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?
During the break between the third and fourth quarters of the varsity game, Coach Kavanaugh came to where we were sitting in the stands.
“Guys, as soon as the game is finished and before the teams do their pass-by-hand-taps, go down to the field and stand together on the sidelines. Then when the College Park team goes into the locker room follow Coach Hilton’s directions.”
“What are we going to do, Coach?” Jacob asked.
“The other two coaches were so impressed by how you showed your appreciation for our fans, they want all three teams to do the same thing at the end of the varsity game. You’ll hear an announcement for the fans to stay seated for a special presentation.”
We all looked at each other and grinned.
Just as the fourth quarter got to the two-minute mark, Jacob passed the word to us. “We’d better head down now,” he said. “I see the guys from the JV team have started to leave the stands.”
So that’s what we did. When we and the JV team walked out onto our sideline, the varsity team members pulled us all into one group. The varsity guys stood out because of their size and because they were still wearing their uniforms. We stood out because all of the guys on the freshman team were wearing their letterman’s jackets. The JV team members stood out because they were the only ones without uniforms or, except for a couple, their letterman’s sweaters. I could see that almost everyone in the stands had stuck around and was waiting to see what the presentation was all about.
When the game was over and the College Park players were in the locker room we walked out to the center of the field and stood between the two forty yard markers. I heard Randal Spitz, the varsity quarterback, tell us to leave a path along the fifty yard line so we did, though the path was a bit ragged. The three coaches stood with Principal Rodriguez facing us. Then they walked through the path we’d left and faced the visitors’ bleachers. When they got to that side of the field we all turned around so we faced in that direction too. The principal had a wireless mike hooked up to the stadium’s sound system.
“Varsity Coach Randal Hilton, Junior Varsity Coach Grant Lenning, and Freshman Coach Jake Kavanaugh and their teams have something they want to say to all of the Wilson High School fans.
“THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!” she shouted into the mike. We caught on and yelled the same thing. She and the coaches all started applauding, and we did too, all of the members of the three teams on the field. Then we started cheering. The principal and the coaches walked along the path we’d created at the fifty yard line. When they got to the other side we turned around and the principal repeated her announcement. We could hardly hear what she said because we were cheering and everyone in the stands was standing and cheering too.
I saw some of the College Park varsity standing at the entrance to the Garrison Field locker room watching our fans cheering us and our teams cheering our fans. They seemed to be talking among themselves. I hoped they understood why we and our fans were doing this. It represented school support and school loyalty.
After the cheering died down we started laughing and hugging each other, all three teams mixed together enjoying the moment.
Jiago walked over to me and handed me a 3x5 card. “I hope you can make it, Tony. My folks just gave me the okay.” He grinned. “Tell your folks my folks will be there supervising us.”
I looked at the invitation. It read:
He’d stepped away, but I walked over and grabbed him around his shoulders and shouted, “I’ll be there, Jiago.”
“It wouldn’t be a party without’cha, Tony,” he shouted in reply. I watched him move through the mass of guys, looking for other members of our team to give them their invitations.
I saw Jeff Liu, our team manager, and ran over and talk with him for a few minutes. He had something I needed, and he pulled out a pad of paper and wrote down the link and password then handed it to me.
“This oughta be pretty funny, Tony. Let me know how it works out.”
“That I will, and thanks again. See you at school Monday.”
A lot of the kids who’d been in the stands had come down and joined the teams on the field. I looked around and saw Scott and Todd and shoved my way through the crowd to where they were standing under the scoreboard. I grabbed Scott in a big hug. I kept grinning and even laughed a couple times.
Scott noticed and asked, “Happy about winning the game, Tony?”
“Yeah, absolutely. And for a bunch of reasons.”
After standing around for a while I figured it was time to head home.
I nudged Scott with my shoulder. “Hey, boyfriend.”
“Hey, boyfriend,” he replied. You about ready to blow this joint?”
Todd started laughing. “You know what you just said, Scott?”
“Huh? …Oh! Jeez, Todd, you sure have a dirty mind!” All three of us busted up laughing. We shoved our way toward the exit.
“So, what’s up?” I asked.
“Todd’s mom invited me and Brian to have dinner with you guys at their house. Though I can’t remember if they actually invited Todd.” He turned and looked at Todd and grinned.
“I wasn’t invited, but you can be certain that I’ll be there even if I have to crash the party. It’s at my house!”
“Where’s Brian?” I asked Todd.
“He’s hanging with Heather. At this point he’s probably bored out of his skull. Let’s head over there and rescue him.”
“Why would he be bored talking to Heather?” I asked. Then I laughed. Heather was what my mom called a chatter box. A chatter box that once turned on was almost impossible to turn off.
“Okay, I got it. Let’s go rescue Brian.”
We found Brian he and Heather were having a discussion. He didn’t look bored at all. Todd walked up behind him with his finger across his lips doing a silent ‘shhh’ sign for Heather. He grabbed Brian around his waist and kissed the back of his neck, a loud, sloppy kiss. That made me and Scott laugh.
Brian turned around and hugged Todd. “Dufus!” Then he grinned.
“You and Scott and Tony are invited to dinner at my folk’s house. I might or might not be invited, but I already told them I’m going to crash the party if I have to!”
“What about Heather?” Brian asked.
“Yeah, Heather too.” Todd let go of Brian and turned to Heather and hugged her. “You’re invited too. Call your folks and let them know. We’ll walk to my house from here.”
“Todd’s dad told me he’s grilling rib eye steaks,” Scott added, “and they’ll have baked potatoes and asparagus and salad.”
“Wow, that sounds good,” Heather said. “Are you sure I’m invited?”
“Absolutely,” Scott and Brian said simultaneously, making them both laugh.
Scott confirmed that she’d been explicitly invited. “Todd’s dad told me to invite you too, Heather.”
Heather got her mom’s approval and we walked slowly to my aunt and uncle’s house. I wondered if I should say anything about moving to Davis. I mean, Brian and Heather were my closest friends. Well, that didn’t include Frank or Greg or Parker or Jaymin or Lisa or… well, or lots of others. I decided there wasn’t any reason to say anything. Yet. I wouldn't be moving to Davis until the end of the school year, anyway.
When we got to Todd’s house we spent about half an hour talking about football and the success of all three of our teams with my dad, Uncle Dennis, Todd, Scott, Brian, and — surprise of surprises — Heather. My mom and Aunt Nora exited to the kitchen to get their part of the dinner started. We started to wind down when Uncle Dennis said he had to get the grill started, and Heather went to the kitchen to see how she could help. That left the four of us, and we started talking about midterm finals. Ugh!
“Hey, I want to change,” Todd said. “I’ll be right back. You guys can watch TV or talk or something.” He looked at Brian who seemed to be getting ready to stand up and announced, “That includes you, Brian.”
“Rats!” Brian said, and Scott and I laughed at him.
“Say, I want to change too,” I said. Then pointing to Scott I continued, “Alone. By myself. You two talk about school, or watch the Friday night college football game, it’s Wyoming versus Utah State on ESPN, or help Todd’s dad cook the steaks, or something else that’s useful.”
I left and went to Todd’s room and entered without knocking.
“Hey!” he said as he turned, then saw it was me. I closed his bedroom door. He pulled on a clean pair of jeans while I watched.
“What do you want, Tony?” he said, then wiggled his eyebrows. “Need to check out my fab body?”
“Ugh! Save it for Brian.” We both laughed. “Seems like we have a little financial matter to conclude.”
“Huh? What financial matter?” I could tell from his expression he didn’t remember. I sat down at his computer and went to the website Jeff had given me, entered the password, and the ‘2014 Wilson High School Freshman Football Team Statistics’ page opened. I selected the stat I was interested in showing Todd.
“Come on over and look at this statistic. See, right here,” I pointed to the place on the screen where I wanted him to look, “I didn’t fumble, even once, all season.”
“Oh shit… I forgot about that stupid bet. How many games did you play?”
“Eight, and I played in all of them.” I scrolled up one page. “See, I was in each game for over half of the offensive plays. So all eight games count in our little bet.”
“Okay. You didn’t fumble in any game and you were in all eight games. I sort of remember that we bet that I’d pay you twenty dollars for each game where you didn’t fumble. Shit, that’s one hundred sixty bucks. I don’t have that kind of money.”
“We didn’t bet twenty dollars. We bet three bucks per game.”
“Oh my god, three bucks is a lot better,” Todd said, sounding relieved. “So, that’s twenty-four dollars. Right?”
“Yup.” I started laughing.
“What’s so funny, Tony?”
“There was something else we agreed on that was part of the bet.”
“What was that?”
“We agreed that we wouldn’t tell anyone that we bet on my fumbling or not fumbling. Remember?”
“No, but I agree that was a good thing to include in the bet.”
“So, when do you want your twenty-four dollars?” Todd asked.
“When will you have twenty-four dollars to pay me?”
“I get my allowance on Saturday. How about Sunday? I’ll give you your winnings then.”
“Works for me. Thank you, Todd. Now I’m going to take a quick shower and change into clean clothes.”
Todd grinned. “And I’m never going to bet against you when you’re playing football.”
It took me about ten minutes to shower and change. I went into the back yard where my dad and Uncle Dennis were playing with the knobs on the butane tank.
“Dad, do you have a minute?”
I led him to where I could ask him about Jiago’s party. I figured he’d say yes, and that would convince my mom that it would be okay. But Dad didn’t let me get started.
“By the way, Tony, your mother and I want to apologize for reneging on the promise to take you to dinner for your birthday tonight. Instead we’re coming back on the eleventh and we’ll take you out that evening.”
“Dad, I completely forgot about that, so no worries. And doing it on the eleventh is even better. Are we going with Todd and his folks?”
“Yes. We all felt that since you’re almost-twins it would be best for both families to take you two out to dinner together.”
“How’d you get the time off?”
“School is closed that day, even for you, because it’s Veteran’s Day. So the timing is perfect. “Now, did you have something you wanted to talk about?”
“Yes. Jaigo Garcia has invited all the freshman football players to a party at his house tomorrow from eleven a.m. to six p.m. His folks will be there. They have a pool, and there’ll be lots to eat and drink but nothing alcoholic.”
“Sounds like what you wanted to do when you talked about celebrating your birthday with the team.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Better this way, I think. Somebody else’s mess to clean up.”
“Where do they live?”
I pulled out the invitation. “12 Cordovan Drive. I don’t know where that is, and I didn’t have time to Google it.”
“Wow, that’s an expensive part of town. Your friend probably lives in a very nice home. Let’s take a look.”
We went inside and to my room. I sat down at my laptop and brought up Google Maps.
“I have a better idea, Tony. Go to zillow.com. It describes every house in town and in most towns in California and in lots of other states.”
I did that and found the entry for Jiago’s address.
I read off some of the specs. “It’s a big house, 3,358 square feet. Look, they bought the house in July of 2013. Wow, they paid over a million and a half dollars for it. It’s on 1.43 acres. Look at how big that pool is!”
“There’s a spa and hot tub, too,” Dad said.
I scrolled through the pictures of the rooms. “I don’t see any room that looks like a teenage guy would have.”
“Don’t forget, these are pictures with the furniture and décor the prior owners had, not what your friend and his parents have.”
“I don’t think this is as big a house as the one you bought in Davis.”
“They’re almost the same size. Our house in Davis is… let’s see, 3,429 minus 3,358 means our house is 71 square feet larger. I’d guess it should be larger since we have five bedrooms and your friend’s house has four.”
“How come it was so much more expensive than our house in Davis?”
“Hillview is a more expensive area because it has excellent public transportation with BART and busses, and it’s an easy commute to Silicon Valley and San Francisco. Also, your friend’s house is in a more expensive part of town than where we lived.
“Okay, now that you wheedled my okay for the pool party tomorrow, let’s find your mom and get her agreement.”
I grinned. “Dad, what would give you the idea I was trying to get you to agree to my going to Jiago’s party before telling Mom about it?”
He laughed. “Because I know you?” Then I laughed, too.
We found Mom in the kitchen, and after hearing about the party she agreed with Dad that I could go.
“The reason,” she said, “is because this is a pool party during the day, there will be no alcohol, and Jiago’s parents will be there making sure everyone behaves. If you give me the invitation, I’ll phone them now to let them know that you have our permission to go to the party.”
“Thanks, Mom!” I hugged her.
“This will make up for not having your team at your birthday party, Tony.”
“What you said is funny because when I asked Dad about it he said the same thing.”
“Great minds think alike,” she replied. I rolled my eyes, then rushed from the kitchen before she could splatter me with the wet dishcloth she was holding.
The steaks were wonderful. Steak is my favorite meat, and I love baked potatoes and asparagus, too. Uncle Dennis had picked three of my favorite foods. Of course, they are Todd’s favorites, too.
There was a lot of discussion about the upcoming basketball season, and how Scott and Todd had both made the team. I was excited for both of them, and so were Brian and Heather. We promised to go to all the home games and as many away games as possible.
Brian asked what I thought I’d be doing next football season. I answered, truthfully, that I didn’t know. I could make either the JV or the varsity team, and which would depend on what openings each team would have. I pointed out that I wouldn’t be as big as most of the juniors and seniors, and that in football size matters, so making the varsity wouldn’t be easy. Of course, Brian and Heather didn’t know it but I was talking about the JV and varsity teams at Davis High, not at Wilson High. That made me feel sad inside, but I think I kept up a good front. I didn’t want to announce that I would be moving away at the end of this school year.
The next day Dad drove me to Jiago’s house. The front was similar to the house we bought in Davis. But the backyard was a lot bigger, and besides the pool it had two regulation-size tennis courts and a field for playing soccer.
The pool was great. It wasn’t as big as the pool at school, but it was big enough for the twenty-eight guys from the team. I was surprised and happy that every one of the guys came to the party. That was great. We had pizza at lunch, then when we were finished eating Jiago stood on one of the benches.
“Guys, we have something special to celebrate today besides our fantastic first-place, winning season. Tony, Stand up!”
I stood. “Shit, they’re going to do a birthday thing for me?” I wondered.
“The Sunday Times, which you haven’t seen, has the Bay Area Football Players of the Year awards. My uncle works for the Times, so he told me who won First Place as the Bay Area Freshman Football Player of the Year award. He’s standing right here.” He pointed to me.
Palmer was sitting next to where I was now standing. “Close your mouth, Tony,” he whispered.
I stared at Jiago. “You’re kidding!”
“No way, man. You are the Bay Area Freshman Football Player of the Year. Congratulations!”
The guys all stood up and cheered. Jiago jumped down and grabbed me in a big hug. “We love you, man. You won the tight games for us. You deserve the award.”
All I could do is look at him. Tears were running down my cheeks. “I don’t believe it.” Then, with urging from Jiago, I got up on the bench.
“I didn’t win this award!” I shouted. “We ALL won this award. All of us. The entire team. ALL OF US! What is it that Coach Kavanaugh likes to say? ‘There’s no ME in TEAM!’ And that’s the truth. Of all the things I learned playing football this year, the number one thing I learned is that teamwork is what’s important.
“They should have given the award to the entire team. If they send a reporter to interview me, which I don’t think will happen because we’re only lowly freshmen, I’ll tell them the same thing. Our TEAM won, not an individual player.”
Jiago stood up. “Sit down, Tony. Stop spouting Coach Kavanaugh’s favorite sayings. Accept that you’ve been named the Freshman Football Player of the Year in the Times Football Awards and enjoy that you won.” So I sat down.
He climbed back on the bench. “Now, there’s one other thing I want to say to this individual sitting here. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TONY!”
The guys all started singing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song, and I sort of lost it. Even though I was smiling throughout the song, I couldn’t stop my tears and I didn’t care. This was without a doubt the single happiest and most emotional thing that had ever happened to me.
Then everybody lined up and made me stand up, then each one gave me a big hug. I even got a few kisses, though after it was over I couldn’t tell you who the kissers were.
Jiago’s folks came out and congratulated me, and I noticed that they were grinning — which I thought was a little strange. Then I found out why.
Jiago stood on the bench once again. “Tony, I’d like you to meet my uncle, the guy who leaked the story about your being named the Bay Area Freshman Football Player of the Year. This is my uncle, Vincent Jimenez.”
His uncle was tall, about six-four. Then I recognized his name. He was editor of the Prep Sports section of the Times.
He looked at me and smiled. “Actually, Tony, I didn’t leak the article to Jiago. I wrote the article which is in this Sunday’s Times. I cleared it with my boss to be able to see you at my sister’s home today and announce that you’re the winner, and to congratulate you.”
“Thank you,” I said, still feeling emotional. “I don’t know what else to say, except that you should have given the award to the entire team, not to me.”
“Well, I can’t rescind the award you received. But I can make another announcement. The 2014 Wilson High School Freshman Football Team has been named the Bay Area Football Team of the Year. That’s Football Team of the Year, not just Freshman Football Team of the Year. Congratulations, guys. You deserve the award.”
Now we were all sitting or standing there with our mouths hanging open.
“You’re kidding, Uncle Vincent,” Jiago said.
“Nope. You guys are going to be famous. Just don’t let it go to your heads. And be prepared to be mobbed when you get to school Monday morning.”
I stood up and held out my hand to Jiago’s uncle. “I want to say thank you. I’m so glad the Wilson High Freshman Football team is getting the recognition it deserves.”
“You’re welcome, Tony. And congratulations on your own well-deserved award as well. Well, I have to take off. We’re finishing up the sport’s section and I have to be back in the office to oversee the Prep section. It’s been good meeting you.”
“It’s been good meeting you, too, Mr. Jimenez.”
I stripped down to my bathing suit and jumped into the pool to cool off and relax. Pretty soon almost everyone was either in the pool or on the coping around where I was leaning. We spent the afternoon talking about our year and our games and our awards.
The best thing about my birthday being announced was that there was no birthday cake. Thank god for that! It would have been totally over the top.
When my dad picked me up I told him about my award and the team’s award. He was as surprised and delighted as I had been.
“Wait until your mother hears about this!”
“I won’t believe it until I see it in tomorrow’s paper,” I said. “You think we should wait until tomorrow morning to tell her?”
“What, you don’t believe that what your friend’s uncle told you is true?”
“No, I believe it, but it’d be more impressive if I could show her proof that I won and that our team won by showing her the article in the newspaper.”
I didn’t wait. I just couldn’t hold in what I was feeling. I told Mom, Uncle Dennis and Aunt Nora, Todd, and Brian. Todd thought I was pulling his leg, but then realized it had to be true if I told my folks and his folks. Heather had gone home, so I decided to wait and see if she saw the article in the Sunday Times. Todd and Brian thought that would be fun to see if she read the Times’ Sports section.
Brian went home, my folks went back to Davis, and I went to bed. I was totally zonked and fell asleep immediately.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
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