“May I help you, little lady?” James said as he spread out the blanket, then extended his hand to his wife.
“James, if somebody hears you, you’ll be in rehab for drug use.”
“Bonnie, you’re still the prettiest girl in New Orleans and you know it. Now, take my hand and sit down, woman!”
“James, if I get down I may not be able to get up.”
“Well, you’ll certainly find out I’m not so little anymore!”
“I should hope you’re not. Five months along, you’d better be showing.”
“Isn’t the park beautiful, James? It’s hard to believe that we’re having a picnic in the same place the Vietnam protests were held, isn’t it? It’s so peaceful now.”
“Yeah, if you’d asked me in ‘70, I thought that being in the New Orleans Jazz Band was the top, but here I am, four years later, still working construction during the day, then playing half the night, downtown. This ain’t livin’.”
“Why do you work yourself so hard?”
“It’s only until I break through, Bonnie. Guess I shouldn’t complain. Playin’ jazz trumpet is something I love to do.”
“Oh, God… no!”
Bonnie’s face blanched white.
He didn’t need to ask any more questions. There, on the blanket, was his answer: an ever widening circle of warm fluid. Quickly pulling her up to her feet, he threw everything back in the picnic basket and rushed her over to their car.
“James, it’s way too soon…”
“Here, get in the back and put your legs up on the seat. God has a reason for our Peanut and He’s gonna save him. Stay calm and breathe deeply. We’ll be there in a minute, Bonnie.”
James drove as if the world was about to end because his was. Bonnie’s moaning commanded his gas pedal until they arrived at the hospital.
As he helped her out of the car, they looked into each other’s face momentarily. The fear and hopelessness that was reflected in their eyes would have looked familiar on board the Titanic.
It didn’t take long to deliver him. There was no stopping labor: the one pound infant simply slid out. So tiny, so precious, so blue. No time to touch him, to rejoice or celebrate a new life entering this world. The room itself held its breath. As quick as the brush of a butterfly’s wings, their tiny Peanut was caught up by the doctor and rushed to one corner of the room. It was surreal: three doctors and assorted nurses huddled over the tiny spirit. James leaned over and rested his head against Bonnie’s.
He forced “I love you” past his parched lips as fear danced with dread.
“I’m sorry. We did all we could do. He was just too early,” the doctor said, placing this wisp of promise, now extinguished, into James’ arms. He was as light as a loaf of bread.
As he looked at his tiny son, he tenderly touched his face. His cheek was so soft that James couldn’t even tell when his finger made contact. He lightly stroked his tiny curled fingers, imagining them curled over the valves of a trumpet. A gutteral sob soared up to the door of God’s mighty throne room.
“God, why? Why?”
As he stood over the tiny grave, James read the inscription: “Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn, the sheep’s in the meadow, the cow’s in the corn. But where is the little boy who looks after the sheep? He’s under the haystack, fast asleep.”
“James, wake up! Wake up! You must be having a bad dream.”
James found himself sitting up in bed, totally saturated in cold sweat. Bonnie was raised up on one elbow beside him in bed, looking puzzled, the sheets accenting the large mound that was now her stomach.
“Peanut… My Peanut…” he cooed, rubbing her round belly softly.
“Who’s Peanut?” she asked, quizzically.
Oh, by the way, did I ever tell you how beautiful you look pregnant, Bonnie?”
Two weeks later, eight pound nine ounce Andrew “Blue” Cook entered the world with a cry that, to his father, sounded as triumphant as Gabriel’s horn.
James continued playing the jazz clubs but was never able to quit his day job. In 1998, the breakout CD “Little Boy Blew” topped the jazz charts, winning a Grammy and the title of “Best New Artist” for musician Andrew “Blue” Cook.
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