Concise Prose. Enough Said.
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The Brass Section

By Mary Lynn Reed

I was dreaming about the trombone player again. He was playing deep bass blues, hot and slow. The phone jolted me awake, turning hot to cold. I grabbed the receiver, hoping it was just a drunk with a wrong number.


It was a drunk. Unfortunately, he didn't have the wrong number.

"Where are you?" I said.

"I don't know..."

"Well, what the hell do you want then?"

My ex-husband started to cry.

“Stop your blubbering and tell me where the hell you are."

Ten minutes later, I solved the mystery. Mark was at a pay phone in Ybor City.

"I'm calling you a cab," I said. "You can't expect me to come out there at three in the morning. Next time, pick a better part of town. Or better yet, call your fucking sponsor!"

After hanging up, I flipped on the light and rubbed my eyes. My hands started to shake. Five years of Al-Anon meetings and I still wanted to rescue him every time he started sinking.

Two hours later, I was still tossing and turning. Knowing there was only time for a short dream before the alarm sang out, I closed my eyes and focused hard on the brass section. Moving quickly past the trumpets, I tried not to let my memory catch a glimpse of teenage Mark, all ‘80s prep and absolutely no cool. I was directing my internal movie of desire, shifting into slow-motion as Kevin, third chair trombone, came into frame. Brushing back his shoulder length strawberry-blonde hair, he moistened his lips. Twenty years stretched out between us, yet I could still smell his musty odor, as he put down the trombone and leaned in to kiss me.

The alarm buzzed and I slapped it without looking up. Snooze. Nine minutes. Snooze. Nine minutes. The hall bathroom door slammed as the alarm buzzed for the third time. Another abbreviated dream-encounter. Then I remembered my promise. I was taking Jeremy shopping for band instruments this morning. My son, symphonic hope of the next generation.

I showered, then made my way to the kitchen. I ate a bowl of limp corn flakes and drank hot black coffee out of an over-sized insulated mug.

Jeremy was silent until we got to the music store. I opened the door for him and a small cow-bell announced our arrival. He turned to face me, jabbing his hand out in front of his narrow chest, giving me the universal stop sign.

"Remember what you said?" He asked.

I raised one eyebrow at him, Mom's universal symbol not to start something. "Yes," I said.

"You promise, right?" He eyed me brazenly and I nodded, affirming my promise not to force him to choose the trumpet, like his father would. Looking pleased with himself, he dropped his arm and entered the store. I watched him walk away, his twelve-year-old frame slight yet square, poised to sprout into maturity at any moment. He was a late bloomer, like his father. Yet at twelve, he was more sure of himself than Mark ever had been. For that, I was proud.

I gravitated to the trombone section, letting my fingers lightly caress the long brass slide. Jeremy tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to see my son, apprehensively holding his slight silver choice.

"I want to play this," he said, awaiting my approval.

I took one last glance at the trombones and then turned to Jeremy, smiling.

"Wonderful," I said. "The flute is a beautiful instrument."

Mary Lynn Reed lives and writes in Tampa, Florida. Her short story Six Zeroes is slated to appear in The Dead Mule in November.


Top photo "MRGRT 03" courtesy of Ryan Aréstegüi.
Bottom photo courtesy of

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