They say everyone has a double, a doppelganger, someone who’s their mirror image. What if you just met your double? What if you were a thirteen-year-old kid who’s gay and you just met your double?
I’d never met so many gay girls. Actually, I’d never met any gay girls, ever, until the week before when Amy Panella, the junior girl in my Creative Writing class, read her poem ‘A Lone Lesbian at Wilson High’ and outed herself. Then Jaymin told us she was gay and had a girlfriend, Lisa Washington, and we met her today. That’s three gay girls. I wondered if Jaymin and Lisa called themselves lesbian like Amy does. I wondered how Jaymin and Lisa would feel surrounded by four gay guys. Oh, yeah, and one straight guy, Josh, and one straight girl, Heather.
Lisa was tall with blonde hair. She was trying out for the Wilson High girls swim team, specializing in freestyle and relay events. She smiled all the time, and I liked her and so did everyone else. She and Jaymin made an interesting pair. Lisa with her blonde hair, five foot ten height, and light tan complexion and Jaymin with black curly hair and about five foot three, with skin so black and shiny it practically glowed. Lisa looked like an athlete and was very pretty. Jaymin was very cute and very cool looking. One thing I learned was Lisa called Jaymin Jay, and the rest of us picked that up.
Have you ever seen Young Frankenstein and Galaxy Quest? If not, you should find where you can stream them or rent or borrow the DVDs. Anyway, we were laughing so much that Aunt Nora and Uncle Dennis came in and watched with us. Between movies we debated (read: argued about) what kind of pizzas to get. We ordered four extra-large, each one a different combination, using the two buy-one get-one-free coupons that Josh gave us. By the time Galaxy Quest ended we’d eaten every scrap of pizza, including the little pieces of pepperoni that fell off into the boxes.
“We oughta do this every month,” Josh said. “This was a lot of fun. And it was great meeting all of you guys, even though you’re all lowly freshmen.” He grinned, but that didn’t stop us from whacking him with the pillows from the couch.
“I agree with Josh,” Lisa said, “let’s do this at my house next month. This is the fourth Saturday in September, so let’s do it every fourth Saturday. Next would be the fourth Saturday in October. That’s…” she pulled out her cell, “that’s the twenty fifth of October, and then the twenty second of November, and so on. Does that work for everyone?”
We all agreed that would work.
Aunt Nora said, “You know, the fourth Saturdays in October and November will work okay, but maybe not the fourth Saturday in December. That’s the twenty seventh, and it’s only two days after Christmas. Everyone will probably be at the malls or downtown shopping.”
“Or playing with their new Microsoft Surface laptop,” Todd said, grinning and wiggling his eyebrows at his mom.
“Some people might be lucky and get something like that at Christmas, but others maybe will be disappointed.”
Todd put on a pouty face, and we all laughed at him.
“You’ll probably get some new underwear instead,” Heather said.
“We’ll skip December, then,” Todd said, hoping to end the kidding. “Now, we need a committee to select the movies we’re going to watch in October. Since Tony and I picked the movies for this month, and we hosted the movie gala, I suggest the host or hosts should pick the movies. Is that okay with everyone?”
Aunt Nora interrupted. “Excuse us, now that the movies are over, Todd’s father and I need to do some grocery shopping. We’re leaving now and will be back in about forty five minutes. If anyone needs anything, just ask Todd. Tony will be arbiter of what’s reasonable and what’s not.”
As they left the family room, Todd said, “Why’d they make Tony the arbiter? After all, my dad is an attorney and this is my house so I should have that responsibility.”
“Because she doesn’t trust you?” Brian said. We all busted up laughing, even Todd.
“Okay,” I said, “let’s get back to the subject of our monthly movie gala. The question was, should the hosts pick the movies. What do you guys think?”
“That’s a good idea,” Brian said. “Tony can be the arbiter of that, too.”
A chorus of boos greeted his comment.
“I don’t think there should be an arbiter for the selection of movies,” I said, “but maybe we need to come up with a list of movies that should be excluded. For example, movies that have sex scenes, like Fifty Shades of Grey.”
“I agree,” Heather said. “I don’t think we should have any horror movies, either. This is supposed to be a fun time, not a scary time. Okay?” she asked.
Everyone agreed. Then Josh said, “Guys don’t like chick-flicks. Can we add them to the excluded list?”
“What do you define as a chick-flick?” Jay asked. “Do you mean romance stories?”
“Not just romance stories, but movies with a lot of mushy stuff,” he replied.
“What’s mushy stuff mean?” Heather asked.
“I guess we’d have to Google it,” Josh responded.
Scott Googled it on his cell, and handed his phone to Josh. After reading the various definitions Josh said, “I said the way to categorize chick flicks is that there’s lots of mushy stuff in them. The online dictionary’s definition of ‘chick flick’ says they’re mushy. The dictionary defines ‘mushy’ as ‘Effusively or insincerely emotional’ — and the dictionary defines effusively as ‘Extravagantly demonstrative.’ So, does everyone agree about no mushy chick flicks?”
“I’m more confused by all these definitions of definitions,” Jay said, “so let’s leave it up to the host to decide if a movie is mushy or not. If we think it is we can castigate the host while we’re watching a mushy movie. As long as we say that’s why we’re doing it.”
“And if you don’t know what ‘castigate’ means,” Scott said, as Josh handed him his phone, “you’ll have to look it up yourself like Josh just did. So, do we agree with Jay?”
No one disputed Josh’s definition or what Jay said, so we were in agreement. That included all three of the girls, and that sort of surprised me.
“I have a question for Jay and Lisa that has nothing to do with the movies,” I said. “Excepting Heather and Josh, the rest of us are gay. Us guys call ourselves gay. What do gay girls call themselves? Is it lesbian or gay, or maybe both?”
“We girls call ourselves either lesbian or gay,” Lisa said, correcting my grammar. “Depends on the girl.”
“Some girls hate being called lesbian,” Jay said. “They call themselves gay. You know, like gay girl, gay boy.”
“Which do you two prefer?” I asked.
“Gay,” Jay replied. “That makes most sense to me. I don’t think either of us is offended if we’re called a lesbian.”
Lisa nodded, then added, “Now, don’t call either of us a ‘lesbo’ because we consider that an insult, like calling a gay guy a fag.”
“I heard that before,” I said. “That’s interesting.”
Changing the subject, Todd said, “When my folks get home, my dad will drive anyone home who needs a ride. I know that Scott and Josh will need a ride. Jay, how about you and Lisa?”
“We both live about half-way between here and Edison, so it’s less than a quarter mile walk,” Jay said. “I have several things due on Monday like a project for my photography class and the rest of my homework, so I need to get going.”
“Me too,” Lisa said. “I have basketball practice tomorrow. You probably do too, don’t you, Scott?”
“Yeah, I do. Todd’s going to be at the practice too. He’s made the freshman team, mostly because he’s great at three-point shots. Anyway, the varsity will be working on our free throw accuracy. I’m hitting eighty percent of my tries, so Coach Reynolds is having me help some of the other guys.”
“Eighty percent is fantastic,” Lisa said. “I’m only making about forty percent. Maybe you could help me some time?”
“Sure. Let’s get together after practice tomorrow and I can watch you and give you some tips.”
“Great. Let’s get each other’s cell numbers and I’ll text you to confirm. I didn’t know that Todd’s going out for basketball.”
“I am,” Todd responded. “There was a tryout and I was able to hit a few three-point baskets.”
“Don’t believe a word he says,” Scott said. “Todd made over fifty percent of his three-point shots, even when he was being defended closely. He’s sneaky and can get past taller guys to make shots.”
“I’m really not tall enough to play basketball beyond having fun on the freshman team,” Todd said.
Scott looked at me and grinned. I grinned in return. “I think you’ll have a growth spurt and maybe you’ll be tall. After all, your dad is tall.”
“Maybe. Whatever,” Todd responded.
After getting Lisa’s and Scott’s cell numbers exchanged, Jay and Lisa said goodbye and left.
“You know where Heather’s house and my house are,” Brian said. “They’re close and it’s walking distance. I know I better get going. I still have homework, and there are Raider and 49er football games on TV tomorrow. I assume you’ll be watching those for tips, Tony.”
I just smiled and shrugged by shoulders. I had plans that included Scott.
“I need to get home too,” Heather said.
She and Brian said goodbye and left.
“Let’s clean up and then we can play a video game, if you want,” Todd said. “I have four controllers for my PS3 and a few multiplayer games.”
So that’s what we did. After about an hour Aunt Nora and Uncle Dennis got back, and he drove Scott and Josh home. Todd and I went along for the ride. We said goodbye to them, and Scott and I gave each other a smile and a thumbs-up. I hoped I’d feel that way the rest of the week.
I spent Sunday at home (my real house, not Todd’s) with some of the other guys from the team. We ate pizza and drank Cokes and watched football. We watched the Red Zone channel. That’s a great way to watch pro football because they show the key plays from every game, live. We’d switch to the Raiders or 49ers games when some big play was coming up. I recorded all the games that were being broadcast live and the Red Zone on the DVR. That let us go back and review plays and watch the games that were the most interesting without missing any of the action. Couple that with our fifty-five inch TV and it was a perfect Sunday morning and afternoon.
Sunday evening was even better, if that’s possible. That’s because we were going out to dinner with our folks to celebrate that Todd and I won the election. My dad told me that the restaurant would be our choice since we were the winners. So Todd and I pulled out the Sunday Times and looked for the Food and Dining section.
“Okay, how do we start?” Todd asked.
“How about we pick the kind of food we want to eat?”
“Good idea. I want a steak.”
“That’d be kind of expensive, wouldn’t it?”
“Tony, we’re worth it. Besides, how many times have our folks taken us out to dinner recently? None at all.”
“Okay, then how about Farmer’s?”
“Nah. I want someplace with better steaks. Like Carriage House.” Todd grinned.
“Works for me. Let’s go ask the folks.” They agreed, glad that we hadn’t picked someplace real expensive like Prima.
We started with salads, then everybody ordered rib-eye steaks which were great. They came with baked potatoes and green beans. I put lots of butter, sour cream, bacon bits, and fresh-ground pepper on my baked potato, and Todd did the same. For dessert I had apple cobbler with ice cream and Todd had pecan pie. Our folks passed on dessert.
“I can’t remember ever eating that much,” Dad said, pointing at me.
“You didn’t play football when you were in high school,” I reminded him.
“So how does that explain how much Todd ate tonight?” Uncle Dennis asked.
“I’m going to the gym every Saturday and exercising, that’s the explanation.”
Uncle Dennis rolled his eyes, and that made me laugh. Then he asked, “What team are you playing this week, Tony?”
“Our cross-town rivals, Lehman High. You know that if we’d lived one block further west I’d be going to Lehman instead of Wilson. I’m glad I’m going to Wilson. It’s an away game, and it’s Lehman’s homecoming too. I want to help ruin their homecoming!”
“Isn’t that an unfriendly thing to say, Tony?” Mom asked.
“No. They’d be saying the same thing about us if it was our homecoming.”
“Trish, it’s also part of what the guys on Tony’s team will do to build up their enthusiasm for the game,” Uncle Dennis said.
“Does it have to start almost a week before the game?”
“You should meet Jacob Rummel, our team captain,” I said. “He’d spend the rest of the evening explaining why getting up for a game is so important.”
Mom laughed. “I’ll pass, thank you anyway.”
On Monday everything seemed to be same-as until lunch. We’d just started eating when a guy walked behind where Brian, Lisa, Jay, Todd, Heather, Scott, and I were sitting. I heard a shout and a “What the fuck are you doing?” from Todd who’d stood up knocking his chair on the floor in front of a guy I didn’t recognize. Jay was rubbing the back of her head, and Brian was standing to block the guy from turning to walk the other way.
“As Jay was getting up he slugged her in the back of her head, real hard,” Lisa shouted.
The guy pushed Heather to get her out of his way, then took a swing at Scott. I blocked the guy’s arm, and Scott picked up his tray from the table then he swung it at the guy and hit him in the face. It all seemed to happen in about two seconds.
“Son of a bitch!” the guy yelled, and turned with his fist pulled back getting ready to slug Scott. He had long hair, so I reached out and grabbed a handful with my right hand. I squeezed my fist closed and rotated it so it faced palm side up, then by pulling his hair I swung his head down and slammed it on the table. The guy’s face ended up in the uneaten of two-thirds of Scott’s burrito that had been dumped on the table. The guy made a loud “Oof!” sound and started to turn toward me and tried to pull away.
With his hair still tight in my fist I yanked his head up about two feet above the table, and with the aid of my left hand I smashed his head onto the table again, this time a lot harder and nose-first.
The guy didn’t move, and for a moment I thought maybe I’d knocked him out. Instead it looked like I’d broken his nose because it was bleeding. I let go of his hair and he crumpled onto the floor, moaning.
“Where’s a cafeteria monitor?” I shouted.
“Here comes Mr. Westerbrook,” Lisa said.
“What happened?” he asked as he rushed up to the other end of the table.
“This guy walked by our table and slugged Jaymin in the back of her head,” Lisa said.
“When I tried to stop him he tried to punch me,” Scott said, “so I hit him with my tray. It didn’t do much good, and he pulled his fist back like he was going to slug me. Tony grabbed him by his hair and lowered his head not so gently onto what was left of my lunch. Looks like he broke his nose on my burrito.”
By then the guy had pulled himself up off the floor, blood oozing out of both nostrils.
“Ah din do anathin,” he mumbled, while trying to soak up and stop the blood with a couple of paper napkins Scott handed him.
“Well, well, Mr. Buckman. You just can’t stay out of trouble, can you. Will somebody get me a bunch of napkins and a large cup of ice, please? And how about the rest of you here clear out and find somewhere else to sit and finish your lunches.
“I’ll get the napkins and ice,’ Heather said.
“I’m not going to eat my burrito with his blood all over it,” Scott said.
“Go tell Mrs. Kerrigan, she’s the cafeteria manager, that I authorized you to get another burrito and whatever you had to drink,” Mr. Westerbrook told him.
“Thank you,” Scott said, and left for the lunch line.
“You know this guy?” I asked.
“Unfortunately, yes. He’s not a student, and shouldn’t be on campus since there’s a stay-away order against him. We’ll have the police come and take care of things.”
“Do you need to talk to any of us?” I asked.
“No. Just finish your lunches before the bell, okay?”
“Okay, sure,” I said.
I stepped over the mix of blood and burrito on the floor and walked to where Jay sat rubbing the back of her head.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Who was that asshole who punched Jay?” Lisa asked.
“Mr. Westerbrook called him by his last name, Buckman. Either of you know him?”
“No,” Jay said, and Lisa shook her head as a ‘no.’
“Jay, maybe you better go see the nurse,” I suggested.
“If it still hurts after fifth period I’ll go to the nurse.”
“Let’s move,” Todd said. “There’s a table over there.” He pointed to an empty table at the side of the cafeteria close to the lunch line.
We got seated and Scott joined us with a sandwich. “They were out of burritos,” he said.
“Probably best for your stomach,” Heather told him.
We spent the rest of the lunch period talking about what happened, telling kids from other tables what happened, and watched as the police came and left with the guy. Two cafeteria workers began cleaning the table and floor where the guy had been bleeding.
Of course, in my fifth and sixth period classes we spent time talking about what happened in the cafeteria. Even the teachers seemed interested and concerned. No one in my Biology class knew the guy. In chorus some seniors were talking and I heard his name, Curt Buckman. He’d been a student at Lehman for two years then for part of last year at Wilson where he’d been expelled soon after second semester started. No one knew why, but the juniors and seniors seemed to have a lot of theories, some of which were pretty wild.
Seventh period football we were told we’d have full workouts on the field on Tuesday and Thursday, alternating with exercising in the Weight Training room on Wednesday. Coach Lehman told us we’d have morning practice Tuesday through Thursday. We’d have a light workout on Friday during seventh period, then take the bus to Lehman High for our game that afternoon. Today we’d stay in the classroom and have a discussion about Lehman High and our game plan.
Coach Kavanaugh got us to quiet down. “Last Friday while we had our bye Coach York went to the Lehman game at Riverview. He’s going to tell you what he saw during that game. He will tell us about both Lehman and the teams they played, with a focus on how Lehman will stack up as an opponent when we play them this Friday.”
Coach York got up and started his talk.
“First thing, I hope you’re taking notes, especially scores and discussion about strengths and weaknesses. Remember we’re going to play every one of the other teams in our league. To help you understand who’s playing whom, Jeff Liu has something for you guys.”
“I put together a schedule of all of the freshman football games for our league,” Jeff Lui said. “I’m not going to explain it to you because it’s self-evident. I’ve got a spreadsheet that I’m updating each week with the scores of every game. You can subscribe to my blog and the schedule and the scores will be there to look at or download. For now I’m going to give each of you a printed card with the league schedule.”
He handed out the sheets with the schedule. I thought it was great to find out which teams were playing each week. It was self-evident, as Jeff said. I liked that with the purple background it was easy to see which were the non-league games, and the blue backgrounds were the byes. Having the scores filled for the first three weeks was great. I could add the scores myself, or download the update each week after Jeff posted it. Actually, I realized that letting Jeff do the updating would be a lot easier.
“Okay. Prior to the game I watched, Lehman played two games. In their first game they beat Frontier 35-0.
“Let’s talk about Frontier. This is a rebuilding year for them. Their key starters on their varsity offensive and defensive lines and in their backfield last year were mostly seniors, so they’ve graduated and the best incoming freshmen have moved up to the varsity. It look like this year they are going to have a tough time, as their second game was against Los Osos, another team that’s not expected to be in the top half of the standings, and they lost 18-0. Frontier’s third game was against Campo. Now, based on our game against Campo we would have expected a close game, but Campo won 37-7. That’s interesting because of Lehman’s game against Campo. So let’s talk about that game.
“In their second game Lehman beat Campo 24-0.
“We beat Campo 42-7, a 35 point margin. So that might make you think there’s an 11 point difference in our favor when we go up against Lehman. You can take an idea like that and flush it down the crapper. It means nothing.
“Let’s look at Campo’s game against Frontier They won 37 to 7, a 30 point margin. Lehman beat Frontier 35-0. That’s close to the same margin, only a 5 point difference, and you might think Campo is almost as good as Lehman. But Lehman beat Campo 24-0.
“Comparing scores and trying to use point differences to predict winners and losers, especially with freshman teams, is just whistling in the dark. So don’t get all hot and bothered comparing point difference.
“In their third game, the one I watched on Friday, Lehman barely squeaked by Riverview. They won 9 to 7 because they missed a try at a two-point conversion, but they made a field goal late in the fourth quarter to win the game. Riverview had a bye the prior week, and in their first game they beat Los Osos 27-0.
“Now, let’s talk about the makeup of the Lehman offensive and defensive lines. They are very strong. Those guys look more like sophomores than freshmen. They aren’t fat like the Del Rio linemen. They look more like our linemen, but they’re bigger physically than we are.
“Lehman is primarily a passing offense. You’d think with a very strong offensive line they’d have a strong running attack, but their backfield doesn’t have guys who can take the ball and run with it. Their ends are very good, though, and they have two quarterbacks who are very good at running a passing offense. They are strong in both their mid- and short passing. Del Rio runs a passing game, and we let them score 31 points against us. Lehman has an even stronger passing game.
“So, let’s talk about Lehman’s defense. They look very good. They’ve only given up one touchdown in three games so far this year. That was to Riverview, another very strong team.”
Coach York continued to talk about Lehman’s defense and offense. Coach Kavanaugh talked about how our offense would have to react to win against Lehman. Then the focus was on our defense, and how we needed to improve against a passing offense. We’d allowed five touchdowns and one field goal in just two games.
We came away thinking that Lehman would be a tough game for us, certainly tougher than Campo or Del Rio. It looked like Lehman, Riverview, and Los Osos were going to be our strongest opponents this year, and we’d need to win against all three if we wanted to win the league title.
“You also need to avoid becoming complacent,” Coach Kavanaugh told us. “Focus on each game as if it’s the title game. You need to win them all to guarantee that you come out in first place. So treat every opponent as a strong team, and be glad when we get wins and learn from our mistakes if we lose.”
The rest of the week went by so fast I mostly forgot about Davis and the move. The best thing about the Lehman game came on Wednesday when Dad told me he and Uncle Dennis would both be at the game. Mom couldn’t make it; working at the hospital meant she had almost no flexibility in her schedule, and taking time off to go to one of her son’s football games wasn’t an acceptable reason for taking time off.
During homeroom on Thursday Mrs. Kellerman gave me a note. Vice Principal Garrison wanted to see me before I went to my first period class. I wasn’t positive, but I thought it would have something to do that guy who attacked Jay at lunch on Monday.
I walked into the administration office and Ms. Lincolino, the receptionist, looked up and smiled.
“Hello, Todd. I haven’t seen you since the start of school. I’ll bet you didn’t know I transferred from Edison to Wilson, did you?”
I chuckled. “Actually, I’m not Todd Anderson. I’m Tony McKinley, Todd’s cousin. Our dads are identical twins and our moms are also identical twins, and in both cases they were separated at birth. Because of our parents’ relationships we look like identical twins but aren’t, and are called double first cousins. The first time we met was the first day of school here at Wilson.”
“So that’s who those look-alike cousins are! You and Todd. Well, I’m very glad to meet you, Tony. Now, why are you here?”
“My homeroom teacher, Mrs. Kellerman, told me that Vice Principal Garrison wanted to see me before I went to my first period class.”
“Alright. Have a seat and let me check.”
She got on the phone and after a few seconds she pointed to my left and told me to go into his office.
“Good morning, Tony,” Mr. Garrison said as I walked in. “Have a seat. First, you’re not in trouble. That’s why most kids think they’re told to see the vice principal. What I wanted to do is give you a heads-up about something. On Monday there was a fracas in the cafeteria that you helped stop. I want to thank you for that. When the police arrived they frisked the guy who was involved, and they found that he had a switchblade knife. If he’d used it things could have turned out badly.”
“This is the second thing I’ve been involved in where someone wasn’t supposed to be on campus and had a knife,” I said.
“Yes, I’m familiar with the other situation in the boys’ locker room. It’s unusual to have incidents like these occur on the Wilson High School campus.”
“I hope I’m not attracting that kind of thing,” I said.
“Don’t think that way, Tony. These are uncommon and in this incident you didn’t know the other person.”
“So what’s happening to him?”
“I don’t know, and since he wasn’t a student I don’t think I’ll be informed by either the police or the district attorney’s office. My primary objective today is to make sure you’re feeling safe. If you want, you can speak with a social worker about what happened and any concerns you might have.”
“Thank you, but I’m fine. As far as I knew the guy was just some jerk who hit Jaymin because he thought she was in his way, and then he threatened to hit Scott Sanderson. Being on the freshman football team I’m pretty strong,” I grinned, “so I was able to take that guy out before anyone got hurt. I didn’t realize I broke his nose until I saw that it was bleeding, and even then I didn’t know if it had been broken or was just a nosebleed. The main things are I was able to protect Scott from getting slugged, and I kept that guy from hurting someone else.”
“It sounds like you have this experience under control, and it’s not impacting you in any way. Would you agree with that, Tony?”
“Yes sir, I would.”
Mr. Garrison smiled and stood up. He put out his hand and we shook.
“Alright. I’m glad we had this talk. Ask Ms. Lincolino for a pass so you can go to your first period class.”
“Okay! Thank you, Mr. Garrison.”
When I got to my English class Ms. Holbrook looked at the pass then at me.
“Is everything okay, Tony?”
“Yes, ma’am. Mr. Garrison wanted to talk about what happened in the cafeteria on Monday, and if I was okay. I said I was, and that’s because I am.”
She smiled. “We’re reading a short story by Katherine Mansfield, The Fly. It starts on page 280 in our textbook. Your assignment is to write what you thing about the story, from one half of a page to no more than one page, double spaced as usual, and turn it in tonight on Blackboard.” She looked at the clock. “Tony, you should still have enough time to read it in class.”
“Okay, will do.”
I read it through. I first thought that this story was very strange. Then I thought about the protagonist, identified only as ‘the boss,’ and his son who died in the war. Probably the First World War. And then the story closed with the boss rescuing a fly that fell in an ink pot, and what the boss did to it. It’s a very weird story, and it bothered me a bit. Maybe it’s about loss, maybe vengeance. I decided that I’d have to reread it and think about it tonight before writing my response.
Friday finally arrived. As usual we didn’t have football practice the morning of a game day so I slept in an extra hour. Aunt Nora fixed me a high-protein breakfast, eggs, sausage, and toast. I would eat a light high-protein lunch, one of our football day lunches at the cafeteria. I wouldn’t want to start the game with a full stomach.
When I got to school I couldn’t focus on my classes. I kept thinking about the game at Lehman. I wondered if I’d see any of my old friends from Carver. I wondered what they’d think when I introduced them to Todd. I was glad my dad would be at the game, and Uncle Dennis too.
In homeroom Frank told me he’d be at the game, and Jay came up and told me she and Lisa would be there. I wondered how they got out of their eighth period class so they could be at the game at Lehman High by the time it started. What I found out later is the school allowed any freshman to go to the game if they had a permission slip from a parent and someone to take them to Lehman and then home.
I’d miss Creative Writing again, but as usual Ms. Prozio gave us a writing assignment that we could finish over the weekend and post on Blackboard Sunday night so she’d have it first thing Monday morning.
Finally it was seventh period. I headed to the gym where we’d change into our uniforms and then leave for the trip to Lehman. On the way there I tried to remember the stadium, but I realized that the stadium I remembered was the one at Davis High. That brought the whole ‘moving to Davis’ thing back to my mind. We finally arrived at Lehman and were shown to the visitor’s locker room. It was under the home seating on the field. That was good, according to Coach York. We were separated from the opposing team and our buses were right outside the door into the locker room. I wondered why they hadn’t done something like that when they built the new stadium at Wilson about six years ago.
We had time, so Coach Kavanaugh walked around and talked to each of us before his pre-game talk. I think he could see that I needed to focus on the game, because I’m sure I wasn’t concentrating on anything, just staring out in space.
“Tony. Tony!” That got my attention. “What’s wrong? You look like you’re half asleep.” Coach said.
“I’m sorry. You’re right. I’m not concentrating on the game. I’m not focused on football.”
“Are you going to come out of this funk by game time? Should I start someone else in the game instead you?”
Okay, that got me to focus, that’s for sure. I looked at him and grinned. “What you just said worked, Coach. No, you can start me and I’ll be fine. I know this is going to be a really tight game. They’re more like us than either of the teams we’ve played. I’m ready. It’s Lehman’s homecoming and I would love to spoil it for them.”
“Okay, that’s the Tony I want on my team, and I’m glad you’re back.”
“Coach, did you know that if my house had been one block further south of here I’d be at Lehman instead of Wilson? I went to Carver and I was on the edge of the two attendance areas. I’ll love to have my friends from Carver that are here at Lehman see me playing against them and my team winning.”
“No, I didn’t know that. Get out there and show those guys who will be the freshman football champions this year. And which team is that?”
I cheered but was drowned out. I looked around and saw that about half the team hand been standing around where Coach and I had been talking. The rest of the team came over and, as usual, Jacob Rummel got us going with a bunch of cheers, then came to each of us and either grabbed our shoulders and shook us, or slapped us on our back or our butt, or pulled us into a tight hug. He did the shoulders grab and shake on me.
“Have a great game, Tony! It’s going to be fun. Tough fun, but fun. Especially at the end when we’re the ones being congratulated by the Lehman players.”
“You’re right, Jacob,” I said. “This might be our toughest game, but if we play smart like we usually do, we’re going to be that winning team today.” See, I can spread it on pretty thick too.
Coach was told the field was available for our warmups, so we put on our helmets and ran out onto the field. I couldn’t believe what I saw. The stands on both sides of the field were full. Talk about pulling in the Lehman alumni to support their freshman football team.
I looked for Dad and Uncle Dennis, and I saw them in the third row center on the visitors’ side. We’d been given a section for our fans, and I was surprised to see a lot of kids wearing Wilson maroon and gold sweatshirts and sweaters, and a lot wearing varsity jackets. Then I realized those guys were our varsity football team, in the stands to cheer the freshman team.
When I got a chance I ran over to the edge of the field in front of our stands and waved to the stands. Dad and Uncle Dennis, and Scott, Todd, Brian, Heather, Frank, Jay, and Lisa waved back. But our entire section went into a cheer, and that’s when I noticed that the cheerleaders, who normally are at varsity games only, were here leading cheers for our team. By now the rest of our team and our coaches had come over and were cheering our fans.
Jacob, of course, had to get us back on the field to continue our warmups.
I’ll summarize the game. We scored two touchdowns in the first quarter, and at the end of the quarter we lead 14-0. Lehman scored one touchdown in the second quarter but missed the PAT. The halftime score was 14-6 in our favor. The third quarter was all Lehman, two touchdowns and we were behind 14-20. We finally wore down their defense in the fourth quarter and scored a touchdown and Marjory kicked the extra point to make the score 21-20. The rest of the quarter was all defense on both sides, and the game ended with Wilson winning 21-20. Marjory Stakker won the game for us by making every one of her PATs. As we expected, this had been our toughest game, and we were lucky to come away with a win. A very important win.
It was wonderful running past the Lehman freshman football players doing the slap-hand bit. I saw a couple guys I’d known at Carver, and they looked shocked when they recognized me.
Our bus left as soon as we finished showering and dressing. Dad and Uncle Dennis had said they’d meet us when we got back to Wilson. Most of the Wilson students stayed in the stands for the varsity game. Most of our team wanted to see it too, but the rule was we had to ride our transportation back to Wilson immediately after every game. Then we could arrange to return for the varsity game on our own. That made sense. First, the school didn’t have any obligation for us once we stepped off that bus and onto the street in front of Wilson High School. Second, some of the players were really tired and all they wanted to do was go home.
I, on the other hand, wanted to see the varsity game. Dad and Uncle Dennis were there to take me back, and since there was room for two more, Jacob and Jeff rode back with us. Darryl Chiu’s dad had a van that sat twelve plus the driver, so Darryl and eleven guys from our team had a way to get back to Lehman. When we got there we discovered that we had seats saved for us — the seats where our varsity team sat to watch the freshman game.
As we watched the game my thoughts went back to our game. Lehman was for sure the toughest opponent we’d faced. And we’d won. Okay, by one point. But like Coach York says, winning is what counts, not the score. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but at the end of the season if we’d won all eight of our games by one point each, we’d be league champions. Period, no argument. Now we needed to win our other four league games. That and winning our only non-league game against Clayton Valley would mean a perfect season: eight wins, zero losses.
We watched our varsity defeat Lehman and totally spoil their homecoming. The score was Wilson 35, Lehman 13. So sad for Lehman. So good for Wilson!
Next week, Los Osos. Based on their record, not so tough for our varsity team but another tough game for my freshman team. Yes, my freshman team, something every member of our team could say with pride.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
There are a lot of American football terms in this story. Not everyone, especially those of you who don’t live in North America, will understand them. Fortunately, the internet can come to your rescue.
There’s a quick introduction to American football with pictures at https://myfootballmentor.com/category/football-basics/.
Wikipedia has a glossary of American football terms at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_American_football and I recommend it as a source to reduce confusion.
There’s an image of a American high school football field with dimensions at http://www.sportsknowhow.com/football/field-dimensions/high-school-football-field-dimensions.html.
If you're not interested in football, you can skim over those sections of the story. Tony would understand, and Todd might even agree with you.
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