One and Two and Three and…

The band leader counts off a polka
Appropriately titled “Blitzkriegery”
Every musician in the band
Poised to punch the first note
Tonight’s dance party in the morgue
Officially launched

My name is Ernie Bambino
3rd chair in the trumpet section
I hate the kind of music we play
But these gigs pay for my wife’s perfume
And the cream in my coffee
I also admit to enjoying the drunken revelry
We wring from the shit-faced gyratrons

I grew up wanting to stencil
Chinese proverbs on flyswatters
But failed the entrance exam
Resuscitating the dead canary
Led to the kazoo which led to the brass
I joined The Sacred Swindlers seven years ago
And have performed with these guys ever since

I met my wife Veronica at a mastodon lodge soirée
A benefit to raise money for a new police helicopter
She stuck around after “last song, last call”
And we ended up spending the night together in her convertible
These days she complains when I crack my knuckles
And I tell my buddies she’s a corpse in bed
Other than that we get along fine

You never know how one of these jobs will go
After the first set the whisky starts to do the talking
I’ve seen dwarves with bats break through walls
To bust up a condom machine in the men’s room
Seen a junkyard James Bond elude a bouncer
By jumping through a plate glass window
Ducked when a woman shot her husband
Then shot the woman he had been dancing with
Nothing shocks, nothing surprises
This world is a tilted tableau full of odd bits,
Seasick sailors and glory hole divorcees

Stuck on autopilot
I’ve kicked over the comped beer at my feet
Closing in on the break, we’re playing
“That Tattoo Looks Good On You”
For at least the 12 millionth time
And my mind has jumped the fence
I’m busy remembering computer passwords
Thinking about the brother-in-law
Who’s trying to put the squeeze on me,
Reliving the movie I saw last week that had too much blood,
And noticing the cocktail waitress is wearing yoga pants

I should have swallowed the sheet music
Was lost when the tune ended
I notice Veronica has disappeared from the dance floor
And wonder how long she’ll be gone this time
The band leader is staring at me and he’s pissed
“You missed the turnaround again, Bambino”
I try to smile like I know something he doesn’t
He’s not buying it “What’s so funny, Ernie?”
I stutter like a snake
“What’s so damn funny?” he repeats
“Very sorry, George, won’t happen again
I only laughed because I was nervous”

Woodrow Hightower is a native of West Point, California. He is a poet currently producing a first book of verse to be titled So Low. A self-described “word muralist, with a weakness for cheap cigars and baseball,” his work has recently been accepted by a multitude of literary zines, including IthacaLit, Olentangy Review and The American Aesthetic. Hightower resides in Sacramento’s Midtown District with photographer Twyla Wyoming and their two Tibetan spaniels.

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