A call came in from a client with a very unusual problem...I could
tell it was something out of the ordinary by his opening line..."
You won't believe this, but... "
It seemed that the chap played sax in a band along with a couple
of other horn players and that there was no love lost between the
trumpet player and the remaining members of the horn section.
Among the many practical jokes played on the unfortunate trumpet
player (the client did tell me what they were, but I won't repeat
them in case you're about to sit down to dinner) was the placing
of a small sardine down the bell of the trumpet. This was discovered
in no time at all and was subsequently removed by the trumpeter
and the horn washed out.
Two weeks went by following this incident and it was only after
this time that my client noticed an odious smell in his car. Following
his nose he found his way to the boot (or trunk, if you're across
the pond) and more specifically to his Berkeley fibreglass sax case
- which he was in the habit of keeping in the boot of his car all
the time. By now the smell was atrocious, but nothing could have
prepared him for what he smelt and saw when he opened the case.
The trumpet player had had his revenge! Slowly mouldering in the
bottom bow of the sax was.......a now distinctly unfresh mackerel!
What made matters worse was that the weather for the last two weeks
had been unseasonably hot, and nature had taken its course in the
enclosed space of the car's boot.
I agreed to look at the instrument, and when the client arrived
I was advised by him that it would be better for me if I perhaps
examined the instrument out of doors. I didn't argue...it was still
in the boot, in its case, and I could still smell it even then.
I had him remove the case and open it (whilst I judiciously stood
upwind of the terrible thing) and with the aid of a stick (I kid
you not, the thing smelt terrible) I managed to see that the results
of the decomposition had corrupted most of the bottom end of the
horn - resulting in ghastly black and green goo which oozed like
a primordial soup from out of the tone holes. Fortunately he'd had
the presence of mind to remove what was left of the fish - but I
doubt there'd have been much, most of it had turned to foul liquid.
We wrapped the horn up in several bin bags and left it outside while
I considered my options.
The horn itself was in a mess, so there was no way I could possibly
make it any worse. My first instinct was to take it along to the
local petrol station and blast it with a power washer....but that
would have meant picking it up and putting in my car...so I ditched
that idea pretty quick.
After some consideration, and a little chewing the fat with the
good people on Alt.Music.Saxophone, I decided that bleach would
be my first 'weapon'.
I kitted myself up with a 'bio hazard' suit made out of bin liners
and then sprayed the horn with neat, thin bleach - leaving it to
soak in for a while. This allowed me to get in a little closer without
retching, whereupon I gingerly had a go at brushing some of the
goo off. This was a deeply unpleasant task, the stuff was really
baked onto the horn...but with a goodly amount of swearing (and
not a little heaving) I got the instrument into a state whereby
it could be put onto the floor of the workshop (no way was THAT
thing going on my bench).
I managed to dismantle the instrument and set about the task of
removing the last of the fishy residues - which took the best part
of a week, on and off - and eventually I was able to begin the process
The client collected the horn shortly after - along with a substantial
bill. He told me that by a subtle combination of whining and threats
of extreme physical violence he'd persuaded the trumpeter to go
halves on the cost of the repair...
I was pleased to see it go - but it was many weeks before the stench
of rotting fish completely left the workshop...and many more weeks
before I could enjoy a fish supper again.
A few months later the client rang me to tell me that the horn
had been stolen from the boot of his car.