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)


About Nolie Alcarturiel

Creative Writing major and Philosophy minor, contemplating a Master's degree in Medieval History. I enjoy practically anything to do with medieval history, including the domestic arts, with an especial emphasis on the Anglo-Saxon Era. In my spare time I read endlessly, do medieval living-history, hold philosophical debates at the drop of a hat, and write books on even slighter provocation.
This entry was posted in Non-fiction, Ordinary life, Short story and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Concerto da Camera, Part I

  1. I have actually considered mentioning to you the existence of the rock band, but then decided it wasn’t that important. First, because my parents used the phrase, and I was familiar with the usage. Secondly, the band is spelled differently, like Mötley Crüe, (that German keyboard comes in handy once again). Also (back to English), it was an 80’s “hair” band, and heavy metal, and who listens to THAT anymore (not that I intentionally did even then)? Then, too, why promote evil by sampling the sound on you tube or glancing at album cover images? Anyway, now you know, I suppose.


    • Oh dear. Is that the main connotation that comes when you hear the phrase? If it’s that well known it could be a problem. On the other hand, the denotation of the phrase describes our group so perfectly it would be hard to find a replacement that worked better.

      We were all very glad that his baton is back where it belongs, at least for now. After the last time he lost it and regained it he said it and his piano were the only things he hadn’t permanently lost in his life (and it’s notoriously difficult to lose a piano).


      • It isn’t the main connotation when I hear the phrase. It really is a secondary connotation. I was surprised that someone at SMSU would be aware of it, unless of course, because of parents or other relatives. I have heard “motley bunch”, as well, but unless you get a lot of comments like that, I wouldn’t worry about it.


  2. I’m glad to hear Dr. Rieppel found his baton.


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