Fall, Freshman Year
Margaret Emma Brandl

Fall, Freshman Year


I met Marta for lunch, like I always did. Before this week we’d always taken our lunch to the bleachers of the baseball stadium, but with the first snow of the school year still lingering we opted to sit inside the heated gym. Marta had a pudding cup and nothing to eat it with so she got up and started wandering through random groups of people asking if anyone had extra utensils—if they had them at all. She returned with a white plastic knife.

I don’t even know what class I had between lunch and band, but I remember trudging along the covered walkway toward the band room doors. The wind was blowing, and what little sun we’d had in the morning had disappeared. It looked like the parking lot puddles were starting to freeze again.

As I made my way to my band locker, some sophomores passed me on their way to the bathroom. “I don’t know,” one of them was saying. “Przybylak’s not in his office.”

In the instrument room, the saxophones were trying to see how many people could fit into one of their lockers. A guy and a girl had already folded themselves sloppily inside, arms and legs dangling out the opening (the lockers weren’t tall—a few feet square—but very deep). They were trying to coax the shortest flute player, Missy, to join them. I think they were juniors. “Come on, Missy, you’ll fit!” I did not think Missy would fit. The two of them barely did.

Missy eyed them warily from across the room and left out the door just ahead of me so that I was more on the receiving end of their protests than she was: “Aw, Missy, come on! It’d be a world record!”

“Did you see the saxophones?” I asked Marta when I got to my seat and opened my clarinet case.

“Crawling into a locker? Yeah.” Marta rolled her eyes.

“I heard some girls saying Przybylak’s not here?”

Marta shrugged at me. “We don’t have a sub, so he’s probably around. —Ooo,” she pointed with her elbow, her hands busy assembling the clarinet, as the drum major, heading swiftly for the door to the instrument room, pulled the lanyard with his silver whistle out of his pocket. “Preston’s going in there. They are so dead.”

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Margaret Emma Brandl

is a Ph.D. candidate in English specializing in creative writing (fiction) at Texas Tech University, where she teaches English classes and serves as an associate editor for Iron Horse Literary Review. Her writing has appeared in Gulf CoastThe Cincinnati ReviewPithead ChapelHobart, and other journals.