Monday, February 18, 2008


[in honor of the Contreras Saxophone Quartet]

That night our jeans lay crumpled on the floor around us. We’d taken to calling ourselves and each other Todd because a huge audition was coming up and we weren’t feeling the requisite team spirit, and we were sitting around in our boxers because Todd, the alto player, said we were playing uptight and needed to loosen up. Our bari player, Todd, had then produced a full bottle of rum out of his case, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. We’d been drinking for about half of the rehearsal.

We were sprinting through our hardest piece at about twice the suggested tempo when soprano Todd stopped playing.

“Todds,” he said, waving his hand. We stopped to hear what he had to say. He was wearing grey boxers, Hanes. He then began singing the alto player’s melody to him in a big, lilting baritone voice: “Your mom / is a crack / whore.”

“Hey Todd,” alto Todd replied, “Not as / big a crack / whooooore / as yours.”

We continued to play after taking another pass at the incredible appearing rum bottle.

Alto Todd’s phone rang from his discarded jeans. He was wearing blue striped boxers. “Hey Todd,” he asked me, “throw me my pants.”

I did. He shushed us quickly and answered the phone. “…Hi Todd,” he said to the caller. We giggled like schoolgirls. There was a very long silence and then we could hear a tiny flustered voice coming from the speaker. Todd’s expression was very calm as the voice said something. He seemed to be listening intently. Then he replied.

Your mom / is a crack / whore.”

And then he hung up.

It was almost one o’clock on a Sunday night. We’d been rehearsing for four hours, the end of a very grueling week. On Tuesday we’d be on a flight to D.C., trying to win a prestigious $5,000 prize. We’d spent all semester preparing, even though bari Todd had pointed out that even if we won we could have made more money using the rehearsal time to work part-time jobs.

Alto Todd’s phone rang again but he didn’t answer.

When we got tired of playing the tough piece we quickly disintegrated into blasting the Mortal Kombat theme song as loud as we could play it, the culmination of a combined four decades of classical training. We could hear our echo bouncing around the room as if there were another quartet there. We were playing in a big space with tile floors and a low ceiling that used to be a dorm cafeteria before being converted into a band room. There were still big sinks lining the east wall. Rows of empty egg cartons curtained the opposite side to dampen sound, and at the front of the room, placed between two huge shuttered windows, was a single, lonely poster with the portraits of old band composers superimposed on it: Percy Grainger, Vincent Persichetti, Paul Hindemith, and John Philip Sousa.

It was as good a home to us then as any.

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