Home > Drumline

Drumline
Author: Stacy Kestwick

Laird

“Is this all of them?” Marco studied the crowd of lanky drummers milling around the undersized room we’d been assigned and then checked the time on his phone. A quick glance at the standard school clock on the wall confirmed it was four past eight in the morning. The shitty acoustics and incessant, discordant sound of thirty pairs of drumsticks tapping away on whatever surface was handy – the cinderblock walls, cheap plastic chairs, the thin carpet whose original color was no longer discernable – grated on my last nerve. Combined with the stink of so many guys trapped in subpar air-conditioning and Marco’s surly attitude, I couldn’t help but feel like a popcorn kernel in the microwave. Annoyed and hot, with a temper ready to explode.

Normally, I loved this.

Auditions. The beginning of band camp. That easy month before the fall semester actually started, when the only ones on campus were the über-nerds who took summer classes, the football team, and the marching band.

But not today.

Today, I was fucking cranky. Tired from last night’s bullshit with my dad and his unreasonable expectations, hungry since my fridge was empty except for some hot sauce and half a bottle of mustard, and frustrated because I hadn’t been laid in the last month and my balls were aching to empty themselves somewhere other than down the shower drain. And the damn gas station had been out of coffee. Eight was considered the asscrack of dawn in a college town. How the hell had they already run out of coffee?

I shot Marco a warning look and yanked the plastic clipboard from his loose grip. Ignoring his scowl, I scanned down the list of names and reviewed today’s schedule. An hour of admin stuff and then PT.

Great. It was already over eighty-five degrees in the shade.

Trying to summon up some iota of motivation, I chugged the rest of my nasty energy drink that was not even remotely a substitute for coffee and crushed the aluminum can in my fist before tossing it in the trashcan. The harsh metallic rattle caused heads to swivel our direction and the chatter to die down.

I took a deep breath and let it sit in my lungs for a few seconds before I exhaled. It probably wasn’t cool to admit it, but drumline was generally the highlight of my year. The transition time at the beginning for the new crew to gel into a cohesive unit was always a bitch, but after that, things were golden.

And this was my year. As snare captain, it was my rules to follow, my ass on the line. Rodner University had the reputation of having the best snare line in Alabama—arguably the whole Southeast—and upholding that standard would fall on the shoulders of the ten best drummers this side of the Mason-Dixon.

But mostly mine.

Good thing I had some big fucking shoulders.

Marco glared menacingly at the motley bunch of wannabes mixed in with last year’s guys. He took his role as lieutenant way too seriously. His thin lips twisted into a sneer as he flicked his gaze over the newbies who thought they had the skills to hang in the Shark Tank—the affectionate name we gave our football stadium.

He opened his mouth to speak, but I noticed the movement and rushed to cut him off. I liked the guy, but he loved nothing more than stealing my thunder and my patience was wearing thin. “Welcome!” Ugh, the saccharine in my voice had even me wincing.

“If you’re in this room, you should be auditioning for the snare line. If you’re not auditioning, time to get your ass out of here.” My eyes drifted from face to face before settling on a chick in the corner, waiting for her to rise and kiss her boyfriend goodbye and skedaddle.

Nothing against her, but I wanted to get started already. By tradition, Rodner’s snare line had always been an exclusively male domain. It wasn’t so much that girls weren’t allowed, just that none had ever been good enough, and over the years, they’d simply stopped trying out.

She met my gaze steadily, her shoulders relaxed and her full mouth set in an unimpressed line. I paused a beat, then tipped my head toward the door, signaling to her. Her dark eyes flicked that direction, then returned to me, her expression unchanged. She blew a pink gum bubble languidly and crossed her toned arms below her chest, and my attention automatically dipped to assess her small, but perky rack outlined by a tight gray tank top. Her tits weren’t that big, but she was wearing a sports bra, so they were probably fuller without it. And they looked real. Lord knows that small hint of cleavage was the first good thing I’d come across all week.

My lonely dick stirred behind my thin nylon shorts, and I casually moved the clipboard in my hand to waist-height to conceal the evidence.

The bubble popped and she sighed like she was bored.

“Hey, girl, that means you.” Marco wasn’t big on subtlety.

“Pretty sure I’m right where I’m supposed to be.” Her voice was light, unconcerned, and she lifted one shoulder in a shrug, as if his comment wasn’t even worth the effort of moving them both. It was like waving a red flag at a pawing bull. Marco stiffened, his hand already rising to point at her, when she continued. “Reese Holland. Check the list. I signed in earlier.” She looked down at her fingernails and it was then I noticed the pair of drumsticks held loosely in her grasp.

Well, fuck me.

Marco tore the clipboard from my hand, then dragged his finger down the column of names, and I shifted my stance to look over his shoulder. And hide my burgeoning erection.

Sure enough, number nineteen on the list was none other than a Reese Holland from Morgantown, West Virginia. Freshman. Eighteen years old. He stabbed at the paper, wrinkling it with the motion.

“But, you’re a girl.” Marco’s snarl of indignation had me cringing at his delivery.

She tipped her head to the side, her dark ponytail spilling over one smooth shoulder as she considered him. “Pretty astute there.”

Snickers from some of the other guys in the room had him turning to glare at me, as if her gender was my fault. I bit back a grin. Very few guys had the balls to go up against Marco, and to see this chick giving him shit right back was kind of doing it for me. It was a dumb move on her part, because the guy held a grudge against me for beating him out for lead snare since middle school, but I couldn’t deny that I enjoyed it just the same.

Too bad she probably wouldn’t last the day. Again, it wasn’t personal. Most of the freshmen auditioning would be cut—and soon. The math didn’t stack up in her favor. But still, it was a shame. I could get used to the view.

“Right.” I nodded like an idiot, trying to regain control of the situation. “So. It’s the first day of auditions. I’m Laird Bronson, this year’s captain, and I’ll be running the camp for the next two weeks. To get this far, you’ve already submitted a video to the faculty, proving you at least know the difference between a triple and a flam, and now it’s time for the real testing to begin. But before you all go getting hard-ons about making the line, know this. There are thirty-seven names on this list, and we only have ten spots on the field. Seven of those belong to returning drummers.”

While everyone technically had to tryout, it was an unspoken rule that once you made the line, you had a guaranteed spot. Assuming you weren’t a total fuckwad the year before and we needed an excuse to get rid of you. And since what remained of last year’s crew was solid, that left another seven spots to fill between those who made the cut to march on the field and a couple of alternates for back up.

Time for the motivational part of my welcome speech.

“You can do the math yourself, but the bottom line is, most of y’all are going to wind up getting cut. I expect about half of you will be gone by the end of the day. Definitely by the end of the week.”

I let that sink in as I looked at the overconfident faces hanging on my every word. Yeah, they all thought they were special, special snowflakes. The one that would beat the odds. Only the top ten percent of them would spend any time under the floodlights of the stadium on game day, playing for forty-thousand screaming fans.

“Drumline is the heartbeat of any marching band, but more than that, this snare line is unrivaled. We’re the starting quarterbacks. Sure, as a whole, the band is great, but let’s be honest, the drumline is what people are really coming to see. And if we don’t hold up our end, the entire performance falls apart. So we’re not just looking for someone who can keep time and bang out some rhythms and throw in some fancy stick work. We’re looking for those of you who can perform.” I paused to emphasize my next words. “Reliably. With distractions. And under pressure.”

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