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Excerpt from Butterfly Kisses, A Senior Writing Project

Desiree Fisher, 2010

-End of May-

        It was the night before the last day of my junior year and I was nervous. I know it sounds pretty strange, but that’s how it was. According to band tradition, the new drum major was always announced on the last day of school, which meant it was the day I would find out whether or not the past three years of blisters, heatstroke, and steaming pavement had been worth it. I was going to find out if I was going to be drum major of the Heritage High School Marching Retrievers, or just another marching snare. Tryouts were tough, I’ll admit. I was up against a couple of great players, and let’s face it; drummers are almost never drum majors, something about our attitude. But, we had a pretty good shot that year, because there were two of us, Jesse and I, trying out. Jesse and I had been best friends and fierce competitors since our sophomore year when he moved to town just in time for drumline tryouts. We played quads together that year. Jesse and I were up against a girl who went by Sterling, which wasn’t her real name, mind you—I think it was like Francesca or something.

        I paced the length of my room rearranging stacks of sheet music and school supplies as I went—back and forth, back and forth. I kept thinking about the responses on the questionnaire Mr. Pike had asked us to fill out. Had my answers been good enough? What if I’d said something wrong? Would it ruin my chances if I had? I sat down on my bed, pouring over the answers in my head, wondering how I could’ve better answered the questionnaire.

        The actual tryouts had seemed simple enough at first. Mr. Pike, our band director, had given each of us a CD with music on it that matched the different meters he wanted us to be able to direct. Naturally, I had downloaded them onto my iPod so that I could practice every chance I had. The entire week before tryouts I had stood in front of my mirror and practiced each song and each meter until they were perfect, or at least I thought so.

Jesse and I arrived at Mr. Pike’s office together after classes were done for the day. Sterling was already in Mr. Pike’s office and she was asking him a few last minute questions about conducting. I raised my fist to knock gently on the door, but stopped when Jesse walked right in.

        “Hello gentlemen,” Mr. Pike said smiling, “You ready?”

        We nodded.

        “Alrighty then, ladies first?” he said looking at Sterling, who shrugged.

        Jesse and I stepped out into the hallway. I sat cross-legged on one side of the hallway and Jesse lounged casually against the other side. I plugged into my iPod and tried to focus on practicing ten-eight time, like the movie, “Mission Impossible.” But I couldn’t. Jesse was distracting me. It’s not like he was talking to me or making faces at me—no, he was just sitting there. It was like the pressure wasn’t getting to him at all. It was almost as if he didn’t really care. He’d always been that way though.

        “Jess—” I said, tentatively, “you nervous?”

        “Nah, man. I know I’ve got lead snare if I don’t get this. Besides, Aiden lets me goof off, you know? Pike’d blow a gasket if I did shit like that.”

        “Then why do tryouts?”

        “Why not?”

        I looked at my friend, thinking. He was the type of guy who lived for his “cool drummer” reputation. He carried his sticks and the belief that any surface has the potential to be a drum with him everywhere. He was the guy girls couldn’t get enough of. He was a “bad boy,” if you know what I mean. He wore preppy clothes and kept his hair kind of long and down in his face, like I did, only girls preferred his. I think it’s because his was so dark. The other thing about Jesse that I think girls liked was that he wore a purity ring on a chain around his neck, which is pretty funny actually, because it wasn’t his—it was his girlfriend’s. She gave it to him after they—well—after the first time he screwed her. But that was something he didn’t like to pass around, he liked the attention too much.

        Not too long after that, Sterling came out. She gestured towards Jesse who got up and walked into Pike’s office. Sterling sat down across from me. She wasn’t the kind of girl who talked much, but when she did, you were stupid if you didn’t listen. She was pretty enough, nice hair, cute face, the usual. But I always felt kind of strange around her; she played the trombone, which is not exactly a “girly” instrument. But hey—she was good at it, so I really didn’t say much.

        “Hey, Sterling—” I said. She looked up from her magazine, “how’d it go?”

        She shrugged. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I hoped it was a good sign.

        After what seemed like ages, Jesse finally sauntered out of Mr. Pike’s office. My turn at last, I thought. Mr. Pike greeted me with a nod and a smile as I walked into his office. I think it was for reassurance purposes, not that it really helped much. But he’s pretty young for a band director, so I’m not sure he knew that.

        “Ok, Oscar, here’s how this is going to work,” Mr. Pike said, leaning forward, “I am going to start the metronome and tell you what meter to conduct in. After you’ve conducted about four measures, I am going to turn it off while you continue to conduct. Make sure you keep tempo because I am going to turn the metronome back on after a few bars to check, ok? And we’ll do this a couple of times in a couple of different meters, alright?”

        I nodded, because my throat was so dry I don’t think I could’ve spoke, even if I wanted to. The first meter he asked me to conduct was simple, four-four time, the most common of the meters, but he did set the metronome pretty fast. I’d say it was at least one hundred sixty beats a minute. My tryout had officially begun.

        I felt pretty good walking out to Mina. And in case you were wondering, no—Mina is not a person—she’s my car. An eleven-year-old Chevy Lumina to be exact. I decided to call her “Mina” because the “Lumina” insignia on her trunk was missing the “Lu.” She was a smoky grey color on the outside with a berry red interior. I paid fifty bucks for her when my cousin’s parents bought him a new car as a graduation gift. Man, I was so proud of that car.

        I was feeling relatively confident on my way home, too. I couldn’t wait to talk to my mom about tryouts, childish I know, but she’s always been a big supporter of my music. But with my dad, the subject of my music should be avoided at all costs. You see, my parents are about as different as an Alaskan winter and a Brazilian summer.

        My dad doesn’t care for my music; it’s not manly enough. He’s always been real hard on me, especially now. He wanted me to play sports. Which is almost understandable, I mean, he gave up sports and a scholarship in high school for a job. Mom had me when she was seventeen. I think Dad’s always blamed her for giving up his dream of college glory. And I think he wanted to live that dream through me. The only problem was, he wasn’t the kind of dad to stand at the finish line and be proud no matter where you placed—oh no, he was the asshole screaming at his son, even if his son won, because he wasn’t fast enough, his time wasn’t good enough. I was never good enough. And yet, he still wonders why I prefer music to organized athletics.

        My mom though, she’s great most of the time. She’s always supportive, even if it means pissing Dad off. And believe it or not that happens a lot. She’s always trying to keep the peace between Dad and me. Unfortunately, Mom had a tendency to overreact to things. Especially when it came to Mikaia and me As I am sure you can imagine things could get a little crazy at home.

        And they were in fact pretty crazy, there was a lot going on with my little sister, Mikaia. She’d been having trouble eating lately and was getting these killer headaches. Mom really wanted to take her to the Children’s Hospital for testing, but Dad kept trying to put it off. That is, until the family doctor got involved.

        Mom and Mikaia were in the driveway when I pulled up to the house. Mikaia was riding around in her pink Barbie Jeep, singing some little song from her Dora radio.

        As I walked up the drive, Mikaia drove down to meet me; of course after she had run over my foot, she couldn’t get it turned around so I had to help her. Once we got back up to the front of the drive, Mom came over and put her arm around my shoulder, “So, how were tryouts?”

        “They were ok,” I replied, “I think I did pretty well.”

        “That’s great honey. I’m so proud of you!” And of course, she had to ruin the moment by staining my cheek with her gloss-covered lips.

        “Mom!”

        “Oh! I’m sorry, honey!”

        I tried to wipe the gloss off as best I could and hurried inside to make sure I hadn’t missed any. As I was scrubbing the last little sparkle off my cheek I heard the garage door open. Dad was home. Great, I thought, my favorite part of the day. I walked out into the living room just in time to hear Mom say, “And Oscar had his drum major tryouts today!”

        Dad looked at me and grunted. Then he walked down the hallway to his office where he deposited his laptop and briefcase before reappearing in the family room. Gabriel Jones was not a particularly tall man, something he was kind enough to pass through the gene pool. He kept his hair short, trying to hide the gray that was beginning to make an appearance at his temples.

        “Dinner ready?” he said, glancing over the top of his rimmed glasses at Mom.

        “No, dear, I hadn’t started it yet. Mikaia and I—”

        “You haven’t started dinner? Good Lord, Bri, it’s almost five thirty.”

        “I know, but I was just going to do something simple like soup and sandwiches.”

        “Fine.” He said, and sat down on the couch with the remote. Mikaia followed and crawled up onto the couch beside him. She seemed content for a moment, until she realized he wasn’t sitting down to watch cartoons. The Evening News was the bane of Mikaia’s existence. She began to fidget and then began to play with dad’s glasses. If I didn’t know what an ass he was, I thought, that would make a perfect picture. Of course I had spoke too soon because in the next moment Dad was yelling at Mom to “remove her daughter from the living room.”

        After finding something besides Dad’s glasses to entertain Mikaia, I followed Mom into the kitchen to help with dinner. Cooking was better than television any day of the week. I knew that if Jesse ever found out that I was learning to cook from my mom, I’d never live it down. Dad didn’t really like it either—it wasn’t “manly” enough for him.

        Not that dinner was anything spectacular tonight anyway. Campbell’s soup and ham sandwiches, toasted. Dinner was eaten in relative silence, with Mikaia relaying the events of the day to everyone. Dad hadn’t said a word about my tryouts, not that it was much of a surprise but I was expecting at least one comment about band’s inferiority to soccer, his sport of choice. Mom didn’t say much either, and my nerves were kicking in.

They didn’t improve much after dinner either. I began to question my ability to lead the band. How was I going to lead the band if I couldn’t even get lead snare in my section? Stupid question, I tried to tell myself. Jesse is in with Aiden the way you are with Pike; you’ll be drum major, no worries. No worries—yeah right.

 
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All Information Copywright by Chimes Publication, Saint Mary's College 2010