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the majorette leads her band

        The sweating, overly layered band and their shivering majorette finally get to the passage on the side of the school.  Now, another pain in the butt, that “security gate” the district just put in.  Supposedly to prevent drug dealing in the rear parking lot but won’t people just climb over that short fence on Fifth Street?  Sarge punches in the five digit code and they wait as the gate unlatches and s-l-o-w-l-y slides open.  (“Bad news for really slow dealers!”  That quip was from Jaycee, the trombone player.)

        Sarge and Brigid lead the band around the side of the school.

        Fire alarm!

        “Oh good God!” is Sarge’s reaction.  The Tunemasters slump as if stunned into zombiehood by the incessantly ringing bell.  Now they will have to wait, for who knows how long, before they can get into the school, dispose of their instruments, and get their rides home.  On top of that it’s getting dark, and colder.  A frigid breeze whips past them, felt most acutely by the majorette, who draws her poncho closer in.  This does nothing for her bare legs, or her feet in the minimal flip flops.  A couple of kids think, Frigid Brigid, but no one dares say it.

        Behind them, the gate closes.  “What the hell?” Sarge says.  Then he says, “Must be a fire precaution.  It’s all run by computer now.”

        They stand around for a few minutes, with snatches of dispirited chatting.  Sarge is in the middle.  Brigid observes, “They wouldn’t have a fire drill on a Saturday.  Something must have really happened.”  Sarge says, “Good point. . . I don’t see any smoke do you?”  Then he pulls out his cell phone and goes apart from the rest.  After a few minutes he loudly announces, “False alarm.”  As if on cue, the bell stops.

        “Okay, folks, I don’t care what they say, we’re going in the front entrance.”  Which is a much shorter trip.  They go to the gate.  Sarge punches the code in.  Nothing happens.  He visibly suppresses a curse.  He tries again, no luck.  Another call on the cell phone and this time he doesn’t care who overhears him.  “Hank!”  Hank is the head custodian.  After listening, he takes Brigid aside and says, “He says to try the other gate.  They all have the same code.  Why don’t you run over there and see what happens.  The code is”-- he says this so only she can hear -- “58279.”

        It’s quite a distance to the other entrance, around the corner of the school, past the new gym annex.  Sensing the poncho to be a hindrance, Brigid shucks it into Virginia’s hands and heads off, sprinting like a runner, breasts bouncing, bare buttocks rippling in the failing light as they watch her go.  She can’t do this barefoot, what with all the broken glass around, but running in stringy flip flops is not at all tricky for her.  The band watches as she disappears behind the corner of the building.  A couple of minutes later she reappears, barely winded, “It doesn’t work there either.  I tried three times.”

        Sarge stamps his foot.  “I feel like using Army language now!”  Again into the cell phone, and this time he yells.  “I’ve got thirty-seven kids out here, trapped in the cold.  What are you going to do about it? . . . What? . . . Are you serious?”

        He gets off the phone and looks down, shaking his head, his shiny black boots next to the marching boots of Jaycee, Rod, Debra, Ricky, and the bare, reddened toes of Brigid.  Now Sarge’s phone rings.  “Where?  What?”  Holding his phone, he walks past a corner where there is a little alcove.  Brigid follows.

        There’s a little metal ladder fixed to the side of the building, going up to the roof.  “It has a panel guard on it!”  A sheet of metal extending up to eight feet or so, intended to keep unauthorized people from crawling up. “What!”  Sarge laughs.  “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

        Hank has told him that the guard lock is broken; all one has to do is knock out the lever behind it.  Brigid does this with her baton.  Jaycee and Rod help lift off the guard, which is pretty heavy.

        They look up at the roof.  It’s a long way.  “Hank actually expects us to go up there, then come in through the ladder in the old gym,” Sarge says.  “He says there’s a hatch up there, you can’t miss it.”

        “What about our instruments?” Jaycee says.  “We can’t carry them up the ladder.”

        Brigid points and says, “The pen!”  Referring to the old covered storage pen, used for football equipment in the old days.  It has no lock, and a rusty half-open door.  It was supposed to be demolished, but in this case the school’s chronic lack of funding proves to be a stroke of luck.

        Jaycee and Rod point out that they can use the ladder guard to jam the door shut.  And so the band stows their instruments.  When Hank comes in on Monday he can use his tools to open it up.

        Sarge takes Brigid aside.  They look up at the roof.  “Brigid, I can’t climb up there because of my heart.”  Brigid tries not to act surprised at this disclosure of personal information.  “Hank tells me the hatch is easy to open.  Just be careful.”

        “But what about you?”

        “I’m fine.  I’ll just wait here.  They’re trying to find a technician who can open the gate by remote.”

        “We can wait for that.”

        “It could be a while.  I’m responsible for getting you kids back home on time.  Go ahead -- make believe it’s a gym class exercise.”

        To climb the ladder Brigid has to once again shuck off her poncho into Virginia’s hands.  Then, judging the flip flops to be also a burden, slips them off and gives them to Debra.  With bare feet the nearly naked majorette begins scaling the ladder.  It is an arresting sight, especially for the guys, her total rear nudity interrupted only by the shoelace-size thong strings.  The uniform was recently modified from a “T-back” to a “V-back”, the two strings descending into her butt crack before meeting.  As she told Debra recently, she likes the new style because it’s more secure -- less danger of slippage.  Brigid, being a modest girl, doesn’t want anything to “show”.

        From the rear they can’t see her circlets, but with her arms reaching upward to the next rungs they can see the bouncing slopes of her breasts as they peek out from behind her thin but strong back, left then right, left then right, in rhythm with her steps.  She ascends quickly, her toes grabbing the freezing cold metal bars, rung by rung.

        She feels the vibrations of Jaycee’s boots on the lowest rung and stops.  Holding tight, she turns around and looks down.  “Only one person at a time!  This ladder’s not very strong.”  Which may or may not be the case, but the band has learned to obey Brigid’s orders.  Everyone waits until the previous person has gotten to the roof before they start up, even though it takes longer.  They go up slower than Brigid did.  It’s hard to climb a ladder in a bulky uniform.

        Once up on the roof they follow her to the big hatch which must contain the passage down to the old gym.  There’s six inches of snow on the roof, most of it from yesterday, but that does not faze Brigid as her feet shuffle through it.  She’s a tough girl and bare feet on snow is no trial for her, if it’s only for a couple of minutes.  In fact the snow is a welcome cushion, offering protection from the sharp debris that’s always up there.

        Now Brigid opens the hatch which indeed is easy to do.  She is adamant about being the last one down, and as she watches the rest of her band one by one climb into the hatch, she envelops herself in the poncho and sits in the snow, just her head showing, like she was in the stands.  The last person, Morty, tells her that Sarge yelled up to him that the gate finally got opened, allowing him to leave.  Ha!  Well, they’re already here.

        The old gym is a wreck, old and gutted with exposed pipes, supposedly to be remodeled into a new auditorium if the funding ever gets through.  When Rod, the first person down the ladder, emerges from above he is surprised to hear laughter and applause, sarcastic but still good-natured.

        The dusty old cavern, in the harsh utility lights, is filled with nearly every teacher in the school, and judging from the hubbub of conversation they are upset and exasperated but yet amused.  For some unexplained reason they were all herded here during the drill and for another unexplained reason they are still waiting for the “all clear”.  It’s a joke, how disorganized and screwed up the fire drill procedure is -- the jammed gate outside was unseen proof of that, and even the false alarm was due to faulty wiring -- but, relieved at escaping that boring conference, for the moment they are rather enjoying the joke.

        Hence when Rod and then Mary Thomasson and Shirley Dalrymple appear from above in their uniforms, they see it as a whimsical highlight, and cheer.  The Tunemasters are being parachuted in as part of the festivities!

        Thirty-six Tunemasters come down, ending with Virginia carrying Brigid’s poncho and flip flops, and by the time it’s finally Brigid’s turn the mix of Tunemasters and their teachers is having a great time.

        With Virginia still on the bottom rungs, Brigid appears.  The bright lights are almost a spotlight on her all but bare white body and this luminous sight provokes the biggest cheer of all.  “Yay, Brigid!”  The majorette is surprised and delighted, and maybe it is because of the weirdness of the situation, but she feels an unaccustomed giddiness.  Holding on with one hand, she stretches out her arm away from the ladder to give a big wave.  The way she sees it, she is not showing off her body but her uniform, her pride in being the Tunemasters majorette.  The tiny sliver of her thong bottom gleams in the bright light.  The circlets are like shimmering little stars, dancing on her breasts.  Her fingernails and toenails, painted in the school colors, are twenty little sparkling beads.  Only the flip-flops are missing, still in Virginia’s hands.

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