Ida Mae Doss
Ida Mae is Huddie’s daughter and the cook at the House Party Club. Her actions during Robert’s last night at the club suggest that she and Robert have a romantic relationship. She wears a silver chain with a guitar pick, probably Robert’s. Her jealousy emerges as she watches Robert with ‘‘cold, hard . . . eyes like razors’’ as he goes outside with another woman during a break from one of his sets. When they return, and Beatrice begins to dance slowly and seductively to Robert’s music, Ida Mae ‘‘looks daggers’’ at the two of them. When Robert asks her to cook him something, it becomes apparent that she has been crying. The narrator suggests that Ida Mae poisons Robert because of his infidelity. As he writhes in agony after eating the food she has prepared, he looks up and sees her ‘‘cold hard features’’ staring down at him as she holds her necklace with the guitar pick in her hand.
The narrator never reveals Robert’s last name, but since the story opens with a passage from a song by Robert Johnson, with the same title as the story, we can assume he is a fictionalized version of the blues artist. Robert’s masterful playing of the blues ‘‘gets the men hooting’’ and ‘‘chills the women.’’ Robert lives fully in the moment. He is oblivious to everything around him except for his music and the women he cannot seem to keep away from. When he knows Ida Mae has seen him go out back with Beatrice, he understands that he has been caught, but he offers her only a sheepish grin and continues to watch the younger woman bump and grind to his music.
The narrator chronicles Robert’s irresponsible past. The musician spends money as soon as it ‘‘whispered in his palm’’ on women, alcohol, and Cuban cigars and sometimes finds himself having to be bailed out of jail. His behavior often causes him to miss important playing and recording dates. Robert’s self-destructive lifestyle catches up with him when Ida Mae poisons him because of his infidelity with Beatrice.
Beatrice is a...
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