The Junior High School Band Concert
By David Wagoner
Read by the author
about this recording
When our semi-conductor
Raised his baton, we sat there
Gaping at Marche Militaire,
Our mouth-opening number.
It seemed faintly familiar
(We'd rehearsed it all that winter),
But we attacked in such a blur,
No army anywhere
On its stomach or all fours
Could have squeezed through our crossfire.
I played cornet, seventh chair,
Out of seven, my embouchure
A glorified Bronx cheer
Through that three-keyed keyhole stopper
And neighborhood window-slammer
Where mildew fought for air
At every exhausted corner,
My fingering still unsure
After scaling it for a year
Except on the spit-valve lever.
Each straight-faced mother and father
Retested his moral fiber
Against our traps and slurs
And the inadvertent whickers
Paradiddled by our snares,
And when the brass bulled forth
A blare fit to horn over
Jericho two bars sooner
Than Joshua's harsh measures,
They still had the nerve to stare.
By the last lost chord, our director
Looked older and soberer.
No doubt, in his mind's ear
Some band somewhere
In some music of some Sphere
Was striking a note as pure
As the wishes of Franz Schubert,
But meanwhile here we were:
A lesson in everything minor,
Decomposing our first composer.
This morning is my elder son's last day of elementary school, a day I greet with profoundly mixed feelings. I had the worst incident of my life (a protracted legal battle, which ended well but was an utter nightmare to live through and made me understand in a visceral way why there are so many dead lawyer jokes) stemming from something that happened at the school when he was in first grade, in the class of a teacher my younger son could conceivably have for third grade though the incident happened, as most such incidents do, at recess. I spent two years dreading each afternoon walking out my front door to pick up my children, because every time I saw the mother of one of the other children involved, I wanted a truck to come barrelling down the street, hit her and mangle her body to the point of unrecognizability, and it is really, really unpleasant to discover that it is possible to hate someone that much for something short of genocide.
I had a nice conversation this morning with the school librarian -- I have volunteered in the library off and on for a couple of years, and she's also a product of local high schools and well-read -- and said goodbye to my younger son's teachers, since I wanted to make sure that the gift cards actually made it into their hands. He insisted that his classroom teacher would want a cheesecake, as cheesecake is her favorite thing, so yesterday while I was buying Borders cards for everyone else, I got her one for the Cheesecake Factory, and was rewarded with much squeeing which was very nice to see as he has really enjoyed her class, though the new math curriculum sucks so much that it's hard to judge her as a teacher; my older son learned a hell of a lot more in second grade. Both teachers have at least seemed to be very tuned in to their interests and needs, though I don't think anyone has really realized just how smart the younger one is; his memory for detail astounds me. The older one is much more analytical, very good at math and science but he'd forget his arm if it wasn't attached.
I vividly remember my last day of elementary school, getting off the bus and running into the guy who mowed our lawn and telling him I was completely done with that school, and being happy about it; I had no idea then that middle school is always hell, no matter where one fits into the social order. Am wondering whether I should explain this to my older son, who is under the impression that he would be SO much happier attending the local one with his best friend (and all the obnoxious rich kids and jocks) rather than the magnet program with his fellow math and computer geeks.
My entire high school felt justified when the obnoxious slutty homecoming queen and captain of the cheerleading squad, who later became an obnoxious slutty photojournalist, wrote a book in which she talked about how miserable she had been in school; if the princess couldn't stand it, no wonder the rest of us were unhappy! (Her book is being adapted into a screenplay by the creator of Sex and the City -- imagine if you had gone to high school with someone as self-centered, whiny and princess-y as Carrie, no matter how much you might like the show, and then make her a relentless bitch to wit, and tell me you'd want to live with that.) Meanwhile our elementary school is now the Potomac Community Center. My older son's school-wide graduation party was held there. It's a nice kind of circle, I guess.
I hadn't looked at my Friends list since 9 a.m. yesterday morning, so I only read a narrow cross-section and stopped at -150. Wow it's amazing what I miss in a day. Not even sure where yesterday went -- I had to go do various end-of-school-year chores, and my older son had fencing in the late afternoon, and my younger son had a friend over, and I never even finished the laundry. But I did get the story on how Paramount cut the price of Enterprise from $1.7m to $800k per episode so UPN would pick up the series for one more season. How much do we want to bet next year will suck, and every single episode will take place either on the ship or in a cave?
Many thanks to shirasade for hosting and scribblinlenore and astolat for setting up The Perfect Duet Fanfiction Archive for Master and Commander fic! Now everyone go post your stuff there please so it's all in one place! And bwahahaha: Professor Snape is mine!