Tactical Exercises: Hammersmith (fifteen)
Mrs. Frieslander volunteered to work the tuning forks. The weight of these had nearly burst the seams of Minnie’s reticule, as she recalled, back then…
She hardly knew what to think of herself.
She said this aloud. Mrs. Frieslander held the fork in abeyance. Ruby heaved a sigh. The picture had not come to Minnie’s mind for days now. She’d forgotten the flood, was what it came down to. She’d not been charitable. And she meant, of course, always to be charitable.
She was looking at C, therefore at Mrs. Frieslander, as she spoke. But she spoke in idleness. “Mr. Hogben, when he goes up to Minneapolis to pay his respects to…what was it…the Beauregards…can carry along whatever money we raise.”
“Ah! My purse is in my basket. I forget you saying, Minnie. But take a dollar…if that’s enough. I may not have a dollar.”
“No, ma’am. I didn’t say. I just dreamed it up this minute! No, lovey, we won’t take your money. But don’t you think that’s what we ought to do, Ruby? When we have our little rehearsal? Charge something extra at the gate, I mean.”
All she’d wanted, escaping the floodwaters, was the address of Nico’s friend, and her Swiss-crafted forks, the tools of her trade.
“Mr. Hogben is a very nice man.” Ruby said this as though fitting to it, inside herself, a corollary.
At once, a racket of hammering broke the pupil’s concentration.
“Try, dear,” Minnie said. “Never mind him.”
Carey had come down from Hogben’s room, hobbling on the stairs—but under his own steam. Shaw, eager to help with the singing, yet unable to do so, had got back to his porch. And Carey, unable to feel at ease making himself useless, was outdoors with Shaw, holding the can of nails, handing them across.
Minnie arched an index finger. Mrs. Frieslander struck middle C.
“Aaaah.” Minnie sang the note herself. “You can’t go wrooong…Ruby dear…just hold the note you heeeear…”
“AAAaaaaaaAAh…” Ruby sang. She buried her face in her hands.
Minnie allowed this to pass. At this juncture, generalship was needed. Her trouper had a case of lost nerve.
“Ruby, go take a swallow of lemonade. Let me think.”
More of this piece on Hammersmith page
(2017, 2018, Stephanie Foster)