Dundro Fappit's Mistake

Les Sklaroff

Not to be confused with the Legend of Red-beard and the Chiming Bones. Oh, no.

The natives of the Micronesian island of Tao'kaua sometimes tell their children the legend of The Jellyfish Who Tried to Eat the Stars. It is one of many cautionary tales they have up their sleeve to instil respect, discourage foolhardiness, and, as a good friend of mine once eloquently put it, 'knock some of the greth out of the little bastards.' As a morally instructive example, The Jellyfish Who Tried to Eat the Stars is about as effective as The Snake Who Lost the Moon, or The More and More Bird. As a result, the children of Tao'kaua tend to retain much of their greth, and are obliged, like the rest of us, to learn from their own mistakes.

One such mistake was made by Dundro Fappit, a native not of Tao'kaua, of which hardly anyone has heard, but of Snoak City, half a world away. For at least five generations Fappits had been makers of musical instruments. Back in the days of Tuddy and Larsha, Dundro's great-great-grandparents, the family had provided bespoke instruments for the leading musicians of the day, including the great Horum Pan and the multi-talented Winivrel Flixx. These days the clients were less world-renowned, but no less demanding.

In the Fappit workshop, the sweet tang of freshly pared wood mingled with sharp epoxy resin, steam, heated metal and varnish. Partially completed instruments were held in clamps, or supported by sturdy armatures. A multitude of specialised tools hung neatly from labelled hooks on the walls. Some were in use by apprentices under the close supervision of Dundro's brothers, Rerp and Sullit. Lathes purred and buzzed, suction ducts whirred, preventing much of the sawdust and fine shavings of maple, sycamore, ash and cherrywood from drifting to the floor. Behind the closed door of the adjoining office sat Dundro Fappit, gazing dolefully at a slightly chipped pyramidal glass paperweight on his paper-free desk, and contemplating his mistake.

Aurelian 3rdfield, fond, neglectful father of Paeony, stood at the window of his studio, staring down past the iridescent office towers, the shopping complex with its sinuous black and silver roofscape, and the distant parkland, to where the river looped towards a hazy horizon. He was humming. It was a tenor hum of great refinement and musicality, the product of natural talent and a considerable amount of training. In his early years he had studied theory and composition, practiced his scales, sung in a choir, mastered harmony, counterpoint and rhythm. He explored the many different traditions, favouring baroque and classical, but finding delight and even occasional profundity among more recent compositions.

He had himself written pieces for voice and a variety of instruments, as well as some purely choral works, and had just completed his latest commission: a sonata for flute, violin and varp (the erstwhile vibraharp). He was humming, with immodest satisfaction, the poignant coda from the final movement. His sonata was shortly due to have its first public performance, courtesy of Quicksilver Promotions and Sparagulan College. It pleased Aurelian greatly to know that it was to be performed by three outstanding musicians; the venerable violinist Dizmin Harf, the irrepressible young flautist Tiril Elkfreen, and seemingly ageless varpist Slath Croblin, remembered by many a jazz aficionado. Rehearsals had gone well, and the acoustics at Sparagulan College auditorium were of course perfect. He looked forward to the concert with proprietorial excitement.

Dundro Fappit suddenly realised his e-screen had been flashing importunately for some time. Even before responding, he knew who it would be, and tried desperately to gather his wits.

"Ah, Maestro, what a pleasure to hear from you!"

"Is it ready yet?" demanded Dizmin Harf, clearly unwilling to waste time with pleasantries.

"Well, there are a few minor adjustments to be made to the bridge, and one or two…"

"You are aware," interrupted Harf, "that it was promised for last week, and that the concert is now imminent?"

"My profuse apologies, Maestro. I will have it delivered to you within 48 hours at the very most, and naturally we will waive any delivery charges."

"Pfah to your charges! You have 24 hours, Fappit. Otherwise I will sue you." The screen went blank. Fappit stared at the blankness. It stared back at him, refusing to blink first.

In the workshop, Sullit, Rerp and the apprentices failed to hear his spontaneous string of interesting expletives above their industrious whirring, tapping and scraping, but minutes later the office door opened, and Dundro emerged, looking unusually pale and determined. He stood in the doorway holding a very fine-looking violin. It appeared to glow with an inner grace. Its burnished elegance sang, albeit silently, of a lifetime of attentive care. Its taut strings yearned for the soft caress of a masterful bow. The nearest craftsmen had turned to look at Dundro, who gestured that he wanted everyone’s attention. With a diminishing whine, lathes were powered down, and tools temporarily laid to rest. Dundro held up the violin.

"You all know whose this is, " he stated. They nodded. The unmistakeable quality of Dizmin Harf’s precious instrument was equal to the best of the old Italian masters. They knew that Dundro had personally undertaken to check it for any imperfections before the forthcoming concert. Dundro turned the violin so that they could see its back. There was a communal gasp at the sight of the slightly ragged small square hole.

"It was an accident," explained Dundro, "but it was entirely my fault. The instrument was on my desk, and its neck caught on my sleeve as I turned to reach for a clean polishing cloth. I tried to catch it as it fell, but as I did so I knocked my paperweight to the floor, and by an unlucky chance the violin dropped on top of it. I have been too ashamed to confess this to the Maestro, and until now, even to you." Dundro was close to tears. "But he must have it by tomorrow, or I am ruined."

Sullit stepped forward and gently took the violin from him. "We are professionals, brother," he said. "And in a crisis such as this we pull together. Is that not so?" His fellow craftsmen agreed. "We will put everything else on hold," added Rerp, "and concentrate on restoring this magnificent fiddle. Come, Dundro, let us make measurements. Sullit, you must match the veneers. The rest of you, prepare a working area." Activity resumed in the Fappit workshop. Tuddy and Larsha would have been proud of this scene of quiet efficiency and minute attention to detail, and probably amazed at the rapidity with which these new-fangled glues and varnishes could be made to dry. In their day the temperamental clients, however distinguished, simply had to be patient.

Dizmin Harf’s violin was delivered in perfect condition the following morning. He was less grumpy than expected, because Tiril Elkfreen, whose company he rather enjoyed, had come round to discuss some of the 3rdfield sonata’s musical nuances. The performance duly took place at the appointed time in the Sparagulum auditorium, and was deemed to be an enormous success. Aurelian 3rdfield’s reputation was enhanced, and further commissions were bound to follow.

A few members of the audience wondered why Slath Croblin, though undoubtedly a fine musician, needed to hunch over his varp like a predatory vulture, but that had always been his habit. It brings to mind the legend of Red-beard and the Chiming Bones, but the details escape me.

© L J Sklaroff 2012 All Rights Reserved

Date and time of last update 18:25 Wed 22 Aug 2012
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