Guy Berceau leaned against the Freddie Mercury memorial statue in Montreux, Switzerland, gazing as boats bobbed in the lake; mountain reflections rippled on waves. He stood up to copy Freddie's pose, fist with a microphone in the air. Queen's lead singer's travails and death from AIDS gave Guy pause as he pondered his own music career. He had not followed the party boy path, and instead practiced diligently, falling asleep at his keyboard. Piano versus voice, jazzy blues rather than rock simmered in his blood. Hope that his summer roadie job guaranteed him access to jazz festival greats burned in his gut.
He lit a cigarette, puffed, coughed, and strolled back to the music venue. Guy removed his sunglasses as wind ruffled his longish brown hair. Maybe I'll be mistaken for a performer. He adjusted his stride, a musician with a purpose. Rolf called him from his reverie, "Hey, new boy, where've you been? We've got a truck to unload." Guy broke into a jog to begin the rollout of speakers, woofers, and crates of equipment.
Later that afternoon, Guy volunteered to play the piano during sound checks. Perhaps my obvious skill will give rise to a full-blown gig. His long fingers banged out some boogie-woogie. "Jesus, kid, just give me a C, that's all I ask," called out a technician. "Ain't no one around to discover you." Guy sighed and plinked out the requested note.
At dinner break, he joined his fellow workers for fondue, hearty chunks of meat and vegetables dipped into burgundy wine sauce. Chewy bread dunked in Gruyere was washed down with a local pilsner. Groaningly stuffed, the group walked to a local club where anyone could play a jazz session. Guy riffed and was encouraged by applause to stay two rounds. Pats on the back and free beers fanned his desire for fame.
Hung over and late to work, Guy stumbled into the arena. A guitarist looked up from his fretwork, "Hey, I recognize you. Le Salon Noir. Excellent piano, dude."
"I'll have to get your name and number."
Guy checked his pocket. "Damn. Cards are in my room."
"I'll catch ya. Say, would you move some speakers around? I'm not happy with our set-up."
The musician pointed, stood back, played notes, and indicated his intentions. Now awake, Guy shoved heavy gear into place. He grunted answers to questions. "Oof. I've played piano since I was four. Uh. Mother taught me classical. Eh. I love jazz. This job's temporary."
He waved his arms, hit a stack that tumbled and knocked him, screaming, to the lower stage. With his right hand crushed under a steel case, Guy cried heart-rending blues.
First published: May, 2007
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