Angela moistened and warmed the mouthpiece, but did not blow
a single preliminary note. Her eyes glazed over, and her long,
bony fingers twittered idly over the noiseless keys.
I waited anxiously, and I remembered what Marvin Breed had
told me--that Angela's one escape from her bleak life with her
father was to her room, where she would lock the door and play
along with phonograph records.
Newt now put a long-playing record on the large phonograph in
the room off the terrace. He came back with the record's slipcase,
which he handed to me.
The record was called _Cat House Piano_. It was of
unaccompanied piano by Meade Lux Lewis.
Since Angela, in order to deepen her trance, let Lewis play
his first number without joining him, I read some of what the
jacket said about Lewis.
"Born in Louisville, Ky., in 1905," I read, "Mr. Lewis didn't
turn to music until he had passed his 16th birthday and then the
instrument provided by his father was the violin. A year later
young Lewis chanced to hear Jimmy Yancey play the piano. 'This,'
as Lewis recalls, 'was the real thing.' Soon," I read, "Lewis was
teaching himself to play the boogie-woogie piano, absorbing all
that was possible from the older Yancey, who remained until his
death a close friend and idol to Mr. Lewis. Since his father was a
Pullman porter," I read, "the Lewis family lived near the
railroad. The rhythm of the trains soon became a natural pattern
to young Lewis and he composed the boogie-woogie solo, now a
classic of its kind, which became known as 'Honky Tonk Train
I looked up from my reading. The first number on the record
was done. The phonograph needle was now scratching its slow way
across the void to the second. The second number, I learned from
the jacket, was "Dragon Blues."
Meade Lux Lewis played four bars alone-and then Angela
Hoenikker joined in.
Her eyes were closed.
I was flabbergasted.
She was great.
She improvised around the music of the Pullman porter's son;
went from liquid lyricism to rasping lechery to the shrill
skittishness of a frightened child, to a heroin nightmare.
Her glissandi spoke of heaven and hell and all that lay
Such music from such a woman could only be a case of
schizophrenia or demonic possession.
My hair stood on end, as though Angela were rolling on the
floor, foaming at the mouth, and babbling fluent Babylonian.