There is a certain sadness when I look about the waning October garden. So many blooms have faded and turned to seed; so many leaves have dulled.
And then there are the red hot flowers, looking a bit out of place and overly made-up amid the first flush of autumn’s golds and yellows and rusts.
And that’s when my imagination takes hold.
Picture this: It’s nearly 3 a.m., a starry, starry night – courtesy of the Mum blossoms.
The Garden Bar is a small jazz joint on the the north side of town. A band is on stage — I’m thinking of Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers. If you’re not familiar with her, I hope you hit the link. She’s one of my favorite blues/jazz/swing/boogie singers.
But this number, “Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good To You,” is slow, seductive, smooth, and sultry. A few late night couples sway as one, blurred by the smoky haze — not unlike the spider webs which now drape many of the shrubs.
And along the walls, tarted-up ladies do their best primping and puckering to lose their wallflower label before it’s time to call it a night.
That’s when she walks in, a new face, a new body making a late night entrance in a pale butter yellow gown. Faces turn, eyes roll, and whispers blend with the cool sax of the music.
“It’s that elephant ear that should have had red leaves. Now, Miss Thing has the nerve to send up blooms!”
“She ain’t nothin’ but a two-bit, dime store floozy,” — I have no idea why I’m starting to sound like Joan Crawford in a 1930’s film, but it just sounds right — “waltzin’ in here, with all of her bits on display. It’s indecent, that’s what she is.”
And as she walks about the place, the last of the red hot mamas can’t help themselves. They all stand taller, adding some more rouge to their painted faces — anything to get the attention of the last of the crowd.
But the ladies in red didn’t have to work so hard. It’s 3 a.m. — and at 3 a.m., anyone looks good.