Charlie and Edgard
by Simon King




Charlie tended to perambulate across the streets with abandon. There would usually be a theme – he liked to walk across the streets of Manhattan – but there would rarely be a fixed route. He liked to meander through the same streets, but rarely in the same order, as he needed surprises, improvisations and abrupt changes. Charlie liked to blow his horn at the jazz club on a Friday, visit book shops on an alternate Friday or simply converse with a world-weary beggar.

Every day was different and filled with surprises, but they were always underpinned by the same themes and the same tonal centre. The motivations were always the same, but they would produce different outcomes. Charlie might play a ballad instead of an upbeat number, he might encounter a physics book instead of a chemistry book and the beggar might be vulgar and call him a nigger instead of being coolly congenial.

But there was always one exception. On a Thursday, at nine o’clock, he would visit Greenwich Village. He would command the street every single week, which made him edgier and apprehensive. Despite his thorough punctuality, this was the equivalent of a muddled and botched solo.

The drugs, alcohol and endless profusion of cigarettes did not help. His mind was frazzled and besieged by a potent headache. His decaying yellow teeth precariously hung from his rotting gums, which were mangled after practising on the horn. Yet these inconveniences were his least important problems. Charlie felt extremely jittery, as Edgard was about to leave the building.

Edgard was the stratospheric colossus of sound. His scraggly white hair branched out of his head as he marched out of his apartment block with swagger. He wore an elegant suit, bow tie and he cradled a gold-rimmed pocket watch. He looked wildly eccentric, but his madness was mechanical and precise. He would leave his apartment at the same time and he always dressed in the same way. Indeed, his poise and his timing resembled a finely tuned clock. Everything was synergetic and beautiful, but it was an eccentric, odd and discordant synergy. 

This made Charlie feel jittery. He thought that this was finally the day that he should introduce himself, but he prevaricated. The sinister drugs that he had imbibed circulated through his body and thwarted him.  

What could he say? How much he admired his music? Wouldn’t he be confronted with the catchphrase that his trumpet player routinely dished out to alarmed fans – so what? But surely Edgard would realise that this was the bird, the very man who had revolutionised music. Would he be disappointed if he learnt that it was jazz? Would he be eager to learn about this new music form, or would he merely regard it as primitive and backward? But surely he would realise that Charlie was Edgard’s kindred spirit in the popular music world, pushing the boundaries of the acceptable and constantly experimenting with new unusual forms.

Would he mention all this once he met him? Would he be contrived and try to use specialised terms that he did not fully understand? Would he ingratiate himself with this refined man by refining his speech? Would he, on the other hand, simply bark: ‘Man, I try to get my drummer cats playing Ionisation every day!’


Charlie started to pace closer to Edgard, but he became absorbed within a throng of people that busily scurried in multiple directions. How could he cope with this barrage of bodies? Sometimes his drummer would play in an excessively syncopated fashion, which would jar him, but he would surmount the difficulty with an exquisite solo. Now this crowded entourage enveloped him and he did not know what to do.

Charlie covered his brow with his hands, as the whole enterprise had faltered and ended with a grand pause, a whole measure of rests. Charlie became agitated and started to drum his feet on the ground, which animated him and propelled him forward. Charlie was now standing up and he was steady, balanced and he was moving.

He disentangled himself from the gaggle of metropolitan amblers, stormed ahead and he could see Edgard’s tuft of white hair in the remote distance. Now it would finally be his chance to tell him how much he adored Ionisation, Octandre and Hyperprism. How he thought that he was the Beethoven of the 20th century, however portentous and trite that sounded. How he wanted him to introduce his gigs at his jazz club. How he thought that jazz performers also did not deserve to die, that their jagged sounds rivalled the totemic pieces of the most innovative modern composers. Finally, he wanted to tell him that he wanted to converse with him at length.

Edgard kept walking with the same insistent swagger whilst Charlie stopped and brooded. Edgard kept walking further and further away, as the tuft of white hair became an indiscernible distant object.

Edgard was a rugged individual combating his demons in his own spiritual desert, but at least he did it with arrogance, pride and defiance. Charlie, too, was a rugged individual in his own spiritual desert, but he realised that he felt lonelier, more depressed and despondent than Edgard ever did. As Edgard disappeared in the far distance, Charlie despaired. In a life filled with surprises, improvisations and abrupt syncopations, Charlie felt that this loneliness was the only consistent feature.          


a line


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