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Blow that sax, man. Blow it 'til it bleeds. Play it like there ain't no tomorrow.
"What is this thing you call sax? Is it some sort of weather device?"
"No man, it's a horn. A musical instrument."
"I want to know more about this sax. Can I explore further?"
"Go for it. It don't hurt."
Bodies swayed in the close, humid air at Sloppy Joe's. The band was in a tight groove pocket. Al pounded out the back beat on the drums while Saxman stood on a table and wailed, sending pure soul careening around the walls and out through the open windows into the Key West night. People came from blocks away to listen, strolling up to the windows and moving their hips and feet.
The crowd gathered around Saxman, looking up in adoration. A girl in black silk reached up her hand and caressed Saxman's knee. Her dress clung to her body like syrup. Her lips parted as if the music was making love to her, throbbing its relentless beat. She moved her hand higher on Saxman's leg. He bent over and wailed on his horn, practically melting it down. The girl's hand moved higher...
"That was very intense. Is it always that way with this sax?"
"Well, it ain't always as good as that. Sometimes it's the Holiday Inn in Toledo. But yeah, it's pretty hot most of the time."
"With such intense feelings available to you on Earth, why did you leave?"
"Oh man, you're askin' the tough questions here. There wasn't any work there no more. They got holograms of Boots Randolph down there, complete with sweat. How can I compete with that?"
Saxman looked out the porthole of the space station. Earth was just passing from view. The creature reached out its hand again.
Saxman waited by the street outside Sloppy's. The girl in the syrup dress had stuck a small piece of paper in the pocket of his jeans, saying she wanted to meet him there after the show. She came around the corner and his heart leaped. She was accompanied by three redneck-looking dudes with brass knuckles. She looked on and laughed as they smashed him bloody and called him 'nigger.'
"Did this sort of barbarism happen often?"
"Too often, I guess. Every time I thought I was getting somewhere, some jerk made me feel like an outsider.
"And that is why you left?"
"Nah, well, I don't know."
Whoa no...baby don't ya wanna go
Back to that same old place
Sweet Home Chicago...
"You miss your home planet, then?"
"Not really, although another six months of playin' janitor to these space jockeys might just send me out the airlock without a suit. I thought it would be an adventure out here, you know? But it's nothin' but hard steel and ice."
He looked at the creature again. God, they were plug-ugly. Kind of like pale, green lumps of seaweed with arms and legs and big kangaroo pouches for stomachs, filled with pulsating lumps. But they could touch your forehead with their clammy fingers and know everything about you.
"Does it bother you that I can experience these things of yours?"
"Not really. But why should you care? Compared to you I'm a caveman."
"We are simple historians. There is a great demand for knowledge of alien species. Shall we try again?"
"Go for it."
The creature's seaweed-stuff wobbled and swayed as a pale, blue hand reached out to touch Saxman's forehead.
He was ten years old. He sat on his bed and wept. They had chased him all the way home from school again. Why wouldn't they just leave him alone?
He picked up the cheap little sax his mom had rented him and played 'Mary Had A Little Lamb.' He added a few licks and riffs, improvising on the simple melody. Something welled up in him and rode the notes out through the sax. When he played music he didn't feel so worthless. He had soul.
"What is this thing called soul?"
"Oh man, now you put your finger on a tough one. How can I describe that? I guess all I can do is show you. Can you float my sax over?"
The creature looked towards the corner of the room and floated the sax off the floor and right into Saxman's waiting hands.
"Man, I wish I could do that," Saxman said with a chuckle. "Now watch
Saxman played 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' straight, just like he had done long ago, when he was only ten. The notes were clean and even.
"See man, that's the song like it was written. Now listen."
Saxman reached down deep and played the notes again, feeling it this time, using his loneliness. Now it wasn't a children's nursery song anymore; it was an anthem to all the poor, desperate souls on Earth, and to a few that were floating around in space.
"This soul is coming from the cerebral cortex section of your brain, precisely here," said the creature, as he reached over and touched Saxman's forehead.
"Oh no, man, soul don't come from there; it comes from here." Saxman thumped his chest.
"But that is only your heart, which pumps blood."
"But there's something else there. I'll bet you can't even measure it. I can't explain it, I can just show you. Here, listen to this." He broke into another song.
The creature interrupted. "We have no more time. We must take your brain for further study."
"We must take your brain. There is no room on our ship for equipment which will keep your body alive in our atmosphere, so we will simply take your brain." He pointed to his kangaroo pouch, with its pulsating lumps.
A door opened and two more creatures entered the room. Saxman saw Commander LaMarche lying on the floor behind them, the top of his head neatly sliced open. The creature in front of Saxman reached out its blue hand and there was a humming sound.
"Wait! I told you that I had something you can't measure. If you take my brain, you'll lose it forever!" Saxman was sweating now, but he had recovered enough of his wits to know that he had better talk real fast. "This is an opportunity for you. I bet you never ran across soul before. Am I right?"
The creature pulled its hand back and Saxman took a breath. "Why don't you try to play the saxophone? You've been doin' your thing with my thoughts all day, so you should be able to play like I play by now. It's just notes, right? And then I'll play, and these other dudes here can decide if it's the same. If it is, you can take my brain. If it's not, then you got yourself a problem."
The creature turned its head and made some chattering noises towards the other two in the room. Then it turned back and raised the saxophone to its mouth. A squeaky, farting sound came out. The creature shook its bulky head and reached out to touch Saxman's forehead. It blew on the sax again and the clear, clean notes of 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' rang out in the musty air. The creature tried a few riffs, but it reminded Saxman of the Boots Randolph holograms down on Earth. It had all the notes right, but there was something missing. He hoped the other two seaweed lumps thought so too.
Saxman took the horn, wiped off the mouthpiece and began to play. He gave it everything he had. He was at Sloppy Joe's again. He was in the pocket, ridin' the groove. He was blastin'. He was sure it was the best he had ever played.
He was also sure that the top of his head was about to come off. How could some alien really notice a difference like that? The creatures stood in a little group and made mumbling sounds. Their seaweed stuff rustled and mottled.
Finally, one of the creatures said, "We will have to study this further. We must leave now. We will alter our ship so you can come with us to our world. Please wait here for our return."
The creatures shimmered and disappeared. The space station rumbled as their ship pulled away and streaked out towards the stars.
Saxman stood up slowly and noticed he was shaking all over. He had gotten a reprieve from the hangman. He stepped unsteadily to the porthole. Earth was out there hanging among the stars, blue and inviting, looking like home. He began to weep, softly at first and then building to a gut-wrenching wail. He got himself under control and weaved over to the radio. He slowly and deliberately sent out a distress signal on all channels. Somebody was gonna have to come and get him out of here.
He went back to his room and picked up the saxophone. Soon the gutsy strains of 'Sweet Home Chicago' wailed out around the space station, as Saxman stood bent over in silhouette against the glittering stars and the floating, blue Earth.
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