My Name is Minette, Chapter Seven: Another World

The forge wasn’t far from home. She could see their huddled little roof and stone chimney from here. There was a nice view of town, too. The smithy sat alone on a hill on the outskirts of town, but still inside the great stone walls, observing the cramped, messy streets from above. From this perch, Minette had done quite a lot of people-watching, guessing at the lives of the little ant-sized citizens that rushed to and fro down below. Droz wasn’t massive, but it wasn’t empty, either; it teemed with life. There were districts and people Minette had never ventured to or met. She’d been relegated to her little corner, her little life.

She’d never made it past the walls. The gates were always guarded, and if she went too close, her parents screamed at her about the dangers of the Outside World. Drozians rarely left, and when they did, it was for essential reasons, not because of some secret, hard-to-describe yearning.

Her parents had set her up on playdates with other children in town, but the boys she’d played with were all so rough, so violent. She didn’t understand them or their equally brutish fathers. Some of the people in Droz motivated Minette to just stay home, cooped up inside of walls upon walls.

Maybe her parents were right. If she could barely handle Droz, would she even be remotely prepared for what lay beyond its walls?

Minette admired the tenacity of the weary blue sky and the stubbornness of the dying, tawny grass stalks, the exhausted bumble bees searching bravely for the last of the late summer flowers to pollinate. They all persisted despite the heat and dryness. She understood them, the effort it took just to grow.

A titter grabbed her attention.

A real, actual, dictionary-definition titter.

She looked up and found two ladies walking past, staring right at her. What they were doing all the way out here where the streets were mud was a mystery. They stood out in this tired landscape like gemstones among pebbles.

She didn’t know how old they were, or who they were, or where they were from, only that they wore maroon dresses and high stockings and boots. They carried a parasol between them, keeping fair, unlined skin from the sun, and they smiled over at Minette when she caught their eyes.

Minette was enthralled. Just like with Sir Edric, the sight of them drew her into vivid, rose-tinted fantasies. Their very existence spoke of a different world, a different reality that called to Minette in dulcet tones.

The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 13: Lonely Millicent

Millicent, the sophomore cymbal who may or may not have skull tattoos on her arms and 36 copies of Hamlet in her bedroom, was lonely.  She sat alone in her lonely one-person dorm room and twiddled with her purple hair extension she’d gotten off Etsy at a 50% discount once.  Alone with her band uniform, which she tragically had to return next Saturday.  Alone with the homework she should be doing instead of browsing Reddit.  Alone with a half-eaten calzone.

 

She was utterly disgusted with the email she had received last night from the Board of Regents and hoped the scandal didn’t go much deeper than the 118-page PDF of messages.  This PDF, of course, took precedence over her homework, and it unfortunately took precedence over practicing cymbals because the band hall was closed until Tuesday.  Sighing, she pulled her eyes away from Reddit long enough to check the drumline Discord, which of course was blowing up with memes.  Hal, that idiot freshman whomst believed eating tater tots was a religion, was spamming it, of course; he, it seemed, did not understand those memes had been posted several hours ago.

 

Millicent fiddled with her hair again.  She yearned to be practicing T Dubs in the band hall before a mirror, her ear canals jammed with foam maize earplugs and her tennis shoes scrabbling for purchase on the tiled floor.  What was the purpose of life if not punk music and T Dubs?  But, alas, the band hall was closed, and Commuter South didn’t even run on weekends.

 

She growled.  Why did people do such horrible things in this world?  Why couldn’t people remain loyal to their loved ones?  It made her angry, which, of course, made her want to play cymbals, which she still couldn’t do because the band hall was closed.

 

Ugh.  She was considering going rogue and practicing T Dubs choreography in her room nonetheless just because something was better than nothing, right?  But she’d just eaten half a calzone and planned to finish it, so that probably wasn’t a good idea.  Give it thirty minutes to an hour, and the calzone would be digested enough for her to commence the deep knee bends.

 

Although introverted, she did get lonely from time to time.  This was one of those times.  She wanted to be back in the Big House in full uniform with her beanie and 100,000 maize-clad Michigan fans screaming as the Wolverines pummeled That Team Down South for the first time in ten years.  She wished it was still that day, November 27th.  She didn’t want it to already be January.  She didn’t want band season to be done.

 

Sighing, Millicent massaged her hurting heart and took another bite of her calzone.

 

Author’s Note:  What Schlissel did was not OK in any capacity; he was rightfully sacked for abusing his power.

My Name is Minette, Chapter Six: Irons

She couldn’t see any alternatives, though, as she was the eldest Coppersmith, their proud “son,” their strong heir. She’d worked in the smithy for years already and knew it well. Paw never smiled, except for when he talked about when Morty would take over the family business one day. 

One day soon.

And, of course, Minette could only do that with a good wife who had child-bearing hips.

Those were the thoughts that made her particularly dizzy, and being dizzy in a tiny dark room full of liquid copper was not a winning combination.

Minette forced herself to ignore her brain once again, grabbing one of the broad mallets from the tool bench and putting her smithing helmet on. Paw poured copper into the cauldron above the flames, and off to work they went.

It was silent in the smithy, the way Paw preferred it. He considered words a woman’s tool, and was expertly talented at never giving voice to the worries and grumps that ran around inside his head like hungry voles. Trying to talk to him about anything important was like trying to stuff your hand into the dirt and catch one of those voles without looking.

So Minette worked in silence alongside her father.

The process was, of course, all strength and brutishness and griminess, but Minette didn’t really mind the end product. The delicate, beautiful art they wrought from tough, raw, hot metal was something to behold.

Their first order today was one they’d done together millions of times: a weathervane.

Farmer Foster wanted a cow-shaped weathervane to sit atop the barn on his dairy farm. Paw did all the grunt work, slamming and shaming copper into delicate sheets, and Minette helped work it into art, into something tangible: two interconnecting pieces that looked like delicate cows with the cardinal directions sitting atop their backs. She etched the fine details, drawing twin, smiling faces on the cows.

It was an everyday item, something so commonplace that most people never gave it a second glance, but Minette appreciated it. She found it beautiful, magical, even, knowing the work and care that went into it. They made a lot of household items and decorative pieces, things that others saw only the utility in, but she saw the art in them.

Plus, they were getting paid to make it. Nothing fostered a sense of appreciation more than a gold Drune.

All that was left was the crafting of it: heaving it onto a stake, adding decorative marbles, and all that. Paw did that work–he was still too particular about it to let Minette do it on her own–so Minette wandered to the forge’s mouth for a breath of fresh air.

My Name is Minette, Chapter Five: The Smithy

Minette opened her mouth to respond, but Maw wasn’t done.

“And why do you keep it like that anyway? I keep me own hair shorter’n yours. It’s practical.”

“Practical,” Minette snorted. Sometimes that felt like the only label people slapped on her. That she was useful, like a tool.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Maw demanded, hand creeping toward the dastardly wooden spoon. She jerked her head toward the open front door. “You’d better be off to your father. He’s redder than that apple of yours.”

Minette swore, curses drowned out by Paw’s laments about his lazy, tardy son. She popped the slice of bread in her mouth and ran out the door.

Paw was waiting by Lumpy, their beefiest workhorse, and one of their carts. His face was indeed ripening as Minette watched. He shook his head at her, climbing astride Lumpy with a grunt. “Fix that hair,” he barked.

There was no room for discussion. Minette nodded, swallowing the last of her bread. She hopped into the back of the cart just as it began to judder and rumble away from the house.

Paw’s hands were especially tight on the reins today. It was almost definitely about Irma. Minette knew better than to ask him about it when he was in a mood like this. Paw was an angry worrier. He meant well.

Minette watched the streets pass in silence instead, wondering at all the lives going on around her of people she’d never met, wondering if, hidden away in some shop, there was anyone else even remotely like her.

 

***

 

The worst thing about the forge was how hot it was.

Minette could admire the tools adorning the walls, the private space all to her and Paw. The run threading through the field outside, dry in this part of summer but still full of pretty stones and the occasional pot-bellied toad.

But the heat. The heat got to her.

The center of the room held the tall iron fireplace where they did the majority of their work. Inside it, a cross-hatched plating sat over where the flames roared. It was on this plating that they did what the Coppersmiths did best: smith the copper.

It involved a lot of gruntwork, heavy lifting, shouting, pounding, and blasting.

There was molten metal, soot, ashes, sparks, flames, and smoke. It was grimy work. Even working at the forge for just one hour turned her entire face black and made her feel like her lungs were clogged up. She worried over Paw, whose voice had turned from gravel to crushed up bones, to something throaty and crackly.

Minette did not want to be like him.

The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 11: What Now?

It’s over.  Kendra fingered her horn (with her playing gloves on) and peered through the windows to the snowy pavement beyond.  Done.  Finished.  Passed on.  Ceased to be.  Pushing up daisies.  Shuffled off this mortal coil–

 

She vigorously shook her head to clear it of fragments of a Monty Python sketch.  Now was not the time for humor; it was the time for mourning.

 

Though she was alone in the band hall, she raised her alto horn and played the low, sorrowful tune typically played on a trumpet.  The funeral dirge sounded oddly low but no less solemn as she played the notes from a dusty memory.  Her eyes welled as she struggled to recall the exact notes even as her fingers pressed down on the valves, and images from the season flashed before her eyes:  carrying an orb at the 9/11 tribute show, scuttling across the field during homecoming, freezing her digits off at The Game while flurries plagued the band throughout halftime and beyond.

 

She didn’t notice the approach of the Fearless Leader until after she lowered her instrument.  The Fearless Leader stood with a slight smile on his face (she imagined), his eyes sparkling.  “Great job,” he began, his voice not unfriendly.

 

“Thanks,” Kendra murmured.  The final notes of “Taps” still rang in her ears.

 

She squinted at the full-bodied flakes that cascaded from the heavens and coated everything in sight.  Waiting for the bus to get back to her dorm was going to be…not fun.  “I can’t believe it’s over,” she croaked, then turned to face the Fearless Leader.  “Where did the season go?”

 

“Time is funny that way, Kendra,” replied the Fearless Leader.  Kendra flinched with the revelation that he knew her name.

 

“But there will be next season.  And the season after that,” came the sage voice of the Fearless Leader.  “All will be well, Kendra.  This is not a farewell; this is an ‘until we meet again.'”

 

Kendra nodded, her throat tight as she wondered what in the world her life would entail.  No band?  For a whole semester?  But band was her life!  She’d given her soul to it.

 

“Until we meet again,” she echoed,” wishing it could be football season forever.

The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 10: Interview with a Band Geek

This satirical post was co-written with a person.

Robert R. Robertson (R3):  Good evening, A2.  I am here with self-proclaimed band geek Jonina Jonana, a clarinet in the Michigan Marching Band.  How are you today, Jonina?

Jonina Jonana (JJ):  Bad.

R3:  That’s nice.  So, would you like to describe what you do in the band?

JJ:  This is going really awkward.  I don’t like this interview.

R3:  But will you answer the question?

JJ:  Yeah, man.

R3:  OK…then t–

JJ:  Hit me with your best shot.  I’m waiting.

JJ:  You’re pretty bad at this.

JJ:  My dude, I’m gonna leave.

Are you writing all of this down?

R3:  Yep.

JJ:  Even that?

R3:  Yup.

JJ:  Are you gonna ask me anything?

R3:  So, would you like to describe what you do in the band?

JJ:  Well–I kinda just do what everyone else does.  I play, I walk around the field with nice posture, um…I memorize my music, I memorize where to walk on the field…um…what else do I do?

R3:  You tell me.

JJ:  Um, I…I practice in my free time about 5 minutes a week because practice is built in practice, so why would I need to practice on my own?  I…like to think that I’m pretty good at the clarinet.  I don’t…um…I don’t know.  I guess I should start taking this interview more seriously.

But in all seriousness, I really do love being in the marching band, and it really is an honor to play in it whenever we have a show and to be a part of this group of wonderful musicians.  And even though I joke about it, I really am and will be forever grateful that I am part of the Michigan Marching Band.  I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and you can’t really describe the experience to people.  You have to really experience it to appreciate it.

R3:  Like the TV networks?

JJ:  Yeah, exactly.  I feel like we put so much effort into it, and we’re the ones that really hype up the crowd, but I also think that none of us mind too much that we don’t get as much recognition because we know that we…um….

We don’t need others to tell us that we’re worthy.  We already know we’re the best damn band in the land.

R3:  Seems legit.  So, Jonina, what made you want to play the clarinet, or stick, as I’ve heard them kids say?

JJ:  To be honest, it was kind of a shot in the dark for me.  In the first place I didn’t really want to be in the band anyway, but I figured it would be better than trying to sing in the chorus class, so I went for it.  I picked the clarinet because I wanted to play an instrument that wasn’t heavy.

R3:  Like the cymbals?

JJ:  No.

R3:  Why the clarinet specifically?  I mean, why not percussion or brass?  What about being a woodwind spoke to you?

JJ:  Like I said before, I just chose the first thing that I saw.  It looked kinda cool, it wasn’t very heavy, and I figured I could probably make a sound out of it.  So yeah, I went for it.  Also, my sister plays the trumpet, and she’s annoying, so I didn’t really wanna play that.

R3:  Your sister?

JJ:  What’s it to you?

R3:  Is she in the MMB?

JJ:  No.  She quit the trumpet after 1 year.

R3:  Y tho?

JJ:  Why not?  Free will?

R3:  Does she go to Michigan?

JJ:  Do you think she goes to Michigan?

R3:  I don’t know.  That’s why I’m asking.  Anyway, ya like jazz?

JJ:  Not really.

R3:  Oh, ok.  Alas.  Anyway, that’s all the time the network will give me because the big boss is too focused on the other sports.  But thanks for your time, Jonina Jonana, and Go Wolverines!

JJ:  OK.  Peace out, homie.