Lawrence Russell

§§ When Orpheus first came to Gotham, he went straight into Harlem looking for Bird. Everywhere he went, he looked, he asked. Nope, not here, haven't see him... ask that man over there... or, yeah, he's supposed to be playin' some club on 52nd. Talk to the Hawk, he might know.

This goes on for weeks, maybe months. One night Orpheus is standing at the door when Hawk comes outside for a smoke. Orpheus asks him like he's asked everyone else, and Hawk says you don't want to know, son, stay clear. Now Orpheus knows Bird is a drug addict, has already crossed the river, is dead, but he doesn't care, he just wants to hook up with Bird again. Hawk takes pity, writes an address on a piece of paper, says, good luck, son. Orpheus hurries into the night, clutching his trumpet case, closes in on the address. The street is dark, empty as death. He sees a light -- 3 votive candles arranged in a triangle burning on the pavement outside the iron gate of some silent building. The watchman materializes from the shadows, says, father, you look troubled. Father? What's this motherfucker talking about? I'm looking for Bird, says Orpheus, was given an address and this is it. The watchman nods, opens the gate, beckons, leads Orpheus down some crazy steps to a side door where an ugly dog is standing guard.

The dog is about to spring at Orpheus, but the watchman cools him with some soothing words and Orpheus is allowed to cross.

There's a party going on, some crazy people beating cans with sticks, blowing toy horns, smoking cigars and dressed like a circus. Orpheus knows this isn't Jesus, this is voodoo, even though he's never killed a chicken in his life. There's a beautiful woman, a girl really, in the middle of room, like these people are playing a game with her. Her eyes are rolled up, like she's gone zombie, and when she speaks she speaks like a man, like she's gone off the scale, hit the thirteenth note. Orpheus recognizes the voice -- it's Bird, he's always talking in that phony English accent, like he's a Duke or something out of the movies. Orpheus tries to hail him, but his voice fails, like he's old and done. Something's wrong, he knows it. He looks at his hands -- they're old and wrinkled, shaking. Father. The watchman called him Father, and the motherfucking dog wanted to eat him.

Someone pushes him towards the woman, and he's whispering in her ear, husky and desperate, Bird, is this you, man? And the woman, the chick, who could be anybody -- Irene, Juliette, Frances, Marguerite, Betty, Cicely and a hundred other fine bitches -- says Miles, I've been waiting for you, old chap, why so slow in coming? Someone lunges forward, hands him a saxophone. Bird says, what will it be, Miles... something they can't play? I see you brought your trumpet. Orpheus says, Bird I been looking for you all over... look, I don't play no Third Stream shit. Let's just blow nice and silent, cool this crazy world... let's be nocturnal.

They play, and a great silence fills the underworld.

Yes, it's a dream, isn't it? Old hipsters never die, they just go to France, get lost.


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