Mama Can Sing

April 25, 2018

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Hey, I like that poster. It didn’t actually start that way, the original’s acrylic on canvas bordered by pieced cloth called Mama Can Sing, Papa Can Blow; Somebody Stole My Broken Heart. Faith Ringgold’s the artist. I don’t know anything about her but I like that hot lady she painted thick-haired, red-lipped, big-busted, arms-spread, round-hipped, and ready. I know she can swing and I’m going to see her in the club tonight.

I tip the guy at the door and slide a twenty into the hand of a cocktail waitress and say please get me close. She pulls a chair to a table where two couples aren’t happy to see me. I’m not pleased with them either: four squares who don’t really have to do anything but listen. I’ve got to figure Papa out. This cold beer should help. I don’t kid myself. He’s a good looking man who can blow his saxophone but he’s no Coleman Hawkins.

I smile at Mama and feel psychedelic looking at that yellow and orange dress wrap around her boogying brown body. Meanwhile, Papa doesn’t move much and seems kind of square, like an accountant who just plays Saturday nights. No way I’m waiting till the end of the show. It’s break time. I stand, walk to the microphone, and say, Ma’am, you’re a wonderful singer.

Thank you, she says.

May I buy you a drink?

Can’t be drinking during the show.

Okay, how about afterward?

She narrows her eyes. I wouldn’t say she’s frowning but she sure isn’t smiling.

Okay, I say as she turns and walks behind the curtain.

That’s a downer and I consider leaving. Not for long. I order another beer. What the hell’s behind those curtains anyway? I wish those two couples would quit ignoring me. Who the hell are they? I wouldn’t want either woman and if I were a woman I wouldn’t want either man. Just because you’ve got someone doesn’t mean you’re somebody.

I’m ready for my third beer by the time the quartet returns. They’ve got a drummer and bass player, too, and are all pretty tight. Damn, I love that Mama. I know I could. I would if I knew her. Is that guy really her husband? I try to convince myself he isn’t. But he’s standing close so everyone knows he gets her every night. Male musicians aren’t cool as they think. And maybe Mama isn’t either. Maybe she’s an alcoholic or hot tempered. More likely, she’s good as she looks. I have one more beer and leave at the next break. I’m not going to any other clubs tonight. I’m heading home to bed and tomorrow morning will see what’s going on at church.

“Jazz Stories #1: Mama Can Sing, Papa Can Blow; Somebody Stole My Broken Heart” by Faith Ringgold

“Paint it Blue” by George Thomas Clark

George Thomas Clark

George Thomas Clark is the author of Hitler Here, a biographical novel published in India and the Czech Republic as well as the United States. His commentaries for are read in more than 50 countries a month.

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