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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Valley (08/10/06)

TITLE: Competition
By Ruth Neilson


“Alright! We don’t hafta deal with the cheerleaders!”
“Yeah, but then we don’t get to watch them stretch.”

A burst of laughter fills the air at the exaggerated pose that is demonstrated and mingles with the familiar sounds of the marching band warming up, filtered through the maze of buses. The quiet raspberry like sounds grows stronger as the semi-circle fills in. The trumpets, flugelhorns, tubas, and trombones are buzzing their lips against the cold metal of their instruments.

It’s D-Day. The band is determined to win this war...to prove that they are the best.

Normally dirty shoes are spotless and the brownish-red underside of their white gloves are white...er. (Gotta love the bleach baths.) They are ready, and that is all that matters.

“I need to be pinned...”
“I think I’m gonna hurl...”

The voices of a two hundred strong band rose in a cacophony of sound. The sound of controlled chaos that can be stopped by only one thing...


The warm-ups go as normal, preparation for the entry of the valley of concrete bleachers. The music comes to a stop and the nervous chattering continues. As they slowly line up into a semi-neat line.

“Don’t worry, sweetie, go ahead and throw up, you’ll do just fine...”
“Psst. Does anyone have any oil? My valve is stuck.”
“Oh crud! I just broke my reed...”

Their faces take on a determined, battle-hardened look as last minute adjustments are made on their uniforms. Longer hair is pulled back neatly (or not so) and shoved under a shako-marching hat. Jackets are smoothed down one last time, and shoes are double and triple checked to see if they are tied.

“Let us pray before stepping onto this field...” The drum major speaks and as one, the band bows their heads. One serious moment in the midst of choas as they ask the Great Musician for guidance of fingers, hands, feet, and bodies. This is war after all.

There was a collective deep breath and as one, they moved forward. Out of the sunshine, into the oven. Who ever said, ‘war is hell’ was right... The whoops and cheers were enough to encourage them on though. Hell must be faced; head on, with no fear to be found, or else they are doomed to fail. Heads held high, eyes focused forward, feet moving in-sync individual people became one unit.

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8...”
“We lost a shoe...”
“A shoe? Not a lunch?”

This valley had claimed many victims, most of them to heat and nerves. This band was not going to falter...this was a family--one single, breathing organism. Without warning, a burst of sound erupts from the bowels of the valley and twists and forms to become an art form. Dramatically, splashes of color erupt as the sound dips and swells with each crescendo and decrescendo.

“Peel paint!”

Fermatas suck the air from the organism’s lungs. They are panting, desperate for air and water...more so air. The creature stops the constant writhing motion for a few brief moments before the music takes control once again.

The music ends, echoing off the walls, drawing a sigh of amazement from those who watched from their lofty seats. Silence fills the air as the story line sinks in…and the bard leaves the valley floor. The story has been told, and the band has defeated its foe.

“So...who has the shoe?"
“Band Momma has it.”

The band gave their all to the contest. Knowing two things. One that the next weekend, it was another valley to travel through and the second was that the chosen ones would travel through the valley that evening, hopefully to receive their reward.

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This article has been read 815 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 08/20/06
You do an exceptional job of painting this picture - I really felt like I was right there. Very realistic portrayal - and a great lesson as well!
Marty Wellington 08/21/06
Realistic descriptions and interesting take on the subject; action packed and dynamic.
david grant08/21/06
Boy does this bring back memories! Whew! Good begining, and you carried well it will all the way through. Had a little trouble with tenses (is, was..etc) but good job.
Jen Davis08/21/06
A lot of energy in this piece of writing. When reading "...a burst of sound" I could almost hear the music. Enjoyed the message that we must face our challenges "head on."
Betsy Markman08/21/06
Your story is very visual. It took me right back to my brother's marching band days. Good work.
Venice Kichura08/22/06
Great job of description! I felt as if I were there.
Shari Armstrong 08/22/06
Eight years of my life just flashed before my eyes! (I just mentioned marching band in another thread today lol). While we never competed, the shows can be just as nerve wracking. I was right there with you lugging my horn! Great job! (I still haven't decided which was worse -the Aug heat or the end of season cold with the mouth piece frozen to my face)