Sunday, February 18, 2018

BATTLE OF THE BANDS by Caleb Echterling

A yellow stream splashed over the collection of tubas, French horns, and trumpets. “That’s what I think of your shitty band,” said the source of the cascade.

“Hey, stop mixing your metaphors,” Humberto said. “And quit taking a leak on our instruments. Somebody’s going to catch hoof and mouth disease.”

The last drops rolled into the bell of a trombone. A zipper returned to its fully upright and locked position. “Whatever you say, loser. Everyone knows you freaks don’t have a chance. We’re winning this Battle of the Bands.”

The stern look left Humberto’s face as soon as the sprinkler system walked away. The on-ramp for his tear ducts swelled with traffic. Sally slung an arm around his shoulders. “Don’t worry about him. He’s just a big bully.”

“Yeah, a big bully with the best rhythm section in the county.” Humberto wiped his eyes on Sally’s shirt. “He’s right. We don’t have a chance. Unless we can find an ear trumpet player, we won’t even live up to our name.” Humberto dropped a window-rattling sniffle. He blew his nose on Sally’s sleeve. “How can we have ten butt tubas, but not a single ear trumpet?”

Sally threw Humberto into a headlock and tussled the wad of phlegm into his hair. “Why didn’t you say so? I can fill in on ear trumpet. It can’t be that different from a nipple sax."

Humberto sobbed. “We’re doomed. You’re used to a reed. You’ll never learn how to blow on a trumpet mouthpiece in time for our performance.”

*****

Pops and whines belched from the speakers. “Next up … hey, you people shut up when I’m talking. I can wait as long as you can.” The hum of conversation and instrument tuning continued unabated. “Ah, who am I kidding? I can’t focus on anything for longer than a few seconds. It’s been like that ever since I was a kid. My teachers begged my parents to have me evaluated for ADHD. But did they listen? Hey, quit poking me with that pen! I’m getting around to it. Next up, the Every Orifice Brass Band.”

Thirty-strong musicians filed on stage, instruments protruding from bodies at odd angles like a re-enactment of a cubist masterpiece. The heft and clarity of brass harmonies painted the air. Ever-functional duct tape kept instruments attached to the smaller or more slippery orifices. One thumping version of O Sole Mio later, the crowd burst into whoops and cheers. High-fives and hugs flowed as the musicians left the stage.

*****

“We made the finals,” Sally screamed. “Who are we up against?”

“The Prancing Piccolos.”

Sally rubbed her hands together like a silent movie villain. “I remember them. They pranced about playing piccolos, right?”

“You’re thinking of The Butch Biker Band,” Humberto said. “The Prancing Piccolos were the ones firing sawed-off shotguns.”

“Ugh, those guys were terrible. Kept a good beat, but they couldn’t carry a melody even if you sewed handles on it. We’re a shoo-in.”

Humberto shook his head. “Not so fast. The rules change for the finals. Instead of playing music, the bands square off in a fight to the death. Using their instruments as weapons.”

Sally collapsed into a weeping heap of no-twitch muscle fiber. “We’re done for.”

Humberto hitched his pants up to his belly button, and ground his boot into the dirt. “Get up. We’re not beaten yet.”

*****

The Every Orifice Brass Band and The Prancing Piccolos traded soul-scorching glares across a stage shorn of its usual amplifying electronics. An air horn wailed. The Prancing Piccolos clicked ammunition into their shotguns as they marched lockstep.

“Now!” Humberto shouted. Band members released their spit valves, and blew like it was the crescendo of the 1812 Overture. Gobs of translucent, or brown, or milky goo peppered their foes, who, between bouts of gagging, vomiting, and pratfalls, threw down their shotguns and fled the stage. The Every Orifice Brass Band, in color-coordinated HAZMAT suits, linked arms and sent legs flying askew in a poor approximation of a kickline, which flung bodily fluids into the audience. Somewhere, Gallagher smiled.

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