Author’s Note: I first heard of Fortnum and Mason in the BBC version of All Creature’s Great and Small. Their hampers were treasure troves of the sweet, rich, and sumptuous. Back in October, my sister sent me a link to their writing competition. I didn’t win, but I did have a bit of fun assembling my entry. Have a gander!
Meltdown at Carnegie Hall
The stars were out and the stars were in. The hall hummed with conversation of the glamorous and eager, half an ear cocked to their neighbor, the other toward the stage. In the pit of the orchestra, James Doolridge wiped his mouth in dismay.
In his chest beat the tempo which the dervish delighted and the debonair despised, and small wonder! For in his dressing room, midst flowers and adornments from the adoring, a riffled drawer gaped, plundered.
For Doolridge, the strains, the melody, the symphony he guided with motion of hand and rosewood shaft sweetened his ears, but the richness of chocolate, the envelopment of treacle set sweetness upon his lips. The sugar imbibed instilled stanzas as his innards welcomed confection bonanzas. No Mozart was mastered before him, no Beethoven beheld his movement, no Debussy displayed without the lingering languor of chocolate, hastily masticated before returning to rostrum and continuing command.
And now theft threatened to leave the last portion of the performance to pieces; his muse, plucked from his vanity, not long for the barbarous ministrations of a detractor he did not doubt, would not aid him in tending orchestral efforts.
Even as the hiss passed through backstage, muffled by curtain on the cusp of rising, “Thirty seconds! Places!” and Doolridge ascended his stand, his mind whirled. Was it the clarinetist, the scarlet-maned woman of simpering smile melting to glowering glare when he demanded she arise and move down one chair? Could it have been the concertmaster, bowed but unbroken before Doolridge’s shoe catching his violin case in hasty chocolate chase before the overture began? Or Vincent Van Veers, his assistant anxious for opportunity to co-opt a community and be the youngest conductor at Carnegie in years?
Introspection mingled with introduction, his arms raising in automatic attention, but as bows were set, the horns glinted and raised, James Doolridge was stricken with thought.
To apoplectic memory flew the percussionists sneer, the half-muttered comment loud enough to tickle one Doolridge ear, “’Give a fool two sticks and he calls himself a drummer?’ Check your pocketbook, grant him only one, and behold! A conductor.”
And was that a smirk on the villainous veneer, one curl of the lip over collar of lace? Where smudge of melted chocolate and gold tinted glittering grin, fresh in finkly face?
The orchestra and audience shared a high gasp, as conductor landed on timpani with an indecorous crash. Baton and mallet clashed in irregular rhythm and the guilty soon fought with all desperation within him.
Cast from conduction for conduct unconducive, Doolridge flounced off in fury. He consoled himself with what confections he’d buy, sending the energy into study, into examination, and soon before jury. One might feel sadness at seeing one so musically inclined turn to the tricks and trade of law-as-defined. Fear not, gentle reader, for he is not unhappy, though if he does not curtail his chocolate consumption, one Doolridge Esq. will soon be disbarred.