Photo: Meg Stout
There were a couple of problems at the start besides the fact that few of the campers seemed interesting, and everyone I didn't already know seemed annoying—just as, no doubt, we seemed to them. On the first morning, right after breakfast, I had to sweep the breezeway and collect trash from the rehearsal barn. There is naturally no camp without announcements after mealtimes, and community-building activities, and jobs. Twenty hours into it the law of camp was clear: The night was for teenagers, the morning for the aged. A few high schoolers sat slumped in their chairs at 9 A.M. while I fluttered around them tidying. I'd paid fifteen hundred dollars to come to a place that was just like home.
After jobs we five dabblers met our coach, an elegant 29-year-old violist from Amsterdam. We played the opening of our Telemann for him. He looked stunned. And then he put his chin down and laughed softly into his chest. We are strong and impervious so of course this did not affect us, not at all. We could see the bubble over his handsome head: "Oh my God." We could see him mustering his reserves, trying to remember the creed of the camp, that he was supposed to be positive and nurturing. Some of us have serious intonation problems, some of us cannot count, some of us are afflicted by nerves when we play for anyone other than ourselves, some of us suffer from all of those troubles, but it must be said that none of us lacked courage during the first session.
That night, in the dark, dark cabin with the thick spattering of stars in the heavens through the windows, and the blanket of quiet all around us, a mouse ran across Leslie's face. She screamed and leaped from the wafer that was her mattress. I suppose if we'd been able to look down upon such a scene from a great height we right away would have found it funny that a small, soft, white-bellied creature with dewy and soulful eyes who was scampering like the wind with claws had struck horror and revulsion in those who have great intelligence and massive body weight, relatively speaking. We were repulsed down to our marrow. We did not want to try to go back to sleep—how could we sleep? Leslie, who, after the scream, was of remarkably good cheer, said that it had actually been an extraordinary experience, but she did think, in spite of the thrill, that she'd go up to the barn to read for a while. (While she was sitting in the rehearsal room, another mouse ran over her foot.) At any rate, we did then try to find the situation comic rather than fearsome and gross in the extreme as we lay awake waiting for it and its siblings to return. The next day I went to the hardware store and got the sonar devices that plug in to the wall, two of them, even though one will do for a medium-size room, and also I purchased four traps, which we set out with the relish of explorers in the territories. We began to look forward to checking the lines to see what had come in.