, Holland bought her a drum kit and signed her up for lessons. She proved prodigious within weeks. To say I was shaken by the whole ordeal would be understatedly correct. I developed stomach ulcers. I lost seven pounds. I identified in the suffering of a great lineage of fathers whose rights to the first—a first ballgame or fishing trip or beer, just to name a few—were trampled upon by overeager grandparents, stepparents, or paramours. Music was my domain. Mic’s first instrument was my right. Before Holland, before the drum kit, Mic had shown no interest in music. I’m fairly certain of this. But I knew she would come around eventually. I was only biding my time.

…..She sees me waiting in the porch’s light and kills the engine. She ambles up the driveway, hunched forward beneath an unwieldy backpack. Every week she looks more and more like her mother—the round face, the dark, wavy hair, the same snub nose and high arching eyebrows. She’s beautiful, and it scares me.

…..“Miles?” I say, wrapping my arm around her shoulder. I squeeze gently and kiss the top of her head.

…..“With Coltrane,” she says. “It’s a bootleg from their final tour together.”

…..We go inside.

…..“That would’ve been 1958,” I say. “Or, no, ’59.”

…..“Sixty,” she says.

…..“No way,” I say. “Giant Steps was recorded in ’59. Coltrane was doing his own thing by ’60.”

…..“Dad,” she says. “The date’s printed on the cover.”

…..“Wow,” I say. And I’m truly puzzled by this. I consider myself well educated on the history of jazz. True, two decades have passed since I received my diploma. But the Ken Burns film has served as a valuable refresher over the years. “That late—you’re sure?”

…..“Three million percent,” she says and climbs the stairs toward her room.

#

…..For dinner, I cook breakfast. My fondness for “morning’s meal” emerged shortly after I became a father. Back then I obsessed over the various methods of scrambling an egg or crisping a piece of bacon. I watched the cooking shows, read the blogs online. In time, like any artist, I developed my own style. I now consider myself something of a breakfast specialist.

…..Tonight is caramelized onion and spinach frittata with a side of sweet potato hash.

…..We eat in the living room at the coffee table, cross-legged on the floor. I’ve put on the Giant Steps record, side two.

…..“I have a surprise for us,” I announce.

…..“For us?” Mic says. “Sounds like you already know the surprise.”

…..Her wit brings me great pleasure, though I appreciate it most when directed toward others.

…..“Very funny,” I say. “You know of Jose Varela, don’t you? My old friend from school—the bass player.” My use of the word “friend” to describe Jose Varela is at best disingenuous, at worst complete bullshit. We graduated together, and I played in his quartet for many years after that. Still, our relationship never ventured beyond the shallows of business, even when my marriage and faith and life succumbed to the deep. He fired me, citing my preoccupation with non-musical matters. The guy’s a real asshole. “He and your stepdad have surely worked together. Anyway, I ran into him last night at Pappasito’s. He was there having dinner with his daughter.”

…..Mic is holding her fork at eye level, picking at a hair-like substance hanging from her stabbed frittata. She says, “What is it?”

…..“It’s probably the cheese,” I say. “The manchego can get a little stringy.”

…..“The surprise,” she says. “What’s the surprise?”

…..“Right—Jose’s trio is playing tonight at The Balcony Club. I told him about you. He said he’d love for us to come out. And get this, he said it’d be fun if you and I both sat in on a tune.”

…..“I can’t.”

…..“Sure you can.”

…..“Dad, it’s a school night.”

…..“I’ve already checked with Mom.”

…..“But you didn’t check with me.”

…..“It was a surprise.”

…..“Well, surprise, I have a lot of homework due.”

…..“Do it in the car. I’ve already told Jose we’d—”

…..I’m cut off by the metallic clang of her fork hitting the plate. From the record player, John Coltrane burns over the relentless ride of Art Taylor and the big-hearted bass of Paul Chambers. Track seven, “Mr. P.C.”

…..I must be careful here. My annoyance cannot be with Mic. She may possess unique musical maturity, but her preference for schoolwork to a night out with Dad should only be expected from someone her age. Moreover, because of the stepdad, because the guy is gigging multiple nights a week, Mic gets to do this sort of thing—sitting in with real cats—anytime she wants.

…..I take a breath. I take a drink. I say, “I just thought it’d be neat if the two of us got to play together. That’s all.” When she says nothing, I add, “I know it’s not a big deal for you, but—”

…..“Please don’t,” she says.

…..“Don’t what?” I say.

…..She stands, leaving her plate on the coffee table. “I’m not hungry.” She starts up the stairs but stops halfway. “You don’t even own a horn anymore.”

…..I nod toward the record player, directing her attention to the tenor saxophone case sitting there on the floor. “It’s a rental,” I say. “Got it this morning.”

…..Mic lets out a heavy sigh. “When do you want to leave?”

…..“Thirty minutes?”

…..“And you promise we’ll leave right after we play?”

…..“Three million percent.”

…..“That doesn’t make any sense.”

…..“Sure it does. I promise you three-million-per—”

…..She continues up the stairs. Underneath the skittering piano solo of Tommy Flannigan, I hear the door to her room click shut. I finish my plate before starting in on hers. She’s barely touched the hash, which I now notice is mushier than I prefer—perhaps over boiled during prep or undercooked in the skillet. Either way, it’s not my best.

#

…..From my townhome, it’s an easy thirty minutes to The Balcony Club, mostly highways. Mic rides shotgun, legs crossed in the seat, a massive textbook laid open in her lap. She grips her MacBook in one hand while turning pages or typing with the other. She hasn’t said a word the entire drive.

…..For as long as I can remember, silence, or anything resembling it, has unnerved me. I can hardly stand being home alone or in my work cubicle without some sort of auditory accompaniment. My therapist, whom I no longer see, once suggested it had something to do with my childhood. Chaos, she said, had marred the most important years of my early development. All that noise—my father’s shouting, my mother’s screaming, sustained some nights for hours while my siblings and I lay in bed, wishing the walls were thicker, the box fan louder. I was nine when they finally called it quits. That same year, I bought my first record player.

…..I connect my phone to the car’s audio system and find the track I’m looking for. From the speakers comes one of the most iconic melodies in jazz history. Miles Davis’s “So What.” But on this recording, a live concert at Lincoln Center’s Philharmonic Hall, the bassist starts the song at break-neck speed. The pianist completes the hurried motif with syncopated stabs. The rest of the band—drums, trumpet, sax—creeps in halfway through the head. Davis crescendos deviously into the top of his solo, only to erupt in a controlled fit of shrieks, trills, and metallic wails, his outbursts answered by a drum and piano accompaniment bordering on abuse.

…..I glance to Mic for a reaction. She’s buried face deep in her textbook.

…..“This was recorded at a charity event,” I say over the music. “Before the concert, Miles informed the band they weren’t getting paid.” Mic is running her finger left to right beneath the lines of text, mouthing whatever it is she’s supposedly reading. “Miles had agreed to do the show for free. He just assumed the rest of the band would be cool to do the same.”

…..At this her finger stops. She’s going to say something. She says nothing.

…..“All the tracks are like this,” I continue. “You can really hear the contention in their playing.”

…..Davis finishes his solo, but the band never lets up. The track is nine minutes of pure adrenalized aggression. Mic’s non-response has me wondering if I’ve already told her this story. In my book, it’s impossible to hear this recording with such indifference. Especially if hearing it for the first—

…..Holland. That son of a bitch.

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…..We arrive and find the place dead. Most of the tables are empty. Only a few people drink at the bar. At the front of the room, on a small stage raised no more than a foot off the floor, awash in dim, ghostly light, Jose and his trio play a slow, minor blues ballad. Its haunting melody moves through the air unnoticed, and I find myself possessed by feelings of both selfish disappointment and karmic delight.

…..Thinking Jose has spotted us, I raise my free hand—the other hand holds the tenor sax case—and offer a friendly wave. He returns the gesture with a blank stare.

…..Mic and I grab a table.

…..“Do you want anything?” I ask.

…..“No, thank you.”

…..At the bar, a middle-aged woman with sad, droopy eyes sets a napkin in front of me.

…..“Just water for now,” I say. And I’m fully aware of how annoying this must be for her. I consider explaining that, in a few minutes, I’ll be sitting in with the band and that I prefer not to drink until after a performance and that I once missed the first two songs of a set—this, coincidentally, was the same night Jose fired me—because I’d had the wise idea of shooting Gentleman Jack seconds before taking the stage. The whiskey, a double if I remember correctly, went down my windpipe and, due to the violent coughing fit that followed, proceeded up through my nose, setting my nasal cavity and face and brain on fire. I tell the bartender none of this, opting instead for a more charitable gesture. “How ’bout a Dr. Pepper, as well,” I say, handing her my credit card. “You can keep it open.”

…..When I return with the drinks, Mic does a double take before staring at me in disbelief.

…..“I know, I know,” I say. “I felt bad for ordering just water. The bartender’s probably making zilch from tips tonight. You like Dr. Pepper, don’t you?”

…..“I don’t drink soda,” she says.

…..“Since when?”

…..“Since a long time ago. I’ve told you this.”

…..And with this, I say no more. I know better. It’s not the first time I’ve been told I was told this when, in fact, I have no recollection of being told this at all. Throughout the marriage, Faye used the same tactic with compelling regularity.

…..I keep the Dr. Pepper for myself.

…..Comprised of Jose on upright bass, an older white-haired gentleman on drums, and a younger college-aged man on piano, the trio plays through a set of tunes I’d expect not from a proper listening lounge like The Balcony Club but a cheap Italian restaurant in Branson—nothing original, nothing outside the Real Book: “Autumn Leaves,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Misty.” For God’s sake, they even play “The Girl From Ipanema.” There’s no fire, no heart. It’s the musical equivalent of reading names from a phone book, and after enduring an hour of it, I begin to think Jose is filibustering.

…..At around nine-thirty, nearing what has to be the end of their set—another band is scheduled for ten—when the pianist starts into the next tune, and it seems as though Jose has no intention of inviting us on stage, I stand up and plop the sax case onto the table, nearly knocking over the drinks.

…..“Jesus, Dad,” Mic says.

…..“What?” I say. “I’m just getting ready.”

…..I flip the latches and open the case. I remove a brand new reed. I place the reed in my mouth. The taste is more bitter than I remember. I assemble the horn. I strap it around my neck.

…..At the song’s final chord, I turn to Mic. “You ready?”

…..“What are you doing?” she whispers.

…..“We,” I say. “What are we doing?”

…..I reach the stage, and to my surprise, Jose’s face lights up.

…..“Amigo!” he says. “I’m so glad you came out!” I try to shake his hand, but he hugs my neck instead. The sudden warmth of his embrace leaves me dumbstruck. “We were going to squeeze in one more tune before calling you up, but I suppose now is fine. And this must be your daughter.” Mic appears at my side. She shakes Jose’s hand. She tells him how she loves the antiqued look and balanced tone of his bass. Jose is flattered. He turns to the trio’s drummer and says, “Hey, Ed, do you mind if Michaela here sits in?”

…..Now, I can’t know this for sure, but this drummer, Ed, old Eddie, appears to be unashamedly skeptical of the idea. With an eyebrow raised and lips pressed into a flat smirk, he lowers his head and peers over the top of his glasses to get a good look at Mic—this young woman, my daughter, daring to play his drums. Internally, I’m boiling.

…..“I don’t mind at all,” Ed says, struggling to stand. He hands Mic a pair of sticks. She sits behind the drums, tall and confident. It’s the most relaxed she’s appeared all night.

…..Jose says, “All right, gang. Maybe we do something straight ahead? Something mid-tempo?”

…..Suddenly I’m speaking again. “I hope you’re not saying that because she’s a girl.”

…..For a moment, Jose just stares at me, mouth open. He looks to Mic, to the pianist, back to me. “I’m sorry?” he says. “Wait—did I say something wrong?”

…..“Oh, come on,” I say. “‘Something mid-tempo?’ Because she’s a girl, you don’t think she can play something up-tempo?”

…..“That’s not what I meant at all,” Jose says, fumbling. “In fact, I don’t care what we play.”

…..“Great,” I say. “So let’s play something up.”

…..“Fine,” Jose says. “You call the tune. It’s your world.”

…..My world? Strangely, I’ve heard this before. Years ago, after losing my mother and faith and marriage and music career, I took a job selling life insurance. One morning while driving in, I came to a stop at an intersection near the office. There I saw an older Black man in shabby clothes walking up and down the median playing an alto saxophone. I lowered my window. With immaculate technique and tone, the man played what sounded to me like “Black and Blue,” the old Louis Armstrong tune. I couldn’t believe it. Why was this real-deal player out here playing for change? I opened my wallet. When I gave the man a hundred—it was the only thing I had—he smiled and said, “My good man, Easy Money!” Then he turned and marched back toward the light, playing his saxophone the entire way. Every morning that week, he was there at the same intersection. I never gave him another bill, but he always managed to spot me—every time. He’d point and wave. He’d smile, compressing his face into a thousand creases. “Easy Money!” he’d shout. “It’s a white man’s world, Easy Money! It’s your world.”

…..Now, on stage, put on the spot, I can’t think of a single tune. I look to Mic for help, but she’s got her head down—embarrassed of her old man. I’m about to cave and ask the pianist to call it when Mic mutters: “Mr. P.C.”

…..Slowly she lifts her eyes toward Jose. She’s grinning, mischievously, as if the song were some naughty word. Jose and the pianist are laughing.

…..“Works for me,” I say, aware of the joke but finding little humor in it. Besides, we’d heard the tune earlier at my place, and considering I’ve had no time to prepare, I’m relieved to play something fresh on my mind. “Count us in, Mic.”

…..Without hesitation, she counts off a tempo much faster than the original. Even with a hurried breath, I barely get my lips to the mouthpiece. Because of this, the first sound I produce from the horn is a true whopper. I recover quickly, however, and play through the head, albeit slurring phrases, even omitting notes altogether, just to keep pace.

…..Then I solo.

…..Providing here an overly detailed and pedantic analysis full of highfalutin theorist terminology for how I approach improvising over the composition’s minor blues chord progression is unnecessary when plain and simple language will do. My solo is bad. Immediately the muscles in and around my mouth are aflame, a neurological wildfire blazing out along my jaw and down my neck. My lungs tire, too atrophied to keep the instrument in tune. The high notes I once produced with ease are now beyond my reach. The low notes hide beneath years of dust. Pausing to catch my breath, I pretend to examine the mouthpiece, making a big show of it as if my struggles are due to faulty equipment. At the same moment, Mic unleashes a barrage of bass drum bombs, shouldering the cymbals with each detonation, the spang-a-lang pattern from her ride persisting through the explosions. I look her way and find her staring at me, brows raised as if to say was that it? To which internally I reply: oh, there’s more. I take a breath and rip into one of my older go-to licks, a lengthy pre-packaged torrent of melodic leaps and rhythmic jabs. To end the riff, I hold the final note for several bars. My tone, it should be said, is horrendous. But the result of my passionate attempt is a seismic eruption of energy from the band, not to mention what I perceive to be several whoops and hollers from the audience. I wink at Mic, who shakes her head and laughs. Then I take a bow and retreat to the shadowed edge of the stage.

…..As the pianist begins to solo, Mic drops the dynamic to startling effect, a cease fire at the end of war. I find myself having to lean in just to hear her with any sort of cognizance. Of course, I’ve heard her before, countless times. But not like this, not from this close or from such a privileged vantage point. From here (and no longer having to concentrate on my own performance), I can more easily perceive the command she has over the instrument and the fascinating, almost oxymoronic intelligence of her playing, evident in the light-handed intensity of her touch, the independent unity of her limbs, the smooth skip of her swing. She is somehow pushing the tempo right to the edge of mayhem without sending any of us over. I’m reminded of the story I shared with her in the car, the one about Miles and his unpaid band at the charity event, the preshow squabbles, the onstage hostility, the drummer who—and I’m only now remembering this detail—was still in his teens. I’m reminded—though I’ve known it for years—that my daughter is a fucking genius.

…..Knowing what comes next, I ready my axe. The pianist finishes. I step back into the light. And just like the original recording on where Coltrane and drummer Art Taylor exchange a back-and-forth of four-bar solos, I trade fours with Mic. My first four, though never straying far from the safety of the minor pentatonic scale, is fine—a sure improvement from my earlier run. But when Mic solos, I detect a vulnerability in her choices, a bravery of sorts, slight imperfections, the working-out of ideas. And I find myself suddenly open to musical possibilities beyond the preconceived or familiar, notes and phrases inspired not from remembered bits of theory but rather from what’s happening on stage. In other words, I find myself open to playing jazz. My next four, and every four thereafter, flows more freely from my hands and out from the horn, a melodic mess of squawks and squeals, barks and howls. They are, perhaps, the most honest sounds I’ve made all evening. We go round and round like this for I don’t know how long. I lose myself in the heart-to-heart of it, feeling as though I could play on forever, forever in conversation with her. But, alas, she signals the end, and we play the head one last time.

…..Our performance receives the largest applause of the evening. Jose, beaming and laughing, crosses the stage and gives Mic a high five. A few tipsy-faced young men with beers in hand push past me and gather near the drums to express their admiration. I can’t help but look on with a sense of pride, seeing that something good has been made of my life.

…..I case the horn and head straight for the bar. When she sees me, the bartender frowns and fills another glass with water. “Actually ma’am,” I say, slapping the counter. “Let’s do a round for the band. Four Gentleman Jacks, please—doubles, on the rocks.”

…..Soon I feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn to find Mic standing there, smiling, sweat streaking the sides of her face. “My girl!” I say, pulling her in for a hug. “How amazing was that? You really had us flying up there!” When I let her go, she says nothing, and I detect between us an asymmetry of enthusiasm. “Oh, no. Please don’t tell me you didn’t like it.”

…..“I did,” she says, though a little too quickly. “It was good, Dad. You were great.” She pats my arm and says, “Ready to go?” At the same moment, the bartender returns with the drinks. Mic’s smile disappears.

…..“They’re for the guys,” I say. “A quick round to say thanks.”

…..“Wait,” Mic says. “Are you serious right now? Jesus, Dad, you’re blowing it. You promised we’d leave right away.”

…..“I know,” I say. “But I thought you’d want a few minutes to cool off.”

…..“I don’t need to cool off,” she says. “I need us to leave. It’s late, and I’m tired, and I still have to drive home to Mom’s, and I’m already going to be up all night finishing my homework.” Mic, I should note, is no longer speaking at a volume I’d consider preferable for a private conversation.

…..“Okay, okay,” I say. “I hear you. I’m closing the tab right now.”

…..“Yeah, well, sometimes I don’t think you do.”

…..“What?”

…..“Exactly.”

…..“Mic, listen. I’m—”

…..“I’ll wait in the car,” she says and holds out her hand. I give her the keys. She’s gone before I can say another word.

…..I scan the room for the rest of the band, not wanting the drinks to go to waste. The ten-o’clock act is setting up on stage. A new wave of patrons has arrived, enlivening the place with movement and chatter. Jose, as far as I can tell, is gone.

…..I see old Eddie near the exit, struggling to sling a cymbal bag over his shoulder. When I call his name, he turns and looks at me in the exact way he looked at Mic earlier—the flattened lips, the lone arching eyebrow, the lowered head with eyes squinting over the glasses. Maybe the guy just can’t see that well.

…..“Thanks for letting Mic sit in,” I say, raising one of the whiskies. “Care for a drink?”

…..He nods and, after a short pause, staggers out the door.

…..Eventually the bartender returns. “Don’t make it worse,” she says, sliding me the check and a pen.

…..I assume she’s referring to the way I’m hunched over her four generous pours, considering them, head spinning with self-pity and the bizarre, baiting voice I hear from time to time—when standing at the crosswalk of a busy street, for example, or in line behind an armed police officer, or against the railing of a high-rise balcony. Just do it. Blow the whole thing up. Perhaps she’s heard it too—the bartender, the voice. She has quite possibly the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen.

…..I sign the receipt. One soda, eight shots of whiskey, all untouched. I leave a sizeable tip.

#

…..By the time I reach the car, Mic is reclined in the passenger seat, eyes closed. She’s left the door unlocked, the keys splayed on the center console. I start the car but keep it in park.

…..“You’re right,” I hear myself say. “I blew it.”

…..She rolls away from me, onto her side.

…..“Mic, can we please talk this out?”

…..“Not now,” she says. “I’m power napping.”

…..“Okay, but when?” I ask.

…..There comes a long, dreadful pause. Finally, she says, “Next Thursday.”

…..On the highway, I keep to the right-hand lanes and drive the speed limit. We’re halfway back to my place before I even notice—notably without a trace of unease—the low hum of rubber and road, the white-noise swells of passing vehicles, the calm, quiet state of a space unburdened by music or the sound of my own voice. To my amusement and delight, I can even make out the faint susurrations of a snoring teen.

…..It occurs to me that not since Mic was a newborn have I been in her presence while she was asleep. Even after the divorce, on their weekends at my place, Mic and Charlie put themselves to bed. And they were always up the next morning well before I was, filled with an alarming, urgent energy, as if through their dreams they’d been warned of life’s brevity and death’s finality.

…..Shortly after Mic was born, to give Faye some much-needed rest, I took over the night feedings. I remember those violent jolts from sleep, the lingering ache in my side from where Faye had punched me awake. I remember the faint, metronomic cries coming from Mic’s room, like distant echoes unwilling to dissipate. The sadness of leaving a warm bed. The floors like ice to my bare feet. After heating a bottle, I’d sit in the cushioned rocker with Mic diagonaled in my lap, her head warming the crook of my arm. She’d devour the milk with drunken, sleepy-eyed pleasure but often struggled to keep it down. To counter this, I’d hold her upright against my chest, some nights for nearly an hour. It was then, in the room’s cold, discomforting quiet, waiting for her to slip back into that unbreakable sleep known only to the young and the dead, that I would pray—for my struggling marriage, for my dying mother, for my wandering heart full of doubt and fear and shame. With my eyes closed, desperate for an answer, a response—Say something, God! SAY ANYTHING!—I’d listen. All I ever heard was Mic, the sound of her lungs breathing in and breathing out the room’s cold air.

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Jacob Schrodt is a drummer, music producer, and emerging writer. His work appears in  The Forge, Star 82 Review, and  J  Journal.  He lives in Nashville with his wife and two children.

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Listen to the 1959 recording of John Coltrane playing “Mr. P.C.” from his album Giant Steps (released in 1960), with Tommy Flanagan (piano); Paul Chambers (bass); and Art Taylor (drums).  [Rhino/Atlantic]

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Click here  to read “Equal,” by Chris Simpson, the winner of the 61st Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest

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Short Fiction Contest Details

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6 comments on “Short Fiction Contest-winning story #62 — “Mr. P.C.” by Jacob Schrodt”

  1. I loved this story!! I could imagine being in the The Balcony Club with them, listening and even playing along. I could put myself in his place as he rocked baby Mic sleep in the middle of the night. I even felt some genuine righteous indignation at the hypocritical and selfish pastor helping to break a family apart. Even though this was technically fiction, it could be anyone’s story. Great job bringing your readers along for the ride and helping them to feel!

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“The Eye Tapes…Monument to my Jazzy Eye” by Anita Lerek

Poetry

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.

Black History

The Harlem Globetrotters/photo via Wikimedia Commons
A Black History Month Profile: The Harlem Globetrotters...In this 2005 interview, Ben Green, author of Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters, discusses the complex history of the celebrated Black touring basketball team.

Black History

photo of Zora Neale Hurston by Carl Van Vechten/Library of Congress
A Black History Month Profile: Zora Neale Hurston...In a 2002 interview, Carla Kaplan, editor of Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, talks about the novelist, anthropologist, playwright, folklorist, essayist and poet

Black History

Eubie Blake
A Black History Month Profile – Pianist and composer Eubie Blake...In this 2021 Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Eubie Blake biographers Ken Bloom and Richard Carlin discuss the legendary composer of American popular song and jazz during the 20th century

Feature

Jamie Branch's 2023 album "Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war))"
On the Turntable— The “Best Of the ‘Best Of’” in 2023 jazz recordings...A year-end compilation of jazz albums oft mentioned by a wide range of critics as being the best of 2023 - including the late trumpeter Jamie Branch's Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war))

Essay

"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.

Interview

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.

Poetry

art by Russell duPont
These poems are new submissions by six poets relatively new to Jerry Jazz Musician, and are an example of the writing I have the privilege of encountering on a regular basis.

Interview

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.

Poetry

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole is an occasional series of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film. This edition is influenced by Stillpoint, the 2021 album by Zen practitioner Barrett Martin

Playlist

“Latin Tinges in Modern Jazz” – a playlist by Bob Hecht...A nine-hour long Spotify playlist featuring songs by the likes of Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Ahmad Jamal, and Dizzy Gillespie that demonstrates how the Latin music influence on jazz has been present since the music’s beginnings.

Poetry

[Columbia Legacy]
“On Becoming A Jazz Fanatic In The Early 1970’s” – 20 linked short poems by Daniel Brown

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.

Feature

George Shearing/Associated Booking Corporation/James Kriegsmann, New York, via Wikimedia Commons
True Jazz Stories: “An Evening With George,” by Terry Sanville...The writer tells his story of playing guitar with a symphony orchestra, backing up jazz legend George Shearing.

Short Fiction

Defense Visual Information Distribution Service/via Picryl.com
“Afloat” – a finalist in the 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest – is about a troubled man in his 40s who lessens his worries by envisioning himself and loved ones on a boat that provides safety and ease for all of them.

Poetry

The poet Connie Johnson in 1981
In a Place of Dreams: Connie Johnson’s album of jazz poetry, music, and life stories...A collection of the remarkable poet's work is woven among her audio readings, a personal narrative of her journey and music she considers significant to it, providing readers the chance to experience the full value of her gifts.

Book Excerpt

Book Excerpt from Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song, by Judith Tick...The author writes about highlights of Ella’s career, and how the significance of her Song Book recordings is an example of her “becoming” Ella.

Community

Nominations for the Pushcart Prize XLVIII

Interview

photo courtesy of Henry Threadgill
Interview with Brent Hayes Edwards, co-author (with Henry Threadgill) of Easily Slip Into Another World: A Life in Music...The author discusses his work co-written with Threadgill, the composer and multi-instrumentalist widely recognized as one of the most original and innovative voices in contemporary music, and the winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Music.

Playlist

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
“A Baker’s Dozen Playlist of Ella Fitzgerald Specialties from Five Decades,” as selected by Ella biographer Judith Tick...Chosen from Ella’s entire repertoire, Ms. Tick’s intriguing playlist (with brief commentary) is a mix of studio recordings, live dates, and video, all available for listening here.

Poetry

"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 #169

This trumpeter was in the 1932 car accident that took the life of famed clarinetist/saxophonist Frankie Techemacher (pictured), and is best remembered for his work with Eddie Condon’s bands. Who was he?

Interview

From the Interview Archive: A 2011 conversation with Alyn Shipton, author of Hi-De-Ho: The Life of Cab Calloway...In this interview, Shipton discusses Cab Calloway, whose vocal theatrics and flamboyant stage presence made him one of the country’s most beloved entertainers.

Community

Nominations for the Pushcart Prize XLVIII...announcing the six Jerry Jazz Musician-published writers nominated for the prestigious literary award

Poetry

Gotfryd, Bernard, photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
“Devotion” – a poem and 11 “Musings on Monk,” by Connie Johnson

Photography

photo of Mal Waldron by Giovanni Piesco
Beginning in 1990, the noted photographer Giovanni Piesco began taking backstage photographs of many of the great musicians who played in Amsterdam’s Bimhuis, that city’s main jazz venue which is considered one of the finest in the world. Jerry Jazz Musician will occasionally publish portraits of jazz musicians that Giovanni has taken over the years. This edition is of the pianist/composer Mal Waldron, taken on three separate appearances at Bimhuis (1996, 2000 and 2001).

Interview

Leffler, Warren K/Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
A Black History Month Profile: Civil Rights Leader Bayard Rustin...

Community

FOTO:FORTEPAN / Kölcsey Ferenc Dunakeszi Városi Könyvtár / Petanovics fényképek, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
.“Community Bookshelf, #1"...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…

Short Fiction

photo by Thomas Leuthard/Wikimedia Commons
“The Winslows Take New Orleans” a short story by Mary Liza Hartong...This story, a finalist in the recently concluded 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest, tells the tale of Uncle Cheapskate and Aunt Whiner, those pesky relatives you love to hate and hate to love.

Short Fiction

painting of Gaetano Donizetti by Francesco Coghetti/via Wikimedia Commons
“A Single Furtive Tear” – a short story by Dora Emma Esze...A short-listed entry in the recently concluded 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest, the story is a heartfelt, grateful monologue to one Italian composer, dead and immortal of course, whose oeuvre means so much to so many of us.

Interview

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Interview with Alyn Shipton, author of The Gerry Mulligan 1950’s Quartets...Long regarded as jazz music’s most eminent baritone saxophonist, Gerry Mulligan was a central figure in “cool” jazz whose contributions to it also included his important work as a composer and arranger. Noted jazz scholar Alyn Shipton, author of The Gerry Mulligan 1950s Quartets, and Jerry Jazz Musician contributing writer Bob Hecht discuss Mulligan’s unique contributions to modern jazz.

Book Excerpt

“Chick” Webb was one of the first virtuoso drummers in jazz and an innovative bandleader dubbed the “Savoy King,” who reigned at Harlem’s world-famous Savoy Ballroom. Stephanie Stein Crease is the first to fully tell Webb’s story in her biography, Rhythm Man: Chick Webb and the Beat that Changed America…The book’s entire introduction is excerpted here.

Short Fiction

pixabay.com via Picryl.com
“The Silent Type,” a short story by Tom Funk...The story, a finalist in the recently concluded 64th Short Fiction Contest, is inspired by the classic Bob Dylan song “Tangled Up in Blue” which speculates about what might have been the back story to the song.

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Easily Slip Into Another World: A Life in Music, by Henry Threadgill and Brent Hayes Edwards

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

Art

Designed for Dancing: How Midcentury Records Taught America to Dance: “Outtakes” — Vol. 2...In this edition, the authors Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder share examples of Cha Cha Cha record album covers that didn't make the final cut in their book

Pressed for All Time

“Pressed For All Time,” Vol. 17 — producer Joel Dorn on Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s 1967 album, The Inflated Tear

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