Jason announces to his family that he’s gay. His sisters and his father tell him that it doesn’t make any difference, they love him regardless of whether he’s gay or straight or whatever. But what about his mother? Can she come to accept that her son is gay?
The pizza at Rocco’s was as great as always. Jason’s dad got three pizzas, one double pepperoni, one deluxe without anchovies, and a five-cheese. Everyone went to the salad bar to get whatever kinds of salads they wanted. The salad bar had other things, including cheese bread.
Marcus watched Jason take six slices of the cheese bread.
“Why are you taking so much bread, Jason?”
“Like you’re asking why do I need cheese bread when I’m eating pizza that has a crust? Because this cheese bread is unbelievably awesome and I’m totally addicted to it and I can’t pass it up. Maybe more important because I’m a growing teen and I need to feed my body.”
Marcus took three slices of the cheese bread and grinned. “You sold me. And maybe more importantly because I’m also a growing teen and I need to eat.”
After everyone was seated and was well into eating their pizza and salads and cheese bread, Jason looked across to the guy sitting next to Jen. ‘That,’ he assumed, ‘must be Tom Larsen.’ Tom lived three blocks from Rocco’s, so he walked to the restaurant to meet up with Jen and the rest of the group.
“Hi. I’m Jason Phillips, Jen’s brother. You must be Tom Larsen. I didn’t get introduced when we got here.” Jason gave his sister a knowing glare then turned back to Tom and smiled.
Tom grinned. “Nice to meet you, finally meet you, Jason.”
“What do you mean by ‘finally’?”
“I think Jen was afraid to have us meet, like you wouldn’t approve of me. She told me how you’re the official evaluator for the two girls in your family.”
Jen shoved her shoulder into Tom’s. “Jase isn’t the official anything in our family except pain in the butt,” she whispered to him, loud enough that Jason could just hear her comment.
At the end of the table their dad interrupted before Jason could say anything else.
“There’s only one official evaluator in our family. And that person is me. You just remember that, Jen. And you too, Jase.”
That quieted the sister and brother, and made Tom laugh.
“I like the way you guys joke around. I’ll be glad to submit my resume for your consideration, Mr. Phillips.”
“No need, Tom. You’re just fine as far as I’m concerned. Got that, Jase?”
“Got it, Dad,” Jason replied. He looked at Jen and whispered, “But I’m still going to do my own evaluation,” loud enough that Tom could also hear him. Jason grinned and winked at Tom.
It was almost quarter to seven by the time they finished eating. The game was scheduled to start at seven thirty, so Mr. Phillips stood up.
“Okay, we need to leave so we can get to Valley College early enough to get a good parking space so we don’t have to walk a half mile. We also want to avoid a long line to get into the gym and get our seats.”
The drive to Valley College took about fifteen minutes and Jason and Tom chatted during the entire time, which irritated Jen. Tom was her boyfriend, and he should be talking to her, not to Jason.
“It’s too bad that Thea didn’t come with us to the game. She has this idea about changing the rules of basketball to make it faster and, she says, more exciting.”
“Jen told me about it. I asked my dad if Thea could talk to him, and he said Monday after school would be best. The team doesn’t have practice on Mondays so he won’t be tied up with that.”
“Thea’s boyfriend is Darryl Lin. His brother is Doug Lin. He plays guard and forward on the basketball team.”
“I know Doug. He’s in a couple of my classes. He’s a nice guy. I haven’t met his little brother though.”
“Do you think Doug will get much play time in tonight’s game?” Ron asked.
“Maybe. I don’t really know, of course. That’s up to my dad and the offense and defense coaches. Doug is really good, especially moving the ball on offense. He’s one of the few sophomores who made the varsity team. Most are on the junior varsity team.”
Marcus was in the middle row seats with Ron, and he turned around to ask Tom a question. “Does your dad seem confident that we’re going to win tonight?”
“He always seems confident that Hillcrest is going to win, even when we lose. That’s one of the coach’s jobs, give the team confidence that they can win every game they play.”
“What’s it like being the son of a coach? Especially a basketball coach?” Ron asked.
“I guess my dad’s like any other father. He doesn’t bring his work home with him, or talk about what goes on with coaching the team with us very often. But he answers questions, and I’m always asking him questions. Like why a particular defense works or doesn’t work, and how to defend against a particular player. The main reason I’m interested is because I’m a Laker’s fan and I like to ask him what he thinks about how they decide on their plays, both offense and defense.”
Marcus snorted. “The Lakers?”
Tom grinned. “Of course, the Lakers. The best team in the NBA.”
“But what about Boston? And the Nicks? Think about what the Lakers would be like if they didn’t have Kobe.”
Ron was turned looking at Jason over the back of the middle seat. He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. Then he looked at Jen, who had a bemused expression. When she saw Ron shrug his shoulders then look at her, she raised her eyebrows and they both laughed. Jen realized that Tom and Marcus would talk basketball the rest of the night and that there was nothing that she could do about it. ‘Boys!’ she thought, ‘that old saying is sure true, that there’s no way you’ll ever be able to understand them.’
They arrived at Valley College and were able to park close to McCormick Gym. They got in line, showed their tickets, and were inside and seated in less than ten minutes.
“Man, what great seats! What a great gym. This place must seat what, a couple thousand?” Jason commented.
Tom replied, since he’d attended games here and learned about the facilities. “This is the Todd McCormick Gym, named after the first basketball coach at Valley College. It can hold four thousand for basketball, and a little more for volleyball. The state high school volleyball championships were held here last year and I got to see the championship games for the boys’ and girls’ brackets.”
“How big was the crowd?” Marcus asked.
“It looked like every seat was taken. So I’d say at least four thousand.”
“Volleyball is cool,” Jen said. “It’s one of the few team sports that we have at Hillcrest for both boys and girls.”
Marcus replied, “That’s not really true. In the fall there’s girls’ water polo, cross country, tennis, golf, and your volleyball. In the winter there’s girls’ soccer and basketball. In the spring there’s girls’ track, swimming and diving, lacrosse, and softball. That’s actually quite a lot of girls’ sports.”
“How do you know all that, Marcus?” Jen asked.
“I’m one of the sports writers for the Eagles’ Lair. You know, our much ignored school newspaper?”
“I read it!” Ron stated. Then everyone else added that they read the newspaper each week. “Marcus, I read your sports stories each week,” Jason added. “Your article about lacrosse got me interested in that game.” That made Marcus smile.
Tom turned to Jen and grinned. “My dad finally got a girls’ basketball team started at Hillcrest, but so far the school board hasn’t found the money to fund teams at every school in the district. That would be a great girls’ sport to have at all the high schools in our area. Our team plays in the Hayward league where other schools have girls’ teams. Basketball is a major sport. Jen, have you ever watched the WNBA games on TV?”
“I assume WNBA means the women’s version of pro basketball, so my answer has to be no. I didn’t even know that they have women’s basketball games on TV.”
“The WNBA schedule starts in May and ends in October,” Marcus said.
Ron interrupted, “Wow, look how many people are here. And I see Darryl Lin down there in back of the official’s table.”
“I’d guess there are between two or three thousand here already,” Marcus replied.
A whistle from the floor got everyone’s attention, and the game got started. Hillcrest won the tip-off and Wil Crites made a three-point shot. Livingston brought the ball up court and lost it when Doug Lin stole the ball and scored two points on an easy layup. On their next possession Livingston lost the ball out of bounds on a bad dribble, and Hillcrest had the ball once again. Tony Perez scored two points on a jump shot over Livingston’s top player, Jack Cook, who at six foot eight was the tallest player on either team. Livingston scored on a layup by Cook, then Crites made three consecutive shots from just above the key. Hillcrest led 13 to 2 and the game had just started. By halftime the Hillcrest led 51 to 29. Livingston outscored Hillcrest in the second half, but it wasn’t nearly enough and Hillcrest won 83 to 68.
“Man, oh man! What an exciting game!” During the game Marcus wrote notes for his story for the next week’s Eagles’ Lair. “That was the most exciting game I’ve seen in like, forever!”
“I agree,” Mr. Phillips added, “I’m surprised that Hillcrest’s defense held Livingston to only 29 points in the first half. Weren’t they ranked number one or two in Northern California?”
“They were number two,” Tom replied. “I wonder how far down they’ll end up after this game. And where Hillcrest will be rated. We’ve won eleven games and only lost one, and that was against California High, the team that’s number one. But we’re mired down in the second twenty-five in the ratings.”
Marcus shook his head. “You know, most of the teams that we played were from the second tier. The only top twenty-five teams we’ve played were California and Pioneer, and now tonight we played Livingston. California was rated number one, Livingston number two, and Pioneer number eight. All three of these teams have only one loss, same as Hillcrest, and they’re in the top ten. That’s pretty darn good, if you ask me, and in my opinion Hillcrest should be in the top ten. That’s going to be the topic of my story for next week’s paper.”
“Hey, Dad!” Tom shouted. He turned and looked at Jen and Mr. Phillips, then at the guys. “My dad’s coming over to say hi.”
“Hi, Tom. I recognize Jen and Marcus. How about introducing me to these other folks?”
“Sure. This is Jen’s dad, Mr. Phillips. Mr. Phillips, this is my dad, Steve Larsen.”
“I’m Tim Phillips. Glad to meet you, Steve.” They shook hands.
“I’m glad to meet you too.”
“Dad, this is Jen’s brother Jason and Jason’s friend Ron Cantham. Ron’s dad is a teacher at Livingston.” Tom turned and smirked at Ron.
Jason and Ron said hello to Coach Larsen.
“Don’t pay any attention to Tom,” Coach Larsen told Ron. “I’m a graduate of Livingston High School, something that Tom usually fails to tell people at Hillcrest.”
“Great game, Coach,” Marcus said.
“Thanks, Marcus. I want you to know that I read your stories in the school paper every week. You do a great job of making high school sports interesting.”
Marcus blushed. “Thanks, Coach. I appreciate your compliment.”
“I understand that I’m meeting with your younger daughter after school on Monday, Tim. Seems she has Tom and Doug Lin all excited about some trivial revision in the way basketball is played that she figured out.” He smiled.
“If you don’t have time, that’s fine.”
“Actually, I’m looking forward to talking with her. If that’s alright with you?”
“Sure. Jen and Jason will bring her by. I expect that Ron and Tom will tag along as well.”
The conversations continued for a few minutes then Coach Larsen looked at his watch.
“I need to get back to my team. We’re going out for a celebratory pizza. You can join us if you’d like.”
“We had pizza at Rocco’s before the game,” Mr. Phillips told him. “Thanks for the invite, but I think I need to get these kids to their respective homes. Maybe Tom would like to go with you.”
Tom shook his head. “No thanks. Been there, done that. Anyway, I still have homework to finish. I’d appreciate it if you would drop me off at home.”
“I’ll do that, of course. That way you and Marcus can continue your debate about your favorite NBA teams.”
“Absolutely not!” Jen declared. “Marcus can talk basketball with Jase and Ron. Tom and I have things to talk about on the way home.”
“Alright, alright,” Tom said, laughing. “I know when to bow to a higher power. Jen, I’m all yours until your dad drops me off at home. Okay?”
Jen smiled and nodded.
Everyone said their goodbyes to Coach Larsen, and they left the gym.
As they were walking out to the car, Jen grinned. “Thea will be upset when she learns that her boyfriend’s brother scored 22 points and she missed seeing the game.”
“On the other hand, we were spared hearing Thea moan every time there was a foul and a free throw,” Jason said.
“True that!” Ron added.
When they got home they found that Thea already knew all about the game, including Doug Lin’s 22 points, because she’d listened to the game on the radio while she worked on a project for her Science class.
Jason headed upstairs to his bedroom. He had homework to finish and he wanted to get it out of the way so he could concentrate on his Photography class project over the weekend. Saturday would be for taking the pix, Sunday for selecting and editing them, uploading them to Picasa as backup, then arranging them in a Web Album. When that was finished he’d make the Web Album accessible by Mr. Hunter. Then he’d design his poster and upload the file to the school’s Blackboard system so it could be printed, reviewed, and graded. A lot of work, but Jason was convinced that he could finish by Sunday afternoon.
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