“The Occasional Girl” – a short story by Mark Bruce

April 24th, 2023



“The Occasional Girl,” a short story by Mark Bruce, was a short-listed entry in our recently concluded 62nd Short Fiction Contest, and is published with the consent of the author.






Photo: Kubat Sydykov / World Bank/CC By-NC-ND-2.0

Photo: Kubat Sydykov / World Bank/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0



The Occasional Girl

by Mark Bruce


     …..       Chuck Berry was asking Maybelline why she couldn’t be true, something he’d been wondering for sixty-five years. Chuck was gone now, but that Cadillac still climbed that hill.

     …..          I sat late at breakfast with Connie at Ritchie’s, an American diner in the high desert along Route 66. Despite the legendary status of the highway, this particular stretch was drab and sedate.

     …..          I ate my Ozark Glazed Ham in silence. Connie stared at her avocado omelet as if it held secrets she needed to hear.

     …..         Our conversation pulled into the cul de sac of marriage. As in, why was I not asking Connie to enter with her into that terrifying venture.

     …..        Connie and I were nearly as old as Maybelline. We’d known each other, on and off, for twenty years. Yet, we never seemed to progress beyond sex and companionship.

     …..          Now, I know that many long marriages have been successfully based on sex and companionship. But I also knew Connie. I knew her very well. We’d lived together a few years back. By the end of those four months, I was ready to drive us both off a cliff in Maybelline, a la Thelma and Louise.

     …..          The diner dressed itself in vinyl aqua and tan. It sported old-fashioned booths from the Fifties, hence the Oldies playing in the background.

     …..          I wore a blue t-shirt with Alice’s tea party emblazoned on it, the legend: There’s plenty of room! Connie wore the red sparkly blouse and black slacks of the night before, snuggled into the large faux black furry coat she called “the bear.” One of us was overdressed for Ritchie’s.

     …..       The night before we engaged in our usual session of oral sex and intercourse. We’ve been doing this for years, so much so that our lovemaking devolved into a series of expected moves as rigid as ritual. Connie was bored with it. I, being a man, was grateful for whatever sex I could get.

     …..      The only reason Connie put up with my predictable attentions is that I would lend her $300 at the end of it. She had no job and $500 rent for her room in Vegas, so we usually met twice a month to help her out.

     …..          “Help her out” is what we called it to keep from calling it what it really was.

     …..          Despite her obvious disinterest in my physical prowess, Connie would occasionally mention that she wanted to marry again so a man could care for her. Connie had been married three times, though she would tell you that she’d only been married twice because the third marriage had been annulled. One husband was dead, another remarried and lived the high life in the Bay Area. The annulled husband practiced law somewhere in California.

     …..        This morning, after the young dark-haired waitress with the round rump had skated our plates onto the table, Connie set her face into serious mode.

     …..        “So what do you see us as?” she asked, her opening gambit.

     …..      “Us?” I asked in return, trying to be obtuse.

     …..        “What are we doing?”

     …..    “We’re having breakfast at Ritchie’s,” I said.

     …..        “You know what I mean,” she said petulantly.

     …..        “I never know what you mean,” I said. “You are eternally opaque.”

     …..    She blinked at me. When I used words like opaque, I lost her.

     …..     Connie was a natural blonde. She wore her hair long to emphasize her six foot, one inch frame. In her youth, she’d been stunning. Age had given her an extra fifty pounds, though men still talked to her in that flirty way beautiful women expect.

     …..           Let’s face it. Age had not been kind to my body fat index, either. Nor had my prostate. It had enlarged to the point that I had to take little white pills from Roman to have sex. Fortunately, the little white pills worked just fine last night.

     …..          I do not need a skinny woman. In fact, at least half of my lovers have been in various stages of Rubenesque. Fat women are far more enthusiastic about sex than hungry ones.

     …..     Unless, like Connie, they’d been having sex with me long enough to realize there was no wedding ring at the end of the rainbow. I had never been subtle about this but Connie believed she could convince me otherwise.

     …..         “I mean,” she continued, ignoring opaque, “are we going to get married?”

     …..       She knew the answer and I was enjoying my glazed ham too much to have a sour discussion.

     …..      “You’ve already been married,” I answered. “Three times.”

     …..         “Twice,” she said quickly.

     …..        “Three times you’ve said I do, then,” I said. “Why would you want to make that mistake a fourth time?”

     …..         “I need someone to support me,” she said. “I need to go in for knee surgery and I’ll be off my feet at least a month.”

     …..        “That’s terribly romantic,” I replied. “You don’t need a husband, you need a nurse.”

     …..           She looked down again at her omelet. It still had no answers for her.

     …..    “I thought you said you loved me,” she said, pulling out the big guns. A few months back, as I hugged her while dropping her off at her bus to Vegas, I’d slipped and said this ill-advised thing. It sort of slipped out the way you’d say take care or have a nice trip. I wondered later what devil in my heart pushed those words through my lips.

     …..      I looked into her green eyes. Did I love her? Or was that merely a polite thing to say after a weekend spent with her tall, naked body?

     …..       “We’ve known each other for years,” I said with a sigh. “If I didn’t love you on some level, that would all be wasted time.”

     …..      “You love someone, you marry them,” she said with the faulty logic of the single girl.

     …..       “You don’t love me,” I countered.

     …..     “Yes, I do,”

     …..    “No. You’ve never said it. And you are terribly bored with me. I can’t imagine why you want to torture yourself by marrying me.”

     …..      She looked around the café. In the next booth, a Latino man wearing a Dodgers cap talked with his short, stout mate. A small boy climbed all over the booth. At the table across from us, a thin white-haired man and his chubby white-haired wife chewed their bacon and eggs, talking in low tones. All around us were couples, probably all married. It irked her.

     …..        Yet she didn’t resort to the ultimate gambit of saying I love you. She held that in reserve for another time when, perhaps, I’d be weaker.

     …..        I finished my ham. It tasted sweet and meaty. I was about to suggest that if she was dissatisfied with our present circumstances, perhaps we should stop seeing one another. That would save me $600 per month.

     …..          She knew this, too. Practicality triumphed over desultory romance. She ate her omelet.

     …..       “I think someone might want to look at my script,” she said. She’d been shopping that script for twenty years.

     …..      In the background, Chuck Berry made way for The Platters crooning Only You.

           …..        Only you,” the lead singer noted suavely, “can make my dreams come true.

     …..        Connie rattled off a long story about a guy she’d met at a casino who was, it so happens, looking for scripts. I nodded.

     …..           My girl was climbing off one bad dream and onto another. Turns out, I was not the only one who could make her dreams come true.

     …..     Later that day I put her on the bus back to Vegas. I watched it pull into the High Desert night, then got back into my car. I switched on the radio. There was Chuck again, still pleading with Maybelline.

     …..      I shook my head.

     …..      “Chuck,” I said, “you’re better off without her.”






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 1955 recording of Chuck Berry performing “Maybellene” [Universal Music Group]






Click here  to read “Mr. P.C.,” Jacob Schrodt’s winning story in the 62nd  Jerry Jazz Musician  Short Fiction Contest

Click here  for details about the upcoming 63rd  Jerry Jazz Musician  Short Fiction Contest

Click here  to subscribe to the  Jerry Jazz Musician  quarterly newsletter  (it’s free)

Click here  to help support the continuing publication of  Jerry Jazz Musician,  and to keep it commercial and ad-free  (thank you!)





Jerry Jazz Musician…human produced (and AI-free) since 1999




Share this:

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 via RawPixel
"23 Poets remember their father…"

This space on Sunday is generally reserved for a single poet to read one of their works, but this week’s issue -Father’s Day – features 23 poets who weigh in on the complexity of their relationship with their father, revealing love, warmth, regret, sorrow – and in many cases a strong connection to a common love of music.

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.


The Marvelettes/via Wikimedia Commons
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...Little is known of the lives and challenges many of the young Black women who made up the Girl Groups of the ‘60’s faced while performing during an era rife with racism, sexism, and music industry corruption. The authors discuss their book’s mission to provide the artists an opportunity to voice their experiences so crucial to the evolution of popular music.

Book Excerpt

An excerpt from Emily Jon Tobias’ MONARCH: Stories, and a reflection on our friendship


photo of Archie Shepp by Giovanni Piesco
The Photographs of Giovanni Piesco: Archie Shepp...photos of the legendary saxophonist (and his rhythm section for the evening), taken at Amsterdam's Bimhuis on May 13, 2001.


The cover to Joni Mitchell's 1976 album Hejira [Asylum]; photo by Norman Seeff
“Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada” – a poem (for Joni Mitchell) by Juan Mobili

Click here to read more poetry published in Jerry Jazz Musician

Calling All Poets!

News about a Jerry Jazz Musician printed jazz poetry anthology, and information about submitting your poetry for consideration

Short Fiction

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #65 — “Ballad” by Lúcia Leão...The author’s award-winning story is about the power of connections – between father and child, music and art, and the past, present and future.

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


photo of Louis Jordan by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 – 1960...Richards makes the case that small group swing players like Illinois Jacquet, Louis Jordan (pictured) and Big Jay McNeely played a legitimate jazz that was a more pleasing listening experience to the Black community than the bebop of Parker, Dizzy, and Monk. It is a fascinating era, filled with major figures and events, and centered on a rigorous debate that continues to this day – is small group swing “real jazz?”


Sonny Rollins' 1957 pianoless trio recording "Way Out West"
“The Pianoless Tradition in Modern Jazz” – a playlist by Bob Hecht...an extensive playlist built around examples of prominent pianoless modern jazz.


Excerpts from David Rife’s Jazz Fiction: Take Two – (Vol. 1)...A substantial number of novels and stories with jazz music as a component of the story have been published over the years, and the scholar David J. Rife has written short essay/reviews of them.  In this initial edition featuring his story essays/reviews, Rife writes about three novels that explore challenges of the mother/daughter relationship.

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

In Memoriam

Hans Bernhard (Schnobby), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
“Remembering Joe Pass: Versatile Jazz Guitar Virtuoso” – by Kenneth Parsons...On the 30th anniversary of the guitarist Joe Pass’ death, Kenneth Parsons reminds readers of his brilliant career

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


painting by Vaino Kunnas
Jazz…in eight poems...A myriad of styles and experiences displayed in eight thoughtful, provocative poems…

Jazz History Quiz #172

photo of Teddy Wilson by William Gottlieb
Teddy Wilson once said this about a fellow jazz pianist:

“That man had the most phenomenal musical gifts I’ve ever heard. He was miraculous. It’s like someone hitting a home run every time he picks up a bat. We became such fast friends that I was allowed to interrupt him anytime he was playing at the house parties in Toledo we used to make every night. When I asked him, he would stop and replay a passage very slowly, showing me the fingering on some of those runs of his. You just couldn’t figure them out by ear at the tempo he played them.”

Who is the pianist he is describing?


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

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