Fables of Faubus: Must-Read Jazz Noir Flash Fiction By Mike Aaron
In Fables of Faubus, Jazz noir flash fiction by Mike Aaron, Lee, a man with mental issues, investigates a politician. The story is centered around the same character featured in “Boogiestop Shuffle” and Gunslinging Bird, also published by Mystery Tribune. To read other pieces by Mr. Aaron, please visit here.
Lee listens to The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife Are Some Jiveass Slippers which he knows is the same song as Once Upon a Time, There Was a Holding Corporation Called Old America which makes him think about how some things can be called different names and be the same. Like flammable and inflammable. Or pants and trousers. Lee’s brain likes lists and he if let it wander if would do nothing but make lists all day. But MIngus helps turn all that off. Mingus and pills.
Text from Pat says come out front. Lee gets up because Pat works for Lou and they pay him money and money keeps Lee alive. Lee has had no money and one lesson that taught him is that he can never have enough money. Lee walks out the front door and Pat is waiting for him.
“You need to go see Lou.”
“OK.” Lee says.
“Down the diner, I’ll walk you.” Pat says. Lee doesn’t need or want Pat to walk him. Lee hates Pat. Pat smells like beer and cigarettes and doesn’t understand Lee.
“Listen at this meeting, you gotta act normal, Lou needs you to do some work for a friend of ours and Pat doesn’t want him thinking he is hiring some freakshow to do the job.”
Lee spends every second of his life trying to be normal. He feels like Atlas who holds the world up in that book he read. The work is hard and never stops. Mingus works full time keeping him in check, every word he says and action he takes in front of others is an effort to bend his brain into normal. All the notes are atonal overblow and him and the Baron together make it a melody, sometimes.
Lee spends every second of his life trying to be normal. He feels like Atlas who holds the world up in that book he read.
“Man fuck this motherfucker.” said Mingus now striding beside him. “If we didn’t need this bitch for work you could blast his ass. I wanted to blast a cat who looked just like him but he was the manager at Birdland and if I shot him he wouldn’t pay up. One day we gon do the do on this boy, ya dig me Lee? Blow him away.”
“You’re the boss Ming.” thought Lee.
Lee and Pat walk into the diner and he spys Lou and a man he does not know. Pat whispers into Lee’s ear and Lee can smell the Winstons which don’t smell like Marlboros or Parliaments.
“Act fucking normal freak.”
Lou waves Lee over, Lee slips into the booth. Both men have coffee and Lee wonders if he can order a strawberry milkshake and disco fries but he reads the table and the men’s faces and knows this won’t happen.
“Hello.” he says, totally normally.
“Lee, this is my my very close friend Johnny.” He gestures to Johnny who is also a middle age white guy with very nicely molded hair and a polo with a pen clipped in his collar. He looks like everyone in Lee’s neighborhood but maybe a bit richer.
“Hello Johnny.” says Lee, wishing he had said hey or hiya.
The man reaches to shake Lee’s hand and Lee pauses for a moment before he catches the signal, he shakes the man’s hand back.
“Johnny, Lee is the best guy I got, he can find anyone on anything, he’s extremely talented.”
Lee notes that Lou never says words like “extremely talented”. He is trying to impress Johnny.
“That’s good.” says Johnny “But can you be discreet. Political work requires discretion”.
Lee knows he repeated this word to emphasize that whatever the job was, Lee should shut the fuck up about it. Lee never talked to anyone and if he did he certainly wouldn’t talk about jobs.
Lee thinks for a moment but knows the longer he is quiet the weirder he will seem. He gotta act quick but also cool.
“Yeah man.” he says, speaking a bit too quickly. “Discreet. Completely.”
The two men look at each other and Lee can’t read the look. Lee hates when he can’t read the look.
Johnny hands him an envelope inside is a newspaper clipping and an index card on which an address is written.
“This is Carl Brock. He’s running for state rep against The Honorable Mikey Loughrey. The organization I represent is extremely invested in the reelection of Rep. Loughrey. Any information you can obtain that might help with this would be uh a big favor to us. The clipping has his picture and some background info, I wrote his address down for you too.”
“Ok man, yes. Discretion. Carl Brock.” Lee said while pointing to his head. Hoping he was making it clear he understood.
“I gotta go, Lou can handle the particulars.” Which meant money.
“Do this one quick. Johnny is a major partner. It’s 10 g’s to you when you get this. He’s a politician so it shouldn’t be so hard. Politicians are fucking scumbags.”
“Lou. Got it. Lou.Scumbags.” Lee said and slipped away thinking about strawberry milkshakes.
Lee spins up Mingus. Cornell 1964. Lee is a geologist. He digs around the top soil and finds a campaign website. Wife’s name and kid’s name. Alma mater name. Issues. Campaign office. He digs deeper into the mantle. Campaign finance reports, names, names. 64 pages of names. But the Campaign Finance people make it easy and make a special section just for big donors. 6 pages of names. Names, pacs, companies, organizations, names within names.
Lee makes lists. Each kid has social media and he reads it all, he reads the alumni magazine, he reads the public holding for every donor. Lee is a juggler. He’s halfway through the album and A Train is playing. He has a hundred balls in the air. Real estate holdings, campaigns donors, liens, lawsuits, pictures at college parties. One of the kids dressed like a lady with no morals. Mingus wakes up to stare but Lee says maaaan go back to bed this is work. Several of the donors are criminals. Some are criminals with a record and some are criminals in ways only Lee can see. Lee wants more. He wants to drop the balls and lay down the shovel. He wants to be a painter and paint a picture for Johnny. Before Jitterbug Waltz plays, Lee is in the car driving to Brock’s house.
Lee spins up Mingus. Cornell 1964. Lee is a geologist. He digs around the top soil and finds a campaign website.
Lee dumpster dives. Lee keeps bills. Lee watches. Brock comes home late. Lee see through the window his wife smiles and they kiss. Good for Brock. Bad for Lee. Brock grabs a beer and drains it slow then disappears where Lee can’t see. He waits and watches to see what else happens. Nothing does except the sunrise. Lee drinks two Mountain Dews to get awake and spins up Hatian Fight Song which always gets his blood moving. Morning and Brock comes out with a dog. He even picks the poop up.
He follows Brock’s car. He goes to the campaign office and sits in a little room with a glass door for hours. Then he goes to a senior center. Then he knocks on peoples doors for a while with people following him around. Then he sits in the small room again. Drives home and kisses the smiling wife and drinks the one beer and sleeps. Lee can see through it all. Lee sees he wears a mask that says responsible but the mask can’t stay on. Lee knows all about masks. After a while they start to itch and if you wear it too long it starts to burn until you tear it off and smash it.
Lee sits in a coffee shop across from the campaign office. Lee eats bearclaws and works on his laptop. He paints his picture. Lee makes a file for Johnny. Lee shows which donors don’t pay taxes. Lee shows the donor that has an interest in a private for profit prison. Lee shows which donor killed a woman in college and changed his name. Lee shows the pictures of the kids. One is smoking weed and one dressed like a hoe. The caption even says “hoe”. The file isn’t enough. It might be enough for Johnny but Lee wont stop until the mask drops. He needs to know he is right. Brock is playing a discordant chord and Lee needs to blow his horn and make it a melody.
Lee waits for days. He listens to Mingus. Over and over. The baron’s bass and Eric’s trumpet and Danny Richmond’s drums. He waits and waits. He thinks to himself “what do you think Ming?”
Mingus answers “Baby this mothafucka is doing some shit wrong. Only person I ever met never did any dirt and that was Oscar Peterson and this cat ain’t no Oscar. ‘Sides Oscar was Canadian, ain’t no red blooded american male who don’t shoot up or whore or booze or eat too much bacon or SOMETHING!”
“So we stay on him?”
“Hellllll no! I’m always trying to school you and you don’t listen to ol Chaz. You done did the work the man asked for, you doing extra credit now. You think I stayed after the titty to play a few more sets for fun? Go get paid and let’s boogie.”
“I’m staying on him.” Lee though. He hated to argue with Mingus but Lee’s brain was locked on now. It was a zipper stuck in a jacket and he had to pull it out or he wouldn’t feel right.
The tenth night Brock pulls up in front of the house. His hair is perfect. Tie knotted. He parks but stays in the car. He looks ready to kiss the wife and drink the one beer. Brock doesn’t go in. Lee watches and his eyes widen. He can feel it. He can see the mask is burning, searing his skin. Brock wants to tear it off, his fingers move toward it. Lee chants silently to himself.
Show me Show me
Show me Show me
Brock sits, hands on the wheel. His face tenses up, shakes back and forth violently. He slams the wheel with his hands. To Lee it is silent but he can imagine the storm raging – Brock fighting with the mask. Headlights come back on and Brock pulls out. Lee knows he ain’t going to church. Brock cruises over the Walt Whtiman into Jersey. Pulls into a store and walks out with a brown paper bag. Lee watches him open a 40oz and drink half of it in one gulp. He can see Brock is beginning a frenzy. Like a drum solo. Frantically banging the skins, building up.
Brock drives to a strip club. Babes All Night XXX Fantasy Show. Lee watches Brock finish the 40 in the car and scream silently. His mask is off. He is beating the drums with intensity but is nowhere near a crescendo. He opens another 40 drinks half and stumbles out of the car. Pauses for a moment and looks sick then vomits on the side of the vehicle. Punches the car and then washes his mouth out with more of the 40 it until empties and then he smashes the bottle against the concerte. Bang bang Bang bang, high hat , bang bang bang. Lee snaps pics. Snap snap snap.
Lee follows him in. He hates places like this. He feels bad for the girls and bad for the men. He feels nervous knowing people will try to talk to him, ask him for money. He takes a seat near the exit and tries to fold himself up so small no one can see him. Spins up Mingus in his head but he can barely hear Goodbye Pork Pie Hat over the loud music in the club. Brock sits right up front. Orders shots. Downs them and winces. Orders beers two at a time.
He is beating the drums faster and faster. He throws money at the dancers, he throws money at the stage nowhere near the dancers. He’s lost in the solo. He goes into a back room with a dancer and comes out looking angry. More shots, mixed drinks. He’s sweating. He’s moving towards a finale. Starts pawing at the dancer when they walk bye. Lee snaps pics. Goes back with another girl who seems hesitant and a minute later screams, bouncer rushes back, grabs Brock and tosses him out, lands hard in the cold pavement, silence.
Lee follows him out, stands right over him, snaps more pics. Lee feels good, rare he takes pride in his work. Brock looks up, unsettled by Lee’s dead eyes. Lee’s mask says truth.
“Fuck are you?”
Lee says nothing.
“How about I fuck your face up, huh.”
Lee snaps a pic.
“You work for Loughrey?” Brock laughs “ Well he’s gonna love this. Your welcome you piece of shit, fuck you.” Brock spits, then smiles big for the camera. Lee holds the camera an inch from Brock’s face and snaps a pic.
They both stare silently at each other for a minute. Neither moves. Lee observes Brock’s true face. Brock starts to cry.
“I got a family, i’m a nice guy, its just one fuck up, cmon man I got a family.”
“I know.” says Lee.
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