The Shelter

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Author: Gary Gildner
Date: Summer 2009
From: Confrontation(Issue 104)
Publisher: Long Island University, C.W. Post College
Document Type: Short story
Length: 4,406 words
Lexile Measure: 1270L

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Come sundown at The Shelter, Hector, lean and burning, slides deeper and deeper into his buttery trombone. Miss Wulf, tilting on her short leg, saws and taps the glitter-coated baton she resurrected from home against the triangle she found at City Pawn--saws and taps, her chin bunched, as if determined this time to lead them, heads high, shoulders back, down Salmon Avenue and across lush bright turf to glory. But listen to the music, mon. No matter where the world might be watching for them, or how--flower in the buttonhole or buttoned up tight--until he, Hector Romero Guterrez Lopez, and she, Miss Hannah Mannaheim Wulf, are fully together, their song "Green Eyes" will always end up moaning, lonesome, and longing, as if they are huddled yet again beside a smoky oil drum fire at the ash pile edges of a cold junkyard.

In their cages the strays, the foundlings and misbegotten, howl at Hector's syrupy-turned-dirgelike notes, and when they are full of happiness, curl into their private heaps and lick their chops schlup schlup to sleep. That's how it goes, night after night.

When the performance--no, get it right, their inalienable declaration--is finished, Hector slowly unpeels the red silk wrapping his neck and wipes his eyes with this abundant handkerchief that Hannah gave him last Christmas. To Angel, it is nearly the size of a flag, though the country it might fly over is anybody's guess: painted dead-center is an image, both realistic and surreal, both sacred and profane, of The Virgin encircled by a lasso of nasty black barbed wire not quite touching her, and floating above where her head would be is a halo of thick cruel yellow rope. Where her head would be resides a perfect full moon, and clinging to it is a miniature leggy female in tight white short-shorts seen from the back.

This female climbing The Virgin's moon-head has, okay, a nice ass, but you know what else Hector is made to think about? Huh? Jack Teagarden singing and blowin' his 'bone on "After You've Gone." After you've gone and left me crying. Like that. Like walking home alone in the moonlight to a dull room. And maybe he thinks of Tommy D., too, yeah, the Dorsey brother, because square as he was he hit it perfecto, in Hector's humble opinion, on that "Song of India" number, how he goes round and round following something real fine--not just a nice piece of tail--using the mute. You think that's easy to pull off? Hector's all-time man, though, is Trummy. J.J. Johnson, Dicky Wells, Frank Rosolino, Willie Wilson, Vic Dickenson--they all good, or he wouldn't search the dusty bins of used record shops or those moldy boxes at St. Vincent de Paul's to find them. But Trummy Young is satisfaction, period. "On the Sunny Side of the Street," baby. He wants to be there, hot and happy, with his main man and his one true love. Never mind that her ear has a lotta tin. She...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A203231079