Stickin' to It
by Aaron Barrientos

I'm being wrapped in some type of white tape. . . my whole body is completely covered, along with someone else's right next to me. Some teenager just shoved me into a dark and tight pouch on the side of a drum. Now, the drum is moving as the boy walks outside into the crisp morning air. I am unsheathed and held in his hands. All of a sudden, I am whipped out and my head comes crashing down on the hard surface on the top of the drum. It doesn't hurt, though; it feels oddly right, but exhausting. I peer to the left and to the right of me. Other sticks like me are being banged up and down in a steady pulsating rhythm on other drums. I see white sticks with big black Afros. . . seems a little uncanny. I stop pounding the drum, and the stick next to me is crashing down on the drum, and we alternate like that for what seems like hours. Finally, I am whipped back into his hands for a moment, and then released back into my pouch home. I am virtually deaf after this exercise, but it grows on me after three months.

After a routine of playing on weekdays, and being pounded on while the boy sits on the couch in front of the TV, something new happens. He dresses up in a white uniform and wears a funny hat with a feather on it. The look on his face and his attitude change a lot from the summer months. He is intent and seems to be focused on something important. After a shortened routine of what usually happens, he marches out onto a football field and then does it again, but much shorter. Afterwards, I am smashed up against a couple of my neighbor sticks, and I don't know why. I thought it might be some kind of sick torture. And then a beautiful/not so beautiful music comes to life. The show goes by in a blur and I am left completely out of breath. My drum guy is sweating on the drum and he looks a little upset with himself.

As the season progresses, my drum guy feuds with the owner of my neighbor's sticks. They usually argue about seemingly pointless stuff, and I can tell it annoys everyone around them. Also, with the time going by, I am hitting the drum a lot faster, and it seems like I am controlled rather than in a chaotic frenzy bouncing up and down on the drum. I am practiced with day and night, and I get just about as much rest as the teenager does. I go to many more of the white uniform shows, and even two a day! It's physically draining, even for me.

By the time I am six months old, I am hit with another new experience. A dome. A big, giant dome. The ground in this place is a lot different, and when I am in there, I feel very isolated from all of the other sticks. It feels like just my drum guy and me. We go out there and do the usual thing, and play the show. This performance was different, though. My drum guy seemed slightly nervous, and a little sad for some reason. At the end of the show, he did something that kind of scared me: he screamed at the top of his lungs. The show was over, and some kind of emotion swept over him. It must've been a powerful moment to bring my drum guy to tears; he's pretty big.

Well, now it looks as if I am on break. But that doesn't stop my drum guy from pounding on me for hours on end. This goes on for two weeks: just the beatings at home. Then, I'm thrown right back into the usual routine. Practice continues for a couple weeks, and then I'm off to the dome again.

This time, the days are longer and the season's fatigue is setting in. I am growing weary and parts of me are chipping off here and there. I enjoy two more emotional shows in the dome before another week of practice. Then, it's back to the dome for what feels like the final stretch. My drum guy goes wild for the performance at the dome on the first night. Then, we head back to a school and spend the night. . . I can't sleep, though. I think it's mostly because I am stick, but if I could sleep, I probably wouldn't be able to anyway. I am beaten up pretty early in the morning, and I can feel my death creeping nearer. After the early practice, I head to the dome. While waiting before we enter, some cute girl comes up to my drum guy and rubs me for good luck. I don't know how it would help him at all, but apparently it did. His performance was so amazing and so emotional, that I, a stick, almost wept.

After what hopefully is the last show of my life, an abundance of pictures were taken with me in the extremely manly hands of my drum guy. After being put into the case with my fellow stick and drum, I can rest. But not for long.

I am released. I am brought out again for one last go at it. By now, my clothing is part way torn off and my right hip, left shoulder, and both knee caps have been torn free from my body. I am burnt out. As the last performance was put on the field, I couldn't help but notice the change in my drum guy over the last few months of my life. He went from an obnoxious teenage boy, to an immaculate snare player (no joke, he's insanely good!). His emotions get the best of him sometimes, even if they are sadness and depression. Sometimes he is very gooberish and giggly, but that's usually when he is with his cute girl that rubbed me that one time. Other times he is serious, focused, and mature.

I think I have impacted his life in a very positive way. Just before I retired from my beating duties, I heard him tell one of the other people with sticks, "Just put some sticks in my hands, and I'll show you what I am made of."

He made me a believer.

Aaron is a sophomore at Norwell High School in Ossian, Indiana. He is in a rock band called Sundays Off that has been playing together for more than three years. In addition to District, Regional and State ISMAA competitions, the stick performed in eight invitationals, three parades, five football games, Bands of America Regional and Bands of America Nationals, where it placed third in state, first in both Bands of America regional and national competitions, first in seven invitationals.

"Stickin' to It" is copyright 2003 by Aaron Barrientos and is used by permission of the author.