"We demand to play homecoming."
"Dave, for the umpteenth time, we already have a show planned for halftime." The school's principal leaned back in his swivel chair, a domineering figure in a charcoal suit. His bushy moustache puffed out in irritation. "Now, get out of my office. Why are you even in here? It's class time. Not only that, how did you manage to get another half dozen students out of class? I'm pretty sure one of them isn't even a student here. Are you listening? I'll have to call your parents about this."
"With all due respect, sir, you are certainly no pal' to the students of this institution! I'm taking this matter to the school board. I'LL SEE YOU HANG!"
"That's it, go back to class or I'll have security escort you off campus."
"I WANT JUSTICE!"
"Please excuse him, sir. He's a little touched in the head." Melody hooked an elbow around Dave's neck, intent on silencing him. Dave clawed at her arm, gurgling. "We'll just be going now, okay?" Scott could hear her teeth crack in a forced smile. He was the first out of the door, followed by the rest of the band.
"Well, that went well," he said cheerfully. "What's the plan now, Dave?"
"Well, first," Dave said, freed from Melody's iron grip, "we're going to stop with the redundancy. I expected the resistance. This school is more prison thanschoolyeah, that makes sense. Mark, quick, when's lunch?"
"What? In, like, ten minutes, I think. I dunno."
"By the position of the sun," Andronicus said, shielding his eyes, "I'm inclined to agree with Mark."
"There aren't any windows in this hall, how could you even know that?"
"I have a third sense when it comes to these things, milady. Would you doubt my skill?"
"Um, I think you mean sixth sense, right?" Coming from behind, Bessie's bashful voice startled the group.
"Do not second guess me!"
Dave turned around and slapped Andronicus, trying to keep his face firm. "Your manners are lacking! Apologize to the lady!"
"I'm guessing there isn't a plan," Scott said over Andronicus's slew of apologies.
"Oh, but there is, Scott. There isMuahahahahaha!" Dave's fingers tapped together evilly, accompanied by a sly grin. "MMA, you three go set up in the courtyard. If you couldn't figure it out, I'm talking about Mark, Melody and Andro. I know, it's clever, you guys don't have to say anything. We practiced this. We ran drills. We gave our blood for this!"
"Can you please explain what you're talking about?"
"Oh, Scott, you know."
"No, I don't."
"Then I guess it sucks to be you."
The laughter echoed down the hall, and Scott sped up, putting distance between himself and his friends.
"I'm really starting to hate you guys."
"I take that back," Scott amended from behind his kit. "I do hate you guys."
"What are you talking about, dude?" Mark slapped the body of his bass and the strings responded dully. "This is totally a perfect opportunity. Like"
"The frisbee freak is right, Scott." Melody was eying what looked to be a new mouth piece. Scott thought he saw something engraved on the rim. "We need support, especially if we're going to convince the school board."
"What do you mean?"
"Look over there."
Scott narrowed his eyes and saw what appeared to be Dave talking to three well-dressed adults. The principal was standing off to one side, surveying the crowd of students the ad hoc stage had gathered.
"As expected, Sir Dave showed remarkable tactical prowess. To think he had planned this far ahead. I chose wisely when joining you ranks. And this crowd! Why, I have not been in a school play that had near half as many in attendance."
"Good for you, Andro! By the way, why is there a dead pigeon on your head?"
"Mark," Andronicus chuckled, "I would not expect you to understand la mode considering the rat's nest breeding lord knows what on top of your head."
Scott hit his snare and toms, played with the pedals briefly and rattled the cymbals. He knew what he wanted everything to sound like; at the very least he could cover his own end. The courtyard was filled. Almost half the school was there, and if they were not looking forward to the show then at least they had some excuse to be late to class. Several hundred pairs of eyes turned towards the stage of pushed together tables. Scott shrugged and laughed nervously.
"Uh, sorry! We're not starting quite yet! Melody, when the hell is Dave going to be done? I really, really want to get this over with."
"I'm here, Scott," Dave whispered into his ear. Scott jumped up, his heart slamming in his chest.
"Wrong, it's Dave."
"How did you?"
"I'm wherever you want me to be, baby. Ladies and gentlemen of the school!" Dave waved and arm grandly towards the audience. The adults to the rear stopped their bickering to listen. "Thank you for joining us this lovely fall day. We will now perform a song dedicated to our wonderful principal Misterwell, whatever his name is. This is called Chinchilla The Hun Lived A Long And Fruitful Life Until She Died On Bushy Brow's Face'!"
The performance that followed would be talked about for years to come, a show of great spirit and raw talent that shook the school to its very foundations. At least in the opinion of the janitors and local police department. Dave dropped the charges against Mr. Bushy Brow, as he would from then on be known, in exchange for performing during halftime at homecoming.
"Youyou!" the principal growled, pulling the mic out of Bessie's hand. He brandished a gnarled finger at Dave, who was still playing his guitar mid-song. Bessie fell backwards and landed hard, and Scott jumped up to help her. He at least made the attempt, as he too was sent sprawling. Suddenly, everyone was falling down; the principal was pulling the mic around and the cord tripped up the rest of the band. A cry rose from the audience, and the principal's superiors tried to break through the students. The mass of high schoolers could sense the anxiety and weakness from the adults. Food and soda bottles were thrown reckless through the air, haphazard grenades made out of nachos and Coke. Survivors would later comment that they thought they had seen heaven.
"What about me?" Dave taunted, dancing away. "What about Chinchilla the Hun, whom you so mercilessly slaughtered?"
"Ah ha! I knew this song was about me! This is slander!"
"Is it because I called you Bushy Brow? Would you prefer Mushy Moustache, you sick, sick man?"
"What? No, I"
"Did you hear that everyone? This guy is an aberration! His moustacheIS MUSHY!!!"
The principal was at a complete loss for words. Looking around himself, he saw students collapsed as if dead with himself as the epicenter. The school over which he tried to maintain firm control was in a state of utter chaos. The school board's representatives had struggled through the crowd and were looking at band with mouths agape. Dave smirked at him.
"It is NOT mushy!"
"So you like moist better, huh, Moist Moustache! I DEMAND ANSWERS! I also demand escape!"
Inspiration had struck Andronicus, and he had made a shield out of a cafeteria tray. His crawl towards Dave had been unnoticed and dramatically slow, but he made it. Other members were picking themselves up.
"Mark, Scott! To me!" Andronicus shouted, banging the tray with a fist. "We shall make it through the day alive, or I'll be a dead man!"
"FOR THE SHIRE!" Mark yelled feebly, trying to raise his fist in the air.
Scott's eyes swam as he lifted his head. "Is everyone alright?"
"Oh, we're just fantastic, Scott," Melody said, trying to fit herself behind her trumpet case. Scott thought she looked considerably oranger than usual.
"Did you get a tan or something?"
"No, Scott, I'm covered in nacho cheese. That's the least of our worries. We need to try to save the gear before this gets out of hand."
"This isn't out of hand?" Bessie asked. She had made it behind Scott's kit and was sheltered for the time being.
"Melody! Mark and I have to go. You know what to do!"
"You're leaving Dave? It's been a pleasure meeting you," Scott said. He looked at Bessie and smiled. She hid a giggle behind her hand.
"What? No I don't. Wait, going where?" Melody moved her case to look at Dave, then ducked quickly to dodge a half-eaten corndog. "Seriously, what is with this school and throwing food?"
"I can't tell you!" Dave shouted. "We'll be back in time! Mark, carve a path!"
"Dude, wait, what?"
"Don't think, just obey."
Scott popped his head up to try to see what had happened, but Dave and Mark were nowhere to be found. The principal looked to be pleading with the two other adults, the fear of unemployment in his eyes. Andronicus was limping around their collection of tables, sometimes whacking another student with the tray. Scott grabbed him as he passed by and told him to act as a casualty of war. Twenty minutes later, Andronicus' corpse was resurrected by Melody to help carry their significantly tastier gear to the van. Clean up would began at Dave's house. Dave and Mark, however, were nowhere to be found. They asked Dave's sister if she knew where he was, but Cassie just shook her head remorsefully.
"Where hath thou ventured to?" Andronicus asked, concern for his man-at-arms betrayed in his shaky voice.
"Where could he be?" Bessie asked, wringing her hands.
Scott and Melody looked at each other, both thinking the same thing.
"So, dude, like, where are we going?" Mark gasped, lagging behind Dave. They had been hiking for hours after Dave's mom dropped them off near a coastal trail. Night had fallen hours ago, and an eerie mist had formed between the pines. Mark was squinting after the dim flashlight Dave held.
"Do you see that ridge?"
"Well, his house is right over it. We're almost there. Stay strong."
"The man who taught me everything I know. Come on."
Ten minutes later Mark topped the ridge, breath ragged. A small, run down cabin stood in a clearing. Candle light spilled out of the windows, illuminating a jagged shadow that rocked slowly on the porch.
"Is that the dude?"
"Is that Dave? Well, I be damned, I ain't seen ya since ya wasoh, wait, I'm thinkin' of someone else. I ain't seen ya since Christmas!"
"Hey, Uncle Cletus. This is my friend Mark. We need your services'."
"Cletus? Services? I don't like what I'm hearing, man."'
Cletus stood to greet the newcomers. Mark could see a banjo propped against the door frame. What looked to be half a deer hung in a window.
"Yep, name's Cletus," Dave's uncle confirmed, spitting out a thick brown liquid. The straw he had been chewing on was also ejected, landing in the tobacco infused saliva. Cletus picked it up and resumed chewing. He offered a surprisingly clean hand to Mark.
"Uh, nice to meet you dude. Are we still on the west coast?"
"Nice to meet ya too, boy. We're gonna have a whole lotta fun up here. A whole lotta fun"
Cletus and Dave laughed uproariously as Mark backed away. Before he could turn and run, they each took and elbow and dragged Mark into the cabin.
The door slammed shut, cutting off the scream. An owl hooted curiously in the sudden silence, then flew off to find other prey. It was going to be a long two weeks.