Saint Louis Tickle

by Grant Carrington
The Diversifier May/July 1978

    "Saint Louis Tickle" was the first story I wrote at the 1968 Clarion SF&F Workshop. I stole the title from a Dave Van Ronk instrumental. I have no idea where the rest of it came from. Later, I rewrote it and added additional "chapters" and Stephen Gregg published it in Eternity as "The Interstellar Ragtime All-American Jazz Band." Both versions had nice illustrations, the one in The Diversifier by Tim Carroll.

    It couldn't last, of course. It was a good thing while it lasted, but eventually someone like Clay Roberts had to turn up.
    Here's this white guy, see, who calls himself Clay Roberts, playing a brand new four-hundred dollar Martin New Yorker and singing delta blues, on the stage of the Alley Cat coffee house. The girls fell for it. The guys fell for it. Steve Hughes, the Alley Cat's owner, fell for it. And I was out of a job.
    "I'm sorry, Fred," Steve said to me, "but that cat's just too much. Did you see the way those chicks were digging him?"
    "Steve, you can't do this to me. I've been your headliner for three months."
    "I know, Fred, and I appreciate it. But I've got to make some bread too, you know. I was running awfully thin there. But if Clay can pack them in for just one week, I'll be running in high black."
    We argued some more but that was the bottom line: Clay Roberts gets top billing and Fred Harmon, itinerant folksinger, is extremely itinerant again.
    The Alley Cat is the only coffee house in that hick Midwestern college town, so two hours later I'm out on the highway with my suitcase, my battered old double-oh-eighteen Martin, and my poor abused thumb, trying to hitch a ride back to New York and the basket houses.
    I had been out there around three hours, freezing my fingers to the marrow, when this '48 Chevy screeches to a stop, kicking up gravel like a mule on hash, and backs up at fifty per.

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