A Cough at the College of the Pacific – 4

“I don’t get it,” she said, head shaking.

I opened the black three-ring binder that was never far beyond reach. “There’s not much to get. Brubeck met alto saxophonist Paul Desmond in 1944 while in the US Army. After the war, in 1951, he joined Brubeck’s quartet. Brubeck had already been recording on the Fantasy Records label. The last album he did for Fantasy was 1953’s Jazz at the College of the Pacific. Ron Crotty on bass and Joe Dodge on drums rounded out the band.”

“That’s all great, but what does it have to do with anything? Where’s the relevance?”

“It’s all relevant, or might be. The cough on “Laura” occurs at one-minute twenty-four seconds. Eighty-four seconds. A deep cough, undeniably male.”

“I know. You’ve played it for me before. A lot. But again, so what?”

“Used to drive my dad nuts. Got to the point where he couldn’t even listen to the track.”

“Like father, like son.”

“Yeah. I guess I’ve inherited his frustration with it,” I admitted.

“Phone calls and in-person visits with seventy-nine people who attended Brubeck’s December 14, 1953 concert. That’s more than frustration.”

“No one I’ve spoken with can recall hearing the cough at the time of the performance. It’s baffling.”

“Because it’s a forty-five-year-old cough lasting a split second! I mean, what do you want?”

“I guess I just want to know why, Lien. Why didn’t he–whoever he is–just get up from his seat and walk to an area away from the mics? Couldn’t he have just, ya know, held it in, borrowed a mint from his date? I just want to know; Lien. I need a bit of closure.”

“Clearly. But what if it closure never arrives?”

“At some point I know I’ll have to let this go, finish my film project, graduate with the rest of the Class of ’99, and continue mooching off my family until I can find a job.”
“You’re living the American dream, my friend. But just FYI, the Center recruiting for a nude yoga instructor, if you’re ever, you know, interested in earning money.”

“If it ever comes to that, I’ll drop out of school and live the life of a professional drifter.”

“That’s no existence.”

“At least I’d get to keep my clothes on.” I walked toward a hand-made map suspended on the living room wall. “Lookie here. Each of these twenty-eight pushpins represents a city I’ve traveled to on this Brubeck quest.”

“That’s what we’re calling it now? A quest?”

I ignored the sarcasm and handed Lien a half sheet of paper. “Three more leads yesterday–three! Probably the final of the lot since everyone else appears to be senile or dead.”

“Maybe both, based on some of the escapades you’ve shared.”

“At least this trio is local.”

“Sure, if you consider Santa Monica to Pasadena local which, by the way, no one does.”

“Still, it could be the break I’ve been waiting for.”

“Then why don’t you just pick up the phone?”

“In person is better. Very easy to hang up on an unknown caller; less easy to shut a door in someone’s face,” I noted. “What’s your schedule like for tomorrow?”

Lein shrugged. “Too busy to drive to Pasadena.”

“C’mon, it’ll be fun. You can tell all your friends you were there when I finally solved the greatest puzzle known to man.”

“Or when you didn’t, and thrust a dagger through your heart in despair.”

“It’s win-win,” I noted.

“Okay. Count me in.”

NEXT: Our story continues.