CAFETERIA, 7:20 AM. February 12.
You have to assume this weekend will be hellish. John said, sipping his Monster heartily. The rest of the band had always found his habit of drinking Monster at all hours of the day unnerving. Sure, Stephen drank it, too, but he at least only had about one a day. John had a habit. A rather disgusting habit, exemplified by the loud belch that emerged from his gullet upon finishing the can, which he smashed into his forehead in a hope to crush it. It didn't work. It never worked, and John slumped over in his chair, slamming his face into the table.
Damn. He muttered.
Yeah. Dave agreed. Can you imagine the sappy romance at the tables?
He was, of course, speaking of Le Grande, the high scale restaurant all of them worked as busboys at. But this weekend, only John and Dave were working. They knew it was going to be busy. Painfully busy.
But imagine the tips. Matt added plainly.
Mhm. John said. But it's Valentine's Day. Who works on Valentine's Day?
You have no reason to complain. Stephen laughed. You two are the only single ones in this group!
Shut up. Dave muttered. It's a secret shame.
Not so secret. Stephen smirked. John doesn't stop complaining. Ever. You horny bastard.
Hey, at least I try. John announced, tossing a stare in Dave's direction. He's given up completely.
Call me a nihilistic hedonist. Dave sighed. No meaning to life other than enjoying yourself.
Don't you think you'd enjoy life more if you had a girlfriend? Matt asked, twirling a lock of his red hair between his pale fingers.
I assume. Dave said, sitting up and crossing his legs. But you haven't asked what I have in store for the day.
Oh, god. Stephen blurted. Dave always pulled a massive prank on Valentine's Day. He considered it a form of humorous protest against a failure of a holiday. And usually, his prank ended in such oddities the rest of his associates had blocked them out from memory.
Yeah. I'm gonna make a lobster bisque bath for Carlo.
Carlo John muttered, sounding a bit tired. The heavyset kitchen worker?
The same. Dave replied with a grin.
Are you trying to get fired, or what? Stephen asked.
No. Dave shook his head. Just prove a point.
What's that? John asked.
That love is a joke. Dave said simply, standing. He gave a glance toward his friends before walking out of the cafeteria in a rush.
That boy is out of it sometimes. John sighed, turning back to Stephen and Matt. I worry.
And I sit and watch. Stephen said. It's not like he's a danger to himself.
Just to his well-being. Matt said quietly.
True. John replied sadly, looking back over his shoulder for a glimpse of Dave. But he was already gone.
ROOM B206, 10:08 AM
The silence of an assignment was burned into his ears. Who would dare to break the silence? A cough, a slight rustle of clothingThe movement of paper. A note slipped gently under his palm.
Troy waited for the moment. He couldn't read it just yet. The planets needed to align. Everything needed to be perfect. If everything happens for a reason, let the time come. Let the fates decide when the message would be delivered. If this message required urgency, it would be ignored. No time waits. Man is a slave to circumstance. So go with the flow.
RED SHORE PREPARATORY BAND ROOM, 11:31 AM
Clarissa snapped the seals of her guitar case closed, enjoying the little flash of light that danced across the chrome. She had always enjoyed little things that sparkled. It almost reminded her of the truth that everything had goodness within it.
Zo, on the other hand, was clearly the opposite. She sat in the back corner with the grand piano, practicing a disturbing new symphony she had written based upon the fictional tale of a tortured soul by the name of Melancholia. The bleak notes flowing from her corner stabbed the positive atmosphere of the band room.
Where exactly the band instructor went during lunch period was beyond his students. Some assumed he had a raging drug habit and went out to the parking lot to shoot heroin. Others believed him to be a figment of their imaginations or perhaps a ghost. But very few knew the truth. And if someone at Red Shore had any idea where Mr. Ryder disappeared to, they kept quiet. It was the secret of the school.
And so, with two opposing forces of optimism and pessimism apparent in the same room, an invisible struggle began to seize control over the room. Good vs. Evil. Heroes vs. Villains. Zo vs. Clarissa.
Must you play such dark music? Clarissa asked the dark corner as she sat down in one of the room's many identical black plastic chairs that, in most opinions, cost the school less than their pencil supply.
They're called minor scales, peppy. Zo replied from the corner. Her voice seemed to come from nowhere, as the fluorescent light above her piano had burnt out months ago, leaving the girl always in the dark. She only came out for classes, but when she did emerge, not many people noted her existence. Clarissa knew she was pale from lack of sun, despite Red Shore's location in sunny California. But as for other details, she was relatively unsure.
I'm aware of minor scales. Clarissa said softly, as if speaking to a kitten. I just wonder why you use them so often.
Why not? came the response from the corner. The music stopped suddenly.
Wellit's kind ofoff-putting.
Off-putting Zo said, her voice reflecting the sadness of her minor scale augmented piano. Am I killing your vibe?
You couldput it that way. Clarissa responded, strumming a few major chords. Not to say major chords get old
But you're saying you don't like my music. Zo said.
No, no. Not that.
Then what? came the cold response.
For the first time she could remember, Clarissa was stumped. There was no getting through to this girl. She just gave a sigh and returned to her jolly, mellow major chords.
In the background, Clarissa heard shuffling, then a small slam as the piano lid closed. Then came the footsteps as Zo exited in a hurry. Clarissa turned, but the only sigh she caught was of a purple-plaid skirt and a chalky white leg before Zoe disappeared out the door.
MR RYDER'S OFFICE, 3:44 PM
The familiar cloud of smoke enveloped the two figures in the room, drowning them in a mild form of mind expansion. What little signatory skills they had remaining were ousted with a wave of the plant's wispy white hand. This was the ritual. It was sacred, and no one dared question it or report it.
But why did no one alert the office to the music teacher's hot boxing of his own office? In simple terms, it was because he was the only one; the only music teacher they had, and by God, they didn't want to lose him. Why had they come to Red Shore other than music? That was the curriculum. For Ryan, the grizzled lap steel guitar player, this was his bliss. This little escape from the harsh realities of the world was his own choice. He hated everything else, so why bother questioning fate?
So how long do we even have? Ryan asked, taking another drag on the makeshift blunt before passing it to his teacher.
A month. Mr. Ryder replied, running a hand through his short brown hair. A month to compose, teach, and memorize a complete set.
I've seen you accomplish more in one night. Ryan replied. But enough about your dates.
Har har. Chuckled Mr. Ryder sarcastically, turning on his computer and loading up Finale in one fell swoop. Now shut up and help me here.
GYM, 4:02 PM
Joey swooped under Marcus's arm and scored the two points with a simple layup. Marcus really hated Joey. See, Joey was the typical jock: muscular, popular, and not afraid to run his mouth, as became apparent.
Oh, lookit, f*ggot. Joey taunted, tossing Marcus the ball. Now what?
Marcus sighed and rolled his eyes. His sexuality was none of the athletes' business, yet they brought it up every time he tried to secure the gym. That's what this one-on-one game was about: control. If Marcus won, the band would get the gym for the afternoon to practice. If Joey wonthe gym remained in Coach Shuman's hands.
Coach Shuman was the villain of Red Shore Prep. He was the vile manipulator of the administration, ensuring the football and basketball teams got all the funding, and that the band was to die a long, painful death. His goal was simple: turn Red Shore into a purely sports-based preparatory school. Marcus could see his evil visage now: the middle-aged, balding man with the dark, beady eyes and crooked nose from several years of wrestling; his ears puffy and red, and the overflow of red tinge in his rage-filled face.
Joey moved, snatching the ball from Marcus's grasp and sweeping past him to sink the final two pointer. First to twenty wins. Today, Joey won: 20 to 6.
Ooooh, better luck next time, Nancy! Joey said in a high voice before taking himself and the ball back to the locker room.
Marcus just stood there, clenching his fists at his sides. His scrawny arms barely held the fists proper. He never won. Not today, not yesterday, not tomorrow. Never.
He heard the cackling disappear into the locker room, gut he still stood under the fluorescent lights, shame in his heart.
RED SHORE JACKSON DORMITORIES, SECOND FLOOR, ROOM 204, 11:24 PM
Dave took another sip of his beer. Naturally, alcohol was forbidden on school property, but with the right amount of discretion, one could easily sneak it in within a hollow ottoman and hide it in plain sight in their dorm room. Dave smirked and turned the page in his V For Vendetta book. This was the good life.
John, meanwhile, clicked open the email from Mr. Ryder and read aloud to Dave.
Dear Band Students, it has come to my attention that on the 13th of March, Red Shore Preparatory School's band is scheduled to play a three-song set at the Southern California Teen Arts Festival. All students are asked to be in the band room on Monday, February 15th with instruments prepared. Be ready to learn and help to write new songs. Your teacher, Michael Ryder.
Dave laughed. This was such a joke. They couldn't possibly write and memorize three songs in a month. Not with their failure of organization.
What a joke. Dave sneered. No chance.
We have no choice. This festival determines the funding for next year. John replied, sipping on a Bawls.
Well, Christ. Dave muttered, closing his book and rolling over. We're so completely screwed.
Bring your best. John retorted.
Suzie. John said, smiling.
Suzie was Dave's alpine white 1975 Gibson Ripper. He never used it, except for special occasions. He dared not potentially ruin her.
Seems right. Dave said, looking over at the corner where Suzie was so prominently displayed on the wall. I guess she'll have to do.
Have to do? John asked flabbergasted. Bring your a-game.
I'll bring what I can. Said Dave, sounding pessimistic as usual.
He turned his head to look out the window. The moon was glowing in the night sky, sending beams of light down on the campus. Below, he could swear he saw a flash of pale skin dart across the commons, but in the end, he figured it was only his imagination.
They had one month.