By the time he jumped it was too late. Your father says he heard his brother scream when the car rolled over him, and he heard the wood of that guitar when it give, and he heard them strings go flying, and he heard them white men shouting, and the car kept on a-going and it ain't stopped till this day. And, time your father got down the hill, his brother weren't nothing but blood and pulp. There wasn't anything I could say. Your Daddy was like a crazy man that night and for many a night thereafter. He says he never in his life seen anything as dark as that road after the lights of that car had gone away.
Weren't nothing, weren't nobody on that road, just your Daddy and his brother and that busted guitar. Oh, yes. Your Daddy never did really get right again. Till the day he died he weren't sure but that every white man he saw was the man that killed his brother. I'm telling you this because you got a brother. And the world ain't changed. I guess she saw this in my face. She turned away from me, toward the window again, searching those streets. I ain't saying it to throw no flowers at myself, but, I declare, it keeps me from feeling too cast down to know I helped your father get safely through this world.
Your father always acted like he was the roughest, strongest man on earth. And everybody took him to be like that. But if he hadn't had me there-to see his tears! Still, I couldn't move. I said, "Lord, Lord, Mama, I didn't know it was like that.
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But you are going to find out. You going to be evil with him many a time. But don't you forget what I told you, you hear? I won't let nothing happen to Sonny. Then, "You may not be able to stop nothing from happening. But you got to let him know you's there.
And I had a lot of things on my mind and I pretty well forgot my promise to Mama until I got shipped home on a special furlough for her funeral. And, after the funeral, with just Sonny and me alone in the empty kitchen, I tried to find out something about him. For he had graduated, in the time I had been away, from dancing to the juke box to finding out who was playing what, and what they were doing with it, and he had bought himself a set of drums. But I think I can play a piano. I'd never played the role of the oldest brother quite so seriously before, had scarcely ever, in fact, asked Sonny a damn thing.
I sensed myself in the presence of something I didn't really know how to handle, didn't understand. So I made my frown a little deeper as I asked: "What kind of musician do you want to be? He laughed, throwing his head back, and then looked at me. I mean, do you want to be a concert pianist, you want to play classical music and all that, or-or what?
But you sound so-scared! That isn't what interests me. I mean"-he paused, looking hard at me, as though his eyes would help me to understand, and then gestured helplessly, as though perhaps his hand would help-"I mean, I'll have a lot of studying to do, and I'll have to study everything, but, I mean, I want to play with-jazz musicians. Well, the word had never before sounded as heavy, as real, as it sounded that afternoon in Sonny's mouth. I just looked at him and I was probably frowning a real frown by this time. I simply couldn't see why on earth he'd want to spend his time hanging around nightclubs, clowning around on bandstands, while people pushed each other around a dance floor.
It seemed-beneath him, somehow.
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I had never thought about it before, had never been forced to, but I suppose I had always put jazz musicians in a class with what Daddy called "goodtime people. I suggested, helpfully: "You mean-like Louis Armstrong? I'm not talking about none of that old-time, down home crap. I just don't altogether get it, that's all. Name somebody-you know, a jazz musician you admire. Charlie Parker!
Don't they teach you nothing in the goddamn army? I was surprised and then a little amused to discover that I was trembling. Who's this Parker character? I'm sorry. I'll go out and buy all the cat's records right away, all right? I don't care what you listen to. Don't do me no favors.
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With another part of my mind I was thinking that this would probably turn out to be one of those things kids go through and that I shouldn't make it seem important by pushing it too hard. Still, I didn't think it would do any harm to ask: "Doesn't all this take a lot of time? Can you make a living at it? But what I don't seem to be able to make you understand is that it's the only thing I want to do.
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I decided, if he didn't change his mind, that we could always talk about it later. I knew this wasn't the ideal arrangement because Isabel's folks are inclined to be dicty and they hadn't especially wanted Isabel to marry me. But I didn't know what else to do. He moved from the kitchen table to the window.
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You know it yourself. He was as tall as I was. He had started to shave. I suddenly had the feeling that I didn't know him at all. He stopped at the kitchen table and picked up my cigarettes. Looking at me with a land of mocking, amused defiance, he put one between his lips. I bet you was smoking at my age, tell the truth. But now there was something very strained in his laugh. And I bet that ain't all you was doing.