Onstage before the Fourth of July concert, things were going to hell.
"I have this tradition," said Tom to Belle, the other percussionist. The strings were busy tuning up. "It's sort of to get me pumped up. Get some energy out there, you know."
Belle smiled nervously, glancing around at the tiny flags and the freedom-themed streamers and watching while Tom dug through his pocket. He took out a little boxcutter.
Tom said, "I think that's important to have before a concert. Energy. You know that head-pounding, blood-pumping feeling? It makes my rolls sizzle better." He walked over to the snare drum.
"What are you doing?" Belle asked, "is this a joke or something?"
Tom glanced at his watch. "I told you, it's tradition." He touched the tip of the blade to the drum's tight mylar skin. Belle shouted, "Stop! What are you doing?" A couple trombones turned around to look what was going on. From the wing, the conductor straightened his tie and nodded to the kid pulling the curtain. The blade dug in further.
"No one has ever objected before," he said. Then the curtain opened, the conductor strolled out graciously, and, over the applause in the dark, stifling auditorium, no one heard the quiet snapping noise from the back of the orchestra.