Solo on the Drums Summary
by Ann Petry

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Solo on the Drums Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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As Kid Jones approaches the Randlert Theater at the corner of Broadway and Forty-second Street, he pauses for a moment and looks up at the marquee where his name is emblazoned in lights below the name of his orchestra. He feels a sense of pride as people rushing past one another on the crowded New York City street stop, look up for a minute, and smile, recognizing his name. This is what he has always wanted, but his moment of triumph is immediately overshadowed by the memory of something that happened as he was about to leave for work that morning—an occurrence that brought his world crashing down around him. The dissolution of his world was accomplished with two simple words, “I’m leaving,” uttered almost casually by the woman he loves as she told him that she has fallen in love with someone else.

When the show is about to start, the house lights go down and the orchestra members take their places on stage. As they begin to play, Kid Jones is intensely aware of his surroundings—the light-flooded stage, the smoothness of the music, the disembodied heads of the audience. As he strikes his drums lightly, the spotlight focuses on the trumpeter, who begins his solo, and Jones observes, with pleasure, how perfectly his drums accompany the trumpet. As the music of the trumpet grows louder, his thoughts begin to drift, and he begins to slip slowly from the world of reality. Finally, he can no longer perceive the music as music; the sound of the trumpet becomes the voice of his wife repeating again and again, “I’m leaving, I’m leaving, the guy who plays the piano. I’m in love with him and I’m leaving now today.”

As the trumpet solo ends and the spotlight focuses on Jones, he returns to the present and begins his solo on the drums. As he plays, another spotlight picks up the piano player. At the sight of his rival, the Marquis of Brund, Jones becomes infuriated, and his fury is expressed in a savage attack on the drums. The sound is so intense, so jarring, that it startles the other orchestra members, but Jones takes no notice of the heads that turn in his direction as his drums...

(The entire section is 584 words.)