During a very nice writing week in England I wrote the following short story.
The marching band comes. They play the Dutch anthem. It is the start of a concert of André Rieu in his hometown Maastricht. A large podium that will hold the orchestra, has been built on one side of the Vrijthof. The marketplace located in the center of the city. Next to the podium the large basilica of Saint Servatius adding atmosphere with its tinted windows. Before the podium enough chairs to hold 8000 people.
Around these, seats and tables, in an arch, on terraces of the bars and restaurants to serve the other visitors. Those are mostly for the locals as these places have been reserved a year earlier.
Some spectators are coming from other parts of Holland. The larger part is coming from abroad. England, Germany, Italy and even from South Amerika. One can tell, by the small flags that some of them enthusiastically wave. Several of them have most likely visited the Night Watch or the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Did a canal ride and then southwards to Maastricht.
The clock of the Saint Servatius strikes eight times.
Sitting in the back, near an entrance on the first row of a block, Oscar notices that the stream of entering people grows thicker.
Families and friend groups, locate their reserved chairs, while they still must wait for another hour. Oscar overhears parts of their conversations:
“Ik hoop wel dat we het droog houden.”
“Mais bien sûr touts les chanteur solos sont bons.”
“Hé, zullen we na afloop nog een biertje drinken?”
To keep the searching time for the seats of the spectators as short as possible, piccolos do their best to host people to their seats.
Oscar sees several of them coming by. All teenagers, some quiet, fresh and naïve in the world. Others bursting from energy and sweating in their red polyester bell boy like costumes.
Oscar looks to the persons in the seats behind him. All smiles and anxious for what will begin in a short while. There are so many beautiful dressed people around him. Quite a number of older people, but in the bloom of their lives.
For the visitors in a wheel chair or on an electrical scooter, special parking places have been prepared. For example, for the elderly lady on the right on a scooter. She is on the far side of the next block. Oscar notices that with her smile she radiates to be 10 years younger than she might be. All dressed up for the occasion, the basket in front of her showing a vast array of plastic flowers. Hardly any colour in them anymore, due to the sunlight.
She looks at every piccolo passing by, with an intensity that Oscar has not seen yet with others. Watching more closely, Oscar sees her lips moving whenever a youngster in a red suit is passing by.
Oscar puts more efforts in trying to read her lips. They only seem to resemble an ‘Oo’ and an ‘Eh’. The piccolos that seem to get an ‘Eh’ are photographed. Could the opening of the mouth mean a ‘Yes’?
Back and forth the piccolos walk with much enthusiasm. Smiling to everyone. “They must be sweating.” Oscar thinks, as he sees some of them growing more and more red in their face every time, they pass by.
The crowd gets in a better mood now the marching band walks by.
The clock of the basilica watches it all with content. Overseeing the larger picture off all the good things that are happening here. It wished it was this busy inside the Saint Servatius every Sunday. Now hardly anyone is noticing the basilica as all came to see, and hear, the man with violin that wants to put the waltz back upon the dancing and entertainment charts.
The volume of the conversations increases. Apparently, the positive energy of the fans is growing. The bell of the basilica strikes once.
Oscar leans forward to tap the sleeve of a piccolo, who turns.
Oscar notes the nametag with Tom on it. Blond striking hair. His face is smooth, hardly any pimple to find. Light and thin facial hair. He must be a knocker for the other students.
“How many are there of you?” Oscar asks.
“Sixty, but don’t ask me their names.” He replies with a smile. “I don’t know them all.”
“But, Tom, are you in some way connected with each other?”
“Yes, we all belong to the largest student society, Circumflex. Sorry, have to leave now, help that group on the right.” And Tom, quickly walks to the centre aisle to give a helping hand.
The lady waves, and throws a hand kiss to Tom, as he walks by.
The clock nearly turns nine. Every minute André can enter. Most of the fans look toward the stage. Some piccolos help the last ones to their seats.
Oscar has followed Tom helping out, and turns his head back to the lady with the flower basket.
The orchestra members enter the stage one at a time. The crowd starts to applaud. The sound resonates from the buildings around the Vrijthof. Laughter rises. While more members enter the stage, the first begin to play “An der schönen blauen Donau” from Johan Strauss.
The PA system proofs to work well.
Oscar sees, Tom returning in his direction. The distance between Tom and the lady decreases. Just at the moment that Tom passes the lady, she snatches him and puts him in the basket quickly covering him with flowers.
André comes to the stage.
“No, what are you doing”, Oscar shouts.
But the screams of joy overwhelm the shouting of Oscar. Quickly Oscar looks to the piccolos to the left of him. No reaction. He returns his eyes to the right, to see there is no lady anymore.
Written May 2019