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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

The Beard - 7. Chapter 7

“You need to get going, Dale.” Howie McDonald said as he came around the cubicle that belonged to Dale. As much as Dale tried to keep it neat, the cubicle was overflowing with stacks of papers, flyers, and newspaper clippings. Dale looked up from the stack of precinct reports he was scanning into the computer with the barcode scanner.

This was the most boring part of his job, and he could understand why the middle-aged and slightly overweight Howie McDonald shuffled it off on Dale. All he had to do was scan in the barcode of each voter someone had visited or called that day, and then scan in the response that the volunteer had gotten.

They normally marked ‘fuck off’ as ‘Refused to Respond’.

Surprisingly there weren’t a lot of those. The most common was the ‘Not Home’ response, meaning no one answered the door or the phone call. Still, the congressman’s volunteers were getting more ‘Yes’ responses than ‘No’s’ although the Undecided voters still outnumbered both of the other two main categories.

“I’m almost done with this stack, Howie.” Dale said patiently, barely pausing in his scanning. Once he got his rhythm down, he could do four or five hundred in an hour.

“You don’t want to keep your boyfriend’s father waiting, especially not when he’s your boss as well.” Howie warned him with a smile on his face. Dale blushed slightly at that and decided he’d just finish this page. Howie’s words hit too close to home for him to ignore.

“I’ll just finish this page.” Dale told the man who nodded before leaving. When he had finished the page, Dale logged out of the computer system and shut the computer down before standing up and stretching. He was wearing one of the two new suits he’d bought in the last three weeks. His suit jacket was hanging up on a peg near the main entrance of the office, and he said good night to the volunteers who were putting together lawn signs at one of the big, open tables in the main area. The young women smiled and waved at him as he checked his appearance in the reflection of the glass doors.

Away from the regular grease of the fryers at Darlow’s, his skin had begun to finally clear up, and his hair actually looked nice after its latest cut and style from Cole’s favorite barber. The smoky gray suit looked good on him, and Cole had picked out the blue tie he was wearing, as well as the suit in general. He had insisted on the regular white shirt though instead of the canary yellow shirt Cole liked.

There was another change, and a guilty one at that waiting for him in the parking lot. It had been his grandfather though, and not Cole who had taken him to the dealership to look at used vehicles. The silver Tacoma pickup was far from new, but it was clean, ran well, and had been easily affordable. His grandfather didn’t ask where the money came from for the down payment and so Dale neither had to lie nor tell his grandfather the truth.

Last week’s newspaper had been a shock for Dale as well as his grandparents. When nothing had appeared in the paper immediately after the incident with Mr. Heathrow, the owner of the Darlow’s chain of restaurants in their area, Dale had decided Cole’s thoughts about the old man leaking the story to the press had been wrong. Certainly what appeared in the paper made no reference to the attempted termination of Dale, but it was headlined by “Congressman’s Son Gay?”

Dale was as certain as Cole that one of the ‘anonymous’ sources of the story had been Mr. Heathrow testifying that Cole had declared he was in a relationship with another teenager at a ‘popular’ fast-food restaurant. It should have been nothing but a gossip-column piece, but this was an election year and it was ‘news’. So far Cole’s father had made no public response, calling it a private matter, adding “I fully support my son in all aspects of his life.”

Remembering that morning still made Dale flush and shake a little as he got into the truck and started the engine. He remembered waking up, getting his cup of coffee before heading into the living room. His grandparents had already put the local section of the paper on a chair for him, and he read it with blurry eyes before finding the article’s headline on the upper right column.

“Is there anything you want to tell us, Dale?” His grandmother had asked him with a tilt of her head.

“I knew that Pritchard boy had something up his sleeve the way he’s been hanging around you.” Dale’s grandfather had grumbled. “Still, if you’re going to be queer for a guy, I can’t say that I can think of a better boy for you to be queer with. Just you mind yourself and don’t go making trouble for him or his father. His father’s a good man and doesn’t need you boys mucking up his election. I’ll be damned if that Headley takes the seat!”

“Yes, gramps.” Dale had agreed with him, and that was that. No condemnation, no statements about ‘that boy’ not being welcome over anymore. Although, they did recommend, in a very roundabout way that his bedroom door stay open whenever Cole came over.

His mother had been less obtuse about the whole thing, and demanded details of every little thing. It was a good test of the cover story they had decided to tell everyone, and Dale barely felt any hesitation in telling it to his mother. The story was as close to the truth as possible.

He did have to explain more about why he left Darlow’s, though not everything. The story was simple, always the best when concocting a lie. Dale was being accused of something he shouldn’t have been, and Cole stepped in when he overhead what was being said. He called Dale his boyfriend, and while they’d been friends and were interested in each other, neither had really talked about it before then. After they’d left the restaurant, they’d talked some more and decided to date from that point on.

Dale’s mother thought it was the most romantic thing, and cried when he told her.

Leaving the campaign headquarters parking lot, Dale laughed to himself as he passed the Darlow’s that had been his former employer. Even with all the renewed looks at him in the hallways at school, and the jealous glare of girls every time Cole put his arm around Dale, he was far happier than he could remember being in a long, long time. Tonight though he was nervous, because this was the first time he was going to meet Cole’s father.

He knew the way to Cole’s house without a problem. Cole had been the one to teach him to drive, and he had been surprised that he’d passed all the tests without any problems. Of course he’d had Driver’s Ed in school, but that had been a while ago. Still, he drove slowly and carefully, not wanting to risk his brand-new license or his new-to-him truck.

When he reached their house, he parked in the ‘guest’ section of the driveway, noting that Cole was there, as was Cole’s mother, and a black sedan he’d never seen before. That meant the Congressman had returned from his meeting with the local Chamber and the first meeting with the paper’s editorial board. Dale realized he was stalling nervously as he smoothed out his suit coat again and gathered his courage before heading to the door.

“There you are!” Mrs. Pritchard said with a smile on her face, opening the door before Dale had even rang the bell. “Henry was about to call Howie and yell at him for working you too late.”

“Hi, Mrs. Pritchard.” Dale said with a blush. The woman was every bit as beautiful and graceful as her son. It was easy to see where Cole got his natural poise and demeanor.

“Please, come on in, Dale.” She said, and Dale nervously entered the house. Passing into the living room, he could see the twinkling lights below them, and the far off sight of the moon reflecting off of the ocean. Mrs. Pritchard, who was wearing an elegant cream dress, led him out onto the broad balcony where Cole was sitting with an older, slightly heavier set version of himself. Congressman Pritchard’s hair was more gray than black, but it had the same waviness as his son’s, and while there was more meat on his bones, he was far from fat as he sat there in his dress shirt, the top buttons open, and suit slacks.

“So this is the boy.” Congressman Pritchard said as Dale stopped just within arms reach. There was an appraising look on his face as he scanned Dale. “Not bad, not bad at all. Pleased to meet you young man. I am Henry Pritchard. Emily tells me you refuse to call her by her first name, so I hope you’ll at least settle for Mr. Pritchard – instead of anything else.”

“Uh, yes sir.” Dale said with a nervous twitter in his voice. He somehow managed to shake the man’s hand without being too weak, or too strong. Cole had taught him about proper handshaking with politicians. “I’m Dale Andrews.”

“For now.” Mr. Pritchard said, chuckling with laughter. “At least until my son puts a ring on your finger, which better not happen at least until you boys are in college. Now, have a seat, please.”

“Thank you, sir.” Dale said meekly, taking the seat next to Cole. There was a glass of club soda in front of him, and he took a sip before his mouth could completely dry out. Cole was wearing a dress shirt and slacks much like his father, and had an encouraging smile on his face.

“Now, Dale, let’s lay a few things on the table.” Mr. Pritchard said when Dale had set the glass back on the table and leaned back into his chair. “My wife, my son, and just as importantly, my campaign staff speak very highly of you. That is why I’m going to treat you like a part of this family for now. You know that Howie is my nephew’s Uncle by marriage?”

“Yes sir.” Dale said with a nod. He’d learned that the first day at his new job.

“Good, good.” Mr. Pritchard said. “Now, when that old bastard Heathrow called me up to rant at me about what my queer son and his queer boyfriend had pulled on him, costing him fifteen grand and nearly a doctor’s bill for a heart attack, I was a little surprised. Publicly my positions haven’t been too supportive of gay rights, but that’s the district I had when I got elected. Personally, I couldn’t care a rat’s ass what one adult chooses to do with another consenting adult, and I sure as hell disapprove of discriminating assholes that want to put people down based on who they love. Up until recently, though, the people I represent haven’t felt that way, and I represent them, not just my own personal views.”

“Yes sir.” Dale said with a nod.

“You knew that already, right?” Mr. Pritchard asked. “Cole’s told you some of that?”

“Uh, yes sir.” Dale answered with a nervous look at Cole, hoping he wouldn’t get Cole in trouble.

“Now there’s an answer I like to hear.” Mr. Pritchard nodded in approval as he took a sip of his scotch. “I can see why my son likes you. Smart enough to know when only the truth will do, wise enough to give the answer, and sensitive enough to worry about the effect on others.”

“I wouldn’t say it was all that.” Dale said with a blush. “I mean, you’d probably figure it out if I was lying, so it wouldn’t do me any good and I just don’t want to disappoint Cole.”

“If you say so.” Mr. Pritchard said with an indulging smile. “So, whose idea was it to make it easier on me to change my position regarding gay issues? I imagine Cole approached you Dale? I know the two of you worked on that project in government class last semester, and of course I know your family’s story. Your father was actually someone I knew in passing and I was truly sorry to hear he took his life instead of dealing with his problems.”

“What do you mean?” Dale asked with a frown. “Wait, you mean you think Cole’s going with me because it’d make it easier for you to win re-election? Cole?”

“No, Dale, I wouldn’t do it for that reason without telling you.” Cole said in a comforting tone, reaching out to put his hand over Dale’s and look at his father. “I wouldn’t hurt you that way, I hope you know that.”

“You sure as hell better not be playing with the young man’s feelings just to help me out politically.” Mr. Pritchard sounded genuinely angry as he looked at his son. “It sounds like young Dale never even considered that was what was happening, so maybe you came up with it on your own and now you’re playing with the boy’s feelings?”

“No, I’m not playing with his feelings.” Cole growled angrily. “Damn it, dad, I knew that if I needed to tell you I was gay or something you’d be fine with it, but what if I’m bi? Are you going to be one of those people that just think I’m confused and tell me to hurry up and make a choice? Would you be disappointed if I chose a guy instead of a girl after I told you I was bi-sexual and then you went and got your hopes up you might still have grandchildren?”

“You’re bi?” Dale and Mr. Pritchard said in unison, turning to look at each other with similar stares of surprise.

“Yes, I’m bi.” Cole said firmly, glaring at his father. “Are you going to be upset that I’ve fallen for a boy instead of a girl, now?”

“You doing more than kissing and what we’ve talked about as being appropriate for your age?” Mr. Pritchard asked his son.

“No!” Dale and Cole both answered at once, earning an amused chuckle from Mrs. Pritchard.

“Why not?” She asked.

“I promised Dad I’d never do something like that when it could come back and hurt us as a family.” Cole said firmly.

“I… I’ve been burned before and want to go slowly.” Dale admitted with a blush.

“Which is another good reason for going slowly.” Mr. Pritchard said with a hint of sympathy towards Dale.

“Yes, it is.” Mrs. Pritchard said. “Dale, I’d like to meet your mother sometime. Do you think she could come up to the house, or would it be better for us to go to your house?”

“She’d probably be more comfortable meeting you at home.” Dale said after thinking for a moment. The Pritchard home had ramps for wheelchairs, so accessibility wasn’t an issue the way it had been at Jeremy’s house. Still, it was such a nice place his mom would probably be intimidated by the location as much as meeting Mrs. Pritchard.

“Why don’t we give her a call tomorrow and see if she’s up for a visit?” Mr. Pritchard said to his wife with a smile. “I’ve had the day cleared for personal stuff. Dale, do you think that would be okay?”

“I’m sure it would be, although my grandmother will probably spend all morning cleaning frantically.” Dale laughed.

“Good.” Mr. Pritchard agreed with a nod. “Maybe you should warn her when you go home tonight?”

“No, then she’ll have all of us up all night cleaning.” Dale answered.

“Smart man.” Mr. Pritchard laughed. “Now, why don’t we get down to business? Cole, I’m going to assume whether this relationship is a ruse or not, you want to bend my ear on the matter of the gay rights bill that’s coming up for a vote.”

“Actually, I do too.” Dale said leaning forward and smiling. “I’ve never had the chance to bend the ear of a congressman before.”

“Cole mentioned you were politically astute, and Howie said you’re as good on the issues as you are at handling the data.” Mr. Pritchard said with a smile. “Let’s hear your arguments.”

The arguments continued not only over the drinks (non-alcoholic for both Dale and Cole) but well after dinner. Mrs. Pritchard served a wonderful lasagna with garlic bread and a great salad, as well as a good tiramisu for dessert. Before Dale realized it, they were sipping coffee in the living room and it was nearly ten at night. Mr. Pritchard realized the time as well, and they began to say good night. Cole walked Dale out to his truck, and to Dale’s surprised, leaned in against him, pushing his back up against the driver’s door and planting a long kiss on his lips.

“What was that for?” Dale asked after they’d broken the kiss. Pressed together like this he was certain Cole could feel how attracted he was and what the kiss had done to him.

“That was for pulling it off.” Cole said with a wide smile that glittered in the light of the moon and the security lights above the garage. “He was impressed with you, you know.”

“I was impressed with him.” Dale whispered back, wishing he dared to lean forward ever so slightly and kiss that long, beautiful neck that was so close to him. Fuck it, what would Cole do, get pissed at him? No, Cole didn’t get angry, but his body went stiff for a moment and he made an odd, mewling sound in his throat.

“You better be careful.” Cole whispered softly.

“Why’s that?” Dale asked as he teasingly scraped his teeth over Cole’s neck.

“You might bite off more than you can chew.” Cole whispered.

“I promise I’d never bite it off.” Dale was being far bolder than he ever dreamed of being with Cole, the ‘perfect’ man anyone could hope to have.

“Tease.” Cole whispered as he shivered. It wasn’t cold, so maybe Dale had made him shiver?

“That whole bi thing was perfect.” Dale whispered as he leaned back, letting that beautiful neck go. He could taste Cole’s cologne still as he licked his lips. Like everything about Cole, it was perfect. “Now when we break up after the election, and you end up married to a girl, he won’t think you played him.”

“Yeah, that’s right.” Cole said quietly, and he looked away from Dale for a moment.

“I better get going.” Dale said sadly. He didn’t want to think about when Cole would break up from him. Despite his promises to himself, he was beginning to have real feelings for Cole, feelings more than friendship, and those were too dangerous.

“Yes, I’ll see you tomorrow I guess.” Cole said with a frown. “Sometimes I miss you working at Darlows. It seems like I saw you more when I was driving you to work.”

“I miss you too, buddy.” Dale said with a frown, reminding himself exactly what was between them. Friendship, and nothing more than that. It would have to be enough.

“Good night.” Cole said softly before walking back towards the house. Dale took off his coat and hung it up on the hangar behind the driver’s seat before getting in and starting the truck. He turned on the radio and listened to the CD player as he drove back down the hill towards town.

When he got home, he found his grandparents had already gone to bed, but his mother was still awake, watching television. They sat in her room and he talked for about an hour about his visit, sharing only some of the things they had discussed. She promised to warn his grandmother about the upcoming visit in the morning, which would allow him to sleep in a little. He had school the next day, and would be expected to show up at the headquarters for a few hours in the evening after dinner time. They were doing a big phone bank earlier tonight, as well as delivering lawn signs, so all that would have to be entered tomorrow. A volunteer would do a lot of that, but he’d have to double-check the figures and finish whatever wasn’t done, plus do whatever research Howie had come up with during the day.

Although a lot of things had changed in his life over the past few weeks, his morning routine was pretty much the same. He woke up, checked on his mother, and then got a cup of coffee before going into the living room to read the morning paper with his grandparents. This morning they asked how his dinner had gone and as expected, his grandmother nearly went into a tizzy when she found out the congressman’s wife would be calling.

He left for school with her having finished the dusting and preparing to move on to the floors.

“What are you doing after school today?” Jeremy asked him as they were sitting in the first period class waiting for Mr. Harwood to arrive.

“I have work at six.” Dale answered. “Cole and I are meeting for dinner before that at five.”

“I still can’t believe you and Cole hooked up.” Jeremy said with a shake of his head. There was no judgment or negativity in his voice, just disbelief.

“Why’s that?” Dale asked with curiosity.

“I just never figured him for the type, that’s all.” Jeremy answered with a shrug. Dale was half-turned in his seat to talk and couldn’t see who was snickering at them, but it didn’t matter. “Besides, I thought you’d have better taste than him.”

“What’s wrong with Cole?” Dale asked with alarm.

“Oh, nothing really, it’s just he’s… well you know.” Jeremy shrugged. “He’s got it all.”

“Yeah, well, he’s really a nice guy.” Dale said lamely and almost winced at his own words.

“Yup, he is that.” Jeremy shrugged. “So look, since Harwood’s taking his time this morning, I need your help this afternoon.”

“Sure.” Dale said.

“Uh, you might want to hear what it is first.” Jeremy said with a frown. “You’re not going to like it at all.”

“Does it have to do with football?” Dale’s voice had an edge as he asked the question. Jeremy blushed and hung his head, confirming that it was something to do with football.

“Look, it’s not like we exactly planned this, but well, it’s happened and I… well, we really need your help.” Jeremy said in a rush.

“What is it?” Dale asked with a sigh. He wanted to dismiss Jeremy’s request, whatever it was, out of hand but it was good having friends again, and he owed it to at least listen to what Jeremy had to ask.

“Last weekend, I went with Ben King to Westport to visit his girlfriend.” Jeremy explained rapidly. Dale could feel a groan building in his chest. Westport was their biggest rival team, the rivalry dating back generations. “We ended up playing a pickup game with some guys from their football team, and well, they were making fun of us and we ended up challenging them to a little game.”

“A little game.” Dale said with a shake of his head.

“Yeah, it was stupid of us really, but it’s Westport.” Jeremy put a lot of venom into the last word. “Anyway, the game’s today, after school. We’re meeting them at Groveport Park for a six-on-six. Chavez, Johnson, King and I are all set, but Billy McDermott got called in to work this afternoon, and he can’t go. He was going to be receiving for Ben, but now we don’t have anyone. No one else can make it.”

“I don’t know.” Dale said slowly. “What about Cole?”

“Cole’s good on defense, but not at catching the ball.” Jeremy said. “We’d ask him, but he’s gonna drop the ball more than catch it. If you play, you can throw to Ben. He’s really good.”

“You know I’ve not done anything like this since you were my size.” Dale countered.

“Yeah, but you can do it.” Jeremy said eagerly. Just then Coach Billings, the basketball coach walked into the room.

“Okay, you lot settle down.” The dark-skinned man said in a booming voice. “Mr. Harwood had an accident last night and broke his hip, so I’ll be taking over this class until the principal can find a sub for you.”

Billings didn’t know the subject all that well, but they muddled through the day’s lessons and Jeremy was forced to not pursue the topic until they met up again for lunch. Cole’s presence at lunch barely deterred him, and he had the backup of Ben King, Chavez, and Johnson as well as most of the team.

“Why can’t one of you guys do this for them?” Dale asked the rest of the team, and got a myriad of reasons why they couldn’t be there. He sighed, and looked at Jeremy while munching on his ham sandwich he’d fixed at home. Finally he nodded and tried to pretend he wasn’t the focus of the cheering.

“Don’t worry, it’ll be fine.” Cole assured him. “Rule’s are two-hand touch, no tackling so you won’t get hurt.”

“Just don’t think this means I’m going to try out for the team next semester.” Dale growled while Cole laughed.

After school was out, he found himself driving after Jeremy’s Corolla, heading to the park. He had mixed feelings about this, but kept on telling himself he was doing it for Jeremy more than anything else. When they got to the park, the Westport guys were already there, and Dale got out of his truck with a sinking feeling.

“We all here?” Ben asked uselessly as all six of them were standing in front of their vehicles. Dale wished he’d thought to change into sweats like the rest of the guys, but then he’d have had to go home and probably would have stayed there. “Okay, this is how it’s going to work out. Chavez, Johnson, and Blochs, you guys keep them from getting Dale. Now, Dale, I’m going to call the plays and tell you where I’m going to be. You just throw me the ball. When we’re on defense, you just try and get through their line without getting roughed up, okay?”

“Okay.” Dale said nervously. Ben had brought a ball, and tossed it to him with a smile that lit up his rather plain face. Dale followed the rest of them as they trotted onto the field, but stopped dead when he saw one of the guys from Westport.

“What the fuck is this?” Bob Millray shouted as he saw his old teammates. “You playing with a fag now?”

“What are you doing here, Bob?” Ben said angrily.

“He goes to our school, now.” One of the Westport guys said, a big hulking brute with skin darker than Ray Johnson. “Bob plays for us. Hey, Bob, this the fag you were telling us about, the one that got you in trouble?”

“Yeah, it is.” Bob said with an evil grin on his face. “What the fuck you doing here, Andrews. You think you’re man enough to play with real men?”

“Fuck off, Millray.” Jeremy snorted. “We ain’t playing this shit.”

“What are we playing then?” Bob asked him. “You queer-lovers too chicken shit to play us now?”

“This queer’s going to show you how it’s done, Millray.” Dale growled as he felt his anger rise again. It was kind of like it had been when he hit Hector Chavez. He remembered the ‘fight’ all too well, and the bruises that Millray and his buddies had left on people who’d never done him harm. Dale wanted to play now, if for no other reason than to show the bastard up.

“That’s right.” Jeremy growled. “Now, don’t go forgetting the rules. Two-handed tag and your QB is down. No tackling. First motherfucker that forgets that is going to forfeit the game. We play first team to score four touchdowns.”

“Right, we wouldn’t want any queers to get hurt today.” Millray sneered, but one of his teammates pulled him back for a quick huddle. One of the other Westport guys came forward to do the coin flip, and Dale got lucky, calling it heads.

No matter what the rules were, the game was vicious with the big brutes on the Westport team doing their best to get past Johnson, Chavez, and Jeremy. They tried, and twice they got through, sending Dale sprawling on the grass as they ‘put’ two hands on him as hard as they could. It would have been useless to protest, and he didn’t, but he did take satisfaction in the two touchdowns they scored. He even took greater satisfaction when he managed to block one of Millray’s throws.

By the end of the game, he was bruised, but had a big smile on his face as he rushed back to the truck. He was going to be late for dinner with Cole, but they’d won four touchdowns to three. The best sight of the day was Millray storming from the field griping about faggots and queer-lovers ruining the world.

Maybe there was something to this football thing after all.

Copyright © 2012 dkstories; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

Hmmmmm,. Cole is pretty hip on being bi, or should I say gay? Dale is trying to safeguard his feelings, but I think he is having a very hard time.

Loved the outcome of the football game!!!!

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It's nice to see that Dale and Cole are becoming real friends, if not real

boyfriends, or maybe Cole is actually having feelings he hasn't planned on?

I suspect Dale will find himself on the football team eventually. And then

there's Jeremy...hmmm. I'm not sure about him.

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And another intense chapter: meet the parents - and lo and behold Cole's dad is just as clever as expected. But they sure did handle it just right, even without lying. The bi thing was unexpected, but on the other hand makes the whole thing a lot more plausible. Maybe also explains why Glen is his best friend, they have something unusual in common. And another fun football moment, he, he. Revenge is so sweet.

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Dale should just admit that he's spun. Pretending he's not is only going to backfire. What is it with jock assholes who have no sportsmanship? Rhetorical question, I just had to get off my chest. Another compelling chapter as Dale comes out from his thick shell, thanks.

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I hate to see how his so called friends have been able to use him. All in the name of a election, and foot ball game. Will Dale be ok after all of this. Dale is great guy, hate to see him being manipulated like this.

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