Movement One begins with the happy trill of flutes and oboes as our protagonist plans the outfit to wear to the company Christmas party. One of her beloved fashion magazines featured a cute sweater and skirt that would be the perfect mix of dressy and casual, and her spirits are merry and bright as she sets out to find something similar in her small town. And on a bonus note, it would look smashing with those gold strappy sandals she bought on sale at Macy’s six years ago but has never worn because people in said small town rarely get really dressed up.
Movement Two has a dark mix of bassoon and tuba, along with the ominous echo of kettle drum when she realizes she must have missed the memo that it’s illegal to sell skirts in her town, never mind one that looks similar to the one in the magazine. It must be, because there are no skirts in any of the stores! Things grow darker as she stands in a store dressing room, clad in the gold sweater with just the right amount of sparkle she plans to buy, trying on pair after pair of ill-fitting slacks, none of which look right. Too, none of them are long enough to wear with the gold high-heel sandals. The sad ring of a gong sounds as she realizes she’s going to have to rethink her party outfit – two days before the actual party.
Movement Three is the rattle of hangers as she riffles through her closet looking for something to wear that isn’t a sweatshirt and jeans. Accompaniment is the rustle of clothing being tried on and then discarded on the bed. She bought the only skirt she could find, a leopard-print number on a clearance rack, but it looked … okay … held up to the gold sweater. But when she puts it on and looks in the mirror, she realizes that if she wears this she’ll be mistaken for the “entertainment portion” of the party. Off it goes. Also off are the black dress pants that must have shrunk on the hanger since last year’s party, the black pencil skirt (also shrunk), the black lace dress with sleeves that are too tight, and the gold brocade cocktail dress she bought when she got the shoes. It’s pretty, but it’s too dressy. Besides, she forgot to buy pantyhose and the only ones she owns are black which do not go with gold brocade. Oh, and the shoes? For some reason they don’t fit anymore. They must have shrunk, too.
Movement Four is a fusillade of percussion … no, wait; it’s just the sound of every pair of shoes she owns hitting the floor as they’re tried on and then discarded. Uncomfortable in her gold sweater and a pair of dark wash skinny jeans (and Spanx under them from head to toe), our girl is growing desperate as the clock ticks down closer and closer to the time when she’ll have to leave for the party. Along with the thud of shoes is the throat clearing of her husband from the living room as he, too, eyes a clock. An accompaniment of growling is added to this Movement as she thinks of how he just threw on khakis, a dress shirt and a sweater and was ready to go.
Movement Five is the click-swoosh, click-swoosh, click-swoosh of our girl taking photos of herself in the three pairs of shoes she’s deemed un-suck-worthy, and then texting them to friends and family with the message “HELP!!! WHICH SHOES???!?!” Then comes the tinkling chime of reply texts that unilaterally strike down the flat-heeled brown suede boots – the only pair that were comfortable – and choose the bronze heels. The climax of this Movement is a huge sigh as she realizes her friends and family are right. Yes, the bronze heels are pretty, but they’re also devices of torture on her feet. Her cold feet, because the bronze shoes don’t go with black hose.
Movement Six is the event itself, dominated by the shrill voice of the woman who gets drunk at every company party. This year she repeats the refrain of “Who wants a Buttery Nipple?” yelled at top volume every five minutes as she holds up a glass containing her seventh – or is it eighth? – serving of this drink. The harmony is our protagonist and everyone else muttering “Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP” under their breath, along with the observation of several men that they wouldn’t touch Drunk Woman’s nipples if they were slathered in butter, proving that, contrary to advertising, not everything is “better with Bluebonnet on it.”
And finally, Movement Seven, a quiet piece of soothing harp strings, punctuated by the creak of bedsprings as our girl lies back on the rejected clothing with a relieved sigh that the party is over. Following are two thumps of the tortuous bronze shoes hitting the floor, and the soft sound of a zipper as she opens the skinny jeans, allowing her to take her first full breath in hours. And the Christmas Party Concerto ends with the soft ring of a percussion triangle – which is really just a hanger falling off the bed and hitting the floor.
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