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It Wasn’t My Fault

I met Alison Lohans on Facebook recently. (Isn’t that where everyone meets these days?!) And we started gabbing about books and writing and I learned her new book, THIS LAND WE CALL HOME, is short-listed for the Young Adult Book category of the Saskatchewan Book Awards. It’s YA historical fiction dealing with the World War II Japanese American relocation camps. As soon as I can, I’ll do a First Page Book Review on it. Can’t wait!

We’ve also been gabbing about marching band and she told me she wrote a short story several years ago set in the marching band. I told her I’d love to see it, she got permission from her publisher, and voila! Here is part one of IT WASN’T MY FAULT for your reading enjoyment.



© Alison Lohans, 1993
Excerpted from LAWS OF EMOTION by ALISON LOHANS, Thistledown Press with the permission of Thistledown Press.

It was all Mr. Baxter’s fault.

Not that I happened to be sitting next to Adam Messick at the football game. That was an accident. The way we file into the stands after doing our intro on the field, we often end up sitting next to kids we don’t know all that well. So sitting next to Adam was no big deal.

It was Mr. Baxter’s fault. Because of the rain.

It was our final game of the season. We had a thrilling record of one win and six losses. The field was soggy because it had rained on and off for several days. Our marching shoes were caked with mud. My best friend Tina Mihalowicz, who was sitting next to me too, had her uniform legs spattered with mud. Out on the playing field our gold-and-white team was rapidly turning brown. And we were getting clobbered. It was only the first quarter.

I felt crummy.

Not because of the way the Cougars were turning us to clowns. Not because of the mud. It had nothing to do with Mr. Baxter. Or Adam.

Tina and I were supposed to be going to the after-game dance. I was devastated. Not because of the dance. But I’d counted on spending some time there with Reilly Higgins – only when I’d been on my way from biology to sixth period English, I’d seen him in the hallway talking to Lisa Morrelli. Not just talking. Looking positively mesmerized was more like it.

I waved and said hi (almost brushing against him), but Reilly never even noticed. I could’ve melted with humiliation, right into a giant oily spot on the tiles.

Tina nudged me with her trumpet. She has an uncanny way of reading my mind. “Higgins Piggins,” she said. “I bet he gets a faceful of mud out there.”

“I’ll throw it anytime,” I offered.

A yell rose up from the other side of the stadium. One of the Cougars was loping toward the goal line. Our number 38 fell flat in the mud. I laughed out loud. Reilly – served the jerk right. The Cougars scored and their pep band blasted out their school song. One of our drummers tapped out a little competition.

It started raining. Again.

It seemed fitting, considering the way I felt.

The instant the Cougar band quit, Mr. Baxter was snapping his fingers. “Okay, guys – Devastators theme. One, two, one, hit it!”

Right away we became a whirlwind of sound. Tina’s and my trumpets screamed out high notes. Adam’s clarinet shrilled a trill. The percussion section pounded out a throbbing rhythm so catchy I halfway expected to see the whole crowd stand up and start dancing. That was one thing about our band. Our football team might be pathetic. Our field might be muddy. It might be raining – but we were good and everybody knew it.

Mr. Baxter had to stop us for the kickoff. One of the drummers played a crescendoing roll as the figures on the field ran slow-motion toward the up-ended ball. Tina’s trumpet sang out Charge! The crowd roared as the ball shot into the air.

“Mr. B.,” said Adam once the game was underway. “It’s raining.” Mr. Baxter had a way of being impervious to weather. Sometimes I got the feeling he’d keep us playing even if a twister started cleaning off the football field.

Mr. Baxter just smiled pleasantly and pulled his hat down over his ears. “I noticed.”

“Oh come on Derek, you idiot!” Tina shrieked. “Clobber him!” And she jumped to her feet, waving her trumpet to get her point across.

The rain came down harder. It flattened my hair and made cold trickles on my scalp. The stadium lights cast pale pools over the action on the field – only now there was more action and more pools, jillions of jiggly raindrops and multiplying puddles on the track. Already I could imagine how our shoes would squish through them as we marched out for the halftime show.

Tina wiped rain out of her face. “Mr. B.? Are we still doing our halftime show?”

“We shall see,” our director said ambiguously. The ranks broke on the football field, and again he was snapping his fingers. “’Peter Gunn.’ One-and-two-and-three-and-GO!” The trombones and baritones belted out the intro. Tina and I and the other trumpets were ready with our jazzy melody. On the track, Lisa Morrelli and the other rally girls danced in the mud. Their pom-poms looked like bundles of wet chicken feathers.

My music was getting soggy; it drooped in my trumpet lyre. Halfway through the piece it wilted completely and did me as much good as a used Kleenex – but I had the piece memorized anyhow.

Adam wiped the rain off his glasses when we finished. “You should laminate your music, Stacey,” he said.

I looked at his. It sat in his lyre, perky as a peacock’s tail in full bloom. “Maybe next time,” I said.

People in the crowd were grumbling about the rain and paying little attention to the game. The players were all so muddy it was hard to tell which team was which.

“Maybe they’ll call off the game,” I muttered.

Adam turned to me with mock surprise. His glasses were a blur of wobbling wetness. “Stacey! Where’s your school spirit?”

“In the mud.”

“Where’s your sense of adventure?”

“In the mud,” Tina joined in.

“Mr. B.,” our drum major said tactfully, “don’t you think this much rain is bad for our uniforms? Being wool and all, don’t you think they might shrink?”

Mr. Baxter nodded. “The thought had crossed my mind. Okay, troops, fall out. See you back on the spot in street clothes in fifteen minutes.”

We let out a huge groan.

In the stands, what was left of the crowd was on its feet, screaming. One of our guys was sloshing toward the goal line, football tucked beneath his arm.

“Go Eagles!” Tina screeched, jumping up and down. Her trumpet clipped me on the ear. “Oops. Sorry, Stacey.” She grinned apologetically as the player scored our first and only touchdown.

Adam grinned at me too. “Injured?”

“Only my dignity,” I murmured, rubbing my ear.

We ambled back to the music room to change. Some kids were furious. “How’re we supposed to go to the dance?” a flute player wailed. “Now we won’t even have dry clothes to change into.”

“Same as everybody else,” said Adam. “Dripping wet.”

“Oh sure. They won’t be forced to sit in the rain for two hours.”

Tina checked her watch. “Only one hour and twelve minutes now,” she commented. “Fifty-seven minutes, by the time we get back.”

The girl turned on her. “How come you’re on his side?”

Tina just grinned and brushed her sopping hair back from her face. “Who said I was?”

“I’m not going back. If he asks where I am, tell him I threw up. Because I will, if I have to sit through one more second of that repulsive game.”

In the band room several other deserters were packing up their instruments. Tina looked at me. I looked at her. “Oh what the heck,” I said. “I’ve got nothing to lose.”

“Atta girl!” Tina applauded and ushered me into the girls’ changing room. It smelled of wet wool and stinky socks. Tina kicked off her muddy marching shoes. “Gross! Where’s the air freshener?”

I wiggled into my tights and top. “Don’t worry, we’ll be getting plenty of fresh air.” At least Reilly would be worse off. He was muddy – and how would it feel to have rain hammering down on your football helmet all the time? Awful, I hoped.

“Higgins iggins biggins piggins,” Tina warned. “You need somebody smarter.”

“Like who?” I demanded, poking my arms into my sweater. “Adam?” He just happened to be the first guy to pop into my head.

“Hm.” Tina paused, comb in her stringy hair. “You could do worse.”

“No way! I was only kidding. C’mon, aren’t you ready?”

Tina pulled on her jacket and blocked the doorway. “Smile, Stacey.”

I stuck out my tongue.

Only a few of us straggled back to the stadium. The rain hadn’t stopped.

“What’re we trying to prove?” grumbled one of the saxophone players.

“That we are individuals with character?” A tuba player explored possibilities of using his huge instrument as an umbrella.

“Shove it, Wallace.”

“Look out!” Tina screeched.

I looked up. Hurtling toward us from the top of the bleachers was a yellow balloon, obviously filled with something heavier than air. We scattered. My feet slipped in the muck and I fell sideways. Somebody landed on top of me.

To be continued ….

What do you think? Wanna read more?