Seven-forty AM, and the garbage men clatter and bang in the alley. Bubbles wakes with a start. Disoriented, her mouth dry, she slowly raises herself. She'd fallen asleep in the hammock again. She throws off the army jacket she'd used as a blanket, untwists her sticky t-shirt and kicks off her sweaty sneaks. The sun has crossed the rooftops and is already baking the porch. Reaching for a cigarette, she shakes out the pack and finds two left, one broken but one still whole. One drag and she snubs it out. Damp and stale. As the rumble of the sanitation truck recedes down the block, she hears music playing, faintly. Kind of Blue. Shit, set to repeat, she'd let it play all night. Flopping back in the hammock, she wonders, "What time is it? What the hell day is it? Wednesday?" A little of flash of anxiety stabs her. She's late for work! "Umn, no, it's Thursday. Don't go in 'til four." Closing her eyes, she dozes. The music envelopes her, the restrained elegance, sounding like a smoky conversation, All Blues, like hearing it for the first time again.
Bubbles daydreams as she bangs away at the tooth paste boxes with the price sticker gun-thing. The job at the pharmacy was getting on her nerves. So what now? She'd graduated, got her two-year degree in graphic design. She'd made up her fancy resume, promo pieces and business cards, spent a fortune on the printing; but she'd been unmotivated to look for work. The pharmacy job had been fine while she was in school. She'd had some laughs working with Stacey and Tucker, but since they'd both moved on, she's been spending most of her time on her shift trying to avoid Carlos. Car-los. At first he seemed ok, but she soon realized her open and friendly manner had been misinterpreted, ‘cause Carlos fancied himself a ladies man . . .
"Hey Bubbles, after your shift why don't you come join me on a magic carpet ride . . ."
"Carlos. Listen. You're a nice guy and all, but . . . "
"But what? C'mon why don't you just, like, go out with me? We could have some fun. You and me. I'm not an asshole. I got some good weed, we could hang out, you know?"
Following that smooth come on, Carlos puts his hands on her shoulders and starts making like a massage. Bubbles with the sticker gun-thing in her hand, stands up to her full height, and faces down the shorter Carlos.
"No, Carlos, actually, you are pretty much an asshole. Back off. Please."
Carlos' face flushes. "You know what? You're one stuck up, skinny-ass bitch. And I don't even know what KIND of skinny bitch you are, anyway, . . . some kind of niggery, A-rab, chinky lookin' girl . . ."
With a vicious swing of the sticker-gun-thing, Bubbles catches him under the chin, sending Carlos staggering back into a cardboard pain-reliever display. As Carlos writhes around the floor in a mess of over-the-counter medications, Bubbles drops the gun-thing and runs out of the store, trailed by a torrent of Spanish obscenities. She feels the hot tears on her cheeks as she runs, darting through the crowds, block after block. Finally she stops, gasping, bent over. Still trembling, she sits on a bus stop bench and tries to collect herself. It felt like she was nine years old again, back in the schoolyard. How long had it been since she'd been taunted for her mixed blood? Yeah, Bobby Collins, fourth grade. That little fucker. She'd smacked him silly, too. Chuckling to herself, she digs in her pocket for a smoke. Lighting up, she realizes she's still wearing her pharmacy smock. With her cigarette between her teeth, she yanks off the smock and tosses it into a nearby trash can. A corner of the ugly gray thing with the red piping hangs limply from the edge of the can, with her name tag still pinned to it. She glares at it. It seems to mock her. The name, "Bubbles" laminated on. How many times had she been teased about her name? That's a whole 'nother story. She finishes her smoke and unfolds her long legs. Trying to look casual, she ambles over and pulls the pin from the discarded smock. Putting it in her pocket, she looks around. "I've been on this block before. With Sully. That record store is around here somewhere. The one with the Miles poster."
Pushing open the sticky door, she's greeted by that smell, the same smell Sully could recognize from blocks away. She glances up at the clerk. Not the same one she remembers, that old, pale fat guy with a ponytail. It's a young, nervous Asian guy with big, black frame glasses and a Ramones t-shirt. She scans the wall and finds the Miles poster. A few new posters have been added around it, somewhat encroaching upon his space, but his dark, beautiful face seems to have been accorded some respect from the flavor-of-the-month bands that surround him.
"Looking for something in particular?" Bubbles turns to see the clerk giving her the once over. He squints at her and says with a smirk, "You've got kind of a Macy Gray thing about you. Macy Gray maybe mixed with Olive Oyl."
"You don't say." replied Bubbles. "You'd be sort of an Elvis Costello thing, mixed with some left-over Chinese take out."
The clerk feigns injury. "Ouch."
Bubbles gives him the stink eye and heads for the door. "Yeah, well, I'm leaving now, funny guy."
"Ooh, no, sorry, sorry, sorry. Really. Um, that was uncalled for on my part. I'm an asshole."
"You know what? This must be International Assholes' Day. I've already taken enough today from another member of your organization."
"Aw, c'mon, I'll take a buck off any disk you like. Are you looking for a particular artist?"
It crossed her mind to flip him off and stalk out, but a buck off sounds pretty good. "You got any Miles Davis?"
The clerks eyes light up. "Miles? Hell, yes. Any special title? Here's some sweet remastered stuff from the early sixties. Also some classic Prestige sides, you know the first great quintet, with Coltrane. There's Steamin', Relaxin', Workin', Cookin' . . . You can't go wrong with any of them. All classics."
"I just quit my job, so Relaxin' sounds about right."
As the clerk rings her up, she looks over the cover. "Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet" in yellow block letters on a black bar at the top. Below, there's an abstract female form composed of long thin triangles, reclining on a sea of pea soup green.
The clerk hands her the receipt. "Hey, thanks. And no more dumb remarks from me. Come back again."
She shoots him a cool look and says, "We'll see." as she glides out the door.
On the bus ride back to her apartment, she reads the liner notes. Coltrane she knew from Kind of Blue, along with Paul Chambers, bass, Red Garland, piano and Philly Joe Jones on drums. Of course, Miles on trumpet. Recorded 1956, Hackensack, New Jersey. "I think that's the year my dad was born." She gazes out the window as the bus pauses at a light and her eyes fall on a thin, light-skinned black man standing at the curb. Physically he looked pretty much as her mother had described her father. Her dad? She knew so little of him. When she asked her mother, she'd say. "There's so little to tell. Got pregnant as a senior at Princeton, 1983. Decided to have the child. That child would be you, honey." She'd asked more than once if she had seen him through the years. "Never saw him again after that night. He doesn't know about you."
She gets off the bus at dusk. She buys a hot dog from a street vendor and decides she'll go to Penn's Landing before going home. The lights came on along the Ben Franklin Bridge just as she finds a bench. No breeze. Like a typical Philly summer night. But it's only early May. She pulls out her portable CD player and drops in the CD. A scrabbly voice croaks "I'll play it, and tell you what it is later." Finger snaps count off, the piano plays a door bell riff, the brushes hit the snare, and that delicious muted trumpet swings in, dancing along with the flickering lights reflecting off the Delaware River.
Bubbles Meets the Prince of Darkness
International Assholes' Day
Bubbles Runs the Voodoo Down
Bubbles Takes a Magic Carpet Ride
Big Brown lets Bubbles Down
Bubbles, Baked and Fried
Bubbles, Biff and Binny
Bubbles and the 99 cent Epiphany
Bubbles' Trip To See the Doctor
The Doctor and the Prince of Darkness Meet Again
The Doctor and the Naked Glory
More Troubles for Bubbles
What a Lame Vacation
In Careless Act, 17 Drown, 3 Survive.