The band milled around in the track area, between the Dad’s Club stand and the end zone, waiting for the signal from Sarge to get into formation for the halftime show. They had gotten used to the clear plastic ponchos that covered them. It was a struggle at first, but once they were fully on down to your knees, and you got your instrument organized under it, they were not so bad. The band was trying to relax. But the mobile camera truck loomed over them like it was a tank. They knew they’d be on the local TV news tonight, watched at home by their families, their parents, and most embarrassingly, by their younger siblings. Embarrassing, that is, if something went wrong. So the air of casualness and joking around was forced. He played with his trombone slide and shot the breeze with Jamal and Jaysee, who was on a crutch, his calf bandaged up, out of the game and a lot more relaxed than his friends. Others paced, chatted, blew through their instruments. The color guard, which would lead the formation, hovered near the edge of the field, straightening their jackets, making sure the flag holders were secure. To have the flag drop would be a disaster. As for the cheerleaders, not involved in the halftime show, they were sipping diet sodas at the Dad’s Club. One of the more relaxed band members was Brigid, near the fence, talking idly with one of the police, Office McElroy, who he remembered was her uncle. He was a big beefy Irish cop kind of guy, with a jolly face, in his heavy coat, gloves, with ear muffs and a ski mask under his cap. On a cold day a guy like him, whose job was just to stand around, had to bundle up. He had pulled the ski mask down to his chin so he could talk. Usually he was three times Brigid’s size, but with him all bundled up next to her in her tiny uniform, it was more like ten times. The two were laughing at something, Brigid’s circlets jiggling, flexing her purple toes, idly scratching her butt with her baton. In the chilly, damp wind, her body was a raw red from head to toes, though a little whitish blotch could be seen where the hot tea had splashed her, on the inner slope of her left breast. If Officer McElroy was thinking about what his niece must be feeling like, he gave no sign. They were joking around about the Star Wars present her brother had gotten at his recent birthday party, from what he could hear. As she scratched her left butt cheek he smiled. I know what Brigid’s butthole looks like! Could anyone else see it? When she was sitting in front of him a few minutes ago, raising her butt to put that black blanket under her, her butt briefly was almost in his face. The string of her bottom, no wider than a shoelace, bisected her butthole; he could see the sides of her secret brown eye on each side. Well, it would never show in performance. Sticking her butt out at the crowd was not part of the majorette’s routine. Now Brigid, talking to her uncle, lazily tapped the baton against her shoulder, then dropped it and tapped the rubber end against her bare heel. Now she casually twirled it, joking with her uncle all the while. The rest of the band, of course, had the benefit of the clear plastic ponchos, which it turned out also afforded some warmth and shielded them from the wind. After the last of the ponchos had been handed out in the stands, Brigid had looked down at the empty box. Whether this was a surprise to her or not, he couldn’t tell. But it kind of went without saying that the majorette couldn’t perform in a poncho. It turned out, like Sarge said, that he could slide his trombone under it, and the drummers could wield their drumsticks under theirs. But there was no way to twirl in one.
Actually quite warm now in his full-coverage uniform and plastic poncho, he looked at his band’s majorette chatting nearly naked in the cold and felt in love again.