Friday Flash Fiction: Jazz Piano and Johnny Freefall

February 29, 2008

I really like this one.  I love it when they write themselves.  The words jumped out before I could practically put them in order.

The night was dark, but the scotch was good and my piano beckoned.

I find as the evening moves on and the scotch clicks in my brain the notes take on a life of their own. They seem to float in front of me: my brain, my fingers, the piano, the keys, the notes in the air, all weave together in a blanket of smoke.

These midnight sessions are private.

Just me and music.

No audience. Nobody around but me.

I hold a chord and take a sip of the Laphroig.

“Mr. Becker?”

I’m startled by the voice, pausing mid sip, but I hold the chord.

I tip the sip back then calmly put the glass back down and continue to play. Tasty.

“yup.” I answer, still not turning to look. This can’t be good, it’s 2:30.

“Mr. Becker, my employer is…eh…requesting your appearance at a party.”

I start working up into a transition, pounding out a few sequences until I hit a nice little resolution on a major third.

“Sorry pal, I’m a bit busy.”

He finally walks up and leans on the edge of the piano. The dude has sunglasses on, what a cliché’. Then I notice they have a digital readout inside ‘em. He’s fully wired.

“Listen Mr. Becker, my boss ain’t the type to take no fer ‘n answer.”

It was then that I found out he wasn’t alone as two goons grabbed me by the arms.

“All right, all right,” I answer as I lift up my hands and my music ends abruptly, the sad silence filling the room, “will you at least let me put on a change of clothes first?”

“Ya, a’ight.”


I’d heard about him of course, who hadn’t. But I never expected to meet him.

We hit about ten telediscs before we finally reached the party. Flitting from London to Dublin to Reykjavik to Boston to Chicago to Deadwood to Spokane, Seattle, Portland, SanFran and LA. Took about ten minutes.

As soon as I flitted in there was a cheer, “Becker!” The crowd was primed for a night of it and more. It was barely 9:30 here in LA.

Some people called him Babyface, but only behind his back, he hated that handle. Most people called him Johnny Freefall but I was gonna call him Mr. Freidal. Why be stupid.

The two goons and cliché’ boy politely led me right to his table in the middle of the vast party. He was sitting surrounded by courtiers like a king. Dressed in a nice, pressed black suit, with a black hat and tie. He had sunglasses (digital) too.

“Mr. Becker, so glad you could join us.” His voice was smooth as business.

“Mr. Friedal, I’m so glad to be here.”

That got a laugh. He chuckled honestly and deep, “I’m sure you are less pleased then you let on. I like truth Mr. Becker, even when it’s hidden in a lie like yours.”

I stood with a half grimace trying to hold my cool, the scotch had left me sober. “Watcha want Mr. Friedal?”

“I like you Becker, you don’t bullshit around. Well as you can see I am throwing this party for a few friends and we all want some music, your name came up and I said that’s our man.” He waved over to a piano, with an accompanying band standing and waiting for me, “Would you be so kind as to show us something…eh…show us what Becker’s got?”

“I’d like a scotch.”

Johnny Freefall looked me up and down, “Darlin’ get this man a scotch,” a waitress hurried off to take care of my order, “Boys, show Mr. Becker to the peeeeano.”

The two goons politely led me once again, this time to the piano. A scotch was laid down as I sat on the bench. Sip. Ahh…Talisker, sharp, peppery, just right to get the party going.

I hit them keys hard and fast to start. The band kicked in after my four bars of intro. We lit that place up like kerosene.

Fuck ‘em, I like to play.



  1. Greg, I enjoyed that. Particularly this:

    “The night was dark, but the scotch was good and my piano beckoned.”

    A really good hook.

  2. Thanks Neil,

    The story started from a quick radio blurb I heard about Capone and Fats Waller

    “Fats Waller was such an impressive and talented pianist that he came to the attention of the rich and famous—- sometimes whether he wanted to or not. Fats Waller was in Chicago in 1926 and, upon leaving the building where he was performing, Waller was kidnapped by four men, who bundled him into a car and drove off. The car later pulled up outside the Hawthorne Inn, owned by infamous gangster Al Capone. Fats was ordered inside the building, to find a party in full swing. With a gun against his back, Waller was pushed towards a piano, whereupon the gangsters demanded he start playing. A terrified Waller suddenly realized he was the “surprise guest” at Al Capone’s birthday party. Soon comforted by the fact that he wouldn’t die, Waller played, according to rumor, for three days. When he left the Hawthorne Inn, he was very drunk, extremely tired, and had earned thousands of dollars in cash given to him by Capone himself and by party-goers as tips.[3]”

    And then the scotch “clicking” in your brain is from “A cat on a hot tin roof” and Paul Newman’s character.

  3. I liked this. The present and past tenses were a bit muddled in places but somehow it didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

  4. […] Part 1: Jazz PIano and Johnny Freefall […]

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