Last year, a video of Sumner and Lincoln High schools’ drumlines in friendly competition caught my ear.
My trumpet-playing teenager stood next to those lines as band members from all around waited over an hour for the 2017 Orting Daffodil Parade to start. The sound of the drums beating and competing their rhythms, he told me, shook his insides and turned the dull waiting into a fabulous time.
That video captures the feeling I worked to get in this short YA story about friendships lost, crushes you never wanted to have in the first place and, of course, bands.
(I thought I might never get it done if I didn’t post it here. So here goes.)
“East and West” Part 1
The trouble started with a setup.
I was just getting into the drum cadence when Sophia bounced her way up the bleachers. Watching her from just behind the clarinets with my trumpet balanced on my knee, I waited for the band director Mr. Toonis to get us going again. And enjoyed the cadence. The crisp fall air made the sounds even cleaner at the football playoffs where I sat squashed between other pep band trumpets on the metal bleacher.
I always loved the way drums knocked sound down into my chest and pounded away the thoughts swirling in my head. What did it matter if my reddish blonde hair was too big and too curly to fit under the West High spirit hat I made out of some big-brimmed number the clarinet player brought back from her trip to Disneyland? Or that the plastic uniform shoes I wore pinched my feet and made me feel like a dork?
When the beat moved up through me, I could forget the people I should be friends with and the others I should not. I wanted to feel the quads beat their way down the scale while the football team took a time out on the field.
“Hannah!” Sophia said, forcing me to open my eyes. “Can you hear me over those drums?”
I nodded as I looked up at her from my seat. She was still bouncing on her heels and her long dark braid swung behind her like the tail of a horse. A hint of her sweet-smelling shampoo drifted my way.
“So there’s this trumpet player—Michael Atsma—he plays in the band for East High.” She waved across the field full of football in front of us toward the stands on far reaches of the visitor side. “His brother is friends with one of the cheerleaders’ brother.”
The dummers pounded their last booming note then, so I almost didn’t hear the last unwelcome bit about the cheerleaders.
“You want to meet him?” she asked.
I held my trumpet close to the buttons on the front of my band uniform and shook my head. Sophia had a way of floating from group to group, talking to everyone. She even talked to my former best friend Ally. Who I was not—not–going to think about where she led a cheer in front of the stands, balancing on the shoulders of two larger girls, hands on their hips. I saw them shout as they shook maroon and gold pompoms but couldn’t hear them over the crowd’s roar at what the quarterback just did with the football.
Sophia shrugged. “Okay. But he’s nice. And you, like, play the same instrument. I bet you’d like him.” She waved at my trumpet.
I wondered if she even knew what it was called.
“Thanks, Sophia. But I’m good.”
I wasn’t good. I didn’t have a boyfriend and wished I did. But lately just getting myself to school and band was all I could manage. Meeting a new guy from a new school made my stomach turn upside down. Too much drama potential.
So I was relieved when Sophia shrugged again and stepped back down the bleachers, ponytail waving goodbye. The set up deal with Michael, I thought, was over.