Stress Fractures

“Stress fractures,” Bud Innes pronounces. His twinkling eyes belie the solemn portentousness of the words.

“Oh?” Drin says encouragingly.

“All these blow-ups and upsets, small wars… They keep the greater mass from self-destructing, you understand. The First Violist was expecting to take the lead political place, telling the second violin what to do all the time, and then out of nowhere, some odd little Korean creature steps into the Concertmaster position… Madame Le Chatter does not forgive easily. Which may be tough on Dance, but the orchestra as a whole has a new source of entertainment. If the leadership doesn’t provide something to talk about–hell, a group this size? Gossip. They’ll invent stuff on their own.”

There are quite a few days now when Drin does not go home after work. He’s spent most of the evening listening to an extended rehearsal, and now he’s at somebody’s house nibbling on an amazingly subtle little mushroom potpie with a crust that evaporates on his tongue. Aside from the potential risks or rewards of socializing with his employer, Bud Innes seems to be a good mind to tap into, a guide for this new world he’s exploring.

“You say it’s not worth worrying about?” Drin asks. “The simmering rebellion in the brass? The disillusion and withdrawal I’m hearing from the winds?”

“All of it perfectly natural.”

“The Great Maestro bullying a pregnant girl?” Robert’s nasal voice chimes in. “Hi Papi,” he adds, and slides into Bud’s embrace. Robert is the languishing pre-Raphaelite sybarite of the orchestra. Drin has found himself staring at the man during rehearsals, halfway expecting a nimbus of illumination around his head. It’s rather disappointing to find him so very spoken for. Bud says he finds the voice nostalgic.

“We must thank Mister Drin.” The Korean Concertmaster joins them in the kitchen. He looks up at Drin. “Thankyou for calming Miss Twillzer. Very… very kind. So good at soothing frightened girls.” He makes a strange, awkward gesture, lifting his arms and dropping them, as if to demonstrate his inept soothing skills.

“And you are very good at defending them,” Drin says.

“We can have no ground to work on if Miss Twillzer was ordinary in diligence and skills. She is not merely chorus girls with bad legs.” It’s inflected with a sharp, odd imitation of Young’s own accent, in bitter quotation.

Young really did go too far, Drin thinks, reducing that pregnant kitten of a girl to a pathetic bundle of misery, sobbing right there in the kitchen that evening. Dance had stopped Young, stepping quietly into the insults. Others witnessed it, and the story will be far and away before the night is over. Drin lifts his champagne flute in salute to the Concertmaster. “I still want to tell Young, ‘Hey, if you have to go that far to rile up somebody’s temper, you’re just not doing it right.'”

Bud Innes snorts into his champagne flute.

“We are very glad you came in, too. Our Mister Drin is so well identified as a partisan of musicians.” Dance’s eyes are brown again. During the rather chaotic episode one half hour ago, they had turned the spooky pale color of gold coins.

“I doubt I’ll repent of it.”

Dance gives a crooked little smile; “What’s an orchestra without fuss, yes?” and offers a heated platter.

“But the Twillzer will have to go on maternity leave soon, Young was right about that,” Drin murmurs while ruminating over spinach and onion and cheese.

“We put together a list with Madame Le Chatter long since, and she is calling violists to audition a month ago. We told him, but Maestro Young forgot.” Dance turns to Bud and Robert with the next plate.

“I’m afraid we jumped the gun when we signed Young’s contract.” Bud is apologetic. “What can you do? Unfortunately, the old guard on the board remember his father…”

“Pity he didn’t remain a cellist,” Robert says, in his bitch-voice. “They decide they can’t make it as pros, and become conductors instead. Especially when they have all the control freakitude to become a conductor and composer.”

Dance gives a little pained noise, hastily stifled.

“Have you heard the maestro’s compositions?” Robert says.

Bud has a skeptical eyebrow hoisted high already.

dark clothes, Chen Kun
The Critic

Dance looks at Bud, totally deadpan. “Philip Glass is in no danger.”

“Is that why Amalia and Robert get on Young’s nerves so fast?” Drin says.

Robert just gives a wicked smile, and a shimmy of his hips. “I can fiddle rings around him. And my papi would beat up the big bully, anyway.” He shoots a simpering wink towards his papi.

“Drive Dance nuts, too,” Bud says, returning a stern look.

Dance says dryly, “Because of course Maestro Young takes it out on other people.”

“Well, you’re such a big ole bully, too!” Robert exclaims, laughing. “Dance kicked me yesterday, I swear!”

“Well, you fell down anyway, I saw that one,” Bud says.

Dance’s face goes a darker bronze, and he turns away hastily to the microwave.

Bud says in a silly voice, “Oh look, ooops, no idea how he did that, I was just passing…”

“I could show you the bruise he left, too!” says Robert.

Dance brings out steaming cinnamon rolls, and gives a shrug.

Drin says, amused, “Foot sweep, for the win!”

“Little bit,” Dance admits. “Distraction works.”

Robert makes an indignant noise, but he clearly loves the attention.

Dance gives him a stern look. “We go catch you on your little curly head. What does Mister Bud’s favorite cellist want?”

“You should say you’re sorry.” No one can match the power of Robert’s pout, and even Dance’s lips begin to twitch upward.

“But we are so not sorry,” Dance says, and reveals his singularly sweet smile.

“Why me? Why don’t you kick Young? He started it.”

Dance turns away, starts rinsing off dishes, putting them in the rack to dry. So careful, so controlled, the fingers moving just so. “It would not be wise.”

“You would totally kill him with your Kung Fu mojo, right?”

“I do not do Kung Fu, Mister Robert.” Dance says. “Taking towel, please.”

“Bully,” Robert says, and moves to stand at the Concertmaster’s side.

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