“The Hidden Garden” — a short story by Con Chapman

August 16th, 2022



“The Hidden Garden,” a story by Con Chapman, was a short-listed entry in our recently concluded 60th Short Fiction Contest, and is published with the consent of the author







The Hidden Garden

by Con Chapman


   …..         She was the one who moved out, to a studio apartment on the back side of Beacon Hill that looked north so it only got direct sunlight for half a day during the summer. Rob felt bad about it but it had to be that way.  They argued all the time, and he could afford to pay the rent on the one bedroom with the big great room—that’s what she called it—on the sunny side of the hill and she couldn’t, not by herself.  That apartment looked north, too, but it had windows on two sides at least, so you got some sun in the winter.

   …..           He wondered why she chose to live so close, and flattered himself that she really didn’t want to break up, but still he promised himself that he wouldn’t get back together with her.  Maybe it was the lack of sunlight that makes her so depressed, he thought, and if so moving to the back side of the hill—where the Blacks and the servants to the Boston Brahmins used to live—wasn’t going to help.

   …..             At least she had a view of one of the hidden gardens, the enclosed spaces within city blocks where some grass and flowers could grow.  Maybe that will help her get out of her funk and find somebody else, he thought.  He was sorry they had ever lived together in the first place, it seemed like something calculated on her part the way things had ended up as he looked back on it.

   …..          He had told her he was moving to Boston and asked if she wanted to come live with him and she’d said no, so he’d gone ahead and made arrangements to live with two other students.  Then she had changed her mind—just like her—and what was he supposed to do?

   …..      He told her she could come live in his bedroom, but Hank, the guy whose name was on the lease, eventually put his foot down.  He didn’t even give them the chance to pay half the rent instead of a third–she had to leave.  Hank was like that, a real straight arrow, and he didn’t like having to get dressed before he went down the hall to the bathroom, he said.

   …..          Rob had stewed about it for a week or so, then told Hank he’d move out too, to where she’d gone.  No sweat off my balls, Hank had said, and that day had been just about the happiest he’d ever seen her when he drove through the snow to her new apartment with his car loaded up with his stuff.  She gave him a big hug when he opened the door, it was like a commercial it was so commonplace, she who did everything she could to keep the common out of her life.

   …..       Then he graduated and got a real job, and they could afford her dream apartment; old bricks that looked like old money and class and culture, or at least it appeared that way.  A quaint little neighborhood with a café around the corner where you could get a croissant on Saturday morning and a bookstore down the street.  The bedroom was in the basement but you got sun through the window upstairs and a view of the Common.  History so thick you could hit it with a stick, he thought at the time, but he liked it too.

   …..           The next year they moved up a notch to the place next door, the one she moved out of, which looked out on the alley.  They’d had it with sleeping in the basement, with the pipes hissing and clanging all night; they were both making more money and could afford something better.  It had a Franklin stove—not a real fireplace—but it warmed the place up and she got a cat.  She named it Hodge, after Samuel Johnson’s cat.  The story was that when cat’s meat pies became popular in London people’s cats began to disappear and Johnson would look down at his cat and say “They’ll not have Hodge!”  That went over big with her friends who worked at the public television station.

   …..       They divided up the record albums and he wasn’t sorry to see any of hers go although he liked her harpsichord music.  She, on the other hand, got all sentimental that she wouldn’t be able to listen to his jazz, and actually started to cry.  He put his arm around her and said “I’ll make you some tapes,” and so he had, which he brought over as soon as she was settled in and had furnished the place.

   …..    “It’s mainly piano,” he said.  “Only the best.”

   …..    “Like who?” she asked.

   …..         “A lot of Art Tatum.  He’s the Mt. Everest.  And some Oscar Peterson, he’s the K2.”

   …..       That was a joke that went right past her.  Her public TV friends had trekked the Himalayas on their honeymoon, and you couldn’t get through a dinner party with them without hearing about it.  They wore those stupid Sherpa hats when they got back and would show the slides of the pictures they had taken with their expensive cameras, and the wife was always going on about “her Sherpa.”  One night she got started about how she’d lost her Sherpa at one point going up some rock face, and he’d said “The dingos took your Sherpa.”  They were very literal-minded people, and he’d had to explain the reference to them, which killed the joke.  That kind of stuff was always happening with her friends—they didn’t understand him.

   …..        She thanked him and put the tape on, and they had a little dinner together, ratatouille and a frittata.  She said she’d become a vegetarian now that she wasn’t living with him, and he said he hoped she’d keep her strength up.  She was thin and pale, especially during the winter.  He wanted to break things off but he still cared about her.

   …..       When he got up to leave it was like an interview was over it was so awkward.  Here they’d been living together for almost five years, and now they were just friends.

   …..          “Well, uh, call me if you need anything,” he’d said.

   …..      “I’ll be fine,” she said.

   …..       “This side of the hill isn’t as safe as the sunny side,” he said.

   …..      “Uh, we had two attempted break-ins when we lived on Beacon Street—remember?”

   …..    “Right.”

   …..        “While we were in the apartment.”

   …..        “I know, but still.  The streets are darker back here.  You could get mugged.”

   …..      “Thanks,” she said, and she gingerly put her arms on his shoulders and kissed him.  It was like the first time they’d kissed on New Year’s Eve, six years before; light and chaste, and all the more poignant for that.

   …..           After that they didn’t see each other much.  He had to break the news to the landlord that he wanted out of the lease and the old man, a Catholic from Belgium, reminded him what they had told him when they rented the place.  They’d bought cheap rings at a dime store to make it look like they were married since the agent had told them the guy wouldn’t rent to those who were just living together.  “So—unh, unh, unh, unh?” the landlord had asked as he made the sign of the cross.

   …..    “Right,” he had said then, while she remained silent.

   …..       “So you are getting divorced,” the landlord now said skeptically, shaking his head.

   …..    “Yes,” he said.  “So I want to sublet.”

   …..    “You will remain liable for the seven months left on the lease,” the landlord had said.  “You can advertise—I will not place it with an agent since I have already paid one fee—but I must approve any new tenant you find.”

   …..       It hadn’t taken him long; he found a guy who moved up from New York who wore a sport coat and a club tie with pheasants on it when he came to look the place over.  His wife—a real one—had a little head band and a string of pearls hanging across her sweater.  He didn’t tell them about the two attempted break-ins—one from the hall, then one a guy shining a flashlight into their bedroom in the back—and they took the place.

   …..          Rob would talk to her from time to time and she let him know that she’d bought a bike to go to work at Boston University; that she bought it at a bike shop where the owner was very nice to her—unlike him, was the implication–and how he’d fix it whenever she had a problem with it.

   …..    “You’re wearing a helmet, right?” he asked her one day.

   …..    “No—they make me look like a dork.”

   …..  “What’s your bike man have to say about that?”

   …..       She looked at him squarely, understanding that he was jealous.  “He says he likes to see my hair blowing free.”

   …..     He got the point—the guy was in love with her, and was saying the kind of things to her that he’d said back when things were new between them.  Wait ‘til he spends a winter with you, he thought to himself, but he said nothing.

   …..          “I had him over to dinner the other night,” she said, at first looking at him, then looking down.

   …..      “Why would you tell me that?”

   …..     “I don’t know.  Just making conversation.”

   …..     If your definition of conversation was wanting to get back at somebody, he said to himself.

   …..  “I played the tapes you made me.”

   …..     “Oh.”

   …..    “I mean during dinner.”

   …..     “It’s good table music,” he said.

   …..      “That’s what I thought,” she said.  “He . . . made a crack about it.”

   …..    “What kinda crack?”

   …..      “He said it was cocktail music—something you’d hear in a piano lounge.”

   …..    “If he was serious he’s an idiot.”

   …..     She looked at him for a moment.  “That’s what I told him.”

   …..  “You did?”

   …..    “More or less.  I asked him if he knew who it was and he said no.  So I told him it was Art Tatum, the greatest jazz pianist who ever lived.”

   …..     He looked at her to see if she was serious or making fun of him.  She was smiling just a little, as if embarrassed.

   …..        “Where’d you pick that up?”

   …..      “From you.”

   …..      He took a moment to absorb this.  “Well, uh, thanks for sticking up for my taste.”

   …..         “I meant it,” she said as she lined up her fork and knife at an angle across her plate now that she was done.  “I have some sense of loyalty after spending some pretty important years with you.”

   …..       He looked to see if her cheeks were flushed, the usual sign that she was about to start crying.  They weren’t.

   …..    “Well, they were important years for me, too,” he said.

   …..  “I’m glad you think so,” she said as she got up to take their dishes to the little sink in the corner of the apartment.  “Anyway, good taste in music isn’t the most important thing in a man.”

   …..        He glanced at her sidewise, without turning his head, and noticed she was looking out the window, at the hidden garden outside.




Con Chapman

Con Chapman is a Boston-area writer, author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges (Oxford University Press), winner of the 2019 Book of the Year Award by Hot Club de France.  His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor and various literary magazines.  His book on jazz of the Southwest, Kansas City Jazz: A Little Evil Will Do You Good, will be published in 2022.



Listen to Art Tatum play “She’s Funny That Way”.





Click here  to read “Thrush” by Owen Duffy, the winning story in the 60th Jerry Jazz Musician  Short Fiction Contest

Click here  to read “His Second Instrument,” by Dave Wakely, the winning story in the 59th Jerry Jazz Musician  Short Fiction Contest

Click here  to read “Sketch in ‘D’ Minor,” a short story by Estelle Phillips

Click here to read “A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Summer, 2022 Edition”

Click here  for information about the upcoming  Jerry Jazz Musician  Short Fiction Contest





Share this:

One comments on ““The Hidden Garden” — a short story by Con Chapman”

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

"Zambramomania" by Roberto Nucci/CC BY-NC-SA-4.0 DEED
“The Eye Tapes…Monument to my Jazzy Eye” by Anita Lerek


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


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))


"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.


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 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


“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.


[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.


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.


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.


Nominations for the Pushcart Prize XLVIII


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.


art by Russell duPont
Three jazz poets…three jazz poems...Takes on love and loss, and memories of Lady Day, Prez, Ella, Louis, Dolphy and others…


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.


"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 #170

photo of Dexter Gordon by Brian McMillen
This bassist played with (among others) Charlie Parker, Erroll Garner, Nat King Cole and Dexter Gordon (pictured), was one of the earliest modern jazz tuba soloists, and was the only player to turn down offers to join both Duke Ellington’s Orchestra and the Louis Armstrong All-Stars. Who is he?


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.


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


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


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).


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


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.


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


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