written by Harry Smith. Harry studies BA Humanaties English Literature. He is from Lusk North Co.Dublin. His likes include jazz and rock music, playing guitar, literature, and a beer in the sun.


Elliott lifted his head to see the man from the cubicle over peering down at him. He introduced himself a few weeks ago, a friendly person who wanted to be on good terms with everyone in the office, but Elliott always had to think really hard to remember whether his name was Matthew or Michael. When he took his eyes off his computer screen, Matthew or Michael saw this as an indication to ask what he was planning to ask.

“Me and a few of the guys are going to O’Donoghue’s after work, are you free tonight?”

He didn’t have to think through his response for long. 

“Yeah, I should be.”

“Won’t get in any trouble with the missus?”

“She has French lessons.”

“I didn’t know they do those so late.”

“They don’t.”

Matthew or Michael paused for a beat, processing what he was just told, clearly not expecting Elliott to be that blunt about it. He ultimately decided that wasn’t his business and continued with a chipper expression. “Well, we’re all going to be there at around 8 so come along if that time suits you. Let me give you my number in case you need directions or anything.”

Elliott didn’t need directions, he had been to O’Donoghue’s many times, but he still handed over his phone for his co-worker to put in his contact details. When he got it back, he saw the new number added under ‘Matthew (from work)’, which he would try his best to remember. 

At the bar, Elliott and Michael huddled themselves around a lighter to light the only smoke they had left between them. He was fairly drunk by now, holding his eighth pint in his left hand while he took a long drag with his right. It was cold out but he had loosened his tie, rolled his sleeves up above his elbows, and undone his top button while he was still inside. It was a warm, crowded bar that played music an octave to akin to nightclub volume which Elliott didn’t like. His colleague went back inside leaving him alone where he lingered for a few moments longer under the smoking area’s umbrella-like roof.

 He noticed in his blurred vision a door to his right, away from the entrance to the bar, with steep stairs leading down into a basement that wasn’t open when they had first arrived. Thinking nothing of it and having no one around to stop him, he stumbled down the steps. With each step the cold light of the street began to fade and the warm tones of the basement revealed themselves to him. His ears began to recognise soft notes, percussion and keyboard, a slow and smooth bass, one solitary trumpet separated from the ensemble. His steps matched up with the gentle click of a drumstick against the rim of the snare. He stepped onto the floor at the end of the staircase and was greeted by candlelight, a small crowd, and a quintet of young musicians. 

 The crowd could not have been more than fifteen in total, a few couples, and groups of three. They slowly sipped on pints and cocktails that looked more expensive than the drinks upstairs. They listened in total silence, showing intense appreciation for the music being played, with a few of their heads following the rhythm in a slow nod. He took a seat in the back, trying not to trip over his own feet on the way. As he sat down a man in a black shirt and trousers appeared on his right with a drink menu, which he gestured towards, prompting the new customer to make a choice silently. He pointed at the only option he recognised, Guinness. The other options were IPAs and cocktails and he was a man of simple taste. The waiter was gone as quickly as he had arrived. 

 Elliott looked around, the walls were dimly lit in a deep purple and each table had a candle right in the middle. There was no platform for the band to play on, but the gold beams that shone down from the ceiling separated them from the rest of the room. The lights bounced off the metal and brass of the instruments, dancing as the musicians swayed to their own melodies. The trumpet player had his eyes closed as he poured all the air from his lungs into the brass, and in turn flooding the room with a piercing melody that resonated among the admiring listeners. 

His drink arrived as he was looking around, he hadn’t seen anyone bring it over, it had just been left neatly on a coaster in front of him. He pulled a note out of his wallet and looked around for someone to give it to in exchange, but when he couldn’t find anyone, he left it on the table. He took a few big gulps before tuning in to the band, but being the drunkest there he felt as though he wasn’t a part of the crowd. He was hearing the music but had lost the capacity for listening earlier in the night. The trumpet was all he could really focus on; the other instruments accompanied it like a shadow accompanies someone under a spotlight. 

He took another gulp, reaching about halfway down the glass. When he set it back down on the table, he couldn’t help but notice a dent in the trumpet that he was almost sure hadn’t been there before. He squinted but he was sure of what he was seeing. He noticed how the rest of the listeners didn’t seem at all phased by this so he concluded it must have been there the whole time. He continued to think this until he saw the trumpet change slightly in shape again, growing longer. The band didn’t hesitate, they were in a trance and couldn’t stop playing no matter what happened around them. The trumpet continued in its metamorphosis and the rest of the band became more distant. The shrill brass notes rang out louder and louder, gradually becoming the only sound left in the room. The nodding listeners, the accompanying musicians, the candles and purple lights, the bar, and its staff, all faded to black until it was only Elliott and the trumpeter left.

When he shifted his focus from the trumpeter, he saw on his lap a rusty, dented trombone. He looked up again and found himself in his childhood bedroom, having just smashed the instrument into his desk in a fit of frustration. He wiped tears off his flushed cheek into his sleeve, trying to cry noiselessly, so as not to disturb his family any more than he already had. They didn’t think much of his burst of rage, but he was more embarrassed by being sad than of being angry. 

When he looked down a second time, the instrument was gone, leaving him with only the tears. He picked up the pint and finished the second half before the song’s end. He held the glass over his mouth for a few moments after the last drops had fallen from it, hoping for a few more. The note had been taken off the table, again without Elliott noticing, and a few coins had been left in its place, but not enough for another drink. He put the coins clumsily into his pocket and began fidgeting with the coaster for his drink, tearing the circular cardboard apart. He was able to hear the whole band again. He didn’t want to listen. 

The crowd filtered out one group at a time, but a few seats remained filled, most likely, Elliot mused, friends of the band. He stared at the trumpet player, took notice of his clothes, how trendy they were and how expensive they must have been. The man was noticeably younger than him, but had darker and more luscious hair, with a thick moustache. As he played his instrument he looked as though he didn’t need to think about it. Elliott loathed the trumpeter’s presence, he hated the fact that he looked better, sounded better; better than he ever was or would be. He made a mess of the coaster pieces and slid them onto the carpet. 

The band still playing, Elliot stood up with his pint glass in hand. The remaining crowd kept nodding along as he walked up the aisle between the seats. All eyes around him were closed, none of the ears noticed his steps over the sound of the music. He walked into the stage light, right in front of the trumpeter. The music only got louder, the musicians more focused, the crowd more enthralled. Elliot lifted his right arm, the glass in his hand was hit directly by the orange light. He sent it crashing down on the skull of the man in front of him in one swift motion.  

Image: Sunday Night Jazz by Charline Chatelain. Charline is a third year student in English and Creative Writing at UCD and a multidisciplinary artist, who particularly enjoys writing poetry and creating mixed forms of art.

CategoriesIssue VIII