Carol had heard all she wanted to hear. The music from the four pianists had moved from melodic and romantic to some new-fangled atonal piece and it grated on her nerves. Those nerves had been to begin with. A week of poor sleep—thanks, menopause!—a fight with her boss that afternoon, and an overturned latte with extra syrup all over the cloth car seat had worn her out.
She glanced around the room of friends and family who’d come to the recital. Those in the front somehow managed to look attentive but she noticed others rolling their eyes and shaking their heads off to her left and behind her a man was urging his wife to leave.
Her friend Maura caught her eye at that moment and beamed. Maura had organized the event for Pachyderms without Partners, her latest pet charity. In support of her friend, Carol had corralled four of her own friends to pony up $25 and show up in black dresses and glitzy jewelry.
Now Carol felt nervous. Did they feel as she did about the screeching noises the quartet was yanking out of the twin Steinways? And was that a serving fork being dragged across the strings of the piano on the left?
Suddenly the music stopped—all four musicians picked their fingers up off the keyboards and looked expectantly at the double doors at the room’s end. The audience too all turned to look at once, as if on cue. Then the red-headed woman on the left at the second piano began to play a lumbering tune, the doors opened, and two small elephants swayed into the room. They wore bow ties and top hats and were led by a small monkey in a tutu.
The pianists turned back to their instruments, struck up the Emperor’s Waltz, and the elephants danced. By this point, Carol had fallen off her chair.