The conductor was repeating some last minute reminders, but Stanley didn’t hear a word. He was distracted, preparing himself mentally for his next performance. He had always participated in band in high school and he was the first to defend the importance of art in an argument. Plus, this was a paying gig.
The conductor flung open the door. The roar of wind drew Stanley from his thoughts. “Everyone pay attention! We only have one chance to get this right. Each and every one of you is about to make history.”
Stanley shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The pack made him feel bulky. He had practiced playing with it on, but still…. This concert would be different, that’s for sure. The conductor hadn’t gotten a NEA grant for nothing.
“Okay, it’s about time, everyone! To your feet. You’ll go at my command. Now, piccolo, go, go!”Cynthia Martin—Stanley had borrowed a piece of gum from her at the first meeting. Nice girl. She jumped out of the plane. Once she pulled her chute, she was supposed to start playing “Flight of the Bumblebee.”
“Come on string quartet. You’re next. Let the cello go first. Quick, one after another.”
Each wave of musicians formed a more complex arrangement, each a new phase of the dramatic art being caught on film by cameramen jumping with the groups. Stanley was a trumpeter in the brass section.
Watching the five-piece jazz band plummet out of the plane, Stanley began to wonder if there were better ways of making a quick $500. Like donating plasma, maybe. Of course, he hated needles almost as much as he hated heights.
“Okay, last group. Grand finale. Make me proud, people. Go, go, go!”
Stanley was flung out of the plane after the trombonist. He reached for his cord and pulled. Nothing. He tried again. Nothing. All around him, parachutes billowed out of packs. He could hear the first rousing notes of “Ride of the Valkyries” as he continued down at unbelievable speed.
He had been drilled—nothing was more important than this piece of art. So, with one hand he tugged the cord again and again, and with the other he raised his trumpet to his lips and began to play. It was not his best performance. The wind flung him side to side and around in circles. He struggled to keep his rhythm. He was used to tapping his foot.
A squeal shot from the trumpet as Stanley twisted to see the ground fast approaching. In a sudden revelation, he remembered the emergency cord. His bones jarred beneath the force of the parachute as it filled with air. He crashed into trees, broke branches, hit the ground. He was rushed to the hospital.
When his girlfriend was finally allowed to see him, she was so angry she wanted to break a few more of his bones. “What happened?” she demanded. “You ruined the whole work!”
“Well,” Stanley said apologetically, “you know I always had a tendency to play a little flat.”