Scott found himself waiting in front of Dave's house the next morning, soaked to the bone. Every sprinkler in the neighborhood turned on in unison just as Scott turned onto Dave's block. He ran headfirst through the freezing droplets trying to reach the shelter of Dave's porch. Melody was already sitting there, chewing on her hair impatiently and taking up as much space as she possible could. She begrudgingly scooted over upon seeing Scott's violent shivers, pulling her backpack and out of season parka closer. Scott mumbled a thanks and stood awkwardly beside her. He ruefully heard sprinklers shutting off one by one. Of course.
"How long have you been waiting?"
"Like ten minutes, maybe," Melody replied, hair hanging from her mouth. It was not attractive.
"Cool, cool. So, what's up? You in the band now or what?"
"I guess. It's not like I have anything better to do."
"Haha, yeah, I know what you mean."
Melody stood up with her arms wrapped around herself and stamped her feet.
"Where the hell is he? I'm not about to wait another ten minutes."
A door slammed somewhere inside, followed by the sounds of someone jumping downstairs. Someone gave a sleepy yell for quiet.
"Sounds like you won't have to."
Dave threw the front door open as well as he could, the heavy wood swinging inwards and narrowly missing his head. He looked way too hyper for the hour.
"You guys ready? Okay, off we go!"
Dave skipped down the steps of his porch, deftly avoiding any collisions. Scott and Melody exchanged glances and followed behind with decidedly less pep in their strides. Dave merrily leapt ahead, feet slapping against the wet cement. At the end of the block he stopped and waited for the two of them.
"Hurry up! We need to fill Melody in before we get to school!"
Melody looked at Scott.
"Fill me in? On what?"
"Monkeys and typewriters, probably. "
"Never mind. I'll let him do the talking. Not that I have a choice."
Melody pushed her glasses further up the bridge of her nose, confused. Dave was waving frantically and didn't stop until they reached him.
"Alright," Dave began. "First of all I need to tell you our concept."
"Your concept," Scott corrected.
"DON'T YOU DARE START WITH ME, SCOTT!" Dave yelled. He cleared his throat, reducing his volume to continue with Melody. "Our concept," he emphasized, "is to create the best worst band in the world." "That's the stupidest thing I've heard," Melody cut in.
"Exactly," Scott said.
Dave raised a threatening palm.
"So help me, ScottBut yeah, Melody. Exactly is right. We need people who can't play anything to pull it off so we're recruiting people. We need to start collecting some instruments too."
"People who can't play? Then why did you ask me?"
Dave looked at Scott.
"Don't look at me, dude."
Dave looked at a nearby stray cat. The cat looked at Melody and darted off, tail bushed in fright.
"I see," said Melody in a curt tone. "Thanks a lot, jerk."
A corner of Dave's mouth twitched upwards as if he had been complimented.
"Yeah! I saw you on stage in the auditorium"
"You saw me play!?"
"You didn't really play much of anything," Scott interjected from the background.
"and knew we had to have you!"
It took Scott and Dave a minute to realize Melody was no longer walking beside them. They looked back together and saw her standing stock still on the sidewalk, the knuckles on one hand turned white from gripping her backpack.
"What's wrong?" Dave asked.
Scott bent close to him, whispering, "I think you hurt her feelings."
Dave cocked his head and gave Melody a wondering stare. She hadn't budged from her spot, though it looked like her shoulders were shaking.
"I guess I should apologize."
They cautiously approached Melody, treading lightly. Dave crouched low and appeared to be carrying a spear which he juggled from hand to hand. Scott contemplated what life would be like in the crazy little head. He hoped Melody wouldn't start crying again.
"Hey, uh, I'm sorry," Dave said once they had gotten within about five feet of her. "I didn't mean to be mean."
Melody raised her head, her limpid hazel eyes clouded with tears. "It's not your fault; I know I'm bad at trumpet. I should have just stuck with the triangle."
"No!" Dave said. "I'm sure you're great."
"But you said you wanted people who couldn't play!"
"I know! I haven't even heard you play yet."
"Then how can you know I'm great?" Melody shrieked.
"You guys," Scott said impatiently, "Can we get going? I don't want detention two days in a row."
Dave nodded. "You're absolutely right. It's not important right now. What we need to talk about is finding a few more people andMelody? Are you listening?"
Melody had started walking again so Scott and Dave fell in line. She was dragging her feet dejectedly.
"I've never been above fourth seat," she said in a distant voice. "Ever since elementary school they've shoved me to the back. Now I'm stuck with the beginners and the rest of the band ignores me. The teachers have given up on me."
"Melody," Dave sang, "We're not talking about that anymore. Now, do you think you could get your hands on a bass or some drums maybe?"
Melody ignored him and continued. "I've been playing for almost nine years, practicing every day. My parents won't get me my own trumpet until I'm at least third seat. They used to say second but they've realized how horrible I actually am. I have to use the school's trumpet. The silver plating on the mouthpiece is chipping off. I think I have copper poisoning."
Dave smirked and jabbed Scott in the side with his elbow. Melody was too far ahead to hear the softly spoken words."
"Dude," Dave hissed, "I told you she would be totally depressing." Scott silently nodded his assent.
Dave quickened his pace to reach Melody. She was still talking to herself as Dave put an arm around her shoulders. She stopped the torrent of words to see what he wanted.
"Hey, Melody, cheer up. Life isn't that bad."
"Mine is," she said dejectedly.
"Well, look at it this way at least you don't have a goiter."
Scott felt his throat on the off chance a goiter had taken root.
"You can't really argue with that," he said.
Melody raised an eyebrow. "A goiter?"
"Yeah, it's when your thyroid gland swells up due to lack of iodine. You also don't have stunted growth from lack of protein. It's that awesome?"
Melody shifted her backpack, the parka tied around her waist making it difficult to settle it comfortably. She gave them one last look and set a determined pace for school, pigtails swinging their disdain.
"Melody," Dave cried," wait up! We need to talk about stealing people and finding instruments."
"I think you've got that backwards," Scott said.
"No, it's fine. Oh well," Dave said, pouting at Melody's back. "I can tell her later."
He started to skip after Melody and Scott started after. They ended up following Melody at an awkward distance all the way to the school's front doors. She didn't look back again.
Dave had staked out the class Melody had before lunch and pounced on her. He held her sleeve in a vice-like grip while her classmates struggled past. Scott stood well back and out of the way.
"The plan," Dave said, eyes burning with passion.
Melody tried to take her arm back and failed. The fabric in Dave's hand was starting to stretch.
"Let go of my sleeve and I'll listen."
Dave immediately obliged and Melody shook her arm, relieved.
"Hey, Dave, look over there! I think I see an albatross." Melody pointed just above Scott's head.
"Really?" Dave exclaimed, turning to face in that direction. He found himself looking at Scott's blank expression.
"You're not an albatross."
"She's getting away."
Scott watched Melody sprint down the hallway. The echo of her footsteps finally caught Dave's attention and he ran after her. Scott jogged after, backpack thumping against him. He rounded a corner and saw Dave closing fast in on Melody.
She halted in front of a door and pivoted to confront Dave, huffing angrily.
"No! Leave. Me. Alo-"
The door burst open and slammed into Melody, sending her in a sprawl to the floor. Scott had just reached Dave but Dave raced ahead. Scott entertained the notion that this may have been out of concern for Melody's wellbeing, but he saw the corner of what appeared to be a royal purple cloak waving from behind the door. A loud voice imbued with regality accompanied it.
"I have never been so insulted in my life! My talents are wasted on the likes of you plebeians. I refuse to play second fiddle in this joke of a production. I quit!"
Dave stopped next to Melody, who hadn't yet recovered from the fall. She kept her face planted on the floor. Scott moved as if to assist but thought better of it. She'd either rip his arm off or start crying again and he wasn't in the mood to deal with either outcome.
The voice behind the door revealed himself, a figure that dwarfed Scott and Dave's average heights with chiseled features twisted into a sneer. The cloak looked ridiculously small on him, as did the undersized crown nestled in his hair.
"Hey, Andrew, you can't take the props with you if you're quitting."
"How many times do I have to tell you?" he shrieked. "My name is Andronicus! An-dron-i-cus, it's not that hard to remember. And these are from my personal collection; I'm taking them with me."
"Fine, just go. Don't let the door hit you on the way out."
A push forced Andronicus out of the doorway and the door was pulled shut, trapping part of the cloak in the jamb. Andronicus aggressively yanked it free and flipped off the closed door.
Dave coughed and Andronicus scowled at him.
"What do you want?"
Dave fell to one knee, head down in obeisance.
"My liege, please join my band. We will shower you will praise and appreciation. I simply must have a man of your skill!"
"What, like a band of robbers?"
"No, sire, a band of bards!"
Andronicus looked at the girl he hadn't noticed injuring, who Scott was starting to think was unconscious, then towards Scott.
"Are you friends? What is this guy talking about?"
Scott sighed. "He's Dave, I'm Scott, and that's Melody that you knocked out. Dave's trying to start a band."
Dave stood and gave Andronicus a foxlike grin.
"We're trying to start a band. Want in?"
Andronicus looked irritated.
"You'd just take anyone? No audition?"
Melody surprised everyone by flipping her head up.
"An audition? That's a great idea. Then you all can hear me play."
Dave rubbed his chin, a musing expression on his face.
"Yes, it's an excellent idea. After school in my garage then? Melody, we need instruments!"
Melody dusted herself off as she stood.
"I think there's an old bass in the orchestra room. I could probably sneak it out after school."
"Hey, is that girl with you guys too?" Andronicus asked, peering over their heads.
Scott looked down the hall and saw half of a chubby face gazing at them from behind a wall. The girl jumped, startled by the sudden attention, and disappeared.
"Forget it. So, where's your house?"
"It just off of tenth, near"
Scott watched for a moment as his three new acquaintances talked animatedly about their after school plans. He didn't have much to contribute but he was fine with listening in. There was still time left in lunch so they headed out to the field to walk around. Scott walked a little behind them, something which Dave would later refer to as providence. The whoosh of air and shouts of "Watch out!" didn't register until something hit the back of Scott's head and he was already falling. His vision clouded and he blacked out.