A Memorable Performance

by Beth Green

Part of the Pun Stories collection.

Author's Note: Noteworthy musicians are very composed.

Ezra Standish sighed. He'd been doing that quite frequently today. After last night's disaster, it was no wonder. A friend of Maude's, a fellow by the name of Percival Wusscinski, was granted the singular honor of conducting the Denver Symphony Orchestra. Maude had provided enough tickets so that each of the members of Team Seven would be able to attend. In truth, some of Ezra's teammates had been less than thrilled at the prospect when he'd first suggested it.

"Gentlemen, I have in my hand something that is sure to entertain us all."

Buck asked, "Is it pictures of nekkid women?"

Ezra amended his statement. "Let me restate that. The tickets that I have been gifted with would provide an evening's worth of entertainment for anyone possessing a modicum of taste or refinement. Obviously, Mr. Wilmington is excluded from that group."

Buck, unoffended, stated, "Unless those are tickets to the Nuggets game and we're talking basketball, I don't mind not bein' included."

Ezra announced, "The tickets are for nothing so crude. Rather, they are for Saturday night's performance of the Denver Symphony." Ezra could have predicted his teammates' responses.

Buck commented, "If I wanted to listen to elevator music, I'd ride a damn elevator. I can think of a hundred others things I'd rather be doing."

Vin's comment was more practical. "If I could show up wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt, I wouldn't mind so much. But sitting for hours in some uncomfortable suit is not my idea of how to listen to music."

JD was blunt and to the point. "I don't like classical music. It's boring."

At least Chris, Josiah, and Nathan were in favor of the idea. Nathan was especially enthusiastic when Ezra came up with another ticket so that the invitation to attend the Symphony could be extended to his ladyfriend, Rain.

In the face of some of his teammates' reluctance, Ezra decided that a judicious application of guilt was called for. "I seem to recall a meeting in this office not so very long ago in which Chris stated a need for us to do some off-day activities together, to facilitate our working more smoothly as a team. I also remember that that statement was followed by an invitation for us all to spend a weekend at Rocky Mountain National Park. Despite my personal misgivings at the prospect of distancing myself from the comforts of hearth and home, I arose at the ungodly hour of six a.m. in order to accompany you all last weekend."

"And now, I simply ask that you return the favor. By doing me the courtesy of accompanying me on an outing of my own choosing, you will help me to forget the indignity of the consequences of the worst outing in the alleged name of pleasure that it has ever been my misfortune to attend. The tone for the weekend was set when a rabid raccoon absconded with my hat."

Vin interrupted, "It wasn't rabid. It was just tryin' to be playful until you scared it off."

Ezra waved off Vin's comment. "Be that as it may, I then suffered the embarrassing discomfort of being exposed to poison ivy."

It was Nathan who now felt the need to interrupt. "Actually, it was poison oak."

Ezra angrily replied, "I don't care if it was poison sumac, the end result would have been the same. I have been afflicted with a most pernicious rash upon my person that has yet to fade." With that statement, Ezra scratched vigorously along the length of his left thigh. Ezra continued, "As if that weren't enough ill fortune to bestow upon one man, Buck and JD then took it upon themselves to cause my near-drowning."

Buck shrugged his shoulders, a sheepish look on his face. "I told you I was sorry about that. How many more times do I have to say it?" Buck guiltily recalled the incident. He'd been teasing JD about his taste in headgear, in particular, the painter's cap he'd chosen to wear on their outing. "Kid, you need to get yourself a proper hat. Take me, for instance. This here Denver Nugget's cap is a prime example of an all-purpose hat. Heck, I'll even share it with you." Buck removed the aforementioned cap and proceeded to try and swap it for JD's. JD resisted his efforts. As they tussled back and forth, they managed to stumble into Ezra.

Unfortunately for Ezra, he had been walking next to the river. Before he could so much as blink, he found himself actually in the river, staring up at his laughing companions.

Back in the present, Buck turned to JD. "You know, I guess we do kind of owe Ezra for that one." JD nodded. Buck stated, "Ezra, if you want us to go to the Symphony with you, we'll go."

Vin added, "I never said I wouldn't go. I was just offering my opinion, is all."

Ezra smiled. "We're all in agreement, then." He handed out the tickets, looking forward to an evening of good music.

Saturday night the members of Team Seven gathered in the lobby of the Boettcher Concert Hall. They were efficiently escorted to their seats. Ezra commented on the program. "They'll be performing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, a particularly inspiring piece. I'm very much looking forward to this." Ezra should have known that nothing could go smoothly in the presence of Team Seven.

The orchestra had been playing for a while when Ezra noted a break in procedure. In Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, there is a long stretch of twenty minutes or so during which the bass violins are not needed. Rather than remain on the stage, the bass violin players set down their instruments and left the stage. That would not have been a problem if they had returned when they were needed. Unfortunately, they did not. Percival had been looking every inch the professional conductor when he suddenly began to fumble at his music stand. It appeared that he was experiencing some difficulty in turning to the next page. A few of the musicians lost the beat when the conductor failed to lead them properly. The problem was compounded a minute later when the bass violin section returned. They appeared to be unable to walk in a straight line, and one of the men actually stumbled into a row of his fellow musicians.

It took more than a few minutes for the members of the symphony to regroup. Ezra had indeed arranged for a night that his teammates would remember. Next day one of the critics described it as the worst performance of an orchestra he'd ever seen. Ezra sighed again as he set down the entertainment section of the newspaper. It was a slow day at the ATF office, and the members of Team Seven had ample opportunity to deride Ezra for his selection of entertainment last night. Thankfully, they did not do so. Ezra decided to stop dwelling on the disaster, and to instead focus on catching up on his paperwork. He had no sooner touched his keyboard when his phone rang.

His teammates shamelessly listened in on Ezra's side of the conversation. "Hello, Mother.". . ."Yes, it was.". . ."Did they really?". . ."I suppose that he did the best that he could, given the circumstances.". . ."Thank you for calling. Goodbye."

For the first time all morning, Ezra actually had a smile on his face when he hung up the phone. He shared the reason for it with his friends. "As you may have overheard, that was my Mother. She decided that I deserved an explanation for last night's performance. I would like to share it with you."

"It seems that the members of the bass violin section, well aware that they had twenty minutes of time in which their presence would not be needed, decided to visit the local bar across the street from the concert hall. In order to buy themselves additional time, one of the musicians conceived the idiotic idea of tying a string around the final few pages of the conductor's score, thus necessitating a drastic slowing of the tempo before the pages could be freed. The conductor was forced to conduct with one hand, while with the other he attempted to untie the string. The remaining members of the orchestra played on as best they could while the conductor attempted to rectify the situation. The problem was compounded by the fact that, in the short while that they were absent, the musicians consumed great quantities of alcohol. By the time they returned, they were thoroughly intoxicated. So, the reason that we witnessed that reprehensible performance is a simple one. It was the bottom of the Ninth, the score was tied, and the basses were loaded."