“Fool-Hearted” a short story from my book “Forever Striking a Crucified Pose” was inspired by the opening melody of Coltrane’s “My Shining Hour.” If you’ve never heard it, it really is beautiful. The narrator of the story is the main character. He is a jazz guitarist. I imagined him as being somewhat successful locally or regionally, but not nationally, and has found steady work at a local jazz club.
He’s a “Player” not just in a band, but likes to sleep around, and never really considers settling down with one person. I think perhaps in my mind as I was writing it I saw him more as if the musical notes had come to life and formed into a living breathing human being. He becomes in some sense the embodiment of the seemingly improvised melodic notes he plays on his guitar, swinging from one beat to another.
It is one of the few stories that do not take place in Arkansas, but in Philadelphia, a place I have lived, and the bar Chris’s Jazz Cafe is a real jazz club. I don’t know if it is still open.
It wasn’t until a few years after writing the story that a friend of mine pointed out that the character does seem somewhat full of himself and mildly misogynistic. I agreed that he is full of himself, perhaps, but not in the sense that he is misogynistic as much as he may be somewhat deluded and the title “Fool-Hearted” is him, and he is projecting that image on others and it says more about him personally and his lifestyle and not so much about the other people in his life.
Still when reading the story I do not get the sense that when I was writing it or after re-visiting it years later he represents classic projectionism in the sense that he sees his life as being better than yours and is in reality lonely and pathetic. I believe he never really cared to be internationally known, but is just happy to have a steady gig, and still at the same time at least locally he is comfortable with his celebrity and he has in many ways reached the point in his life where he wants to be and is happy. And what is so wrong about that, knowing what you want, reaching it and being happy with it.
It may be in the last line some readers may think his usage of the word “desiccated” is somewhat obtuse. And maybe it’s me as the writer who is being glib, but I don’t think that either, but again, when writing this story it started with a Coltrane song. The melody seemed to come to life and form into a character that lived and breathed jazz, or in some sense was jazz come to life like a colorful abstract painting, and in that sense anything outside of jazz, is a world he doesn’t wish to live.
We’ve all, well this is a major assumption, but most of us have been in our car alone and have had the radio turned up and begin singing along to the song and seem not to notice that driver’s passing us by are watching us as we are lost in the music, carried away singing out loud in the privacy of our own vehicle and maybe if we see someone watching us, we’ll freeze and blush and become embarrassed.
But this story to me is like singing when no one is watching, or dancing, except in most of our lives, we finally reach our destination and we have to turn off our radios and go in and make dinner, or go into our 9-5 job where in Robert’s case, he is jazz, he is the music, and it’s always playing. So the statement isn’t rude or obtuse, or mean-spirited but in a many ways the final encore of the night, the band finishing the last song of the evening, and the song ends, and Robert’s the one saying to the band, one more song, come on, how about “My Shining Hour.” James counts off the song, Jerry plays the opening notes on the piano, and Robert looks out over the crowd and smiles. And even after when the lights do come up, and the audience does has to leave, he’s in the back room, a young lady has been invited to visit with him, and he still has his guitar out and she watches his fingers move along the fretboard stretching and bending the strings, and he sings an old blues song, just for her, and she knows he’s probably done this many times with other women, but as he sings she finds herself lost in the music and his voice and and she is swept away by him and his cockiness and bravado.
And that to me is the real meaning behind this story–living in the moment, savoring it even if you know the night will have to eventually come to an end, but you’ll worry about that later.
You can find “Fool-Hearted” in my book of short stories and poems: “Forever Striking a Crucified Pose” on Kindle for $0.99 or read for free with Kindle Unlimited Here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07N8L16CW