Ragtime Jukebox

The Grand Piano

The black man placed his tea on the tray. He rose, patted his lips with the napkin, placed the napkin beside his cup and went to the piano. He sat on the piano stool and immediately rose and twirled it till the height was to his satisfaction. He sat down again, played a chord and turned to them. This piano is badly in need of tuning, he said. Father's face redened. Oh yes, Mother said, we are terrible about that. The musician turned again to the keyboard. "Wall Street Rag," he said. Composed by the great Scott Joplin. He began to play. Ill-tuned or not the Aeolian had never made such sounds. Small clear chords hung in the air like flowers. The melodies were like bouquets. There seemed to be no other possibilities for life than those delineated by the music. When the piece was over Coalhouse Walker turned on the stool and found in his audience the entire family, Mother, Father, the boy, Grandfather and Mother's Younger Brother, who had come down from his room in shirt and suspenders to see who was playing. Of all of them he was the only one who knew ragtime. He had heard it in his nightlife period in New York. He had never expected to hear it in his sister's home.

E.L.Doctorow, "Ragtime"

Back to the Main Page.

Copyright © 1996 Oleg Mezjuev.
All Rights Reserved.