She is covered with river mud.
She has dressed her charges in re-purposed curtains
to the Captain’s chagrin
and now the children have pratfallen extravagantly
out of the little boat,
all the frantically waving, camera-conscious child actors
lurching, and in one case leaping, into the brown water.
Now the Captain is dressing the governess down.
The group tumble into the silty water
has exposed her child-minding technique as
dangerous and uncomely.
He is about to proffer the pink slip.
There comes whispering from the near distance,
as if a switch is thrown,
an almost visible wafting of voices,
cottony and evanescent.
Captain von Trapp follows the sound
to a small elaborately draped room.
He leans against the doorjamb
and the cinematographer shoots him,
suddenly and jarringly,
There are the children, recently
of the comical river mishap, standing sedately
with their little jaws open,
gossamer flying out of their unblemished yaps.
They are lip-synching a frankly
prerecorded miasma of loveliness,
an abrading innocence.
They were last seen running
anxiously into the house but here they are,
the sudden picture of quiescence and seduction.
The Strangler enters and lays his expert mitt delicately
across my trachea. He is a bald brute in lederhosen
and one of those peaked tyrolean caps with a feather.
He enters wearily, tired of squeezing my neck,
applies at first a gentle pressure.
It grows more insistent as the singing continues.
From the doorway the Captain’s scarred jaw works
in a loving half-grin,
his blue eyes clouding with something beyond love
because it is here commingled with surprise.
And so the effect is actually a kind of awe.
Loving blue eyes that
are beautiful to see.
He gazes at his children
for the first time in many years.
My strangulation proceeds apace.
The gap-toothed Bavarian brute takes a good hold
and really begins to ring my neck.
His feather vibrates with the effort.
The captain, without warning,
rouses from the jamb,
strolls unbidden into the room, suddenly chorusing his children,
and their stupefied expressions
tell a story of previous benign neglect,
paternal distraction. That epoch is gone.
He joins them incongruously in song.
They gaze at him and at each other with wonder.
The singing concludes as motes
of darkness signal my own aerobic emergency. My throat aches.
The family regard each other now in a silence
broken by odd staccato bursts of laughter.
Curt laughs in a non-actorly fashion,
perhaps tickled by the scene’s conceit, or just embarrassed.
They all laugh.
The scene plays out awkwardly.
There are pauses and dead air.
What are we seeing?
Kids, we’re rolling.
Chris Plummer takes them all in with what looks
like a seldom-rehearsed and beatific grin.
When the Captain tousles Curt’s hair,
the Strangler nearly squeezes out of me
a little gasping sob.
This Heidi-adoring cough-drop promoter
would have me cry out in full,
but I won’t, I won’t.
The family is reunited.
Maria has run up the impossibly sweeping staircase,
she’ll pack her things. It’s over.
The Captain calls out to her,
runs to her.
I…ask you to stay.
The oaf prevails; my abortive gasp
becomes a merciless tracheal cramp,
then a ragged sob.
It is the Captain’s decision
not to cashier Maria after all.
She has brought music back into the house.