Jazz Man

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“Kyle, I gotta tell you, I don’t understand why you’re doing this.”

“Sir, I joined the Army to be part of something greater than myself.”

“Um…you’re in the Army, Sergeant Roberts,” the lieutenant colonel said.

“Yes, sir. I am. But I…play a saxophone.”

“A job you had to audition for. One you earned because you’re that good. And after all that you want to leave the Army? Help me understand what I’m missing.”

Sergeant Kyle Roberts had dropped out of college halfway after his junior year because he felt like he was going nowhere. He was doing well enough in school, and had a very respectable GPA of 3.45. He just couldn’t ‘find himself’, and after doing a lot of soul searching, he saw several recruiters on campus one day, and on a whim, went to talk to them.

He had nothing against the Navy or the Air Force, they just didn’t fit his stereotype of what a ‘real’ soldier did. He really wanted to join the Marine Corps, but he’d talked to a friend who came home after boot camp, and the stories he told scared the hell out of him. Another friend had enlisted in the Army, and when he came back home on leave, he told Kyle it wasn’t hard at all. It wasn’t a cake walk by any means, but it was less challenging than wrestling practice had been, and both stories had stuck with him since he was18.

But at 21, he he found himself looking for something that mattered; something to give his life a sense of purpose. College was fine, but every day was deja vu all over again. Get up, work out, eat, go to class, study, eat, go to class, eat, study, and go to bed. He managed to find time to play the sax and even made some money playing at local bars on the weekends.

And there were plenty of co-eds ready, willing, and able to…put out…but even that had lost its charm. So after spending an hour with an Army NCO, he agreed to take the required aptitude tests, passed the physical, and enlisted on a four-year contract.

While it wasn’t exactly what he’d envisioned, being an infantryman was, for the most part, what he’d been craving. He couldn’t have articulated that before becoming one, but it gave him the sense of purpose and belonging he so desperately wanted and needed, and the feeling that he was a part of something larger than himself.

But there was another intangible that made it even more satisfying. He felt like he was doing something for the greater good. ‘The greater good’ was a term that got thrown around all the time by people from all walks of life from anarchists to missionaries and meant whatever the person using it wanted it to mean. That aside, that’s the feeling Kyle got from being in the Army in general and the infantry in particular.

Maybe a lot of that was due to being raised by a single mom and needing some kind of authority figure in his life. Maybe it was the fact that she died at the beginning of his junior year leaving him adrift on the sea of life. Maybe it was the camaraderie. Maybe it was nothing more than his sense of adventure, or as he’d recently discovered, his sense of duty. Whatever the reason, he’d signed up, finished basic training and then infantry training, and unlike most of his peers, he loved what he was doing and planned to stay in.

Also unlike his peers, Kyle was a talented musician. He’d grown up playing the piano from the age of five then transitioned to the saxophone in middle school and had played ever since. He was first chair in high school and good enough to play in the college band, something he’d never explored, because, by then, it wasn’t something he wanted to do unless he could play what he wanted when he wanted.

He loved music, but it was a side show in his life. He enjoyed it, but it didn’t give him that sense of purpose he so deeply craved. Like sex, it was pleasant but unable to satisfy the hunger deep inside him.

Once he was on active duty, it was no secret in his platoon and company that he could play, and play quite well. But when he played it was always for the entertainment of his buddies after they’d had a few, especially after being in the field for a several days living in holes and eating MREs.

That’s when he’d pull out the sax and in no time, guys would get up and start moving around. His black friends in particular loved his style and would often be the first to strut their stuff. Many asked him why he didn’t play professionally, but he’d always just smile and say somethin like, “Nah. I’m not that good.”

But word got around, and during his first December on active duty, he was asked to perform at a brigade-level function before people started going home on Christmas leave. The brigade commander, an Army colonel, knew the director of the Army band in Washington DC, and after hearing Private First Class Kyle Roberts play, he gave his old friend a call.

“If he’s that good, I want to set up an audition,” the lieutenant colonel or LTC, said.

The brigade commander passed that on to Kyle’s battalion commander who, in turn, passed it on to his company commander, and the next day, the battalion command bayan escort gaziantep sergeant major was summoning him to his office.

“The battalion commander has directed me to tell you that you’re going to audition for the Army band.”

“Sergeant Major?” the very surprised young soldier replied, not sure he understood.

“You’re going to play the sax for the Army, son. If you’re good enough. And you WILL do your best during the audition. Is that understood?”

“Um…yes, Sergeant Major,” PFC Roberts replied, still not sure what was going on.

“I have here, in my hot little hands, the time, date, and location of said audition. You will report there in your Class A uniform along with that shiny gold horn of yours, and you will play…”

The sergeant major sifted through his notes and found the piece of music Roberts was to play and said, “Ah. Here we are.”

He held it out and said, “Whatever the hell this is.”

Kyle looked at it and cringed. It was the kind of music he’d been forced to play when he was learning, and had no interest in ever playing again but could still do in his sleep. But since this wasn’t a request, he accepted the sheet music and the order the way any good soldier would.

“Will that be all, Sergeant Major?”

“That’s it. Just be there on time. And by on time, I mean 30 minutes early. Capiche?”

“Roger that, Sergeant Major!” Kyle replied as he stood up then did an about face and marched out.

Kyle did his best, and much to his chagrin, his performance so wowed the director of the Army band and one of the best sax players in the Army who was also evaluating him, that the young soldier received orders within a week, and two weeks after that, he found himself in Washington DC on TDY (temporary duty) with a new military occupational specialty or MOS of…band geek.

The only good news was that it came with a promotion to the rank of Specialist or pay grade E-4, as well as a $2,000 bonus. He would receive a modest monthly stipend as a member of the band, but most of that would be eaten up dry cleaning the dress uniforms he’d have to wear nearly every time he played.

Exactly which of the Army’s bands he’d be assigned to was still up in the air, but as a saxophone player, there were only a couple of real options. Within two days, he learned he’d be stationed in Sembach, Germany, as a member of the US Army Band and Chorus.

Sembach Kaserne was an Army installation located in Sembach, a municipality of the Kaiserslautern district in the Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Sembach was about 200 miles from Luxembourg to the northwest and around 100 miles to the border of France.

Kyle spent the rest of his enlistment there with much of that time on the road playing at various posts and bases throughout Europe, the Pacific, and occasionally, stateside. In terms of the job, he often felt like he was a civilian more than a soldier. Playing was enjoyable, although he was never free to play what he wanted. He was told when to play and what to play, and no deviations were allowed. But then this was still the Army, and orders were orders.

Being an Army musician gave him time to have a social life, and he wasn’t at all surprised to find that there were quite a few German girls who were more than willing to, um…spend time with him. Most were casual in nature, but there was one that stood out in his mind.

Her name was Hannah, and what was unusual about it was that she was a lot older than him. She was beautiful, and like so many other Germans, she spoke English perfectly with only the slightest hint of an accent.

Sure, there were the Sgt Schultz types who said, “Ja, und wie are very much liking zie Americans,” but the number of people who spoke English fluently was not only a pleasant surprise, but one that made learning German unnecessary. He picked up quite a few words during his time there, but he still couldn’t understand the answer to anything he asked in German, so after a few tries, he’d just ask if they spoke English.

Hannah was 36 when he met her and had a 7-year old daughter named Anna, and had she been willing to leave Germany, Kyle would have very likely asked her to marry him. The sex was not only good, it was fantastic. But it was her personality that made him fall in love with her. And he would have gladly raised Anna as his own, but the girl’s father lived nearby and loved his daughter every bit as much as Hannah did, and in the end, Kyle wasn’t sure he could have lived with taking this little girl so far away from her father.

Somehow, when it ended, he managed to say goodbye without getting emotional or having his heart broken. Perhaps that was because they both knew from the first time they went out that she would never, under any circumstance, leave her country.

So now, at the age of 25, Kyle was down to just 90 days left on his enlistment, and found himself in front of the band director, who wanted to know why he was leaving the Army, especially after having cim cif gaziantep escort bayan just been promoted to sergeant, pay grade E-5.

“This is the best of both worlds, Sgt Roberts. You’re big on service, and you’re doing that. You’re a soldier. You wear a uniform. But it’s also close to civilian life. You play in nice clubs, wear a clean, sharp-looking uniform, and the pay isn’t terrible. Especially now after this latest promotion.”

Kyle had to admit the director was right on all counts. And since Kyle had never had money, what he made seemed like a lot and was more than enough to live well on. So much so that a good share of it went into the bank every payday along with the bonus money he’d never spent.

But the problem was this haunting sense of being unfulfilled. Just wearing the uniform was an honor, but playing a saxophone didn’t cut it, and the chance of ever going back to the infantry was zero. At least as an enlisted soldier.

Recently, Kyle had been thinking about something he’d never seriously contemplated before, even when he was in college. He needed just two more semesters worth of credits to graduate, and once he had the sheepskin in hand, he would still be young enough to serve as a commissioned officer. And with any luck, he could be back in the infantry doing what he loved.

He hadn’t shared this with anyone, and had no intention of doing so. And that was doubly true with regard to the other wrinkle to this new idea of his he’d been toying with for several weeks.

“You’re right, sir,” Kyle told the director. “On every count.”

“But?”

“Sir, I joined the Army to feel like I was doing something for the greater good. And please don’t take this the wrong way, but blowing a saxophone isn’t what I had in mind.”

With a long sigh of resignation, the band officer looked at his newest NCO and asked, “So what are you going to do?”

“I suppose I’ll go back home to North Carolina and us the GI Bill to finish college, and I’ll probably play the sax on weekends to make some extra money. Beyond that, I’m still not sure.”

It was true that he didn’t know for sure what he’d do yet, and it was very possible something else would come his way that made better sense or appealed to him more. But for now, at least, this was the best, most honest answer he could give.

“Okay. It is your decision,” the director told him. “But in the meantime, I want you to make a videos.”

“A video?” Kyle asked even though he was pretty sure he knew what this meant.

“You’ve seen the Saxophone Standard videos, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then you also know they’re the latest in the Army Field Band’s Instructional Video Series. We’ve been tapped to provide one saxophone player to make the next one, and that lucky person is you.”

Even though the director was an Army officer, he was unlike any other officer Kyle had ever known. While he would never try it, Kyle was pretty sure he could even call the man by his first name and not be reprimanded for it. But even so, this was an order, and until the day he left active duty, he had to play somewhere.

“Sounds good, sir. When and where?”

Kyle got the date and the location then went to the admin section that took care of their orders and let them know he needed a set. The following week, he was in Munich with two other sax players who were at a local recording studio the Army had rented for them to make the video. It was all very simple and very cut and dried.

Kyle was one of three Army sax players providing free lessons to the public. They would take turns going over the part of the lesson they’d been tasked to provide while making sure to smile and represent the Army well, all the while wearing their dress uniforms.

It wasn’t lost on him that all three of the men who were chosen were good looking guys. He wasn’t exactly an expert when it came to which men were or weren’t attractive, but he knew enough to know that the other two guys fit the mold. And he’d been told for as long as he could remember that he was handsome, cute, attractive, or some other similar word, for whatever that was worth.

Kyle was the first to realize that his facial symmetry was nothing but the resort of dumb luck. He had nothing to do with it. The only thing under his control was his body, and he’d taken very good care of it since he was about 12 years old.

Baseball had been his first love, but when he got into the 7th grade, he tried out for the wrestling team. He was well behind his peers in terms of skill, but he was a fast learner and quickly closed the gap. He became a very good wrestler and had the body that went with it.

He gave up organized sports in college, but he stayed with fitness in general and regularly ran, swam, and/or lifted light weights. As a result, he still had the kind of body that Hannah had often called ‘un sehr fickbarer Körper’ which translated as ‘a very fuckable body’.

The first time she said it, it made him laugh, cinsel bilgiler and he still occasionally thought about it whenever they made love after that. Now, looking back, he found himself wishing he could meet a woman like her to fall in love with again as the single life was beginning to grow old in spite of his still being very young. But that would have to wait until he was out of the Army, and most likely until he had a job that paid enough to support this as-of-yet-unknown woman, whoever she might be.

****

Six Months Later. Near Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Mom! Check this video out!” her 11-year old son said, no small amount of excitement in his voice.

She was exhausted from waiting tables all day, but she gladly did that because she loved her son, and well, because being a divorced single mom, they desperately needed the money.

“What it is it?” she asked, forcing herself to smile and sound interested.

He brought his iPhone 7S over to her then turned it her way.

“It’s the Saxophone Standard.”

“Oh,” his mother replied, having no idea what that meant.

She did know that her son loved playing the saxophone, and that her ex-husband’s only interest in their son’s life came in the form of a monthly check that included extra money for lessons.

She’d hadn’t asked for it nor would she, but she knew him enough to know that it was his way of bribing their son, Shawn, into thinking his father cared while he was still young enough to believe that he did. But the only thing he cared for was himself and whatever co-ed he was currently banging.

Kim Cook did her best not to get angry or even be resentful where her ex was concerned, because he was out of her life forever, and thinking about him or the time she found him at home, in their bed, boinking an 18-year old student made her crazy.

She’d done nothing to deserve it, and had even done everything a woman could reasonably to do remain attractive to the man she loved. But no amount of working out, eating right, or wearing the things he liked made any difference.

The bottom line was he wasn’t cut out for monogamy, and as the old song said, “That’s just the way it is. Some things will never change.”

“They’re all very handsome,” his mom said, looking at the three men, as he hit ‘play’. “Just like my son.”

Shawn smiled then said, “Thanks, Mom. Oh, and one of the guys said he’s from Charlotte, North Carolina, and that’s really close to us!”

“Yes it is. Pineville is only a few minutes away from Charlotte.”

“Mom. I already know that. We go there all the time, remember?” her son informed her.

“Sorry. Yes, we do.”

She looked at the three attractive, younger men then asked which one lived in Charlotte.

“This guy,” Shawn said as he pointed to the most attractive of the three. “But he doesn’t live in Charlotte. He lives in Germany. He’s just from there.”

Shawn’s attention to detail often surprised and even amazed his mother. There were times when it was annoying, but it was one of many things she loved about him. And she had to admit the saxophone player who was from Charlotte but not currently living there was very nice looking.

She listened for a minute or so, and as much as she enjoyed jazz and supported her son’s passion for the sax, watching someone give a lesson on how to play the instrument was about as exciting to her as watching the grass grow.

“I’m gonna go try to play that,” Shawn told her when she handed the phone back.

She felt guilty for being happy to see him go to his room, but as long as he was happy, she was happy.

“Okay. Sounds good, honey,” she told him with another smile before closing her eyes and falling asleep in the recliner at 8pm like she did most nights.

Kim had recently turned 39 and, as of a year ago, working again for the first time since she gave up her job at her husband’s insistence some 15 years earlier. She’d loved being a stay-at-home mom and raising their son after Shawn was born, but she’d also missed working and being around other adults.

The day her life changed forever and sent her back to work was permanently etched in her mind. She came back from her parents’ home a day earlier than expected two years ago that week and heard unspeakable noises coming from her bedroom.

It took her unsuspecting brain a moment to recognize the sounds, and even when she knew what they were, Kim assumed her husband was watching porn. She was almost certain he at least occasionally did that, and while she wasn’t thrilled about it, as long as he was pleasuring himself to some video and remaining faithful to her, it didn’t seem like a big deal.

But as she went up the stairs toward their bedroom, she heard the female voice call out her husband’s name. Suddenly feeling sick to her stomach, Kim stopped and listened. Whoever was in her bed was extremely vocal, and at the same time that she felt like vomiting, Kim realized she had no job skills.

It was a very unusual thing to have come to mind after finding her husband naked and screwing the daylights of a very pretty young girl who had been in high school just four months before. But for whatever reason, that was one of the first things that came to her after the girl saw her and screamed and just before her former husband started babbling things like, “This isn’t what it seems,” or, “I can explain this if you’ll give me a chance.”

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