ACT Reading OG Test 3 - Passage I

Questions 1-10 are based on the following passage.


PROSE FICTION: This passage is adapted from the novel The Fisher King by Paule Marshall (©2000 by Paule Marshall).



It was nearing the end of the second set, the jazz

show winding down when Hattie heard Abe Kaiser at

the microphone call Everett Payne's name. Heard his

name and, to her surprise, saw him slowly stand up in
5 the bullpen up front. She hadn't seen him join the other

local musicians, including Shades Bowen with his tenor

sax, in what was called the bullpen, which was simply a

dozen or so chairs grouped near the bandstand. The

young locals gathered there each Sunday evening
10 hoping for a chance to perform. Because toward the end

of the final set, the custom was to invite one or two of

them to sit in with the band. They sometimes even got

to choose the.tune they wanted to play.
This Sunday, Everett Payne, not long out of the
15 army, was the one being invited to sit in.
Breath held, Hattie watcb.ed him separate himself

from the hopefuls and approach the stand, taking his

time, moving with what almost seemed a deliberate

pause between each step. The crowd waiting.
20 That was his way, Hattie knew. His body moving

absentmindedly through space, his head, his thoughts

on something other than his surroundings, and his eyes

like a curtain he occasionally drew aside a fraction of

an inch to peer out at the world. A world far less inter-
25 esting than the music inside his head.
She watched now as he slowly mounted the band­-

stand and conferred with the bassist and drummer,

those two were all he would need. Then, without

announcing the name of the tune he intended playing,
30 without in any way acknowledging the audience, he sat

down at the piano and brought his hands-large hands,

the fingers long and splayed and slightly arched-down

on the opening bars of "Sonny Boy Blue."
"Sonny Boy Blue!" That hokey-doke tune!
35 Around her, the purists looked askance at each

other from behind their regulation shades and slouched

deeper in their chairs in open disgust.
At first, hokey though it was, he played the song

straight through as written, the rather long introduction,
40 verse, and chorus. And he did so with great care

although at a slower tempo than was called for and with

a formality that lent the Tin Pan Alley tune a depth and

thoughtfulness no one else would have accorded it.
Quickly taking their cue from him, the bassist
45 reached for his bow, the· drummer for his brushes, the

two of them also treating the original as if it were a

serious piece of music.
Everett Payne took his time paying his respects to

the tune as written, and once that was done, ,he hunched
50 closer to the piano, angled his head sharply to the left,

completely closed the curtain of his gaze, and with his

hands commanding the length and breadth of the key­-

board he unleashed a dazzling pyrotechnic of chords

(you could almost see their colors), .polyrhythms, seem-
55 ingly unrelated harmonies, and ideas-fresh, brash,

outrageous ideas. It was an outpouring of ideas and

feelings informed by his own brand of lyricism and lit

from time to time by flashes of the recognizable

melody. He continued to acknowledge the little simple-
60 minded tune, while at the same time fudously recasting

and reinventing it in an image all his own
A collective in-suck of breath throughout the club
Where, Hattie wondered, did he come by the daz­-

zling array of ideas and wealth of feeling? What was
65 the source? It had to do, she speculated, listening

intently, with the way he held his head, angled to the

left like that, tilted toward both heaven and earth, His

right side, his right ear directed skyward, hearing up

there, in the Upper Room among the stars Mahalia sang
70 about, a new kind of music: splintered, atonal, profane,

and possessing a wonderful dissonance that spoke to

him, to his soul-case. For him, this was the true music

of the spheres, of the maelstrom up there. When at the

piano, he kept his right ear tuned to it at all times, let-
75 ting it guide him, inspire him. His other ear? It

remained earthbound, trained on the bedrock that for

him was Bach and the blues.
Again and again he took them on a joyous, terrify­-

ing roller coaster of a ride it seemed to Hattie, and
8O when he finally deposited them on terra firma after

close to twenty minutes, everyone in Putnam Royal

could only sit there as if they were in church and

weren't supposed to clap. Overcome. Until finally
Alvin Edwards, who lived on Decatur Street and played
85 trumpet in the school band, leaped to his feet and

renamed him.

Alvin brought everyone up with him. Including the

purists who normally refused to applaud even genius;

They too stood up in languid praise of him.