221. Prelude

“Slats Long, clarinet.
Muggsy Spanier, cornet.
‘New Day Comin’:
That’s a peppy tune.
Say Riah,
You know music?”
Dully: “No.”

“Well, I do. Learned
All there is, right off these
Record covers.”
Louise sat on the floor,
Surrounded by them, stacked
In piles about her legs.
“I know these guys
Like blood kin.  Same
Musicians hire out, different
Songs.” She pointed
To an album jacket.
“See here? Hymie Wolfson,
Playing tenor sax.
Benny Goodman, alto sax:
‘Better Times.’ But
Goodman, over here, on
Clarinet–‘Got the Jitters’–
There with Bunny Berrigan,
On trumpet.”

Louise held up a cover
Which her friend seemed not
To see. She talked on,
Regardless: “Pee Wee Hunt,
Trombone. Yep,” searching
Covers–smug, “I thought so.
Here he is again. On
Trumpet. Shoffner, that’s Dub
Shoffner, trumpet, too.
George Van Eps, guitar.
Bob Van Eps, piano:
Must be brothers.
‘In the Money’:
Don’t I wish.
Whoa!–‘Chick
Bullock, and his Levee
Loungers.’ Catchy name.
Does ‘Million Dollar Baby.'”
Reaching, she poked
Riah’s side. “And
You’re mine! Yep,
My million big ones.”
No reply.

“Connie Boswell, and
The Boswell Sisters: ‘Bowl of
Cherries.’ Bet that
Connie gripes their guts.
‘Cottage for Sale’–
Sad song. With Rube Bloom.
‘Just a Gigolo’: Luther
Graven. Drums, Lionel
Hampton. Heard him
Once in New Orleans,
I tell you?”
Memory had seized her;
She rushed on,
Ignoring silence:
“Right on the street.
I swear.
Right on the street.”

Riah held an album cover
In her hand. From
Her chair, she gestured
At the others,
Vaguely, feebly
Rousing, to object.
Uncomprehending:
“They’re all empty?”

“Fran Frey, vocal.
‘Fran Frey.’ Yeah. I bet.
More like Franny Freytowski,
Or Frances Freynonni,
You ask me. Those
Foreign types, they
Try to climb the ladder,
Pass for us.
Now, ‘Louise Kemp’: don’t
Have to change
A thing. Yeah,
They’re empty.”
No more answers–
Riah knew that tone.
Could Louise
Afford the covers only?
From some salesman?
Or had Bo, one night,
Smashed the insides?
“But not all. I
Got one, still. And
I got something
Else.” Eager
Announcement: “Riah–
It’s a record player!”

Riah stared, amazed.
“I–borrowed it from someone,
A few days.”

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