For the past two years, Mr Stoat has been building his CV by holding down the vice presidency of the Stoatbridge Symphony Orchestra. Mr Stoat is a talented musician who did a year of a university music program before realising that making eight dollars an hour at Subway and waiting for the third chair mouth harp at the Capital City Philharmonic Orchestra to die would neither make him famous nor get him laid. Mrs Stoat, though not as naturally gifted as her husband, worked hard from the sixth grade to the twelfth to gain and secure a spot as first chair slide whistle, all the while ignoring band camp taunts from the wicked and shameful football players. During their courtship, Mr Stoat promised his future wife that when they settled into married life, he would find an orchestra for the two of them to play in. He promised her sectional practices, neighbourhood practices, and drinks after practices.
Mr Stoat, with his disarming smile, his twitchy whiskers, and his
bureaucratic background, immediately settled in and made friends with
the other mouth harpists, all of whom seemed stamped out of the same
small-business-owner mould. Mrs Stoat, on the other hand, when faced
with a new group of musicians who weren't aware of her past musical
glories, found herself both apprehensive (in that she was new to the
group) and frustrated (in that she felt she was a better whistler). It
seemed to her that the slide whistles didn't take the music as seriously
as the mouth harps or the kazoos or the penny whistles. But she kept
her concerns mostly between herself and her husband so as not to ruffle any feathers.
As time wore on, Mrs Stoat became increasingly disappointed with her
section. Mr Owl, the semi-retired, crotchety first chair slide was
undoubtedly talented but entirely unwilling to share music - especially
the fun parts. He informed Mrs Stoat almost immediately that he would
only ever play the melody. Mrs Stoat, having played almost exclusively
first chair slide whistle, wanted a chance to prove her abilities to the
rest of the Stoatbridge Symphony Orchestra and maybe steal a bit of
spotlight for herself. Mrs Lemming, who lacked the ability to count to
eight or sixteen, insisted on playing all of the first chair music with
Mr Owl. Mr Owl later explained that Mrs Lemming routinely got lost if
she didn't play the melody.
So Mrs Stoat found herself relegated to the second row with Mr Goat and
Mrs Chipmunk. Mrs Chipmunk, though tremendously entertaining and quite
sweet, was not able to keep up with the music. The difficulty of the
pieces were slightly too high for her. Mr Goat was renowned for his
theoretical and historical knowledge about music, but not, sadly, for
his slide whistle abilities. Unfortunately for Conductor Nightingale ,
Mr Goat felt that his musical knowledge surpassed not only the section,
but also the entire orchestra and Mr Nightingale - who had been properly educated in the best music schools.
One night after practice, while on their way home, Mrs Stoat complained
loudly to her husband. She ranted that though Mr Goat was keeping
perfect time with the tapping of his little cloven hoof, he kept coming
in a beat too early or a beat too late and throwing the entire row off,
for Mr Goat was also unable to play at any volume other than loud.
Mrs Chipmunk, Mrs Stoat cried, was still asking what notes were flat in
the third movement of a piece the orchestra had been working on for six
months. If I don't know how to play something, Mrs Chipmunk had cheerfully confessed to Mrs Stoat that evening, I simply don't play it! Mrs Stoat in turn confessed to her sweet husband that she very nearly had a coronary, right there in the practice room.
"I don't want to be in the orchestra anymore!" Mrs Stoat wailed as she
followed Mr Stoat to the front door of their little home. "I want to
quit and stay at home! I want to watch Seinfeld reruns and drink hot
chocolate that hasn't been stirred properly, so there's still chunks of
powder floating around at the top of my mug!"
"You can't quit!" Mr Stoat exclaimed, in obvious distress. "Playing in
the orchestra was something we wanted to do together! If you quit, then
I'm going to quit!"
"You can't quit!" wailed Mrs Stoat. "They need you! They like
you! You like them! You like going! They're all going to think I'm
damaged because I have to sit in the second row with the damaged
"You sit in the second row to help them," protested Mr Stoat. "Nobody
but Mr Muskrat thinks you're damaged. Sweetie, there must be some way to
resolve this without you quitting! We can just tree-mail Mr
Nightingale! I'm sure he would understand."
"No," Mrs Stoat said adamantly.
"Would you like me to tree-mail him?" Mr Stoat offered, since he
had to make all of the phone calls and write all of the other tree-mails
anyway. Mrs Stoat didn't even like ordering pizza.
"No," Mrs Stoat said adamantly.
"Please don't quit," he begged her. Mrs Stoat said nothing. She just got
into bed, pulled on her nightcap, and downed two fingers of scotch,
then drifted off to sleep to dream about delivery trucks being blown off
bridges and playing chess with Gordon Ramsay.