Young Man With a Horn

Young Man With a Horn by Dorothy Baker Read Free Book Online

Book: Young Man With a Horn by Dorothy Baker Read Free Book Online
Authors: Dorothy Baker
Tags: General Fiction
the house heard him, but the one that slept with him had it right in his ear. Henry, usually, but probably not tonight.
    They were almost at the end of the boulevard stretch when a man ran up very fast from behind them, turned to look at them as he passed, and then stopped short and said, ‘Hi, boy,’ to Smoke. ‘Where you been hiding?’ He was all out of breath, and while he walked with them he wiped his face with a handkerchief. Smoke said he’d been working and didn’t get around much any more. The other fellow seemed to intend to stay with them, and so Smoke said it—Mr. Davis, meet Mr. Martin. Davis and Martin looked each other in the eye across Smoke and said ‘Pleased to make your acquaintance’ and ‘Glad to know you,’ respectively. Very nicely done. Unbelievably well done, at least on Rick’s part. Not everybody comes off looking so manly on the occasion of a first formal presentation.
    The three of them kept together, Davis panting quite a lot and not getting much said, and Smoke and Rick pretty blank on their side too; and then Smoke came through with an explanation.
    ‘This guy,’ he said, jerking his head Rick’s way, ‘works where I do. We been talking about jazz all the time on the job. Tonight we walked by the club on the way home to see how you sound.’
    And then Rick shoved his pack of cigarettes across Smoke to Davis. ‘Cigarette, Davis?’ But that didn’t do much good because Davis said he didn’t smoke, thanks. He just never had happened to get started, mostly on account of his work, he guessed. You can’t play a sax and smoke, makes too many things in your mouth.
    Rick and Smoke stopped while Smoke held a match for the two of them. Davis got his breath and said straight to Rick, ‘Well, how do you think we play?’ And this time Rick didn’t come off looking so manly; he got a mouthful of cigarette smoke going all wrong and his tongue sort of turned over and he said, ‘Wonderful, gee!’ But in spite of his vocal and oral difficulties his tone carried such conviction that Davis turned to Smoke and said, ‘Why the hell didn’t you come in?’ in the friendliest way in the world. And Smoke said they just got there about the end and didn’t feel like horning in for such a little while.
    And that’s what did it. Davis said: ‘Well, come on back, then. We didn’t feel like quitting, so we chipped in and called up for some gin; I’m going to meet Shorty right up here, corner of Adelaide and Boston, and pick it up. He won’t deliver to the club no more. You better come on back.’
    You could tell he meant it. You could tell he meant Rick too, but just to make it sure he said, ‘What do you say, Mr. Martin?’ Before he could answer, Smoke turned to him and said, ‘You don’t want to get in bad with your folks, Rick,’ very quietly, out of the side of his mouth.
    It was all good stuff, from Rick’s point of view. Here was Davis, the very man who had just done the right thing by ‘Home, Sweet Home’ on a clarinet, asking him to come back, to come right inside and listen to them play. And on top of that, Smoke calling him by his first name and not wanting him to get in bad at home. The two things together set him up so high that he got back all his poise and said in a good, clear voice, ‘Sure I’ll go.’ And then the social muse put a piece of showmanship in his mouth and out it came again as if he said that kind of thing every day: ‘But you’ve got to let me chip in on the gin.’ He didn’t have a very clear notion of what gin was; he was fast in his mind, that’s all.
    Davis said fine, but not about chipping in, about coming back. No point in chipping in, he said, because he already had enough money. And then Rick couldn’t think any more about anything. He just went along with the fine feeling of having been found acceptable; drunk as a fiddler before he’d seen any gin.
    They stopped at a corner three or four blocks away from the boulevard and Davis said:

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