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It Was Time MAG
It was 10:18 on Richard’s watch, 4:16 in London – which he was not thinking about because he disliked London – 3:45 in his head, and 10:16 in reality. Richard was bothered by reality, as it contained such things as monotony, death, social security, and London. Of more immediate importance, reality contained fourth period, which, for Richard, contained chorus.
He could not pinpoint his reason for having joined chorus; he was certain, though, that it had something to do with a rumor that seventh grade general music included homework assignments.
Richard had even more trouble trying to determine why he was still a member of chorus; the answer did not come readily. If he had thoroughly searched his mind he would have found, under an incomplete periodic table and the track orders for several Beatles albums, that he was in chorus because of his natural talent and in order to please his grandmother. At any rate, he had been sitting in chorus watching the clock every weekday for five years now.
Mr. Mondelini entered the room slowly, his left leg trailing. His sanity was miles off, enjoying breakfast at a bakery; it had not shown up for class in several years. Without a word, he began playing scales on the piano, marking the official beginning of rehearsal. It was 10:21 on Richard’s watch, 4:19 in London, 10:19 in reality, and time to sacrifice a healthy wild boar on a small island in the Pacific.
Warm-ups continued with stretching. The entire chorus was properly prepared for a 100-meter dash by 10:23. Somewhere in the Pacific, a small group of men had chased a healthy wild boar 117 meters, tackled it, and punctured its heart with a machete.
It was now time to sing. Richard carefully positioned his copy of 1984 over the sheet music for “Salvation is Created” and began to read the former. Even after years of conditioning in the art of not listening, he was unable to focus entirely on the book, and the banter of Mr. Mondelini drifted into his mind.
“Can you get Sunday off?”
“Then listen carefully. You’ll have to remember this.”
“Your vowels are too bright, sopranos. Give me taller vowels.”
“Go to Paddington Station–” With a sort of military precision that astonished him, she outlined the routine that was to follow.
“When you’ve finished selling chocolates, you need to bring your order form to me by next Wednesday.” Mr. Mondelini had forgotten the announcements. Richard closed the book and set it under his chair. It was 10:31 in reality, 5:31 in Paris – a place Richard disliked even more than London – and time for the ceremony to start somewhere in the Pacific. Richard looked down at the music he was supposed to be singing. It blurred and began to dance around the page. A large group of quarter notes circled a lone half-note and threw breath marks at it.
Richard shook his head and looked up to see Grant Tubby rolling on the floor, the victim of an enormous laughing attack. It turned out that the tenors had forgotten to come in when they were supposed to. Grant had been known to laugh at lesser mishaps, but this was the first time his act had utilized the ground.
It was 10:40 in reality and 9:40 in Chicago. Richard wondered what time it was in Hell. It occurred to him that there may be no time system there. Had he been an omnipotent narrator, he would have known that Hell does indeed have a time system. This is necessary in order to know when to stop pouring boiling acid on everybody and begin dropping outdated computer monitors on them while playing a montage of 1990s boy bands on buzzing speakers. He spent awhile thinking about Hell, then decided it compared unfavorably with London, Paris, and chorus.
It was 10:48 in reality, 10:46 in New York as a series of events unfolded involving seven stories of scaffolding, a copy of the New York Times, two sparrows, and a glass of lime juice. It was also just past the time an important businessman was supposed to have caught the bus downtown for a meeting. As he was instead just rolling out of bed onto a pile of empty bottles, it was clear that hundreds of people would be unemployed by lunch.
Richard’s stomach complained slightly. It said something or other about the social security system, requested that Richard get a job, and also informed him that it was high time to swallow something. Several of the boys in the front row had smuggled in a pancake breakfast. He looked down longingly. Somewhere in the Pacific, only the bones remained hanging over a fire.
Mr. Mondelini declared it time for sight reading. In response, time took a slight jump backward to 10:47. Sight reading, according to Richard, the entire bass section, and roughly three-quarters of the non-instrumental free world, is among the most tedious and fruitless endeavors in existence. It is common knowledge that singers, as a rule, have no grip of music theory. This was made very apparent by the barrage of pencils, cellular telephones, and pancakes directed at the front of the room. By the time Mr. Mondelini had restored peace, it was 10:56 in reality.
A simple piece of music was passed down the rows. It was intended to be read, of course, but very few copies were actually used for this purpose. The front scanned frantically over the notes as though they were hieroglyphs. In the back, however, a sizeable paper air force had been assembled. Mr. Mondelini plunked out the tune on the piano with the chorus following half a beat behind. A long minute later, silence fell over the room as the song came to a close. Mr. Mondelini pointed out what he perceived to be the most significant flaws, although it was a stretch to call any section better than the rest. It was 11:02 in reality and the wrong time to be walking under a certain window in Boston, out of which a two-ton block of lead had just been dropped. Four minutes until takeoff.
Ignoring the fact that the chorus had been unable to sing correctly with the crutch of the piano, Mr. Mondelini ordered the song sung again, this time unaccompanied. A collective groan filled the air. It is said the fear of failure affects a person if failure is only a possibility and not a certainty. Accordingly, not a single person was uneasy about singing unaccompanied. Wings were moved into attack position. Two minutes until takeoff.
Mr. Mondelini cued the sopranos, who began to whimper in common time. They were followed by the altos, tenors, and basses, until the pathetic sound blocked out every thought in every mind, squeezed the life out of each soul. One minute, 30 seconds until takeoff. A few of the back row kids gave in and covered their ears. Fifty seconds until takeoff. The clock fell off the wall and shattered, but Mr. Mondelini scarcely noticed. Ten seconds … five seconds. The arms drew back. Two seconds.
Seven gallant pilots hurled their planes toward Mr. Mondelini. Two met his face, one his conducting hand, and four hit various spots on the ground near the fallen clock. It had been an effort not in vain, after all. The noise stopped; a bell rang.
It was time for London and Paris to slide into the ocean, which, as the geographically informed will note, caused considerable damage along the way. On a small island in the Pacific, it was time to find another healthy boar so a meal could be served. In Hell, the low-resolution monitors were being moved from the storage closet to the drop-point. Citrus-flavored feathers were being removed from a large and very important computer in New York. Downtown, the first of several hundred people received notice not to come to work tomorrow. It was time in Boston for a crowd to gather round a hole in the sidewalk and wonder why it couldn’t have been put in a more convenient location. Of much greater importance, though, it was 11:06 in reality – time for the end of chorus.