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One Small Baby Step MAG
“Mark time, mark!”
“Hu-what?’ I raised my head from its eye-level position infront of my trombone.
“Not you, Mark!” yelled JimmyLuvitz from the band stand. “Geez,” he sighed, “everytime!”
Shoot, I did it again. It’s not my faultreally. I mean, my name is Mark, so you’d think after hearing“mark time” a thousand times a day I would get used to it,but it’s a reflex. It’s my nature to respond.
Anyway, I’m Mark and this is the second day of how I willbe spending the entire summer: holding my trombone that is too big formy 5' l" body that I shouldn’t be playing, but my band instructor,Mr. Fips, felt that my “lips are just a little too big to play thetrumpet.” So here I am, standing in a perfect square of 180 otherband geeks, exactly two feet in front, beside, and behind me, in thesmoldering sun toasting my freckled white skin, holding an instrumentthat is too big, and marching to Jimmy Luvitz’s drumbeat.
“One, two, three, four, and five, six, seven,eight!” Oh, great, here we go again. Now, don’t get mewrong, I’m not complaining. I love marching band more thananything - well, more than anything but Honey Nut Cheerios. I could eatthem for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and in-between, every day of my life.But that’s beside the point. The point is, it’s only thesecond day of band camp and already I am agitated by almost everythingaround me. First, I’m next to Gordy Bloom, who is the smelliest ofsmelly band geeks. He’s a good kid and all, but he smells. Second,I’m a redhead, so I have to reapply my SPF 756 sunscreen every 10minutes, which is making my trombone even harder to hold. And then,there’s Jimmy Luvitz.
Jimmy Luvitz is the best-looking guyin school and he’s not even on the football team. No, instead hechose to grace the band with his good looks and charm. He is why all thegirls and teachers and moms go to the games: to see him up on thatstand, waving his arms crisply and perfectly as a general. See, he isour drum major, major of the drummers and all other instruments. Allother instruments meaning ... me.
“Oh, uh, what?” It was Jimmy, and I wasagain caught offguard.
“Oh, so now you don’t respond!You’re on your left foot and everyone else is on their right! MustI count it out for you like you’re a first-year band geek?”he yelled.
That’s one thing that really gets to me aboutJimmy Luvitz. He is always calling us band geeks, but he would neverrefer to himself as one. I hop-stepped and continued to march, but itdidn’t matter because at that moment Jimmy blew his whistle threetimes and called us to a halt.
“You have five minutes. Beback in march-on position at four minutes.”
There’sanother thing about Luvitz - when he gives us a five-minute breakit’s actually only four because he takes away one minute for us tostand there in first position. At least we’re getting a break. Iwalk over to my two best friends, Evelyn, a skilled clarinetist, andPablo, the best diabetic, tuba-playing, Cuban-American ever in juniorhigh.
“Wow, Mark, Mr. Dumb Major is really beating on youtoday,” said Evelyn.
I popped open my sunscreen to findonly a tiny squirt left. I brushed it on my nose and replied,“Yeah, I know. Why out of 180 kids am I his whippingboy?”
“Eetz because you are geenger,” Pablolaughed.
“Hey!” I said jokingly. “No, really,is there something I don’t know? Because in just two days,he’s said my name, not counting ‘mark, time, mark,’the most.”
“Eh, next ting you know he’ll beasking you to geet him water,” grinned Pablo.
Just then,Luvitz yelled from across the field, “Hey, Mark O’Maley. Gofill my canteen with water, will ya? And make sure it’s cold.We’ll make it without you for the first couple ofsteps.”
“Wow. That was like a thousand spoons whenall you need is a knife,” muttered Evelyn. Pablo laughed and Ipunched him.
I groaned, pushed myself off the hot concrete andwalked over to the patch of shade where Luvitz wassitting.
“Here you go,” he said, tossing me the emptybottle. “Remember, cold water - not warm.”
I began towalk toward the field house when Jimmy yelled, “Oh, and Mark, makesure you don’t drip on the canteen strap.”
I reallyhated when he said canteen. We’re in upstate New York, not theSahara. Just as I let the water run cold, I could hear the lovableLuvitz starting to chant his first counts.
“Band, hornsup!” That’s when I got really mad. I was done filling hisstupid water bottle, so I began to swing that mother-lovin’ strapback and forth. I came too close to the bench and smacked the bottom ofthe bottle. A small dribble of water began to seep out. Oh! I thought.What do I do? What do I do?
Well, what I did next was prettystupid, but I’m an honest enough guy to admit the stupid things Ihave done. I found a small pebble and jammed it into the hole, and muchto my surprise, the water stopped seeping out. So I carefully took itback to Luvitz. Since he was in the middle of counting, I had to standthere like an idiot until he was done.
Finally, after sixeight-step marches, he called the band to a halt and said, “Set’er down right there, O’Maley.” No thanks or anything.I did as he told me and began to walk to where my trombone was waiting.But just two steps and he called me back.
He didn’t talkuntil I got right up to the stand, and he said very slowly,“O’Maley, I asked you to fill this, did Inot?”
The whole band was silent and all 359 eyes (JordanBrown lost one in the piccolo catastrophe of ’04) were on me. Ireplied with a steady, “Yes.”
“Well, Mark, Idon’t consider full to be three inches from top, so whydon’t you march back to the fountain and fillit.”
Ouch. I grabbed it and started back. This time I wasreally mad. My face is always beet red, but this time I was really beetred. I did as King Luvitz of Bandland asked and filled it the whole wayup and, remembering the pebble, carried it extra carefully back to thefield.
Then we marched and played a bit more. I knew just what hewas going to do next. He bent and picked up his water bottle. Before thecap even met the other hand to be unscrewed, his grip was just too tightand the pressure was just too high.
The pebble poppedout.
Luvitz didn’t notice, but a small stream of waterbegan to leak onto the stand. Then he screwed the cap back on, set downthe bottle, and went on conducting.
Whew. That wasclose.
But then! Luvitz took one baby step and fell on his cutelittle genetically lucky butt down the six metal steps, bouncing all theway. He landed with a thud louder than the horns and drums and xylophonetogether. And for once, the band did not play on.
We just stoppedand stared ... all 359 eyes on Luvitz.
The rest is history butI’ll tell you anyway. Jimmy was rushed to the hospital with aconcussion, a tail-bone bruise, and a leg broken in seven places.Nothing big.
I, unfortunately, suffered bigger scars. I hadnearly killed the star of the band, but they didn’t really seem tomind. Collectively, we decided that everything happens for a reason, andthat this was a sign of our chance to march to the tune of a differentdrummer ... literally.