GILBERTINE & THE EXCHANGE (Volume One) — Chapter 16: “A Band of Our Own” (Conclusion) & “A New Note from Jackie” — 19 September 1964

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“And,” Mum said, “There are strings attached.”

“Wot’re those, Mum?”  I was fairly sure I already knew. Still, I asked anyway just to be certain. Angles bit his lip, struggling not to make the very obvious – and very lame – joke. I shot him a look that caused him to cool it immediately.

“By now, Rev. Vickers no doubt knows about your nascent band from Father McCloskey,” she said. “I won’t have him insulted.

“If you’ve got time for this band of yours, then you’ve got time for him. After dinner, your Wednesday nights will belong to him and the St. Cyprian’s Boys Choir, understood? Any homework you have will be done before dinner – if that means that you and Frank don’t get to fool around with those guitars that day, then that’s the way it goes.

And you’ll also continue as soprano assistant section leader with the Hayes High mixed choir – with everything that may go with that.

“Have I made myself clear, Reggie? As of now, you are fresh out of excuses.”

I agreed – as parental strings went, they weren’t too bad. But to ensure my compliance, Mum made a further proviso: I wouldn’t see my bass until Christmas. What could I say? So stipulated.

But as things turned out, I wasn’t quite out of excuses. I’d one more, one last excuse, left in the bag to delay compliance, at least as to joining Rev. Vickers – and those vicious little winged monkeys of St. Cyprian’s Boys’ Choir – just a little while longer

* * *

Later that night, alone in my bedroom, I opened the latest epistle from Jackie that Lois had morosely handed me on the drive back home:

Oh Reggie, my poor hapless Reggie,

You have gone and landed yourself, haven’t you? You went out with the best of intentions and only managed to upset not one but two young ladies. Ah, slings & arrows and all that, I’d like to help, but in the case of Miss Capuletto, I feat matters will need to be left to time and providence. As to our mutual friend Gilbertine, however, I can, perhaps, be of more concrete assistance. As I understand it, you can appear at will in the Pre-Raphaelite section of the Birmingham Art Museum just by visualizing it. Do so tonight. You will find her there amongst the paintings.

Do not approach her, or attempt to talk to her – and above all do not touch her. Just smile at her in an open, friendly way. Hold the smile until she smiles back, no matter how small that smile may be. Then return here immediately, don’t linger.

It will spur her to action, and that is always the best course with dreamy people like her, when it comes to lifting the spirits.

Good luck, God speed,



So, I followed directions to the letter.

Though it was still Sunday night in Californa, it was already early Monday morning in the Birmingham museum by the time I appeared. I could hear the birds singing a dawn chorus just outside, but it remained cold and shadowy, dimly lit, within the gallery itself. Gilbertine was indeed there, among the paintings. I smiled at her, at least enough to ease the sadness on her face. When she managed the tiniest of smiles in return, I vanished.

I could only hope I’d done some good.



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