The jazz age (2)
Ken sat, gazing despondently over the foggy seafront. He had moved to Brighton in the 20s armed with his Leica and a brand new Besson, bought for him by his grandfather on his graduation from the Royal Academy of Music the previous year. He had spent his days snapping photos of the holiday makers promenading along the pier, then trying to sell them the images as bespoke postcards, and his nights entertaining them in the bars. He’d made enough to live, but never much more than that. The late nights and copious whiskey consumption in those golden years between the wars had taken their toll on his body, and the horrors of his conscripted days haunted his mind and poisoned his dreams, but here he sat, 112, and feeling every second of it.
As the early morning fog lifted, the cool sun began to warm and dry the fine patina of dew from his hunched form. A seagull fluttered down on the bench by his side, and nosed its beak arrogantly into the paper bag wedged into the crack by his long-cold coffee cup. A few flakes of croissant fell to the floor, and several more gulls swooped in, fighting over the tasty morsels. He shooed them away, and as the first one took flight it aimed a shit right on the handle of his trumpet case.
A girl ran by in hot pink and gray, her iPhone strapped to her arm in one of those cases which ensured that, no matter where she was or what she was doing, she could track and share her activities over the baffling multitude of social media. Like anyone gave a shit where she’d run or what she’d had for breakfast afterwards, Ken mused, uncharitably. He wondered how different the 20s would have been if iPhones had existed then. His snapping wouldn’t have made him a penny, that was for sure, but what of the jazz… could such musical debauchery and freedom have flourished in the light of such constant, intrusive surveillance? Would he have dared use the trumpet intended to further hone his aptitude for classical music to become a jazz musician in Brighton’s seediest but coolest bars if he’d known his exploits would be all over instagram the next morning? His grandfather would have been so angry, and so ashamed - he’d died thinking that Ken was playing in orchestras, not jazz quartets and jam sessions. Anyway, it didn’t matter now. His fingers had long been too stiff to press the keys, and his heart too heavy to care. All the trumpet did was to remind him of everything he’d loved and lost; his father and wo brothers in the trenches, his sweetheart to an air raids, his Leica to that bastard prowler in the alleyway behind the lanes.
He got up, and stretched. His gnarled and tired limbs loosening slightly in the luke-warm winter sun. Hobbling, he found his way to the end of the pier. He paused, taking one last look back at the Besson, waiting unassumingly in it’s brown case, now adorned with fresh seagull shit. Praying that its next owner would find more happiness than he had, Ken took his final step.