the birth of jazz (john king)

Grade 7, Royal Vale School, Montreal. The bell rings, we’re at our desks, I’m looking out the window, studying canine romance in the schoolyard. A strange man enters. Where’s Miss Pookey?

Miss Pookey’s sick. I’m the substitute. My name’s John King. I don’t know what I’m supposed to teach you so do whatever you like.

He’s got Wellingtons on! His hair’s wavy and a bit on the longish side. He’s got a James Dean face. And he says we can do what we want! I get my scribbler and pencil out and start drawing. John King notices I keep looking up at him and asks if I’m drawing him. I say nothing. The bell rings for lunch.

Bring your favorite records back after lunch and we’ll play records all afternoon.

Every kid that brought a record, maybe a dozen altogether, brought Elvis.

John King smiles. Okay, but you know there’s all kinds of music besides rock and roll. Before we play Elvis listen to this. This is a kind of music called Jazz.

Turk Murphy. My colleagues erupt in a chorus of groaning, complaining, and sniveling. Not me. I was electrified.

My birthday was coming up. I asked for a record player. The die was cast.

John King, where are you? God, if you only knew!

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