Jane MacDonald

Home

Stories
Essays
On Writing
Biography
Favorite Links
Contact Me
The Rite of Spring
                                                                                  2002 Jane MacDonald

by Jane MacDonald

Jeannine Ladouceur let her eyes wander over the orchestra, looking
for danger.

From her seat at the last stand of the second violin section she
couldn't see everybody. Other violinists blocked her view of the
violas and cellos. Not wanting to be caught looking around, she kept
her head pretty much facing forward, as if she were concentrating on
her music. The percussionists, standing like statues, looked
harmless. Young, earnest men never frightened her. Neither did the
middle-aged clarinet players. Carrying considerable girth, the bass
players appeared to be jolly, innocent types. Then she saw him, and
she knew.

Danger lurked among the bassoons.

* * *

When the lunch break came, Jeannine carefully placed her
violin and bow in their case, closed it, and started to gather her
music. She'd survived her first morning in a real big-city orchestra.
At last she was in the majors--all the years of study were finally
paying off.

"Hey, girl, want to get something to eat next door?" Her seatmate, a
smiling, fortyish brunette, looked friendly.

"Where? I don't know my way around yet."

"Over at Bread & Circus. Just a couple of blocks from here. It's an
organic food store, but they have a little cafe."

Settled a few minutes later at a small table next to a big window,
Jeannine watched passersby use various methods of protecting
themselves against the cold drizzle. If it was like this in May,
she'd freeze to death in January. She'd thought she was going to love
Boston, but nobody had warned her about the nasty weather. At least
up north it didn't change all the time.

She liked the way Bernice Ziljian looked her over, asked her where
she was from, got past the preliminaries in record time.

"They're going to love you!" Bernice said.

"Oh, come on, I'm nobody, and most of those people are virtuosos
compared to me."

Casually sipping her coffee, Bernice smiled.

"That's not what I was talking about, but you sounded okay to me
this morning. As long as you keep a close eye on the concertmaster
and follow his bow, you'll be fine. I was thinking about the
predators. You look so sweet and innocent!"

"Ugh. I hate that. That's what everybody says about me." Jeannine
bit fiercely into her grass and cheese sandwich--at least that was
what it tasted like. "And what do you mean by predators?"

"You know musicians--none of them have a clue about anything but
music. They do, however, find time for sex. Some of them find a great
deal of time for sex. So they'll be after you."

"Yes, I know." Jeannine flinched as a gust of wet wind hit the
window. "We had those at Eastman, too. But most of these guys are
older, and the young ones, like the percussionists, don't look
particularly frightening."

"Old, schmold," Bernice said. "Some of them will be reaching out of
their coffins to grab the lady mourners. Goldberg, the French horn,
he's a specimen. He hits on every woman he gets near, and he must be
in his mid-sixties. Thinks he's irresistible. Some of the others are
just as bad. You'll see."

"I did notice one that looked pretty, though." Jeannine carefully
inspected her sandwich. "The bassoonist with the moustache. Something
about his eyes."

"Oh, God! Don't get mixed up with him! He's way too old for you, and
he's been through at least half a dozen of the younger women in less
than three months." Then she grinned. "Of course, if I weren't
thoroughly married I might give him a thought or two. I'm old enough
to take care of myself. He's a guest artist from California. Name's
Alan Bademann."

"I've survived so far--I guess I can handle whatever Boston has to
offer." Jeannine drained her coffee cup. "As long as I'm here, I
might as well do a little shopping. Then we'd better get back. I
can't afford to be even a minute late on my first day."

The concertmaster took every opportunity during the afternoon to
torture the first violinists, telling them they played "The Rite of
Spring" as if it were a dirge. It should be, Jeannine thought--she
took umbrage at the idea of people's sacrificing virgins, even if
they cooperated. Watching Alan Bademann laugh with one of the
trombonists during a break, she concluded that he probably had his
own ideas on the matter. He was awfully big. Prudence was in order.

Her first chance to exercise that virtue came when the rehearsal
ended, as she tried to collect her raincoat. It was jammed so tightly
on the crowded rack that she couldn't pull it out, especially since
everybody else was doing the same thing at the same time. Then a
large arm reached over her shoulder and the attached hand grasped the
hanger firmly to extract her coat from the press; she knew who it was
before she even looked.

"Thank you." She turned to face her gallant rescuer and smiled.
"This place is a zoo."

"Oh, yes," he said. He held the coat so she could put her arms in
it. "Place is full of animals." Then he returned the smile. "You look
a little like Bambi."

Jeannine frowned at him, picked up her violin case, turned quickly
and made for the door. Gorilla! she thought. Bambi indeed.

* * *

Surviving onslaughts from slavering musicians turned out to be
easy. When one of the young percussionists took her to a movie, he
treated her like Japanese china. One of the bass fiddle players
actually patted her on the head after a performance. She was just a
probationer, but after all! She found a tiny apartment in Brighton
for only three times what she had thought she might have to pay, and
it was on the bus line to Jordan Hall, where most of the rehearsals
were held. Bernice Ziljian invited her to dinner in Watertown, where
she met a husband and two teen-age Ziljians. She practiced nearly all
the time, and the fearsome concertmaster smiled at her twice during
her first two weeks on the job. The conductor ignored her. On the
whole, she thought, she couldn't complain. If her letters to her
parents way up in northern Maine painted a somewhat rosy picture,
that was all right.

Performances went well, but she began to have a problem in
rehearsals. Not a big problem, but a problem. On Monday of her fourth
week she just happened to look over at Alan Bademann, and suddenly
she was staring. He appeared to be nude from the waist up. Nice,
broad shoulders, she thought, but he was awfully hairy. She blinked
and there he was, modestly attired in a Hawaiian shirt. He caught her
eye and smiled. She hurriedly fixed her eyes on the tip of the
concertmaster's bow.

On the Tuesday that followed she carefully avoided seeing Bademann
at all.

By Wednesday she was ready for another peek. Veins on his huge
forearms stood out as he grasped his bassoon. Long brown hair almost
covered his bare chest, and she noticed that he seriously needed a
haircut, though his forehead was high. She looked away quickly,
blushing. Looking back, she saw that he was indeed fairly hairy, but
his Ralph Lauren polo shirt looked perfectly normal.

She treated Bernice to lunch at an Asian place down the block on
Huntington Avenue on Friday.

Having chatted amiably through several rolls of sushi, she got down
to business.

"Uh, have you noticed anything odd about that Bademann person lately?"

Bernice looked puzzled. "No, can't say that I have. I was admiring
his moustache the other day, but nothing really odd, no."

Jeannine concluded that if Bernice saw nothing untoward, she herself
was going mad.

The following Monday he was completely nude. Impressive thighs,
totally hidden by lush brown hair, caught her attention first. She
quickly looked up at his face. Somehow his nose had flattened, his
lips distended. He looked, in fact, like a gorilla--a pleasant,
jocular gorilla. She allowed herself a quick glance down, but he was
too far away, almost completely across the stage, so she saw nothing
of significance.

On Tuesday afternoon Bernice told her a gang of the musicians was
going to a bar after the rehearsal to give a proper sendoff to the
second oboe, who had been hired by the Met orchestra and was leaving
for New York the following week. Bernice urged her to come along--the
nice young flute player was going to be there, and she ought to get
to know him. It did occur to Jeannine that double-reed players
probably would know each other well, and she might see the gorilla
there--up close. Surely that would cure her. So she decided to go.

Jeannine wasn't much on Irish bars, but she supposed that in Boston
you don't get a lot of choice. One of the viola players met her and
Bernice as they came in and led them to a back room, getting lost
only twice. Once there, he immediately shoved bottles of Guiness into
their hands and insisted that they join him at his table. There, in
all his splendor, was the gorilla, looking very pleased with himself.

"It's Mama Bear and Goldilocks!" He rose, his chair falling to the
floor behind him, and raised his glass to them. Dressed this time in
a Guyabera shirt, his hairy forearms protruding from turned-up
sleeves, he bowed elegantly. Then he dipped his head to the violist.
"Nice work, Charlie! You've captured the maiden for us!" Jeannine
blushed and vowed to escape as soon as possible. But she couldn't
help noticing the impressive biceps.

People table-hopped. All of them vied for an opportunity to buy a
drink for the departing oboe player, who soon was a bit the worse for
wear. Plates of barbecued ribs, an Irish delicacy, appeared at the
tables, along with beakers of beer. A bass player started throwing
buns at the flautist, who cowered behind the tall, skinny woman who
played the harp. Bernice succeeded in luring the target to their
table, but it was hard to talk over the din. Jeannine decided that
didn't matter--he was already bald on top, despite his youth;
moreover, he was so thin he looked as though he might have trouble
holding his flute up for more than a few measures. With all the
goings-on, Jeannine found herself, after an hour or so, sitting next
to Bademann, who had his hairy left arm around a thirtyish female
clarinetist, clutching her to his side and whispering in her ear.
Suddenly the woman jerked herself loose and marched across the room,
her nose in the air, pushing drunks out of her way. She looked for
all the world like an angry duck. Then the gorilla turned to Jeannine.

"How do you like Boston?" he asked. "Find a good place to live?"

"Oh, I'm fine," she said. "I don't know the city very well yet, but
I've met some nice people."

"Well, that's great. You stick to the nice people. There are some
real creeps in this orchestra, you know--they like to take advantage
of sweet young girls."

Jeannine frowned. "I wish people would stop calling me a sweet young
girl. I'm twenty-five years old, I'm not a girl, and I'm not sweet!"
She glared at the gorilla.

"It's probably your name. Jeannine Ladouceur--Little Janey the
Sweet. And you don't look all that old, either. Maybe because you're
so little. You're just too sweet to be believed, girly." The gorilla
smiled.

Jeannine saw red. She balled her fist, turned to get a good swing,
and hit him on the chin as hard as she could. His head snapped back,
and he grabbed the table to keep his balance. Two beer bottles fell
and emptied themselves in handy laps. Regaining his composure,
Bademann gazed at Jeannine. Then he began to laugh. He reached out
and put a hairy paw on each of her shoulders.

"My God! I'm in love!" He pulled her close and kissed her hard, full
on the lips. Then he backed off again and looked at her, smiling.

She stared into his eyes, ignoring her smarting right hand. "Don't
mess with me, you big ape!"

Then she smiled, too.