Elfie, a cellist from Düsseldorf, had joined the Berliner Philharmoniker only recently. Despite her initial shyness the camaraderie of the ensemble had soon made her feel quite welcome, loosing her at last from the patriarchal clutches of her strict Rhineland upbringing. In fact, within the first month she had begun passionate affairs with both a timpanist by the name of Ernst and Simone, the conductor’s beautiful assistant. She soon began to wonder just how many affairs of the heart were going on within the orchestra. At rehearsal one day, in the middle of the particularly energetic adagio of Bartók’s Divertimento for Strings, the bow slipped from her hand and landed at the feet of Andreas, a contrabassist. Both he and the player adjacent, Sabine, reached for Elfie’s bow, their fingers touching, then locking briefly, each returning a knowing grin. In consort, they turned to Elfie with the bow, Andreas with a wink, Sabine seductively biting her lower lip.
It wasn’t working. None of it. Not that particular summer. The rituals scurried off, toe-tapping and juniper-burning useless. The front yard, symptomatically vacant, requested redress, and so she filled it with a Saturday sale, dragging onto the lawn his boyhood nautical rope mirror, her collection of pastel pinwheels, three black Oaxacan skulls, only the most sullen of her porcelain dolls. A fair trade, a swap of sentiment for narrative victuals. Something to break the leg of the devil, as the Sunday morning flea market rug dealer says. She needed to crack it with a thick wooden mallet. Split it wide apart and chase the slippery sorrows, reckonings, psychological antiquities.
The worst thing that’s ever happened to you.
The most inhumane thing you’ve done.
Your preferred profanation. (17 fucks, 8 cocks, 4 pussies, 2 cunts)
Your earliest childhood memory.
She reaches for a green woolen cardigan hanging on the bathroom door’s backside and slides herself into it. Within the pockets, crumbling snowflake-patterned Kleenex, a rifle-wielding plastic figurine, a matchbook from the local sushi restaurant. And from inside these lives of others, she hears water rushing forwards and backwards, forwards and backwards.
— Alice Munro, Tricks