Rusty Nail
Paula Ray

I pawned the ring my ex gave me and bought the silver saxophone that hung in the window, abandoned. Back home I lit one of his old Camels and held down the keys, which were padded with leather. If smoke slithered out of a tone hole, that was a leak. I made the repairs.

The next week, I went to the open-mic at the Rusty Nail and signed up for set five. When the owner called set-five musicians to the stage, I found my place next to a handsome young guitarist. He said, "How 'bout a slow blues in G?"

I felt that old sax rear back in my hands like a stallion itching to run. I nodded and wiped my lipstick off with the back of my hand. "We can warm up with that."

Two chords into the intro, I recognized The Thrill is Gone. We passed around licks until all the juice had been squeezed out of Lucille's ghost, then the whole band stomped on the last note in unison.

"Now it's time for Let the Good Times Roll," I whispered in his ear before he called up the next tune.

"You take the first ride, baby. I'll slide in behind you." He gave a wicked smile. And I knew that pawnbroker had got the short end of the stick, because I'd hit the jackpot.

Paula Ray is from North Carolina. She's had work in Word Riot, Dogzplot, Pequin and others.

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Detail of photo on main page courtesy of irene gr.

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