Susanne Langlois's Novella Blog:
"Dial 'L' for Lounge".
Chapter 1 -- Sanctuary --
A wrong turn, a few blocks back, landed me in an unfamiliar neighborhood. There wasn't a soul around, and the traffic, which not five minutes before had been bumper to bumper, had vanished completely.
Boarded up pawn and package stores, an abandoned bodega, all with three stories of vacant apartments above, lined both sides of the block. On the corner was an empty eatery. A faded 'closed' sign hung askew inside the front door. A giant neon pot in mid pour in the window, it's neon smashed, advertised ' Otto's Home of the Bottomless Cup'..........
Chapter 2 -- The Appointment --
We stood in the dark chain-sucking menthol cigarettes, waiting for the monsoon to stop.
Neither of us spoke. The tattoo of the raindrops on the tin canopy outside was deafening. Eventually the fumes in that six by six pigeonhole were so dense you didn't need to light up ...
you could just inhale.
After what seemed like hours the stranger broke the spell. " Name's Ric but everybody calls me Mr. Lounge. Glad you could make it." He said.
Ric pulled a full size retro telephone from his..........
Chapter 3 -- The Lady or the Tiger --
The interior door closed behind us, heavy and resolute as lock down in a maximum security prison.
Inside the lobby was an enhanced darkness ... suffocating, like moving between laundry lines hung with musty wool blankets. The tile floor was slick with something that a was glad I couldn't see.
Harleigh flicked his bic. The lighter sputtered anemically -- on the third try the flame hissed to life lighting up the immediate area between Harleigh and me at chest level. I got a whiff of 'Old Spice', my father's brother Ralph came to mind.
Harleigh was of average height, a good looking kid, twenty something, His hair, was cut 'high and tight' former military..........
Chapter 4 -- Three Blind Men & a Lantern --
Harleigh's lighter was nearly out of fuel -- the flame was shrinking fast. He moved with purpose toward the door which he had chosen and leaned hard onto the panic bar. We waited for the alarm. None came.
The exit door opened into a pitch black even darker than the lobby, it seeped across the threshold and over my shoes. Ric, his Zippo extended arm's length in front of him, was the lead man. He stepped into the void beyond the exit door. Light flooded the landing -- things scurried into the shadows.
We entered the narrow stairway. I followed close behind Ric, one hand on his shoulder. The wooden railing had rotted away so I slid the left hand along the greasy particle board wall. Harleigh two steps behind me held his sputtering disposable above our heads; three elongated shadow men in a.........
Chapter 5 -- Hi, I'm Randy--
"Hello stranger." Said the coat check girl, handing Ric a ticket to redeem his fedora on the way out.
"Meet Sharon, boys" Ric carefully laid out three silver dollars on the counter." Sharon smiled, put the coins in the pocket of her apron and directed us to the podium, where she consulted the reservation book. Holmes, Harleigh .....Mixter, Trig .... and of course Mr. Lounge. She ticked off our names and hit the bell to summon the Maitresse D'. Double doors upholstered in turquoise leatherette, trimmed in stainless with porthole windows opened simultaneously.
She was spray painted into a glacier blue satin sarong. The drapery of her dress........
Chapter 6 -- Ginger, Cinnamon & Cloves--
Had I not been so absorbed in the bountiful stern of the S.S. Randy I might have noticed that Mr. Lounge was nowhere to be seen. The man and his Zippo, who had led us safely through miles of dank subterranean corridors to the hippest gin joint I had ever seen, simply vanished. Harleigh must have had the very same thought. "I'm thinking he stopped off at the 'gents'", he offered as we took our seats.
Randy snapped her fingers -- a tray appeared. Our waitress, Ginger a tall cool redhead, also.........
Chapter 7 -- Serge Trouserin--
The Master of Ceremonies tapped the microphone. The PA squealed. Some invisible sound tech wrestled the feedback and found the proper level. "Test Test Test".
The MC was an imposing man, six four or five, dressed in expensive evening clothes -- a midnight blue cut away tuxedo, Turkish style velvet slip-ons and a white rosebud in his lapel . His hair, which shone blue in the spotlight, was pomaded straight back. He had a lavish mustache, waxed into wide handlebars ending in impossible curlycues. He wore a fez. Tucked under the big man's arm was a small brindle dog with keen orange eyes.
The house lights and the hubbub trailed off ... all but the high end laughter and the chuck........
Dial 'L' for Lounge Chapter 7 Serge Trouserin
Chapter 8 -- No Ax, No Charts ... No Clue--
No Ax! No charts! Ric had neglected to mention we were the blue plate special on this evening's menu.
Harleigh and I, the twins -- Slack-jawed and Dumbfounded, froze while the crowd whistled and stomped. Mr. Lounge, who had been waiting just behind the 'teaser' curtains wetting his reed, stepped into the spotlight.
Gone were the trench coat and fedora, replaced by a short sleeved Guayabera ( Cuban wedding shirt ) and white linen pants. The felt trilby he parked with Sharon at the coat check had been replaced with a straw pork pie hat with a bright blue band. A vintage Selmer alto saxophone, silver with a gold bell, rested in a stand.......
Chapter 9 --The Dog w/ the Clementine Eyes--
We found the groove straight away. My borrowed bass nearly played itself, and those hep cats and kittens lapped us up like a saucer of warm milk. Add to that the bottomless Sapphire and tonics -- Ginger would pucker up and blow me a little angel kiss as she dropped off each round ... I was higher than a kite.
When we broke after the first set, Ric went off to find Randy the hostess with the incomparable derriere. Harleigh had his eye on Sharon the coat check girl and I went back to the table to wait for pretty Ginger.
We clicked, just like that, and the night was just beginning........
Chapter 10 --Miles at the Modern--
It was the first time all day that I was knocked off center. I checked my mobile .... No service.
The trip down from the street -- about a million stairs in the dark to the Modern Lounge had been odd, but exhilarating ... Ric's confidence infectious. Everything about the Lounge was happening, the drinks, the crowd ( who were actually there for the music ) and gorgeous Ginger ... I was already trying her on for size in my head. The orange eyed, gin swilling pooch made it all come off the rails.
Trouserin and the talking dog were on the stage again. As Serge delivered his slick poetized patter the brindle pup's orange eyed gaze burned a hole in my forehead........