They decided to do it on a cool, rainy day in November. I remember it just like it was yesterday. They brought him to his crypt. Made there way through the tomb, with weeping angels overhead, crumbling brick, and those fading plastic flowers you always see.
Louis hired a Jazz Band to send him on his way. Big crowd came from the projects, dancing to that New Orleans jazz and the thumping of that big bass drum. The crowd made Tina's body guards nervous. That night after the funeral, they had them a private room in the local restaurant and they were sitting down reminiscing over wine. They talked about Joe's practical jokes, his common ways, and the way he loved them po' people. Their ways, their music, their lives, and someone, never could figure out who, had a great idea. Why not make something good happen out of this? They could do something, make something, donate the money to the poor in their own neighborhood. Good Idea! Yeah! "Why not a song?"
They could record a song, use their names to sell it and give the poor people a piece of the action. Now let's see. What song could they sing? They thought about it and the answer came to them all at the same time. "Going at the seams," An old spiritual, had been Joe's favorite whenever life or something fell apart on Ol' Joe, an investment went belly up, he would show up at one of their homes with a fifth of whiskey in his hand, singing that song, over and over again before passing out from the booze.
That's it! They decided a song, and the sooner they got it recorded the better. Now this city may be a sleepy backwater, but it ain't dead! In the middle of the night, Tina's agent called in some back-owed debts. She rented a recording studio in the city. For music, they went out and got them a jazz band from off a Bourbon Street. The same one which had laid Joe to rest. As a final touch, Louis stopped by an all night convenience store and got himself a cheap bottle of whiskey.
Everything was set. The city tossed and turned under that late night November moon. Trash blew through the streets. Stray dogs fought in alleys. The moonlight cast a blue shadow among the tombs of St. Expedite. Tina, John, Carla and Louis sat on a little platform in the recording studio surrounded lots of microphones passing that whiskey bottle around and reminiscing til they felt like they were ready to sing.
The engineers in the glass booth was playing with dials. The Jazz band tired from a long day slumped around waiting for everything to get started. That's when the four of them looked at each other and knew it was time to record. At that moment the door opened and Joe walked in! He was dressed in his black burial clothes. Shiny stiff shoes, a starched white shirt, black tie. The mortician had dyed Joe's hair a little so Joe looked about ten years younger than he actually was. And from somewhere he had found a ridiculous looking brown derby and stuck it on his head. The mortician had done such a good job, you could hardly see where the stitches was from the accident.
Whatever, Joe looked like his ol' self rockin' from side to side, waving his arms and roaring in his deep voice, reaching for that bottle of whiskey. The four friends, were petrified, none else seemed to notice. The jazz band waved and shook hands with him, patted him on the back. Took their instruments out and prepared to play. The engineers quit messing around with the knobs and set down and waited.
One brought an extra chair and a mike for Joe who beamed back. "Thank you very much, thank you very much. Hey guys, that's a good man. That's a good man, give that man a drink." Joe grabbed the half empty whiskey bottle and took himself a long swig. Settled his broad butt in the chair and adjusted the mike. A dark stain appeared at about the waistline of his suit, a dark liquid stain and the room started smelling like whiskey.
Tina, John, Carla, and Louis didn't know what to do. They were all thinking the same thing:
Does anybody else really see him?
He really died, didn't he?
I put him in a tomb, didn't I?
Is it the cheap whiskey?
Joe motioned for them to all sit down.
They did as they were told. They were in shock. He turned to that Jazz band and said, "Hit, it boys!"
He nodded to the engineers in the control booth and an unreal voice said "Roll that tape."
Real quiet like, Joe started to sing.
"At the Seams, Keep them from going at the seams."
He looked at his four friends and motioned for them to join in.
The old song took them! Joe laughed, Tina closed her eyes, Louis tapped his foot on the floor to keep time. That Jazz Band just fell into the groove. They was rocking that place!
They kept on singing and the years just fell away. John looked at Joe, saw his whole body singing, saw it doing a little coming apart. One stitch out of that nostril had burst letting a little piece of black plastic slide out, allowing that nose to slump. Carla looked over at Joe and saw some stitches popping out around his ears, dark liquid was drizzling down Joe's ankles and down to the floor. John reached over and patted Joe's cold knee as they sang and felt the stitches rip right underneath his hand. That band just kept on playing.
Ol' Joe got up out of his chair and grabbed that whiskey bottle in his hands and said, "Ya'll made it, I didn't. Now I've come back to claim what's rightfully mine. Here's to success!" Joe slung that whiskey bottle towards his friends to share a drink, but instead he baptized them with the amber liquid. All of a sudden there was a massive ripping sound that tore right through the center of Joe's body. Joe's body fell to the floor with a mighty thud!
The song was a success selling millions of copies! His four friends used the money to build a school and community center in their old neighborhood. The critics loved it! The jazz band said it sure was nice to have someone imitating ol drunk Joe to come help out with the session. Yes, Ol' Joe finally hit the big time!
I felt the sunlight shining on my face. Light was pouring in through a broken window. I was stretched out on that bench as if I'd just taken a long nap. I looked around, there was no sign of the stranger with the silver flask. I made my way back out into the cemetery. Amazingly, there was no rain on the ground and certainly no indication that there had ever been a thunderstorm. I often think back to that day and wonder if it was just a bad dream.
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