GILBERTINE & THE EXCHANGE (Volume One) — Chapter 16: A Band of Our Own (Part 1) — 19 September 1964

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“Wodja mean, Angles?”

“’Bou’wha’?” Angles mumbled, his mouth full of biscuit.

He was sitting in the living room, enjoying Sunday tea with Mum and me. Dad had gone off to university to see to something about Monday classes. I’d invited Lois to stay when she dropped me off, but something about Mum scared her; she made an excuse and left.

It was now a few minutes past four, about a minute since Angles had gasped that Lois was “Juliet with a built-in balcony,” and – from the look on Mum’s face – 30 seconds since I’d needed to do damage control. I’d thought a quick change of subject was in order.

“When y’said y’were trying t’help Father McCloskey save m’neck, Angles – wodja mean?”

“O’at,” Angles mumbled again, washing down the biscuit’s remains with several gulps of Earl Grey. “I take it Capuletto never mentionedt her ‘Uncle Archie’ to you.”

“‘Uncle Archie?’” I asked.

“Technically, he’s her mother’s uncle, so he’s actually her great-uncle. But to her he’s ‘Uncle Archie.’ To you, me andt all the rest of the civilizedt worldt, it’s Monsignor Archangelo Montecelli – headt honcho, the priest in charge over at St. Dymphna’s. I’dt have warnedt you off, if I’dt known he was gonna be there. I triedt to get you to stop when I first showedt up, but I was too late.”

“Montecelli? Of Montecelli Girls’ Ranch – those Montecellis?”

“Yeah,” Angles replied. “They usedt to have a gigantic ranch somewhere aroundt here, andt were big mucky-mucks in the area – real cavrones – I mean, patrones. They donated some of their landt for the Girls’ Ranch, so the place is namedt after them – never ran it, though.

“Monsignor was one of the younger sons; he became a priest, ultimately ending up at Our Lady of Harvest, then becoming the first – and, so far, only – headt priest at St. Dymphna’s. These days, except for holy days of obligation, Monsignor doesn’t show up real often. He says mass in ordinary time about every other February 29. It was just your luck he happenedt to pick today.”

I tried to sort what Angles was telling me.

“February 29th is in ord’nary time?”

“Don’t nitpick, Reggie,” Mum cautioned.

“You know, boys,” she continued, “I feel like I’ve walked into the midst of a movie and missed a good deal of the story. Do either of you two feel like bringing me up to speed?”

Angles looked like a deer caught in headlights – one who fears he’ll only escape being shot if he’s run over first.

It was obviously down to me, so I told Mum about our escapades at The Fox during A Hard Day’s Night, including my creepy backstage encounter with Gilbertine; my recurring “Black Pinocchio Dream;” Connie and her jealousy over my inquiries vis-à-vis Gilbertine; and my – so far unsuccessful – attempts to placate her and calm her down. I was afraid Mum’d be cross, but she actually found it all rather amusing – at least she laughed several times as I told the story.

Angles picked up the narrative.

“The Capulettos are fairly relaxedt, easygoing; but the Montecellis are so uptight that even if you hadt a sledgehammer you couldn’t drive a pin up their –”

“Angles!” I broke in, intervening before his enthusiasm got the best of him, and we’d have to do even more damage control.

“Anyway, Connie’s like the only girl in this generation of kidts on either side of her family – even more laidt-back guys in her family get a little protective of her.

“In Monsignor’s case, I think if he hadt his way she’d be lockedt away’n some convent school ’til he couldt arrange a marriage for her. At the very least, I think he expects her to marry some nice devout Catholic Italian boy – preferably from a family wealthy enough to give generously to the St. Dymphna buildting fundt – never even date anyone else before she does, have ten kidts andt still be a virgin.

“And Reggie ladt, though the whole civilizedt planet – including Capuletto, if she’s honest – thinks worldts of you, a long-hairedt Protestant English boy who sings rock’n’roll ain’t remotely close to anything Monsignor Montecelli has in mindt for his one and only surrogate granddtaughter.

“Meaning when he heardt our serenade today, Connie endedt up left over the proverbial barrel.

“As for you, my good ladt, the only reason you’re still alive is that Nanna Capuletto likes you.

“Even Monsignor’s scaredt of her – I don’t know why, but he is. When she kissedt your foreheadt, it practically ensuredt that none of the Montecelli men – or Capuletto men for that matter – wouldt so much as lay a finger on you. Even Monsignor’s gonna have to back off a little bit.

“This gave gut Father McCloskey room to maneuver.

He doesn’t believe for a minute that we were auditioning for anything or even have a bandt – but it’s what he’s gonna tell Monsignor we saidt.

That gets Connie off the barrel she’s over, and you out of Dutch – for now.

“But, if we let Father McCloskey down and don’t have a band to play by March Moon Madness, the annual spring dance Knights of Columbus throws for parish youth, as well as Springtime Frolics, St. Dymphna’s festival and bazaar sometime aroundt May Day – then he – andt us – andt Connie – are all gonna be in big trouble.”

I sat in silence a moment, absorbing everything he said.

I knew better than to think, even for an instant, that Mum would let me pour and mix myself a drink, but for the first time, I wished she would.

“OK, wodja saying makes sense, and I’m amazed – truly amazed – at how you and Father McCloskey were able t’think on y’feet, come up with all this and make it stick. But wot’re we gonna do now? It’s still just me, thee and two acoustic guitars.”

“Not quite,” he replied. “You’re forgetting Charlie – you, me, Charlie – we’ve all been playing together for weeks – months.  I think a bandt’s been in the back of all our mindts for a while, but none of us hadt the guts to come out andt say it – Father McCloskey hadt t’say it for us.”

He was right, of course, it had been in the back of my mind – not too far in the back either: A real band, to showcase our songs.

I mean, who were we kidding: We hadn’t exactly made the Brill Building, and it wasn’t as if two budding songwriters could start a publishing company, waiting for the world to come to their door. And, Charlie wasn’t entirely insane a choice for third person – just semi-insane.

 

In his not too distant past, Ben had played in a folk trio. With the trio defunct, Ben preoccupied with his harpsichord, he’d passed his guitar on to Charlie, replacing the one he’d been playing. It still looked one notch above something from a five and dime, but at least it stayed in tune (more or less).

Charlie had tried for months to sing and strum along with us. But, no matter how good he might be on piano, poor Charlie was hopeless here, unable to play proper chords to save his life, or sing in tune to save his soul.

I raised my concerns to Angles, but he waved them aside.

“Reggie ladt, you’ve been so busy obsessing on Capuletto lately you haven’t hadt the time to notice something under your very nose. Our boy Charlie’s changing, improving – just in ways we hadn’t anticipatedt. Think back to last Friday afternoon, when all three of us were playing together. ‘Bad Boy?’ Think hardt.”

I did remember the three of us in my bedroom, “plunking” our way through Larry Williams’ “Bad Boy.” Charlie, as was par for the course, was having trouble finding and playing chords in time. Then, he began to play a simple lead guitar riff, complete with glissandos.

Granted, it wasn’t much of a solo but –

– Crikey! That’s what Angles was driving at.

 

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