by André Sant'Ánna
bout midnight, Duke Ellington left his grave and sat on the tomb, observing Miles Davis' tombstone, next to his. Duke Ellington observed the full moon and drummed his fingers on the cement of the tomb.
Miles Davis arrived late. Every night was the same. Miles Davis' eyes were red and he kept rubbing the callus of his upper lip on the callus of his lower lip. Duke Ellington thought that tick of Miles Davis very ugly and greeted the trumpeter:
—How are you doing, Miles.
—Dead, as always, Duke.
Duke Ellington stared at Miles Davis and thought:
—One of these days I'm going to get this kid into the band.
Miles Davis also observed the full moon and said nothing.
Duke Ellington thought:
—He's weird, thinks too much.
Miles Davis kept moving his hands as if he were pressing the valves of his trumpet.
Duke Ellington asked Miles Davis:
—Have you been practicing, Miles?
—No, just listening.
—And what do you listen to, Miles?
—I listen to sequences of notes, tones, intensities.
Duke Ellington thought Miles Davis' answer was too obvious and that Miles Davis could always speak with any note. So Duke Ellington said to Miles Davis:
—I don't understand what you mean, Miles.
—You don't have to, Duke.
—But I always wanted to understand you, Miles. That music you made with the kids. Was it jazz?
—Ha ha ha. Duke, you're the greatest. You don't need to be so old-fashioned.
—That's not the point, Miles. And those improvisations with no harmony at all.
—I'm glad you liked it, Duke.
—A note without harmony becomes any note.
—Ha ha ha. No, Duke. A note on its own, free of others, contains all harmonies.
—You're still young, Miles.
Duke Ellington and Miles Davis were silent for a few minutes. A cloud covered the full moon. Then Miles Davis told Duke Ellington:
—Your harmonies were so perfect that the notes were free in them too.
—You're too much of an intellectual, Miles. Music is made with the heart.
—Ha ha ha. Music is made because it's fun.
—Look who's talking. You who lived always depressed, in a bad mood.
—Ha ha ha. Heroin, strange dreams, women. Women, Duke.
—They adored us, 'eh, Miles?
—Ha ha ha.
—What was the name of that crazy disk of yours? The one with the kids, each going each way… there was an English guitarist, I think.
—That was Bitches Brew, but we went the same way.
—It doesn't matter, Miles. All I wanted to know was if Bitches meant whores, she-dogs or witches.
—Ha ha ha. Excuse me, Duke.
Miles Davis took a syringe out of his golden-sequined jacket, picked up a handful of soil from the ground and diluted it in the rain water that had started to fall.
Duke Ellington, impassive, watched Miles Davis inject the brown liquid into a vein in the calf of his very skinny leg.
Miles Davis coughed, spat to one side and said to Duke Ellington:
—Rest in peace, Duke.
Duke Ellington heard the sound of rain falling, the tone of the drops hitting the ground and each tomb, he heard the siren of an ambulance far away, the echo of a dog barking in a cul-de-sac, a woman's laughter, the wind, kids running down the street kicking empty cans. And he said to himself:
—Tomorrow I'm going to call that kid to play in the band.
(translated by Flavia M. Lobo)
André Sant'Ánna was born in 1964 in Belo Horizonte, State of Minas Gerais, Brazil. He lived in Rio de Janeiro where in the 80s he was a musician with the group Tao e Qual. Now living in São Paulo, he has had three books published: Love and other stories (Amor e outras histórias,1988), Sex (1999) and Paradise is pretty cool (O paraíso é bem bacana, 2006).
Flavia M. Lobo is a writer and translator from Rio de Janeiro. Her translations for the Brazilian public include Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband and Liam O’Flaherty’s The Informer. She helped revise the translation of James Joyce’s Ulysses besides editing and translating the Notes. She currently lives in Tucson, Arizona, and has been working on the English version of a collection of Brazilian poems, some of which she read at the Kansas City Writers Place in October. Her translation of André Sant'Ánna’s story Love will be in the online literary magazine OMEGA 6.
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story copyright by author 2006 all rights reserved