Robertson Davies Writing Prompt

[Prompt: Write in the style of an author of your choice]


Charlie’s presentation was winding to a close, the way Hendel’s Messiah would wind to a close.

“…So, gentlemen and lady, as you can see, I’ve laid it out for you plain and simple. All you must do now is agree.” We – that is to say, the assembly – did not respond as expected. We merely continued to watch him with an easy amusement. He shifted slightly, and continued, “Well?”

“Charles, when will you realize that music is not the way of the future? It is gone. It’s gone, and thus we are doomed. These kids don’t care about music. And besides, they’re far too young to appreciate it,” Frederik Hertz said in his usual drone. Frederik had teen-aged children, though he was well into his fifties, and so considered himself our group’s know-all of youth culture – like none of us knew how to turn on a radio.

Charlie, however, was unabashed by Hertz’s bleak outlook. “Come now, Freddy, it’s not so bad as that! Just because your children don’t listen to Bach and Tchaikovsky, doesn’t mean others’ don’t. Just look at the Royal Conservatory enrolment numbers – they’re up in the past decade. Children want music, Freddy, and I intend to give it to them!”

“Not with my money, you don’t,” Hertz grumbled.

“Oh, Mr Hertz, be reasonable,” Teresa Blythe cooed. Such a lovely creature, Teresa Blythe. Soft eyes, red hair, angelic voice. Heaven knows how she got out of her house each day without being scooped up by some prince or millionaire… or Charlie.  “Imagine – an entirely new generation trained in the classics!”

Their classics, you mean.”

“Yes, but after their classics, then they can be completely immersed into the classics. Think of it this way – Chopin and Wagner and Beethoven were once ‘popular music’, too.”

“Precisely, Telly!” I wondered vaguely if Charlie knew his new pet name for Teresa was British slang for television. “Besides, Freddy, what’s the harm? We’re getting a bunch of kids who would never play music to play music. Who cares if it’s Mozart or Madonna? Vanessa or Vivaldi? ” He paused. “Bach or Brittany?”

I think it was out of sheer frustration that Frederik Hertz let out a sigh that would’ve pushed the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria back to Spain, and said, “Right, then. But if I lose so much as a dime on this project, Charles – ”

“It’ll be me head, I’m sure. Very wise, Freddy, very wise. So, are we all agreed?” He cast his glance to where I sat at the head of the table cast in darkness (I’m a glutton for melodramatics). “What about it, Scotty, are you in?”

I rolled my eyes, seeing as I was the one who had encouraged this whole project to begin with. “Of course I’m in, Charlie,” I told him. “But don’t forget – this whole endeavor is on you. We’re here to help, sure, but this is all yours. We’ve all got projects on the go, and we can’t be at your beck and call to bail you out of trouble this time.”

I certainly wouldn’t be.

Of course, I had to bail him out.

Charlie Wharton had no tact. Has none still, if my assumptions are correct. He seemed to think approaching – née, assaulting – Robert Bailey, the head of the Daulton School of Music, with a James Brown record and a boom box during exam time was a good idea.

Their meeting went something along these lines:

“Ah, Mr Wharton, what can I do for you today?” the headmaster had asked, leaning back in his cushy executive chair.

“You can listen to this!”

Charles had then proceeded to turn the stereo on, full blast, with Get Up Offa That Thing by James Brown. 

James Brown, I ask you.

From what I heard, it did not go well.

Charlie was thrown, head over box, out the door.

Bob – that is, Robert Bailey – being one of my oldest friends, I had to go sort things to make sure that, at the very least, Charlie wasn’t going to be getting five to ten.

“Listen, Bob, he’s just a kid – ”

“He’s almost twenty-seven, Scott, he should know better!”  He winced as he raised his voice, and reached into his desk for what he informed me was his fifth aspirin of the day. “It’s not that I don’t like the music, Scott. Brown was a genius – have you heard his use of rhythm? – but this is examination season, and there were at least five exams going on around this office when he came in. We had to reschedule three of them, and the other two were so shaken that we passed them out of pity. One of the parents was waiting, and I swear she was this close to having a heart attack!”

 I inwardly seethed at Charles B. Wharton.

“I know, Bob,” I said, “But he was only trying to get that project of his off the ground. A project which, potentially, will bring you dozens, if not hundreds, of new students! And he’s so excited about it. You remember what it’s like to be so excited about a project you think irrationally, don’t you, Bob?”

I would’ve bet my platinum tie pin that his mind filled with thoughts of the stunning soprano who sang the lead in his doctorate assignment almost three decades ago.

Which was, of course, my intention

He sighed.

“Fine, Scott. Fine. Tell him to come back tomorrow. But! He better bring earphones, and for the love of God make sure he turns down the volume.”

“Thanks, Bob. I owe you one.”

“One thousand, more like. And Scott?”

“Yes, Bob?”
“If you ever mention Maria Calientale again, I’ll put your goodies on a skewer and string you up like a violin.”

Beware a women scorned, my foot. A man heartbroken’s twice as dangerous.

“Sure thing, Bob.”

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