Some more motley adventures

After last week’s flurry of activity, maybe just one post this week is good. Anyway, it’s been crazy as far as school goes, and this weekend, D. v., I’ll be at Lupercalia — so next week you’d get a lot of that, but still not the regular semi-schedule.

Class this morning was on Byzantium, and at the end we talked about the icon controversy. It was fun getting to use research I did for The Colour of Life, and a bit more theological than we usually get into. Well, just a bit. We did just finish Augustine.

The Monday rehearsal before Concerto da Camera, the high school students had been away and came in late, but they were dressed up. David was in black with a tie patterned with the keys of a piano.

  “Nice tie, David,” Dr Rieppel told him during a pause.

  “Thanks,” said he, fingering it. “But there’s a mistake, there should be another two black between the two and the three.”

  “Ah,” said Dr Rieppel, “well. Whoever made it clearly wasn’t a pianist.”

  “No,” David agreed.

  “But they sold it to a cellist, so,” said Dr Rieppel, lifting his hands to give the signal to start playing again.

  “Well,” said David, his head on one side, “actually they sold it to somebody who sold it to a thrift store who sold it to a little old lady at church, who gave it to us.” He added, “That first bit’s just a guess.”

   “Yes,” said Dr Rieppel, “that’s very nice, David, but we’re going to play now.” Even David couldn’t help joining in the laughter at his own expense. 

On Tuesday we had supper, all of us except Cole, which is only about the second time so far this semester that almost everyone has been in the same place at the same time. I came late because I’d been setting up and putting new music out, and found them watching a video about the twenty or so kinds of orchestra violinists, with much mirth.

After supper, when we gathered our things and set off toward FA, Kaila picked up a tall metal bottle off the table and asked, “Who’s is this?”

“David’s,” JP said. “David, you left your water-bottle.”

David, engaged in hopping about and trying to step on Joel’s feet, while assuring him that if he tried to dodge it wouldn’t hurt, didn’t hear.

“David,” Olivia added, “you left your water-bottle.” He still didn’t hear.

Kaila weighed it in her hand as she followed us, and said, “Throw it? I think I could get it as high as his head.”

“Kaila and Goliath!” JP laughed, and that finally got David’s attention, now that we were halfway down the hall.

After rehearsal, Anni and Olivia were talking on the way out, so I dropped behind them and found I fit into the corner between the end of the wall and the lockers. David was trailing up the hallway with his hands in his pockets, having left Joel behind. He saw me, looked behind him, and smiled a little, fitting into the corresponding space on the other side of the hall. Joel finally caught up, and I said, “Joel, look out!” But it was too late: David sprang out of his hiding place with his arms out, as if he were impersonating a spider pouncing. Joel curled up under David’s attack, so that for a moment it looked as if David were hugging him, except for his being petrified. Joel gasped a little and clutched his heart.

“Why do you have to be so mean all the time!” He took his violin case off his back and thrust it on Joel. “Hold that, peasant!”

David wrapped his long arms around it. “Why’s it so heavy?”

“Put it on your back,” Joel said, in the middle of putting his coat on. “One strap on each shoulder,” he directed, as David seemed unfamiliar with the process. “I bet it’s as heavy as your cello case.”

“No it’s not.”

Joel shrugged and rolled his eyes in my general direction. “Well, I wouldn’t know.”

“Why do you have so many cases?” David asked.

“There’s two, the cushy one and the hard one. That’s not too many.” He finished buttoning up his coat and sternly held out his hand. David looked at it and rubbed his face and said, “Why would I want your hand back?”

“Give me back my case, peasant! I can give you the flu if you don’t give it back!” Joel jumped forward and David jumped backward. Joel coughed into his sleeve and said, “Just kidding,” as he ran around behind David, who was pivoting to get away from him, to grab his case. David relented and let Joel take the case off his back.

“Would you mind if I wrote nonfiction about you?” I asked when things settled down a bit. “Is it just fiction that’s so creepy?”

David, for once, was at a loss for words. Joel said, “Sure, if it’s nothing too weird.”

“Well, if it’s nonfiction, it’s no weirder than anything you do,” I said. David seemed to think that was a legitimate threat.

“If it’s fiction I have to have a sword and be attacking him,” Joel said, pinning David against the outside wall of the Music Lounge with an imaginary sword. David scrunched up his shoulders and looked for a way of escape. Finding none, he said, “Why so mean, Joel?”

“You jumped out at me!”

I said, “I tried to warn you.”

Joel said, “You did, but that doesn’t make what he did any less bad.” I agreed. Joel triumphantly said, “See, David, you were in the wrong!” (The majority makes right, I guess.)

David said, “But I got her to distract you, so you’d be looking the other way.”

“I didn’t co-operate with him!” I said.

JP materialized behind us and said, “What’s going on here?”

“She wants to write a story about us,” Joel said.

“You can write fiction about me,” JP said, looming over all of us, even David, “as long as you recast me as a French Crusader.”

“A Crusader — why?” said Joel, and I said, “A Crusader I can understand, but why French?”

“Oh, I like French accents,and I’m too tall to be an Italian.”

“Oh, thanks,” I said.

“But France is racist and statist!” Joel objected. “Why would you want to be from there?”

“Medieval France was statist?” David enquired.

“Modern France is!”

“But it’s not modern France in the Crusades!”

“If it’s fiction,” Joel said, “I want to be like the guy who killed a bunch of guys with the same sword and then broke it on a rock.” This perplexed us all. By the time I asked, “Do you mean the Song of Roland?” the conversation had gone on to something else.

The boys moved off toward the water fountain and one of them stopped to get a drink. I said, “Because, I was noticing, there’s a lot of romances —“

Joel got very close to me and, as aggressively as he ever is (which isn’t much), said, “You are not putting me in a romance.”

“No!” I said, laughing. “No, don’t worry. I do not write romance.” He relaxed. “People are writing a lot of romances still, but it seems like all the good stories about friendships were written a long time ago, but look, there’s a good pair of friends right here,” and I gestured toward David and Joel, who were standing side by side.

“Why not write about all of us? Why not write about all of us?” David said. Having stood in one place longer than he could endure, he broke away from Joel to follow JP.

There’s no need to ask me twice.

Posted in Non-fiction, Ordinary life | Tagged | 1 Comment


*Glitter bombs and sparkle dust explosions* 

(You probably know by now who’s writing this post. Hint: not Sophia 😉)

Well, I don’t think many of you know what today is, so I hacked her blog after she went to bed tonight to ask you all to leave a comment and wish her

. . . 


. . . 

I love you to the moon and back, Sophia, and I love our inside jokes and puns. I love that you have fun in FA with all us crazy musicians — and that it’s rubbing off on you. 😊 I love who you are and I hope 20 is a great age to be! I love having you as my sister! 


P.S. Be sure to read her actual latest post! 🙂

Posted in Ordinary life | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Concerto da Camera, Part II

Dr Rieppel and LauraLee and a few others were already at First Lutheran when Olivia and I got there. We set up stands and chairs and whatnot and then waited around for other people to show up and the dress rehearsal to begin. The order of things was Anni’s Boccherini first, then the wind quintet, then the Dvorak Romance for violin with Bacco, then an intermission, then the Mozart symphony.

They’ve been practicing the last piece for about five weeks, and on Monday at rehearsal several people were not exactly hopeful that it would go well. The first movement will be part of the Children’s Concert, so on Monday LauraLee put a notice on the board to the effect that musicians were to leave Boccherini and Dvorak on their stands after the concert, but keep the Mozart. At the dress rehearsal the Mozart wasn’t going very well, and at one point Dr Rieppel said, “Sorry for barking orders at you all, but remember, you have Joel to blame for this,” and Joel, in the first row of the second violins, right in front of Dr Rieppel, grinned at him.

LauraLee had brought over the extra music for this concert from the school, just in case someone left a part at home or something. But when Melanie, a flautist, came and asked if I had the second oboe part for Mozart, and I searched the Mozart folder, it wasn’t in there. Dr Rieppel even came and asked, and LauraLee came and said it was in the folder with all the other second oboe parts, reserved in the music library for the second oboeist who never materialized, and would I drive over and get it?

Now, Olivia drove from school to the church earlier, and I had come to concerts at First Lutheran before (most notably the one after which we talked on the sidewalk in the dark, and the Mostly (Well, Entirely) Mozart one), but then only as a passenger and not needing to keep track of places to turn. But LauraLee needed to be rehearsing. So I got the car key from Olivia’s coat pocket, and the library key from my knitting bag, and went out.

I figured that since Holy Redeemer, with its tall steeple, is noticeable from several places in town, and as it shares a street with First Lutheran, if I did get lost I’d always be able to find my way back to Church Street. Fortunately I ended up not needing to do that, actually getting to FA and back again without getting lost, much to the surprise and delight of Olivia and LauraLee, who know my reputation.

During rehearsal of Boccherini, Anni pushed her chair a little farther back on the podium to make room for her cello, and the chair nearly fell off. Many people gasped and put out their hands to catch her.

“Joel,” ordered Dr Rieppel, since Joel was sitting right behind her, “if she falls off backward during the concert, it’s your job to catch her —” Joel nodded — “with your violin.” He gasped and hugged his it, shaking his head.

Eventually rehearsal finished and players dispersed, Dr Rieppel telling them to enjoy their thirty-five minute break. Beth came and set up the table for taking admission money at, and told me how we were only using the tickets for keeping track of the students who came in free. She was on her way to change when two little old ladies came up, so she told them “If you want to pay at the table, Olivia will help you — I mean Sophia. I can tell you apart, really I can.” It’s the same refrain we hear from everybody, so I only laughed.

(By the way, taking admission is kind of fun for people-watching — you can get a good idea of peoples’ characters by whether they have money ready ahead of time, or what their checks look like, or whether they notice the sign on the table with prices or have to ask how much adults are.)

While I sat there, the first few people coming in and paying or going through for free in the case of students and children, the musicians were making trips from the nursery to various bathrooms to change. I had a good view of the main hallway, as it was perpendicular to where I sat, and twice I saw David, who had put off changing until the last possible minute, go running in circles around the place looking for an empty room.

Cole arrived, and seeing him from a distance I tore off a ticket and put it in the bucket for him. He stopped in front of the table and I said, “Go on, you’re free, I know you’re a student.”

“There’s a car in the parking lot with its side door open,” he said. “Is there someone I should talk to to take care of it? Dr Rieppel, maybe?”

“Oh, no, not Dr Rieppel. Why not just close the door?”

“Are you sure there isn’t someone? Maybe somebody connected with the church?”

“I don’t know, I don’t go to church here.”

“I s’pose you don’t.” He went out again. When he came back my dad had just come in and was standing near the table, so he greeted him and then turned to me and said, “I did shut the door, and it was unlocked too, so I thought about locking it, but then I thought, no, there might be keys left in there, so I didn’t.”

Thank you,” my dad and I both said, because we remember what happened with a certain young driver at another concert late at night (even though neither of us was personally involved).

A professor, one of the ones Olivia and I both know, came and paid for himself and when the musicians filed in asked “Which one is your sister?” I came and stood in the central doorway and spied her sitting down and said, “She’s behind Joel and Cindy —” and then realized he didn’t know who they were. “Um, no, that doesn’t work — she’s the blonde girl in the middle of the violins with her hair in a bun.”

I got to see Anni in her silver dress process inside; Dr Rieppel bowed to her by the door and said, “Oh, you go first,” and followed her, starting the applause himself.

A couple of people came in late, and as I was putting the cash in Beth’s bag I heard the Boccherini start. It went really well, though perhaps I was biased, because that piece was my favourite of the evening anyway. (The complete concerto doesn’t appear to be on YouTube, but she only played the first movement, and a good recording can be found here.)

When she finished Joel had to give her flowers, which he’d stowed under his chair before the concert, and he handed them to her very awkwardly, probably to the delight of David. (I was trying not to look at David, though I was in such a position, at the back pew right next to the center aisle, that it was hard not to see him. It was Cole and Kayla and me in that pew, three of the shortest people there and as far back as possible — we couldn’t see anything on the left side of the orchestra, only occasionally JP’s head.)

Dr Rieppel praised Anni’s talent and eleven years of playing with the SMO as well as other groups, and wound up by asking all the high-school students in the orchestra to stand. I couldn’t see Olivia, but she explained afterward that because JP had just been moving or about to move the podium from which Anni had been playing, he had given her his violin and bow to hold, and so when they stood up, she had two instruments and JP had none. Dr Rieppel lamented the fact that they were leaving soon, as he had done at the Christmas concert, and said, “As you can see the orchestra is also multi-generational, from the youngsters the Wagners, who’ve only been here the forty-nine years the orchestra has been in existence, to these high-school kids — sorry, students — and everyone else in between.”

The wind quintet played next, during which the other musicians dispersed into various pews. Joel sat by himself, with only his violin for company: it was upright in his lap, and he leaned his head against the scroll, with his left hand around the neck and his right hand cradling it by the chin rest.

The next piece was the Dvorak Romance for Violin, for which Bacco was the soloist. Dr Rieppel introduced him as the longest-reigning concertmaster of the SMO, and buttered him up to try to get him to stay, as usual.

During the intermission people went and mingled. For some reason I found myself out in the foyer, and Cole came up and said, “Is there a water fountain around here?”

“I don’t know, I don’t go to church here!”

“You’re so helpful, Sophia,” he said, but he found one himself. And then I remembered I hadn’t had anything to drink since lunch, and now that I knew there was a source of water closer than inside our locked van, I should probably do something about that. I hadn’t known there was a fountain around, so I hadn’t thought to look for it. (The only one at our church hasn’t worked in ages, and there isn’t even an “Out of Order” sign on it anymore.)

The professor who sat on purpose so he could see Olivia said to me, “Your sister’s really good!”

“She wasn’t even soloing.”

“Has she?”

“Yes, the year she won the competition.”

“She is really good. Where’s she going to college?”

As we’re used to doing now when that topic comes up, I looked around to see whether Dr Rieppel was in the room. He wasn’t, but so many people here knew him, present company included. . . “She doesn’t know yet, but wherever she goes, she’ll definitely go for music.” This was all quite true.

“What’s the last song?” he asked.

“Mozart’s fortieth symphony.”

“Is it good?”

I remembered how tired everyone was, and Joel worrying during the dress rehearsal about not being able to play the fourth movement fast enough, and I said, “The piece itself is. How well it’ll be played. . .” and I shrugged.

Musicians began filing past us from the nursery, and I turned and waved to Olivia in the middle of the line.

“That guy,” the professor said, pointing to Bacco, “is really good. I mean, hearing him you wonder how there are people better than him. Like, why isn’t he the principal violinist of the Minnesota Orchestra or something?”

“He’s a substitute for it,” I said.

“I know, but that’s not the same.”

I wanted to say, “Have you heard of Hilary Hahn?” because Bacco can’t hold a candle to her, but he probably hadn’t, and the wind section was tuning up, so we went back in.

Everyone was seated and ready, and Dr Rieppel was supposed to walk down the center aisle beside us, but he didn’t come. We waited a little in case he was planning to make a grand entrance, but at last Bacco got up, frowning, and went up with his violin under his arm to check the foyer. With Dr Rieppel, you never know what might have happened.

While he was out of sight, we noticed a stir at the front, and Dr Rieppel appeared up by the altar, behind the wind section. “So much for my grand entrance,” he said, “but that’s where the wine is!”

Bacco came back, rather annoyed, and Dr Rieppel introduced Mozart. “My first impression of Mozart, when I was a kid of about nine in Appleton — I grew up in Appleton, just an hour from here — was on the cover of a book of his music my piano teacher gave me, and it’s a very famous portrait of him; he’s in court dress, with a brocaded vest, and rouge on his cheeks, and on his lips, and powdered hair, and I though ‘Ugh! What a sissy — his music can’t be any good, who wants to play stuff by that guy!’ and that was it for a long time. Then when I was older, maybe nineteen or twenty, I heard some of his symphonies, and was like, eh, this guy is pretty good, and then I sort of dropped him until I heard his famous opera Don Giovanni. And in Act Three of it, Don Giovanni, who’s done everything wrong you can imagine, he’s lied, he’s killed, he’s cheated, he’s taken money that wasn’t his, and in the last act the Commendatore, the guy he killed in the first act, comes to him as a statue, and says,” and Dr Rieppel suddenly sang what I can only assume is the actual music, “Don Giovanni!” Now he’d given us the backstory in rehearsal on Monday, but he hadn’t sung anything (he had finished with “Thus endeth the sermon. Where were we?” and given a rehearsal letter to start from again). Tonight several people in the audience sat up straighter or murmured something or generally seemed impressed.

“The statue tells him ‘Tonight you’re going to die — but there is hope. Repent, and all your sins will be forgiven. Take my hand.’ He takes it and says ‘It’s too cold.’ The statue tells him three times to repent, but at the end of it Don Giovanni says ‘No. My sins are mine, I own them, and I will take them with me to the fires.’ And he’s dragged down to hell. (Children, this is not a good way to live, I don’t approve of it.) [At this juncture David, who’d been making faces throughout this speech, rolled his eyes dramatically.] And I am not made of that kind of stuff. If someone came to me and said ‘Rieppel, you’ve been a pretty crummy guy, but say you’re sorry and it’s straight off to Heaven you go’ I’d take it. I said — that prissy guy wasn’t as prissy as he looked, if he can write stuff like that — the passion of it, the raw emotion. It’s blood on the walls and fire and what it means to be human. Mozart is the closest thing we have in music to Shakespeare.” He came back to the present, collected himself, and stepped up onto his podium. “The Fortieth Symphony.”

This was a tense moment. For the last several weeks, and including the dress rehearsal two hours before, Dr Rieppel always had to tell them at the beginning “less, less, less,” because they start too loud. He couldn’t this time, of course, so if they were loud there’d be nothing to do about it. But they weren’t!

Between the first and second movements was a really long pause. Olivia and I, very far away from each other and unable to make eye contact even, both had the same thought, as we discovered later: If anyone claps I am going to kill you. But no one did. Joel looked up and smiled at Dr Rieppel, and Dr Rieppel turned the next page in his score, and they went on.

When they started playing the finale I thought, “I’ve never heard them do it this fast.” They seemed startled themselves at their speed, probably wondering “How long can we keep this up before we crash and die?” but the crash never came.

After the ending, and the standing ovation they got, of course, and people beginning to leave, I remembered something LauraLee told me during the intermission: we needed to get stands cleared out as soon as possible after the concert, because the man in whose pickup the stands were brought over wouldn’t want to hang around late waiting for us. Olivia was being a social butterfly, stopping to talk first to the church-folk contingent, and then our parents (where she was an unusually long time, considering that of all the people there, she was most likely to see them later), and finally making her way to the back. I asked her to spread the word about the stands, which I take it she did, as the young orchestra folk (plus Isaiah) started heading toward the front shortly after.

But before anyone could load the stands onto the rack, the music people were supposed to leave on them had to be cleared off, and that of course was my job. I tried to keep Dvorak and Boccherini separate, to make it easier to put them in their respective folders, but the next day when I put them in score order again I found “Konzert fur Violoncell” in with “Romanze” and vice versa. One of the pieces was a much darker paper than the others, and when I picked it up off its stand I saw it was the symphony. “How’s the cleaning up going?” Cole asked behind me just then. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Someone left Mozart!” I said, shaking the music indignantly.

“Yes. . . ?” he said.

“Oh, right, you weren’t there yesterday. Well, they were supposed to keep Mozart and leave the other music here. And somebody wasn’t listening.”

When the stands were all loaded, we found ourselves gathering in the middle where the podium had been. “My knee hurts so much,” Joel groaned, rubbing his left leg. “I whacked it on something when I got down to put Anni’s flowers under my chair, and now it’s swollen, and this knee is smooth, but this one I can feel a bony bump in the middle.”

Several people said at once, “That does not sound good. You should see a doctor about that.”

“Maybe —“

“No,” several people again said, “You really should. That sounds like it’s serious.” When he pulled up his pant leg and we saw the angry red spot with a darker red middle, we said, “That looks serious.”

“If it still hurts in the morning I’ll go in,” he said, and we had to be content with that. (Olivia texted him in the morning and he replied that it was only a little sore and rather bruised.)

“So I played all of Mozart with JP’s bow,” Olivia said. “They got switched up when I took his when we stood up, and I didn’t notice until we were playing again that my violin didn’t sound right, but I wasn’t sure why.”

“Ah!” said JP, turning to Joel. “See,” he told us, “I thought my bow didn’t feel right, and I told Joel, and he said, Oh, it’s nothing, you’re just nervous, of course it’s your bow. Stop worrying. But it was yours the whole time.” It happened when JP moved the podium after Boccherini, so in fact it wasn’t only the Mozart that they were switched for, it was the Dvorak.

David said to Joel, “Oh! I caught Sophia in a really big logical fallacy earlier!” and proceeded to tell him all about it with great glee, though Joel had no idea what the technical terms he was using meant.

JP stopped him in the aisle and said, “You can talk now, or come home and have cherry pie, and three hours of homework after.” David, of course, chose the food. Isaiah and Cameron had already left.

Cole and Olivia and I undertook to move the stand rack out into the parking lot, where we found that they were to be moved home the next morning, so we had to navigate them back inside again. Cole went home then, but even though the motley crew dispersed so quickly and did not stand about talking on the sidewalk after the church was locked up, something still did happen.

It seems to be an unwritten law of the universe that after a concert at First Lutheran, someone must get into a conversation about not being politically correct. Last year it was the atrocity committed against Christmas songs; Tuesday Olivia and I came into the foyer to hear Dr Rieppel saying, “And the school sent us a memo saying someone was offended but when asked how they didn’t know and when asked by whom they still couldn’t tell us. So I was like ‘Hey, that doesn’t help, if you’re going to send us a memo at all it might as well be helpful, this isn’t the kind of thing we can take seriously, and anyway this isn’t a place to coddle you, this is a place for education, and part of that is you will hear things that challenge your religious views, that challenge your own personal piety, otherwise it won’t make you think. If in all your four years here you never hear anything that offends you, we’re doing something wrong’.”

Olivia and I exchanged glances, asking, “And Joel says he’s a liberal?” The conversation moved on to censorship in music and Shostakovitch after that, while LauraLee and Olivia and I stood around, slowly wilting, and waited for a break in the conversation so we could finish things up. Eventually Dr Rieppel said, “These shoes are killing me, I’ve got to get out of them,” and bent down as if to take them off then and there. We watched eagerly to see his socks. But he straightened up again and went off on a tangent to the subject, and when at last he did walk away to change, we didn’t see them. We drove home, leaving the stands to be picked up in the morning, and taking the music with us, for me to return to FA the next day when I got to school. 

Posted in Non-fiction, Ordinary life, Short story | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Concerto da Camera, Part I

One day while LauraLee and I were going through music in the library after the December concert, Dr Rieppel came in and asked if we’d seen his baton anywhere. We hadn’t, but he searched the Carol Sing anyway. As of our last rehearsal he still hadn’t found it — three months without the only baton he’s ever owned.

And then on Monday (we had a last rehearsal Monday, since the concert on Tuesday meant we couldn’t have a usual rehearsal that day) Olivia and I were coming along the hallway in FA and saw LauraLee sitting on the bench across from Dr Rieppel’s door, and he was standing talking to her and playing with something in his hand — something long and thin — something white and about the right size —

“Has he got his baton back?” Olivia and I said. “He has!” We could have clapped and yelled Bravo at the sight, but we didn’t.

At rehearsal he told us more of the story. “I was talking to Dr Kingsbury earlier today, and you know how those guys have fancy leather cases and whatnot, and they take theirs out and go ‘Oh, this one’s mine’ and are all careful — that’s not me. Mine goes everywhere with me, it gets tossed in the back of the car, you know how at the end of concerts I usually stick it in the spine of some music. So I thought maybe it was in there, and I looked in all the Carol Sings, because they were the last one we did, and you know how we have nineteen versions of the Carol Sing, and I couldn’t find it.” LauraLee told me on Monday that he’d searched the library about seventeen times. “So finally I thought, if anyone found a baton in Holy Redeemer, they should have noticed it and mentioned it already, but I’ll check there just one last time. So I drove over there and straight into the parish office, and there was this really big guy in there” (Dr Rieppel is not a small man) “well-dressed but really big and fit, and he says ‘Can I help you?’ and I said ‘I’m looking for a baton’. And he said ‘Oh! I know exactly where that is!’ and I said ‘Really?!’ Apparently it had been knocking about in the sacristy for three months, and they’d just been batting it about and you’d think someone would go ‘Wait a minute, why is there a baton in here?’ but they never did.

“Dr Kingsbury was impressed earlier to learn that this is the only one I’ve ever owned; he said he goes through about one every year. I bought it thirty-five minutes before Conducting class, forty years ago when I was nineteen, and it’s the only one I’ve ever had.”

Earlier in the day, when the two men were comparing batons, Dr Kingsbury mentioned how good the balance was on his, and Dr Rieppel admired it and said maybe someday he’d get one like that. Olivia and I shook our heads at that; it’s highly unlikely that he will ever get another one. It’s as if he’s married to it.

The wind and brass sections have not been “with” the strings, whether that means being at the same tempo while actually playing, or paying attention to Dr Rieppel when the strings are, or any of a number of things really; we had five weeks and four rehearsals to practice Mozart’s fortieth symphony, and sundry people were a bit in despair over getting the speed right in the fourth movement; and later very few people turned up to rehearsal and of those who did, several came in late because they’d been at a high-school orchestra competition in the Cities earlier in the day (and were very tired): but in spite of all of that, the news that Dr Rieppel had found his baton was encouraging enough to almost make us sanguine about the success of the concert to come. Almost.

Because of having rehearsal on Monday, Olivia came and spent the day with me. It was terribly confusing, mixing Monday and Tuesday schedules. I had to keep reminding myself that I worked at 10:30 instead of having class at that time, and that my afternoon class was at 2:00 instead of 1:30, and so on. Olivia and I brought supper, but Joel, JP, and David were in the Cities (coming back in the middle of rehearsal, exhausted), so they weren’t joining us. Cole had schoolwork to do and went home. Kayla and LauraLee were going to join us, though.

In an e-mail Olivia sent to Dr Rieppel a while ago about her availability for piano lessons, she said five-thirty didn’t work for her because she liked to have supper with the motley crew. Olivia and I were getting our food ready in the little cafeteria, by ourselves at the moment, when Dr Rieppel came by and said, “Is this where the ne’er-do-wells have their supper?”

“Motley crew is what we call ourselves actually,” Olivia said, “but yes.”

“Ah, right, motley crew. Yes, ne’er-do-wells has much more of a — rakish swagger to it.”

“Well,” Olivia said, “when David and Joel are around ne’er-do-wells sometimes fits. . .”

He went off in the direction of CH, leaving us wondering what he could possibly be doing there.

The other girls joined us, and partway through our meal he came back, and said as he passed, “So are you an honorary member of the motley crew, Kayla?”

Kayla, who didn’t know about the name, was startled and said, “Um, I guess. . . ?” After he was gone she turned to us and said, “You call yourselves the motley crew? Did you know Motley Crew is a hard rock band?”

Well, since all of us are either classical musicians or, in my case, not musicians at all, of course we didn’t. So then she had to look up some of their music on her phone and enlighten us.

Yesterday Olivia and I were eating lunch in my spot when an English professor we’re all fond of, who gave us gummy bears from Germany last week in exchange for a banana muffin, walked by with a plastic bag (like the kind you get from Walmart) of popcorn in his hand. He dropped it on the bench beside Olivia and walked on till he was past me as if he hadn’t noticed, while we waited to see what he’d do. He turned back and picked it up and said, “Either of you like popcorn?”

“Not Sophia so much,” Olivia said, “but I do,” and she shrugged.

“Well, I usually give it to one of the librarians,” he said, “but she doesn’t need it,” and he went around the hole in the floor and back down the hall, presumably to his office, though you never know. He does usually give it to a librarian; sometimes they go to lunch together, and once as they passed me on their way she said, “Where are we going today?” and he said “I don’t know yet” and she said “You might want to decide.”

So we nibbled on the popcorn, which was very buttery, and speculated as to its origins. Today he told me the custodians give him a bag nearly every day, and he can’t eat it all himself, “and there’s another bag sitting on my desk right now. I figure popcorn, it’s a good trade to a banana muffin.” We think he may have forgotten he already paid us for it in gummy bears, and anyway the bag was many times larger than the solitary muffin.

Later in the afternoon we were standing by Olivia’s locker in FA (I forget why we were there that time — we made several trips throughout the day), where the popcorn was being kept among other things for safekeeping, and we heard David around the corner.

When he came into sight I said, because of the running joke about how little we eat, “David, do you want to see a White-sized bag of popcorn?” He shrugged, but lingered, with his hands in his pockets.

Olivia picked up the bag by its handles (tied to keep errant drafts from sending popcorn flying all over the inside of the locker) and displayed it.

He said with a perfectly straight face, not even raising his eyebrows, “Oh. That is a big bag of popcorn.”

Olivia and David and I ended up having supper together, a sort of eat-and-run meal mostly, except that somehow in the middle of it David and I got off onto the question of whether fictional characters exist. He said they didn’t (it started out as a universal). I began a thought experiment by saying, “Imagine a pink unicorn. Did you get a picture of it in your head?”

“But it doesn’t exist. I can imagine things that don’t exist. What if I imagine a rule that says I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want, whyever — is whyever a word? never mind — whyever I want. Does that mean that law exists?”

“Is there a difference between objects and moral —“

“Don’t answer the question with a question!”

As a counter-argument to something that came later in the debate I said, “I write about you in my fiction; do you still exist?”

“Whaat!” His jaw dropped and he looked first at me, then at himself as if to make sure he was still there. “I didn’t sign a waiver!” His tone implied, “I’m never going to, either.”

(Now I want to write a story involving David meeting a pink unicorn and not believing in it. I think the pink would be the shade of GAC, but that might be just me.)

Olivia herded us over to FA about this time, the two of us still going at it, because she and I needed to get over to First Lutheran to set things up. We were at the locker, David by this time trying to explain how I’d made a glaringly obvious logical fallacy. I asked him if he was sure he still didn’t not exist. He fidgeted and said, “Here, I’m going to make you a Venn diagram so you can see the fallacy.” From his cavernous pocket he drew a succession of pencils, chose one, and said, “Do you have a piece of paper?”

“A scholar is never without one.” I pulled out of my knitting bag a folded copy of notes from the third quarter’s business meeting last year, which had seen service earlier in the day when my atheist drew his diagram of morality on it (a different story).

David took it and set it flat against the upright door of his brother’s locker, the better to draw a Venn diagram on it. JP came around the corner and said, “What’s going on here?”

David, talking really fast, explained: “I said characters in fiction don’t necessarily exist, which she said they do, and I always thought she was a little creepy but then she said she writes about me, which was really creepy, and then —”

We were standing in a square, one of us on each corner, each sibling diagonal from the other. The brothers exchanged glances. The sisters exchanged glances. Then David went back to drawing.

“Here’s life, l-i-f-e, real, and this overlap is where I am. The part I filled in, here, that says book, is where they don’t overlap, so they aren’t real. Just because there’s some in this area doesn’t mean they’re all in there.”

JP stood behind us, watching, and at this juncture said, “Do you ever feel like you’re being talked down to?”

I stammered, trying not to say something that would sound mean, but Olivia had just the right thing to say. “Right now she’s literally being talked down to.”

David whirled away from the locker and got down on one knee, looking up at me. “Is this better?”

I wanted to say, “No, no, that’s much worse, I can see the top of your head — there’s something terribly wrong with this,” because the world felt like it was turning upside down. But Olivia observed that it was after four-thirty and we must be going, so the conversation broke up unresolved. David thrust the paper back into my hands, saying, “It’s not even a proper piece of paper, just some — notes from a sermon.”

“Only if sermons usually include mentions of treasurers not being present to give their reports,” I said. 

(Due to running out of time: To be continued)

Posted in Non-fiction, Ordinary life, Short story | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Now Rabbit’s giving me a hard look.

Last night I did perhaps one of the most loony things I’ve ever done, after starting to be a writer and maybe something else — suddenly I can’t think of weird things I’ve done, which probably means I’m too far gone and the nice men in white coats will show up.

I made a mock-up of a hood out of paper towels.

My mother bought a different brand from her usual one lately, and it’s not like the usual ones, which are textured and have hollow places between the layers and are very papery. This kind you can see fibres going in various directions, and they’re tougher and stretchier.

Anyway, I was trying to figure out the proportions of a hood I’m going to make (Olivia’s nesting dolls are still not done because I’m waiting on yarn to come in the mail), and as the fabric itself is currently an intact fitted sheet, it was extremely difficult. I didn’t want to cut and be wrong and cut and cut again, so I started wondering about ways to make mock-ups without wasting more fabric than I could help, and that’s when I remembered the paper towels. Earlier yesterday I’d used them at church, and remarked on their strange resemblance to fabric, so it was fresh in my mind.

So I came out of my room (I’d had the door closed because my shawl bin, laundry basket, and garb bin were discharging their contents all over the floor) and asked my mother for a roll of paper towels.

The result:


Wow. So lovely. The picture really represents the hour of fitting and tweaking to get a hood that came to the right place on my shoulders and made proportionate sense, doesn’t it?

It doesn’t drape quite like fabric (as you can plainly see), which is something of a drawback in pictures like these. For various reasons I don’t have a picture of it on.

It handles pins very nicely. They don’t try to pull out or anything even when you pick up a section and throw it over your head.


(That’s the back. . . I think?)

Here you can see how it stretches and handles a bit like fabric, starchy fabric perhaps, but still better than wasting fabric on a mock-up I would have had to cut out several times.


Another advantage of their being tougher than regular paper towels is that I could pull off five or six at once, leaving them all attached to each other, and fiddle with it without them coming apart at the perforations. This fabric comes as long as you could want it, though only in one width; I had to pin others to it to make it wider, but it worked. And it was very adjustable — you can test different sizes without having to worry about having accidentally made something too small and having to re-sew a part back onto your mock-up. (I don’t know if that’s a legitimate worry, but I had it all the same.) The picture below shows the perforations in two pieces still connected.


This is the first time I’ve made a mock-up of anything, and I’m very glad I did, because I’ve had to change the sizes of the pieces so many times I’m really glad I wasn’t doing it with the sheet.

I think tomorrow I’m going to cut the pieces to their proper size (at the moment it’s a lot of folding to allow for it being not yet in its final state) to make the pattern for what I’m actually going to cut out of fabric. I should have some free time during the day, though what with two classes and setting up for a concert and the dress rehearsal and the concert itself maybe that’s a fool’s hope.

Am I insane? Is there any doubt left?

Does this mean a hood that fits properly the first time through? I think so.

Oh, and this hood — I’ll write more on it once I get it done, but it’s a speculation of what some Anglo-Saxon veils looked like, purposely done in such a way as to waste the least fabric possible, so it would be good for a lower-class persona.

By the way, I’m posting early because of the concert tomorrow, for those of you who noticed.

Posted in SCA | Tagged , | 1 Comment

“Yes,” said Pooh. “One of those. In case it isn’t.”

Rabbit gave him a hard look.

“I don’t think you’re helping,” he said.

My first story for the advanced fiction workshop was due this week, but the story about the plague was nowhere near being done (it’s been growing in odd directions and not sticking to my plan for it), so I finished another of the stories I’d been playing with. So far this semester I’ve been juggling Just Outlaws, a story about a library (sort of), and the plague story. Just Outlaws is for many reasons not the kind of thing for a workshop, so with the serious story unfinished, the other just-for-fun one had to do. I’ll find out on Tuesday (also concert day — why did my ignorant self at the beginning of the semester sign up to hear my story ripped apart on the same day?) what people thought of it.

But, as far as I know, there’s no prohibition about sharing it here, and since I forgot to write a proper blog post today, this will be better than nothing, I hope.

I don’t name all the characters, some I only describe, so it’s kind of like those books where you’re supposed to spot certain things in the pictures and see how many you can find, I guess.

  The library was empty as usual for a Thursday night, the eve of March 25; but if anyone had been there to hear when it started, the place would quickly have been deserted all the same. By the light of a street lamp near one of the windows, the theoretical observer would have seen the shadows lying in their regular, angular patterns between the shelves. The heat was not running at the moment. The clock was barely ticking, let alone striking the hour. Any librarian would have nodded in approval at the proper library hush.

  The second hand of the clock passed over the hour and minute lined up at the 12, and a faint rustling, as of pages blowing in a draft, broke the stillness. A small yellow bear, so ghostlike you could have read Now We Are Six right through him, climbed down from between two books and helped a piglet down with him, both animals growing rapidly larger and more solid. By the time they reached the floor, several others, fully corporeal, from the Children’s Section joined them: a couple of cats in striped top hats headed a wide-ranging collection of animals, and several children followed. A parliament of owls was already going on in a corner. The numerous dragons couldn’t possibly all fit between the shelves, so they congregated in the open area in the middle of the library. Some of the middle-sized ones eventually climbed up on the computer tables, putting the cords and such in great danger of fire. Some of us wouldn’t be at all sad to see them go up in flames, to be quite honest.

  “Oh, there you are again, young fellow,” said a tall green figure with a pointed hat, addressing a donkey who had come with the bear. “How has the last year treated you? Shouldn’t wonder if you’d lost your tail for good this time.”

   In the next aisle over, several people with swords were having a hard time fitting between the shelves without knocking books off. “Gawain!” shouted a burly red-garbed man with a grey beard, flinging his arms around a youth in green. “Still got your head, I see! Meet my son, Perceval —” but as he turned to indicate him, he found a young woman standing there. “Oh, greetings, Blanchefleur — any idea where that rascal’s gone?”

  “He’s talking to Percival about the Grail quest, I think,” the flame-haired damsel said. “Do you mind if I squeeze between you? I’d like to talk to Edith, under Histories.”

  The two knights made way and bowed as she passed. Gawain the elder said, “I don’t see your giant anywhere tonight — what’d you do to him?”

  Over in the Fantasy aisle, two tall gentlemen looked with their annual shock and distaste as a procession of giggling elves, dwarves, humans, and other imitations of Tolkien mingled with a flow of stereotypes from the Historical Romance section.

  “It’s a wonder they don’t ever get mixed up and go back into the wrong book with people who just happens to look like their partners,” said one.

  A philologist (the sweater and glasses marked him out as such; when you’ve been in my profession long enough, you learn to recognize our types) wandered out of the Sci-Fi section and began taking notes. The various aliens and weirdly-garbed explorers in whose midst he was incongruously placed gave him as wide a berth as possible.

  The ubiquitous Holmes stood talking to a small Belgian detective in the Mystery aisle, the latter being careful to walk around several unsavoury specimens talking about their work in the crime noir subgenre. Lord Peter, with Harriet and Miss Climpson and a few others more or less in tow, was inspecting those detectives through his eyeglass when not busy searching for the oldest books in the library. A small priest with wide blinking eyes was amusing some children by turning a pillow into a doll — nobody knew where he’d come from or why he was in the Mystery section. No one knew where the pillow was from either, for that matter.

  Last year someone donated a biography of Machiavelli to the library, which we all knew would be disastrous. The man had gotten out and was conferring with Saruman and Denethor behind the front desk. We all kept well away from them. But other less formidable villains were listening — Black, and Littlejack, Hyde, and the Duke of Coffin Castle. Unferth and a certain detestable man with a gigantic spider’s body, whom I will not even name, were also comparing notes. Fortunately Beowulf was between us and them, though as he was occupied with re-establishing his friendship with Toothless (now there’s an unlikely pair if there ever was one), he might not have been much help if any of them decided to act on Machiavelli’s advice. The last racy pseudo-biography of the most infamous Borgia had been sold at the annual clearing-out, for which we were all thankful, otherwise who knows what would have happened. Though probably the characters from that work would have gravitated toward the Romance aisle.

  There were, of course, the usual Protestant and Catholic characters taking advantage of their once-a-year opportunity to debate. I must confess that as I passed between the knots of people all earnestly talking, I heard only courtesy from them — except for one notoriously problematic ox of a man, who has been told for the last five hundred years about the library rules, and still can’t keep his voice down.

  “Seventeen!” yelled a bug practically in my ear, and its gesticulations nearly hit me in the face. It was not engaged in one of the serious debates, but apparently having a conversation with a three-foot-long blue caterpillar. I had finished my circumambulation and was back in the Children’s Section.

  For some reason the other librarians like to file my story with the Adult books, but the children who read me tend to put me back with the kids’ books. I don’t mind. The characters are often much nicer to spend time with than the ones in the Adult sections. (I don’t mean the general unsavoury character of quite a lot of the popular ones. . . Milton’s archangels can be pretty intimidating, to offer just one example). Often. I’ve known quite a few exceptions.

  The younger Eustace, for instance, was complaining (as he did every year) about the statistical improbability of nine tenths of the creatures around him. “Why does anyone bother with these impossible creatures when the real world is nothing like this?”

  I sidled around behind him and said, “May I help you?”

  He jumped in surprise and his complaints intensified. His older self shook his head at me and said, “I’m about the only one who still hasn’t given up trying to convince him.”

  Another exception, from the other side of things — well, does he quite count, though, because I’ve seen as many children enjoying his story as adults? — was a king rumoured to be two hundred years old, whose magnificent beard was streaked with white. He’s known to hold long conversations with the various Arthurs from other books recommended for both children and adults, but he doesn’t scorn the company of anyone brave enough to approach him — and that includes his enemies.

  Little orange-haired Much from the Margaret Early version of Robin Hood (everyone envies those characters, they’re so shimmery), and a taller boy from another version who filled the same position but went by Polycarp instead, were to be found together on these nights. They and their respective little Johns made a quartet. Sundry versions of Maid Marian talked and played games and debated the qualities and advantages of their various Robins. Quarterstaffs have been strictly forbidden in the library for reasons similar to the discomfort following a cannon; the difference is no one has ever brought a cannon out with him, whereas several people who shall not be named, but are called Little John and Friar Tuck (among others), have brought quarterstaffs before the rule was in place (and one year one of the former conveniently forgot the rule), leaving destruction and severe annoyance in their wake.

  A short man with a dark beard and an indescribable hat was playing riddles with several other characters from various books. He was something of an enigma himself. No one was ever quite sure about him. I think he’s from the Children’s Section, but his villain makes me not quite so sure.

  A good children’s book will be good reading for grown-ups too, and go upward as it were, but a good book written for adults is not so often the case, and generally the books for grownups can’t be shelved with the kids’ books. Though I’ve known some kids who are wise beyond their years and tackle the unabridged Homers or Shakespeares, for instance, and a few so-called grown-ups who are ashamed to be seen reading Dr Seuss.

  Miss Rumphius scattered her lupin seeds, a habit we never could break her of. A page reclining on a table with a ladleful of ice cream said, “Now that will make a lot of extra work for the kitchen maids.”

  A watchdog named Tock fraternized with a toad with a letter in its mouth. The former’s ticking and the latter’s inability to speak English made it hard, not to mention one being a predator, but somehow, year after year, they were found to be friends, rather like two musicians who can only get along when speaking the language of music.

  Several goblins at this point streaked past me, dirty and dishevelled from trying to dig up the floor. I watched perplexed as collections of dust, string, old paper, and gravel fell from them. Then I saw the little princess harrying them before her, and how she disappeared in the gleam from the window, and understood. Others had seen them too, and the crowd began to disperse and trickle away.

  “Until next year!” several people (using the term loosely, of course) said to several others. “Nice to see you again! Good conversations! We’ll see you!” Some added their wishes for good luck in whatever adventures their friends were presently in the midst of. Then we all began to sense the change in ourselves, from fully corporeal to ethereal, and the mad dash began. No one was quite sure what happened to those characters who didn’t get back into their books by the time they were paper-thin, but we were all sure it couldn’t be good.

  I made it back to my shelf at just the right time, climbed up two rows to get to my book, and passed through the cover of The Monster in the Hollows as the clock struck three of a Friday morning.


Posted in Fiction, Rose-Tinted Arrows, Short story, Writing | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

More from On the Free Choice of the Will

Time to make an Augustine of Hippo tag, I think.

“A creature that sins by free will is more excellent than one that does not sin only because it has no free will. I would praise wine as a thing good of its kind, but condemn a person who got drunk on that wine. And yet I would prefer that person, condemned and drunk, to the wine that I praised, on which he got drunk.”

“Someone who says ‘This thing ought to be like that one’ either wants to add to the perfect and superior creature, and so he is immoderate and unjust; or else he wants to destroy the lower creature, and so he is wicked and spiteful. But someone who says ‘This thing ought not to exist’ is no less wicked and spiteful, since the thing that he wants not to exist, although inferior, clearly deserves praise.” Which he follows with an analogy about moons and suns and lamps which is an awful lot like that scene in the Silver Chair.

“Even things done by necessity are to be condemned, as when someone wants to act rightly but cannot.”

To people who complain that it’s unfair that other generations suffer for Adam’s and Eve’s fault: Perhaps their complaint would be justified if there were no Victor over error and inordinate desire. But in fact there is one who is present everywhere and speaks in many ways through the creation that serves him as Lord. He calls out to those who have turned their backs on him and instructs those who believe in him. He comforts the hopeful, encourages the diligent, helps the struggling, and hears the prayers of those who cry out to him.”

And then in a lovely turn of phrase (okay, this translation overuses the word “that”, but at other times lets Augustine go off into poetry), “You are not blamed for your unwilling ignorance, but because you fail to ask about what you do not know. You are not blamed because you do not bind up your own wounds, but because you spurn the one who wants to heal you.”

This line sums up (beautifully, as usual) an idea which had a lot to do with medieval ideas — you can see a lot of it worked out in the Arthurian legendarium, but also in the idea of Christendom itself — not just the structure, but the way it affected daily life even among the lower classes. “For the first man did not lose his fruitfulness when he lost his happiness; and his offspring, though carnal and mortal, were able to lend a sort of beauty and dignity to the earth as things of their kind.”

“For he is completely without fault even if he himself sends souls to dwell in bodies. In the midst of their ignorance and difficulty he leaves them the free will to ask and seek and try. He will give to those who ask, show himself to those who seek, and open to those who knock. . . . Even to those who reject this struggle and use their weakness as an excuse for sin, he does not impute their ignorance and difficulty as a crime. But since they prefer to remain in that state rather than make the effort to seek and to learn, to confess in humility and to pray, so that they might arrive at truth and ease, he inflicts upon them a just punishment.”

We’ve seen already how he answered Descartes’ dilemma before that gentleman was worried about it, but the back of the book includes some of his writing from later on (from the Retractiones), in which he complains about the Pelagians using out-of-context quotes from On the Free Choice of the Will to supposedly prove he agreed with them. He says at the beginning that it was a bit unfair of anyone to have expected him to exhaust everything related to the subject in one book, and the point of this was to explain free will, not get into predestination.

And, later, “again in another place I say, ‘But to accept falsehoods as truths, thus erring unwillingly; to struggle against the pain of carnal bondage and not be able to refrain from acts of inordinate desire: these do not belong to the nature that human beings were created with; they are the penalty of a condemned prisoner. But when we speak of free will to act rightly, we mean the will with which human beings were created.’ Thus, long before the Pelagian heresy had arisen, I argued just as if I were combatting the Pelagians.” You can hear his glee.

I think I’m going to buy this book back at the end of the semester — I’ve dog-eared and written on so many pages, and it’s well worth having. Worth more than the little the bookstores charge for it, anyway.

Posted in Reading | Tagged , , | 3 Comments