And None Dare Count It Murder
Greg Beatty

Dave inched his head "One, two, three, and." Charlotte swept her baton through a crisp downward stroke, and eighty teenagers blasted out "Louie, Louie."

Scratch that, Charlotte thought, cocking her head at a stray note from a piccolo. Seventy-nine band members were playing and marching in unison, pumping their one hundred fifty eight knees in clean syncopation. And then there were the two knees belonging to Tina Hoffman, ever and always moving a half second behind.

"Tweeeet!" Charlotte whistled the band to a stop, and seventy-nine band members did on cue. Charlotte watched Tina Hoffman take that one extra step to send her piccolo screeching against the tuba toted by David Williams.

"Okay, let's try that again," Charlotte called, thinking, maybe I went too fast. This time she counted time in the air for four full beats before counting down and moving her baton. And this time, seventy-nine stepped crisply in a half-time rhythm, and Tina Hoffman, her eyes on the sky, was a full beat and a half behind.

"That's it," Charlotte thought. She pivoted on her heel and led the band off the field and into the street, keeping them at half-time as they droned through a less-practiced number at dirge pace, keeping them marching slowly until several cars were backed up behind them, trying not to crowd the back row too much.

Then, as the band reached the corner, she whistled the band--her band--into double time, whipping her baton high overhead to signal the waiting cars that the band was speeding up and they could accelerate. And, when the drivers saw seventy-nine teenagers go from half-time to double-time, they thought it was safe to go forward.

When they were wrong, they were sorry. As always, Tina didn't realize the situation until it was too late, forcing one last discordant "Scree!" out of her piccolo as the SUV ran her over, bending her knees in one last uneven motion.

Charlotte didn't cry then; she was too busy motioning her good band members to a safe and well-organized stop. But she did cry once the police arrived, because Charlotte did everything at exactly the right time, and none dare count it murder.

First published: August, 2004
comments to the writer: Knob'