Monday, July 19, 2010

In Which I Turn Thirty


The heat wave continues unabated, and with it a profound lack of ambition on my part.  I just now vacuumed the dining room rug and even with the air conditioner going full-blast, it left me drenched in sweat.  God knows what people who have real jobs are going through.

Here's today's Clarion West story, my thirtieth in as many days:

Teaching Monsters
Michael Swanwick

No good works go unpunished.  Because he’d been so successful teaching music to middle and high school students, Conrad Erdt was kidnapped by the Dark Lord’s minions and set to work teaching music classes for trolls and orcs.  Which wasn’t as easy as it might sound.

“But how do we use these things to kill?” a boggle asked, holding aloft a guitar.  “They fall apart when you club somebody with them.”  As he promptly demonstrated on a nearby ogre.

“Maybe we can use the strings as garrotes?” the ogre suggested, wrapping them about his assailant’s throat.  At which point, half the class joined in the attack with trumpets, piccolos, French horns, and violoncellos.  The boggle was not one of the more popular students.

“Stop!  Cease!  Desist!” Erdt cried.  Luckily, the Dark Lord had provided him two genuinely terrifying proctors who, laying about them with whips, restored order in very short time.  Scowling menacingly at a spriggan, Erdt added, “That is not what a clarinet is for.  Take it out of your nose at once.”

“But it’s shaped real convenient for –”

“No.  Let’s start over from the beginning.  Percussion.  Who here knows what percussion is?”

A kobold raised an eager hand.  “It’s when you pick up something and use it to hit something else.”

“Like a rock on a lizard,” a goblin said.

“Or a rock on somebody’s skull,” a booka added.

“Or somebody’s skull on somebody else’s –”

“Yes, yes, very good, that’s probably as close as we’re going to get to the right answer.  And rhythm is –?”

There was a long silence.  Erdt began clapping his hands together.  One.  Two.  One-two-three.  One.  Two.  One-two-three.  One.  Two.   One-two-three . . .

The kobold, who was the class brownnose, eagerly raised his hand again.  “It’s hitting on something real regular.”

“Close enough.  Now, after what happened in our first class, the administration decided that rather than buy everybody new drums, we should start you off with sticks and hollow logs.  So I want everybody to take one stick in each hand and –”

But once the first demon had a stick in his hand, instinct kicked in.  Very quickly, the air was filled with stocks and logs and flying bodies.  The boggle was beating one proctor with the kobold.  Then the ogre was beating the other proctor with the boggle.  The skirmish quickly devolved into all-out war.

And then finally, there was nobody left standing save for one troll, the very largest.  “I have won!” he cried.  He began to pound his chest like a gorilla.  Boom.  Boom.  Boomboomboom.  Boom.  Boom.  Boomboomboom.

“Hey!” he said.  “That’s not bad.”  He went on drumming, over and over.

Erdt sighed.  Well, he thought.  It’s a beginning.


Above:  Not a lot of movement on the city streets at this time of year.


Chad Hull said...

That made me smile; a perfect thing to read in getting started this morning. I've taught music ensembles before. This story isn't very far from the truth.

Michael Swanwick said...

I'm glad you liked. My son Sean is a year away from his teaching certification. He wants to teach math and science to middle school students. Hs teachers tell him he can work anywhere he likes.