We were hitting stones from the top of the gravel driveway, trying to hit the front side of the barn. A muggy night in early summer. We’d been out there since after dinner. Now dusk was settling in.
“Let’s call it a night,” my cousin Jimmy said.
“One more game, up to three. You can go first.”
The batter’s box was a large flat rock just to the left of the driveway. We hit the rocks out of our hands with a Phil Rizzuto Louisville Slugger. We’d been at it since the first warm days of spring and by now the barrel of the bat was so cut and chipped from the sharper stones, it would soon just fall off. We could hear music coming from the terrace that wrapped around the side and the front of the house overlooking the valley below. Big-band swing from 15 years ago when Uncle Hugo and Aunt Teti were courting.
The barn was fifty feet away at the bottom of a small incline and the game was to hit it on the fly. Anything else was an out. Jimmy won 3-2. We stowed the bat in the toolshed and then walked down the steps and up the hill to the house. Before we got there we saw Hugo and Teti dancing a slow bolero on the terrace to a song I recognized:
I’d never heard that version before, full of lush strings, a soaring vocal and trumpet, a piano and vibraphone playing obbligatos. Hugo was wearing a pair of stained, white painter’s pants and a ragged blue Oxford. Teti had on a red and white polka-dotted housedress with a torn slit above the left knee. She was barefooted. When the band double-timed the bridge they whirled away from each other so that only the tips of their fingers touched—and then stepped back into each other’s arms and Hugo dipped Teti over his right knee and then bent down and kissed her gently...
“Wow, that’s fuckin’ amazing!”
“They do that all the time,” Jimmy said.
But I could never find that record and never heard that version of “Brazil” again. Even after Hugo died and Teti let me go through all his records in the attic, I had to settle for Artie Shaw’s recording of “Indian Love Call.”
It made me wonder what I’d heard that night 60 years ago, looking up at the terrace where we’d sit on hot summer nights and Hugo’d tell us stories about growing up in the Bronx—stories that made us laugh—and where Hugo and Teti...as if in a mist that was closing around us...were still dancing.
lives and writes in Mahopac, New York. He is the author of three books: text
messages, the first volume of American Gogyōhka poetry (Mushroom Press);
flowers to the torch, tanka prose (Keibooks, 2015); and when angels speak
of love, a novella (Loose Moose Press, 2017). His prose and poems have been
published in American Poetry Review, Atlas Poetica, Bright Stars, great weather for
MEDIA, KYSO Flash, Poetry Now, Rattle, Sandy River Review, Skylark, Still Crazy, Still
Point Arts Quarterly, Skylark, and elsewhere.
Fiore is also a jazz pianist, having played in several venues in the greater New York
City area including The Black Whale and LeRefuge in City Island and Pete’s
Saloon in Elmsford, New York.