You Used to Play Jazz, Didn’t You, Howard?

In the radio series we learn that Howard and Mrs Gideon played jazz together. In the tv series she never recognises him. What happened?

Category: ,

Characters: , ,






Length: words

Notes: Written for the Quote/Unquote challenge. For the most part it’s centred around the story Howard tells in the third radio series episode about him and Mrs Gideon playing jazz. There are quite a few quotes scattered around, both from the radio series and the tv series. I wrote this fic in about 2 hours late last night whilst listening to Miles Davis. Style-wise it’s rather different from what I’ve done up until now.

You Used to Play Jazz, Didn’t You, Howard? by thymeth

‘To Howard T. J. Moon. Fastest guitar-player in Leeds.’


The rain slapped the pavement, cold as ice, and the pale light from the lampposts against the dark sky made everything look like an old black-and-white film.

Mrs Gideon giggled as she ran through a puddle, clutching Howard’s hand as he pulled her with him homewards. They hadn’t even run a hundred yards and they were already soaked.

But neither cared.

It had been a brilliant gig. Unreal.

They had been on fire.

And now, running through the rain, the fire still burned, cradled inside their clasped hands.

They arrived at their apartment, dripping, and she pushed him up against the wall and kissed him hungrily.




“Well, what happens between any two people, Vince?”

“Don’t know. You buy a rabbit?”


“Oh, Howard, it’s adorable!”

Mrs Gideon cuddled the little brown-and-white thing and kissed the tiny pink nose.

Howard just smiled.


No need for thinking. Just let it happen.

A sharp here, a flat here, syncopated beats, crotchets, bars, one-two-three-four. Those words have no meaning. It’s all organic, it’s all fluid.

It’s all jazz.

It just happens.


Let it go, he’d been told. Jazz happens and then it’s over. It can never be translated into black dots and black lines on white paper. You have to feel it and then do it and then let it go.

And he did.

But he could not let go of her.


“If you look at a pebble, you will see your own face,” he heard the strange man say as he approached Mrs Gideon standing at the bar after a gig.

She giggled like a schoolgirl, hiding her smile behind her fingers and dropping her head, glancing up at him out of the corner of her eye.

“Who’s this?” Howard asked her and slipped his arm around her waist possessively.

“I’m Rudi Manch�go,” he answered before she could draw breath.

“Howard Moon,” Howard said, holding out his hand.

Rudi took it.

“I shake hands in the east and in the west but that does not mean I have come home.”

She wriggled against his arm like a snake.


Howard never quite knew how Rudi ended up in their band.

But he did and there was nothing he could do about it.


“What’s going on in here?” Vince exclaimed, rushing up the stairs, dressed in black.

“Jazz night Monday night,” Howard answered, still dancing, lost in the music, “Are you coming?”

“Oh, no way! I need this room tonight,” Vince said and turned the stereo off.

The magic was broken, snapped like an old twig.

But Howard didn’t mind, not when it was Vince. He loved jazz but if he listened to it too much he would start remembering. And if that happened…

He didn’t know what happened then.

Vince would always turn it off just in time and bring him back to the real world.


They were perfect together. They were the toast of the town. Be-bop king and queen.


“I love you, Howard.”

“I love you too.”


“Flow with the seasons. See the beating of your soul, hear the shining in your eyes. Be real, be jazz. Just be.”

Howard rolled his eyes and glanced over at Mrs Gideon. But she did not see him. She had eyes only for Rudi Manch�go.

“Again,” he said, “Two, three, four.”

They played.

“This isn’t hot Be-bop,” Howard said.

“We’re not doing Be-bop any more,” Rudi said, “We’re doing Soul-searching.”

“Soul-searching,” Mrs Gideon answered and stared at Howard with slightly glassy eyes.


It was raining again and they were running along black-and-white streets. But their hands were cold and Mrs Gideon complained the water ruined her shoes.

“Come on,” Howard insisted and pulled her along.

“Keep your feet warm and you’ll grow as old as the mountains,” she snapped and pushed him up against the cold wall as she hurried past him into the apartment.


He has mellowed. He does not mind other forms of music. He teases Vince because he knows Vince can take a joke. He knows Vince understands.

And Vince teases him back and he pretends to be hurt and they bicker a bit until one decides it’s gone far enough and leans in and kisses the other.


“You’re out of the band,” he said.

“What?!” Howard exploded. He could not help himself.

“Out of the band,” Mrs Gideon said, staring past him with glassy eyes like a dead fish.

“We don’t need you,” Rudi said calmly.

“I formed this band,” Howard exclaimed, “Me and Mrs Gideon. We are this band, it’s our life.”

“You and Mrs Gideon are nothing,” Rudi said.

“Are nothing,” Mrs Gideon echoed.


In one hand a suitcase almost empty and in the other a small brown-and-white rabbit. That was all he brought with him. The suitcase he would leave in a shady apartment when he went to work.

The rabbit he donated to the zoo.

It died soon afterwards. “It couldn’t take the stress of being moved.”


He makes me happy.

I can almost forget about her when I’m around him.


“Who was she?”

Vince’s hand was stroking lazy circles on Howard’s stomach.

“You don’t need to know,” he had answered. But Vince had asked again and Howard had told him despite himself.

“Is she alright?” he had asked.

“Don’t know.”


“Who are you?”

“Howard. Howard Moon. I work here.”

“You’re new.”

“No. No, I’ve worked here for ten years.”


“Full-time. I see you every day, Mrs Gideon.”


“Rudi Manch�go, you are by the Board of Shamen found guilty of having bewitched a Mrs Gideon and luring her away from her everyday, human life without her consent. Your powers will be forever revoked. And now we must all turn our backs upon you.”


“Does she have to stay here?” Vince moaned.

“Yes,” Naboo answered, “It’s been decided by the Board of Shamen.”

“Can’t they send her to a Shaman in Leeds or something? There has to be someone up there who could keep an eye on her.”

“She’ll stay here,” Naboo answered. There was a finality in his voice not even Vince could ignore.

“Fine!” he snapped and stormed away.

He had calmed down a little before Howard came into the keeper’s hut.

“Alright?” he tried, not looking up.

“Yeah,” Howard answered and sat down next to him.

“How’s Mrs Gideon?”

“She doesn’t remember me. She doesn’t remember anything from all those years I spent with her. I could kill Rudi for doing this to her!”

Vince sighed and left.


It makes no sense. It’s just a collection of random sounds.

Vince puts his head to one side, listening intently like a puppy, trying so hard to figure out what it is that Howard finds so fascinating about it.

Every time he thinks he’s found it it slips away, just out of reach.

It’s much easier to say he hates it.

He doesn’t.


Light rain fell from the sky, kissing their faces as they ran homewards.

“Howard!” Vince called, breathless, “Wait.”

Howard slowed and turned. Vince’s black hair was covered with tiny droplets, twinkling white in the light from the lampposts like stars in the sky.

“Come on,” Howard said and held out his hand.

And with a smile, Vince took it.


“I don’t mind,” Vince said, curling up against Howard’s chest.

“Don’t mind what?”

“That you love her.”


You don’t need to understand jazz. Let it live its own life. Accept it and it’ll accept you.


“I love you, Howard.”

“I love you too.”