Leonard Delta took the bottle of bug spray from his mother and stuffed it into his pocket.
"What? No 'thank you'?" She asked crossly.
Leonard mumbled an unenthusiastic "thank you".
This was it. The last few precious moments of freedom. The last few seconds before … before … oh, he couldn't bring himself to say it!
"Have a good time at Band Camp, honey," Mrs. Delta said sweetly.
Leonard frowned and silently picked up his trumpet case from the floor.
Leonard sat down in the trumpet section next to his friend, Allan Barron. The small clock above the awards rack proclaimed the time to be 8:00. Only 12 hours and 30 minutes to go, Leonard thought. He was trying to think positively, but it wasn't working.
He spotted his section leader, the terrifying Jedidiah Crews talking to seniors Ruby Bunn and Crystal Case over by the band closet. Just then, a horrible thought seized Leonard. What if Ruby and Crystal were the new drum majors? Wouldn't that be WONderful? Ruby and Crystal were certified - grade A - band Nazis. And if it turned out they were the new drum majors, it wouldn't be surprising. They had been preparing for the role since their freshman year. They thought of nothing else. Indeed, there had been disturbing bizarre rumors of wild all-night drum major "practice parties" at the girls' houses where they would count time and conduct from sunset to sunrise.
"Okay, okay. Shut up," Mr. Lordfyre, the band director grunted as he ascended his podium at the front of the room. "All section leaders get up here."
Upon hearing the order from the great Lordfyre, a handful of kids arose from their seats and joined Ruby, Crystal and the director himself at the front of the room. Leonard watched, with growing horror as he gazed upon the evil faces of the new section leaders. Flute: Alice Wooze, Clarinet: Jenni Laker, Trumpet: Jedidiah Crews (second year as section leader), Trombone: Omar Hughes, Saxophone: Logan Danny, Tuba: Andy Garrets, Mellaphone: DJ Wordtide, and the Drum Captain: Kadeshia Veon.
Mr. Lordfyre looked out onto the faces of the band members – his subjects. "We are one band." He spoke this with an absurd amount of reverence in his voice. "We are one, my children. My children of the lyre. And who are we? Who are we, my darling children?"
"We are the band of South Rake!" the Section Leaders exclaimed in unison, pumping their fists in the air.
Leonard rolled his eyes.
"We will be the band of the decade!" Mr. Lordfyre screamed, his voice bouncing off the padded walls of the band room. "Hear our music and cower before us!"
All of the Section Leaders and a few seniors gave out broad smiles, but not Leonard. He knew better. He knew the truth behind the smiles.
They spent four hours outside before coming back inside the school for lunch. Four hours in the sweltering 98-degree heat. The practice field where they marched might as well have been the Sahara Desert. And if the heat wasn't band enough, Jedidiah had set his sights on Leonard.
Leonard had been marching along with the rest of his fellow band mates when a voice screamed at him from behind to pick his heels up. He turned slightly at the neck to look behind him and saw it was Jedidiah. "Eyes forward, Delta!" Jedidiah screeched. "And while you're at it, pick up your FREAKING HEEEEEEEEELS!"
It was all Leonard could do from punching out his dear section leader. Was it really that big of a deal if his heels weren't in perfect alignment with the planets? And Leonard was a junior! He had been doing this for two years already! He knew how to march!
"Eight inches, Delta! Eight inches!" Jedidiah was having a conniption fit. "Eight inches! Or would you like it in the metric system?! Tell me! Tell me!"
A strong, heaven-sent gust of wind swept over the band members, bringing a temporary relief from the heat of the day. Jedidiah's long blonde hair was caught up in this wind and was swept all around his face, making him look deranged. "E-e-e-e-e-eight in-in-in-inches!" By now, Jedidiah's body was convulsing. His dark blue eyes were rolled back into his head and only the whites showed. "Say it!" His voice had taken on a frightening deep demonic tone.
"Okay! Okay! Eight inches!" Leonard exclaimed.
The semi-possessed trumpet Section Leader temporarily regained control of his body and left Leonard's side to pick on somebody else.
It was going to be a loooooong day.