“Damn it to hell!” Fentriss leaped out with a shotgun cry: “Is that Wolfgang Prouty poaching my garden? Out, Wolfgang! Go!”
Dropping his recorder, Prouty vaulted a bush, impaled himself on thorns, and vanished.
Fentriss, cursing, picked up an abandoned notepad.
“Nightsong,” it read. On the tape recorder he found a lovely Satie-like bird-choir.
After that, more poachers arrived mid-night to depart at dawn. Their spawn, Fentriss realized, would soon throttle his creativity and still his voice. He loitered full-time in the garden now, not knowing what seed to give his beauties, and heavily watered the lawn to fetch up worms. Wearily he stood guard through sleepless nights, nodding off only to find Wolfgang Prouty’s evil minions astride the wall, prompting arias, and one night, by God, perched in the tree itself, humming in hopes of sing-alongs.
A shotgun was the final answer. After its first fiery roar, the garden was empty for a week. That is, until- Someone came very late indeed and committed mayhem.
As quietly as possible, he cut the branches and sawed the limbs.
“Oh, envious composers, dreadful murderers!” cried Fentriss.
And the birds were gone.
And the career of Amadeus Two with it.
“Black!” cried Fentriss.
“Yes, dear friend?” said Black, looking at the bleak sky where once green was.
“Is your car outside?”
“When last I looked.”
But driving in search didn’t do it. It wasn’t like calling in lost dogs or telephone-poled cats. They must find and cage an entire Mormon tabernacle team of soprano springtime-in-the-Rockies birdseed lovers to prove one in the hand is worth two in the bush.
But still they hastened from block to block, garden to garden, lurking and listening. Now their spirits soared with an echo of “Hallelujah Chorus” oriole warbling, only to sink in a drab sparrow twilight of despair.
Only when they had crossed and recrossed interminable mazes of asphalt and greens did one of them finally (Black) light his pipe and emit a theory.
“Did you ever think to wonder,” he mused behind a smoke-cloud, “what season of the year this is?”
“Season of the year?” said Fentriss, exasperated.
“Well, coincidentally, wasn’t the night the tree fell and the wee songsters blew town, was not that the first fall night of autumn?”
Fentriss clenched a fist and struck his brow.
“Your friends have flown the coop. Their migration must be above San Miguel Allende just now.”
“If they are migratory birds!”
“Do you doubt it?”
Another pained silence, another blow to the head.
“Precisely,” said Black.
“Friend,” said Fentriss.
It was a long year, it was a short year, it was a year of anticipation, it was the burgeoning of despair, it was the revival of inspiration, but at its heart, Fentriss knew, just another Tale of Two Cities, but he did not know what the other city was!
How stupid of me, he thought, not to have guessed or imagined that my songsters we’re wanderers who each autumn fled south and each springtime swarmed north in A Cappella choirs of sound.
“The waiting,” he told Black, “is madness. The phone never stops-“
The phone rang. He picked it up and addressed it like a child. “Yes. Yes. Of course. Soon. When? Very soon.” And put the phone down. “You see? That was Philadelphia. They want another Cantata as good as the first. At dawn today it was Boston. Yesterday the Vienna Philharmonic. Soon, I say. When? God knows. Lunacy! Where are those angels that once sang me to my rest?”
He threw down maps and weather charts of Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, and the Argentines.
“How far south? Do I scour Buenos Aires or Rio, Mazatlan or Cuernavaca? And then? Wander about with a tin ear, standing under trees waiting for bird-drops like a spotted owl? Will the Argentine critics trot by scoffing to see me leaning on trees, eyes shut, waiting for the quasi-melody, the lost chord? I’d let no one know the cause of my journey, my search, otherwise pandemoniums of laughter. But in what city, under what kind of tree would I wander to stand? A tree like mine? Do they seek the same roosts? or will anything do in Ecuador or Peru? God, I could waste months guessing and come back with birdseed in my hair and bird bombs on my lapels. What to do, Black? Speak!”