"Left, left. Left! Left!" I shouted at the line of flute players. "Check the diagonal, it's not straight!"

"The first marching competition's in two days, guys," one of my section leaders goaded. "We're going to look like fools if we don't get this diagonal right."

It was six-thirty in the morning, perhaps a bit too early to expect a dozen and a half teenage girls to function properly. However, extra sectionals were a requirement, and they had to happen sometime. The stadium behind the school was abandoned except for the flute section and a few stray saxophones working on a tough transition. "Hey, section leaders. Let's have a quick meeting." The section leaders gathered around me. "We need to get this diagonal right, so lets split up to work on it," I suggested. "Groups of four or five."

Begrudgingly, the section worked for another half an hour before I called it off and we began to dig into the doughnuts I had brought as an incentive to come to the sectional so early. The diagonal was looking better, but it still needs a lot of work. Most of the girls were talking animatedly, a little more awake. "We're going to blow Northwest away on Saturday," one girl said. "There's no way they can top us."

"Yeah," another girl agreed. "Remember last year, when..."

All of the chatter sounded like that. I cleared my throat, wanting to get in a few words, as it would be the last time we met as a section before the competition on Saturday. "We've worked really hard this year, and we ought to do really well this weekend. Don't get cocky, though. We've got some stiff competition in our division. There's a new band from Iowa coming in that looks really good, and some of the Missouri bands have shaped up since last year," I reminded my girls. "Polish your flutes

and hats, and make sure you have all of your uniform parts before you get here on Saturday. And get a good night's sleep, too. We can get to the finals at our best, so try hard and good luck."

The girls all left for their first hour classes. I lingered behind to pick up the equipment. "Hey, Heather," someone called. I turned around at the sound of my name. It was the saxophone head section leader, Derrick. "I saw your diagonal..." and he continued to give me advice on what we could do to improve it, not that I hadn't already tried everything to make it look top form.

I had told my section that we looked good, and it was true. We looked the best we had all season, but that one tiny diagonal that we couldn't get right might mean ruin for that part of the marching show. It was in an awkward spot, and if the flute section didn't get it right, it would throw off the clarinet and tuba section. I worried about it for the next two days, until Saturday morning when I arrived at school for the buses to take us to the competition.

Things were not going well when I arrived. Cora, a piccolo player in my section, had forgotten her marching shoes and nearly missed the bus because she had to go home and get them, and Kelsey, the second best player in the section, couldn't get her flute to make any noise. It had broken. Fortunately, we found a replacement flute for Kelsey to play, albeit it wasn't as good as her other one, and Cora arrived at school and found her seat on the bus just as it was leaving.

Before I knew it, we were lined up on the field to start our marching show. I nervously whispered some last minute instructions to the people who were close enough to hear, but my directions were unheard by most of my section. At the drum majors' whistles, we began the show. The first song went of without a hitch, but the second song was the one with the diagonal I was so worried about.

The second song began. I counted my steps carefully while looking around using my peripheral vision to check the flute section. We were only three charts away from the diagonal. Two charts away, one chart away. At last, the flute section glided backwards uniformly into the diagonal that I had worried so much about. It was perfect, the best we had ever performed it. Now our placement in the finals rested on the shoulders of the rest of the band.

A/N: This won second place in a statewide fiction contest, so I thought I'd post it. I'm not a big fan of the ending. Any suggestions?