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Murder and Misfortune Part Two: Band Practice

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If you've ever seen Jocelyn Louis, your b**** alarm would probably go off. You know, like cheerleader b****y. But without the cheerleader part because my best friend was more into band.

She's strongly appealing with curled sandy blonde hair and blue eyes thought, you know, the Aryan type. She was all legs like a stool. Her heart-shaped face was always smiling with an inside joke. And when she wasn't smiling with humor, it meant she was about to pimp slap you across the face then knock you down. She's the girl you didn't want your daughter to be friends with. She was the type of girl you probably wouldn't take home to your mother either. Like Adrian, she attacks like a wolf. Her first move was always the kill shot. I mean, you were either someone she likes or hates. There's no in between.

And if you knew all this about Jocelyn Louis, then your b**** alarm was right to go off. But I'm selling Jocelyn short. She's very loyal to her ring of friends. She sticks up for the little guy and was the last person you wanted to cross if you hurt someone she loved or cared for. Her parents, two highly looked upon figures of status, were very accepting to her strong-willed, hardheaded ability to be herself. Even thought they were polar opposite. Jocelyn often joked that she was the milkman's daughter, and not Jerry Louis'.

Jocelyn has stolen Coach Michelson's blow horn and now holds the button down. She screams her alto voice out for the rehearsing band members to hear clearly.

''Walk like you have some pride! And hold those instruments high!'' When she lowers the blow horn she removes her finger, ''little tards. Sorry, you were saying?''

''Adrian,'' I tell her, summing the whole conversation up. ''I keep emailing him but he just ignores me.''

''Dude, hold that thought. Nealson! Drop that rain stick again and I'll come down there and show you how the Aztecs really used it!'' she yells at the skinny kid with glasses in the middle of the rain stick section kneeling down to tie his shoes. ''And it wasn't for happy entertainment! Where were we? Right. Adrian. Okay, go.''

''Sure you don't want to yell at the drum line first?'' I ask her. She shakes her head, dark sunglasses covering her blue eyes. She leans back, propping herself up on her elbows and crossing her ankles. Her purple clipboard lay on top of her belly. Her long blonde pony tail sweeps across the metal bleacher seat. Her torn jeans reveal black tights over her knees, a necessary accessory in our high school. Too much skin exposure got you suspension. Or in the words of Miss. Laramie, our strict principle, and I quote: ''showing off your legs like a prostitute is unacceptable and sever consequences will be put into action.''

''Just ambush him at his car,'' she suggest. ''It's the black, beat up Mustang in the back of the parking lot.''

''I don't want to meet him at his car. You never know what guys like him have in there backseats,'' I tell her.

''Like what? Lube? My fifteen-year-old has like three bottles in his closet,'' Jocelyn says. ''It's nothing new.''

''Okay, I was thinking more along the line of jars of hair and a crazy mask,'' I answer. ''Adrian's crazier than a scorpion stinging itself to death when you drop alcohol on it's back.''

''Wow, that's pretty crazy. You know what I find crazier?'' she ask and put the blow horn to her mouth. ''Jennifer Garth! If I have to tell you to straighten your back one more freaking time I'm gonna come down there and duct tape you to the goal post in the touchdown zone! Kyle! Keep an eye on Jenny and walkie talkie me if she hunches her shoulders again. People! Anyone with hunched shoulders will run around the track while I chase them with the lawn mower! With their instrument!''

I watch the freshmen march around in their mild chaos. Jocelyn would never chase them with a lawn mower, of course. But she had copied the key to the golf cart with bumpers. And she's not afraid to run you down. She's strict on the marching band for many reason. One because she's musically talented. Another because band kids choose band because PE would just mutilate their scrawny bodies. And an A isn't something just handed to you if she's grading papers. The music director, Mr. Donald Berryfield, a former professor in a fancy school of the arts up north, may be going deaf and blind with old age, but Jocelyn wasn't.

''Look, kid. Just put up with his bull and meet him somewhere tonight. It'll give you a chance to get away from Lilith. Sorry, Lillian,'' she corrects herself. ''What's she going to say about your aunt at the Ball Festival tomorrow night?''

Instead of a speech about one of the Bonesteel's to the citizen, the yearly Ball Festival had been thrown in honor of Joan. Tomorrow night, while kids are bobbing for apples in the town garden and playing, the adults will be gathered in the old ballroom in City Hall. They'll all drink and be marry and gay. The world will be right for the simpletons here in Bonesteel, South Dakota. Nothing could break through to their fantasy land. Not even the scary realities staring right into their faces.

''Lies. She hated Joan. You know that,'' I say, leaning back on my arms as well. ''If she could have had her way, Joan would have been in a grave earlier.''

''I still don't think all that hatred was over some guy. I mean, my mother said he was just passing through town and swept Joan off her feet. Lillian never really got to know the guy. So it's not as if one sister slept with the others boyfriend or anything. So, what's crawled up her a** and got her panties in a major wedgie?'' Jocelyn ponders out loud.

There's a crash from the field. When we look down, the trombones lay one on top of each other. It's hard to tell where one kid begins and the other ends. Jocelyn takes a Tylenol bottle from her bag, unscrews the cap and dry swallows two capsules. She picks up her weapon calmly and very loudly, almost sarcastically, says: ''can someone teach the damned trombones to walk before I cripple them permanently?'' Again, she'll never hurt the kids. Her bark is worse than her bite. But when she takes Tylenol for a headache you've caused, you're skating on thin ice with no chance of learning to swim.

''We have one month before Championships and if you become the first pack of freshmen to break our six year winning streak I will be around every corner for the rest of your high school lives making it crap! This isn't your first formation this year! Come on!'' she says and puts the blow horn down. She picks up her walkie and jams the button down, ''Kyle! What happened?!

''Ms. Louis,'' Coach Michelson says over the walkie. ''You were prohibited from using the blow horn, remember?'' We both look over at the forty yard line where the tall, balding man stands. Next to him is his son, Kyle Michelson, a graduate from the small 2006 senior class of Bonesteel High School. He's a new music teacher in training. And has nothing on Jocelyn's musical knowledge.

''I had reason to believe that this years marching band is retard, sir,'' she answers matter-of-factly. ''It was necessary.''

''Bring me my blow horn, Louis,'' Coach Michelson says. ''And your golf cart key.''

''Awww!'' Jocelyn complains over the walkie. ''You're such a fun sucker, Mister Michelson.''

''You'll find some way to survive,'' he answers her. ''Maybe actually talking face-to-face with the band instead of threatening them will help you connect to them.''

''I have ways of connecting to them,'' she says, holding the walkie from her mouth.

''I heard that,'' Coach says. ''Blow horn, key, now. And tell Bonesteel to get back to class.''

I grab the blow horn and press the button, ''you got it, sir.''

''Thank you, ladies,'' he replies and hands the walkie back to Kyle. Jocelyn picks up her things and we rise together. We walk down the bleachers. She tells me to meet Adrian by his car, which I find highly unlikely since the windows are tinted. When we part, and I walk toward my Physics class, I hear Jocelyn yells into the blow horn once: ''March my little minions. March.'' A student aid watching over the drum line and brass section has a walkie at her hips.

''Kyle, get the blow horn,'' Coach says over the line. ''Lock it in my office and bury the spare keys.''





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