School started in four minutes.
Half an hour later he was sitting with his head pressed against a cafeteria table listening to the vice principal rant about punctuality or something. That was the gist of the diatribe but Scott had other things on his mind. He had seen Dave staring at him from inside of a classroom as he was marched past. Scott sighed and bopped his head slightly on the table. The small freshman sitting next to him squeaked and slid away. Scott wondered if he had been that tiny or that easily startled when he was that age.
The lectured ended to much applause. Well, one person applauded enthusiastically while the other tardy students filed out in lethargic indifference. Scott thought it would be fit the atmosphere if he sighed again so he did. He was Atlas, the weight of the world reflected in his sighs. All he had were those sighs. He would sigh ad infinitum. It was just fun to say "sigh".
Scott could feel the end of first period drawing near. He quickened his shuffle so he would beat the student tide and hopefully avoid Dave. Scott knew he was irrevocably bound to this shitty (in a good way) band scheme, probably from the moment they fled from school. Scott tossed his head, trying to extradite the image. Next time he ran out of a building wearing a crown he hoped there would be a horse present, maybe a shining white stallion with its mane scattered wildly in the wind. One could only dream.
He had to wait to get into his second period classroom, somehow managing to hang onto his backpack as he squeezed his way to the rear of the room. Apparently "excuse me" was no longer an effective means of parting people. He set his backpack down and kicked it under a desk then sat in the hard plastic orange chair affixed to it. He didn't know what book he would need for the class (hell, he didn't know what class it was) so his backpack remained where it had been kicked. He folded his arms on the desk and rested his head. Aside from the murmuring in the halls the room was relatively quiet. He felt something poke his left shoulder. He shied away. The poke followed him.
Had he actually felt something? Scott was reluctant to look; he had a sinking feeling he knew the owner of that poke. He turned his head over so he was facing left. Dave was so close their noses were almost touching. He was panting.
Scott met Dave's eyes in an icy stare.
"GOOD MORNING!" Dave shouted.
Scott flipped his head to face the other direction. Dave grabbed his shoulders and shook violently.
"Wake up, wake up! Dude, how goes the search?"
"You only have a week," Dave chirped.
"It's been seven hours."
Scott sat up straight and looked at Dave, eyes dull. "Dude, you kept me at your house until two in the morning talking about monkeys and typewriters. You forced me to arm wrestle my way to freedom. I know you asked me to find other members, but give me some time. I don't even know anyone."
"Oh, yeah, I wrote a song called Monkey the Typewriter'. And Scott, you know me."
"You're the one that started the band! That doesn't help at all."
"Hey, class is starting soon. You seem popular today."
"Are you even in this class?" Scott exclaimed, throwing his arms into the air. Popular today? He looked away from Dave and noticed the room had begun filling up. Of the dozen or so students already there, most were stealing glances and him and Dave or conspicuously ignoring them. Scott suspected word of their grand flight had spread around school. Dave probably spread it himself.
"By the way, instead of third period we're having an assembly. Orchestra and Band are both giving demonstrations to try to get more members. We might be able to prey on some freshmen. If anyone's face lights up, let me know."
"Like if anyone is particularly enchanted or moved. We'll sit together and observe them. They seem smaller than we were last year. Munchkins."
"Yeah, okay," Scott said dismissively, "the teacher's here. What class is this?"
He had been looking at the front of the class toward the teacher, some middle aged guy with a suitcase, and turned toward Dave with the question. Dave was gone. A gust of wind rattled a window.
"You back there, Scott was it? Shut that window would you?" Scott nodded to the teacher and got up to comply. The morning fog looked thinner. He hoped it wouldn't burn off. A flurry of leaves caught his attention. Dave was sprinting away from the window. It seemed like he had jumped down from the second story class room Scott was currently in. Sly. Very sly.
Scott left the class an hour later and made his way to his next class and consequently to Dave. Their teacher had them line up in the hall so they could walk to the assembly in an orderly fashion. Scott stood at the back of the line next to Dave.
"I bet they're going to play that one song."
"What one song'?"
"You know, that one. You'll recognize it when you hear it."
"I'm sure I will."
Dave bobbed his head up and down like a drinking bird toy constantly dipping its glass beak into a cup of water. Scott suspected Dave had been such a toy in a past life. It would explain everything.
It wasn't a long walk to the auditorium. The wooden folding seats creaked as Scott's class settled into a row in the middle aisle, fourth from the front. The rest of the school followed in suit, hundreds of voices talking and laughing loudly, teachers yelling incoherent instructions. The floodlights had been dimmed down so that the rows of chairs on the stage were barely illuminated, the timpani various cymbals looming ominously. Scott saw a few of the band members peeking from behind the curtains backstage, their instruments obscured in shadows. Eventually a tense quiet settled over the audience, teachers still clamoring for an unattainable complete silence. One of the music teachers walked to center stage holding a mic. A spotlight flickered on.
"Hi, everyone," she said as the houselights where being turned off one by one. "I'm Mrs. Richards. Welcome back to school. Today we're going to have both the school's main band and orchestra perform a piece. We hope some of you will be inspired to join. We will take anyone interested, and I really mean anyone. The more students who participate the more funding we'll get. This is truly important for your school and your community. Come talk to me or Mr. Douglas and we'll get you set up."
"Not if I can help it," Dave muttered.
Mrs. Richards nodded to someone offstage. "Well, I don't want to bore you all."
"Too late!" someone shouted from the audience.
The teacher glared toward the perpetrator, ignoring the snickering. "So, without further ado, here's your school band! Enjoy!"
She shook her head as she turned around to watch her students enter the stage. The floodlights grew brighter, outlining the students as they took their seats. Some clutched their clarinets or flutes so tightly Scott was surprised they didn't shatter. He was seated close enough to see the frayed nerves. That was his future.
One seat on stage was left empty. Scott figured someone had just counted wrong but Mrs. Richards assured the audience that the band would start playing in "just a minute". Irritated shouts and crashing could be heard from backstage. A girl stumbled onto the stage holding a battered trumpet, glasses and hair askew. She tripped as she hurried toward the empty seat in the back row. She lost hold of the trumpet and it flew a few feet ahead of her. She chased after it and kicked it further away. Laughs rose from the audience. Her band mates pretended not to notice. Trumpet retrieved, she sank into her seat. Mrs. Richards started a count.
"Is this Eye of the Tiger'? I can't tell." Scott looked at Dave. Dave had jumped to his feet, eyes filled with intensity. "I get what you mean by eyes lighting up."
"IT'S THEEYE OF THE TIGER IT'S THE THRILL OF THE FIGHT!"
"Yeah, he's gone." Scott looked back towards the stage but he could still see Dave, fist pumping, in his peripheral. The awkward girl in the back didn't seem to be playing. Unless crawling around on all fours desperately searching for something was a new technique. She picked up a small object that glinted in her hand just as the song's final notes drifted away. Dave tried to rally a cry for an encore but was largely ignored. Mrs. Richards thank the students again and the band bowed. An older and portlier man took her place and the orchestra switched with the band.
Dave sat back down and clapped Scott on the shoulder.
"I want that girl."
"For the band you mean?"
"Yeah, what else would I mean?"
Scott looked askance. "I thought you said you didn't want people who could already play an instrument?"
"She's close enough."
"Okay, so go talk to her."
"That is your duty, my apprentice."
"When did I become your apprentice? You want me to go get her now? I didn't see where she went."
"No, we must bide our time."
"Why are you talking like that?"
"Because," Dave replied sagely.
Scott covered his eyes with one hand and hoped the orchestra would soon drown Dave out.
Scott walked out of the auditorium yawning, Dave close on his heels.
"Hey, let's head to the cafeteria. I bet that girl'll be there."
"There's no way you could know that, Dave."
"I bet she'll be sitting at some empty table in a corner looking all mopey and shit."
"That's so cliche."
"She has the stereotypical loner-nerd vibe around her."
"Yeah, I guess. Whatever."
Dave pulled on Scott's arm when they reached the double doors of the cafeteria.
"What, you're getting in line?"
Scott looked in the direction Dave was pointing. The trumpet girl was sitting alone at a table in a corner, looking down at a tray of unappetizing food. Scott couldn't see the food but he, like every other student, knew that cafeteria food inherently sucked. She looked pretty mopey.
"I totally called it. Come on, you need to talk to her."
"Fine, I will. Lead the way."
They weaved through the other tables, dodging peers carrying trays and chattering conglomerations. The floor was sticky. Scott was afraid to look down. An empty pocket opened up a few feet away from the girl's table. Dave pulled Scott forward and clear his throat. The girl had been chewing on the end of one of her pigtails. She looked up and Scott got a good look at her face for the first time. Handsome is not a word one typically uses to describe a girl's features, but that was the word that sprang instantly to Scott's mind. Bright hazel eyes leapt out from behind her oversized frames. However middling the rest of her was, those eyes would stun anyone.
"Uh, hi. My name's Scott and"
It happened too fast for him to do anything. A bag of milk came flying out of nowhere, spinning rapidly through the air. Dave cried out and the girl turned to see what was happening. Time slowed down for Scott as the bag made contact with her face, warping to the contours. It exploded, leaving the girl sopping wet. Her jaw dropped and she turned back to Scott and Dave. Scott noticed that everyone had stopped talking. He could feel everyone staring at the scene that had just unfolded.
Dave, tactful as always, said, "That's hot. What's your name?"
The girl seemed to traumatized to give anything other than a straight answer.
"Hey, Melody, I'm Dave. I want you to be in my band."
Dave winked at Scott. Scott shook his head, disgusted at the opportunism. Melody looked at both of them and sniffled.
"I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
"Shut up, Dave."
That's when Melody started to cry.