“Play Me Out, Jack Hopke”

Saturdays I listen to “Saturday Night Jazz” on WWNO. Jack Hopke spins records from places I’ve never seen—Spain, Brazil, Japan, New York. The music’s rhythm depends on the origin point, but all of them are jazz, Jack Hopke says. All have that it Jack Hopke won’t describe.

Errol and Momma spend Saturday nights out, come home late. “You be a good girl now and stay inside,” Momma always says before locking the front door.

Sometimes I awake to their thump-thump-thumping against the wall. If music’s still on, their thumps mix, become Chick Webb drum beats. If the show’s over, radio off, their pattern is erratic, music-free. I close my eyes, picture myself far away in the pretty sounding states—Tennessee, Kentucky, Wyoming. I pretend I’m music notes going up the country, swimming against Mississippi’s current. Do I stop in Memphis, become blues? Do I take myself all the way up, up to Minnesota, like a piccolo trumpet solo? There the river is ice, and you can walk out to the center, stand in concrete current.

Jack Hopke’s got my daddy’s voice. He speaks into the microphone soft, giving the musicians’ names, where they come from, records they’ve released. When I’m feeling myself asleep before the dreaming comes, he says, “And this last song’s a lullaby for you, Rissie Kay, New Orleans’s girl.” The tune’s always the same, and that’s when I know it’s a dream song.

Tonight I hear the signoff before I’m asleep, hear Momma’s toes make the wood creak, her soured sweet smell lingering after she kisses my head. She shushes Errol, pulls their bedroom door to. “Rissie Kay’s dreaming,” she says. “Now what we gonna do?”

About James Jordan

James A. Jordan is pursuing his PhD at Southern Mississippi. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Greensboro Review, The Pikeville Review, and The Saturday Evening Post, among others. A member of the Peauxdunque Literary Alliance, he serves as a Festival Associate for the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival and Saints and Sinners LGBT Festival. He received his MFA from the University of New Orleans.

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