“Is the quarter note the one with the tail?”
“What do you mean by tail?”
“You know, with the little tail,” he gestured in the air with two fingers to compensate for the lack of new information.
“Like coming off the end?”
“Right,” he repeated the gesture with a bit more flourish.
“I think you’re describing an eighth note.”
“What is it you want? A quarter note or the one with the tail?”
“I can’t remember now,” he shrugged. “So which one’s the quarter note?”
She drew the tail in the air in front of her, a mirror to his action, “The eighth has the tail coming off the stem,” her hand became a vertical line and cut the space between them in half, “while the quarter note has just the stem.”
“Is that what you’d call that? The stem?”
“Sure, it’s what I’d call it,” she pulled her hand back to bring her Coke cup up to her lips. “I don’t know what it’s called, but for the time being, that’s what I’d call it.”
“Right. So you throw two tails on the stem, that would be what? A sixteenth?”
Lena titled the cup back, but realized it was empty. Jack didn’t know that. On some other occasion, she might have told him, and both might have had a good laugh about it. It might have turned into an inside joke. Instead, she carried the motion through, the wide brim briefly obstructing her vision. She even swallowed the nothing that remained in the cup. With a slight breath, she cleared the imaginary, carbonated fizz out of her throat so she could reply, “And a third makes a thirty-second.”
“Do they go up to four tails? Sixty-fourth notes?”
Jack noticed he was absently shepherding the stray salt, collecting the granules in the folds of his stained wax paper wrapper, forming the shape of an L. “That’s crazy. That’s sixty-four notes in a measure.”
“They can handle it,” Lena leaned back in her chair to signal that it was perhaps time to move to some other part of the mall, some other corner of conversation. “Musicians, they’re dexterous like that, with their air.”
“Or their fingers,” he said absently, noisily compressing the wrapper between his hands.
“Sure,” she shook the empty cup to communicate to Jack that it was, in fact, empty. “Sometimes both.”