(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The anonymous narrator describes a local celebrity of sorts who regularly visits his east-side neighborhood: a large black man who pushes a hand truck and makes various kinds of deliveries. What distinguishes him from the others who make deliveries is that he sings loudly and attracts considerable attention: “The man who sings is the object of a lot of response and the victim of a million silent and spoken jokes, but there is no stopping him, because he really loves to sing.” Although the black and Latino men admire him, and even envy his complete lack of self-consciousness, they also seem embarrassed by him because he may appear to be an old-fashioned stereotype to people of other races. However, this huge, singing figure seems to disturb white businesspeople because they think he is embarrassing members of his own race.

As the narrator studies the varied responses to this embarrassing but evocative figure, he notices other elements that intensify crowd reactions. To make matters worse, the singing man often forgets the words to the songs that he bellows out and occasionally even loses the thread of the melody—a situation that requires him to improvise melodies of his own. Blacks and Latinos think that white businesspeople regard the singing man as an extension of them, because he also is black, as if the white businesspeople expect them all to burst into song. In short, this figure initiates what the narrator calls a “street game.”


(The entire section is 474 words.)