Hello, I do not really know how to start this; heck, I barely even know what "this" is to begin with. I guess I should start off with an explanation as to why this pen is rubbing against this paper, then I guess I'll take it from there. My name is Ethan Burwell; yes that is my real name and not one of those fake pen names that authors randomly throw into stories like this to protect the innocent and all of that jazz. However, if it were fake, in all likely hood would not know the difference, and so I can really say what ever I want and you have to believe it. On that note, It is currently eight twenty- two post meridiem on October twenty fourth, two thousand and nine. I think that it is the twenty fourth; might be the twenty third. If it is that important to you, then you can go and look up the Saturday before Halloween two thousand and nine to verify. Anyway, I am currently sixteen years old, for another two weeks, and am a te, ha! I almost wrote "tenth grader," but I am in eleventh now. Last year my friend Margaret approached me with the idea of writing a story for "NaNoWritMo;" I had no clue what it was. I think that it stands for National November Write it Month, or something along those lines. The Idea behind it is that you take the month of November and write a 50,000 (I am not going to spell that one out, simply because I get a higher word count explaining why it is not written out) word book. Now, when she told me about it, it seemed really interesting and flat out fun. We're both into stuff like that… A+ students who think that "nerd" is a tasty, cool word.) That year, however, I did not realize how hard it really is to write fifty thousand words (I told you the other one was for the count.) I like to believe that I have always had a knack for writing. When I was going through first grade and kindergarten my mother would always make me write the answer to every question on a way that you could tell what the question was, simply by reading the answer; complete sentences basically. Because of that persistence on her part, I believe, I have always been relatively long winded in the art of the pen. Yet still, fifty thousand words?! I mean, I have school and stuff to tend to as well. Anyhow, that year I started my story and got about five thousand words into it before time took it over. This year, however, I am determined to reach my goal. I have kind of realized though that fifty thousand words in the life of an eleventh grader is not very realistic, so in order to give this writing a fair shot I have given myself from now, October twenty fourth (or the twenty third as the case may be) until the beginning of the new year, at which time I will officially unveil this splendid master piece, which you are about to under take. You may say that giving myself extra time is cheating, however, because I have just established the rules of this game before I have begun, it is indeed a valid beginning to an involving task.
So, you now know why you are reading this, as do I know what for I am writing; but what about is the question that still stands, I suppose. I have given it some thought (you do not know it, but I paused to think, and there in gave it thought) and have decided that I will write about the Kingston High School Tiger Marching Band. My band. To me, this seems to be the most important and relevant topic at the moment in my life. For those of you who missed out on the finer part of high school, or just have not gotten there yet, band is cool. That just about sums up all that you need to know about high school marching band. Now, I could branch off into this whole long winded discussion about the complexities of band and marching band. Honestly, I could probably fill up several pages letting you know all of the details behind the statement "Did you know that New York State has a high school marching band league that is part of a national thing, and they have a state championship like any other sport?" but I am not going to. Not now, at least. Chances are that I will throw it in later on or when I type this up just to increase my word count. Pause. I just had a thought. I am going to have to type up what ever I write, so taking that into consideration, I will finish up by the thirty first of December, as previously stated, an then give my self until the first of February to type it up. I will have an unveiling ceremony on February seventh, which may move a little depending on which day of the week that is. Let the game begin. End thought. Play. Where was I now? Oh yeah, so I will probably throw that in later, but the main focus, hopefully, will to tell the story of the historic two thousand and nine marching band season for the two thousand and nine Kingston High School Tiger Marching Band from Kingston, New York. It will be told in the form of various memories, journal entries, and experiences from myself and some of my closest friends.
Marching band. I just implied that I wouldn't go into detail about the particulars of marching band, "at least not yet," and yet here I go. Get used to it. The truth is that I, personally, can not begin writing this thing (I do not know weather <- I spelled it like that on perpose <- that was an accident) <- I did not mean to end the parentheses, whether to call this "thing" that you are reading a story, a book, or an essay. It is not quite a story, at this point anyway, and it is definitely not a book. My goal is that over the next few months I will be able to critique it and turn it into a book. That would be cool. I do not really want to call it an essay or a paper, though that is what it probably most resembles. For now, I'll keep referring to it as a "thing," for lack of a better term. End parentheses.) until I have established a foundation for the topic, and that is what the following is.
People may think that band is just that period in school where a bunch of nerdy overly optimistic people sit around and blow hot air through their instruments, but it is not. The concept that bad is a sit-down walk in the park was on that was completely obliterated from my mind even before I set foot in the halls of my high school my freshman year. Up until that point band had just been an easy one hundred on my report card. In middle school band had been a game: See how long you could avoid going to your lesson with out losing your one hundred average. If you missed too many lessons, your grade would suffer. If you went to too many lessons, Mr. Abrams would know that you never practiced your music; thus creating the less than ideal foundation for my musical career. Up until high school, that was the importance of being able to play your instrument. It was not that you didn’t care about your instrument, or being able to play it, it was just that there were so many finer things in life than practicing. Whatever the case, that all changed, well, at least the mental process, with two words: Band Camp.

"Band Camp. n. 1. an illegal amount of minors gathered in a dangerous lot, who attempt to learn music and their drill while trying to avoid death caused by easily angered band directors" -Kyle Foster (9:36 P.M. October 24, 2009.) That pretty much sums it up. If you have ever seen a marching band perform a field show, you can be sure that the show you are watching did not spontaneously erupt from the spirit of the music being played. In high schools, band camp is a period of anywhere from two weeks to a month in which the band gets together everyday and drills their drill into a show. For the Kingston High School Tiger Band this means giving up the last two weeks of your summer to hammer down a show for four to six hours a day; 90% of the time you are there because you have no other option if you wish to remain as a member in the band. If you are an incoming freshmen, you are there because no one told you that a bunch of music freaks were going to suck the life out of you before high school even started.

As far as I have ever been concerned, my high school band was the largest in the stated of New York, at least when it comes to marching; we have had 200 people, give or take a dozen, every year that I have been in the band this far. Now, when you have two hundred plus kids running around with little to no clue what they are doing and a combined total of over three hundred and fifty pounds worth of instruments during the hottest and final two weeks of the summer, in a place where they do not necessarily want to be; two hundred kids is a monstrous band size. Now, reading that and keeping in mind that they have, in theory, already forfeited the time to learn their music at home on their own and at group sectionals with other players of their instrument, Kyle's definition is the most appropriate definition that I can think of (not to mention that he was the only person whom I just asked to define band camp.) The Kingston High School Tiger Marching Band performed "A night at the movies- the music of John Williams from the motion pictures E.T., Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars" in the fall of 2009.

"We've had three sectionals so far this summer. The first was July 6th, then the 18th, then the 25th- I missed the last one. Band is my second priority this year (after KHS-TV.) We have three new horns this year. Faith, Colleen, and Laura. So far our sectionals have been productive. Last year they were just filled with random conversations- "mercury balls." They are at Dennis' house. I'm really looking forward to this year's marching band. I can't wait. I've had several dreams about it already. And I'm finding things already to pack my bag with for championship weekend at Syracuse. Mom got me a projector and it totally fits in my suitcase. So I'm going to bring that and the tent. Basically the idea is to bring as much random stuff as you can. We're getting a French horn flag also- that's my idea. I'll probably call someone tomorrow to see where to order it. I'm also really excited about having three new horns. I've gone to all of the freshmen marching rehearsals so far (3) and filmed at two of them. At the second one, Dennis couldn't make it, so I filled in for him as (self-dubbed) substitute section leader, which was really fun and cool. The three ducklings, as I refer to them (I see the with their French horns and I think duck-ling) are very promising. Marching wise, Colleen seems to be the best. She has excellent posture and I think she's going to be the best marcher. Laura is good as well. Fait needs to work on her posture and rolling her feet."

I play the french horn, by the way. Yeah, we march with our french horns, too, which I have come to learn is an oddity. Now, if you ask a person from each different section "what the best section is" you will get a different answer from each person, however, I must honestly say that, without bias, the French horns are indeed the best section. If there is ever a section that is ever forgotten or overlooked in high school band, it is the french horns; and yet we're so important. Everyone knows the saxes and the trumpets, and the flutes and clarinets. No one ever forgets the low brass- the cumulative term, incase you didn't know, for all of the misfit tubas, baritones, and trombones that are lumped together into one massive section because they lack a sufficient number of people to stand alone, or simply because they all basically play the same music. Need I even mention the percussion section? On the field, however, it is the horns (and this year melophones) that stand alone. We have just enough people to qualify as our own section, although last year the brilliant idea was proposed to not give us a section leader, but instead combine us with the saxophones. There's a reason that last year's sectionals were not so productive- "mercury balls." The French Horns are by far the closet knit section. This year we have 10 horns or melophones, which breaks down into the three freshmen; my brother Alex, who is a sophomore; myself, Kyle, and Olivia, who are juniors; and Dennis, Jackie, and Jessie- seniors. Dennis is our section leader and Jessie and Jackie are both two of the five drum majors in the band. In the same way that we got merged with the saxes last year, the bass clarinets were merged with us this year. Kelsey and Olivia, or Olivie if you would like to pronounce it with out confusing the other Olivia, are juniors. Andrew is a senior.
Ask anyone in the band and they will tell you that when you're in a marching band, you're in a family; and when you're in a two hundred plus piece marching band, you're in a large family. That year Jackie was our conductor and our band mother (not to mention 2009 KHS Homecoming Queen!!) Though, if you wanted to technical, it all feels like older and younger siblings to me. Our freshmen year Margaret, Katie, and a bunch of other people figured out all of the "relationships." I have never quite followed all of them, but a bunch of people were married, some were their kids, and various cousins and such; a complex mental maze. If you are interested enough, you can contact me after I turn this into a book and I'll give you one of their number's. But yeah, band people are family. The only thing that I am currently up to date on is Kyle and Claudia's relationship, and that is because I get to be the best man at the wedding. I’m tired. Goodnight. -EB

The Road to Syracuse

As they pulled up the hill and into the bus turn around he could see that he was wrong. Students and chaperones stood waiting under the overhang; the luggage was even more dense than the crowd, but the busses that he had insisted upon had yet to arrive. His mother said nothing, though he knew that the basis of their recently abandoned argument had just been shattered. It was not 6:15 in the morning and the October sky was still black as pitch. There was no morning in the air aside from the dulled energy arising from the waiting crowd, but as for the sky, its self, it was still night. He had been right about their scheduled arrival time, as he knew he had been, but as for the tantrum about the busses having to wait for the, he was wrong. Coming to a stop somewhere off center of the middle of the crowd, Ethan yanked his unnecessarily heavy suitcase, his backpack, french horn, and tent from the car. His brother evacuated his belongings from the back seat. It was an unpleasant start to what should have been a future baring morning; ill feelings spilt over from the night before. Carving out a spot in the growing crowd, half under the overhang, it began to drizzle. "Ethan." His mother called him back to the car after he had established his spot. Grudgingly, he walked back to the car where she stood. "Here," she held out an envelope that had been in her coat pocket. "This is your money. Now, it's seventy dollars; I want you to put it somewhere safe. Do you have zippers on your coat pockets?" She still held on to the envelope as she ineffectively looked his coat over. "It's fine" he answered her impatiently. The drizzle didn't annoy him as much as her over cautious checks. "Now it's seventy dollars" she stated again, "but if your brother asks, tell him that its only forty, because that's all he's getting after last night." He shifted from sided to side wishing to fast forward the conversation. "And don't let him know about your camera or he'll have a fit." "Fine." He took the envelope, walked out of the drizzle, and folded it down into his back pocket. "Alex." She called his brother over for his less generous gift bearing.
Looking around, he didn't see many of his closest friends. He knew everyone there, or at least he had ought to. There wasn't a person in the school who couldn't at least recognize him from the morning television announcements, and besides, everyone knew everyone in band. Yet still, he realized that though he knew all of the faces well enough to know that they belonged, he knew not all the names behind them. A sad fact considering all the band had been through. It had been exactly two and a half months since the band had first taken the baby steps in learning their field show at band camp, and now, fast forward four football games, three competitions, and two and a half months later they stood ready to begin their final journey to the 2009 New York State Field Band Championships in Syracuse, and he still didn't know everyone's name's.
Walking through the crowd, he traced the trickle of people arriving at the bus turn around with uniforms. He traced them up the hill and along the walkway that lead past the athletic field where they had assembled the night before, and into the band room its self. Faith walked shortly behind him, and he turned around, walking backwards, to acknowledge her and inquire as to her bus assignment. Unfortunately for her, their busses were not the same, and so she would not be able to partake in his candy supplies as she had so formed a habit of on their previous outings.
Looking at the field in the darkness of the nighttime morning, lit poorly by a floodlight, which was intended solely for the walk way, he could see the faded chalk lines that they had marched on the night before. The night before, it all seemed so distant. That night, the last competition, band camp; all of the time and preparation that they had put into their field show was now preparing to boil to one final finale. Everything was a memory, and what was now was the future.

"…None of us were really in the mood to go back and march after that. But we had to. Over the next three hours we ran large chunks of the show. E.T., Jurassic, and the end. We put the final visual in Indiana, and then ran it.
Tonight was the night we did it. Tonight was our highlight. The crowd of parents grew constantly throughout the rehearsal. And when we finished the final run through, we had done what we had set out to do in August, and we knew it. I don't remember what the directors said afterwards when we knelt down in the circle, but I do know what they were saying, we already knew. I remember looking around the circle and not being able to find any appreciable grass. We had finally gotten rid of the grass that had been so persistent since band camp. Kyle sat with the flutes, with Claudia. Dennis squatted next to me. Amy sat across the circle and when Garner wasn't standing directly in the middle and moving too much I could see straight at her. When they finished, we all broke loose and ran off the field. The parents had made a long chute that they lined on either side and the band ran through it cheering. Everyone was clapping and cheering. We're going to Syracuse."

The emotion from his journal entry the night before resurged in him, and he ran ahead of Faith towards the band room. Once there, he easily found his uniform in the nearly empty racks of the storage room where they were kept. Most of the section leaders were milling about the larger low brass instruments and percussion ones waiting for the truck to pull up so they could load them. Realizing that there was more time to spare than he had thought, he spied Katie and Amy behind a marimba. Walking over, the three triangulated as the other section leaders moved instruments to more convenient locations. "Are you ready?" Asked Katie as she made a friendly half hearted punching motion in the direction of his stomach. "You betcha," he responded, uniform in arm. Amy stood confirmingly with her hands in the pocket of her hoodie. There was a dull energetic readiness that accompanies all trips, especially the longer ones, but was suppressed only by the hour of the morning. "East Ramapo is going down" Katie continued. "True, but East Ramapo is no longer the target." Amy corrected "Touché." A brief moment passed as they each thought in which direction to pull the conversation, but was interrupted by the noise of the truck pulling up. "Alas, we go" triumphed Katie as they motioned their attention to the task at hand. Amy fell back to her duties assisting the other section leaders as Ethan sought out Dennis among them.
Dennis had just finished in the loading of a timpani. "I'm going to slip these power tools in here incase we need them with the set." Mr. Avossa was speaking to Mr. Garner and placing a box of power tools in the truck as Ethan approached Dennis. "Have you seen the flag?" Ethan asked him. Determined to bolster the spirit of the Horns, he and Olivia had constructed a large flag at band camp, baring proudly the triple "H"'s, which so symbolized the horns. "No, I think Jessie had it." Dennis went back inside for another load. Re-entering the band room, Ethan Jessie coming out of the director's office. "Have you seen the flag?" He checked with her. "I'm pretty sure Olivia had it. In following with this goose chase he continued by calling Olivia's phone, but no answer. His search was finally spared some light, however, as he found the wooden broomstick, which had served as the flag pole, propped against the main exit by the windows. He and Kyle had found it in the dark corners of the auditorium behind the stage way back in band camp. They had figured that Mr. Avossa would have no problem with their borrowing it.
With the matter of the whereabouts of the flag more or less settled, Ethan headed back down to the bus turn around. As he passed back by the field he could see the first of the busses pulling up. The fifth and final bus, which he was on wasn't to pull up until after he had reached his luggage and had it firmly in hand. When it did, Mrs. Lindeman, Margaret's mother, took charge of loading all that needed to be placed in the bus's undercarriage; mainly suitcases and instruments. When she grabbed his blue over stuffed bag the expression on her face, as she heaved it amongst the others, seemed to question the necessity of its contents; for a brief second he was glad that she didn't recognize it to be his. A second parent saw to it that all of the uniforms boarded, as a condensed crowd of students stood waiting for their chance to do the same. Being in no mood to compete for the front of the line, Ethan was the last to board the bus, and in being so, his seating options were limited. He had no one to sit with, no one he planned to sit with, and the thought overwhelmed and disturbed him. Normally he would sit with Kyle for the five hour bus rider, that was what they had done the year before, but now Kyle was sitting with Claudia somewhere in the back where Ethan couldn't see. It was a premeditated arrangement and he understood completely as he took an empty seat three rows from the front of the bus. Though it bothered him that he had no one to sit with, it was just as well, for he was in no mood to be social, but rather to envelope himself in solitude. These inner thoughts, however, extended no further than his own mind.
A controlled commotion had broken out directly behind him as Peaches, the over bearing sophomore, whom no one regarded by his real name, enlightened people as to what the proper seating arrangement should be. "Ask Ethan. He'll let you sit with him." Joel was being enlightened. After a brief back and forth Joel approached and asked if he could sit with him. Joel was a year younger than he, and though they were in the same band room everyday they rarely spoke; not because they didn't care to, but more because they were simply never in on the same conversations. Ethan sincerely didn't mind sitting with him. He could now honestly tell himself that he was not sitting alone, but was under no obligation to retreat from his solitude. Peaches found himself seated besides Demeter, another who's first name was infrequently used. Almost instantly a flow of World Series facts and trivia, or some baseball lingo, drifted through the front of the bus. Mrs. Patzner, who had been sitting in front of Ethan, and now Joel, peaking through the headrests, thanked the two for forming a barrier between her and the two free-spoken baseball wizards.
Mrs. Lindeman came on board having finished arranging the last of the bags beneath the bus. Margaret, Renae, and Erin entered with her; they had been loading the truck with the rest of the section leaders and drum majors. This had not occurred to Ethan, nor had the fact that they were on his bus in the first place. Suddenly hi contentment in Joel's company began to fade away as they scanned the bus with difficulty to locate seats. A second round of enlightening took place, though this time Peaches found himself among those being enlightened.
"Ok. Can I have your attention please? Excuse me! Your attention please." Gradually, the word worked its way to the back of the bus as the focus shifted frontward. Mrs. Lindeman took over. "Good morning, everyone." A half hearted echo ensued from a few. "Ok, we're going to take attendance now to make sure that we're all here; so when I call your name just yell out so we know you're here. Let's begin, shall we? Patrick, is Patrick here?" "Oh, he's riding with his dad" Mrs. Patzner informed her. "Alrighty then, moving on…" of the names called, all responded aside from Patrick, "Great." Mrs. Lindeman continued. "Now to make sure that we don't lose anyone somewhere along the way, we're going to give you a number just like we've been doing all year. This time, however, the numbers have been predetermined by higher powers, namely Mr. Garner, and Mr. Shaut, I presume. A notable increase in volume swept the bus as comments regarding the new naming system arose. "Guys, guys, focus." The announcer was quick to regain control. "Now, I'm going to run through the attendance again, except this time when I call your name I want you to call out the next number, starting with one and two, and so forth, ok?" After everyone was sure of their number they proceeded to do a run through to make sure. "One, two" the count off began. "Three," silence. "Four? Who's four?" Mrs. Patzner spoke up again. "Four? Four?!" Cries for four echoed back. "Oh, here!" Cherokee stood up and called out his number. "Alright, start over." "One, two, three," silence. After three attempts, and three fails, it was determined that the young flute player couldn't hear "three," who sat towards the front of the bus. An audible silence was present on the fourth attempt, and success was achieved. Having completed the roll call the bus waited for the others to finish as well. A brief session of comical instruction was delivered by the bus driver, who happened to be Renae's father; her mother and once baby sister sat in the seat behind him. After a few minutes the lead bus began to move, followed by a chain reaction down the line. If they had forgotten anything, it was too late now.
It was just before 7:30, but the first hints of morning had yet to make themselves known. The drizzle had faded away sometime ago, or so it seemed, and the creases in the clouds failed to leak the sunlight that would have publicized announced the new day. Pulling out of the turn around and on to the main road, their caravan was as impressive as ever. Head pressed against the window, Ethan thought to himself about what it must look like to the unsuspecting drivers; five coach busses full of band kids pulling out of a high school at the break of dawn on a Saturday morning, Halloween morning at that. Two hundred musicians off t trick or treat with fate.

Saturday October 31, 2009. 8:15 A.M.
We've been on the road about 45 minutes now. I think we're coming up on exit 24.
The band is heading for Syracuse. There were rain showers when we left, but now it's just overcast. The sun is trying and the horizon really isn't that dark. We still have about another four hours to go. We have come so far from those first sectionals, from the first day of band camp, from the first competition, we have come so far. For the first time we are not simply going to Syracuse, but we are going to Syracuse. For the past the three years we have always fought to not be called first. This year we're fighting to be called last. Our last performance was two weeks ago. We are three points from first place. There are five or six bands fighting at our level. This is the first year that we've really bulked up on rehearsals before Syracuse. Last night was our last rehearsal. I know that this band has what it takes. My only doubt is whether we can bring together all that we have at the exact same time. And just because we can at today's competition doesn't mean that we will tomorrow. I can see a patch of blue sky now. -EB There are lots of patches of blue.

When Ethan awoke there was no question as to day or night. The clouds present, though darkened, were the type that any day can purchase. The bus was very quiet for a field trip, even if it was still early. Most people were sleeping now, but here and there people were just sitting quietly. Alan and one of the Patrick’s who had actually been on the bus were just sitting, awake, but conforming to the prevailing silence. Patrick, clothed in a complete army uniform, held a large trophy that the band had won in years past; the Director's Cup. It had become a tradition to present it to the best section after every rehearsal. The French horns had epically won it on the last day of band camp, and once or twice since then. After the rehearsal from the night before it was determined that the band as a whole should win it, because for the first time in the history of the prize the band as a whole had deserved it. Luckily for him, Patrick was presented with the honor of caring for the Director's Cup for the duration of the trip.
Two rows back Sarah and Chris sat listening to separate headphones. Someone else texted on their phone. Ethan, too, took out his phone to check the time; it was about a quarter after eight. Joel sat next to him, head bowed in silence beneath his hood. Ethan shuffled through his back pack which lay at his feet. It was just as overstuffed as his suitcase. He pulled out a spiraled notebook and a pen and began to jot something down. He had loved writing for a long time now and had kept a quasi-constant journal, mainly thanks to the persistence of his mother. Looking out of the window, a long series of cleared fields were drifting by. He could see the horizon in the distance, they were traveling towards it, and he noted that the clouds, once darkened with rain, weren’t nearly as thick as they had once been. In fact they were rather interesting. Grey pumped layers denying the tone of blue just on the other side. A small patch of blue broke through at one of the seems. It only lasted a few minutes, however, because after a few miles a dense wall of molting trees cut off the sky view and barred him to the bus.
Again taking out his phone, he contemplated texting Amy. Though, as he thought about it he couldn't find a decent reason to, and laid the phone down in his lap. He rarely sent messages via phone, partly because he sucked at tapping out the letters on such a small key pad. He remembered once having sent a text message between classes in school. It had taken him all of the five minutes in-between classes, plus an extra two just to knock out the five or so sentences.
There were several different voices floating through the air as Sarah and Chris had grown tired of their isolating headphones and were now discussing something that he couldn't make out, though they presumably could. Margaret, Renae, and Erin were up too, As they came around a bend in the highway he could see that the busses were still in their convoy line, and being in the back he could see the whole thing. Again, he thought how impressive it was to be riding in a convoy of five coach busses. Plus the truck! He could see it leading the way. He suddenly picked up his phone and began tapping a message to Amy. "I c ur bus" he wrote. KaChing. 0.3 minutes deducted from the cheep pay as you go phone. He had 67 minutes left. Switching the phone from ring to vibrate, so not to disturb anyone should she respond, he dug around in his bag pulling out a CD player. He had brought it especially for this trip. Katie had prepared a CD for him with "John Williams (plus other good stuff.)" Having tinkered with the contraption for several minutes and having produced no sound, he concluded within himself that it must be defective. He abandoned the attempts at the device when hi pocket began to vibrate. "lol. what bus are you on?" ""Five." he wrote back. "You?"
It was several minutes before the phone vibrated again. Except that this time it wasn't Amy. "Hello?" He answered. "You called?" "Oh hey I was just calling to se if you had the flag." "Yeah, I have it, but it's all wet from last night, 'cause we left it on the podium thing." "Well as long as you have it." "Yeah." "Alright. See you in a bit." "Ok." It was just about then that the bus began switching lane. Veering to the side of the side of the highway, those who were at least semi conscience stirred as the flow of busses spilled off the road and into a rest area. A main drive led past a fairly sizable parking lot and in front of the lodge like building. From the looks of things, the place probably was not intended to park five busses at once. No doubt it had been designed with the capacity, but did the architect of the parking lot ever believe that it would happen? It was doubtable. Everyone was awake now. As the bus came to a halt not far from the entrance Mrs. Lindeman and the other chaperones indicated for everyone to stay seated until they received instructions from the other busses. A white SUV maneuvered around the busses and squeezed into one of the parking spaces. Out stepped Patrick and his dad. Apparently they had been following the busses the whole time. They walked over in the direction of a front bus. A brief moment passed as they watched Mr. Garner walk to the entrance of the Building. Chittenango Travel Plaza was what the bold gold lettering read five feet above the entrance. The building was impressive with it's stone and cedar-like pillars, but it didn't look like a plaza to Ethan. Mr. Shaut followed behind Mr. Garner. Soon there were students walking out of the busses and towards the Plaza. Bus five followed suite.
A brisk wind met him at the door of the bus, though it lacked density. It was only about 100 feet across the driveway and to the main entrance. multiple tributaries of students converged at the entrance, and so the difference between arriving at the building and arriving inside the glass doors was much more significant than on any normal day. Inside, the building was inundated with white shirts and ripples of teenagers moving to and fro. It definitely was not a plaza. A giant map of central New York stood focused near the middle of the room. Around the edges five or so small stores, mainly gift shops and cafes, stood hoping; a handful of students stood poised just outside of the jurisdiction of each. A second area of convergence developed inside, as dozens of tiger backed shirts flowed into the restrooms. Ethan too. Electric paper towel dispenser, and electric soap. Not bad for a tiny plaza. The boy's line flowed nicely. The girl's was a train wreck. Amy and Kirsten stood a bit further along than the halfway mark. In the distance, chaperones were herding students back to the near side of the building, away from the furthest gift shop. It was obvious that this was just a bathroom break, and any really money spending would have to wait for Syracuse. Kevin, Dennis, and Ralphie examined the map trying to determine how far it was to specific colleges. Some had been marked as points of interests on the map, others hadn't. The map stand was set up into three different panels. With the map on the first, the other two had historical information. Mainly Native American related events. Ethan picked out the purchase of Manhattan; they had just completed that unit in his Advanced Placement United States of America History class. Katie was nearby and he pointed it out to her.
Ethan drifted towards a cluster of people waiting by the entrance. Nick and Fred stood laughing with three or four others. "Hey. How's is it going, man." Nick slapped him on he back as he greeted him. "I'm alright." Ethan said nodding his head. The conversation drifted out the door as people began to exit the building, and then dissipated as Nick and Fred made their way to the bus. They were done inside and it was time to start heading back. Margaret and David stood in the grass out of the way of people exiting. Ethan swung a left and found himself by them. They were glad to see each other. A large bronze historical information sign stood by the walkway. Drifting towards it, Margaret was presumably the first to read it. "Ha-ha, wow." She had obviously already gotten to the amusing part as Ethan began skimming. Him still, reading she began to summarize the text. "Basically, they're declaring their supremacy for having had Native Americans in the area." The pride in the text was a bit amusing. Still taking in the historical text, the three stood swaying in the breeze, it was a fairly strong breeze; not cool, nr warm. All except for about five students had yet to enter the bus; presumably there were a few more inside. It was fairly sunny, now. Sunny enough to cast a shadow. Thin wisps of clouds whizzed by not far over head. It was windy, and yet at the same time a defined haze of clouds off to the right of the sky still threatened with a sprinkle. Ethan wondered if there would be a rainbow. The way things were looking, it was definitely possible. The band had already seen two rainbows so far that season. The first rainbow had been on the first day of band camp. It was followed by a second rainbow just two days later, also at band camp. The second one was more impressive than the first. If he could find a trace of a rainbow now, then they were sure to be set for the whole weekend.
"What's the deal with Olivia and your brother?" Margaret asked as David and Ethan spied Alex and Olivia being affectionate on the other side of the entrance a ways away. "I honestly, don't know." He didn't. "You know, normally stuff like that would imply other stuff." They watched as the two pushed each other back and forth, then Alex locked Olivia in his arms. "I know, but they say it doesn't mean anything." "Ok, but it definitely does." Mrs. Lindeman came out from the glass doors. A girl exited before her. "Mom," Margaret called her over. "Ok, now, look over there and tell me what your first impression is." "Over where?" "At Alex and Olivia." Mrs. Lindeman adjusted her black rimmed glasses. "Well, it would appear that they are expressing their sentiment for each other like two teenagers." "See. That's what I said, but they both deny it." "Well," trying to disregard the conversation "we should start heading to the bus. Everyone's out." David, Ethan, and Margaret walked ahead of Margaret's mother as they headed back to bus five. Catching on, Alex and Olivia mozied on over to their bus.
Back on the bus, Mrs. Lindeman gave everyone a little bit of time to get settled in before commencing with the attendance. "Ok, count off." "One." "Two." "Three." Silence. "Cherokee!" It only took two tries that time. Everyone onboard, they waited for the busses to train out of the Chittenango Travel Plaza.
As they waited to pull out of Chittenango Ethan figured that he'd give his defective CD player one more shot. He had nothing better to do. After fiddling with the buttons again and opening and closing the device he finally realized what the problem had bee. Lifting the CD out of the player, he found what he thought had been the surface of the machine had in fact been a clear plastic cover. Removing the semi-decomposable barrier be was pleased to find that the electronic contraption was in fact not defective as he had, until just now, suspected. Rather, it was protected in a fashion that was unnecessarily stealthy. Amused at his find, he called two seats back to Sarah to inform her of his discovery.
The busses pulled out from their rest and resumed their westbound course down Interstate 90. Sitting there with his CD player, he wondered if they still made CD players in this microchip age and whatnot. Obviously, they still did, because he had just brought one, but it felt to him that it had been a long time since he had seen anyone with a CD player. Now it was all of these Ipods and tiny things that he had never been interested in enough to keep up with. Most of the ones that he had seen, though, he felt that he could accidentally break in his hand. He could easily see himself putting them in his back pocket, as he had a habit of doing, and sitting on it by mistake. In any case, he had gotten the CD player to work, and there was now a decent flow of music coming through the one working headphone; the right one. When he had asked Katie to burn him a copy if the music from the field show it hadn't occurred to him that the music would contain all of the instrumental voices. What he had intended was to listen to the parts that the horns played, but instead found that it blended in with the rest of the recorded parts to various degrees. He wasn't sure if not being able to pick out most of his parts on the CD was a good thing, or a bad thing. He had never been able to listen to the whole band play the songs on the field before, or at least the woodwind parts. The brass and other instruments around him always did a good job of drowning out the frailer voices which were often times half a football field away. However, the CD that Katie had put together was nice.

The day was well awake, now, as they cruised down the stretches of highway. John Williams still floated through the one dependable earpiece in the form of Indiana Jones. The sky was overcast again as they seemed to catch up with the clouds, but there were still patches of blue. Ethan could feel that they were driving on higher terrain, upstate somewhere. The ridge along the road undoubtedly belonged to some off chute of the Appalachians. It couldn't be the Adirondacks. No, he knew those too well, and the hills were nothing compared to them. Besides, the normal route to Syracuse didn't take them north of Albany. It was the northern reaches of the Catskills, most likely, though he couldn't be sure. He really had no clue where the were. Outside the window a large stream flowed parallel to the roadway, interrupted every few miles by a canal lock. He had never actually seen a functioning lock before, though, in the fourth grade he had made one out of Plexiglas. When he poured water into it to demonstrate for the class, the bottom sprang several leaks and leaked all over the floor. Had it not been for several emergency trips down to the art room to get some oil based clay the whole room would have become part of a lock system.
The John Williams songs had now ended on the CD and the music was now rolling through the "(…other good stuff.)" The lion King was up next. Coming around a bend the hillside revealed one of the most magnificent road trip view that he could remember seeing. Wooden houses grew from a quite hillside that mirrored the one that the interstate ran along. A mixture of pasture and forest meshed at the sides of unmarked individual roads. It was gorgeous. The scenery, the landscape. Most of the leaves had gone with October, but enough stayed to make it perfect. The grey life on the bark barring trees on the grey pasted sky. Enough golden beads of sun to bring out the best in the discolored grasses and in the remaining leaves, dead though most of them were. All draped like a sheet across the majestic boldness of the rolling mountains as the sky stood still. Head pressed against the window, he could feel his eyes misting over as his gaze slowly ran down the slope outside the bus. Sinking his head back into his white hood, he could feel a pressure mounting under his eyes as the first tear fell. They fell light and at a steady pace. "He lives in you" drifted out of the one earpiece now. He Knew that the tears that fell now were the ones that had bee left over from the night before. The night before, it seemed even more distant now than it had seemed earlier that morning pulling up at the bus turnaround. It had been such an intense night. The day its self had started off poorly to begin with; he relived it in his mind.

Yesterday was one of the hardest days that I've had in a long time. First off KHS-TV sucked. Toaster crashed and it was a game show too. We haven't had a good game show yet this year. When we came back Mr. Avossa was just standing in front of the green screen, which in its self isn't the end of the world, but we had massive sound problems. Firstly, the sound got muted from toaster, so we didn't have sound for like a minute, and didn't even know why. Then after that the audio levels were so messed up that I had to jump on sound board and take it away from David, who is trying to get certified. Krista didn't even know what to do with it. Actually, before the show I got out of first period early." He corrected his memory. It was the day before Halloween and Mr. Franklin had come to school dressed as a giant purple grape and wasn't going to be teaching. I came up to the studio. Mr. Hendricks had been trying to get Jessie's Halloween stories off of one of the computers to be aired for the show, but he couldn't get into her account. So, I went down and tried to get it off, but I couldn't either, so Mrs. Fleck looked up her classroom. At the end of the period I ran down to Mr. Reinhardt’s room, where she was, to check her login. Vianca had written it down wrong. So, I had to run back to Sheber's room and try again to get the get the story off, but I couldn't. The computer was too slow. The show started, so I had to run back without it, because I was supposed to anchor with Maddie. While I was running back to the studio, I passed by Ms. Iffle who was shocked that I was running, but I didn't have time to explain. So that bothered me. Dani was anchoring with Maddie when I got there. Then toaster crashed. It took me several periods to get over the incident.
We had our last band rehearsal after school. It was from one thirty to six; the last two periods of the day were included. At two fifteen, however, Maddie, Margaret and I left because we were going to see Mr. Sheber in the hospital. He's been out for two weeks with the Swine flu. We met up with Krista, Vianca, and Ashlee in the studio and picked up his cards and balloons. Then the six of us walked over to the hospital. Walking there Maddie, Margaret and I formed our own three person line ahead of the other three, because we were walking faster since we had to get back for band. When we got to the hospital we had to wait for Hannah, which wasn't really surprising since we had to wait for her a lot this year. It didn't take her long to pull up. We all just walked through the hospital. Security didn't stop us at all, which I found a bit surprising and shocking. I lead the way since I knew where I was going. He was on 4-Spellman. I knew how to get to the fourth floor, but we had to ask the oncology desk exactly where Spellman was. The staff was really nice. They gave us masks so that we could go in. Hannah, Vianca, and I went first. It was really quick. I didn't really know what to say, and nothing was said directly for me to respond to. His throat sounded bad and he looked a little sick. Everyone else went in afterwards. We had fun with the masks while we were waiting. Ashlee took a picture of us with our masks on. The picture was going to be of me, Hannah, and Vianca, but I made Krista get in as well. Since June I have been meaning to get a picture of all four of us. I tried at the party in June, but my disposable camera still has two pictures, left on it- strictly for that purpose. I was glad that we were able to get a picture of the original board. Margaret jumped in the picture next to me too. I was really glad that Hannah came. For me, that needed to happen in order to allow us to move on from whatever rift there had been.
As we left we waited for the elevator door. Everyone felt bad for Mr. Sheber. When we came up Margaret had gotten confused that he might be in oncology since that was where we had stopped to ask for directions. Then she brought up the Mr. Scherer had cancer. She said that the doctors had basically given him a death sentence of a couple of months, and that he had been out since like the second week of school. I hadn't know any of this. I remembered briefly that Dennis had given me a ride to Saturday's rehearsal, and his mom had mentioned something about Mr. Scherer being sick, but that was all I knew. I didn't really formulate any thoughts towards it when Margaret told us; the words just sort of fell on my ears. She said that, according to Wendell, he was still how he used to be, but just not himself. Less energetic.
Vianca, Margaret, Maddie, Hannah, and I cut through the cafeteria to get out. Krista and Ashlee had stayed behind at the elevator looking at a map to try to locate the cafeteria. I hadn't realized that they were looking for it. When we got to the parking lot, Hannah split off to go to her car. I was still glad that she had come. Vianca, Margaret, Maddie, and I walked back to the school. As we cut through the parking lot we were talking about Mr. Scherer still. Vianca was saying how she hadn't met him before, but it was still sad. Margaret thought she saw a man that looked like him get out of a car. It was him. It was really ironic, but it was him. He walked towards us, with who I guess was his wife. He was wearing a navy blue sports outfit that went well with his grey-white beard and hair. He waved at us and said that he was going for his last round of chemo toady. As he passed by, he put his hand on my shoulder. I thought to give him a hug, but it all happened so fast that I didn't. I wish I had. The rest of the way we talked about how Margaret and I were going to take his Mythical Journeys class our senior year, but now he's leaving, and Margaret's graduating early. I don't know if I'll take it anymore. It would sort of be like living a dying dream. Then again, if I do take it, it will be to keep the dream alive in me, even if that's the only place it will live.
None of us were really in the mood to go back and march after all that. But we had to. Over the next three hours we ran large chunks of the show. E.T., Jurassic, and the end. We put the final visual in Indiana, and then ran it.
Tonight was the night we did it. Tonight was our highlight. The crowd of parents grew constantly throughout the rehearsal. And when we finished the final run through, we had done what we had set out to do in August, and we knew it. I don't remember what the directors said afterwards when we knelt down in the circle, but I do know what they were saying, we already knew. That evening I remember looking around the circle and not being able to find any appreciable grass. We had finally marched the field to caked solid ground. We had finally gotten rid of the grass that had been so persistent since band camp. Kyle sat with the flutes, with Claudia. Dennis squatted next to me. Amy sat across the circle and when Garner wasn't standing directly in the middle and moving too much I could see straight at her. When they finished, we all broke loose and ran off the field. The parents had made a long chute that they lined on either side and the band ran through it cheering. Everyone was clapping and cheering. We're going to Syracuse.

I called mom when I got back in the band room to pick us up. I called her constantly for about five minutes on both phones, but she didn't pick up. It made me a little edgy. Alex and I were the last to leave. We hadn't heard from mom because she hadn't answered the phones, so we decided to walk home. The sun had been set for some time. It was cold. She pulled up just as we got of campus. Alex started arguing with her almost immediately. I tried to pretend to fall asleep, because I wasn't interested in having them spoil the greatness of the evening. When we got home my main priority was to find my tape of last year's graduation and capture Mr. Scherer's part. He was the commencement speaker for the class of 2009. Alex got impatient because burning it on to DVD took twice as long as I had said it would. I can't remember the exact course of events, but it accelerated and he chased me upstairs and eventually threw a music stool into mom's corner mirror like a maniac trying to hit me. Then he walked out of the house. Sometimes there is no doubt in my mind that it is his attitude that is growing what is left of this family apart.

I went about my business pulling stuff together for Syracuse- we were leaving in a couple of hours. Then mom picked up the messages. Sister Kitt had died. That was the final straw for me. I went up to my room, pulled the covers over my head and began to cry. For several minutes mom kept calling up asking me who-knows-what, and I had to yell back down, wishing that she'd just be quiet. Eventually she came up and knew that I was crying. I didn't want her to know, and the broken single worded explanations hurt coming out. I wanted somebody to find me under there, somebody, a friend, someone who could make it better. But it's times like that, that those people are hardest to know. The words hurt and only came after having bounced around as ideas in my head for quite some time. It was a deadly and ill timed collaboration of everything that had happened that day as well as everything else. It was the bad show, it was Mr. Sheber, it was Margaret leaving, it was Mr. Scherer, it was Sister Kitt. I just broke, and it was like every tear I had held back the past months. I cried tears uneasily. I pathetically tried to keep them back. Stuffing a sponge in a faucet. It hurt and they came strong. It was about fifteen minutes. I cried enough to want to stop, but not enough to get all the tears out of me. I cried for Margaret, but above all I cried for Mr. Scherer. I showed mom the DVD that I had just made. It was ten minutes long. The tears came again, only this time more freely and stronger.

Ethan must have fallen asleep, because there was a lapse in time between the hillside town and the exit for Syracuse; exit thirty five. The caravan pulled off of the highway, rounded a large loop, and passed through the toll booth. A traffic circle, like the one back home, sent them off into the heart of Syracuse. He wasn't too sure where they were going right at the moment. According to the itinerary, they were headed to Phoenix for their last actual competition before Championships at the Carrier Dome. They would head out there before checking in at the hotel. This would be the band's fourth competition, then Syracuse; championships. They had started off the season with scores in the lower seventies, which had been a rather decent way to begin the season, but over the following weeks their score had risen. In the past the school to beat had always been East Ramapo. The yellow and black band seemed to always manage to squeeze a head of Kingston by less than a point. It had become that East Ramapo began to symbolize everything evil and wrong in the world. Centered as the focus of the marching band jokes, the Ramapoians had reigned too long. This year was not to be the same. The Tiger's first competition had been on the twenty sixth of September, most of the other bands had begun competing several weeks earlier. That was at Johnstown. The band scored a 71.90, enough to rank them in fourth place right off the bat out of the seven or eight schools that had competed up to that point, East Ramapo dwindled in the chilly lower sixties; Kingston was well beyond them. Two weeks later the band was down in Arlington, a competition proven to be a score dropper. Twenty days before they were to leave for Syracuse the band managed to pull out a 72.9. They were fifth out of nine, the top band, Sachem, having led the way with a 78.15; Union Endicott trailing with a 64.15. A fourteen point spread, with the majority pushing towards the front hash. Arlington had been a good competition for the band. They had marched out of the stadium in single file, all 200 of them, and then pooled around Mr. Shaut, Garner, and Avossa in a monstrous circle away from the crowds. It was dark out, and the stadium lights illuminated only half of everything. They were well on their way. One week later, the seventeenth, the band headed north to Mohonasson, a two hour bus ride. This was the only field that Ethan had managed to visually memorize, and with good reason. The previous year, the competition officials had forgotten to set up the field markers, so that the band could know where exactly on the field they were standing. Luckily, someone noticed before Emily dropped the first down beat, but not before the band, facing back field, had stood shivering in the nearly frozen wind for nearly seven minutes. The house that faced the back of the field had little choice but to become imprinted in everyone's mind. This year the band had marched on time. They had lined the outer fence by the field watching the other bands compete after they had. It was chilly, but not unbearable. Fifteen of them, Ethan, Amy, Andrew, and Kirsten included had smushed together, seated at the base of the chain link fence, backs turned towards the stadium, in a giant row-huddle trying to keep warm. The barbeque on the other side of the stadium drifted down wind. The announcing of the awards came, and Kingston sent out its drum majors. Compared to the other bands, there were a lot of drum majors. Jackie, Jessie, Kevin, Nick, and Erin marched on to the field accompanied by the two colorguard captains; seven in total. Large School Three Division: Kingston: 77.60; only once in the past four years had the band scored higher. Cheers and hugs erupted violently from the side of the field, as the announcer had to pause to be heard above the celebration on the ground and in the stands. The noise generated could be second only possibly to the eruption when the senior class had called Jackie's name as homecoming queen, and then launched fireworks. That night the band rode home ready to take on the world. Auburn had broken 80 at some other competition; there were now four or five schools in those top three points. 80 was the goal, 90 was the dream.
The busses were on some back road now. Ethan began to remember this part of the trip from last year. He probably would have been able to remember a lot more, but he hadn't come to Syracuse his freshmen year. He hadn't marched at all freshmen year, because of his knee. The road would fork up ahead, and then there would be a school off to the side. That was where they were going. A sign along the side of the road confirmed this, and advertised the Firebird competition. The busses took the wrong fork, as publicized by the oversized U-turn taking place in the parking lot of what looked like a doctor's office. Curious heads in the bus perked up and flicked back and forth from window to window trying to figure out what was going on. The sky was cloudy again.
The school at which they were to perform was rather small. On the outside it looked like on of the middle schools back home. One by one the busses pulled into the parking lot where numerous cars and about half a dozen other busses rested. The busses were parked off to the side near a pair of tennis courts, and that is where the band ended up. "Are we getting changed?" The band was still clothed in their every day clothes that individuals had worn earlier that morning at the bus turnaround; primarily jeans and sweatshirts. Some had undoubtedly gotten dressed the night before and simply worn the same clothes through out the night. Mrs. Patzner wasn't sure if they should wait for some order from Mr. Shaut and Mr. Garner or to just have them go ahead and change. Waiting for guidance the students began passing the uniforms forward. While the assembly line from the last seat of the bus, where the uniforms lived for the duration of the trip, to the front of the bus had never been perfected, it was still fairly effective. They got their uniforms ready, but were reluctant to change if there was no reason to. Most of them had already shedded their street clothes, and were on standby in sports shorts and their white band shirts; black socks jutted above the sneakers. "Go ahead and get changed." Mrs. Lindeman climbed aboard the bus. Apparently she had scrambled over to one of the other busses to find out what the current plan was. "Garner says to have all of you change and then go up on to the tennis court in sections." "Do we bring our instruments?" "Probably, maybe, yes, well, if your instrument is on the truck, then go and get it now. Otherwise, hold on a few minutes." The band was due to perform at 1:39, and it was just after one now.
Since he had been one of the last to board the bus, Ethan's uniform was near the top of the pile, and so he managed to be one of the first people to get their uniforms. Joel's came shortly there after. It had always amazed him how the band moms managed to get the whole band changed on the busses. In many ways it could have been considered an art. Two hundred band members divided by five busses plus the band moms equaled anywhere from forty to fifty kids and forty to fifty uniforms. It fascinated him how they could all manage to pull it off at the same time. Hangers hanging from above, jackets draped over seats, pants hopefully on, hopefully, socks on the feet, shoes getting kicked around on the floor; in truth it was probably the quickest way to sort people into upper classmen, and under classmen; experienced, and those still novices. The seniors and Juniors knew the routine and had everything planned out down to the order in which they were to slip into their socks. This was the art. Usually, Ethan and Kyle managed to be the first ones changed when the band was crammed into the yellow Arthur F. Mulligan busses that they took to normal competitions; it was a combination of experience, French horn superiority, and natural skill. The Sophomores, having recently become totally human, were beginning to catch on and were almost independent of their personal hookers, but the freshmen, they were a different story. By this point in the season they had out grown the pathetic towhistmoamb ("tow-hist-moamb"… T.O.W.T.T.S.I.T.M.O.O.A.M.B… toppling-over-while-trying-to-slip-in-to-maroon-overalls-on-a-moving-bus syndrome), and besides, the bus was parked now, but it still wasn't uncommon to pick up a shoe and discover that it belonged to the freshmen three rows in front.
The bus driver, Renae's dad, went below to open the bus' under carriages and left the bus doors open for people to get off as they finished changing. Though the windows on the busses were slightly tinted, Ethan could see that the other busses had started changing first, as people inside them began hooking their jackets and other jackets around them. He hooked his own jacket and then squeezed past Joel, still working on his slash. Outside, it was considerably cloudy. A cluster of students who were now changed had formed in front of the row of busses, hesitating to stray too far from the rest of the band. Eventually, someone broke from the pod and the band began spilling across the parking lot and into the tennis court. Another band was just beginning to get out of their own bus as they walked by. Several dozen students had managed to get into the fenced in court before Mr. Shaut and Mr. Garner entered. After a brief second and several glances at their watches they had the band go back to the busses and get their instruments. Seeing the mob of returning people, those who were still by the bus caught on and began getting their instruments. Ethan's horn wasn't hard to find, he and Kyle were the only two horns on bus five, though there were several trumpets in the way. Julian, having just finished changing, hopped off the bus and claimed his instrument. Ethan's horn was cold from having been under the bus for the past five hours, but at least it was shiny, as shiny as it was going to get. Dennis had made them clean their instruments before leaving, though, through all of the dents and blemishes, the shine was not the first thing to catch the eye.
Slowly a second flow of musicians, this time armed, began crossing the parking lot. The Tiger band could see that the other band, who had been just getting off the bus, was eying the tennis courts as a location to warm up, and so there was a slight sense of urgency to get back before the other band decided to move in. Their colorguard, making quite a fashion statement in their orange and pink frilled brown suits, had already began warming up on the black top just outside of the chain link fence.
"Come on, let's hurry it up people!" Mr. Garner wasn't in a mood to waste time. Dennis and Faith were already standing behind the first tennis net; Ethan and then Colleen joined them. The rest of the horns showed arrived shortly afterwards with the rest of the band. The court was a little on the damp side, but not enough to be very slippery. Amy focused on merging her two sets of clarinets, which had pooled on either side of the horn section. By the time she and Lauren had managed to get them in order Mr. Avossa had called the section to the front of the court; he was lining the band up into a giant block and the clarinets were about to make up the front left hand corner. Alex, Faith, and Laura were stepping on each other’s feet, purposely ignoring Dennis' authoritative demands to desist. A light tap to the back of Alex's right knee by Kyle, sent Alex stumbling backwards dragging Colleen with him. In all likely hood it was probably deserved, or at least that was the passive consensus. "Horns, up here." Mr. Avossa spread them out in a row four from the front. Ethan found himself four from the front of the block, and three in from the left; Faith and Alex were to either side. The Saxophones filled in behind them, then the trumpets an the low brass. The flutes were down front by the clarinets. "Ok, listen up!" Mr. Avossa had finished arranging the band and Mr. Garner was taking over again. Jackie stood ready to conduct, next to her father and Mr. Shaut. "We are going to be performing inside." A moan went through the band in protest. The sky was grey, and the grass was still wet, but it wasn't raining. "That's the judges call, not mine, however, that means that we're going to have to make some adjustments. First off, look around you right now, because this is how you will be set up. You should be in staggered rows, so there should be a window in front of you, and not the back of someone's head. Remember which window you are in. We are going to be playing in the gym, now it's just like we did for the teachers at band camp. Anyone who was here last year should remember, because we played inside last year, too, when we came to Phoenix. Mr. Shaut?" Mr. Garner turned the stage over to Mr. Shaut. "Because we're inside, what we should be focusing on, now, is dynamics. We've worked on dynamics over and over this season, and right now we can use this as an opportunity to make sure and solidify everything so that tomorrow, when we play inside at the Carrier Dome, we'll be solid. Now, we're in the gym today. They will be able to hear everything, so that means that you don't have to be as loud as on the field. Take the big moments, and make them big, but for the rest of it, save it for those big moments." It was Mr. Avossa's turn. "Guys, I want you to do all of the visuals, obviously we're not going to do the turnarounds, but I want you to do all of the visuals. That includes, the horn pops, as well as the visuals at the end, and the visuals that we just added in Indiana Jones. Like Mr. Shaut said, use this as an opportunity to focus on the dynamics and the music, but don't forget the visuals. Set people, you can watch today, cause we're not doing sets. As far as the transitions, Jackie will cut you off when the transitions happen, and then she will bring you back in. Don't mark time, everyone will be able to see Jackie, so don't mark time. Colorguard you'll be off to the side where you were last year, so people on the right end of the block, just be aware of that, but you'll notice once we're in there. We've got fifteen minutes, Jackie, warm them up."

There was no podium on the tennis court for Jackie to use, so it was a bit difficult to see her. "Let's do the Jurassic Park warm up. Softly. I'll give you four and then your in." Her soft voice didn't project nearly as far as the directors, and so, for her it was more of a yell than a projected command. Never the less, the band understood the directions. One, two, three, four said her hands; the tennis court drifted back in time as the prehistoric music drifted though the holes in the chain link fence. The block of musicians ran quickly through the temporary transitions, having Jackie cut them off and then come back in, before collapsing into one long double file line as the flutes lead the band out of the enclosed courts and towards the building where they would soon be playing. The other band's colorguard was still twirling away, but paused to wish the foreigners luck and to pick up their flags. "Do you know what band they are?" Ethan asked Kyle. "Probably like Sachem or Auburn." "Hey what band are you guys?" Alex indiscreetly went out of his way to get a word in with the girls from the other school. They were from Sachem.
The band walked passed the gym entrance and then doubled back along the sidewalk, so that they could fit everyone against the building until it was time to enter. A third band was now in the parking lot. The people standing next to Ethan and Kyle remembered the new band from previous years. Their flashy green uniforms and frilled Mexican hats were hard not to remember. It began to rain. Drizzle at first, then a bit heavier. Girly shrieks spouted above the chattering of the band and drifted down the side walk. By now Ethan, as well as the rest of the horns were far enough along in line that they could squeeze under the semi permanent awning that had been set up outside of the gym door. Beneath the dry enclosure wet bodies were packed on top of each other, while lines were attempted to be maintained. The low brass, however, were still largely left out in the open with their oversized instruments as the rain began to pelt the top of the shelter, as well as anyone not under it. Like the tail end of a dragon too big to fit snugly in its cavern, they were soaked. Water pooled in one corner of the tarp roof, and then capsized over the edge, cascading down nearly nailing one less than fortunate tuba. Dennis saw to it that his section remained in better shape. "Don't let your horns get cold; blow warm air through them." "That's what she said." Alex was quick with the response. Kyle chuckled. Tending to his own instrument, Dennis rolled his eyes and ignored them. Mrs. Sutton pushed through the line trying to squeeze the nearly soaked low brass under the tarp.
It was just then that the doors leading into the gym opened. The sound of cheers and applause gushed out of the gym and into the rain as the other band, who had just finished, exited on the other side of the building. "Shhh! we're going. Let's go." The flutes in the front began filing through the double wide doors, and slowly the rest of the band inched their way into the gym. For a brief second the tail end of the low brass managed to be standing under the tarp, but only for the amount of time that it took to walk out of the rain and into the gym. A second round of cheering and applause filled the gym as the band reformed their block. The gym wasn't exceedingly large. In fact, it seemed to be about half the size of the gym back at school, maybe a little bit larger. The head of a phoenix was painted along the back wall under the word its self. It looked like it was painted, it could have been a banner, Ethan's glasses couldn't make it out for sure. Besides, that was far from the most pressing issue in his mind at the moment. Walking in, a giant blackish tarp covered the floor where they were to stand. Left, left, left; instep? Check. Posture? Good. In line? Yes. Like the rest of the band, he assumed, he constantly made sure that he wasn't noticeably wrong. In the block, he peaked out of the corners of his eyes, afraid to move his whole head too much. Peak to the left: Alex, peak to the right: Faith, window in front, Jackie on the podium, good.
The rest of the band filed in behind them as the applause continued. Now they were just waiting for the officials to give Jackie the go ahead. "The judges are ready." A voice echoed across a loud speaker as the stands grew still. "Drum major, Jacqueline Garner, is your band ready?" A quick glance at the band, and then a pivot around to the audience and a salute. "Kingston Tiger Band, you may now begin in exhibition." Jackie swiveled around and prepped her hands. "Ladies and gentlemen…" Ana's voice came over the loud speaker. "…the KHS Tiger Band multiplex Cinema welcomes you to 'A night at the movies.' Tonight, we proudly present in cinema one, our first feature presentation, where boy meets alien in the 1982 block buster E.T." The drums took their cue, and they were off. The twentieth century Fox theme song ripped across the gym, segueing almost immediately into E.T. Three minutes later E.T. gave way to the next movie. "And now, in cinema two, a double feature. Our second feature is the return of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, but first, Dr. Jones is at it again fighting Nazis, snakes, and searching for love in the adventures of Indiana Jones!" Bum-de-dum, they were off. Horn pop on queue, the band approached Marion's theme. Playing the music, and thinking about the steps that went with it, Ethan could feel the step offs that they would have normally done outside. They would be slowly backing up now, next would be the new visual that they had just added less than twenty four hours ago. Jump, around, two, three- gah! he had jumped too soon. Eyes darting back and forth, he glanced around to see if anyone had noticed. He spied Mr. Garner and Mr. Avossa standing along the side of the bleachers, more or less in front of him. There was no reaction in his direction, and he got back into the music. What had seemed like half a minute, was in reality only four seconds. The band made it through Indiana Jones, and into Jurassic Park; Jurassic was his favorite piece that they played. Cory's solo echoed across the gym during the Imperial march, backed by Margaret on her tuba, and Kevin on his trumpet. It had taken so long for the three of them to get that exposed part down perfectly, longer than Mr. Garner had liked. He remembered Mr. Garner saying way back at band camp that Jackie, Cory, Margaret, and Kevin need to get together on their own, the four of them, and work it until it was perfect. "When we get that together, it's going to be like having the four corners of the world come together; and it's going to be nice." He had said. Cory would be out by the back right hand corner of the field, Margaret would be nearly forty yards across the fifty, and Kevin would be down front a ways away from Jackie; on the field, they really did make up the four corners of the world. Now, however, they were inside and it was easier to control. Eight minutes after they had begun knocking the dust out of the gym rafters, they were on their final visual. Sixty seconds later, it was over. An eruption of applause nearly as loud as the band spewed out of the bleachers, as the band turned to the left and marched out under the tempo of a snare drum. "Ladies and gentlemen, the Kingston High School Tiger band, under the director of Stephan Garner, and Robert Shaut." One by one the band filed out of the gym as Sachem, the band form the tennis courts, stood peaking in from under the tarp tent, waiting for their turn to enter.
Outside, it had stopped raining, but the ground was mud. Along side the walkway, pools of murky water sat in what had once been a trail of presumably dry footsteps. Relieved that it was now over the band made their way back to the busses. They didn't worry about remaining in line now, now it was just about having fun until tomorrow's championship cometition. "Hey, hey, that was fun, right, wasn't it fun?" Andrew ran up behind the horns with his bass clarinet hopping up and down; it was nothing compared to when he wasn't on his meds. It had been fun, but it was much more fun now that it was over. A clump of people skipped a head at a faster clip while Dennis and Derrick took their time. Ethan and Julian were among the first to reach bus number five and slip their horns back into their cases. After waiting for the rest of the band to catch up, they began to climb on board the bus again. There was a lot of comotion inside the bus as people bounced from seat to seat and walked up and down the aisle. The performance that they had just completed would not recieve an official score, bucause they were inside, but it was clear that it had been an impressive showing. "You guys were wonderful!" Mrs. Patzner was on board the bus congratulating the band. "You guys sounded fabulous, and the judges thought that colorguard was amazing." A round of cheering littered the bus, and it was clear that the other busses weren't dissimilar. "Mr. Shaut and Mr. Garner were very pleased with the performance." Mrs. Linderman added in. Everyone changed out of their uniforms and into the clothes in which they would spend the rest of the day. It wasn't long before the busses were settled and ready to pull out. As they pulled out the green frilled spanish themed band was lined up along the sidewalk waiting for their turn to enter the gym.
The ride back into the heart od Syracuse took about twenty minutes as the busses traveled back down the side roads that had brought it to the school. Once the bus was back near the traffic circle where it had left the highway it was a straight shot down the Carrier parkway to the Double Tree hotel, where the band would be staying for the next twenty four hours. It was a tight squeeze for the busses to make through the driveway and into the hotel parking lot, but once in they had no trouble pulling up in front of the building. The Double Tree Hotel was a decent looking hotel. It definiatly looked big enough for the band as four, maybe five floors rose out of the parking lot. In front, a tan awning petruded over the driveway. In either case it was better than last year's hotel arrangments. Last year, the directors were unable to find a hotel with enough available rooms for the band, so they were forced to split the band and spend the night at two seperate hotels. The majoity of the band went to what rumors had said was a nice hotel with spacious rooms, the rest had gone to a smaller hotel. The majority of the freshmen had gone to the smaller hotel, but some upper classemen had been booked in the freshmen hotel as well. That's what happened to Ethan's group. He, Kyle, John, and Cory had spent the night in a room with a wheel chair access shower. "Are we bringing our instruments in?" It was unclear. "Yes. Guys here's what we're going to do now." Mrs. Lindeman used the drivers speaker shortly after they came to a rest. "You're going to get everything from under the bus, including your instruments, then get with the other people in your rooms and wait in the lobby. We're going to be passing out keys inside as the rooms become available. Also, the people at the hotel sent us some cookies, so if you want a cookie, then grab one before you go up to your room." Pleased chatter responded to the suprise. "After everyone is settled in their rooms we will head out to the mall or something."
Ethan and Joel, still being in the front of the bus, were one of the first ones out. Renae's dad opened the undercarriages again, and everyone sifted through the dozens of bags to find their belongings. Ethan piled his blue suitcase, blue bookbag, tent, horn, and uniform on the sidewalk and then waited for Kyle and Cory. Kyle had his bag and of clothes and horn, his uniform was draped over his shoulder, John and Cory folloewd in a similar fashion, though John was able to leave his tuba on the truck. Five different streams of people, one from each bus, flowed into the automatic glass doors and into the lobby. Instantly that iconic hotel smell, sent them into a different world than the one that had been present on the busses. An elaborate room with trimmed wood sourrounded them. A series of pillars in the center of the room designated a central seating area with couches and coffee tables. The group waited off to the side for their key. "This is a nice hotel." Cory pointed out the fact and sought confirmation in the same statment. "It's better than last year." Kyle was right. While they waited for the key they ate the cookies provided by the hotel, they were chocolate coconut. Ethan was no fan of coconut, and it mannaged to even cancel out the benefit of the chocolate. It only took them about five minutes to get their room key, which was a lot quicker than the year before. Kyle held on to the sole key.
The girls rooms were on the second floor, and the guys rooms were up a flight. Arriving at the third floor Alan and Caitlin had already begun their light saber battle in the hallway. Everyone who had a light saber had brought it with them to Syracuse in advance of what was planned to be an epic battle between good and better. At the moment, the battle appeared to be in Caitlin's favor as she backed Alan down the hall towards the window at the end armed with her light blue saber in one hand, and a white cap in the other. His dark blue weapon blended in with his jeans. Slipping past in an attempt to aviod death, Kyle located room 408, the only room which their key would open. The room was that of a typical hotel, not too big, not to small, actually it was about the size of their room the year before. Two full sized beds were pushed against the wall to the right, a decent sized bathroom was to the left, a table, dresser, and tv rested against the wall across from the beds. The far wall was windowed. Unlike their previous room, this hotel had no balcony jutting out from the room. In some ways, though, it was probably a good thing. Last year Kyle had nearly walked through the screen door, taking it off the hinges. Five minutes later Ethan did walk through the screen door, not only running it off the track, but nearly toppling it over the railing, which would have sent it crashing down into the courtyard below. No doubt it would have been an awkaward trip walking back in through the lobby to retrieve it. Up on entering the room, the four carved out spots that would be theirs for the night. John and Cory claimed the beds, Kyle took an arm chair in the corner by the window, and Ethan set up his tent in the middle of the walkway where there was room, his stuff he pushed off to the side by the wall. The tent wasn't all too large, it was as large a tent that could have possibly fit in the room, but was still only large enough for one person. Ethan pulled is bookbag and suitcase inside the tent andd set it up all cozy like. They all split the closet where they hung their uniforms. Ethan at most of a sub that had been in his backpack. They hadn't been in the room long before they were ready to go check out the rest of the hotel, already things were beginning to get spralled out across the room floor.
Out in the hallway room doors were open and people were going back and forth between them. From the looks of it the band had the entire floor to its self. Kyle decided to head downstairs and Ethan followed, leaving Cory in the room with his belongings. John split off on his own. People were gathering downstairns in the lobby in the seating area marked off by the pillars. The couches were already full when they arrived downstairs. Kyle found Claudia sitting in an arm chair and joined her. Tired, Ethan sat on the floor against one of the pillars. He wasn't really in the mood to go to a mall now. He would have perfered to have stayed in the room and have taken a nap or something. Katie came down at about the same time that Cory did. Spying Ethan against the pillar, she too came over and sat down. "Hello." "Hello." he responded before snaping a picture of her face. The flash stunned her for half a second. He had been snapping pictures with the new camera since they had gotten to Syracuse. Alan walked over, blue cap, maroon tiger band sweatshirt, and the look of victory on his face; kaChing, flash, Ethan caught it. The lobby was full of band kids now. Cory was showing Olivia a new hand shake, Andrew and Nick were standing not far from Garret and Dennis. Remy and Fresia entered with a possy of female freshmen as Mr. Shaut stood against the wall in his white cap and jacket. Alex was now cuddling with Ali a couch, as Dana sat half on her boyfriend, looking through pictures with Keri. It was still Halloween, and this being a ligh saber baring band of two hundred there was bound to be at least a few dressed up. Faith wore a black and white striped cat outfit, while another Dana wore chieftain's feathers. If there was an award for best Halloween costume in the band, however, it would have gone to Kayla in her black one piece, yellow tutu, yellow wings, and bumble bee antennas. It was about time to leave as Mr. Garner came down stairs with a last group of kids.
Back outside it was beginning to rain again. It was around a quarter to five, but it felt even later. The busses had moved and were now parked across the parking lot a ways away. Although, it was about the most dreary the day had been since that morning, with the absent sun beginning to set, everyone could now relax a bit more than they had been able to earlier. Sitting next to Joel, Ethan watched as Renae, then Margaret and Alex the baritone saxaphone player paraded into the bus. Erin entered with a stuffed moose hat velcrowed at the chin. Pausing to wave to the fair people of the bus, she could have passed for a crowd appeasing vice presidential candidate in her three button jacket. Her mother climbed aboard after her. Patrick, across the aisle, had changed out of his army outfit and was now sipping a blue can of Pepsie in a grey Kingston sweatshirt next to Alan. Two seats back, Chris almost successfully dodged the flash of a camera while the side of Sarah's face was caught off guard. Ethan still wasn't really in the mood to go to the mall, and the rain now visible in the surface of the puddles didn't encourage him any. Mrs. Lindeman boarded the bus "Ok, count off." "One." "Two." "Three." Cherokee!
The hotel was located about fifteen minutes from the mall. Pulling out of the hotel and taking a right they traveled back down the Carrier Parkway. They would have to head back through the traffic circle and get back on the New York State Throughway until the next exit, which was about four miles down the road. There was only one traffic light between the hotel and the traffic circle, at which the busses had to stop. Once they were off the Thoughway it was only four miles down the road. The geometric spire on the mall came into view as they veered off of the south bound land of Interstate 81 via exit 23B. As they pulled off the exit and on to Carousel Drive they could see the sign stating that their arrival was imminent. A towering two legged sign stood above the parking lot. Carousel Center, reinforcing the carnival themed name, three distinct rows of colored dots of three different sizes formed a giant pixolated "C" stood above the words. Ethan wondered what the freshmen were thinking as the drove past the sign and saw the mall. It was a fairly big and impressive mall, the spires on top confirmed that. He couldn't remember what he had thought when seeing it for the first time last year. He did remember the carousel. Its legend had proceded it, so seeing it for the first time had been like traveling down a road after having looked at the map. Still, he couldn't help but want to see their dazzled eyes as it spun around behind the wall of glass, there was nothing like it back home. Coming around the parking lot, the glass wall and the carousel came into view. It was a tight squeeze with a couple of close calls as the busses weaved through the parking lot. There had to be a more direct way, but one way or the other, they made it to the enterence.
Parked along the side of the building, everyone waited as the chaperones mobilized themselves and identified the people in their groups. It was now five thirty. Mrs. Lindeman, over the loud speaker again, had just announced that everyone was to meet back at the entrence at seven fifteen. theat gave them about an hour and a half to go where they pleased. "Are you Ethan?" A some what tall lady with curly blond hair was standing above him and Joel. "Yup." "Hello, I'm Mrs. Malnick. I'm gonna be you're guy's chaperone. And what's your name?" It was directed to Joel. "Joel." Oh, nope, you're not on my list. Sorry. Do you know which one is John or Cory?" "They're back there." Ethan informed her motioning to the back of the bus. "Ok, well I'll get them in in a second. Do you have a phone?" He did. "Ok, we'll exchange numbers with everyone when we get off the bus." She wandered towards the back of the bus where most of the other chaperones were finding thier groups. Having identified his chaperone, Ethan got off the bus and so did a number of other kids. As students walked off the bus most of them branced off on their own, but Mrs. Malnick had wanted them to wait outside the bus so that they could go in as a group. Kyle, John, and Corey hopped off the bus, followed by Mrs. Malnick and four of freshmen; each chaperone had been assigned to two quads of kids. "Alright, I'm Mrs. Malnick , as you all know now. I'm Michael’s mom. Now, I got Kyle and John's number on the bus, Ethan this is my number, what's yours?" They exchanged numbers as most of the other groups moved on. "Can we go with other groups?" Kyle wasn't interested in staying as one big group, and that is exactly what it looked like was about to happen. "Um, well we have to be back at sevn so, I don't want us to branch off too much. I guess we'll just stay as one group and you guys can take turns deciding where we go." That was exactly what Kyle didn't want to hear. John wasn't thrilled either. As the group began moving towards the enterance Kyle and John pushed ahead. Ethan and Cory followed closely; Mrs. Malnick formed the midpoint between them and the freshmen.
An escelator met the group at the enterance of the mall to take them to the second floor where a large food court sprawled expansive building. They regrouped as everyone reached the food court. The carousel sat spinning on display at the front of the building as a glass wall made the surrounding landscape visible from the inside. The first order of business was to get something to eat. Ethan wasn't really hungry because of the sub that he had eaten back at the hotel, but Kyle, John, and Corey all branched off. Many of the tables had been claimed by band kids, and all around the food court they could be seen infiltraiting select businesses, like an undercover army. At one table he caught sight of Jenn who was sitting with Renae's sister Erin and her boyfriend Brandon; they had all graduated the year before.
While John, Kyle, and Cory were off buying food Ethan mozied around the lines checking to see what other people were buying. There was a decent line at both the line to UNO's pizza and some Chinese take out place. Nothing interested him, and being full he found the thought of eating more repulsive. Sarah, Katie, and Chris had claimed a table, and Ethan joined them. He saved a neighboring table for the rest of his group. Katie and Sarah had brought a drink and a sandwich; Chris had a personal pizza. "Aren't you getting anything?" Sarah asked as he sat next to her. "Nope. I at at the hotel." "Wait, what did you eat at the hotel?" "A sub." "Oh." Chris' pizza was hot and he was having a hard time keeping the cheese from spilling off. Cory walked over with a hamburger. Kyle had brought a personal pizza, like Chris. "The guy at the register said that I should get some beer." He informed the table. "What?" Sarah sought more information. "Yeah. I was paying for the pizza and he was like 'what's with all the kids?' So, I told him that it was the band and that we were here for the championships at the Carrier Dome. Then he asked me if I wanted a beer or something with the pizza and I was like 'I'm not 21' and he was like 'well I'm sure you could sneak it in, in a tuba or something.' " "Wow." Katie was impressed. A pair of googly eyed glasses sat on the table. Ethan picked them up and tried them on despite not knowing who's they were. Being Cory's they were a bit too small for his head. Waiting for the others to finish he blew a straw wrapper around the table. Sarah watched it drift back and forth as she sipped her soda through a straw.
Katie was the first to finish. It didn't take the rest of them long. Mrs. Malnick stood waiting nearby at the end of the food court. The group of freshmen had finished before them and were waiting to start looking around the mall. "What do you guys want to do first?" "I would like to go to the Apple store." That was the first, second, and third thing on Cory's agenda. Ethan remembered from last year that the Apple store was not a place where you could buy homegrown apple products like pies and candy apples. Kyle still wasn't pleased that they had to stay as a group. "I don't see why we can't go on our own. We're juniors, if she wants to stay with the freshmen then that's fine. Last year we didn't have to stay in a group." Claudia's group was in a huddle deciding where to go next. Agreeing with Kyle's argument, but less willing to vocalize his discontentment Ethan suggested that they go on the carousel now if they were going to since it was right there. Amy was heading over towards the ride with Kirsten, Dana, and the rest of their group. Aiden had wanted to go on the carousel, too, and the group began to migrate. "You know, Mr. Garner still never brought us our milkshakes." Ethan pointed out the long standing fact to Kyle. Upset with being place in the freshmen hotel the year before, Ethan and Kyle had gone to Mr. Garner and voiced the cruelty in the matter. As compensation he had offered to buy the two milkshakes when they arrived at the mall, but up on calling him on his cell phone he promptly hung up with nothing ever having come from the deal. That was a year ago, but the unfulfilled bargain was still relevant as they were back in the same mall. "I know. You want to call him?" "If you talk to him." "Nope."
The carousel was rather large for being indoors. It was about fifty feet wide and three horses deep. One ride cost a dollar, and the person collecting the money handed all on board a wooden chip, which they would later have to hand to a lady at the gate. Claudia's group ended up coming along for the ride as well, which for the time alowed Kyle to forget about the group situation. The two of them grabbed two horses on the inner lanes. Dana hopped on next to Claudia. Spying Jenna standing by the gate obviously just intending to watch, Ethan called over to her. "Jenna, can you hold my camera?" "Sure. Do you want me to take any pictures?" "Um, yeah. just get a couple of shots of everyone as they come around." "Ok." "Thanks." Ethan found a vacant pony in front of Kyle; Colleen and Mary rode next to him. Sarah and Catlin rode behind Kyle and Claudia, and Rosie and Maria mannaged to keep just around the bend and out of sight. Around the carousel went. The horses bobbed up and down as they pushed forward. Ethan must have gotten a minature pony, because Mary's horse constantly towered above his. Coming around the bend, he could see that Amy's group had decided not to ride. They stood along the windowed wall watching the animals go by. The other half of his group hadn't gone on the ride either; Aidan was the only freshmen. His red hair, red face, and solid red shirt with flames made him look like a pyro. It was clearing again outside and the sun could almost be seen just below the horizion. The ride went around about a dozen times before the horses needed a rest.
Regrouping halfway between the foodcourt and the ride, the group tried to decide what to do next. "I really want to go to the Apple store." Cory made sure that sooner or later they would go to the Apple store. Kyle, too, wanted to go to the Apple store, although Aidan was more interested in checking out some of the clothing stores. Ethan didn't really care. He didn't much prefer to be in the mall to begin with, but as long as they got to ride the escalators at some point he would be fine. There was no escalator in all of Ulster county back home. They walked back through the food court towards a set of escalators in the distance. It wasn't exactly clear as to what they were doing now. No one was really sure where anything was in the mall or which store they would come to first. Headding towards the escalators Kyle, Ethan, John and Cory lead the way, followed by everyone else. Some of the Halloween activists met them at the base of the moving stairs as Dana the Chieftain, Kayla the bumblee bee, and Katie Ehmann, who didn't "even go to this school" posed for a picture.
The escalators lead to a very spacious third floor. A walkway around the edge of the building gave access to the stores, while leaving the middle open so that you could see everything that was going on down on the second floor. There were few stores in this part of the building, and the main thing was a seemingly large movie theater. "We can go catch a movie." John offered, but was unanimously shot down. A rather fansy set of glass elevators, which looked like they could have been the one in Willy Wanka and the Chocolate Factory, were making runs up and down across from the theater.
Following the walkway around the corner away from the movie theater the group caught sight of a sign advirtising the location of the Apple store. Cory was happy. "Hey guys, look, I found it." It had found them. The apple store was the only store on the strip who's front wall was totally removed making it possible for the customers to choose which part of the store they wanted to enter from; the middle, the far left, the far right, or anywhere in between. Inside, it was very bright as rows of computers and laptops were set up. The metalic silver paint job made the place look very futuristic. Ethan waited outside as the Kyle, John, and Cory checked out the computers. The futuristic background made Cory's purple shirt, John's black one, and Kyle's green shirt stand out. Waiting by the enterance, Ethan was able to look over the banister of the third floor and down into the second floor. A chubby Mexican toddler skipped after his mother with a balloon and his face painted green. There were many proud new parents with their newborns dressed in rediculous outfits, though some were cute. A brown and white "dog" rolled by in a stroller, a bottle struggled to stay in its mouth. Derrick was also waiting outside the store for his group. Mr. Roth walked around the corner that they had come by a few moments earlier. He didn't have any kids with him, so Ethan figured that Sarah's dad was in a group with two chaperones. "Hello, Mr. Roth." "Hello" His thick mustashe moved under his glasses and thick hungarian accent when he spoke. He spoke! It was quite a discovery, and Ethan would have to inform Sarah when he saw her. Up until this point Mr. Roth had only spoken twice in his life and one was a comment on Facebook. Ethan was instantly very proud of his achievment, and peaked his head in to the Apple store to find that Mrs. Malnick was trying to round up the boys, so that they could move to the next store. The freshmen were ready to go.
Outside of the Apple store more dressed up babies were passing by. One infant sported a gelled mohawk. The Willy Wonka elevators weren't far and there was some motion to try them out, but Aidan was more interested in finding a clothing store. They should have taken the elevators, because they wound up taking a set of escalators a few minutes later. Now following the freshmen down the hall, the juniors kept on the look out for other band people. The it wasn't long before they happened up on another group parked outside of a store. Alan and Cooney sat with half of their group outside of Spencer's; the other half was inside. A giant planter running the length of the hallway made a decent bench for those waiting. Kyle and John decided to go in and browse, while Aidan and the other freshmen popped in a neighboring clothes store; it hadn't been the one that he was interested in, but it would do for the time that everyone else was in Spencer's. Spencer's wasn't generally the type of store that Ethan wanted to be seen shopping in, so he hopped up on the wall by Alan. "How's your group?" Alan asked. "It's ok. It's four freshmen, so" "I know what you mean, man. See, Cooney here is just a pain in the neck, too." He pushed his elbow into Cooney's side as Cooney pretended that it hurt immensely, and then pretended to eat one of the giant fake leaves in the planter behind him. "I see." Ethan watched as Cory got up and followed John into the store. He notice a little yellow warning lable on the lower right hand corner of the store. Warning! Parental guidance recommended. Some material may be inappropiate for children. Inside he could tell that Cory and John were amused at one of the displays on the other side of the window. Wow. He hadn't noticed that sign when they stopped there last year.
"Hey, guys!" The group sitting on the planter looked up to see Sarah, Claudia, and Dana leaning over the railing where Ethan's group had just come from. Mrs. Roth stood with them. The boys down below waved as the girl's group headded towards the stairs. Running around to the other side of the planter Ethan suprised them with the flash of his camera as they passed by. A home appliance store with a red Comfort of JOY sign sat in the background.
John was the first one out of Spencer's. Eventually Kyle and Cory emerged as well leaving them waiting for the freshmen. With a bit of prodding from Mrs. Malnick the freshmen were ready to move on as well, and the eight of them left the other group behind. The next store in their tour de Carousel was another freshmen claim. The shoe store was appearently different from the shirt and jean store that they had just come form, though it was all enough in the same catagory to be annoying. Again waiting outside on the edge of one of the planter walls, the group stopped. The freshmen went nosying around inside, while Kyle peaked at the door. While the rest of the group was waiting outside on the wall Olivia and Emily's group passed by along with Maddie and Kelsey. "Hi!" They each held two bags, one they had bought in the mall, the other they had brought into the mall. They walked by and got a few yards away before stopping at a vendor in the middle of the mall's hall. "Wait a minute, Olivia." Cory called her back. I want to do an experiment. I am going to throw this dollar bill on the ground, and I want to see how long it takes for someone to pick it up, and what people's reaction is." "Ok… and you need me because…" Olivia was a bit confused by the idea, but not totally suprised. "Well you have to be the variable in the experiment. The first time I throw it down, you have to just walk by like everyone else. The second time you have to pick it up if no one else does." "Ok." Olivia was willing. Cory threw the dollar to the tiled floor as Olivia backed down the hall a ways. "Oh, look there, Ethan, a dollar bill lying unclaimed in the middle of the floor." Cory exagerated, projected, and dictated every word to an obnoxious extent. "Gee, Cory, I wonder who's it is." Intentionally, Ethan projected and exagerated even more than Cory had, and in the direction of his head, to let Cory know that he had been unnecessarily obnoxious. "I wonder if anyone will pick it up." Olivia picked up on Cory's cue and walked past the dollar as if she was a thief trying to hide under a stiff trenchcoat. "Gee, Cory, no one picked it up." "I know, Ethan. Maybe someone will eventually." Olivia took her cue to walk back. This time she walked back as loose as a combination of little Red Ridinghood skipping through the forest with a basket of brownies, and a rag doll. Carelessly letting her head roll from side to side, ocassionally glancing between the ceiling and the floor, she caught sight of the dollar bill. With out saying anything she bent down to pick it up as she walked and nearly toppled foward, but her gymnist legs held her up. "Wow, look, a dollar!" They laughed as she spoke and steadied heself at the same time." Passerbys shot them suspicious glances as she wave the dollar around. "You guys are stupid." John pointed it out for them. "But did younotice, John, peoplenoticed when she picked up the dollar." Cory justified his stupidity. "That's because they thought you were being stupid." "Hey!" Olivia got defensive as she ran to catch up with her group who was now moving on. "See you guys later." She ran after her group.
I'm going to get something for my mom John declared. He walked down the mall's hall a few yards and stopped at the jewlery vender in the middle of the path. With a booth set up to look like a cart, the vendor was selling all types of jewlery. Ethan followed him for the sake of it. "How much is that one?" John pointed to a clear glass heart. "That one is nine ninty nine, however, if you would like we are able to write little messages on them." "So, if I wanted to write Happy Birthday, Mom on one of them I could?" "If that is what you would like to do." Ethan though about buying one, but was not interested in spending his money on gems and jewlery; he was sure that he could do better than that. " Mrs. Malnick, there is an ice cream shop around the corner. Is it okay if I run and get a milkshake or something while they're shopping?" "Um," She thought about it for a moment while she looked at the shoe store and then at her watch. "Ok, but be quick becaus I have to get these guys moving. We already have to be back at the food court in half an hour." "Alright." "Hey, I'm coming too. Cory was itching to spend his experimental dollar as well as some of the other mony in his pocket." "Hurry up, then." Ethan befan walking down the hall past John before Cory could get up. Alan and Cooney along with Patrick and the rest of their group were just now beginning to catch up from their hold over at Spencers, but by now Ethan, and now Cory, were gone.
"Where we are going?" Cory asked as he caught up to Ethan. "There is an ice cream place right upstairs." Ethan remembered this part of the mall and the ice cream shop from lasdt year. There was a set of escalators at the end of the hall that would take them back to the second floor. As they heared the top of the escalator Ethan informed Cory that he was going back down for another ride. He had know that his chance would come to ride the escalators, and he was not about to pass up the opportunity. Because their time was short, they only rode the escalators twicw. The previous year their group had stopped to rest near the same set of escalators. Ethan and Kyle had taken advantage of the few free minutes that they had and had completed an escalator marathon. Up and down they had ridden as Emily and Erin watched from the top of the second floor. Erin had taken pictures of Ethan and Kyle, and Ethan had taken pictures of Erin and Emily. He still had one of Erin's pictures of Kyle and himself decending on the left escalator. Up they had ridden sixteen times, down fifteen. Completing his second round with Cory, it was nothing compared to the year before. Though, taking everything into consideration, Ethan hadn't bought an ice cream the year before, so there was something to be said for that.
The ice cream shop was located right next to the top of the escalators, so Ethan and Cory were able to not waste any time once they got to the top. Cold Stone Creamery, it didn't really matter what the name of the shop was; they had ice cream, and that was enough for them. Two girls worked behind the counter. One wore Minnie Mouse ears and a dress to go with it, the other girl wore heavy purple make up to go with her purple dyed hair. The purple girl was going in and out of the back room, so Ms. Mouse took the orders. "Hello guys, know what you fellas would like." Ice cream, Ethan wanted ice cream, but unfortunately for him he had left his glasses in his tent back at the hotel, so it took some time to decipher the sign with the different dishes. "What are you getting?" He asked Cory to get a better idea of what to order. "I'm thinking that the stuffed ice cream might be good." Cory glanced from the dishes to the flavors. "What is a stuffed ice cream?" Ethan had never heard of it before, Cory had never had one either. "Um, what's a stuffed ice cream?" The girl with the mouse ears put aside wiping off a counter top to answer Ethan's question. "The stuffed ice cream? Well, it's basically ice cream with the toppings stuffed inside." It sounded interesting and so both Ethan and Cory placed an order. "Ok, what would you like?" Ethan went first. "Vanilla ice cream with some gummy bears, chocolate chips, and m&m's." They watched as the girl prepared it. She took a large scoop of ice cream and pounded it into a pancake shape. She then took the requested toppings and sprinkled them on top of the disc of ice cream. She then folded the ice cream in on its self encasing the toppings inside, rolled it in to a ball, then stuck it in a cup with a spoon; a stuffed ice cream. It was quite an interesting creation, and a great way to charge people an extra few dollars for a normal dish. Ethan snacked on his stuffed ice cream while Cory waited for his. "Is that all together or seperate?" The girl rang up two tabs as they paid her seperately.
Leaving the ice cream shop with desserts in hand the two were met back in the mall by the rest of their group. The freshmen had appearently finished their shopping as two of them wielded Nike sponcered plastic bags. "Are you two ready? We should start working our way back towards the food court." Mrs. Malnick obviously didn't want them to be the last ones back to the bus. "Yeah. This ice cream is really good, you should get some." Cory didn't see why they should be the only ones eating ice cream. "No thank you, Cory." The mall, where they were located, didn't continue any further. They had reached the far end of one of the wings, and had no choice but to head backwards, so there was little to immediately dissagree with when Mrs. Malnick called for the return to the spot where all the groups were to meet. There was, however, a general concensus that a bathroom break was in order. The last official restroom stop had been back at the hotel, and it now being nearly two hours after lunch, it was time. There was a set of bathrooms at the top of the escalators across from the ice cream shop. The bathrooms here were nothing special. Unlike at the Chittenango Travel Plaza the electric faucets and towel dispensers were expected, almost mandated for such an attention seeking mall. As for the rest of the bathroom, a urinal is a urinal, at least in the state of New York. Ethan made sure that his ice cream had been packed away before entering one of the few facilities that could possibly be identified as a modern day strong hold of sexism. With in five minutes everyone was in and out.
Waiting outside the restroom Cory nuged Ethan. "Hey, so, that girl at the ice cream shop, she was pretty hot right?" "Really, Cory?" Ethan's tone suggested that he could not believe what Cory had just said, though even if it was not expected, it equally as much was not a suprise. "Seriously though, would you not say that she was good looking?" Not liking the direction in which Cory was leading the conversation, Ethan half consciencously decided to not encourage him, nor try to repel him. Instead Ethan carefreely swung the conversation to a direction in which he had more control over. "She's engaged, Cory." "What? How do you know that?" "She had an engagment on her finger." He motioned to his hands, careful not to point to any particular finger, as he didn't have enough knowledge to confidently identify a proper engagment finger. He had whipped up the thought that the girl could have been engaged in the few seconds that it took to initally question Cory. The fabrication, however, was not a lie. Actually, Ethan couldn't, and would never, remember for the life of him what her fingers looked like, or if she even wore nail polish, so it was altogether possible that the girl was wearing an engagment ring. In the process of innocent until proven guilty, the fabrication was indeed not a lie. "Are you sure that it wasn't a high school ring? It could have been a high school ring" Cory demanded to know more. "No, it wasn't a high school ring." "Wow, that's mad observant of you." Ethan was internally amused by the compliment "Doesn't suprise me, though," Cory continued "It was only a matter of time before she got hitched." Ethan looked at him. "Whatever you say, Cory." The rest of the group was ready to head out as Ethan let the conversation die.
Heading back there were no particular that were on the "visit or die" list. They passed by the Hallmark store where they had stopped last year for no particular reason. They didn't go in now. After a few minutes of walking, window shopping, and seeing things on display, then hesitating the group came ot a semi-official stop to check out a wall od DVD's in one store. A copy of Shark City sat on a shelf with a halo of new release signs around it. For a moment Ethan thought that it Said Shark Tales. From the looks of the cover the two had little in common. He wasn't really in to watching movies and over the past year or so he had developed a habit of only watching one every month or so when he was home. Quickly losing interest in the selections of "captivating" movie plots he began to stray from the group. A toy store on the other side of the mall corridor interested him, and so he walked across to it. "Hey Cory!" He yelled across to his group. "I'll be in here." The store that he was now walking into was the kind of store that he would have requested to have visited if he had requested to visit a store. There were all sorts of board games and different toys, although probably pitched towards little kids it was appearent that it appealed to sixteen year olds too. Browising down the asiles Ethan found several match box cars that he had once had, lost, and forgotten. Now obviously a much younger generation of matchbox car he was suprised to find the exact same car with the exact same set that it came in. There were all sorts of arts and crafts and gizmos and gadgets on disply through out the store. Part of a toy wooden train set was set up so that very little kids could play with it. His set at home was much more extensive than the beginners kit being sold. Eying a rack of arts and crafts he happened up on a box of Rockadoodles. The box advertised a rock painted to look like a blue penguin with feathers painted on it. At nine ninty nine, it was highway robbery for such a simple idea as to paint rocks, but there was appearently more to it than that. According to the box the kit came with several rocks, a thing of glue, paint, a brush, a variety of eyes and feathers, and some felt. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Clinging to the box Ethan checkd out the rest of the store. There were bigger toys in the back. Tonka trucks and dolls were mixed in amongst other toys. Along the back wall a Star Wars display had been set up. With Star Wars being the highlight song of their field show it was too perfect. Darth Vader stood center stage with one of the white guys, who's name he couldnt remember, an imperial soldier maybe, stood to the dark lords left. A completely different dark suited figure, whom he had never seen before, was positioned on the right side of the display. The entire display had been roped off to reinforce its specialness. A Darth Vader and Imperial Soldier poster hung on the wall near a box of light sabers, for nine dollars. As much as he wanted to buy one of the posters and sabers it was bad enough that he was spending ten dollars; whatever he didn't spend in Syracuse he would get to save away at home. After paying for the box of Rockadoodles Ethan ran out into the hall to get Kyle and Cory's attention and show them the Star Wars display. Cory found it ironically awesome, even if it was Halloween.
Money and several DVD's had been exchanged across the hall, and there was a readiness to get moving that was felt by more than just Mrs. Malnick. There were no more of these semi-official stops until the group got back to the Food court. Once back there was no longer any rush, nor any dire need to stay as a complete group. It was about ten minutes after seven, so they still had a few minutes to take it easy. were a few band kids scattered around the tables. Cory and John sat down to rest at a table with their personal perchases. Cory whipped out his googly eyed glasses that he had appearently had on his person for the duration of the passing through the mall. Without his glasses, Ethan thought that he spotted Amy's blond head at the end of the food concessions, but further inquiry revealed that his eyes lied. The investigation, however, brought him near to Smoothie Land where Kirsten was currently ordering a fruity drink with Amanda and some of the other colorguard. He snapped two quick pictures and then returned to where he had left John and Cory. Aaron stuffed his face with a messy looking sandwhich at a neighboring table. Sarah had showed up and was now sitting where Cory had been. "Ethan! I have to show you what I got." She opened a large Build-a-Bear box that was seated on the floor next to her and pulled out a light brown vertically standing teddy bear. The bear was dressed very proper in a checkered button down long sleve shirt and nice dress pants. A brown and cream colored sweatervest, not all too different from one of the sweaters that Ethan might wear, covered the middle of the checkered shirt. "Isn't he cool?! I got him a sweater so he would look like you." Ethan was proud to see the junior Ethan, and gave him a gentle pet on the head before showing Sarah his prize. "Look what I got. Rockadoodles!" Ethan was excited to try out his rocks. "Wow. Those are great." Sarah was amused by the find.
"We should start moving down by the enterance." The chaperones were no beginning to herd everyone to the scheduled destination and Mrs. Malnick was once again interested in keeping to the clock. The carousel wasn't curretnly running and had presumably made its last run for the night. The number of band kids in the crowd gradually became more concentrated as they all migrated towards the escalators that would take them down one last flight to the enterance. Miles, examining the nutrition lable on a green bottle of soda, waited at the top along with Dennis and Garrett. A number of people stood at the top of the escalator, some waiting in line to get on, others just waiting with no immediate intention of heading down. Desending on the escalator, the swarm of band kids at the entrence liike like a snake pit; there were far more near the door than on the upper level. That being true, there was a constant flow of people gathering near the door. Ethan, recognizing an opportunity to use a camera, took advantage of the situation and quickly flashed out thirty random pictures of band kids waiting to leave. He had found that it was necessary to find a balace in the number of pictures that he took of people. He wasn't one to prefer a posed shot over a candid shot, and so most of the victims in his pictures were taken by suprise. This often lead to unpredictable reactions. If he could get one unsuspected picture, no one would generally ever protest angrily, though after the first photo it was never long before a fine line would develop in some people between amusment and annoyance. Ethan, never seeking to upset anyone over a silly camera, was careful to feel for these tender spots, and though he would try to play them down, he was always quick to retreat before anyone ever took it to heart, so he thought. Of the photos in which people were willing to notice the photo coming and pose, these came out fairly decently, though the people caught by suprised generally looked fairly tired and ready to leave; these were the ones not to be pushed too far. "Hey, Ethan, want me to get a shot of everyone?" Although Julian was only a freshmen, he was by far the tallest kid in the band, towering at least several inches over Ethan. "Hey, Julian. Yeah, if you could that would be cool." It wasn't hard for him to raise his arm and get a few arial shots. Being so tall, especially for his age, people were constantly commenting on his hight. To a degree he was acoustomed to it by now, though it wasn't hard to tell that it annoyed him to some degree.
After most of the band had jammed into the space on the inside of the glass doors Mr. Garner appeared and announced that it was time to head out to the busses. It didn't matter if it was cloudy or not outside anymore, it was dark and that was all that mattered. The sky was mostly clear, and the clouds were slowly thinning if anything. Ethan met basck up with Amy and Kirsten as the band squeezed outside the mall.
"Woah," Kirsten sounded excited, "look at Cherney and Sean!" The sidewalk to the busses now swarmed with band kids heading back to the busses. The trumpet player and the percussionist were both weaing navy blue sweatshirts and loose, lightweight, black running pants. They looked exactly the same. "Woah. They look like twins." Amy was right. Being nearly the same size, their blond hair made the backs of their heads identical. It was like they were the same person, the only difference being that Sean carried a bag of bought goods and a green soda bottle, Andrew hid his hands in the pocket of his sweatshirt. Ethan couldn't not take a picture of the coincidence.
Before the busses began to pull out, Mr. Garner made a personal stop at each one. He boarded bus five in his maroon jacket. "Everyone, listen up." People didn't tend to disobey Mr. Garner when he spoke directly to them. "It's seven thirty now, we will be back in the lobby by eight. At eight thirty you are to be in the confrence room at the hotel, which is across from the lobby. We're going to meet, as a band, and go over a few things. We will start at eight thirty," he repeated. "So, that means that you will be down there before eight thirty. You'll have about twenty, twenty-five, minutes to bring all of your new toys back up to your rooms and relax" he whinned like a little kid on the word toys, "but at eight thirty you will be in that room. Ok? Ok." He turned around to leave. "Hi, Mr. Garner." Brandon was sitting next to Renae's sister, Erin. The both of them having graduated in June and having been significant band figures, he had no trouble trying to make himself sound as taunting as possible. Mr. Garner swiviled around for a second, snapped his fingers, and pointed like he was a movie star pointing to a fan as he walked down the red carpet. He turned back to the front of the bus and was gone in the night. With in minutes they were gone from the mall.
The ride back to the hotel was dark and lively, as people sifted through their bags of new Syracuse goods. Joel had a new shirt on, or maybe he had just taken off his sweatshirt? It wasn't important. A rail line appearently ran not far from the mall, as it paralled the road. The ride back always seemed shorter, not just as they headed back to the hotel, but on almost any trip the ride back seemed shorter. Back at the hotel, it had been as Mr. Garner had said; they had about twenty five minutes before they had to report to the hotel's confrence room. Everything was always as Mr. Garner had said. Upon entering the hotel, Ethan briefly went upstairs and dropped his box of rockadoodles off in his room. Kyle, John, and Cory also came up to drop off their stuff. Some people changed out of their mall clothes, and into what they would be sleeping in that night. a good deal of them probably wouldn't sleep at all that night. Back down in the lobby kids were gathering in anticipation of the big confrence, though there was doubt as its necessity. "Great. Now we have to wait even longer to have our light sabar battle." Dan was wearing his baseball cap that bore no baseball logo. "Danielson, your time will come, Danielson." The Mr. Miyagi impersonator was not to be seen as young Daniel walked across the room. Ethan waved to Sarah as she came down the stairs with her new teddy bear. Normally she would have shot Ethan before letting him take her picture, but after relatively little persuading, she let him snap two pictures of her and the bear. Patrick walked by with the Director's Cup. He was back in his full body army uniform. Appearently he had never changed out of the outfit when he went to the mall. He had just warn the grey white hoodie over top of it. The large golden cup visually helped to add ligitimacy to his military background as he showed it to a group of people who had never seen it up close. By the couches, Alan hopped up and down in a bright white t-shirt. Blink if you want me; appearently everyone in the lobby wanted the bold black lettering across his chest. The shirt was fresh off the rack, and would probably end up being the most useful thing that Alan had brought.
At eight twenty people began to filter into the confrence room. Somehow it was nearly full when Ethan entered, and he wasn't even the last one in. Full was an understatment. At first glance, there was no way that the two hundred piece band was going to fit in the room; its maximum occupancy couldn't have been more than seventy five people at the maximum. Several round tables had been pushed to the edges of the rooms, and most of the charis sat stacked on the far wall. A few chairs lined the closest wall, and that is where the band moms and dads sat. A dozen large landscape paintings adorned the walls. The band sat on the floor, on top of eachother. "Oh man, we're getting close tonight." Cooney advertised himself as Ethan made his way to the back of the room careful not to step on anyone. "Oh great, now were all going to die of Swine Flu." It was Demeter's turn. The random outbursts continued above the high noise level of the room. Ethan got lucky and was able to sit in one of the chairs that had been stacked against the back wall. There was a table at his elbow, so he had the option of having a steady place to stand his camera, should something worth filming happen. Shelby sat next to him on a stack of chairs that was four high. Kirsten sat comfortably on Cherney's lap across the table. At their feet a seat of band kids sat on the floor reaching from wall to shiny wall. "Ok, people squish in." Mr Garner entered to check on the progress of filling the room. He held a piece of paper. "Keep moving back. There is a lot of space along the back wall and in between you guys. You all might as well get nice and cozy because we are going to fit you all in here one way or the other." People on the floor bagan inching backwards and together. Whatever space that there had been to walk in was quickly going out of style.
"Ok, people! Who wants some candy?" Mrs. Sutton stood up with a five pound bag of candy and started throwing it across the room. Cheers erupted and a forest of waving arms grew out of the sea of bodies. "Mrs. Sutton, you know that you owe me." A freshmen in the back of the room stood up and waited until a piece of tootsie roll flew his way. Fist sized balls of candy flew across the air around the room and then shattered across the floor. The carpet didn't do as near a good job of absorbing the fallen candy as did hungry hands. "That's enough! No candy for you! Your teeth are bad enough as it is." Mr. Garner, trying to sound harsh, sarcastic, and supreme all at the same time, entered the room with Mr. Shaut. A round of applause broke out as the people on the floor caught on that whatever was going to take place in the confrence room was now about to begin.
"Quiet down, quiet dow." Gradually order spread over the room. "Ok, well, we're here." Mr. Garner stood centered in the front of the room near the door with the other directors. He jumped right into his speech. "Over the past three, four months this band has evolved immensly. All along we've said 'this doesn't work, this doesn't work, and well it's not working right now, but, you know what, look to Syracuse.' I don't care how it ends now, I want, what I want is us hitting our peak at Syracuse." He started off fast paced. That's, in any sport, in any game, that's what you want. Ok, alright?" He briefly turned around to address Mr. Shaut. "When you're making that tape for Ellington, you want it peaking right there, bang! Right there; high point. Don't wanna peak two weeks early. Ok? And I think that after today's performance we're getting there to the point where we're ready, we're ready. We're ready to wow people tomorrow." A round of cheers sprang out of the band. "I love band!" Katie, in the background, screamed above the noise. "We started, we started, now seniors, I think you were the first group. Is that right?" A spew of proud yeah's were offered up. "Ok, and," he continued. "And some of you have heard this story, but we," motioning to Mr. Shaut, "we made a decision four or five years ago, um, we used to belong to another band league and our last competition frequently was in Norwalk, Connecticut. And we would go there and perform at night, we were the, we were the last band on most of the time eventhough we drove the furthest. Onteora used to go there too. And I think one of the last times we went, snow, thirty one/thirty two degrees, wind howling, and we're on a field that is dark. It's dark," He relived the ordeal, "there's no lights at all, warming up on a field. Warming up," he mocked the idea, "on a field completely dark, on a field that's two hundred yards away, and we pweformed our show, got a second rate trophy that fell apart and that's how we ended our season. And we, and I remember driving back from there thinking asll this for what? For this? This is the high point of, this is the high point of our season? Where we go and freeze our butts off? Trumpet players litterally seeing their valves freeze. They froze. You couldn't, and there's nothing you could do about it. It was so cold out, and the wind was wicked. And the people, people in the stands weren't, you know, it was sparse. They weren't interested. They wanted you to play your songs faster so they could get out of there, cause it was just so cold. They didn't care. And then, I think about tomorrow- or you seniors, your first time going to the Carrier Dome, well, first of all we were garunteed that the wind sppeed was going to be a little less." A few chuckles were heard from the audience. "The snow might be outside, but we definiatly didn't- and then, of course, you know we had parents who came on board who hadn't been there for those other competitions saying, 'man, this Carrier Dome is cold.' And I'm like 'no, no, no, you don't know cold.' Right?" He patted Mr. Shauts arm as they both dusted off the past, or defrosted it rather. The floor people chuckled. "'You don't know cold!' And we were sitting there going 'this is how you end it.'" Mr. Shaut spoke up and stepped foward as Mr. Garner paused. "You know what? I am going to just add a little correction on that. The last time we went to Norwalk was the year we did the Beatles, and we didn't go. It was so bad, we said 'forget it;" we ended our season. It didn't have an ending what so ever." "Right." Mr. Garner confirmed the correction. The people in the crammed confrence found it amusing. "No, no, guys, focus." Mr. Garner gained control over the serious matter. "That's exactly right, you're right. The correction is we ended our season not having a show." "We didn't ended it, it was a…" Mr. Shaut and Mr. Garner were completing eachother's sentences now. Mr. Garner continued. "We didn't end it. We were just like 'OK, all this work you did doesn't mean anything.' Cause come tomorrow the greatest band in the New York State Field Band Conference and the lowliest," he was speaking in the present now, "and we are definiately somewhere in between, probably closer to the top, come tomorrow everybody's done. That's it. That's it. You know, people who spend thousands of dollars and who are incorporated into the bands that have twenty of them, are all done, and, and in a beautiful place. A place that you're you're going to five or six thousand people." Cory crawled through the door breaking his train of thought for a second and distracting those in the front. Who know's where he had been. "You guys have done a great job. We, we have spent a lot of time , um," Cory, trying to settle in, on the floor was distracting him. "a difference this year. And what we see as a staff, what we see as, as parents and chaperones, and stuff like that, we see it. I mean, it's amazing. The stories, the stories that we are telling eachother about, about the spirit that is here. Um, but you guys know that there are people who are behind the scenes that do stuff that you just, that do stuff that you don't even know. Things just happen, and, you know they happen. They happen like clock work and these people are responsible for it." He pulled a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and glanced at it for a half a second. "First of all smooth trips happen because we have great chaperones, so give them a round of applause." The band parents sitting along the front wall smiled at their acknowledgment and clapped for eachother. "Um," Mr. Garner continued, "these bands, little bands, go out there, these cute little bands, with thirty people and I think that's a section for us." No one didn't find his statment amusing, and true. "That's like when we have fifty percent attendance in the flutes and clarinets." There were more chuckles. "And to uniform them I'm sure is like, there you go." He tossed his hands in the air demonstrating the simplicity. "but these, the people who are involved in the uniforming, uh, and if your a parent who isn't involved with this, and you think the uniforms, we come into a room, the kid stands there and vwhoop," he zipped up an imaginary musician, "that's it, it's done, it's done. And we know that that's not true, and it's not just band camp, it's every week, making sure that everything is taken care of, and really now, because these uniforms are getting old, believe it or not." The laughs in the crowd believed it. "So, the uniform people, just stand up, put a hand up." A round of applause broke out for the uniform people as Mrs. Weeks stood up briefly, followed by some of the other band moms. Mr. Garner glanced down at his paper and moved on to the next matter of business. "This guy likes putting road trips together in his spare time, but, um, there's only one person in our district that is interested in driving the truck." There were a few chuckles. "It's true. Am I right?" Directing the queston to a man sitting down fronton the floor with the band. "There is one person. There's the sign up list," He acted out the driver sign up and rushed over to the imaginary list, but stopped abruptly. "There's a line of one." It was a funny situation. "Louis, Stand up." Mr. Garner helped the man to his feet as another round of applause broke out. Ethan could tell that their hands were going to be sore from clapping by the end of all this. The grey headed man sat back down and Mr. Garner spoke over the trailing noise. "And I work with, wait, listen, and I know, if he calls in, and we had this before. Before him it was Ricky Embross. And, I remember on year, Ricky, his back was out. He couldn't do it. So, what was our option? We rented a truck. There's Mr. Garner driving a truck." In an accepting kind of disbelief he grabbed the imaginary steering wheel, sparking a bout of laughter. "Wanna see something funny? Eurumm!." The imaginary clutch in the truck wouldn't move. "Oh, the clutch!" There was lots of laughter. "My bad. That was bad. That was a bad year. So, and I'm gonna tell ya, he, what he really loves is, and this is, he told me this, he told me that this is what he really loves." There was a simmer of giggles as they prepared for whatever was about to shoot out of his mouth. "He loves when we try and add stuff secretly," there was an explosive laughter, "to the truck, and we do stuff just for fun. Like today, it was power tools. And you know, you know I told him next year's show we're doing something with horses." Laughter. "Real horses!" He paused to let the laughs subside. "So, we thank you for all the stuff you've done."
"Now, quiet, quiet." He continued. "We have done, now a lot you don't know unless you've had brothers or sisters here, but we've done sets before. We've done um, eh, we've done the Great Gate of Kiev, um we've done pictures, we've done Jesus Christ Superstar. “Now he was just being a comedian. Ethan couldn't tell if he was serious or not. "uh, no, we have. We've done sets and, quiet, we need people to first have the idea, and second, people to do it, ok? And I know you guys think they magically appear, but when they start at three o'clock, after their work, and go until ten thirty on a Friday night, to create something that will never be linked to them on the field, those are team players, those are team players. So, we have, where's Mr. Buchalski and Mrs. Patzner and the crew, and the crew! Right?” An applause began to emerge. “Well, forget, forget that, because we made them do a lot of work, but, you guys doing that,” now addressing the parents, “Mr. Avossa building it, and doing that, and just, ‘hey, we got a moon,’ ‘hey we got E.T.’” He swung imaginary props over his head, like in the show. “’Hey we got this,’ and of course we might say ‘hmm, you know, hmm…’ and then they’d go ‘ok, we’ll do something else here.’ Let’s give them a round!” Mr. Garner let the applause continue this time as he checked his paper. He helped Todd to his feet. “The right man for the job…” a round of cheers for Todd covered up Mr. Garner. “As a, uh, as a music teacher, I think the important thing is, guys, in a lot of bands, in a lot of bands, that have money,” there were a few chuckles at the non-Kingston word, “like we have,” Mr. Garner sarcastically stepped on the route of amusement. “I want you to listen to this, because this is true. You’ve got to understand something. Most of the people up here get peanuts for their compensation for their time, if anything. If anything. Do you understand that? And that’s not the case in a lot of places. ’Oh yeah, you want me to be on your staff, well it’s going to cost you this much.’ ‘Ok, here you go.’” A slight ‘oh my god’ arose from a clarinet in front who couldn’t believe the fact. “Well.” He shrugged to her. “I more than, more than I care to admit, when I watch the show, what am I doing? I’m listening to the music. And color guard, many times, because that’s not my area, goes out, I don’t want to say unnoticed, but I’m focusing more on the stuff that I have to deal with. Not today. And it was indoors so, there was half of the stuff, or a third of the stuff rather, that normally happens. And I know they’re good, because I catch them here and there, ‘hey, did you see-’ ‘no I missed them.’ ‘Did you catch ‘em?’ ‘Nah, I-’ Right?” The group of color guard down front chuckled. “I watched them today. Um, twenty years,” to Mr. Shaut, “twenty years we’ve been doing this, twenty seven years? I have with out a doubt, with out a doubt, with out a doubt! This is the absolute best color guard that’s ever graced Kingston.” There was a prolonged applause and high pitched cheers as Mrs. Avossa came over and hugged Todd, who had been standing beside Mr. Garner. He kissed her on the cheek before letting her step back along the wall.
“I’m curious,” a hush spread over the room as Todd spoke. “I want to see, I want to see, raise your hands, like, how many people really, really like the marching aspect of marching band. Now just be honest, be honest, cause I know that there’s people that don’t like it, I get it, I get it.” About a third of the hands in the room went up. Ethan half raised his own as some chatter spread. “Hey guys, guys.” Mr. Garner prevented a commotion with a whistle. “See, the thing is, for me this is” Todd continued, “this is my thing, I did drum corps, I’ve been here since 1994, I’ve taught, you know, as far as New York State field band goes, for what that’s worth, um.” There were a few chuckles. “I’ve taught the bands that have won, but there’s- don’t get me wrong, it’s great to win, it’s absolutely phenomenal to win, but there’s so much more that goes behind it than that, and I don’t think that they see you coming is the bottom line. Because for so long we’ve been here, and you guys have finally pushed far enough, at just the right speed, to plateau at just the right time, and they don’t see your progress. That’s why when you go in there tomorrow, you have nothing to lose.” His voice momentarily betrayed the emotion he was holding back. “You have absolutely nothing to lose. This has probably been the best season, over all,” He paused. “Don’t cry.” It was directed to Sarah, the color guard captain, who’s eyes were watering up down in front. “Oh, Sarah, stop!” Emily comforted her. “No crying behind me!” Andrew whined like a grumpy old man causing the rest of the band to laugh. “For a band as a whole,” Todd continued, “For a band, as a whole, it’s been wonderful, absolutely phenomenal. And you guys are the dark horse and it is better than winning. Having had, that motivation, that final push in which there aren’t any preconceived notions as to what you should, or shouldn’t be, or you know, people don’t automatically place you because you’ve been there for the past ten years and you have an incredibly stale show and can’t spin worth shit.” There was laughter and a light applause. “All these things have made this program that much better, because it’s, it’s different. We always try and be different, we always try and push the limit, it doesn’t matter if the music was arranged, or not, because this circuit is stale. It’s beyond stale, and this circuit doesn’t accept ‘new’ very well, but we’ve proven that so far this season, that they’re willing to accept something different, because I don’t think that we’ve scored this high at any point in the season, so the bottom line with what I’m saying is I think that they’re more than willing to give you a shot tomorrow if you all put one hundred and fifty percent behind what you do. I mean, any thing is possible tomorrow. Don’t be ashamed if you come in eighth out of nine, just make sure that when you come off the field that you did the best that you possibly could.” Mr. Shaut and Mr. Garner nodded their heads off to the side. “That’s all that matters.” There was a round of cheering and clapping as Todd stepped back, and Mr. Garner came forward again.
“So, so,” Mr. Garner gained control. He said something softly to the other directors that made them and a few kids who were sitting right there chuckle. “So, anyway, when we were, um, when we were shopping around, um,” he was trying to find the word. “Drumline, we’ve had some very, very good drum lines. Drumline is all about teamwork, drumline’s all about teamwork, it’s all about individuals sacrificing for the betterment of the team, doing that whole thing, and we were looking for one individual who was really going to push the teamwork and really bring this group together,” he paused, “but he wasn’t available.” There was a round of laughing and then people began applauding as Mr. Garner poked fun at Mr. Murphy. One by one drumline stood up and applauded him. Mr. Murphy moved center stage as Mr. Garner made another remark that was lost in the noise. “Um, first of all, the official story that I’m sticking to,” he pointed to the band aid across his nose,” is that I’m the mid-Hudson Valley super fed cage fighting champion.” There was around of cheers in approval of the tale. Mr. Garner made another comical comment, to which Mr. Murphy responded creating an uproar, though all was lost to cheering in the back of the room. “Alright, um.” “Quiet.” Mr. Garner brought the room back to a reasonable level. “Some of you here know my deal that I teach at Onteora and I’m the director of their program, and it’s in a little transition phase, and Mr. Garner’s been bugging me for a while to come by and work with the percussion. I think over the last couple of years you’ve seen me a little more frequently and I though this season was the season I could really commit the time to work with the percussion and to really get percussion and pit really hot, and,” speaking to the percussion, “I’ll talk to you guys later when I get done later, we’ll have a talk.” There were a few chuckles at the implied insult. “And a lot of you guys don’t know, probably don’t know, I graduated from Kingston in 1985.” The fact created a buzz in the room. “When I marched the uniforms had these overlays and there was actually an owl on the front, cause at one time Kingston was the Owls for maybe about two years.” The marching Tigers found their long dead history amusing. “So, there’s these big old overlays and-” “There’s a hoot!” Mr. Garner couldn’t resist throwing the line out. Mr. Avossa pushed open the door and pointed to Mr. Garner to signal that that was his last strike, the crowd laughed. “He’s here ‘til Monday, try the veal.” Mr. Murphy threw the joke back at Mr. Garner, and then continued. “So, it was great, it was really great to come back to Kingston, and I practiced for a number of years and the thing you have going in tomorrow, this band, you people sitting in this room, you get it. You finally get what it means to be a marching band. You get what it means to go into that, work with all your bandmates, and play the best show, and march the best show that you possibly can. You get it, and there is nothing that is going to stop you tomorrow. And just a little explanation about this,” he held out a necklace made from a string and a washer that hung around his neck. “Unfortunately, Lowes didn’t have enough for each of you, so I gave these to-” “Not that he didn’t check” Mr. Garner was dripping with comical sarcasm tonight. Again Mr. Avossa opened the door to signal that he had struck out. “Um. A good friend of mine that I worked with in marching band, about six or seven years ago, um, he got me into this kind of, you know, sentimental and like, material, uh, what’s the word I’m looking for?” “Symbolism.” Mr. Garner spoke constructively. “Symbolism! This is a locking washer, and I gave it to the drumline, I gave it to the pit, I gave it to the drum majors on my bus and the other kids in the bus. And the symbolism in this is that the pit, the drumline, the drum majors are all going to be locked together as a unit for this entire weekend, and it started today, because if you play what you played today, and you just move to it, it’s going to be the best show you guys have ever done, by far. And you know how we’re going to know that? Because we’re gonna know that because when you guys come off the field none of us back here will have to ask, We’re gonna know it, we’re gonna see it on your faces, cause you’re gonna leave every single amount of emotional, physical and mental energy of this season on this field tomorrow. Perfect is a word, because it is possible; perfection is obtainable. If you believe it, believe in one another, in your drum major, you’re going to be awesome tomorrow.” There was a grand surge of cheering as Mr. Murphy finished. It had been obvious a while ago that they were each going to give their own little spiel, but that one really got the band pumped. Mr. Garner came forth to introduce the next significant figure.
“Well I tell you what, one of the great things is, we didn’t have the music written for us this year. We were just thinking about today, for example, um, the development of Imperial March. When I pulled that out of the concert folder, cause it is, it is from, we’ve played it, symphonic marches of John Williams, we pulled it out, cut and pasted and put it together. Everybody was playing, so first it was ‘ok, this is too much, so we gotta back it off a little bit.’ Then, well, alright let’s just have one person playing. Oh, well, lets have two people, then I remember Mr. Shaut going, ‘I’d really like this with tube.’ ‘Alright, now we have, oh, now we’re going to add…’ and this is just the teamwork of the staff, hearing something an going ‘oh, let’s add this, let’s add that,’ and it really has developed. Even the ending of ‘beedabump, beedabump," and that little kicker was low brass. And all the way through it hasn’t been ‘oh gees, they’re changing it again. Oh they haven’t…’ It’s been (he claps) done.” This is what we do, this is what we do. Mr. Avossa, you have some things to say.
“Just real quick.” Mr. Avossa didn’t step forward, but rather stayed along the wall where he had been the whole time. “When we pulled in today, to the hotel, I saw that it had stopped raining, and the sun was starting to come out, the first thing that I said to myself was ‘yeah, rehearsal done here.’” There was sarcastic laughter, though knowing Mr. Avossa, he was probably serious. “ ‘We’ve got a great big parking lot, lots of space,’ And it went through my head, you know, if we did that, if we said ‘you know guys, we’re going to delay going to the mall for a couple of hours, we’re going to try and do some stuff here,’ there would have been some groaning, but everybody would have gotten out there and everybody would have gotten something out of that rehearsal. Something that I wouldn’t even, even jokingly have offered as a possibility in past years. Mr. Murphy was right. For the first time in the twenty some years that I’ve been doing this here in Kingston High School, this band gets it. You understand, you understand more so than ever what it takes, what we mean, and what it is about. Who was it who said to me the other day, “Mr. Avossa, at the beginning of rehearsal, I was standing outside rehearsal and I heard somebody do something exactly what you said, and I got it man, I understand exactly what you were talking about!” You guys get it, and with that behind you I don’t see how tomorrow can be anything other than a monumental success. The most fun I’ve had in a long time was after your performance today, not because I though we could have got this kind of number, or that kind of number, but because you guys are so damn good.” Some laughter from the floor. “To me that’s the ultimate reward. You know how I feel about the people with the tape recorders who sit up there and cast their ballots.” Everyone was well aware of Mr. Avossa’s opinion of the judges as the laughter would attest. “They’re gonna say what it is they’re gonna say, and they’re gonna do what it is they’re gonna do. I’ve never been one to base what I feel about anything on what other people think about it, whether it’s me, or it’s you guys, and I don’t want to start now. You guys are gonna do what you’re gonna do, you’re gonna max out, you’re gonna have a great performance,. And if you walk off that field, like Todd said, knowing deep down inside that everything you had inside, you put on the field, it doesn’t matter what they call you, cause that doesn’t happen very often in your life, and you’re gonna know it, you’re gonna feel it, and you’re gonna want to do it again, and that’s what I expect tomorrow. And I don’t believe that I’ll be disappointed. Congratulations.” There was a larger round of cheers and applause, as Mr. Avossa didn’t give credit where credit wasn’t due. As Mr. Shaut Moved to the center of the room the hoots and cheers evolved in to waves of “Shawttaa!” Eventually there was a chant going “Shawtty, Shawtty!” It didn’t take much to quiet the room, though as everyone knew that Mr. Shaut would be more soft spoken than his predecessors.
“Today I sat right in front of the colorguard, and, and usually, I'm a music person, like Mr. Garner said. In fact, we're in about six decades of teaching experience, so usually," Mr. Garner, who was standing behind him, took advantage of the moment and obviously held up four fingers to Mr. Shaut and then pointed to himself with two fingers to indicate that Mr. Shaut was twice as old as he. The laughter was hysterical. “Um,” there was more laughter as Mr. Shaut regained his thought now slightly aware as to what had happened. “My thing is that I’m trying to hear everything, soon as I hear something wrong, I’m trying to figure out what it is, what can we do to fix it, ok. First of all, I said to myself today, ‘I really want to watch the color guard, I don’t want to be distracted. The band played so well, there was no way I was going to be distracted. You locked in and everything. The balance was just unbelievable. It’s a gym, but still just unbelievable. Listening to that one section in Duel of the Fates where it’s just pit and the garbage can.” Mr. Shaut began to dance shuffle back and forth in place to the music that he had heard earlier that day. Everyone in the room clapped and cheered in approval of the unexpected twist. Aiden, sitting at the table in the corner, raised his hands above his head and accepted the credit for his role on the garbage can. “I am,” Mr. Shaut continued as the room quieted. “But I am so sorry I haven’t been watching pit, cause man you guys are, colorguard," He corrected himself, but not before Maria let out a loud cheer for her section. A laughter leaked as he corrected himself. "That really blew me away. You were right in front of me today. I watched you. There's so much, i mean, the perfection of everything, and the facial expressions, you're into it- wow!" Hoots sprung from the colorguard. "Great job." More cheers and applause. "Now one thing that you need to consider, and this sort of goes with what Avossa said before, about scoring and everything, ok, again, we have this experience, but the cool thing abut this profession that we're in is everybody's after the same thing. They are all doing this same kind of job, ok, band teachers are working the music, really instructors are working, colorguard is working, working, working. And what's happening now is just the standard of what can be done by high school students; it just keeps going up, and up, and up, and that is a really good thing. We're up there, but again, where we come in, as far as placement, is what it is, ok. We will score better, and we know that you are the job you've been asked to do. Ok? Focus, I'm gonna say it again, it's a different environment that you're going to be playing in tomorrow, so you really have to focus. Get some ideas, while you're turned around and playing Jurassi Park Fantasy, get some ideas, get it into your head, 'what's happening? What's happening?" Watch. When you watched yesterday, in yesterday’s run through, oh my god, it was so good. And I could look around, especially the corners, cause that’s where all the tragic parts happen, ok, and I could see faces turned. Ashley Nickson was even looking.” There was laughter as she was singled out. “Where is she?” Mr. Garner wanted to know where she was. She began to stand on the far side of the room. “No, we don’t want you to stand.” Mr. Garner made the uneasy girl sit back down. “That’s basically it, it’s been an absolute pleasure watching you grow.” Awww’s trickled forth. “Ok? It really is, uh, I don’t want it to end, it’s not ending tomorrow, because it’s only November, we get you through June!” There was applause and laughter again as Mr. Shaut made his final words.
Mrs. Avossa quickly stepped forward as Mr. Shaut finished. “I just want to say, though a lot of you throw me a curse word out there on the field there when I’m out there with the colorguard,” Ethan wasn’t sure if he had heard that right as the band laughed. Mrs. Avossa spoke quickly. “It’s the face that I love what I do.” Katie had an audibly delayed laugh as Mrs. Avossa breezed on. “And many of the things that I’ve said this weekend are for them, but they’re for you too. It’s turn on, tune in, turn on. Cause those are the things that you need to do, turn in, tune on. Tune to each other and turn on. Turn up the volume, turn up the faces, turn up the performance, and tune in. tune in, turn on. Those are the two things you need to do, turn in and turn on. So!” There were claps and cheers, especially from the colorguard. Mrs. Avossa used a lot of hand gestures for nearly every word. Mr. Garner spoke again.
“Ok, tomorrow, we’re going to be meeting in this grand ballroom,” Admiringly sarcastic ooo’s propagated forth from the band. “And, at a quarter, I want you there at seven fifteen, breakfast all together, quiet,” the last off the oooing was just now stopping. “Quiet. Seven fifteen, seven thirty breakfast, everybody, together. I need you down, we’ll talk about that stuff based on the weather, what time we’re leaving. We have to leave Skytop, after our rehearsal there, at twelve because we perform at one, ok? So, we have to leave here fairly quickly, ok? Tomorrow when you get to the field, you’ll see beautiful hash marks on the field.” There were some chuckles from the upperclassmen as they could already see where he was going. “You must ignore them. There are two kinds of hash marks you will see, because Syracuse University plays there and they’re an NCAA school. The hash marks for college are different than for high school. The high school ones will be put on in tape, with tape, the big ones that are painted on to the turf, you have to ignore those, those are not the ones you follow. That’s a big deal, that’s abig deal.” Mr. Garner made sure that they all understood just how imperative the situation was. “I think tomorrow is gonna be what it is, I think everybody said it, but I always go with basketball, so I’ll tell you. When I see Coby Briant dribbling down the court and he takes four steps for a layup, one two three four, and there’s no travel call, and then I see the rookie come down and take a step and a half and gets called for traveling that tells me that the ref is looking at who’s making the play to determine what happens. What you have to do tomorrow is forget about the fact that there are possibilities that they are already categorizing you as they have in the past, and our job is to change that. So, we could get anywhere from eight, to first. That’s not a lie, you know I don’t blow smoke anywhere, I tell you the truth. You could be eighth place tomorrow, you could be first place, there’s no doubt that you’re, you’re, ha, somewhere in between.” The band found amusment in the skilled prediction. “But, you have to understand that, that it is subjective, we can’t worry about it. Now, we’re being double paneled tomorrow, two judges on each category, so that should take out, you know, the judges who are kinda, you know, not in tune with what we’re doing. It’d be really nice to take a judge and just take out their preconceived notions, alright? So, what we’re gonna do is, David, come here.” The timid sophomore stood up as the band cheered him on. “David, David, David!” He held himself away from his dad, just under arm’s length, as he wasn’t totally convinced of his father’s intentions. Mr. Garner had him kneel on the floor in front of him. “Alright, what we’re gonna do, what we’re gonna do here is, I learned this motivational technique from my cousin. So, I’m going to ask you a question,” speaking to the crowd now. “and the question is, ‘what time is it?’” The audience responded with a laugh. “What time is it?” “Game time! Now!” “And the answer is, very serenely, ‘the time is now.’” There were more laughs. “And when I ask you where you are, you have to say, ‘I am in the moment,’ but very serenely. Ready? Here we go, shh, shhh. ‘What time is it?’” “The time is now.” There were chuckles as Mr. Garner turned around to Mr. Shaut and Mr. Avossa. “We sound like those monks.” Laughter. “All hail! All hail!” Laughter. “Shh…where are you?” “We are in the moment.” “What time is it?” “The time is now.” “Where are you?” “We are in the moment.” “Ok, now, what we need to do, the last thing we need to do is we can control what we do, and we are going to do a great job tomorrow. We are going to smile, we are going to be proud. We are going to do everything, but, we have judges,” He turned back to David, who was still on the floor beside him. “Judges, who aren’t sold on us yet. So, what we need to do is, symbolically, lift the negative vibes,” laughter, “out of their heads, so David’s going to be the judges for tomorrow,” there was amusement, “and we’re going to lift the negativity- see, they did that with him a lot.” Mr. Garner pointed to Mr. Avossa’s bald head, which was always free of negativity. The band found the sarcasm funny. “Now we need quiet, because this doesn’t work unless we’re all focused on removing that negativity. Are you ready?” Hush waves spread over the band as they focused on the top of David’s head. Mr. Garner waved his hands magically above David’s brown hair. “I got one!” He pounced on the top of David’s head and slowly pulled a long strand of parasitic negative vibes from his hair. “Now we have to put it, we have to put it in an inadment object.” He again turned to Mr. Avossa, with the evilness in hand. The crowd laughed as Mr. Garner suggested the lack of life in Avossa. Mr. Murphy spread open his pocket, and Mr. Garner shoved the strands inside. David got up and returned to the back of the room. The crowd applauded the act.
“Tomorrow you’re going to be playing for many people,” Mr. Garner returned to the focus of the hour. “But you should really be playing for yourselves, ok? When I heard the recording that he made,” pointing in the direction of both Mr. Shaut and Mr. Murphy, possibly Mr. Avossa, “inside the gym today, I listened to it, here’s what I came up with: that’s a group that’s sitting down, that’s a group that’s sitting down in a concert hall, that is a group that is totally focused. That sounds- the balance, the inner voices- that sounds like one of the recordings, I have at home that I brought at the store of whatever orchestra, or whatever band, ok? I don’t, as you know, I don’t throw praise out when it’s not warranted. We’ve had concerts where people have said ‘how do you think we did?’ ‘I think we did horrible, I think we did horrendous, I think we were an embarrassment.’ This, today, and what was my concern going in? my concern today was that even though we weren’t marching, we needed to perform at the level that we performed at yesterday, and a little bit bette to give us that final push to tomorrow. Ok? It’s in your hands. It’s in you hands, and you know what? You have done it, and you will do it tomorrow, I have no doubt, no doubt in my mind that you will do it tomorrow. What does that mean? That means that you’re going to go out there, and there are going to be people, judges are going to go wow, ‘this ain’t your mama’s cake.’” Laughter. “Tomorrow, we go out ther and show them, but in order to do that, in order to do that we can not, we can not sacrifice the quality tomorrow, by staying up. I’m not going to control that, chaperones are going to check on you, you’re going to be in your rooms at a certain time, don’t for get about the time change, ok. Don’t forget about the time change, but more importantly guys, when you’re doing anything tonight, ask yourself, ask yourself, ‘if that’s going to help me tomorrow,’ because what you do out there tomorrow, and, Katie, what you do out there tomorrow is gonna effect us. Because one person going zig, when we should be zagging, or doing the wrong visual, or leaving the block can cost us. One set person not getting the sets out there in time can cost us penalty points, and I’m going to tell you, if you look at the scores from this year, there’s about eight bands that are about three points apart, and point six off for time penalties, or a point or two off for five trumpets here, and the rest here, do you want that on you? Do you want that on you, knowing that you caused that? Because maybe you weren’t as sharp as you could have been. We are here for a job folks, that’s it, item one. We are here to do a job, and the job is tomorrow, and it’s at one o’clock, and we’re the first band in large school three, and I fully expect that we will be the first, and the best. That the people watching us will go ‘tut-tut-tut,’” he went down an imaginary list. “All the way down going, ‘that Kingston band was the best one out there. I wish they’d saved them for last, because everything else after that just got progressively worse.’” Laughter. “Alright? So, just be ready, that’s all I can tell you, trust, trust, trust, and one more thing- I want to thank you. Alright? Because you’ve done it, and you’ve done us proud.” The room burst into cheers and applause. “Ten thirty, in the rooms.” He spoke to the chaperones. He had given the band an extra half an hour. “Ten thirty in your rooms, in your own rooms. I want leadership to stay, I want chaperones to take the remaining kids.” “Remember that there are other people in this hotel.” Mr. Avossa pointed out the important detail as the band began to stretch to their feet. The paused as Mr. Garner added on. “Yeah, yeah, and that’s, that’s gotta be priority number one, that’s got to be priority number one, ok? That we are maintaining, our excellence on the field is here too. We are the best and brightest of Kingston, and people should know it, so, leadership, stay.” “Drumline, stay also.” Mr. Murphy stayed true to his word.
Ethan stopped recording. He had been recording for forty five minutes, and it felt good to get up. Gradually, people began sorting themselves. The band had been crammed together in the small conference for nearly an hour, but now, as they started to leave, a new passion burned through the tightly knitted bodies. All over it shown on their faces, their smiles, their reddened eyes, the victorious voices. Ethan, rising from his chair on the back wall, shifted through the people waiting to exit and walked over to where Margaret and Renae had been sitting. An unnecessary acknowledgment and the three found themselves embraced in a heartfelt hug, the same hug that they had felt the night that their score was announced at the first competition. In that moment, for the first time since the night before, it occoured to Ethan that this was Margaret’s last show, that she was graduating a year early. That after tomorrow, it was all over for her. Gradually, their hug dissolved, revealing Katie standing in Maddie’s arms not far away. Tears streamed down her face. A thinning crowd lingered around them. “Aw, Katie.” Margaret rushed over; the rest followed, and suddenly the hug had reformed, Katie at its center and Maddie wrapped around the outside. “I love you guys.” Katie’s voice fought back the tears. For a brief second Ethan thought too restart his camera and just keep it rolling, but then reconsidered, knowing that there are some pictures that not even a camera can capture.
People still trickled out of the doorway revealing other broken groups embraced in each other’s arms. Margaret and Renae broke slowly broke away at Garner’s demand for section leaders to stay behind. Ethan , Katie, and Maddie made their way to the door with the rest of the band. Converging at the portal others’ tears became known, but the wave of emotion gradually turned to a new inspiring sea of hope and energy as they emerged into the lobby of the hotel. Mrs. Patzner stood waiting with some other band moms passing out small bags of goodies. It was still Halloween. Ethan’s arm had been wrapped around Katie’s shoulder since they had left the assembly room, she pulled herself together. Feeling the new energy of the lighting in the lobby, Ethan took her by the hand and pulled her down the hall. She grabbed Maddie’s hand and they were skipping down the hall with the flow returning to the rooms. Weaving in and out of the joyful bodies they swooped down and formed a ring around a group of unsuspecting freshmen. Freshmen, ha! They were virgins in the way of marching, born but four months before, and yet here they were, the eve of their final day, the dawning of greatness. The ring disbanded at the approach of the stairwell. Mrs. Sutton quickly scattered a growing line at the forbidden elevator. Maddie disappeared, but at no great cost, Kirsten and Amanda morphed into the shrunken group from somewhere unknown as the flow came near to a halt at the base of the stairs. “We’re going to go play Wigi. Wanna come?” Kirsten was recruiting people. “Yeah!” Katie was enthusiastic. Ethan had never played the Wigi before, and had never really had any intention, but tonight was different. He was going to go up to their room either way, though he probably wouldn’t being playing.
Exiting the stairwell on the second floor, the girls floor was less push and shove than the stairs had been. Stopping at one of the dozens of identical doors, Kirsten opened it. Ethan noted then number to be three ninteen. Dana slipped in her room along with them. “What are you doing?” Amanda was a little surprised at Katie. “Shutting the door?” “But you can’t have the door shut with a guy in here.” “Yes you can.” “I don’t think so.” “It’s not like anything is going to happen.” Ethan simply took a seat at the foot of one of the two beds, and discovered a bag of Jolly Ranchers, as his presence was discussed. Kirsten remained indifferent, her primary focus was getting the board set up. “How are you guys doing? I’m just going to pull this door shut.” A band mom walked past, shutting them in the room. A cronic laughter came over the four. “Where’s Kirsten?” Katie asked. “She’s in the bathroom trying to get the wigi board to glow in the dark.” “Well can you call Amy and see where she is?” “I think she’s still in the section leader meeting.” Dana spoke up from the other bed where she had been sitting quietly pairing up two socks. “Right, I forgot about that. That means, drumline’s probably still having their meeting as well.” The light sabar battle would have to wait for everyone to return. “Can I have a Jolly Rancher?” Ethan was still holding the unopened bag that he had picked up upon entering, though he thought it would be better to hold it in his mouth. “Go ahead, it’s not my room.” Katie really had no trouble giving away the candy. A few moments later Amy entered. “Finally. You’re playing wigi, right?” It would have appeared that Kirsten had finally gotten the board to glow, but in reality it was still charging beneath the florescent light pinned to the wall above the mirror in the bathroom. “Um, sure.” The question had caught Amy by surprise. “Whoa, crayons!” “Hey, I didn’t get any crayons.” Peering into Amy’s goodie bag, that she had gotten in the lobby, a trio set of crayons was revealed, green, blue, and red. “Well, at least I have rocks.” Ethan referred to his new box of Rockadoodles. He got up to got to the door. “Katie, baby sit that for me.” He tossed his camera on the bed beside her. Amy had disappeared into the bathroom. She had looked tired when she had come into the room. Dana had finished pairing the socks. Ethan left the room and made his way down the hall, on a quest to get his Rockadoodles. Heading up the stairs to where the boys’ rooms were he entered a whole new atmosphere. For what the girls’ hallway had lacked in activity, the boys’ made up for. Everybody was there. Doors were open, and where the halls weren’t clogged with people sitting on the floor, people ran back and forth between rooms. People danced to their own music. Making his way to his room, Ethan couldn’t help but feel that the passion and new energy that had been born from the onslaught of the speeches had evolved beyond its own means, and though not quite out of control, it was a fire that had taken it upon its self to spread to everyone.
Inside the room, again there was another drastic change in atmosphere. The room was unoccupied, other than Cory sitting on the bed that he had claimed. He had, in his hands, his trombone, and seeing that it was only Ethan, he finished the section of music that he had been practicing. It amazed Ethan how quietly Cory could play. It wasn’t until after Kyle came through the door that he realized the instrument was muted. “What’s going on out there?” Cory took an interest in something other than his playing. It was no surprise that out of all the people present on the trip that Cory should be the one sitting in his room practicing. It was a trip and they had a performance tomorrow, why he even bothered practicing at this point, there was no clear answer to Ethan, other than the fact that it was Cory. “Acting crazy.” Ethan responded as he grabbed the box of rocks from inside his tent. “Where are you going?” Kyle had just crossed the room to his bags. “Down to Amy and Katie’s room.” It wasn’t Katie’s room, but just saying Amy’s room could have seemed awkward. “Wait, we’re allowed down there?” “Yeah.” “I didn’t know that.” “Whoa, what was that?” Someone had yelled out in the hallway. It wasn’t especially loud over the preexisting noise, but it was loud enough to cut through the conversation, even behind the closed door. “Something, something,” then, “you people.” The voice trailed off with the slam of a door. Looking out the door and down the hall, the crowd that had filled the hall seconds before had greatly thinned, having retreated to the frames of the doors that had been open the whole time. “What happened?” Kyle asked someone walking softly in the hall. “Dude, some crazy lady just flipped.” Apparently the band’s floor had not been the band’s floor, but rather it was the band’s floor plus one more, guest that is. The unfortunate woman had booked a room on the wrong floor, and on the wrong night. Not wishing to get caught up in the investigation that was undoubtedly going to follow, Ethan took his rocks and headed back downstairs.
Katie and Kirsten were on the stairs on their way up as Ethan got on the stairs. “Oh, there you are.” The three headed back to their room. “Excuse me, where are you guys going?” A chaperone stopped them as they got to the second landing. “Back to our room?” “Nope. Boys upstairs, girls downstairs.” The chaperones weren’t letting anyone anywhere. “But we don’t have to be in our rooms until ten thirty.” “Sorry, either you guys go down to the lobby, or back to your rooms.” “This is stupid.” Katie wasn’t afraid to let the band mom know the of the injustice. After a moment of being cut off from both floors, the three of them decided to go down to the lobby. Kirsten went back to the room to tell Amanda, as Ethan and Katie headed down. With in minutes they were all downstairs. A number of displaced refugees sat on the couches and carpets in the center of the lobby. Fred sat in a big arm chair, and from the looks of it the massive light sabar war had been postponed, though several battles had taken place. “Well, this is fun.” Amanda sat on the floor and so did everyone else. It wasn‘t fun. “Yes it is.” Ethan agreed as he began picking at the wrapping on the Rockadoodles. “What are those?” Amanda hadn’t been made aware of the box. “They’re Rockadoodles.” Ethan showed her the box. “That is so cool!” “Want to make one.” Ethan struggle with the box before handing Amanda a smooth polished rock. Kirsten took one too. “So we just paint them?” “I guess. There’s feathers, and eyes, and stuff if you want to use it.” The three set off creating their rock pets. Katie sat back against a column and rested as she watched. Amanda set off to recreate the blue penguin pictured on the box. Taking a box of tissues from one of the counters in the lobby, so not to get it on the rugs, the three were set. They painted and glued and eyeballed, and feathered the rocks, giving birth to new creatures. “Ok, what do you think?” Ethan held up a spotted turtle with eyes. “That’s awesome.” Kirsten got paint on her finger. “Where’s Amy?” Ethan asked. I don’t know. I tried to call her several times but she wouldn’t answer. “Oh, she’s in the shower.” Amanda had been the last person in the room with her. Before long it was ten fifteen. The crowd in the lobby hadn’t thinned, but a band mom came down and began to corral them up to the floors. “That was fun.” Kirsten wiped the paint off her finger. It had been a different. The four of them headed up the stairs. “Can you give this to Margaret for me?” Ethan handed the rock-a-turtle to Katie as she agreed. “Oh, my camera.” “Wait here. I’ll get it.” They still wouldn’t let any boys on the second floor. Jackie and Ralphie stood talking on the stairs next to him, and Ethan got to see two of Mr. Murphy’s washer necklaces up close. Kirsten reemerged with the camera and Ethan returned to the room.
Kyle entered at about the same time. The room was empty. “Where are Cory and John?” Ethan asked. Cory had been playing video games somewhere else, and who knew where John was. “How are they out somewhere and we’re back here. I mean…” Ethan understood Kyle’s point. It didn’t matter though because within five minutes Cory was back in the room. John came soon afterwards.
Between the four of them, they had to have bough nearly twenty pounds of candy on the trip. They piled everything on Cory’s bed. The television was on in the background. There were Jolly Ranchers, skittles, gold fish, marshmallows, and Oreos, just to list a few. For the most part, anything that they could have wanted was right there in the room. Ethan opened a bag of marshmallows and chucked a handful at John, John promptly returned the favor. With in seconds there was an all out marshmallow war as every man took for himself. Ethan hid behind his tent out of harm’s way and returned the other’s ammunition. John pegged Cory, who wasn’t wearing any pants, because he liked to sleep in his underwear. Within minutes, the war had engulfed the room and consumed four bags of super puffed marshmallows. Eventually a truce was drawn as candy littered the entire room. “Guys, this is a mess! It’s all in my bed and everything, you have to clean this before it gets sticky.” John and Kyle helped round up the majority of the marshmallows. It was a shame to let four bags of marshmallows go to waster like that, so Kyle decided to recycle them. He took them and squished them into on big monster ball, which he successfully hit John in the back of the legwith. When Kyle got the ball back, he found amusement in it’s stickiness by throwing it against the ceiling and trying to get it stuck. It worked. A decent glob of goopy marshmallow clung to the ceiling. Laughing hysterically, Kyle dumped the rest of the ball in the garbage can and grabbed a warm wash cloth with which he swatted the ceiling repetitively to remove the goop. “Dude, you’re breaking the ceiling! Look at that the ceiling’s peeling off.” John was right. It was so funny, but so wrong as pieces of the soft ceiling flaked off and on to the floor. “Guys we really caused damage to the room, we’re going to have to pay or something.” It wasn’t quite as bad as Cory made it out to be, but it was funny. Cory pegged John in the back of the head with a marshmallow still laying on the ground. John put him in a head lock.
Ethan heated up a pot of water for marshmalloeless hot chocolate. “How do you call other rooms?” Ethan wanted to know. There was a sticker on the telephone that said to dial seven and then the room number. He dialed seven and then three nineteen. “Hello?” A female voice on the other line answered. He said nothing, and just let the voice call out blindly. He hung up. “Who did you call Kyle wanted to know.” Ethan redialed the number and then pushed the phone in Kyle’s direction “I don’t know, you tell me.” Kyle refused to take the phone. “Hello?” The voice on the other end was still blind. Give me the phone John demanded. “Hello?” He answered the question with the same question. “Um, who is this? Oh, Yes we have pizza. What kind? Yes we have veggie. Ok, that willl be four dollars and ninty five cents. Yeah, it’s our special it’s our Halloween special.” The other’s craced up in the background. “Yeah, that’s for ninety nine cents.” Cory pegged him in the face with a marshmallow. “That hit me in the face.” John was laughing too. “Alright, so where’s the address?” John continued on the phone. “Where’s your address? What? I can’t deliver them immediately.” The phone calls went on for a long while, before it was lights out.

part 2

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